Follow TV Tropes


The Dreaded Dreadnought

Go To
Guess which one is the Dreadnought. Go ahead, guess.

"We have a chance to take down a dreadnought! These things are fleet killers! We can't let it get away!"
Poe Dameron, Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi

When dealing with navies (or, occasionally, armies with vehicle support) in fictional settings, there is usually one class of vehicle that just outclasses everything else. It's the biggest, baddest, meanest thing flying (or walking, or rarely rolling), packed with weapons, armored (and possibly shielded) to withstand a whole other fleet's worth of firepower, and may be The Battlestar on top of it all. It's a fleet unto itself, it changes the face of the battle just by showing up, and conventional wisdom is that it can only be taken down by something just as powerful as it is. It is The Dreaded when it comes to large-scale vehicle combat. There is a strong tendency for such a vehicle to be called a Dreadnought.

This has strong roots in Real Life naval history, specifically HMS Dreadnought, a British battleship which revolutionized naval warfare for decades to come. Combining heavy armor, high speed, and a relatively small battery of relatively large guns, Dreadnought rendered every other battleship afloat, henceforth known as Pre-Dreadnought Battleships, obsolete. Ironically, Dreadnought was bordering on obsolescence by 1914 and the outbreak of World War I due to rapid advances in shipbuilding, leading to bigger, more powerful, and more heavily armed Dreadnoughts (with later examples known as Super Dreadnoughts).

In Real Life, the name gradually dropped out of usage after World War I, as the Dreadnought-type of battleship became the default type of battleship. Not long after, battleships themselves became obsolete as aircraft carriers became the rulers of the waves.

In fiction, however, the Dreadnought designation lives on, due in part to the game-changing nature of the original HMS Dreadnought, and partly to the undeniably metal nature of the word "Dreadnought" (a contraction of "dread nought" — that is, literally, "fear nothing").

In naval or space-based settings, expect a Dreadnought to pull double-duty as a Supervillain Lair.

Compare and contrast with its primary competing/companion trope, The Battlestar. Both fixtures of a Standard Sci-Fi Fleet, though both can and do appear in other settings. Both frequently holding the spot of "scariest thing around," but while the Battlestar is about the vessel's role as a combined battleship/aircraft carrier, the Dreadnought is about the tendancy to call the most dreaded vehicles "Dreadnoughts." If both appear in the same work, and the Dreadnought is not also the Battlestar, expect one to overshadow the other. Either because the Battlestar's combined arms nature makes it Awesome, but Impractical compared to the Dreadnought's Nigh-Invulnerable More Dakka, or because the Battlestar's versatility and fighter craft allow it to give the cumbersome Dreadnought a Death of a Thousand Cuts while denying it a chance to fight back.

Note: The vehicle in question must be specifically identified or referred to as "a dreadnought" to qualify for this trope. A vehicle not called "dreadnought," no matter how powerful or scary, is not this trope.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Fan Works 
  • The Darkest Hour of Child of the Storm reveals the existence of HYDRA's trump card, a helicarrier armed with reverse-engineered Destroyer cannons and with a hull of vibranium. It's actually called the Dreadnought, with Lucius noting that the name was chosen specifically as a homage to the original dreadnoughts and their role as being an unstoppable force.
  • In the universe of Fractured (Star Wars/Mass Effect) and its sequels, the Dreadnought concept is embodied in "Star Dreadnoughts." As drawn from Star Wars Legends these are basically The Battlestar meets Bigger Is Better in a Lensman Arms Race of Summon Bigger Fish and Takes One to Kill One (faction with largest dreadnought wins battle barring lucky shots).
    • 35 kilometers of starship crushes Reapers and other galaxy's ideas of dreadnoughts, establishing major naval supremacy. However, it turns out that these ships are Awesome, but Impractical, requiring insane amounts of consumables and gargantuan crews to operate.
    • Serial Escalation leads to, in Origins, more Star Dreadnoughts and the use of absolutely gargantuan digistructors to throw any concerns about materials, crew, or construction facilities out the airlock as the protagonists field hundreds of mass-produced ships in this weight class to fight an intergalactic war.
  • The New Adventures of Invader Zim: Season 2 Episode 10 introduces the Irken battleship known as the Dreadnut (and no, that's not a typo — Tallest Red wanted to call it the Dreadnought, but Tallest Purple wanted to call it the Donut, so eventually they compromised and combined the two names). The ship is stated to be second only to the Massive in size and armament, and it's meant to act as a secondary flagship to the Armada.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Death Race, a heavily armed Big Badass Rig called the Dreadnought enters to kill off some Red Shirt opponents. One of the rare non-naval examples, it certainly lives up to the spirit, being fast enough to keep up with the racing cars (though it uses some shortcuts), heavily armed enough to carve a swath through the racers, and tough enough the protagonists have to work together and defeat it with the track's own hazards.
  • Sink the Bismarck! might as well be The Movie of this trope, as it's a fictionalization of the hunt for one of history's most infamous dreadnoughts, the German battleship Bismarck.
  • Star Trek:
    • In Star Trek: Nemesis, Shinzon and his Reman lackeys have built a new warbird called the Scimitar. She boasts a crapton of firepower, primary and secondary Deflector Shields, and (unlike almost every other ship) she can fire her weapons with her Invisibility Cloak active, while at warp. Even the team-up of the Enterprise and two Romulan Valdore-class warbirds isn't enough firepower to bring the Scimitar down. It takes a Heroic Sacrifice by Data to destroy her from the inside. Supplemental material confirms the Scimitar is a Dreadnought. Expanded universe introduces other Scimitar-class warbirds, but they're downscaled examples that lack the raw destructive potential of the original.
    • Star Trek Into Darkness: The Vengeance (pictured above) is a Dreadnought-class battleship, intended to be the first in a new line of Federation warships to aggressively protect the Federation against enemies like the Klingons. It's bigger and badder than just about anything else ever seen in the franchise, regardless of timelinenote . Also, as pictured above, it's designed to run down ships at warp and blast the hell out of them without breaking stride, as the Enterprise finds out the hard way. Even multiple torpedoes exploding inside her isn't quite enough to completely disable her.
  • Star Wars uses the trope in the original trilogy (without naming it—see below), the pre-Disney Expanded Universe and the sequel trilogy by name:
    • The Empire Strikes Back introduces the Executor-class Super Star Destroyer, a warship that dwarfs the other Star Destroyers (even if she's not called a "dreadnought" on-screen, see the Literature folder on this page). And yet, as big as she is, a kamikaze attack by an out-of-control rebel pilot is enough to start a chain reaction that takes her down.
    • Star Wars Legends waffles between classifying ships like Darth Vader's Executor a Super Star Destroyer (what Admiral Ackbar calls it in Return of the Jedi) and a "Star Dreadnought" (because Super Star Destroyer doesn't sound military enough).
    • The Last Jedi:

  • Inverted in Stormslayer - aboard Balthazar's ship, the Eye of the Storm, you need to battle a Mechanical Monster called the Juggernaut. If you have the right items, you can summon a smaller, weaker mechanical monster called a dreadnaught to fight for you, but chances are your dreadnaught will end up losing.

  • Aeon 14: Destiny Lost: ASTnote  dreadnoughts. At six kilometers long, they're about as large as you can get and still be capable of Faster-Than-Light Travelnote , and a single squadron of eleven is such a severe threat the protagonists have to break out their Grey Goo superweapon to destroy them.
  • Zig-zagged in the Arrivals from the Dark series, where the human mercenaries of the Lo'ona Aeo refer to heavy Dromi warships as dreadnoughts because it's nearly certain suicide to face one of these monsters and their heavy plasma cannons in one of the patrol craft provided by the Lo'ona Aeo. On the other hand, a Dromi dreadnought is comparable to a human frigate in terms of firepower, while a cruiser can blast a dozen dreadnoughts with ease.
  • Clockwork Century: Dreadnought by Cherie Priest involves a Steampunk armoured train of that name.
  • Destroyermen:
    • Under the guidance of Captain Kurokawa, the Grik start building a fleet of ironclad battleships called the "ArataAmagi-class", named after Kurokawa's lost battle cruiser (HIMS Amagi). These ships are armed with 100lb cannons and some smaller secondaries, which the Allies often refer to as "dreadnoughts". While far more powerful than the Allies' Wooden Ships and Iron Men, the dreadnoughts are extremely slow and vulnerable to aerial bombing, and so top-heavy that any significant damage below the waterline will cause them to capsize.
    • By "River of Bones", many of those ArataAmagi-class ships have been converted into true dreadnoughts with all of their guns replaced with 500lb cannons. Upon realizing this, Captain Russ Chappelle notes with some alarm that if the Grik have improved their fire control, and especially if they figure out how to rifle their cannons, these new dreadnoughts might be too dangerous for Alliance ships to engage at any range.
    • And, finally, the actual dreadnought, the League of Tripoli Bretagne-class battleship Savoie appeared. Despite being of pre-World War I design, and rather limited even for her era (the pre-World War I French navy was forced to limit their battleship size due to limited size of most available drydocks), she clearly demonstrated how amazingly tough and deadly could be even such and old ship. After capturing her in "Devil's Due", the Alliance considers her their most valuable naval asset - after USS Walker, of course - being the only ship in their navy capable of fighting League modern warships on anything resembling even terms.
    • In Pass of Fire, Captain Reddy learns that the League has at least 10 battleships of comparable strength to the Savoie.
  • Eldraeverse: The Empire of the Star fields multiple varieties of dreadnought and superdreadnought, such as the three-kilometer Leviathan class. And the author has written an essay on the role of the dreadnought in the 'verse.
  • Honor Harrington: Averted. Even at the beginning of the series, the Lensman Arms Race means Dreadnoughts are only the second-biggest ship class, with the biggest being called superdreadnoughts. By the current book, nobody's building dreadnoughts because they can't survive against a wall of battle populated by SDs anymore, especially with the advent of the podnought. That said, previously-built dreadnoughts still see widespread use as the biggest difference between a Dreadnought and a Superdreadnought is that the latter is bigger. A dreadnought will still handily wallop any smaller type of capital ship that isn't backed up by missile pods or swarms of Light Attack Craft.
  • The Lost Fleet largely avoids this trope, as conventional wisdom among the human polities holds that anything big enough to be a straight example would be so enormous that it couldn't manouevre effectively and much less efficient than the several smaller warships that could be constructed for the same money... Until the Beyond the Frontier series, anyway. Turns out that at least one non-human race disagrees, and operates warships that blur the line between this trope and Planet Spaceship... although the human fleet that goes up against one of them still comes out on top, barely.
  • The Star Trek: The Original Series-era novel Dreadnought! has a prototype dreadnought-class starship as its Macguffin. It packs at least twice the firepower of a Constitution-class ship like Enterprise, more powerful shields, a stronger warp drive with three nacelles, and a hull composed of an experimental material that can withstand direct phaser bombardment much more easily than other ships. The plot revolves around the ship being stolen, and eventually discovered to be the linchpin of a plotted coup against the Federation.
