U.S.S. Sullaco ("Aliens"):


This writeup uses information gained both from the movie "Aliens" and from the book "Aliens Colonial Marines Technical Manual". Compared with most Rifts designs, especially the offensive capabilities of the missile system might be large compared to the ships own damage rating. This is however very likely a realistic depiction of the future of space combat: He who gets seen first gets hit first, and he who gets hit is in deep trouble. No Star Trek shields, no miracle armor, kinetic energy weapons are BAD!

The Conestoga class Starships were originally designed as troop and logistics transports with only limited defensive capabilities. As the class aged, and revisions and upgrades took place, the ships were equipped with more and more weapons, until the entire class was upgraded to light assault ships, with some small space control and orbital bombardment role. These ships will remain in the USASF/Marine inventory until the first of the new Bougainville attack transports are taken into service, at which time the remaining Conestogas will be slowly taken out of service.

The Sulaco was the thirteenth ship of the class, and has received all the usual revisions of the class. Although the overall armaments between ships vary somewhat, the Sulaco is a reasonable example of the class. The Sulaco was never a very lucky ship. Since she has been commissioned there have been several incidents with her, the worst ones being hit by Anti-Ship missiles whilst in orbit over Linna 349, and a docking accident at Gateway station which killed five people. However, the worst incident involving the Sulaco is her deployment to Zeta Reticuli, with a full marine Squad and two civilians as her complement. Since her departure from Gateway station, more than ten years ago, there has been no sign from either the crew, or the Sulaco......

Like all Conestogas the Sulaco masses nearly 78,000 metric tonnes, is 385 meters long, and has a very characteristic layout. The main hull carries most of the sensors, weapons, and cargo space. Aft of the main hull is the Fusion Torus, and attached to that is the drive section, which houses all of the drive systems, including the FTL Tachyon shunt.

The power plant of the ship is a Westingland A-59 Fusion Reactor, which has a typical torus layout, and is fueled by Lithium-Hydride. Although this fuel requires a much higher operating temperature and pressure than reactors utilizing deuterium and lithium mixtures, the relative high density of the Lithium-Hydride provides the ship with maximum power for a whole year with just 900 cubic meters of fuel. The entire reactor is sheathed in armor, and in case of emergency or battle damage, the reactor can vent its plasma safely out into space, preventing damage to the ship itself.

Backup power is provided by four Magneto hydrodynamic turbines, although these can only supply a fraction of the power of the fusion plant.

The Engine section is attached directly to the Power plant, and with good reasons: The ships main sublight engines are four Gates-Heidmann Rocket engines. These rockets function by tapping hot plasma from the fusion reactor, and bringing it into contact with the reaction mass. The resultant gas is then expelled as for any normal rocket engine. The most intriguing part of this is the reaction mass, which is compromised of powdered crystalline carbon (industrial diamond dust). The crystalline carbon provides many benefits, including a high density, good availability (crystalline carbon is a byproduct of many Terra-forming installations) and the fact that the gaseous carbon does not leave any radio transmissions when it cools after having been expelled, thus providing some measure of stealth to the process. The thrust of the engines is regulated simply by adjusting the flow of carbon into the fusion plasma: A small flow provides a high temperature, high efficiency, but low powered burn, while a high carbon flow provides a low temperature, low efficiency, but high powered burn.

The ships FTL drive is a Romberg-Rockwell Cygnus 5 Hyperdrive Tachyon Shunt, which propels the ship through the light barrier by shifting the entire ship into a mirror state in which it is entirely composed of tachyons: In this state the ship CANNOT move at speeds lower than that of light. Speed is controlled by varying the mass and energy state of the ship. Shedding mass increases the ships speed, while increasing the ships mass lowers speed. The main disadvantage of this method of travel is that time is not compressed as one would expect, but *extended* when traveling at FTL speeds. This stretching of time is directly related to the square of the speed, and imposes some severe limits on the maximum speed of the ship, beyond which travel time becomes untenable. As is, all of the crew and passengers need to use the cold-sleep capsules during FTL travel, otherwise they would age far too fast compared to the rest of the universe.

