Ask Admiral Growler (Continued)
Kenneth Moline asks: I understand that deck crews are used to move drones from the ready racks to the fighter launch rails, but are they also used to move drones from the cargo bay to the ready racks?
ANSWER: Rule (FD2.443) provides that if there are drones in cargo boxes on the ship they are automatically moved to fighter reload storage as space becomes available. (Somebody does it, but not the deck crew.) It does not require any deck-crew actions to move such drones. Deck crews are required to load drones onto ready racks, and to load drones on ready racks onto fighters. If there is no ready rack, a deck-crew action is required to move a drone to the shuttle bay (J4.8962).
Follow-up question: Does the rack have to be taken off line to reload the reload area from cargo?
ANSWER: The rules indicate that in order to reload a drone rack you have to take it off line. The rules under (FD2.44) say that when you take a drone from reload storage for the rack to load into the drone rack, a drone from cargo storage is automatically moved into the reload storage space you just emptied. So the rack is off line, but is only off line for the purpose of being reloaded, the arrival of the drone to refill the reload storage capacity of the rack is just incidental to this. Note that you cannot have one deck crew loading drones onto a ready rack while another deck crew is simultaneously taking drones off the ready rack (J4.8172). This is all in the rulebook.
Follow-up question: The two carriers in the Basic Set lack cargo boxes. Does that mean that they only have one full set of drones for the fighters, plus the supply for the drone racks, or do the fighter boxes provide storage also?
ANSWER: See Annex #7G on Page 222 of the Basic Set rulebook. It provides that both the Kzinti CV and CVS carry 150 spaces of drones for their fighter groups (these are the drones in the fighter ready racks and fighter drone storage). This storage is separate from the drones in the drone racks (and reload storage) of the ship. See (FD2.45) for figuring out special drones. Note that the AxCVL requires you to see its ship description for the drones it has stored for its fighters (in this case 100 spaces), because not all AxCVLs have drone-armed fighters. In each product Annex #7G is updated for any carriers added.
So you probably meant to say that the transporter operation is taking place in Impulse #15, in which case both ships are scheduled to move on Impulse #16 for purposes of determining shield facing, and in that case rule (D3.41) refers you to (D3.43).
Follow-up question: How many "special" rails does a two-space drone take up? I understand that a "heavy" rail mounts one drone regardless of size, but I do not get special rails.
ANSWER: Special rails are, mostly, just standard size rails that are able to operate certain types of drone warheads and one type of frame that normal "standard" rails cannot operate. For the most part, this is just multi-warhead (both multi-warhead and Starfish (FD15.251)] warheads and type-III frames (J4.233). ["Standard" rails can operate any type of drone warhead except multi-warhead (J4.2313) and Starfish (FD15.251) types.] Note that a type-III drone frame is a single-space frame, unless you add extended range which converts it to a two-space frame (FD2.222), but does not increase the warhead (it is still just a twelve-point warhead).
So a typical fighter with a pair of "special rails" could have two type-IIIMW drones on them (one on each rail) with a total of six submunitions. (It could have two type-III Starfish, or two type-IMW, or two type-I Starfish, or one type-IIIMW and one type-III Starfish, etc.) The fighter could not carry a type-IIIXX (or a type-IV or type-V) drone, all of which are two-space drones, whether they had MW/Starfish warheads or not.
Now, some fighters have "paired rails" that allow them to carry one "two-space" drone in place of two "single-space" drones. In most cases the "paired rails" are either both "special rails", or at least one of them is, and in such cases you can mount a two-space drone with an MW module. You probably do not want to mount a type-IIIXX frame. (There is not much point to a drone with 100 turns of endurance in most scenarios; the standard 25 turns of a normal type-III frame is usually more than enough.) Paired rails would allow you to mount a type-IV drone with either a large MW (or Starfish) module (five submunitions), or a small module (three submunitions) and an explosive module (twelve-point blast), or some other module, or a smaller explosive warhead (six-point blast) and some armor, or something else.
The other thing about "special rails" is that they have their own "launch rate" (R1.F9), but this launch rate can only be accessed if the special rails are loaded with type-III frames. And, honestly, this only really helps the Federation. Only the Federation has fighters that have more than two "special rails", so a Klingon Z-YC or Kzinti TADSC with four type-I drones and two type-III drones on its special rails is still only able to launch two drones a turn. Only the Federation has a fighter (late model F-18s, that normally can only launch one single-space drone in a turn) that has two special rails allowing it to launch two type-IIIs, i.e., twelve-point warheads.