Spacefleet Signal Corps

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by Tom Stephens

Spacefleet’s Signal Corps is a sub-branch of Spacefleet responsible for all aspects of Spacefleet communications including regular day-to-day communications as well as all forms of signal intelligence.  In addition to having members of the Signal Corps on all Spacefleet vessels to manage communications, the Signal Corps maintains listening outposts all over the Frontier and Rim and also controls and manages the large fleet of Talnor Class Communications  vessels.

The Signal Corps is as old as Spacefleet itself.  It was established as part of Spacefleet’s original charter to handle communications for Spacefleet and the fledgling United Planetary Federation in the wake of the First Sathar War.  At that time it was realized that if the new federation was going to work, a strong communication network was going to be needed and so the Signal Corps was explicitly created to fulfill that need.  Thus the Signal Corps maintains both space- and ground-based assets to fulfill that role, probably the only part of Spacefleet to control sizable ground-based assets.

Regular Duties

The Signal Corps fills three main roles within Spacefleet: regular communications, signal intelligence gathering, and signals analysis.

Regular Communications

With the exception of UPF fighters, every Spacefleet vessel has at least one member of the Signal Corps as part of the crew.  These crew members are responsible for the operation of the sensors and communications gear on the ship.  On larger vessels with multiple Signal Corp crew members, they are also responsible for the maintenance of these systems.  This includes the videocom and subspace radios as well as the radars and energy sensors on ships that have them.

Signal Corps crew members that handle the operation of the sensors and communications equipment tend to have strong computer, data analysis, and communications skills while those that are responsible for maintenance tend to have strong technical and computer skills.

As another aspect of regular Spacefleet communications, the Signal Corps maintains a number of Talnor Class communications vessels (p 12).  These ships are typically assigned to all of the major Spacefleet operations groups to provide communications support during operations.  While most of the members of the command crew of these ships (i.e. pilots, astrogators, engineers, and gunners) are typically not members of the Signal Corps, almost all of the rest of the crew are.

In addition to shipboard communications, the Signal Corps operates at least one major communication nexus in each system in the Frontier to facilitate the day to day communications of Spacefleet, Land Fleet, Star Law, and the UPF.  These posts can be both ground based as well as on-board space stations , or in some cases for new worlds, a Talnor Class vessel is assigned to this duty, and are staffed by Signal Corps personnel responsible for handling all relevant responsibilities.

Signal Intelligence Gathering

The various communication nexuses and Talnor Class vessels deployed with operations groups also perform a general signal gathering function.  While they are not actively processing signals designated for their system or fleet, these facilities also constantly collect data on other signals.  This includes, but is not limited to, data about numbers of communication signals originating from various systems in the Frontier, transmitter and recipient codes, and in some cases actual messages.  All of this data is monitored for specific triggers and flags as well as general trends and patterns.

In addition to these assets that support regular communications, the Signal Corps maintains a number of listening posts and Talnor Class vessels that are fully dedicated to signal intelligence gathering.  These posts are listening to sources both inside and outside of the Frontier and are monitoring known threats and issues as well as searching for new signals and patterns.  The exact number of these assets is unknown but it is believed that there are many more active Talnor Class vessels operating in this role than are used for support of the working operations groups.

Signals Analysis

In addition to collecting the data, part of the role of the Signal Corps is to analyze the data.  Some of this is done in real time as the data is collected.  Especially for data directly related to the current operations.  Also, data on high priority general targets are also processed as soon as they are received.

However, as much of the subspace and videocom radio traffic is encrypted, only the largest computers have a chance of trying to crack the encryptions on messages of interest in any reasonable amount of time.  While the computers on-board the Talnor class vessels are large and powerful, they are nowhere near large enough to process all the data that the ship receives.  Much of this data is archived and downloaded when the ships return to port.  The data is then transfered for processing at Spacefleet’s well-known but top secret processing centers on Morgaine’s World and Triad.

These installations are huge computer processing centers that work on all types of computational tasks, including decryption and analysis of all the data collected by the communications ships and installations around the Frontier.  The centers are heavily guarded and defended.  While there are two known centers on Morgaine’s World and Triad, it is rumored that Spacefleet has other centers that are even larger in unknown locations.

Training

In addition to normal operations, the large number of operating Talnor Class vessels play a significant role in Spacefleet training.  With their relatively large crew size  there are a lot of crew slots that are potentially available as training billets.  Spacefleet takes advantage of this potential and many Spacefleet personnel, both enlisted and officers, have served on one of the Signal Corps vessels, typically during their early training years.

With typical operational tours of only two or three months, the time away from port for a Talnor Class vessel is perfect for training and tends to be fairly routine without a lot of excitement.  With two full, diverse crews there are training possibilities for most typical positions throughout Spacefleet.  At any given time, up to twenty percent of a Talnor Class vessel’s crew is typically on their first or second training tour.    This is true for the vessels on normal patrol or communications duty.  Those vessels on exploration or “black ops” assignments are typically not used for training duties as their missions tend to be longer and/or more sensitive.

Service Patch

Pictured above, the Signal Corps logo is based on the standard UPF shield logo used by Spacefleet, Landfleet, and Star Law.  The logo starts with the standard Starfleet version: a black UPF emblem on a gold background with a blue border and Spacefleet in white across the top of the shield.  The Signal Corps name is in white at the bottom point of the shield.  Finally, the logo has a silver broadcasting radio antenna superimposed on top of the UPF emblem.