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation novel "Dark Mirror" has the Enterprise-D facing off against its Mirror Universe counterpart. At one point Picard confesses to wondering what would happen if one Galaxy-class ship were to ram another broadside, to which Riker replies that the mirror Enterprise-D is "closer to Dreadnought-class. Not a close comparison."
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Dreadnaught-class Heavy Cruisers feature prominently in the The Thrawn Trilogy, though they're actually a subversion of this trope. They were quite capable midsized warships during their heyday, but the ship design was old even before the Clone Wars, so compared to something like an Imperial-class Star Destroyer, a Dreadnaught is small, slow, undergunned, and so inefficiently-designed that it requires a crew of 16,000 to run a 600-meter-long shipnote . They're relevant to the trilogy because both the New Republic and Empire are competing to find the Katana Fleet, 200 advanced Dreadnaughts that disappeared after their crews slaved the ships' navigation systems together and made a Blind Jump to parts unknown - even if they are obsolete designs, that many "free" warships would give one side of the Galactic Civil War an edge. Grand Admiral Thrawn ended up swiping most of the Katana Fleet and put it into action faster than the New Republic expected with the help of flash-grown clone crewmen, while the New Republic preferred to strip down and refit their captured Dreadnaughts as "Assault Frigates," which only required a fraction of the crew while boasting much-improved speed, maneuverability, and firepower.
    • "Dreadnought" does appear within that canon in a manner that plays the trope straight - "star dreadnaught" describes Super Star Destroyers or other massive capital ships meant to take on either huge fleets of smaller ships, or similar-size opposing vessels. The Eclipse-class Super Star Destroyer from the Dark Empire stories even had a prow-mounted superlaser, a scaled-down variant of the Death Star's superweapon that could "merely" crack a planet's crust instead of destroying a world outright.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Andromeda has the Siege Perilous class, the largest and most destructive type of warship in the High Guard navy, although less than half a dozen were constructed before the fall of the Commonwealth. Despite this, when the Andromeda encounters the Balance of Judgment (of the Siege Perilous class), everyone gives a massive Oh, Crap!, and they're described as "fleet-killers". However, examination of the specs reveals that they're actually more like artillery ships than true dreadnoughts. Their massive offensive firepower comes at the cost of significantly reduced defenses, which is pretty obviously hinted at its official classification as a "Deep Stand-off Attack Ship". Its purpose is to jump in, launch a Macross Missile Massacre at extreme ranges, and then jump out before the enemy has a chance to close the distance or counter-attack. At close range, a heavy cruiser like the Andromeda can actually take out a Siege Perilous-class ship.
  • Babylon 5 downplays it a bit: only one race, the Humans, use dreadnoughts (specifically the Nova-class), and they are considered more of a middleweight class of ship during the show's run, having mostly been superseded by the newer Omega-class destroyers, better suited to take on the Minbari. They are covered stem to stern in very large weapons.
    • The Expanded Universe expands a bit on the subject: in EarthForce designation, the largest and most heavy armed warships are designated dreadnoughts or battleships depending on their primary function, dreadnoughts being designed to smash enemy fleets above everything else and battleships being flagships that also carry the heaviest available weapons. Hence the Omega-class being designed a destroyer: it actually carries less weapons than the Nova, but as it's still more heavily armed than their cruisers it was given the very ominous "destroyer" designation, also kept for the formidably armed Warlock for PR reasons. As such, most races don't field dreadnoughts, but either battleships or ships with some characteristics that put them outside that designation. Such as the Minbari warcruisers, which are actually battleship-sized cruisers, used as everyone else would use cruisers, but just happen to be more powerful than anything else fielded by the Younger Races until the Warlock-class was launched, and the Orieni motherships, technically battleships but too large to qualify. Only Earth Alliance and the now-extinct Dilgar build "proper" dreadnoughts.
