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Space piracy (and OBS named SFIA book of the month)

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Re: Space piracy (and OBS named SFIA book of the month)
Post by Theemile   » Sun Jan 12, 2020 2:52 pm

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Actually, Silesia had a law forbidding armed privately owned hyperships, specifically to cut down on piracy. However it was only applied when convenient, and mostly on outsiders, who had to go through extra hoops just to dock (customs). A Manty Company in Shiller got around this by using a pair of Corvettes ( no hyperdrives) for defense and security of a mining site, and Bachfitch's ships were technically Silesian Naval auxiliaries ( He had letters of Marques).

Manticorian merchants could not mount anything bigger than defence weapons, or they would be bared entry and port rights, and may be impounded by the Sily Navy.

So private security in Silesia was off the table also, since such hyper ships were privately owned, and hense, illegal by Silesian law.

The biggest problem on LAC carriers ( beyond the points mentioned ) is simple timing. By the time the idea was tested (1910-1912), only and handful of years existed before the Silesian problem was decided for good (1919). And during most of that time, Manticore was using it"s existing light carriers ( the AMCs) or was trying to pull back and look non-imperial ( under High Ridge). After 1919, the RMN and IAN swooped In to the annex Silesia and squashed piracy overnight. So after that point, the largest source and playground for pirates, was gone. So now there is no need for expensive specialized ships just to fight piracy, because it fell precipitately.
******
RFC said "refitting a Beowulfan SD to Manticoran standards would be just as difficult as refitting a standard SLN SD to those standards. In other words, it would be cheaper and faster to build new ships."
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Re: Space piracy (and OBS named SFIA book of the month)
Post by Galactic Sapper   » Sun Jan 12, 2020 5:35 pm

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ThinksMarkedly wrote:A smaller carrier (escort carrier, CVE, though CLACs aren't CV, CVL or CVF) is an interesting concept. Without going into the merits of such a ship type, the problem with the above suggestion is simply that it's a warship in the first place. It's far easier for the RMN to build and crew a destroyer than a carrier. And destroyers and light cruisers are far more indicated for convoy duty than a carrier, plus the same ship can serve more functions. The RMN does prefer non-specific ships.

Small carriers may have other purposes, but I don't anti-piracy is it. They wouldn't be efficient for escorting and they wouldn't be needed in most Manticoran systems, since a fixed base can house and launch bigger LAC wings.

I think the closest we're going to see to a light carrier is the David Taylor class fleet support ships. A squadron of LACs for local security while they're set up to work on something else, and perhaps a carrier module they can switch out to carry a few more if needed.

Anything else can be done more efficiently by full starships or permanent bases. Or actual carriers, of course, since there's likely to be more of those around than are needed for front line fleet service now that both wars are over.
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Re: Space piracy (and OBS named SFIA book of the month)
Post by Brigade XO   » Sun Jan 12, 2020 7:27 pm

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The whole question about arming merchant shipping was that it was not permitted in most of the places the RMMS are doing business. As noted, Silesia had/has some armed merchants but they had to meet the licensing requirements (or bribeing requirements) of various government which is how Adm Bachfitch got to arm his two ships.
On the other hand, the RMN had run commerce protection in a number of places- mostly what we saw early in the series and up through the Haven wars was Silesia where the ConFed wasn't up to doing much to keep piracy down and there was too much going on with pirates in cooperation with various local politicians.
Of course in Silesia it wasn't just the ConFed Navy and RMN doing commerce protection. The Alderman Empire also had Silesia as a major trading ground and regularly ran commerce protection there.
I can't recall any other Star Nations doing that though there may have been some. The short version of that is while SKM saw Silesia as a trading area and need to protect their own (and any other they could relieve of problems with pirates) the IAN is/was looking to expand both thier influence, the ownereship and of course the removing of commerce raiders on their own shipping.
We seem to have RMN ships going other places- showing the flag as it were- even into the SL and certainly outside the League into where OFS and others are getting their hooks into things. Commerce protection and "Freedom of Navigation" stuff.
The Hauptman Cartel had multiple armed liners in service though what we were shown in this context was they were on runs to Silesia and --having apparently made the case to whomever it was nessisatry at the ConFed level---got the permits nessisary to run seriously armed LINERS - with missile tubes, the tech and tactical equipment to make that effective and trained (we get the impression former RMN) crew to operate their "defensive" armament.
We don't have any real evidence of piracy near the Core Worlds but with the various SDF's that had actual hypercapable warships (Beowulf comes to mind) there were Star Nations that provided what amounted to "local" commerce protection to at least their own merchants in places that problems developed. SEM just happens to have both the largest and probably most widely ranging merchant marine......if you don't count all that stuff going on with the slaver ships and smugglers and various nefarious persons we have seen.
In general, however, a merchant running with weapons was suspect and would have been prohibited in a lot of places.
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Re: Space piracy (and OBS named SFIA book of the month)
Post by lightningstar519   » Sun Jan 12, 2020 10:23 pm

