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The Expanse: 5 Reasons Why The Donnager Should’ve Had Escorts

All capital ships need escorts, and the MCRN Donnager of The Expanse was no exception.

The Donnager pre-boom.
The MCRN really should’ve learned from the Death Star’s example.

In the universe of The Expanse, the MCRN Donnager was the lead ship of the Donnager-class battleships in service with the Martian Congressional Republic Navy. The Donnager measured almost 500 meters/1640 feet long, and massed about a quarter million tons. She was armed with 14 torpedo tubes (6 fore, 8 aft), 2 Foehammer ultra-heavy railgun turrets, and 59 40 mm point defense cannons. In addition, she had a large internal hangar capable of housing up to 8 support ships.

For scale! And for the Martian Congressional Republic!
You can see exactly how the Donnager could hold 8 escorts here.

At the time of her destruction, the Donnager‘s hangar housed only a single broken civilian shuttle and 1 corvette: the MCRN Tachi. For some reason, it was otherwise empty. Bear in mind that at the time of writing this article, I have only watched up to Season 1, episode 7; so if there was any reason why the Donnager only had 1 corvette as its escort, I’m not aware of them.

The Donnager in battle

Shortly after picking up the civilian shuttle Knight and all aboard her, the Donnager was approached by a single unknown ship. That single ship, however, suddenly split apart into 6 ships upon arrival, and proceeded to launch torpedoes at the Donnager. The Donnager returned fire with her own torpedoes, destroying one of the mystery ships, but was unable to shoot down all of the incoming torpedoes in time. 2 hit, with one of them hitting the reactor compartment and leaving the Donnager dead in the water, so to speak.

Zerg Rush in operation.
Even the Zerg knew that quantity is its own quality.

When the mystery ships closed in for the kill, the Donnager opened up with her railguns and PDCs, killing 3 more enemy ships. By this time though, the mystery ships had returned fire with their own railguns, and had disabled the Donnager’s weapons. This left her helpless as the 2 remaining mystery ships sent in boarders. In the end, the captain of the Donnager, Theresa Yao, was forced to scuttle the battleship to prevent her capture.

Related Story: Why we love The Expanse

This entire battle highlighted a very important fact: capital ships aren’t meant to travel alone. Capital ships travel with escorts for a reason. Many reasons in fact. I will list 5 of them here.

1. Point Defense

Escorts are able to contribute to point defense. Even if the escorting warship had very little in the way of point defense, she would still be able to defend a capital ship by adding to her own point defense network. The Honor Harrington novels by David Weber vividly shows us this, depicting escorts shooting down missiles meant for larger capital ships.

Even within The Expanse, we see that mutually supporting point defense systems can shoot down large numbers of missiles before they reach their target. The 6 mystery ships managed to shoot down all but 1 of 20 torpedoes launched at them before they could hit. Had the Donnager herself had escorts supporting her point defense systems with their own, the battle would’ve looked less like this:

Donnager all by her lonesome.
All alone, with no one there beside me.

And more like this:

Donnager not all by her lonesome.
You gotta have friends!

It’s like that old saying: a stick can be easily broken, but a bundle is a lot harder to break.

2. Supporting the Donnager

Escorts are able to add their weapons fire to your own. This is especially important when your target has powerful point defenses of their own. Consider that in the previous battle, the Donnager fired 20 torpedoes at the mystery ships, but hit and killed only 1 of them. A hit ratio of only 5% is not good accuracy, especially when we’re talking about some very expensive torpedoes. These aren’t dirt-cheap bullets we’re talking about here.

Had there been even one more ship launching torpedoes alongside the Donnager, more mystery ships could’ve been shot down. This would’ve degraded their ability to shoot down further missiles. In addition, it would’ve also limited their ability to continue their attack. Without numbers on their side, the mystery ships could’ve been forced to retreat, sparing the Donnager.


By B.K. Lok

I'm a new author exploring the world of writing, and now seeing about getting something published for once. I've also been posting fanfiction on under the pen name BbK2442 for several years now, if any of you are interested.

2 replies on “The Expanse: 5 Reasons Why The Donnager Should’ve Had Escorts”

I think it is stated in the book that Donnager has an escort or it is part of the bigger fleet. I expect the same for the show only they did not said it. They split from group only to take in the Knight survivals. They did not expected to get into space battle and their super advanced sensors did not pick up any ships in closed vicinity at the time. They did not expect anyone else to have a stealth technology of this degree. When the ships finally came all they could see was a ship slowing toward them. As for they did not run away they considered arriving ship (not knowing to be more ships) to be belters and so to be vastly inferior to them. Martians are said to be arrogant many times both in the books or in the show. When the stealth ships torpedoed the Donnager it was to late by then. Also with accuracy of PDC there is no need to have too many escorts in my opinion. The target is one, yes, but so is the targeting area of the torpedoes, and when you know where the torps are heading how many super accurate PDC you need? Donnager has dozens of them with no area of the ship left unprotected. Escorts are not useless I concur but in this kind of mission they seemed not to be needed. If they engaged in combat I expect them to bring more support ships. And for lack of accuracy from martian torpedoes all the Amun-Ra ships has their own PDC so most of the torpedoes were shoot down the same as the Donny has taken down the most of enemy torpedoes.

1. The Donnager carries its escorts inside its hangar. Up to two frigates (AKA gunboats) or four destroyers (AKA patrol boats).
2. Space combat does not work like naval combat. There is no real combat advantage to escorts in the Expanse. You don’t really need to scout because you can see in every direction for hundreds of thousands of kilometers. And a larger ship has more quantity and quality of weapons. In combat, battleships work to protect the more vulnerable escorts while they contribute to the weight of fire. The only purpose of escorts is operational; a battleship cannot be in every place at once, and detaching escorts is useful.
3. You got Honor Harrington wrong as well, albeit through omission. Cruisers do screen for wallers, but the key difference is the existence of impeller wedges, which create an impenetrable barrier at the top and bottom of a ship. You can shoot point defenses and missiles through the sidewalls (shields that protect the sides of the ship), but not the wedge, which can be rotated to face the enemy. That is where the screen comes in. They put screening ships in the “blind spots” to improve coverage.

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