    • The problem with Nova's heavy plasma cannons is their relatively low range. If they can get in range, then they can deliver pain to even Minbari ships, but humans learned very quickly that the Minbari pick them off long before they have a chance to get close. Hyperion-class heavy cruisers were an alternative project (by a different defense contractor) that emphasized faster, more maneuverable warships that, while weaker overall, had longer-ranged firepower derived from Centauri weapons (secretly supplied by the Narns). The Hyperion likewise proved mostly a failure. The Omega eventually combined a Nova-derived hull with Hyperion-derived weapons, with an added centrifuge to allow longer deployments, resulting in a quite capable ship.
    • B5's setting is also interesting because no two factions seem to use the same terminology for their warships. The biggest ships in the Earth, Minbari, Centauri, and Narn fleets are respectively Destroyers, Warcruisers, Battlecruisers, and Starcruisers.
    • While the ship classes in the Shadow and Vorlon fleets go unnamed, their largest combat vessels fill this role whenever they appear. The Vorlon main capital ship is referred to as a "Star Dreadnought" in the Expanded Universe material, and is shown to have absolutely no equal in any military engagement. Its primary cannon fires a slicing energy beam that rips through anything in its path, and is shown to be even more destructive than the infamous Shadow energy beams. Whenever one arrives, it scares the hell out of everyone in the younger races who witness it.
    • The main Shadow warship doesn't have an official designation, although the Expanded Universe refers to it as a Dreadnought or a "Battle Crab" interchangeably. It is every bit as dangerous as a Vorlon Dreadnought, except with a few extra nasty abilities, such as being able to phase directly in and out of hyperspace without needing to open a jump point, and the ability to move in any direction regardless of the ship's orientation in space, making it impossible to flank or outmaneuver. It's primary energy weapon easily rips apart ships of the younger races in a single shot, and it has the reputation of never ever missing that shot unless it intentionally chooses to do so. The appearance of just one Shadow dreadnought is enough to make even Delenn want to run and hide, rather than face it directly.
  • Farscape: Played With. There are Scarran Dreadnoughts, which are at least a match for Peacekeeper Command Carriers (the Scarrans themselves being The Dreaded Absolute Xenophobe conquerors). Nebari "Host Ships" are, apparently, the scariest spaceship out there (trivially overpowering Command Carriers), but we never see one over the course of the series.
  • The Starfleet Technical Manual for Star Trek: The Original Series posited the existence of Dreadnoughts in Starfleet, a concept Gene Roddenberry and other Star Trek franchise overseers have hated because Starfleet is not a military and doesn't have warships. Fans who either don't get it or believe that Starfleet, while not a military, are also not stupid, keep the concept alive. Dreadnoughts appear in Expanded Universe entries of dubious canonicity, including Star Fleet Battles and the novel Dreadnought!
  • The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Valiant" features a Dominion battleship. As shown on the quotes page, it is estimated to be twice the size of a Galaxy-class starship (one of Starfleet's largest ships) and three times as powerful. It is not surprising that the titular ship fails its attack against this Dominion juggernaut.
  • Star Trek: Picard introduces an Alternate Universe not dissimilar to the Mirror Universe, where humanity is xenophobic and imperialistic to the extreme (but without the Terrans' Chronic Backstabbing Disorder). The Confederation of Earth has even managed to wipe out the Borg. We see a painting of General Picard's flagship CSS World Razer, which appears to be the equivalent to a Galaxy class but much more powerful. According to Confederation propaganda, the flagship was used to "conquer the stars", and the painting shows it blasting its way through a Borg cube with multiple powerful phaser blasts.
  • The Star Trek: Voyager episode "Dreadnought" features a Cardassian weapon of mass destruction that the Maquis nicknamed "Dreadnought," specifically in reference to HMS Dreadnought. It's not only basically a gigantic photon torpedo, but has its own weapons and defenses to fight off any ships that might try to intercept it.
  • The Star Trek: Discovery episode "Erigah" shows a Breen dreadnought, explicitly identified as such. It is absolutely enormous, dwarfing Federation HQ and all ships called in for reinforcements. The main characters figure out a diplomatic solution to send it on its way in the first encounter, but the next episode "Labyrinths" reveals that it's got much more firepower than Discovery.

