Thursday, February 10, 2005

How Big is the Imperial Naval Fleet?

This question in particular has never been answered, or at least formally. Part of the problem is that no one really knows exactly how big the Galaxy is. No one knows exactly how populous the Galaxy is, and no one really has any good leads to use to look into this interesting problem. So let's get started! : )

I'm going to work this out for myself, approaching it as systematically and professionally as possible. Keep in mind though that I'm working with many approximations. Bear with me now! : )
OK, Let's Get Started

In Tales of the Bounty Hunters, Fett muses that there must be "100 billion star systems." And Dark Empire gives us the number of 12 million inhabited systems. So you can see, an awfully large bulk of the galaxy is made up of uninhabited worlds (this is also why planets like Coruscant can harbor such large populations; virtually infinite natural resources and places to drop your garbage). So the ratio of uninhabited to inhabited systems in the Galaxy is very, very large. If you do the math, you'll realize that it is more than 8,500:1.

Here's the catch. First of all, the novels are by no means accurate. To me though, the numbers seem legit for a galaxy about the size of our own. And if no one has any better guesses, than what I say goes. : ) Right then. Now realize (and this is crucial) that the systems' size depends on pure geography. The number of planets orbiting a sun, ya know?? The number of planets in each system may vary. Also, the number of inhabited planets per system will vary too, and this is what you need to know: an Imperial Commodore's Star Destroyer Squadron will be bigger in more populous systems and smaller in less populous systems!

Dead end, right. Yah. Let's start over. Instead of using systems, let's work with sectors. Sectors are as you recall, divvied-up regions of Imperial space controlled by a Moff. The size is not dependent on geometry or culture; but for administrative purposes only! The size can range from hundreds to thousands of systems. I'll make a logical assumption here and say that sectors in the Outer Rim are larger than the ones in the Core. Think about it. If "Moff Bob" controlled x amount of systems in the Outer Rim and his buddy "Moff Joe" in the Core controlled the same amount of systems, Joe would be more powerful cause he gets more people to lord over. Make sense? So then, presumably, if lesser-populated sectors are larger in size than more populated sectors, then the SIZE OF THE IMPERIAL FLEET MUST FOLLOW THE SAME SET OF PRINCIPLES. Now we're getting somewheres.
Number Crunching

The Fleet Admiral (Ozzel, Piett, etc.) commands his fleet (duh) which patrols throughout a particular sector. Now, with a little number crunching, we can determine that the mean fleet would have 4,800 capital ships. Now, in a galaxy comprised of, oh, between 300 and 400 sectors, we can surmise that the total number of ships patrolling the galaxy at any given time is 1,680,000. Accounting for ships undergoing refurbishment/repairs, and also assuming that about one tenth of this total force is held on reserve in the Deep Core, I'd make out our final number to be one million nine hundred thousand. 1,900,000 Star Destroyers. Many more smaller capital ships.

Let's backtrack a moment. According to the STAR WARS Roleplaying Game Second Edition (p.126) there are "nearly fifty million systems." Doing the number crunching all over again, we come up with the number of two hundred million. It all falls apart; calculating by system, you see?
Seem Too High?

My final answer is 1,900,000. Does one million nine hundred thousand sound outrageously high? Not necessarily. You have to remember that this is an entire galaxy we're dealing with here. Modern physics dictates that if you were to travel at the highest speed physically possible (that of light), it would take you ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND YEARS to journey from one edge of the galaxy to another. That is indeed a long time. Even with the benefits of hyperspace (faster than light speed), you're still talking about years of travel time.

There is also an official number of 100 quadrillion beings living in the Galaxy, which in itself an absurdly low number given the amount of populated worlds we're dealing with. But it still serves you an example of the scope we have. So... I hope that helps at least a little. 1,900,000 Star Destroyers. And again, as much as I'd like to close this case, that number is no more than an approximation. Though I'd bet it is reasonably close to the actual #.
Considering SD's Construction

Now giving the galaxy infinite resources (considering how vast it is), I think it is indeed possible for the Empire to construct such a large amount of Star Destroyers. I just can't stress enough how large the Galaxy is. Finding resources will not be a problem. Almost all of the uninhabited worlds have mineral resources, so the Empire will be able to easily get enough raw ore for building. If there's something the Empire wants on populated worlds, I'm sure they will have no problem taking it.

Manufacturing parts is a chinch too - there are well more than enough heavy industry worlds in the Galaxy to meet requirements. Labor isn't a concern either; we all know how the Emperor feels about non-human life. Entire races can be enslaved and literally worked to death, they're merely disposable resources in the eyes of the Empire. Then assembling the parts into Star Destroyers; HUGE shipbuilding facilities, more slave labor, not a problem.

Since such colossal #'s of resources and manpower are required, it's important that the man heading the operation (Palps himself) not concern himself with the needs of his workforce or care much about ecology. Any "lesser" man would have second thoughts of stripping worlds bare and working slaves to their death.

But you're right, he might not have been able to do much without a pre-established foothold. Obviously he had a bit of an army to start off with when he formed the Empire. A brilliant plan really: be elected Chancellor (with no recounts either!), then slowly grow an army and when it's strong enough, seize key positions and build a huge army large enough to whip a galaxy into submission. And finally, since it is truly the largest force belonging to a single faction in the recorded history of the Galaxy, he might have had a bit of luck on his side. Or at least a lot of patience.
Endor's Effect on the Fleet

Now before I go, let's think of WHY the Battle of Endor was such a crushing defeat for the Empire. Obviously the Death Star was a big whammy, but what bearing did it have on the Fleet itself? Well, first off, the Rebels did kill the Emperor and Vader. Plus, a number of high-ranking officers perished on the DS2 when it blew. Others died when their SD flagship was destroyed (one or two Grand Admirals if memory serves me right)

Equally important is the demise of the SSD Executor. Remember, it was Piett's Flagship, one of the best out there. It was often considered the fast-track for promotion by the young men stationed there; an offer to work on the ship could not be refused. Basically, these guys had skill. In Heir to the Empire, Captain Pellaeon wished that that his ship wasn't staffed by such inexperienced young officers and men; all of the *good* ones died on the Executor (paraphrasing). And come on, if you saw the flagship of Vader's personal fleet plummet into the DS in a superhot explosion, how would you feel? In essence, the defeat at Endor left the Empire without a leader, without experienced men, and had a very demoralizing effect.
The Fleet's Fate

So what about the rest of the Imperial Fleet; surely they could have killed off the New Republic in its early stages? Yes. Did they? No. What happened is the ambitious "Moff Bob" thought, "I could be the new Emperor but if only 'Warlord Jim' wasn't there to stand in my way. I'll kill him, I will." So instead of fighting the New Republic, the leaderless Fleet Admirals and Moffs fought amongst themselves.

It wasn't until Grand Admiral Thrawn emerged from the backwaters of the Outer Rim and regrouped the shattered remnants of the Fleet did the New Republic have much trouble with the Imperial Remnant. But eventually he too was finally taken down.

Believe it or not, the unifying Galactic Empire's strict, no-nonsense policies kept extra-galactic invaders like the Vhussan Vong away from the galaxy. Yeah but when it collapsed, they saw their chance for a piece of the pie. That's probably mentioned in the novels at some point, but not having read the books I don't know.

And that's MY feeling on the matter. : ) Just for clarity's sake, I'll run that number past you one more time. 1,900,000.