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ThinksMarkedly wrote: Hello lightningstar, welcome to the forum

First question, just how vulnerable was shipping? From all accounts, the RMMS was massive. So statistically most shipping must have been safe. The responses to piracy must have been proportional to the problem itself, especially those whose cost was footed by for-profit companies. For those, it might have been cheaper to buy insurance to pay off ransoms and the indemnifications it might owe. Unlike most options, insurance applies to all ships at all times.


Thanks for your replies. Hope to keep this discussion going a bit further, so here goes.
My speculation is about the Manticore Empire and Navy of the future, as I pointed out the annexation of the Talbott Quadrant and carving up Silesia with the Andermani earlier. This has changed the astropolitical situation, as has the crumbling of the Solarian League. My point was that with the greater borders and star systems, it would be less efficient for the RMN to keep building lighter units than to allow merchantmen, especially the more reputable ones, to arm themselves. Insurance would protect the company's bottom line, not its shipping, crews or assets.

That makes them armed merchantmen, which puts them in a completely different category. They may not be welcome in all systems and governments, for starters. It's likely that almost all independent, single-system polities and even the Silesian Confederecy would have accepted armed Manticoran ships, but what if the League didn't? They League already didn't like Manticoran shipping, so giving them an excuse to bar them from League space would be a bad idea. This would apply not just to the League official members, but to all OFS-controlled worlds too.
Having a fleet with different capabilities means logistics gets complicated. You can't use an armed merchantman on a route where any port forbids them, so either you accept shipping with unarmed ships in those routes or you reroute. The latter option may be cost-ineffective.
Before anyone suggests undeclared weapons, there's a risk to that: if discovered, such a ship could be legally impounded and the crew legally detained. And you couldn't use insurance to pay for their release either, because insurance wouldn't cover those undeclared weapons. The shipping company would need to foot the legal defence out of their own resources.


With new frontier trade routes into the Verge, Madras Sector and Talbott Quadrant and many Core systems closed to Manticoran shipping, along with the Mesan Alignment's Renaissance Factor founding its own Star Nation and the likelihood of Mesan pirates sniping Manticoran shipping (let's not forget where the idea of Case Buccaneer originated from), I think there should be a shift in Manticoran doctrine to consider arming their merchant ships rather than run their fleet ragged.

Pods have another advantage: they can be offloaded easily. So on those routes I envisioned above, the ships could offload their pods before heading to a port that didn't accept armed Manticoran shipping, then pick up a new load on the next system. It wouldn't even be difficult if the shipping goes in both directions, since the ports on either side of the unwilling port would always have missile pods being dropped off.

The difficulty here is that those two systems need to be very friendly to hold on to those pods, plus provide security by themselves, since there will be ships arriving unarmed. Pirates would know that.

Another problem is that you have civilians in control of missiles. Granted, a considerable chunk of the merchant crew were retired Navy, who probably have some combat experience (especially now in the post-war scenario) and who wouldn't panic and shoot down a friendly ship with transponder problems. But not all would. More importantly, they open themselves to being charged with piracy themselves: if the local pirates are friendly with the corrupt local government, the crew of a civilian ship that fired on a raider would likely be detained and could get executed before any relief came from Manticore.