  • Sabaton: The song "Dreadnought", about the Dreadnought class of battleships, portrays them as unstoppable steel titans intimidating their foes with their size and firepower. Additionally, their song "Bismarck" is about the titular Bismarck dreadnought.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Alternity: Dreadnoughts are among the largest warships available, second only to Star Carriers, aka "Supercarriers", but can withstand more damage than the latter, and dwarf battleships. There're "super dreadnought", still larger than a Star Carrier, but above them you've the "Fortress ship", that combines both firepower and the ability to act as mothership.
  • BattleTech: Played With. The first "true" WarShip ever produced was the TAS Dreadnought, forerunner of the Dreadnought class. Dismissed as "toys" of Terran Alliance Fleet Admiral James McKenna, he quickly proved they were very capable and deadly spaceships. It's not the biggest or most powerful WarShip in the setting, but at the time of its construction it was the only WarShip, and all other WarShips owe their existence to it.
  • Games Workshop games:
    • Played With in Warhammer 40,000 where the Dreadnought is a huge combat walker that serves as the weaponized coffin of a grievously wounded Space Marine. While certainly fearsome in both ranged and melee combat, they're just as vulnerable to anti-armor weapons as tanks, and there are bigger and deadlier vehicles out there (Especially if using rulesets that allow for truly massive Titans).
    • Chaos Dreadnoughts are even worse: They work on the same principle as Loyalist Dreadnoughts (armed and armored life-support tanks for Space Marines), but where the Loyalists use them to preserve their most experienced veterans and let them sleep for centuries between battles, CSMs use it as punishment: between battles, their dreadnoughts have their weapons and legs detached before being chained to the wall of a starship or fortress, fully aware of every passing moment. Small wonder Chaos Dreadnoughts have a good chance of unleashing every single weapon they have at a target on their own side.
    • Notably defied in Battlefleet Gothic. Dreadnoughts are conspicuous by their absence, with typical Imperial Navy and Chaos ships being lumped into Escorts, Light Cruisers, Cruisers, Battlecruisers, the odd Grand Cruiser, and Battleships. Unique and extra-powerful ships, like Abbadon's Planet Killer, could be considered Dreadnoughts, but are not referred to as such. Presumably because within the setting the word "dreadnought" is entirely synonymous with the Walking Tank mentioned above.
  • Pirates Constructible Strategy Game; while no ships are explicitly classified as dreadnoughts, the English possess a shout out to the Trope Namer in HMS Dreadnought from Set 3; true to her namesake Dreadnought is a monster in combat if crewed properly, sporting five masts and five cannons that cannot be eliminated by enemy attacks until she is rendered derelict. Her drawbacks are in speed (moving one Short length, the epitome of Mighty Glacier) and points cost (at 26 points Dreadnought is the most expensive regular ship in the game- only the promotional 10-mast junks have a higher in-game price tag), which may tip Dreadnought into the realm of Awesome, but Impractical for a standard 40 point game..
  • Star Fleet Battles: Dreadnoughts tend to be the largest and most powerful effective ships a player can field. Battleships, which are even bigger and more powerful, exist, but are either "conjectural" (i.e., they don't actually exist within the universe the game is set in, but stats are provided just because) or Awesome, but Impractical, because their "do a little bit of everything" approach means they aren't actually good at anything.
  • Star Realms: The Star Empire has a class of ships designated as Dreadnaught, shown to be massive on the card art. While it can do a lot of damage, the card is less useful than similarly high cost ships.
  • Traveller: Various powers field ships known as Dreadnoughts. In the Third Imperium, the term Dreadnought is used for the latest, most high-technology battleships; older battleships are just called battleships. Super Dreadnoughts have been built but are generally not effective enough for the added expense to be worthwhile. The largest ship currently fielded by the Imperium is the Tigress-class dreadnought, a 500,000 ton sphere that carries three hundred fighters along with a massive spinal-mount meson gun.