The ship is quite well armed. Its main anti-ship weapons are eight Long Lance missiles, providing it with a good long range punch. These missiles are almost small starships in their capabilities and sensor systems, and are currently the main anti-ship system of both the Colonial Marine Corps and the Navy. Backing up these weapons are two Neutral Particle Beam cannons. These large weapons are mounted along the main hull, and can only fire in a forward arc. Although they do not provide the ship with a Hard Kill capability, they can be used to disrupt a enemies electronics at huge ranges. For close range weapons there are two laser cannons located on either side of the ship. These cannons provide close in defense against missiles, mines, and the odd fighter. For some additional close in Hard Kill capabilities there are two rail guns on the ship, one on top, and the other on the bottom of the main hull. Firing a combination of both kinetic penetrators (essentially tungsten darts) which can punch holes through almost any armor, and kinetic penetrator incendiary (tungsten tipped darts designed to vaporize AFTER impact), these weapons have a reasonable rate of fire, and can do quite a lot of damage to other ships.

The ship is also capable of laying mines, with sixty mines available in a ventral dispenser. Although not as large a threat to enemy ships as the ships missiles, they are still quite effective for interdiction and for cutting off civilian shipping.

For orbital bombardment the ship has a ventral launcher filled with eighty re-entry vehicles. These can carry a variety of warheads, including nuclear payloads. Such ordnance can only be used when the ship receives the orders to do so from its Captain, or from a Marine Major or personnel higher in rank than that.

The Conestogas skin consists of a laminated layer of insulators, alloy micro meteor shielding, composite armors, and aerogel layers. This provides only limited protection against Kinetic weapons (the best defense against those is high-mass armor, untenable on a starship), but it does provide excellent protection against directed energy weapons.

Overlying all of this are layers of Radar Absorbent Material, and a dark grey paint, in order to keep both the ships radar and optical signature as low as possible. In addition to this the ship has a radar jamming system for ECM, and the computer systems are designed with double hardened systems to prevent either jamming or EMP from damaging the ships system or any systems of equipment inside the ship. The radar system and other sensors on the ship are very sophisticated and are mainly (but not totally) located on the forward sensor booms. Running the length of the ships spine is a mass sensor for use during FTL flight.

The Conestogas are fully automated, with the main computer being fully capable of piloting and fighting the ship without any human hands, who might be locked in their cold sleep capsules or may be otherwise incapacitated. The Main computer is a 28 Terabyte Carbon 60 Core mainframe, which is located behind the flight deck. Although the computer runs Artificial Intelligence algorithms, it does NOT have a human-like personality, as this would only lower its efficiency. In case of mainframe failure there are several less powerful backup systems, that are capable of running all systems separately. Off course the computers decisions can be overridden by the human crew at any time.

Life support on the ship is capable of handling up to ninety persons without trouble. This is also the normal number of cold sleep capsules onboard of the ship. When transporting larger amounts of troops, additional cold sleep capsules can be installed in the cargo bays. However, the life support systems can only handle a large number of *awake* persons for a limited time. In order to insure the proper living environment for the waking crew, all ships areas have been given artificial gravity. This system also protects the crew from any sublight accelerations.

The ships emergency systems are mostly handled by the automatics. Since the ship is very compartmentalized any hull breaches can be easily dealt with by sealing off the damaged section. Any onboard fires are usually dealt by exposing the section to the outside vacuum, although the system requires a direct order from the commanding officer to do so when there is personnel in the affected section.

The Conestogas were designed as light transports, and their cargo handling capability reflects this: More than half of the main hull consists of cargo bays and shuttle bays. All of these bays can be pressurized to allow the crew and the marines easy access to them. The Main cargo bays can be accessed through a total of ten cargo bay doors in the sides of the ship, allowing for rapid loading and unloading. These cargo bays can also be used as makeshift shuttle bays, although it is advisable to allow all shuttles to use the dedicated shuttle bay located on the ships ventral surface. This bay has extensive shuttle handling capabilities for up to four shuttles or drop ships at once, and is also used for shuttle maintenance and refueling. Shuttles can be moved between the shuttle bay and the main cargo bay by means of a large (30 meters by 30 meters) cargo hoist.

