Sometimes old ideas are the best. The Russian TB-55 is a low tech weapon of brute force; a slow moving and heavily armoured gunship capable of devastating damage from its twin warhead launchers. The ’55 has outlasted many technologically superior ships and remains a potent force in the European Union navy.
The ship is a giant compared to most starfighters; it has the lumbering pace of a giant to match. Even when it reaches top speed the ship is difficult to manoeuvre and an easy target for interceptors and flak fire. And yet between the thick armour and its sheer potential for damage the ship well liked and well used.
The design has barely changed since the Pan-Eurasian War in which it was used to siege and destroy Coalition fortifications and armour – one of the many reasons the Coalition chose to oppose the Union with hit and run style tactics over a slugging match. The post-War threats to the Union came in the form of alien species. Although the Oroso were able to avoid and isolate squadrons of TB-55s before they could do damage, the ship was found to be extremely effective against the Wun’Tux. Their durillium armour was very resiliant against energy weapons but weak against explosives – the TB-55 was able to field an inordinate amount of such weaponry per ship; just three of them were capable of destroying one Clanship in two bombing runs.
The vessel is decidedly old fashioned in design. A lack of automation means the ship requires three crew just to get off the ground. Outmoded sensors and electronics means it can be ‘spoofed’ by cutting edge jamming or stealth techniques. On the other hand, the ship is rugged and easy to maintain- it has few specialist components and repairs can be affected with salvaged equipment. This allows the ship great durability in the field.
The European Union lost precious ships, personell and resources at Tordov V. The late Admiral Golovko’s successor- Vice Admiral Reyneso – favoured a less gun-ho tactical approach. She deployed wings of TB-55s to repel subsequent Wun’Tux incursions, successively blunting further offensives and giving the Union time to reorganise.
TB-55 losses are common; the ship is big enough to be hit by flak fire and slow enough to be vulnerable to enemy interceptors. It has seen most success when deployed only once enemy fighter forces are engaged. The Russian 4th Bomber Wing (nicknamed the ‘Red Foxes’) worked alongside Grendel Squadron in the months following Tordov V using this exact tactic; the fighters would engage Wun’Tux fighter cover and allow the TB-55s to operate more freely. The Red Foxes chalked up an average of 1.5 Clanships per sortie.