- "All ahead full and damn the torped..."
- —Final order of Captain Rienbard of the Avenger-class Grand Cruiser The Sword Infernus
The Avenger-class Grand Cruiser is in many ways the archetypal Grand Cruiser. It is a massively potent and brutally simple warship that mounts colossal close-ranged macrobatteries of Macrocannons in broadsides that run for kilometres along its flanks. While regarded as unusually reliable and faithful for Grand Cruisers, the Avengers are now amongst the rarest of their class. The Avenger dates from an earlier period of Imperial Navy fleet tactics, when squadrons of Grand Cruisers were employed as "line-breakers." Traditionally, they were thrown into the midst of massive fleet engagements, soaking up enemy fire while racing into the middle of enemy formations, then crushing their opponents at short range with tetrajoules of energy or projectiles from their oversized broadsides. These unforgiving tactics have taken their toll upon the few surviving Avengers, and they all bear the scars of grim, forgotten battles fought when the Imperium was young.
A noteworthy but relatively uncommon type of warship, Grand Cruisers are "pocket battleships" -- something of a halfway house between a Battleship and a Cruiser in size and firepower. They are intended principally to be capable of operating on their own rather than as part of a larger fleet, however, like many vessels of this type, they have been further designed for range (which is to say duration of deployment without significant resupply or refit) or to mount a specialised weapon system which requires particular tactics to utilise. Grand Cruisers can make for formidable heavy raiders and can use their range and speed to catch targets unawares, as well as being powerful flagships for small Imperial fleets or fleets of Cruisers and their Escorts.
The Imperial Avenger-class Grand Cruiser is a very old class of warship, a gun boat designed as a line-breaker during a time when the tactics of the ancient Armada Imperialis (the precursor to the modern-era's Imperial Navy) were much different from what they are today. This class was used in a fairly simple way: squadrons of Avenger-class Grand Cruisers would deploy behind a screen of Escorts or Light Cruisers while closing with the enemy fleet, then accelerate to maximum speed and race into the heart of the enemy fleet. Once there, it would sit in place and use its massive number of heavy broadside weapons batteries to trade barrages at point-blank range. The Avenger would also take severe damage from its foes in the process, but its big batteries could out-shoot most enemies at close quarters. When using Avengers, an Imperial battlefleet's tactical plan would usually call for two or three squadrons of the vessels to launch these brutal attacks simultaneously, causing so much damage and disruption through this close-quarters slug-match that the enemy formation would be reduced to disarray. The enemy vessels that survived the guns of the Avengers would then prove to be easy prey for the following waves of Imperial warships to mop up. This tactic was often effective, but the rate of attrition amongst Avenger squadrons was equally brutal, and the ship fell out of favour.
Unfortunately for the Avenger-class, tactical doctrine changed over the years, making the Avenger redundant in many Imperial Navy battlefleets. For the most part, the Avenger-class has been relegated from front-line duty, with many Avengers having had their massive weapons batteries ripped out for use elsewhere. Those Avenger-class squadrons that remain are mostly mothballed in fleet reserves, patiently awaiting the day when they will once again be called upon to blast their way into the heart of an enemy fleet to defend the Imperium of Man.
Notable Avenger-class Grand Cruisers
- Emperor's Vow - The Emperor’s Vow comes from an earlier era of Imperial fleets, where Grand Cruisers straddled the line between Cruisers and Battleships; heavier and slower than a Cruiser but less armed than a true Battleship. No one knows for certain where the Emperor’s Vow first originated, although the reserve fleets of Battlefleet Gothic are a likely possibility. Sebastian Winterscale journeyed through the Maw on its bridge, and it has called the Koronus Expanse its home ever since. Each Winterscale has ruled his interests from aboard it, to the point where Calligos does not bother to maintain a stronghold of operations on a planet or space station. In its many millenia of service, the Emperor’s Vow has undergone a great deal of modifications. The original macro-weapons have been replaced with either longer-range laser batteries or extremely powerful short-ranged macrobatteries, guaranteeing the ability of the Emperor’s Vow to crush its foes at any range. In addition, the aft gundecks have been removed and replaced with Titanforge lance turrets. Those foes foolish enough to fight the Emperor’s Vow find a ship able to wreak havoc at long range, but as they close its fire only intensifies, until they flee or break up under the punishment. The ship is utterly unsubtle, which seems to fit Winterscale’s desires perfectly. Its martial pride and legacy of Imperial service are immediately obvious by the unmasked ranks of gun batteries and baroque ornamentation portraying it as an Imperial vessel. Those who serve aboard her report the vessel seems to contain an aura of complete confidence and utter pride, as if the vessel itself could not conceive of a challenge it could not overcome. This hubris may not be misplaced -- in its centuries of service in the Winterscale’s fleet, the times the Emperor’s Vow has been forced to retreat from battle are few and far between.
- Guardian of Aquinas - The Guardian of Aquinas is a famous Avenger-class warship of the Martian Reserve Fleet.
- The Sword Infernus - The Sword Infernus is a renowned Avenger-class warship of Battlefleet Corona.
- Hull: 7.5 kilometres long, approximately 1.8 kilometres abeam at fins.
- Class: Avenger-class Grand Cruiser.
- Mass: 40 megatonnes, approximate.
- Crew: 141,000 crewmen, approximate.
- Acceleration: 2.2 gravities maximum acceleration.
- Battlefleet Gothic Armada, pg. 15
- Battlefleet Gothic Magazine 3, pg. 12
- Rogue Trader: Battlefleet Koronus (RPG), pp. 20-21
- Rogue Trader: Edge of the Abyss (RPG), pg. 103
- The Horus Heresy - Book Three: Extermination (Forge World Series) by Alan Bligh, "Warships of the Great Crusade," pg. 15