Instead of pods, how about an anti-missile suite to defend against hostile fire for merchant ships? Or creating a certification examination for merchant captains and ships to qualify on before they could arm themselves? I'm not suggesting that every merchant ship be given a missile pod, just that Manticore make the option available, pending qualifications, which would ease the burden on their Navy.

LACs had existed for centuries before the Shrikes and they were ferried from system to system either in the bellies of freighters or tractored to the hull. So you wouldn't need a dedicated model, an old design might suffice.

Or it might not. One of the biggest advantages of the Shrikes, Ferrets and Katanas, aside from their weaponry, was their endurance. An old-style LAC couldn't operate very far from a good base of operations and freighters make poor bases. It's doubtful an old-style LAC could even carry its crew aboard on a long-haul hyperspace stint.

Either way, I don't think LACs would be a good idea. First, they may have a very poor reaction time when trouble presents itself. If the LAC crew is not aboard or the LAC is inside a cargo bay, launching it could take 10 minutes or more. If the freighter was ambushed by a pirate lying doggo, they may not have 10 minutes. Second, you need to embark not just the crews for the LACs, but also maintenance personnel, which increases the crew size aboard a freighter. Third, LAC duty on freighters would not be a very attractive option for the military service members and would probably be seen as punishment duty.


I agree, old-style LACs would be next to useless. I was thinking of a Katana or a Ferret-platform with an expanded ECM-suite for missile defense. As for ambushes, the vastness of space ensures that any pirate capture would be a long one, as a pirate lying doggo would have to chase down its merchant target, which would give the merchant ship time to launch the LAC wing. Another scenario is if a pirate fakes a distress call to lure in a merchant ship, which makes the LAC more useful as a runabout or investigator.
As for the crew situation, I see two solutions: cross-training the engineering section and helm sections to fly and maintain the LAC or (for the larger shipping lines) sub-contracting to private security outfits/naval reserves/SDFs.

A smaller carrier (escort carrier, CVE, though CLACs aren't CV, CVL or CVF) is an interesting concept. Without going into the merits of such a ship type, the problem with the above suggestion is simply that it's a warship in the first place. It's far easier for the RMN to build and crew a destroyer than a carrier. And destroyers and light cruisers are far more indicated for convoy duty than a carrier, plus the same ship can serve more functions. The RMN does prefer non-specific ships.

Small carriers may have other purposes, but I don't anti-piracy is it. They wouldn't be efficient for escorting and they wouldn't be needed in most Manticoran systems, since a fixed base can house and launch bigger LAC wings.


Maybe pocket carriers are inflexible for convoy duty, but I still see a space for them among the smaller member systems of the Manticore-Haven Alliance, especially in the Talbott Quadrant and Silesian province. In the same way as battlecruisers and battleships have been made obsolete in our wet-navies today, and Carrier groups are the main naval units, I feel that battlegroups built around pocket or full-size carriers (depending on the funds allotted) are the way to go for Manticoran systems which are not allowed to build wallers. When Manticore was a single-system nation, it was fine to have a centralised Navy. But, with so many member systems and LACs as the primary system defence platforms, I think pocket carriers would be needed as mobile bases for deep space operations and outsystem patrols, and to give the SDFs some teeth without the necessity of allowing them to build bigger ships.

Private security outfits could be a good idea. They could buy decommissioned RMN ships and install civilian-grade weaponry. Even older destroyer hulls could be useful and the RMN had them by the hundreds. Like you said, it could also provide jobs for demobilised service members.

I just don't know if protecting Manticoran shipping from piracy would be cost-effective. Far more likely, such mercenary groups would sell their services to full planetary governments who didn't have a good Navy of their own and now don't have Frontier Fleet "protection". The mercenary fees are probably too high for the shipping companies to afford themselves. Plus, the RMN is still present to protect Manticoran shipping. Hauptman has enough influence to make the RMN escort his and other ships anywhere where piracy is really troublesome, essentially for free. Even if he can afford the mercenary fees, you can't beat RMN's price.