The Sulaco follows theoretical information about starships operating non chemical propulsion in space. This has meant much greater speeds and accelerations. Listed is the formula to allow player and game masters to calculate the Sulaco`s velocity and distance traveled:

Vehicle Type: Conestoga Class Light Assault Carrier
Crew: None! Fully Automated Warship! It CAN, but does not need to, carry up to 90 crew members without modifications to its life support. Alternately, these places can be taken by Marines.
Troops: Can carry up to 2000 Assault troops, but with only basic equipment, and only two shuttles onboard.
Normally carries 450 troops, with full equipment, eight drop ships and extra supplies.
Life support can support ninety persons indefenitively, 450 persons for four weeks, and 2000 men for four days.

Vehicle Compliment:

4Assault/Cargo Shuttles
8Drop ships

M.D.C. By Location:

Particle Beam Cannons (2, sides): 350 each
Laser Turrets (2, sides):150 each
Rail Gun Turret (2, top, bottom):150 each
Long Range Missile Launcher:250
RV Launcher:200
Orbital Mine Dispenser:150
Decoy Launch Bay:150
Side Cargo Bay doors (5 each side):200 each
[1] Main Body:5,000
Hull Per 40 ft Area :100
[2] Control Center:1,000
[3] Main Sensor Cluster (forward):800
[4] Hangar Bay:800
[5] Fusion Torus:2,000
[6] Carbon Plasma Thrusters (4):600 each
[7] Engineering Section :2,000

[1] Depleting the M.D.C. of the main body will put the ship out of commission. All internal systems will shut down, including life support. The ship itself will be an unsalvageable floating wreck.
[2] In reality this is how much damage needs to be done for a weapon to hit the control center through the ships armor. This ship does not have an auxiliary control center. Even if the control center is destroyed, the ship can still be piloted from manual terminals but ship is -3 to dodge and all weapon systems will be at local control. Weapon hits near the bridge that do not penetrate the ships integrity can injure crew members on or near the bridge.
[3] The Main sensor cluster is located in the front of the ship. Destroying it means that the ship will have -80% to read sensory rolls, all sensor ranges are halved, and all long range weapons (particle beam cannons) have a -2 to strike.
[4] Destroying the Hangar bay means that any shuttles and drop ships will have to dock through one of the side cargo bay doors. This imposes a -20% penalty roll on the piloting skill of the docking pilot, plus, it means that the cargo bay must be depressurized for this operation, so that any crew present must wear suits.
[5] Destroying the Fusion Torus means that the ship loses main power: No FTL drive, no artificial gravity, and the main engines can ONLY work at the lowest (0.5G) level. Backup power is provided by four magneto hydrodynamic turbines, deep inside the main hull.
[6] The Destruction of one Thruster reduces the ships acceleration by one quarter. The destruction of two Thrusters reduces the ships acceleration by one half. Destroying three Thrusters will reduce the ships acceleration by three quarters. Destroying all four Thrusters means that the maximum sublight acceleration is reduced to ten percent of normal (using navigational thrusters).
[7] Destroying the engineering section means that ship FTL propulsion systems are destroyed and maximum sublight acceleration is reduced to ten percent of normal (using navigational thrusters).

Driving on the Ground: Not Possible.
Space Propulsion: The starship does not have an effective top speed but is limited by acceleration. The Conestogas can reach a top acceleration of 4 G but due to high fuel consumption and extra strain on the engines, the ships will normally travel at 0.5 G for any extended trips. Top acceleration is only meant for emergencies and combat maneuvers. Because the Conestogas are mostly unshielded from the effects of radiation and hypervelocity atomic particles (they are not completely unshielded), the Conestogas are not operated at speeds exceeding 20% of the speed of light.
Atmospheric Propulsion: The Conestogas cannot operate within an atmosphere. If the ship enters an atmosphere, it will crash.
Stardrive: The ship uses a Romberg-Rockwell Cygnus 5 Hyperdrive Tachyon Shunt which can propel the ship at a maximum cruise velocity of 0.0325 Lightyears per realspace hour, or 284.7 times the speed of light. At these speeds each real space hour at FTL means that on board of the ship no less than 81.054 hours pass, or almost 3.4 days!
The calculation for this simple, Speed (in lightspeed units) divided by ten, and the square of that number is the "elongation factor" for onboard time.
Maximum Range: Conditionally limited, the fusion reactor has enough fuel for one year at maximum output. Also, the ships propulsion is limited by the ships reaction mass. The ship can be refueled at space stations, and by other star ships as long as they have the special facilities. The ship can also be refueled by fuel shuttles.
The Conestogas carry six month of reaction mass for travel at a constant acceleration of 0.5 G. Double the consumption of fuel for 1.0 G of acceleration and double the consumption again for every 1.0 G of acceleration beyond 1 G. This means the ship will burn the fuel 16 times faster than at 0.5 G of acceleration at maximum speed. The ship will often accelerate for a period of time and then shut down the engine and travel using the ships velocity. If the ships uses more than half of its reaction mass when accelerating, the ship will be unable to decelerate fully and the ship will normally only use a third or less of its fuel on accelerating so it does not run into a problem.. If the ship runs out of fuel then it must be refueled by another vehicle traveling faster or be lost.