    Video Games 
  • Ashes of the Singularity has the Post-Human Coalition with three types of Dreadnoughts: The Hyperion, which cuts through swaths of mooks, the Prometheus, which kills other dreadnoughts, and the Cronus, which attacks bases via Macross Missile Massacre.
    • The Escalation update brings in Juggernauts, which are practically One-Man Army units.
  • With the introduction of naval units in the sequel, Battalion Wars features several nations boasting Dreadnoughts as the kingpins of their nautical arsenals. Interestingly, because they do not have an "all big guns" loadout like historical Dreadnoughts, they are much closer to Pre-Dreadnought battleships in practice. They do share a very appropriate weakness with their namesakes though, as while they are very, very good at ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore combat, they are almost helpless against air and submarine attacks. This makes escorts absolutely crucial to getting the most out of your Dreads.
  • Cobalt Core: Riggs?, a dead ringer for the Riggs on your squad of crewmates, pilots a ship called the Dreadnought. It's just as imposing as the name implies, especially since its pilot is just as skilled as your own, and is none too keen on letting your little vessel get away.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 and Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 both feature dreadnoughts as the Soviet Union's naval siege unit, and the heaviest armored naval ship in both games. In both games they launch long-range missiles which don't have much in the way of area damage - but woe unto the hapless foe who finds themselves directly impacted, because these things hurt.
    • An Elite Dreadnought in Red Alert 2 has mini-nukes so powerful that a single missile flattens a Construction Yard, a structure so tough otherwise that it can survive a direct hit from a superweapon.
    • Red Alert 3's Dreadnoughts can greatly increase their firing speed at the cost of gradually losing health.
  • Glyphid Dreadnoughts in Deep Rock Galactic. While not ships, they are the biggest, baddest Glyphids around, that they are boss-tier threats and are the focus of Elimination missions. The worst part is that they are implied to be pupating into something even worse.
  • Destiny has the Dreadnaught, an extremely eldritch starship helmed by the equally eldritch Oryx, foremost god of the Hive. Built from magitek, a dead Worm God, and Oryx's personal pocket dimension, it's at least three thousand kilometers long and has an interior that looks more like a ruined, moon-sized cathedral than a spaceship. It only has one weapon, but it's the only weapon it ever needs, generating an expanding Sphere of Destruction centered on the Dreadnaught that annihilates everything else it touches.
  • Dreadnought is a game in which players all utilize gigantic ships to do battle with (the opening film gives perspective by having one of the smallest ships casually ram two star fighters to smithereens and none of the crew noticing it) but the Dreadnought class is the biggest and toughest ship type available, at the trade-off of being the slowest.
  • Escape Velocity Override: One of the United Earth mission strings centers on uncovering a Voinian Empire secret project, which turns out to be the development of a Dreadnaught, a massive juggernaut of a ship. The final mission in that string is a desperate scramble to destroy it before it leaves Voinian space, and while it isn't exactly speedy or manoeuvrable, the sheer armor of the thing and unusually strong shields for a Voinian ship allows it to shrug off barrages that would devastate the largest ships in the normal Voinian armada, the cruiser, while its armament can reduce pretty much anything that it does get in front of its guns to ash. While no more are seen after that, it is pointed out the Voinians could make more of them — it'd just take such an investment of resources and effort that time has been bought to figure out ways to counter them a bit more efficiently. The Voinian storyline does not directly feature the Dreadnaught, although Word of God confirms the mysterious project that's "sure to bring humanity to its knees" mentioned at the end (and brushed off as too important to bring a human in on) was the Dreadnaught.
  • In EVE Online Dreadnoughts are one of the Capital class ships players are capable of flying. Despite being massive DPS machines optimised for siege warfare, they're actually in the lower tier of Capitals (along with their battlestar counterparts, Carriers, and their healer variant, Force Auxiliaries), being massively outweighed by the much larger Titans and Supercarriers, but are much less costly and easier to fly than the phenomenally expensive supercapitals.
  • Final Fantasy II, features the "Dreadnaught", one of the meanest airships of the more fantasy-oriented games; Capable of assaulting the majority of the towns in the world on its own before needing to refuel and large enough to qualify as a dungeon in its own right. It's Downplayed in the actual game as the only other airship in II is Cid's airship, but a cutscene added in later ports emphasizes just how heavily the Dreadnought dwarfs it.
  • Halo 2 and Halo 3 feature the Forerunner Dreadnought, a massive starship built by the ancient Forerunners and now owned by the Covenant. Despite its fearsome name, though, it has no weapons since they were all removed for reverse-engineering as part of a peace treaty centuries ago. Its only advantages thus are its incredible speed and extreme durability. Dreadnought isn't even its real name: it's really a Forerunner Keyship, designed for integrating with the Portal artifact to ferry refugees to the Ark. It's true purpose was for saving lives.
  • Jurassic World: Evolution: Dreadnoughtus (see Real Life, below) was added in a DLC pack. Many references are made to the meaning of "dreadnought." As a sauropod, it's also flat-out immune to carnivore attacks, except for the Indominus rex.
  • Played with in League of Legends and Legends of Runeterra, where one of the biggest, scariest ships in the setting is called the Dreadway, and is a huge pirate ship with a double cannon pointing out of a hole in the prow. There is a thing in-setting known as "the Dreadnought", but it's not a ship - it's a man, specifically Urgot, who, to be fair, is pretty intimidating by virtue of being half-man, half-Spider Tank.
