Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 590
Dawn of the Age of the Ironclad
Nobody expected Port Vebator's first commission would come from Carmenleon instead. Claude recalled that they were one of the nations that purchased one ironclad ship from the Aueran royal navy. Apparently, they had also run into fabrication problems from not having heat-resistant alloy and propeller technology. Even after obtaining the designs of the first-generation ships, they weren't able to recreate them.
Carmenleon's ambassador had come as a travelling merchant to order six ironclad warships, namely, one destroyer, four patrollers and one transporter. They were just enough to form a patrol-and-combat flotilla. The six ships cost 900 thousand crowns in total and would be finished half a year later. However, it seemed that the ambassador didn't want word of it to get out. Naturally, the region was happy to oblige and get rich in secret.
Borkal believed that Carmenleon's ambassador probably faced the same problem the Aueran royal navy did: they were instructed to forge the ships by the royal family but failed to do so and had no choice but to buy them off the region directly. Fortunately, the new shipyards at Port Vebator managed to fill that demand.
Claude was willing to let the shipyards produce first and second-generation ironclad warships for sale because he wanted to boost the other nations' research speed. They were already able to forge similar armoured shells for their ships with alternative alloys. The only difficulty was the making of steam engines and propellers, but even that could be solved with time and investment. One day, some nation would crack the secrets to making them.
The sale of those ships, on the other hand, was positioned perfectly to disrupt those nations that stubbornly wanted to make their own engines. To them, buying the ships would be far better than making their own. The kind of money they had invested would've been enough to make 20 direct purchases from the region to form their own fleet and immediately heighten the defences of their coasts.
Even if they were insistent on continuing research into ironclad warships, they still required some at hand to defend their coasts. Perhaps, they would have to spend two to three times the price of one ironclad warship to make a shabby copy that couldn't even compete with the ones the region put up for sale.
Not to mention, there was no saying how much more they would have to invest to finally achieve results. Claude hoped that the majority of nations would switch from researching the technology to purchasing them directly from the region. As long as they were willing to pay, the region wouldn't discriminate. Even if the region was about to face their patrons in war, they guaranteed they would hand the ships over if they were already paid for.
Selling the first-generation warships would bring vast amounts of wealth to the region. Even Liboyd felt embarrassed at selling them for those prices when he looked at the simple designs of the obsolete ships. So, he modified the first-generation engines to improve their fuel efficiency slightly to make the ships last longer and sail faster.
The region was selling first-generation ironclad destroyers for 150 thousand crowns, but the shipyards would only get paid 50 thousand. That made the region a profit of 100 thousand crowns easily. Even then, the actual cost to build the ship was 20 thousand crowns. The shipyards still doubled their profit.
The destroyers were merely covered in a water-tight metal shell and their most sophisticated parts were the steam engines and propellers. Additionally, there were bronze pipes used for communication on board and cannons on deck. They could also add a ram at the front if they wanted.
The amount the region spent to research them was about a million crowns. While it seemed like a loss for the region to sell them at those prices, it was a great deal for the other nations trying to acquire their own ironclad warships.
After the precedent set by Carmenleon's purchase, other nations soon came knocking. The region's old first-generation warships, however, ran out. The six Carmenleon ordered had to be completely built from scratch.
Claude felt that it was a shame that the Fochsian ambassador hadn't replied yet after he offered to sell them second-generation warships. If they came back to order them, they would definitely be given priority over Carmenleon. The worst case would be refurbishing one of the current second-generation warships in service in Ironclad to be sold to Fochs. The money earned could then be used to build fourth-generation warships for Moriad.
The twelve first-generation ships of Blacksail had undergone an overhaul at Port Vebator. Another 16 speedy sail warships had also been covered in metal armour and fitted with steam engines and propellers. Eriksson then left during a foggy night and disappeared into the seas.
Claude currently busied himself with the reserve troops and recruits. It was the biggest change in the region's military to date. Aueras had always had standing corps and irregular corps that were recruited during wartime. Their main corps included the royal guard corps, Reddragon and Griffon. Soldiers were discharged after serving 15 years as dignitarians. If they chose to remain in service, they were given a much better salary, a good motivation to keep them in service.
Wartime recruits were, as their name suggested, implemented only during wartime. Local prefectures conscripted people of fitting age to form irregular corps to send to reinforce the core troops. Most of these conscripted recruits had bad luck and were killed as cannon fodder. Even if they won, there was nothing to be happy about. After being discharged, they would go back to their normal lives. Military service wouldn't change their fates at all. Only a few lucky ones were transferred to the standing corps and became official servicemen.
The region now had four standing corps, a navy and twelve local garrison lines, totalling up to nearly 550 thousand troops. The majority of troops were in the standing corps, so funding them put a huge burden on the region. The bonuses and salaries the troops enjoyed already overshot budget, leaving little left for the research and improvement of gear and tactics.
Claude was planning to fuse the systems of compulsory national service and voluntary service together into a new system of regulars and reserves. Not all regulars were willing to serve for 15 years in the force. Some of them were uninterested in dignitarian status and would be more willing to spend more time with their family. The requirement for troops to serve 15 years was to make sure the nations had enough experienced soldiers to defend them in the first place.
