The Ripper class of gunboats is one of a very few designs built to specifically counter a known enemy vessel. It was in fact the brain child of designers on Geisling, a few of whom had escaped the early Romulan occupation. Working with designers with Baker’s Dozen, the initial design of the Ripper was intended to counter the dreaded Romulan V-8. It was hoped that the Ripper could be built cheaply and quickly in large squadrons to counter the V-8’s ability to devastate targets with its plasma weapon. But even as designs were being reviewed, expatriates quickly realized that funding such a venture was impractical. Instead, the base design was sold to the highest bidder – Ripper Industries.
Executives at Ripper were also looking for an inexpensive design that could counter the dreaded V-8. Even as the Romulan threat waned, there were those who realized that a squadron of light attach craft could neutralize the threat and design work was immediate begun on a larger and more capable craft. Ripper Industries was an Orion controlled firm, though, and most of its designers began to look for ways of making the design more appealing to the flashy Orion captains who were looking for light cheep vessels.
The final A-1 model, first fielded in 2268, is often referred to as the most unnecessary ship in the Orion fleet. The Ripper mounts two wide wings and a massive tail fin, and yet is not designed for atmospheric operations. The wings indeed cause significant drag and can overwhelm the impulse drive at slow atmospheric speeds. The oversized tail fin, which would seem an ideal place for a large sensor array, in fact store water and atmospheric processing equipment, the vulnerability of which seems to have eluded the designers.
But the A-1 did have two major draws. While it was indeed gaudy, it did appeal to Orions of all type throughout the Triangle, and eventually the Orion colonies. The A-1 have extremely roomy cabins for each crew member. Cargo was distributed to five separate hold ensuring that even if damaged in combat, some supplies and cargo would survive. The A-1 mounted three disruptors and made the A-1 model a significant threat in its day. Typically efficient shields along with excellent maneuverability made the A-1 an instant hit with planetary defense forces, and by 2270, over 200 orders had been placed.
To fill demand, Ripper Industries was forced to outsource construction, leasing the design to Orinco and Vagabond. Eventually the Orion Syndicate became interested, and by late 2270, they had commissioned the A-2. This improved model replaced the lighter OD-2’s with more powerful and longer ranged OD-3’s. The A-2 also removed two of the small cargo holds in favor of a large “entertainment” chamber popular among Orion merchant princes. Green slave women could now be kept onboard in the opulence and luxury they demanded, and many captains began outfitting their ships in specific themes.
But the A-2 was no light freighter. Even as a raider, it was surpassed by many other designs. While the A-1 proved very popular in the Triangle, the A-2 seemed exclusively catered toward the Orion colonies. Few pirate captains attempted to buy the ships, while several mercenary groups and bounty hunters snapped them up as soon as they were on the open market. In an attempt to field a less expensive version, Orionco proposed and eventually produced the less expensive but equally useful A-3 model.
The A-3 removed the forward disruptor, replacing it with a targeting scanner for the longer range OD-4. The new disruptors had excellent range and could usually disable most ships within its class range. The A-3 retained the phenomenal maneuverability associated with the class and orders for the light craft quickly reached and then exceeded orders for the A-2.
Eventually, even the A-3 became less popular and Ripper introduced a radical new design. The A-4 was specifically built to counter the ever increasing pirate threat in both the Colonies and the Triangle. The A-4 replaced the impulse engines and all of the main weapons with the short ranged but powerful OD-6. The luxury suites were also replaced and a large torpedo was installed. The original cargo hold layout was also restored, and the A-4 immediately became a hit with the small but fanatical regular Orion naval officer core. The BPC, hoping to keep its naval regulars, contracted for 30 of the dangerous vessels, and the results were immediate. By 2278, nearly all of the serving A-4’s had encountered pirate vessels and had either captured or driven off their foes. In early 2279, two A-4’s from Vab encountered a Klingon battlecruiser under the command of Ketrol. The D-20 had crossed the neutral zone near Ayirn in the hopes of repeating the earlier success of the White Flame. But Ketrol, whose sensors were inferior to that of the increased Federation patrols, spend less than a day scanning before being chased into the Orion neutrality zone. Quickly realizing the Federation frigates and destroyers had stopped at the Orion boarder, Ketrol headed back towards Klingon space. When the two patrol craft from Vab demanded the customary payment for crossing Orion space, Ketrol refused and threatened the two smaller vessels. Both Orion ships made challenge, and Ketrol immediately engaged the two patrol vessels. Ketrol realized there would be little honor in destroying the two small ships, and in fact was worried about a takeover by his first officer. Ketrol ordered a few shots to be fired and expected the two Orions to simple wave off. Despite moderate damage, the two A-4’s continued closing. Ketrol became enraged and ordered his vessel to turn to engage the two ships. Within moments, the two Orions had closed to less than 60,000 km. Both transferred their power to weapons and simultaneously fired on Ketrol. The combined firepower of both torpedoes and disruptors devastated Ketrol’s ship, smashing the bridge and damaging many internal compartments. Ketrol was cut off from communication, and gunners aboard the Klingon vessel immediately took over. With no unified command from the bridge and communications cut off, none of the gun crews we able to coordinate their fire. While both A-4’s were hit and seriously damaged, they quickly turned and fled the battlefield. When communications were restored, Ketrol wisely chose to limp back to Klingon space rather than risk an encounter with a heavier vessel.
As impressive as the encounter near Vab was, it also pointed out the inherent problem with the A-4. Neither of the two Rippers that encountered Ketrol’s vessel were powerful enough to arm all of their onboard weapons. Coupled with the significantly reduced range, the A-4 was soon pulled from production in favor of the equally heavy A-5. The A-5 replaced the more efficient OWC-1 with the more powerful OWB-1. The A-5 also saw the return of the heavier OD-4 disruptor. Coupled with the OP-1 torepdo, the A-5 is now in high demand.
Despite its roomy interior and low cost, the Ripper had not proven overly popular with Pirates. Because of this, Star Fleet Intelligence believe that Ripper Industries’ claim of 400 Ripper hulls is fairly accurate. Of the 408 officially on record, 192 A-1’s, 35 A-2’s 67 A-3’s 16 A-4’s and approximately 15 A-5’s are in operation with the Orion colonies and Triangle. Intelligence reports indicate that 16 A-1’s, 3 A-2’s, 2 A-3’s and 5 A-4’s have been destroyed. Because of their ease of repair, only 3 A-1’s, 1 A-2 and 1 A-5 have been scrapped. Various corporate and government records state that 6 A-1’s, 3 A-2’s and 3 A-3’s have been lost, although some of these may have been sold to pirate cartels. The Klingons recently traded several vessels to Ripper Industries. Andorian intelligence operatives confirmed that 20 A-1’s and 10 A-2’s were traded to Klingon representatives. Unconfirmed reports show that 5 A-4’s and 5 A-5’s may also have been traded. The A-1 is still in general production at a rate of 6 per year. Orinco continues contract production of the A-2 and A-3. Production remains sporadic of these two models but seems to be averaging 3 of each model per year. Production rates of the A-6 vary widely, but best guess estimates place production at 5 per year. Reports show that Rapier Industries has current contracts for a total of 50 A-6’s.