  • In Mass Effect the Milky Way races' dreadnoughts are the heaviest units in the fleets, kilometer-long starships that use their spinal coilguns as artillery in battle. The Citadel races are limited in the number they can construct by the Treaty of Farixen. Two dreadnoughts, the Citadel Council's Destiny Ascension and your nemesis' flagship Sovereign (the true Big Bad) play important roles at the climax of the first game.
  • In Sins of a Solar Empire, the Marza Dreadnought is the capital ship with heaviest firepower for the TEC faction. It can drop radiation bombs and unleash a torrent of missiles in addition to its big guns. At least until the introduction of Titans in the Rebellion DLC. Titans dwarf capital ships the way capital ships dwarf cruisers. They're a huge investment of time and resources, and it's impossible to hide the location of the Titan shipyard. Different Titans have advantages and disadvantages. Some are more well-rounded, while others are more of a giant gun with engines.
  • Star Control: The Ur-Quan Dreadnought, one of the most powerful ships in the game. It's also The Battlestar.
  • Averted in the Star Fox franchise. Though Star Fox 64 calls the Great Fox a Dreadnaught class heavy cruiser, it's actually a low-level Battlestar that's less useful than the four Arwing Space Fighters that it houses.
  • In Starlink: Battle for Atlas, Legion Dreadnoughts are large battleships that drop Primes onto planets to harvest Electrum for the Legion.
  • In Starsector, there's the Invictus-class dreadnought. It exclusively uses large gun slots, is heavily armoured, has higher range than most other ships and can shut off every gun but the frontal ones to temporarily boost its range even further. Much like the real-life dreadnoughts it's considered an outdated design in-universe, being extremely slow to turn, move and accelerate, lacking shields and being easily over-fluxed, as well as having a catastrophically large supply profile and crew requirement. When placed in a well-balanced fleet it can shred through most other ships it faces, so long as it's not outflanked.
  • Star Trek Online uses "dreadnought" as a catchall term for the biggest, slowest, toughest ship in a given faction's arsenal, usually appearing as a boss-level mob. Some are playable, chiefly the Galaxy-class dreadnought cruiser and the three classes of Romulan Dreadnought Warbird.
  • In Stellaris one of the possible Guardians lurking around the galaxy is an Automated Dreadnought that can easily shred the entire space navy of a mid-game player empire. If one manages to defeat it they can salvage it and turn it into a less powerful craft which is still more than a match for the Titans players can build in the later game.
  • Sunless Sea has the Republican Dreadnoughts, which are amongst the toughest ships patrolling the Unterzee. Those dreaded things have very damaging rapid-fire cannons, 400 HPs, a wide angle of fire and can hit you from behind, making them a huge threat to the players. And woe betide the ones coming across a Glorious Dreadnought, their glowing equivalent, unprepared. You can also have a Dreadnought yourself in the form of the Eschatologue-class, which has the most HP of all the ships you can have and the largest Iron boost for extra damage, along with being the heaviest ship in the game (matching an enormous merchant vessel). It's impractically big in some regards, but when you need to kill every damn pirate and monstrosity in the Unterzee, accept no substitutes.
    • This is carried over in Sunless Skies, which has the Enduring Dreadnoughts, big blue locomotives maneuvered exclusively by Her Enduring Masjesty's most loyal officers. While not necessarily amongst the strongest enemy locomotives roaming the High Wilderness, the same cannot be said about the glowing Glorious Dreadnoughts and the glass-encrusted Deranged Dreadnoughts. While the Glorious ones do not attack you if your are in good terms with the London loyalists, the Deranged ones, which are found flying near the Clockwork Sun, shoot you on sight regardless of your affiliation. As a whole, they act like Mighty Glaciers with little maneuvering, but strong repeaters at their front and an auto-aiming turret that will hurt you just as bad, with stronger Dreadnoughts packing more pain in both armaments.
  • In Super Mario Galaxy, Dreadnought Galaxy is one of the last and hardest galaxies in the game, and its levels take place in a huge spaceship.
  • In Sword of the Stars dreadnoughts are the largest ship class available, including the iconic Sword of the Stars-class that appears at the end of the intro cinematic. However, they fall victim to Sequel Escalation with the introduction of Leviathans in Sword of the Stars II.
    • The first game also had the Flagship, which was always capped at one (as it is your faction's flagship). While 'only' mounted in a dreadnought hull, it carried an advanced bridge section bristling with guns and electronic warfare sections, and was capable of leading the biggest fleet in the game thanks to its fleet cap increase.
  • The Dreadnought is the strongest unit of the WOPR navy in WarGames Defcon 1, armed with a powerful cannon and long-range missile launchers capable of executing a Macross Missile Massacre on NORAD bases.
  • Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon has the aptly named Dreadnought class Ironclad. Befitting this trope, it is the largest, most powerful, most heavily armed, and most technologically advanced ship in the game, with armor so thick that lighter projectiles will almost always bounce off harmlessly.
  • Building and fighting with your own Dreadnoughts (and pre-dreadnoughts, and super-dreadnoughts, and any other kind of battleship) is the premise and core mechanic of the appropriately named Ultimate Admiral: Dreadnoughts.
  • Wing Commander: In the "Secret Missions" add-on to the first game, the Kilrathi have a superweapon in the form of a Sivar-class Dreadnought equipped with a Wave-Motion Gun. The Terran Confederation has a similarly-equipped Dreadnought called the Concordia in Wing Commander II. The largest ships in the Kilrathi armada in Wing Commander III are called Dreadnoughts as well, and only one can be encountered in the entire game.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Sunrider, super-dreadnoughts are the largest, rarest, and most heavily armed ships in the setting.
    • The PACT super-dreadnought Legion is a three-kilometer juggernaut boasting enough firepower to destroy entire fleets by itself, and everyone who goes up against the Legion quickly learns to fear it. Naturally, it acts as the Big Bad's flagship.
    • Omega's dreadnought, the Cathedral, has enough durability, firepower, and ryders to hold its own against ten thousand enemy ships at once for an extended period of time.