Statistical Data:
Length: 1,284 feet (385 meters)
Height: 351 feet (105.2 meters)
Width: 257 feet (77 meters)
Weight: 84,000 tons (78,000 metric tons)
Power System: Westingland A-59 Lithium-Hydride Fusion Reactor
Cargo: Cargo holds are scattered about the ship that allows for carrying up to 20,000 tons of cargo in addition to standard compliment of supplies and ammunition. Each enlisted crew member has a small locker for personal items and uniforms. Ships officers have more space for personal items. Most of the ships spaces are take up by extra ammunition, armor, troops, weapons, engine, and other equipment.
Market Cost: 3.2 billion to construct.


  1. One Long Range Missile Launcher: Located on top of the ship, near the front, is one battery of eight launch tubes, each carrying a single XIM-28 Long Lance Missile. These missiles are the ships main anti-ship armament. Each missile accelerates at 15 Gs, with added to that speed the launching starships own speed. In the first phase of their flight the missiles are inertial guided, and follow a pre-programmed flight path, with a mid-flight correction provided by a non-interceptable tightbeam laserlink. In the last 200 km of their flight, the missiles employ a combination of passive infrared scanning, Radar and ECM homing, and when needed, a powerful monopulse radar.
    Upon target acquisition a second stage burn is initiated, this one at 50 Gs!, which propels the missile towards the target. The warhead consists of a Forged-Fragment ring, which is fused to fragment two Kilometers from the target, instantly creating a lethal cloud of high velocity penetrating fragments that offer a instantaneous maximum hit probability and cannot be intercepted.
    Each of these missiles can be targeted and fired at a different target. The missiles used are ALL Smart Missiles, and are Stealthed, so that they are -20% to detect by all means! Also, the use of a second stage means that these missiles can be fired at targets *beyond* the range of the first long duration burn.
    Mega Damage Capacity: Each missile has 120 M.D.C.
    Mega-Damage: The Shards from the fragmentation warhead cover a area of 2500 square meters (2,777,778 square feet) at optimum range, and do 5D6x10 MD per 200 feet (60 meters) of target size. Anything smaller than 200 feet in length receives 3d4x10 MD in damage. A starship of 800 feet length receives a whopping 2D6x100 MD!
    Maximum damage done is 4D6x100 MD, and all damage is *kinetic* in nature.
    Maximum Effective Range: First stage is 10,000 miles (16,040 km)in space, cannot be used in a atmosphere.
    Second stage is 125 miles (200 km), and *does not* have to initiate immediately after the first stage!
    Rate of Fire: One at a time, or volleys of 2, 4, or 8.
    Payload: 8 missiles, normally no reloads.
  2. Two (2) Particle Beam Cannons: The Sulaco carries two Neutral Particle Beam cannons for its main beam weapons. These cannons are mounted to the upper side of the main hull, and can only fire forward in a 30 degree arc. They have standard penalties to hit fighters and other small targets, and the cannons cannot be used at FTL speeds.
    These particle beam cannons operate differently than the particle beam cannons in Rifts and Robotech. Instead of just being another type of energy weapon, these weapons fire a stream of neutral particles derived from deuterium plasma. They do not cause much physical damage, though they do damage shields. They disable targets by interfering with the target's electrical systems.
    For gaming purposes, Neutral Particle Beam weapons have a damage rating. This is how much damage the weapon will inflict on shields. Once any shields are penetrated, however, the damage works differently. The particle damage is recorded separately from normal physical damage. The amount of "damage" inflicted by the particle weaponry is compared to the amount of main body remaining. The percentage of damage inflicted is determined in relation to the main body: (damage / main body) x 100 = percentage
    For every 10% damage from particle weapons, the following penalties apply: The target will be at -1 to Strike, Parry (if appropriate), and Dodge. In space, target acceleration will be reduced by 15% and in an atmosphere, top speed will be reduced by 15%. Roll once on the Critical hit chart in the Phase World Sourcebook or Rifts Conversion book as appropriate.
    If a ship takes 60% or more of its main body in Particle Beam damage, then the ship or vehicle will be disabled completely. All weapon, navigation, and other systems will shut down. The ships Emergency life-support and emergency communications are likely to work, but nothing else.
    When crossing universes, some ships would probably be immune to these weapon systems. These include the U.W.W. ships and the UFO Intruder ships from Phase World, the semi biological protoculture based systems from Robotech, and the Unusual hull construction of the Vorlons, Shadows, and races that copied the first ones technology from Babylon 5.
    Maximum Effective Range: 62,344 miles (100,000 km) in space and 62 miles (100 km) in an atmosphere.
    Damage: 1D6x100 M.D.C. per cannon to shields and special effects (See above)
    Rate of Fire: One time per melee per cannon (one burst takes the entire melee)
    Payload: Each cannon has enough deuterium tanking for 15 firings.