In the region, an adult of 18 years of age was the perfect candidate for recruitment. However, they had to train for five years to become a qualified soldier. If they earned promotions during wartime, they would have a bright military career.
However, if there wasn't a war after the five-year training, they would have two choices. They could either remain in the force as a master-sergeant and enjoy the benefits of their rank and be discharged after serving a full 15 years to be trained into a local official.
The other option was for them to return home if they didn't want to continue serving. They could marry and start a business without being disturbed, as they already had a record of serving for five years. If that soldier wanted dignitarian status before turning 40, they could apply to continue serving in a local defence force until the 15 year term was up.
That was a huge change to many within that age range. Any adult 18 and above could start a military career and reforge themselves. Even if they chose to stop serving, they were already primed for good discipline and could become reserve troops in preparation for wartime conscription.
Claude's revamp of the system broke the tradition of most men having to serve at least 15 years. From then on, there would no longer be any soldier that couldn't master what they ought to and be forced to remain in the force. The shorter compulsory service term brought much needed vitality to the forces.
The greatest benefit of the reformation was the decreased amount of salary the region had to pay out. Birkin mentioned that back then, as long as one joined the force, they would find a lifetime career. As long as they didn't die young on the battlefield, they could take a stable salary until they were discharged. That was the case as well with Claude when he joined Bluefeather. Almost right away, he already got to enjoy the good salary and all the other benefits.
However, joining Bluefeather right before the first great war was filled with risk. Claude managed to luck out and avoid the fate of dying on the battlefield before being transferred by the first prince to the experimental ranger tribe, kicking off his career for good. There were few who had the kind of luck Claude did, as Birkin had put it.
However, after the reform, even lucky fellows like Claude would no longer rise to the top. Claude had sadistically cut the huge salary the troops got during compulsory service, giving only a bit of allowance. They were only serving for five years doing their obligation, not work, so what would they need a salary for when the force had their basic necessities covered?
To get a good salary, one would have to serve the compulsory term and master key skills before they would be retained as master-sergeants and given a good salary. The salary also grew with the time one served or with battlefield achievements.
However, Borkal frankly told Claude that what he basically did was cutting five years of salary from the original 15, with the first five years of compulsory service being a form of filter for those who merely wanted to slack off in the force. Only an idiot would stay in the force with five years of salary missing. Those more capable would've gone off to do business or something to earn much more.
Year 607 was a rather calm time for the region. Apart from the alliance formed with the pamigar republic, the rest of the region's efforts were turned to internal management, mainly the purge. Then came the settling of the Shiksan immigrants, downsizing of the homecoming Shiksan folks and the formation of the Shiksan Voluntary Corps.
During the latter half of the year, the region was kept busy with military reform and changed the compulsory service term to five years. In the middle of the 10th month, word came from the western coast once more about Blacksail engaging the Fochsian navy.
This time around, Blacksail took the initiative to fight Fochs. They attacked the ships docked at the second Fochsian colony, managing to crush the fleet there and occupy the port before leaving after three days of raiding.
Fochs really got gobsmacked this time around. Despite their reputation as a mighty naval power, they no longer posed any threat. All they had remaining were two seemingly strong fleets of sail ships. However, it became obvious to anyone concerned that the curtains were closing on the age of sail. The pirates came with twelve ironclad warships as the vanguard and another 16 metal-armoured, steam-powered sail ships trailing behind to crush the tight defensive formation of the Fochsian fleet and scattering their ships.
The results of the battle caused Carmenleon to ignore the threat of Fochs locking them down at sea and immediately sent their troops to conquer the last remaining Lesnian colony, kicking them out of Nubissia for good.
Reliaro, the other nation that had a colony neighbouring Lesnia's, was half a step slower. As they cursed Carmenleon for taking the dive before them, they didn't hesitate to take over Fochs' second colony.
The defensive troops of the Fochsian colony had a huge bad luck streak. They suffered a pirate attack at the port right after their nation's navy lost. The pirate raids took most of their wealth, and some of their wives and daughters. Yet, before they were even able to assess their losses, another conqueror came from a neighbouring colony, causing them to lose it all.
Angered beyond belief, Fochs immediately declared a blockade against Carmenleon and Reliaro. They vented the rage they had for the pirates on those nations instead. Fortunately, Fochs knew that its army was pathetic and didn't embarrass itself by bringing it out. Instead, they would seal off their ocean routes completely to sink or capture all ships coming from their nations or colonies.
Carmenleon and Reliaro declared the formation of a naval alliance to break the Fochsian blockade. By then, the six ironclad warships Carmenleon had ordered was complete.
The moment the six ironclad warships showed up between the allied navy's ships, the Fochsian fleet suddenly stopped its charge and maintained a perimeter without daring to approach. The blockade was undone just like that.
The region then received an order of 24 first-generation ironclad warships from Carmenleon and Reliaro, which had to be fulfilled in a year. Right after the region sent off the two nations' ambassadors after receiving their payment, the Fochsian ambassador came.
"We want to purchase 48 ironclad warships," the ambassador said.