Question: What is the best way to make use of a ship's Overload attack?

Answer by: Captain Sarah Bowden, CO, RDFS Providence

An Overload attack is always executed for one of two reasons: opportunity or desperation.

Many warships possess the ability to execute this action and Overload attacks take many forms. The preponderance of a Razor Bill-class destroyer's armament is missiles; during an Overload the ship rapidly empties her launchers against the designated target. All available ordnance is expended and the ship's crew must then begin reloading from the main magazines. Aboard the Providence, when I instruct my Combat Systems Officer to Overload she will bring all available railguns to bear on the target and then execute what we sometimes refer to as a “Mad Minute.” The railguns are fired as rapidly as possible for as long as that rate can be sustained – usually about a minute, hence the term. Providence's Overload fire is limited by the charge within the capacitors which power her guns, heat buildup in the rails themselves, and by malfunctions with the autoloaders which feed and ram home the penetrators.

Overloading a ship's weapons always comes with a drawback. The specifics vary from ship to ship but in the case of the Providence, the capacitors need time to recharge and the heat buildup in the rails must be allowed to dissipate before they can be fired again without risking damage – a rail that fractures or warps because of heat stress must be replaced, which is impossible in combat and usually requires us to put in at a shipyard to effect the repairs. A Razor Bill, for example, must reload her missile magazines after an Overload. In either case the result is the same: the ship is removed from the fight for as long as it takes to get its weapons systems back online.

This does not mean that the ship cannot maneuver or attempt boarding actions, but a ship without weapons is a liability in fleet combat.

Therefore the decision to Overload a ship's weapons must be informed by that knowledge. A Captain must consider whether or not exchanging one particularly powerful attack at the cost of helplessness later is worthwhile.

I wrote that Overloads are always either opportunistic or desperate. An opportunistic use of an Overload attack – which is the most tactically wise use – is executed on a target that the Captain can be reasonably assured of destroying. This includes hostile targets that have been Target Painted, or in the case of a Razor Bill, a Stealth ship that it has detected. In these cases the Overload fire should be sufficient to destroy the target without additional firepower being required. Furthermore, there are likely support vessels present that, with the hostile that has just been the target of the Overload destroyed, can continue the fight without the Overloading ship for a few moments.

A desperate use of an Overload attack is akin to what Marines call “spray and pray.” A desperate Overload is executed when a Captain directs the attack at a target that is not likely to be destroyed without additional firepower but for whatever reason, an attack must be made. An example: directing my Combat Systems Officer to Overload on an undamaged Dreadnaught would likely result in damaging it at least somewhat, but not destroying it. If the Providence was not accompanied by friendly vessels this would be a tactically unsound decision, because while the Providence was recovering from the Overload, the Dreadnaught would have the opportunity to continue firing on us, likely resulting in our destruction. The same result is likely if I direct the ship's fire against a Stealth ship that our sensors cannot get a good lock on – there is only a slight chance that we might destroy that ship.

There is one desperate use of an Overload fire that I have witnessed in combat that should be noted. A ship Captain who realizes that he is about to be boarded by hostile Marines may sometimes choose to Overload his ship against a hostile target chosen at random. The ship will then be out of the fight, but in the hands of the enemy, providing a greater window of opportunity for it to either be recaptured or destroyed before its systems are back online.

To summarize, the decision to Overload requires the weighing of several factors: can I destroy the target? Will the absence of my ship's firepower after the Overload jeopardize my fleet? Have I been forced into a tactical situation that leaves me no other alternative but to Overload?

Overload fire is powerful but not foolproof; as such it should be used wisely and not recklessly.

Captain Sarah Bowden is the Commanding Officer of the RDFS Providence, a Roc-class battleship currently assigned to the RDF Navy's Orion Fleet Command.