Have already explained some roles I envision for private security firms, and I see them as an appendage of traders in high-risk areas such as the Verge and former Solarian League client states ie routes where the RMN would not patrol.
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Re: Space piracy (and OBS named SFIA book of the month)
Post by ThinksMarkedly   » Sun Jan 12, 2020 11:40 pm

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lightningstar519 wrote:My speculation is about the Manticore Empire and Navy of the future, as I pointed out the annexation of the Talbott Quadrant and carving up Silesia with the Andermani earlier. This has changed the astropolitical situation, as has the crumbling of the Solarian League. My point was that with the greater borders and star systems, it would be less efficient for the RMN to keep building lighter units than to allow merchantmen, especially the more reputable ones, to arm themselves. Insurance would protect the company's bottom line, not its shipping, crews or assets.


I don't think the problem is allowing the merchant fleet to arm itself, even a portion of it. The question is whether the shipping companies want this cost and liability. If they can convince the RMN and allies to use their ships, funded by taxpayer Manticoran dollars, they probably will. Besides, the Navies need to keep their personnel sharp and in peace time, the best way is with anti-piracy duty. Anyway, I'm not going to go into the political and financial matters since we don't have enough data to reach conclusions.

With new frontier trade routes into the Verge, Madras Sector and Talbott Quadrant and many Core systems closed to Manticoran shipping, along with the Mesan Alignment's Renaissance Factor founding its own Star Nation and the likelihood of Mesan pirates sniping Manticoran shipping (let's not forget where the idea of Case Buccaneer originated from), I think there should be a shift in Manticoran doctrine to consider arming their merchant ships rather than run their fleet ragged.


I don't think there's any danger of running ragged. For every SD(P) that is demobilised, you can crew 15 CLs or 20 DDs (or thereabouts). If the half of the Grand Fleet is demobilised and put into storage, that's something like 2000 new DDs and CLs coming into service.

Instead of pods, how about an anti-missile suite to defend against hostile fire for merchant ships? Or creating a certification examination for merchant captains and ships to qualify on before they could arm themselves? I'm not suggesting that every merchant ship be given a missile pod, just that Manticore make the option available, pending qualifications, which would ease the burden on their Navy.


Anti-missile suites appear to exist, as others have pointed out with Bachfisch's two ships. But those were the exception, not the rule. A good set of PDLCs would probably be quite ok, as they can't really be used offensively, except to really close targets.

The question is whether anti-missiles are sufficient to scare off pirates. Freighters have really thin hulls, so it takes a single missile getting through the point defence to ruin the crew's day. Pirates are in the business of stealing loot and selling it, so they would prefer not to destroy their prize. But a prize they destroyed is no worse for them than a prize they didn't catch anyway. So if the pirate ship itself isn't threatened, what have they got to lose in attacking a merchantman that can defend? Meanwhile, a ship that didn't surrender and tried to defend itself could find itself destroyed or suffer retaliations against the crew.

What pirates really don't like are those that can shoot back.

As for qualification, here's a simple one: hold a rank of Lieutenant or Lt. Cmdr in the reserves. Anyone who's reached that rank in the command track has sat at tactical for some time.

I agree, old-style LACs would be next to useless. I was thinking of a Katana or a Ferret-platform with an expanded ECM-suite for missile defense. As for ambushes, the vastness of space ensures that any pirate capture would be a long one, as a pirate lying doggo would have to chase down its merchant target, which would give the merchant ship time to launch the LAC wing. Another scenario is if a pirate fakes a distress call to lure in a merchant ship, which makes the LAC more useful as a runabout or investigator.
As for the crew situation, I see two solutions: cross-training the engineering section and helm sections to fly and maintain the LAC or (for the larger shipping lines) sub-contracting to private security outfits/naval reserves/SDFs.