  3. Two (2) Laser Turrets: One turret is mounted on each side of the ship. Each turret holds one free-electron laser. These weapons are used against full size starships, against fighters, and an anti-missile point defense. These weapons have no penalties to strike small targets, and can be fired on automatic ( six attacks per melee, +2 to strike)
    Maximum Effective Range: 12.5 miles (20 km) in space and 7,500 ft (2,288 m) if fired into an atmosphere.
    Mega-Damage: 2D4x10 for a single blast
    Rate of Fire: Equal to gunners hand to hand (Usually 4 or 5), or six attacks on automatic guidance (+2 to strike).
    Payload: Effectively unlimited.
  4. Two (2) Rail Gun Turrets: Automated close in weapon system which is used as a last line of defense against missiles and starfighters, and as a reasonably effective system against nearby enemy ships. It is both radar and infrared guided and has a +3 to hit. It can be fired manually, but normally it is set on automatic. The railgun rounds are a mix of KPC (Kinetic Core Penetrating) and KPI (Kinetic Penetrating Incendiary). The high penetration of these rounds Means that they give critical hits on a roll of 17 or higher, and they do damage to 40 feet areas of the hull due to the bursts low dispersion!
    Maximum Effective Range: 62.5 miles (100 km) in space and 37,500 ft (11,438 m) if fired into an atmosphere.
    Mega-Damage: 3D6x10+30 for a 6 round burst. No single shots.
    Rate of Fire: automated 4 times per melee OR gunners hand to hand(Usually 4 or 5).
    Payload: 360 rounds per gun for 60 bursts.
  5. One Orbital Mine Dispenser : This dispenser is located on the bottom of the ship, near the Fusion torus. It can launch orbital mines for planetary interdiction or for the obstruction of enemy ships. Each mine is equal to the second stage of a Long Lance missile, has a smaller warhead, but the same guidance and stealth! (see Long Range missile Launcher for a more complete description). The Mines will wait with initiating a burn until the target ship is within their *powered* range.
    Mega Damage Capacity: Each mine has 75 M.D.C.
    Mega-Damage: The Shards from the fragmentation warhead cover a area of 900 square meters (10,000 square feet) at optimum range, and do 5D4x10 MD per 200 feet (60 meters) of target size. Anything smaller than 200 feet in length receives 1D6x10 MD in damage. A starship of 800 feet length receives a whopping 2D4x100 MD!
    Maximum damage done is 2D4x100 MD, and all damage is *kinetic* in nature.
    Maximum Effective Range: Powered range is 125 miles (200 km)
    Rate of Fire: The dispenser can launch 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, or 10 mines per round.
    Payload: 60 orbital mines, no reloads.
  6. One RV Launcher : This launcher is located on the bottom of the ship, near the nose. It launches unpowered Re-entry Vehicles for orbital bombardment of planetary targets. Each of these RV`s carries the equivalent of a heavy missile Warhead, and while unpowered, they are guided onto their targets as if they were smart missiles (+5 to strike), but they do not get a second attack, and cannot dodge. Their speed upon reentry (mach 20+ !!) means that they can only be engaged ONCE by non-missile counterfire before they impact though!
    Mega-Damage: Varies with warhead types (Go to Revised bomb and missile table).
    Additional is a Kinetic Penetrator that does 1D6x100 MD to a area of 1 square meter (9 square feet). In special cases up to ten of the RV`s can be medium nuclear bombs (go to Nuclear bombs and missiles), but the use of these can only be authorized by the ships Captain or a Marine Major or personnel of higher rank.
    Maximum Effective Range: anywhere from orbit, takes 2D6 minutes to reach target!
    Rate of Fire: The dispenser can launch 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, or 10 mines per round.
    Payload: 80 RV`s, no reloads.
  7. One Decoy Launch Bay : In this bay there are a total of eight Decoy Balloons. These craft are specialized missiles that, when launched, deploy a inflatable section which has the same radar cross section as the ship. Its albedo, color and general shape are also close to that of the launching ship, and as a last ruse there is a powerful ECM array onboard, which mimics the ECM signals of a real ship. The Balloons can maneuver just like the real ship too.
    All this makes for a great (if short lived) decoy: there is a 80% chance that the balloons is confused with the launching ship. This makes them very useful for decoying long range ship killer missiles.
    Mega-Damage: any vehicle flying through take 2D6 M.D.C. (destroys the Ballute, efficiency of decoy drops to 20%, mainly due to the ECM system.)
    Effects: The decoy balloons has an 80% chance of fooling ordinary non military sensors and non smart guided missiles, the decoy has a 50% chance of fooling military level sensors, and the decoy has a 25% chance of fooling advanced military sensors and smart missiles.
    As long as the launching ship does not accelerates, decelerates, or changes course away from the balloons, they will stay with the ship, off course, the Balloons can be used to maneuver away from the ship on purpose, to fool enemy missiles even more.
    Maximum Effective Range: can maneuver at a maximum of 4G for twelve rounds, and can power the ECM for that same amount of time.
    Rate of Fire: Two (2) Per Melee
    Payload: Eight Decoy Balloons.

