The Zheng He Class carrier is a warship currently in service in the Systems Alliance Navy. Designed to replace and improve on the First Contact War-era Einstein Class, the Zheng He has upgraded kinetic barriers, an improved heat dispersion system and more powerful power plants and thrusters. As a result the class is faster with a greater transport capacity and can enter significantly larger gravity wells than its predecessor. However, due to this, the Zheng He is expensive to build and operate.
As a capital ship, the Zheng He is close to a kilometre long, with flight decks running down the starboard and port, which may be sealed off in case of emergency barrier failure. They carry only defensive GARDIAN batteries as weapons and in addition to its low manoeuvrability are thus extremely susceptible to ship-to-ship combat. As a result, Zheng He carriers are always accompanied by escorts, usually as part of a Carrier Strike Group or CSG.
A product of Ivanova Industries.
This class of warship serves a dual purpose to the Systems Alliance. First is the traditional role of a carrier: launching and retrieving small spacecraft such as fighters and interceptors to harass enemy ships, screen friendlies and conduct patrols. A Zheng He may carry several wings of fighters and interceptors in addition to shuttles and gunships.
Secondly, the Zheng He can carry large amounts of Marines and deploy them en masse along with armoured and air support, while acting as a command and control centre in orbit. As such, the ships play a large role in Alliance planetary assault doctrine. During the Reaper War, these carriers were involved in the deployment of Marine units in several battles, including the Battle of Ontarom and the Battle of London.
After the Reaper War, the Zheng He was reviewed by Alliance Command, who found that while it fulfilled its purpose, the cost of operating the class and vulnerabilities warranted the development of the Al Kindi-class Carrier to complement it.
At the current time, nine Zheng He-class carriers are in operation, as six were destroyed during the Reaper War and a seventh damaged so severely that repair was declared unfeasible.
Known Zheng He carriers
SSV Benjamin Davis
SSV Robert Oppenheimer (destroyed)