- "These are built from Mandalorian design. Not the most modern, but very strong."
- — Palpatine
The Dreadnaught-class Heavy Cruiser, or simply the Dreadnaught, is a capital ship that was built for planetary occupation and space combat. It was first used by the Galactic Republic, but continues to find a place with the Galactic Empire, New Republic, local governments, and various other organizations.
The keel of the Dreadnaught-class runs nearly 600 meters with the bow overlapping to produce a clamshell-like appearance. Each vessel has a cluster of weapons blisters spread across the hull.
The forward ventral portion of the Dreadnaught-class is used as a massive cargo hold, with a docking port located at the bow of the ship. Additional cargo holds are situated towards the center of the ship, in front of the areas housing the main reactor and secondary power generators. Docking ports are located on either side of the ship.
The original armament includes twenty quad laser cannons (six bow, seven port, seven starboard), ten laser cannons (five port, five starboard and mounted in blisters), and ten turbolaser batteries (five bow, five stern).
Deflector shield projectors are located inside some of the blisters flanking the hull, and the primary and secondary sensor transceivers are located towards the stern of the vessel, on the dorsal and ventral sides, similar to those on CR90 Corvettes.
While technologically advanced at the time of its construction, the Dreadnaught-class lacks in sublight and hyperspace speeds, is known to suffer computer failures, and has trouble competing with comparable designs in terms of firepower and shielding. It takes between three and five Dreadnaught-class cruisers to outgun one Imperial-class Star Destroyer.
In addition to the technical drawbacks, Dreadnaught-class ships also require over 16,000 crewmembers to run at optimal performance—perhaps the highest crew per keel meter ratio of any modern starship. This high crew requirement put strains on recruitment efforts and makes supplying a Dreadnaught into a logistical nightmare.
The initial design was not focused towards carrier duty, but as the ships were upgraded and refitted, the center cargo holds were converted to hangar space, and a common compliment of 12 starfighters are usually seen with modern vessels.
Unlike many contemporary warship designs, the Dreadnaught-class does not have an easily visible bridge section, opting to shelter the command decks and crew stations inside the main armored superstructure. These areas were located on the dorsal side of the bow.
The Dreadnaught-class Heavy Cruiser was designed and developed by Rendili StarDrive for the Republic Judicial Forces at least 80 years prior to the Clone Wars and was based on a Mandalorian design, apparently by Rendili Star Systems.
After being commissioned, the Dreadnaughts saw use in ending major conflicts, but its shortcomings were quickly apparent. To counter the most glaring flaw of the Dreadnaught fleet, the Galactic Republic military developed a technology to reduce the crew requirements. By installing a full-rig slave circuitry system, the crew requirements could be reduced from 16,000 per ship to a more manageable 2,200.
Two hundred of the heavy cruisers were outfitted with this new technology and dubbed the Katana fleet. The project failed when the crew were driven insane by a hive virus, slaved the fleet together, and made a random jump into hyperspace before the virus killed off every crew member. Another famous project that saw the use of Dreadnaughts, was the ill-fated Outbound Flight, aimed at extragalactic exploration. The ship-design used six Dreadnaughts to fill out the hull.
During the Clone Wars, the Dreadnaughts saw heavy use in many battles, including the Battle of Duro, the Battle of Rendili, and the Battle of Coruscant. Because the more advanced assault ships and Star Destroyers were reserved for clone crews and highly dedicated Republic officers, the planetary security forces and volunteer militaries of the Republic made heavy use of the Dreadnaught-class.
In addition to galactic governments and organizations, local forces also used these ships, as they constituted a cheaper alternative to the large warships available to the rich and heavily industrialized sectors.
With the rise of the Empire, the Dreadnaught continued to see widespread service, thanks to their abundance, and were often used to protect worlds that didn’t rate a Star Destroyer. After the Battle of Endor, the New Republic used several of these ships to help bolster their fledgling fleet and often converted them into Assault Frigates to save on manpower.