Other Systems:

[ Brodkil TM, Bushido Industries TM, CAF TM, Catyr TM, CCW TM, Consortium of Civilized Worlds TM, Free Worlds Council TM, Gene Splicers TM, K-Hex TM, Kittani TM, Kreeghor TM, Machine People TM, M.D.C. TM, Mega-Damage TM, Metzla TM, M’Kri Hardware TM, Monro TM, Mutants in Orbit TM, Naruni Enterprises TM, Noro TM, Paradise Federation TM, Phase World TM, Psylite TM, Rifter TM, SAMAS TM, S.D.C. TM, Seljuks TM, Splugorth TM, Sunaj TM, Trans-Galactic Empire TM, Tri-Galactic Military Service TM, United Worlds Warlock TM, U.W.W. TM, Wolfen TM, and Zembahk TM are trademarks owned by Kevin Siembieda and Palladium Books Inc. ]

[ Beyond the Supernatural®, Heroes Unlimited®, Nightbane®, Ninjas & Superspies®, Palladium Fantasy®, and Rifts® are registered trademarks owned by Kevin Siembieda and Palladium Books Inc. ]

[ Aliens, Sulaco, Conestoga, USCM and Colonial Marines are trademark and copyright of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. ]

[ The book Aliens Colonial Marines Technical Manual is copyright by Lee Brimmicombe-Wood. ]

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This Writeup is a homage to both the Movie "Aliens" and to the book "Aliens Colonial Marines Technical Manual", and no profit of any kind is made from this Writeup.

By Mischa (E-Mail Mischa).

Minor Revisions and Formatting by Kitsune (E-Mail Kitsune).

Rifts Conversion Copyright © 2000, Mischa. All rights reserved.