I've had this story sitting for a while, but decided to come back to it. I plan on skipping ahead a few decades, where I have a giant space fleets. Assume that the ships are made for humans. Any repair crew, reserve pilots, etc, will be on the Flagship or a planet military base.

Here's the basics of a fleet-

Gateway- a large apparatus equipped on every Flagship capable of transporting an entire fleet across the galaxy in a matter of seconds.

Flagship- several times the size of the largest Frigate or Destroyer, Flagships are the main module of transportation in emergencies and quick responses thanks to their Gateway abilities. Heavily armed and armored, their one flaw is their inability to do much of anything about an hour after using the Gateway. For this reason, ? Frigates and Destroyers are always nearby as an escort, as well as ? squadrons of fighters. Not capable of in atmosphere flight due to its immense size. The quad hangars of the Flagship, located on the top, bottom, and sides of the ship, are capable of holding ? Fighter squadrons each as reserves or a defense force.

Frigates- large gunships capable of space and in atmosphere combat. Bristling with guns and well armored, their main purpose is as an escort or support unit.

Destroyers- incapable in atmosphere flights, Destroyers are specifically designed for attacking large ships. Fighters can be taken down with smaller turrets along the length of the ship, but large forward guns with a slight range of movement are the primary weapon against larger units. Usually paired with Frigates when possible, allowing the Destroyer to focus on the larger targets.

Dropships- usually smaller than Frigates or Destroyers, Dropships are used to ferry troops and supplies wherever they are needed. Lightly armed and armored to maximize payload, an escort is always needed. Larger versions may carry a Fighter, but rarely do as the needed supplies and maintenance crews limit the rest of the cargo.

Fighters- single pilot ships with fast speeds but low armor and firepower, Fighters are designed to be ignored in combat, but can inflict major damage by skilled pilots.

Burn Engine- a faster-than-light speed engine that is equipped on all ships, although Fighters have a very limited range. The fuel is common on all planets, allowing for easy refueling.

Frigate Destroyer attack- performed by a minimum of one Frigate and Destroyer, the Frigate(s) line up slightly in front of the Destroyer(s) and fire all guns at once towards a single target. The Frigate energy beams phase together for added range, and clear the way for the Destroyer beams by obliterating any smaller ships in the way, with any remaining beams severely damaging shields on the target vessel. The Destroyer energy beams fly inside or just behind the Frigate beams, and deal massive damage to the target vessel. The downside of this is that all participating units need to reload.

I need help deciding the numbers for the 2 ?s in the Flagship description, as well as the numbers of Frigates, Destroyers, and Fighter squadrons for the rest of the fleet.

EDIT- TheDyingOfLight pointed out that Fighters are almost useless, so I'm gonna change them to being too small for targeting locks, and being remotely controlled from pilots on the Flagship. I should've done this before, but better late than never. The main purpose of the fleets are mainly defense against external forces, but also as a sort of intergalactic police force.

EDIT 2- The fleet size and amount of ships seems dependent on a variety of factors, so I'll try to go into detail on their purpose.

When they first began making spaceships, there were no Gateways, but there was Burn Engines. The first purpose was as a defense fleet, not made to win wars, but stall an enemy fleet until the planet, or at least most of it, could evacuate. The evacuation ships would be armed, but weakly armored and equipped with Burn Engines to get away quickly. Once the evacuation was complete, any remaining ships from the defense force would follow.

After a sizable force was built up of about two fleets(please note that a fleet is not the entire space navy) they began to act as a sort of intergalactic neighborhood watch, mainly stepping in when humans almost killed themselves and keeping non-military pilots in check(i.e.- stopped smuggling, unlicensed exploration, etc. ). After this, Gateways came around and were incorporated into each fleet. Because they were so large, Flagships had to be built for this purpose.

Where I plan on picking up the story, they act as most of the space force of the galaxy, mainly for defense against enemy ships if they ever showed up. Earthlings have a smaller space force, but not nearly as advanced as these ones. Some fleets are specialized, either for ground takeover(More Dropships, Frigates, and Fighters, as well as ground troops and supplies), and ship to ship attack(Less Dropships, but more of everything else). The majority of the fleets are all around with all ship types, and a varied cargo manifest.

