Chris Schultz posted some excellent questions on yesterday’s feature story on the Cerberus, which I began to dutifully address. But as I was writing the reply – and as it got longer and longer – I realized the post had crossed over from message to article.
Rather than post some massive reply on that article string, I’m breaking out what turned into a pretty cool Q&A here. If you folks have additional questions pertaining to the Cerberus’ design or specs, post them here and I’ll do my best to answer.
I’ve also had a request to share the Firefly development timeline. I know some of the key dates are already covered in the Blueprints Reference Pack. But, if you like, I can dust off the complete timeline and post it here, as well.
CS: Where is the fire control center, does it have one?
AG: Yes. Fire control is at the back of the bridge. All of the guns can also be fired manually, if necessary.
CS: How much ammo did they carry?
AG: It depended on how she was configured. In the renderings you see here, she would sport a minimum complement and maximum loadout. She uses five different types of loads:
- Depleted uranium (rail gun)
- Plasma loads (packet plasma cannon)
- 25mm autocannon loads (forward and side anti-personnel/anti-aircraft guns – think chain gun)
- 155mm AGS cannons (two – located under the neck) which can fire either –
- Explosive, long-range shells or
- Short-range incendiary shells
We haven’t calculated exact loadouts for each mode, but I think it’s safe to assume that in this configuration she’d favor ammo over personnel, allowing her to handle long patrols. If she was being used for troop transport, the cargo module on the bottom would be replaced with one that could hold a lot of marines and would probably replace the AGS cannons with autocannons for suppression fire. Autocannon loads take a lot less space than a 155mm shells.
CS: How many crew did she need?
AG: She had a minimum complement of six:
- Bridge crew –
- Fire control specialist
- Engineering –
- Chief engineer
- Weapons specialist
- Other –
CS: Did she carry a Spec Ops team, for ground missions?
AG: Yes, when a mission required it. However, gunboat jockeys were a dime a dozen among the Independents – anyone who could fly a cargo hauler between colonies could pilot a Firefly. But special ops personnel were a rare asset. It wasn’t unusual, though, to have a “bonus” crewman with some hand-to-hand and maybe even limited special tactics training.
CS: How is the protection from the rear? That seems like the weakest spot.
AG: She’s fairly heavily armored, even on the reactor (when I post higher res images you’ll be able to see the ablative armor coating). But, yes, it’s true, with minimal gun coverage to the rear, this was definitely the gunboat’s weak point.
The Cerberus depended on superior maneuverability to keep her, um, assets out of the fire. In the early parts of the war, the Firefly-based gunboats were a major problem for the Alliance, the Alliance military relied on overwhelming firepower to win their battles. But it doesn’t matter how advanced your tech is or how powerful your guns are if you can’t hit your target.
To respond to this, the Alliance developed small, fast attack craft (think PT boat) that could outmaneuver and target a Firefly gunboat with armor-piercing shells, while staying out of the firing arc of the gunboat’s anti-spacecraft weapons. These gunboat killers were first deployed in the Battle of Sturges, and lead to the Alliance’s first truly decisive victory over the Independents. The destruction of the Firefly Ship Works on Hera, which was the first of many skirmishes in Serenity Valley, pretty much ended the Series 3′s use as a military asset.
CS: How much was interchangeable with a regular series 3 firefly?
AG: About 70 percent of parts were the same. Main differences were weapons, the main engines (smaller, lower profile and much higher output), and some of the refeeding mechanisms on the reactor that allowed it to support the incredibly high energy needs when the ship was maneuvering and firing her guns.
CS: Are you going to have some action shots?
AG: Yes! Sean’s probably going to kill me for saying this, but we’re even looking at creating a special effects sequence (a little movie) of the Cerberus in action.
CS: Did Mal and Zoe ever get transported by one?
AG: Hm. Sounds like a good crossover story for fanfic, eh?
CS: Does the lack of solar panels affect her performance?
AG: Don’t think so. To be honest, we’re not entirely sure what the function of those solar panels are, except to make Serenity look funky. But, assuming they have some power-generating usage, we’re sure the higher-output reactor would more than make up for it.
CS: What is her speed, range, and maneuverability compared to a regular series 3 firefly?
AG: She is both significantly faster and more maneuverable than Serenity, as she was the most agile ship in service up until the Alliance Fast Attack boats were deployed. However, she traded that greater acceleration and nimbleness for range, which was about half what Serenity is capable of.