    Real Life 
  • HMS Dreadnought, of course, as stated in the opening. American admirals estimated that one dreadnought battleship was worth three times the fighting power of one of the pre-dreadnoughts just finishing construction. Her arrival sparked an all-out arms race, with countries with naval ambitions scrambling to acquire dreadnoughts and not be left behind.
    • It also sparked off something of a "dreadnought fever" among the British public, something proponents of naval expansion took gleeful advantage with the slogan "We want eight and we won't wait!" The result, as Winston Churchill wryly noted, was "The Admiralty had demanded six ships; the economists offered four; and we finally compromised on eight."
    • Continuing the tradition, the Royal Navy would later name their first nuclear submarine HMS Dreadnought, and the next class of Trident ballistic missile submarines will be named the Dreadnought-class.
    • Ironically the term "Dreadnought" would later be used to denote obsolete battleships toward the end of the original use of the term. Dreadnoughts refers to strictly to a style of battleships built between 1900 and more or less the end of WWI. After the war, all battleships possessed some dreadnought characteristics, and with the retirement of most pre-dreadnought warships, the term fell out of use except to describe older vessels. Incidentally, there is only one example of this type of battleship left — the USS Texas, which has been serving as a museum ship since the end of WWII. She has, unfortunately, been showing her age, suffering from corrosion and leaks, to the point where the century-old ship has had to be towed to a shipyard in Alabama for repairs.
    • Note that the name "Dreadnought" had been kicking around in royal navy for a few centuries before the ship that made it famous was built. Admiral Fisher (the driving force behind the Dreadnought innovation) reportedly spent a many sleepless nights trying to figure out which of the Nelson era ships to use since Nelson's flagship, the Victory, was (and is) still around and thus off the table. He settled on Dreadnought because it sounded appropriately intimidating.
    • Also worth mentioning is that the concept was originally Italian (having been elaborated by Italian naval engineering colonel Vittorio Cuniberti as early as 1893, and pushed for it for the Regina Elena-class), and that Japan and the United States both started on battleships that applied the Dreadnought principle (all main battery guns are the maximum caliber) before Dreadnought was laid down, with the Americans in particular having already cottoned on to the concept of superfiring turrets on the centerline, as opposed to Dreadnought's wing turret design, allowing South Carolina to have the same broadside at a significantly lower weight in guns and with superior armor. Italy however did not try and build the ships as Cuniberti wanted, instead building them as pre-Dreadnoughts and allowing him to publish the concept in 1903note , and Fisher pushed the ship builders (and comandeered guns and turrets intended for other ships) so Dreadnought was completed first. Had Italy actually built the ships first or Fisher not pushed, this trope could have been The Righteous Regina Elenanote  or The Scary Satsuma note or the Super South Carolina. Or the Menacing Michigan, since USS Michigan was actually completed 2 months ahead of her "lead ship" USS South Carolina.
    • USS Mississippi was one of the aforementioned super Dreadnoughts and got the closest to the sci-fi version of the trope (without being put into orbit). After WWII her rear turrets were removed and she became an experimental weapons platform, which included the fitting of both anti-ship and anti-air missiles. It was proposed to give the dreadnoughts, West Virginia, Maryland, and California similar refits for actual combat. As it was Mississippi was the closest we got to an unambiguous dreadnought having both missiles and guns. To wit, she retained some of her WWII AA point defenses, resulting in vessel with weapons capabilities straight out of Star Wars.
    • It's also notable that some ultra dreadnought designs floated around during the dreadnought era, which were just dreadnoughts but far larger. Namely the British Incomparable battlecruiser design and the American Tillman battleships (AKA the Maximum battleship project). The final iteration of the latter would have a similar caliber of weapon to the Yamato, the actual largest battleship built, but fifteen guns compared to the Yamato's mere nine. Neither design was serious, at least not in terms of a ship that was actually intended to be built. The Tillman battleships being a design study to determine the largest and most powerful battleships that it would be physically possible for the United States to built while still being capable of traversing the Panama Canal.note 
  • A species of sauropod in Argentina was given the name Dreadnoughtus after its discovery. It weighed over 38 metric tons, making it one of the heaviest land animals ever discovered. There are several sauropod species that are probably larger than Dreadnoughtus (in some cases significantly so), but it's the largest land animal whose fossil was complete enough estimate the size with a high degree of certainty. (And the fossil is believed to have been of a Dreadnoughtus that wasn't fully grown, so adults could have been even bigger.) The name was chosen because it was so big it would've had nothing to fear from any predator.
  • Dreadnought guitars were introduced ten years after HMS Dreadnought put the term in the popular lexicon. Fittingly, they had a much larger body than previous guitar types, producing a louder and richer sound, and have since become the standard style for acoustic guitars.


Video Example(s):



The big brothers of the Red Navy, these massive siege ships host an array of V4 rockets.

How well does it match the trope?

4.67 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheDreadedDreadnought

Media sources: