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Dusk Raven

Why the large crew sizes?

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So, something I've noticed about Star Wars ships is that there are a lot of people on-board. A C90 Corvette needs 30-165 "depending on configuration" but that seems odd compared to the older Consular-class cruiser which is only slightly smaller but needs far fewer crew. The Lancer Frigate (according to the AoR core book) requires a crew of 800, for a ship 250 meters long. A Nebulon-B Frigate is slightly longer and requires slightly more crew. The Dreadnaught is 600 meters long and takes an absurd "9,000 to 16,000" depending on configuration, and an Imperial Star Destroyer (at 1.6km long) has an incredible 37K people aboard. Now, I don't know very much about the crews of IRL ships, and the crew numbers of Star Wars capital ships may simply be extrapolations based on current warships and scaled up for the size, but... I gotta wonder, what do all those people do on a starship? I don't know what running a giant starship involves, but given the sheer number of crew, I'm kind of curious...

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Those crew numbers are pretty similar for larger navy vessels. A Nimitz class carrier is 300ish meters long, so half the size of a dreadnaught, and has a crew complement of about 5 600ish people. So the numbers are pretty much extrapolated from current navy vessels. Ships of that size requires a lot of maintenance, which is what a lot of the crew is primarily busy with. Stuff needs to be monitored at all times and kept clean and working, that's even more necessary when you're out in a hostile environment like space where breakdowns can have truly catastrophic consequences.

 

Then a lot of it is redundancies. You don't want just one doctor on board who might get sick, or one sick bay that can get hit under combat. So you bring a bit of extra crew to make sure that every station can be manned and there are a few extra people around in case of emergencies. For the really big ships in Star Wars a lot of that crew is also troops for ground assaults. A Star Destroyer isn't just a battleship, it's a carrier and a troop transport as well. It's supposed to be able to carry out a planetary invasion more or less by itself and pacify a unruly planet, ideally just by showing up.

 

Star Wars also seems quite anti-automatstation, even the CIS had cannons that were loaded with shells by droids rather than auto-loaders in RotS. So you need that crew rather than droids or automated systems could manage it.

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This is info from Wikipedia about a military topic, so I take it with a grain of salt, but a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is just over 300 meters long and has a crew listed as "5000+". That's about the same crew:length ratio as the Dreadnaught, which is described in universe as having notoriously awful and badly-optimized automation. It doesn't explain why the ISD needs such a huge crew if its automation is (presumably) much better, but a lot of those people aren't actually flying the ship; they're stormtroopers and pilots and ground crews for the squadrons of TIE fighters aboard. I think the Nimitz is actually a pretty good comparison since both vehicles are used as fighter carriers. As to what all those thousands of people are busy doing, here are some ideas:

  • Command crew (captain/admiral, XO, their staff, tacticians, mission specialists and advisers...)
  • Navigation (helmsmen, navigators—probably dedicated navigators for both realspace and hyperspace course plotting—sensor specialists, science officers...)
  • Communications (comms officers, translators, protocol droids...)
  • Cyberwarfare (codebreakers, ECM specialists, slicers, counter-slicers...)
  • Intelligence (some overlap with the above but also political officers, independent special forces, observers and advisors...)
  • Engineers (specialists for maintaining the sublight engines and hyperdrive, power generation and distribution, infrastructure and ship's systems...)
  • Droid programmers and maintenance (probably a whole department on a big ship with lots of droids buzzing around)
  • Ship's security (maybe soldiers, but probably not the same people as the ship's ground forces)
  • Gunners (probably multiple shifts and backup crews for each of the hundreds of cannons Star Wars capital ships have, all aimed by people)
  • Support crew (chefs, janitors, barbers, maybe even entertainment and counselors on long voyages aboard big ships—not really the Empire's MO but anything's possible)
  • Medical staff (including people who can treat ordinary illnesses among the crew and people who can treat casualties in combat, and those might not be the same people)
  • Emergency personnel (includes medical staff but also damage control teams, firemen, EVA repair crews, search-and-rescue teams...)
  • Attached ground forces (infantry, marines, officers, engineering and signal corps, vehicle crews and mechanics, command staff and their attaches...)
  • Attached air and space forces (multiple rotations of pilots and crew, instructors, ground crews, simulator technicians...)

Real life aircraft carriers have been described as floating cities. Ships with huge crews in Star Wars would feel the same way.

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Part of it does indeed seem to be the nature of Star Wars itself, and how utterly unexplored some avenues of tech are, like automation. In Legends at least, the reason for the lack of automation was due to the Katana fleet debacle, where they had a 200-strong fleet of special Dreadnaughts modified through automation so that they had half the crew size... only to have the entire fleet's crew wiped out by a "hive virus," with the fleet's commander sending the entire fleet off in a random direction, causing the entire fleet to be lost for decades. So that kind of killed interest in large-scale ship automation. On top of that, droids and AI seem to be less effective (en masse, anyway) in Star Wars than one would think given the technology - you would think battle droids would have much greater reflexes and precision than the clone troopers they fought against. A more realistic setting (when it comes to automation, anyway) would probably have greatly reduced crew sizes.

Edited by Dusk Raven

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You have to take into account that there are generally three shift rotations with each duty station manned each 24hr day. The entire crew is only active during a battle and even then if it's an extended engagement shifts will resume to give time for the crew to rest and to replace losses.

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2 hours ago, Darth Revenant said:

Those crew numbers are pretty similar for larger navy vessels. A Nimitz class carrier is 300ish meters long, so half the size of a dreadnaught, and has a crew complement of about 5 600ish people. So the numbers are pretty much extrapolated from current navy vessels. Ships of that size requires a lot of maintenance, which is what a lot of the crew is primarily busy with. Stuff needs to be monitored at all times and kept clean and working, that's even more necessary when you're out in a hostile environment like space where breakdowns can have truly catastrophic consequences.

 

Then a lot of it is redundancies. You don't want just one doctor on board who might get sick, or one sick bay that can get hit under combat. So you bring a bit of extra crew to make sure that every station can be manned and there are a few extra people around in case of emergencies. For the really big ships in Star Wars a lot of that crew is also troops for ground assaults. A Star Destroyer isn't just a battleship, it's a carrier and a troop transport as well. It's supposed to be able to carry out a planetary invasion more or less by itself and pacify a unruly planet, ideally just by showing up.

 

Star Wars also seems quite anti-automatstation, even the CIS had cannons that were loaded with shells by droids rather than auto-loaders in RotS. So you need that crew rather than droids or automated systems could manage it.

That should be five to six thousand crew.

Weird. Looking at the post directly the line break makes it look like 5  600ish, but the quote makes it 5600ish. Did you manually put a space in?

Edited by korjik

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2 hours ago, Dusk Raven said:

So, something I've noticed about Star Wars ships is that there are a lot of people on-board. A C90 Corvette needs 30-165 "depending on configuration" but that seems odd compared to the older Consular-class cruiser which is only slightly smaller but needs far fewer crew. The Lancer Frigate (according to the AoR core book) requires a crew of 800, for a ship 250 meters long. A Nebulon-B Frigate is slightly longer and requires slightly more crew. The Dreadnaught is 600 meters long and takes an absurd "9,000 to 16,000" depending on configuration, and an Imperial Star Destroyer (at 1.6km long) has an incredible 37K people aboard. Now, I don't know very much about the crews of IRL ships, and the crew numbers of Star Wars capital ships may simply be extrapolations based on current warships and scaled up for the size, but... I gotta wonder, what do all those people do on a starship? I don't know what running a giant starship involves, but given the sheer number of crew, I'm kind of curious...

A ship of war needs to maintain a 24/7 watch and that requires a certain degree of overlap. 

There are crewman's rated job functions, and that might not have anything to do with battle stations.  You may be a barber most of the time, captain sets condition one, and now you're a firefighter/damage control tech. 

In the time between standing various watch schedules, as others have said, there is basic maintenance that needs attention, a ship at sea is constantly at war with the ocean and requires ongoing attention to corrosion.  Toilets need cleaning also, thank the gods for droids.  A comparison can be made to aircraft as well, with high end combat craft, and in particular helicopters requiring a ton of  preventive maintenance to keep them battle ready.

Beyond watch, and maintenance there is drilling and training.  Physical fitness, battle station scenarios, various emergency drills, and then just the basics of your rating.

A ship of war also needs redundancy for when people start getting killed.

Awesome wake up call.....

 

Edited by 2P51

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An American supercarrier is about one fifth the size of an Imperial Star Destroyer and alot skinnier. Probably close to 10 times the volume. Assuming similar crewing requirements that would imply a crew of 50 thousand. So, I dont know if that is all that odd. Most WWII era cruisers needed crews of over a thousand but a modern Ticonderoga class needs less than half that. Older Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates had crews of about 200 and were about 140m long.

I think some of the crew sizes looking high is the difference in tech IRL between the mid 80s and today, and I think some of it is that some of the numbers are a bit high. 165 in a Cr90 or 16 thou in a dreadnought have always seemed insane to me

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As mentioned, ships are complex vessels which would need a lot of dudes to keep the millions of tiny things running smoothly.

But of course, another thing to realize is that the numbers given are probably the "ideal" numbers. Not the bare minimum. In theory, a ship could be flown with fewer, with a loss in efficiency, capability, and function. Do you need a few thousand people to make a Star Destroyer jump to Lightspeed? no. But you'd need a few thousand if you wanted to keep the ship running for more than a few days, man all the weapons, keep all the scanners under surveillance, etc...

Remember every bridge scene in Star Wars has dozens and dozens of people watching sensor screens. In theory, one person could probably multitask and do several of those positions, but they wouldn't be as good as when you have a dedicated person at each station. And as mentioned before, you have shifts. So a station that needs 3 people at it doesn't have just 3 people trained to do it aboard, they'd have at least 9.

It would be safe to say that the bare minimum to operate any ship with large crew requirements would be 1/3 of its listed crew compliment. But a ship in that situation would suffer from not having any backup shifts to relieve the on-duty individuals.

So a Nebulon-3 has a listed crew of 920. That would make the bare minimum to fully man all the stations to be roughly 300. The remaining 600 would man the auxiliary weapons, damage control teams, replace casualties, etc...

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Warships in general tend to be very crew-heavy compared to civilian ships of equivalent size. A huge cargo container carrier doesn't need a lot of people to run safely. Warships tend to need a lot of spare crew, on the other hand.

Firstly, the crew requirement goes up dramatically when the ship goes to action stations. Most of the time there would only be a skeleton crew on the tactical stations and most, if not all, of the weapons would be unmanned. When the klaxon goes off, however:

- Every station has to be manned

- Damage control and firefighting parties are needed

- Marines and crew members muster in security teams to repel boarders, or conduct boarding actions

- Lots of spare warm bodies are needed to replace casualties

On top of all that, thinking beings are much more flexible than machines, and therefore good for those times when automated systems break down or suffer battle damage. Beyond that, a warship may need to detach crew for other duties. For example, if the warship stops a freighter for inspection and discovers contraband on board, it will need to send that freighter back to base; that requires a prize crew to operate the freighter and guard the prisoners.

For most of its service, a warship's will actually be looking for things for their enlisted crew to do. That's where the endless routine of hull painting and deck scrubbing originated in historical warships, the need to keep large crews occupied when not in combat.

I'm a fan of David Weber's Honor Harrington novel series, and the issue of crew levels is something that's come up quite a lot in the more recent books. The Royal Manticoran Navy (the one Honor serves in) has recently adopted far higher levels of automation on their warships that they were previously willing to accept, and reduced crew sizes accordingly. Forexample, the Chanson-class destroyers introduced about 25 years before the current time in the books have a crew of just over 300 (destroyers are small escorts, not Star Destroyer equivalents, in this world). The current Wolfhound-class, which are 50% larger than the Chansons, have a crew of less than 90 and the Roland-class, contemporaries of the Wolfhounds and more than twice the tonnage of the Chansons, have barely 60 crew. The change has made it far easier to provide enough trained crews for an expanding fleet, but it's come back to bite them in other ways. The Rolands don't carry any marines on board, so all boarding parties have to be drawn from the naval crew, and if they need to detach a prize crew it leaves them very short-handed.

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6 hours ago, korjik said:

That should be five to six thousand crew.

Weird. Looking at the post directly the line break makes it look like 5  600ish, but the quote makes it 5600ish. Did you manually put a space in?

Manual space, meant 5600ish with the aircrew and the ships crew.

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It's worth noting that the Star Wars universe does have automation in the form of droids. The technological peculiarities of the galaxy means that the easiest way for civilizations to automate is to build robotic workers in humanoid shape, program them to complete certain tasks, and work in the same way as organics. This has the added benefit of redundancy: if the droid breaks down and there's no replacement, an organic with sufficient training can then step in and do the work.

We also have a social reason for why this isn't present on Star Destroyers: the Clone Wars. Droids were the most public face of the Separatists, so there's been an overwhelming backlash against them—and therefore, against automation—in the galaxy. Of course, there are plenty of people who know that droids themselves weren't responsible, as well as people who rely on droids to get the work done in place of organics; both categories of people continue to use them.

