The Wraith Empire's true war machine
Here is a quick analysis on the subject of what the Wraith Empire's war machine really was ten thousand years ago.
Though this essay may contain material that is issued from former discussions about the Wraith with various people here and elsewhere, this essay should be seen as nothing more than my personnal thoughts, thusly it does not engage the opinions of any other members of this forum.
There are two main claims in that short essay.
- The hiveships were not the backbone of the wraith war fleet.
- The Wraith reached an impressive industrial capacity that is still completely underestimated.
There are several observations to list, which once looked at by meticulous eyes, let us reach obvious conclusions, and raise many questions.
- The satellite weapon: the perfect definition of overkill
In Siege Part I, McKay, Grodin and Mr. Two-Words-A-Script used a Mark I naqahdah generator to gather enough energy to shoot down an entire hiveship. The amount of power gathered there was said to be enough to destroy three hiveships, according to the lantian database.
The beam itself lasted so long, and so much was wasted that theoretically, it could have impaled even more hiveships if there had been any on the beam's trajectory.
This impressive feature was achieved with a naqahdah generator which, once overloading, would only release 20 kilotons of energy (based on McKay's claim from the episode Hide and Seek). So this puts some kind of cap on the amount of energy such a generator can deliver when calibrated to go boom in the very purpose to destroy a city.
That's barely 5 or 7 kilotons more than Hiroshima's event.
This is showing that the satellite cannon uses an exotic mechanism that is more efficient than pure DET, and is able to utterly blast to pieces hiveships which are made of armor that can easily withstand several multiple gigatons of firepower per second. A Wraith hiveship can withstand a nuclear explosion that actually occurs within a fraction of a second, and yet be destroyed by a beam that needs several seconds to drill through same armor with a much less powerful weapon. Raw energy can't explain that.
Just imagine what those satellites could achieve with active lantian power sources backing them up, or imagine what those beams would do when mounted on shielded warships.
Total butchery. They'd tear gaping holes through planets.
What would happen when those satellites would be fed by power sources far more impressive than mere naqahdah generators?McKAY: According to the Ancient database, it should be able to take out all three when fully charged. Keep in mind that the Ancient technology was far superior – they only lost the war because they were vastly outnumbered.
Even without housing a ZPM, a satellite is as big as a Goa'uld mothership. Which means enormous one or several power cores. This could really mean gigatons of energy, if not many magnitudes more.
Each satellite would be smoking entire garlands of tens of hundreds of hiveships within minutes!
- Hiveships: relatively too fragile and not specific enough
Though hiveships are devastating vessels on their own when used against less advanced societies, they still are extremely defenseless when it comes to engagements against lantian weaponry.
Their weakness can only be compensated by greater numbers and smaller vessels, but by a factor that would be completely ludicrous considering how high it would have to be, since the hiveships can be shot down by all Lantian weapons in a few volleys, by devices like the pulse cannon seen in Trinity, or by multiple squid drones, if not by instant-shot weapon systems like the cannons mounted on the satellites.
A siege strategy purely based on hiveships would be a waste of ressources and complete idiocy. The Wraith would have instead needed ships geared towards one single objective: be able to destroy any Lantian ship and base, and resist for long enough against anything they could throw at them.
Hiveships are multi purpose civilian crafts, which many of their roles do not fit the requirements of war. They are nothing more than big flying Wraith colonies, massive population centers, filled with many thousands of Wraiths, and armed with a couple of big guns for good measure.
To really pose a threat to a fully armed and defended Atlantis, the Wraith would have needed weapons that would deplete ZPMs even faster than what happened in Siege Part III, before being shot down by lantian weapons. In that same episode, we can see that while being several times the size of a cruiser, a hiveship can only bring to bear twice the amount of cannons of a cruiser.
Sending those hiveships against the Lantian fortress would be the worst strategy one could come with. A pointless mass suicide. The Wraith would only see their brethrens killed in the hundreds of thousands everyday, as hiveships could be shot down by Lantian weapons with utter ease.
No one can realistically imagine that the hiveships could pose a serious threat to fully active Lantian forces, backed up by ZPMs and many other power sources.
Using a swarm of cruisers would be a far better tactic against the Lantians. There are two elements to consider here though. First, we know that the Tria, an Aurora class vessel, was attaked by Wraith cruisers and severely damaged as a consequence of this engagement. On the same hand, such cruisers have never been seen flying in dense formations. Finally, that lantian warship had a ZPM onboard, which may have been used at a last resort to gain extra power to escape.
But then you see that in an episode like Condemned, a single drone fired by a crippled puddle jumper, which power was intermitent at best after McKay did some fine wirework, could still dig through far more than 100m or external cruiser armor.
Such a wraith ship would stand no chance against a single lantian warship. Even a swarm of cruisers would be completely obliterated by an Aurora class.
The obvious conclusion is that the Tria was taken by surprise, possibly with shields down during repairs, and possibly with no drones left (though the numerous cannons were probably still active and enough to keep the cruisers at bay to exit into hyperspace in time).
So with cruisers and thus hiveships out of the equation, we're left to wonder what kind of ship could have really posed a threat to Atlantis millenia ago so the Wraith could actually maintain a real and constant siege over the city.
The only advantage the Wraith had in this war might have been weapons as powerful as the ones used against Atlantis in The Siege Part 3, that is, weapons able to completely drain a ZPM within days.
But that's like having tough guns made of paper. A few drones or energy bolts and the Wraith are toasted within seconds.
- Those things do not look like hiveships at all
The most blatant evidence against the use of hiveships on the front line comes from the holographic document seen in Siege part II, which displayed large wraith ships orbiting Lantia.
All those massive silhouettes are the same in shape, but their schematic representation does not match the overall shape of a hiveship, that is, a long and rather flat superstructure:
- The Wraith blockade:
- Comparison between the two graphical displays: a boxy silhouette vs. a flat hiveship.
You would expect the Lantians to actually know the shape of their enemy's most important warships after decades of battles against them, right?
Even more, a simple elongated and flattened triangle would have been plain enough to represent the hiveships in a quick schematic way if they didn't want to waste time on graphics.
But this is simply not the case at all.
Bothering making a more complex 3D representation of a given class of ships which, in the end, does not even correspond to what a hiveship looks like, even with large artistic liberty, just serves to demonstrate that whatever the Wraith used during the siege over Atlantis, it had nothing to do with hiveships.
Whether those ships were experimental or heavier warships, equipped with superior means of defense or weapons, it's up to anyone.
I'd personally think that those ships did have defense systems that were largely beyond what the remaining Wraith forces use nowadays, possibly based on the culling beam that would be the perfect device against drones, and may have come with heavier long range siege cannons, possibly a very big one.
They may have even been shielded to some point.