The ISDC is committed to deep space exploration and peaceful co-existence with any extra-terrestrial civilisations encountered, but also recognises the need for defence. It is not known how many civilisations may be encountered that are capable of space travel and hostilities may be unavoidable, particularly given potential difficulties with communication and translation.

While not conceived as a warship, the vessel will be designed with defensive capabilities that allow safe operation in the unpredictable environment of deep space. This will include both active defence systems such as torpedoes and passive defence measures such as hull armour.

Limited contact with extra-terrestrial vessels experienced so far has not uncovered any useful information on their weapons systems. This has led the ISDC to mandate a ‘broad-spectrum’ approach to the defence technology it will deploy, encompassing projectile, directed-energy and electronic-warfare systems.

"The vessels we've seen so far don't appear to have much at all in the way of weapons systems," says Master Chief Alex Peterson, one of the ISDC's senior tactical specialists. "This could be because we simply can't recognise an alien weapons system, or that the vessels visiting Earth so far are just smaller, unarmed scout ships."

The type of weapons system encountered will infuence tactical approach. Directed energy systems are thought to be most effective at closer range, encouraging a 'dogfight" style of engagement. Alternatvely, high-speed guided projectile systems (like the torpedos planned for deployment on the ISDC's vessel) encourage longer-range engagements, which rely more heavily on the skills of weapons direction and tactical sensor crews.

"We'll be simulating a lot of tactical scenarios during training," says Peterson. "We want crews to be ready for whatever gets thrown at them out there."

Terrestrial Threat

Extra-terrestrial threats are not the ISDC’s only concern. The US Air Force currently believes it has a monopoly on deep-space capability and it is thought likely their leadership will react unfavourably should they discover the existence of the ISDC – which is almost inevitable when the vessel launches. The ability to defend the terrestrial interests of participating governments is therefore a required capability for the vessel.