The Empire probably doesn't use droids as crew for this reason, but probably also to drive their military economy. If they need 37,000 people to crew a Star Destroyer, and they have a vast and powerful navy, that's plenty of jobs for prospective recruits. They can continue to flaunt their armed prowess and everything that comes with it.

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Yeah, presumably the galaxy was not in a great place, economically, after the Clone Wars. Widespread destruction and disrupted trade routes, high unemployment, many of the major corporations sided with the Separatists and thus will have been dismantled... the Imperial military would provide a great way to make use of that surplus manpower. Plus then everybody would know *someone* who was in the military, and thus it wouldn't seem as much like a foreign occupier.

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18 hours ago, Dusk Raven said:

So, something I've noticed about Star Wars ships is that there are a lot of people on-board. A C90 Corvette needs 30-165 "depending on configuration" but that seems odd compared to the older Consular-class cruiser which is only slightly smaller but needs far fewer crew. The Lancer Frigate (according to the AoR core book) requires a crew of 800, for a ship 250 meters long. A Nebulon-B Frigate is slightly longer and requires slightly more crew. The Dreadnaught is 600 meters long and takes an absurd "9,000 to 16,000" depending on configuration, and an Imperial Star Destroyer (at 1.6km long) has an incredible 37K people aboard. Now, I don't know very much about the crews of IRL ships, and the crew numbers of Star Wars capital ships may simply be extrapolations based on current warships and scaled up for the size, but... I gotta wonder, what do all those people do on a starship? I don't know what running a giant starship involves, but given the sheer number of crew, I'm kind of curious...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watch_system

For reference.

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I actually dredged up a crew roster from an Iowa class battleship (WWII era), and worked up a spreadsheet to get a vague idea of crew requirements for various ships.  The first page is the Iowa Class requirements, plus some formulas to turn crew into percentages.  The second page is my breakdown for a Nebulon B frigate, which could be modified to another type of ship fairly quickly.  Let me know what you think.

crew.xlsx

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In the case of the Empire, these guys even make small ships with big crews. A shuttle like the Lambda having a crew of 6 is a lot. Of course, it can also carry those 6 crew and another 20 passengers aboard for 2 full months, so the Empire really knows how to concentrate Consumables.

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Just now, HappyDaze said:

In the case of the Empire, these guys even make small ships with big crews. A shuttle like the Lambda having a crew of 6 is a lot. Of course, it can also carry those 6 crew and another 20 passengers aboard for 2 full months, so the Empire really knows how to concentrate Consumables.

Ration cubes for everyone! Just add water. (Note: the water also comes in cube form.)

Edited by CaptainRaspberry

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7 hours ago, CaptainRaspberry said:

 

The Empire probably doesn't use droids as crew for this reason, but probably also to drive their military economy. If they need 37,000 people to crew a Star Destroyer, and they have a vast and powerful navy, that's plenty of jobs for prospective recruits. They can continue to flaunt their armed prowess and everything that comes with it.

 

7 hours ago, Talkie Toaster said:

Yeah, presumably the galaxy was not in a great place, economically, after the Clone Wars. Widespread destruction and disrupted trade routes, high unemployment, many of the major corporations sided with the Separatists and thus will have been dismantled... the Imperial military would provide a great way to make use of that surplus manpower. Plus then everybody would know *someone* who was in the military, and thus it wouldn't seem as much like a foreign occupier.

Something that's happened IRL as well - a nation inflating its military just to provide employment and establish power at the same time.

 

16 minutes ago, Edgookin said:

I actually dredged up a crew roster from an Iowa class battleship (WWII era), and worked up a spreadsheet to get a vague idea of crew requirements for various ships.  The first page is the Iowa Class requirements, plus some formulas to turn crew into percentages.  The second page is my breakdown for a Nebulon B frigate, which could be modified to another type of ship fairly quickly.  Let me know what you think.

crew.xlsx

That sounds really interesting, however when I click on it the forum gives me a message:
"This attachment is not available. It may have been removed or the person who shared it may not have permission to share it to this location."
Anyway, I actually looked up the Iowa-class myself, although Wikipedia didn't list how many crew they had. I instead found a crew listing for the Essex-class carrier, also used in WWII. As Wikipedia states, "The original design for the class assumed a complement of 215 officers and 2,171 enlisted men. However, by the end of World War II, most crews were 50% larger than that." This for a ship a little over 250 meters long. Doing that research finally gave me an idea of the sheer scale of some Star Wars ships. This is an aircraft carrier, one of the largest ships on the sea today, and a Nebulon-B Frigate is bigger than it, to say nothing of how colossal a Star Destroyer must be.