As for planetary defense, most planets have an orbital defense grid, most commonly equipped with mines and proximity alarms, but some versions have drone fighters, stationary missile launchers, shield generators, etc. Once you get below the defense grid however, the only defenses will be ones on the planet's surface. When attacking the planet, you do not need to take out the entire defense grid, only your attack point, but prolonged sieges will need more or all of the defense grid destroyed.

When I continue the story, I don't plan on assaulting a planet, mainly orbiting shipyards, but these would have their own exterior gun turrets. Capture is not an objective, only intimidation, so Dropships and ground troops wouldn't be needed.

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    $\begingroup$ Not a complete answer, but in the spacefaring sci-fi I've read, ship ratio is usually a product of the military structure (like this one) $\endgroup$ Jul 16, 2020 at 16:27
  • $\begingroup$ I'd recommend you check out Atomic Rockets and ToughSF, as both sites are great resources on building spacecraft and fleets. $\endgroup$ Jul 16, 2020 at 16:39
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    $\begingroup$ Other than that the fleetsize and structure should depend on the mission/overarching purpose of the fleet. The main battle fleet will look a lot different than one meant to assert control over the fringes of the empire. $\endgroup$ Jul 16, 2020 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ Also space fighters are pretty unrealistic, though go ahead if you intend to write soft SF. The enemy point defense is going to use them for target practice and if point defense is weak enough to permit space fighters, overwealming the enemy with missiles is the better strategy. $\endgroup$ Jul 16, 2020 at 16:45
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    $\begingroup$ It depends on which naval war you're cribbing from. Napoleonic Wars, Pirates of the Carribean, WWII... Space fleets are pretty unrealistic. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jul 16, 2020 at 17:35

3 Answers 3


It depends on three things:

1: the attack purpose. If you go to a planet to invade it you'll need manpower and lots of it. If you just want to destroy it you get a flagship in orbit along with a weaponized Asteroid or masses of Rods from God and launch those to annihilate anything on the surface.

2: what strengths would your ships and the planets they attack have? You already have fighters and shields for the more "classic" sci-fi space combat. If your ships can detect and annihilate anything on a planet surface you dont need the drop-pods, and the amount of ships you need would also go down. If you need to pass through an anti-bombardment shield while ground-based and orbital defenses take you under fire and then slog your troops across the entirety of the planet to capture it you are going to need a lot more troops and ships.

3: how much personell is there on each ship on average, and what tasks can they perform for the average assault? If you have to capture the planet with troops and landingcraft its going to need a lot more ships.

I think you want to capture planets with boots on the ground, vehicles and boats landed on the planet. So I would say the average force would need to contain at least twice the number of military units available to the planet, as the attackers dont have the home advantage and need to pacify the civilians more often than the defenders. How many that is, is completely up to your choices. I suspect you could look at current sizes of sea-based ships and base your crew totals on that.


Lift ship types and numbers from actual battles.

These loads of different spaceships type scenarios seem to me like WW2 in space, and I don't mean that in a pejorative manner. If you embrace the idea, you can then dip into history and lift intact the analogous ship type and distribution for each side in various historical battles.

As a starter: here is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leyte_Gulf_order_of_battle

This was a big one but you can find similar info for smaller battles; the ships deployed will depend on what their military goals are.

  • Do you want a sphere of protection or a shield?
    Depending on your assumption about sensors and sublight drives, you could have a need to encircle the flagship with defenses or just put one defense force between the flagship and the threat. If you want a sphere, multiply the ship numbers by 6 or 8.
  • Do you want Frigates and Destroyers to be expendable?
    For purposes of your story, is the loss of any one destroyer a major event in the battle or are there so many that individual losses are to be expected? You could have 2-3 frigates per squadron or 20-30 frigates per squadron.

So, between 2 and 240 frigates.

  • $\begingroup$ one or two Frigates/Destroyers wouldn't be too much of a loss, but much more than six or seven and you lose your ability to have big escorts for Destroyers and Dropships. I figure I'll have more Frigates than Destroyers since they act as escorts and can do in atmosphere flights, and will have more opportunities to be shot down, but the exact numbers I'm unsure of. $\endgroup$ Jul 16, 2020 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Ceramicmrno0b, think "should" and not "would" ... if you want the loss of any one frigate to be a significant event, use six or eight total. Think a modern carrier battle group with half a dozen escorts. If you want attrition to be routine, use more. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Jul 17, 2020 at 4:28

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