13 minutes ago, HappyDaze said:

In the case of the Empire, these guys even make small ships with big crews. A shuttle like the Lambda having a crew of 6 is a lot. Of course, it can also carry those 6 crew and another 20 passengers aboard for 2 full months, so the Empire really knows how to concentrate Consumables.

The Lambda-class, at least, has a breakdown of what each of the crew does. "One pilot, one co-pilot, one navigator, one gunner, one comms operator, and one engineer" makes a fair amount of sense (although I'd personally have the pilot/co-pilot do navigation and replace the dedicated navigator with a "commander" position, but that's just me). As for the consumables, I figured that was 60 days for one person, and thus you'd divide that by the number of people aboard.

Edited by Dusk Raven

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The Lusankya Super Star Destroyer once operated with a crew of one. (And successfully destroyed a Yuuzhan Vong Worldship, might I add)

But those were hardly normal circumstances.

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25 minutes ago, Dusk Raven said:

That sounds really interesting, however when I click on it the forum gives me a message:
"This attachment is not available. It may have been removed or the person who shared it may not have permission to share it to this location."

I don't know why it won't download for you, but I will look at it more tonight.  In short, the Neb B breakdown turned out to be

Crew breakdown Officer Enlisted  
Command 2 1  
Administrative 4 45  
Chaplain 2 2  
Deck 6 203  
Dental 2 4  
Engineering 8 265  
Medical  2 13  
Navigation 1 12  
Operations 5 88  
Supply 4 88  
Weapons 11 152

 

Troops are considered passengers.

The Iowa stats were

Iowa Battleship    
  Officer Enlisted
Command 2 1
Administrative 6 70
Chaplain 2 3
Deck 9 319
Dental 2 6
Engineering 14 417
Medical  2 20
Navigation 1 12
Operations 8 139
Supply 6 138
Weapons 13 219
Marines 2 40

 

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16 hours ago, Dusk Raven said:

 

Something that's happened IRL as well - a nation inflating its military just to provide employment and establish power at the same time.

 

That sounds really interesting, however when I click on it the forum gives me a message:
"This attachment is not available. It may have been removed or the person who shared it may not have permission to share it to this location."
Anyway, I actually looked up the Iowa-class myself, although Wikipedia didn't list how many crew they had. I instead found a crew listing for the Essex-class carrier, also used in WWII. As Wikipedia states, "The original design for the class assumed a complement of 215 officers and 2,171 enlisted men. However, by the end of World War II, most crews were 50% larger than that." This for a ship a little over 250 meters long. Doing that research finally gave me an idea of the sheer scale of some Star Wars ships. This is an aircraft carrier, one of the largest ships on the sea today, and a Nebulon-B Frigate is bigger than it, to say nothing of how colossal a Star Destroyer must be.

The Lambda-class, at least, has a breakdown of what each of the crew does. "One pilot, one co-pilot, one navigator, one gunner, one comms operator, and one engineer" makes a fair amount of sense (although I'd personally have the pilot/co-pilot do navigation and replace the dedicated navigator with a "commander" position, but that's just me). As for the consumables, I figured that was 60 days for one person, and thus you'd divide that by the number of people aboard.

On a Sil 4 vessel,  the pilot is generally the commander of the vessel. It's usually only on Sil 5+ that dedicated,  non-pilot commanders are found. I do,  however,  find it interesting that a dedicated cargo shuttle has a navigator and comms operator but no loadmaster.

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On 8/4/2018 at 2:16 PM, HappyDaze said:

On a Sil 4 vessel,  the pilot is generally the commander of the vessel. It's usually only on Sil 5+ that dedicated,  non-pilot commanders are found. I do,  however,  find it interesting that a dedicated cargo shuttle has a navigator and comms operator but no loadmaster.

The Lambda isn't really a dedicated cargo shuttle. It's a multi-purpose vessel that can be reconfigured for as a small cargo hauler, passenger shuttle, VIP transport or even a troop lander. Even in full cargo mode, it isn't really big enough to warrant a full-time loadmaster.

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