This goes back to whether the crew of the LACs is Navy or civilian. Freighters carrying full up Navy LACs, with active duty personnel, is quite different to LACs crewed by civilians. If the LACs do get engaged with a pirate, it's Navy action in proper protection duty. The local corrupt government would think twice before impounding RMN ships and personnel.

The only way I'd see this working is if the LACs are actually Navy and the freighters are "hired" by the RMN to transport them. I don't see the crew staying inside the LAC for the entire duration of the trip, as long-haul jumps would be tedious, so this could only work if an airlock connection to the main ship needs to exist.

Lying doggo is possible if the pirate is close to the hyperspace emergence point. Time is money, so freighters tend to translate as close as possible to the hyper limit and on a least-time course to the planet. So the emergence locus is pretty well-defined. And the pirate doesn't need to go after every prize, only those that showed up within range. Another way is to generate an intercept vector from far away and then go into stealth before the freighter sees the attacker (civilian sensors are crappy, so the stealth capabilities don't need to be very good). That means the LAC crew would need to treat such transitions as potentially hostile and already be aboard their ships and be ready to launch. And possibly stay there all the way until close to the port or close to the translation point on the outbound leg.

Maybe pocket carriers are inflexible for convoy duty, but I still see a space for them among the smaller member systems of the Manticore-Haven Alliance, especially in the Talbott Quadrant and Silesian province. In the same way as battlecruisers and battleships have been made obsolete in our wet-navies today, and Carrier groups are the main naval units, I feel that battlegroups built around pocket or full-size carriers (depending on the funds allotted) are the way to go for Manticoran systems which are not allowed to build wallers. When Manticore was a single-system nation, it was fine to have a centralised Navy. But, with so many member systems and LACs as the primary system defence platforms, I think pocket carriers would be needed as mobile bases for deep space operations and outsystem patrols, and to give the SDFs some teeth without the necessity of allowing them to build bigger ships.


That discussion might deserve a thread of its own. I don't yet see the need for a small carrier, not when operating the regular CLACs is in the budget. If that situation changes, then smaller carriers may have a life -- though I don't see them in anti-piracy duty, other than a coincidence. On the other hand, a multi-role ship does make sense right now.

But be careful about "allowed to build wallers". There's only one RMN in the SEM, so system governments shouldn't be building SDFs like the League systems did/do. The RMN is supposed to be that system's defence force and any need it may have should be supplied by the RMN. You may want to refer to the quite long and meandering thread on Dispersing shipyards for this subject (and many others).

Have already explained some roles I envision for private security firms, and I see them as an appendage of traders in high-risk areas such as the Verge and former Solarian League client states ie routes where the RMN would not patrol.


Some security is definitely better than none in those areas, but we need to answer why we'd need private security instead of government-funded one. The RMN has a tradition of anti-piracy and anti-slaving and I don't see that changing. The IAN, RHN, and whatever the Beowulf-Hypatia Navy becomes will likely do the same. I even expect the Renaissance Factor's Navy to do it too, just to be seen as a serious contender for the beacon of civilisation and as capable as the big boys.

Maybe it's in high risk high reward zones? But what is a high risk zone, one with enough trouble that the regular navies would be telling their merchant services "don't go there" but not such an open warfare zone where commerce raiding could be happening? Security services and mercenaries don't usually want to go against proper navy cruisers. Though I'd suspect a frigate built by Haputman, like those of the RTN, can go toe-to-toe against a CL from a Verge Navy.
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Re: Space piracy (and OBS named SFIA book of the month)
Post by Jonathan_S   » Mon Jan 13, 2020 3:14 pm

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These have already been more or less touched on, but I'm going to offer my own response anyway :D
lightningstar519 wrote:Why not give the merchant ships the means to defend themselves against light combatants, rather than wait for the Navy?
Because as much as trading partners might not love having a foreign navy's warship in their system - they downright abhor and forbid having armed civilian ships there.

Basically if you arm the merchant ships probably north of 70% of foreign ports will refuse to all them in. All of a sudden your armed civilian ship is safe but can't do it's job.

Silesia is particular refused to allow armed civilian hyper-capable ships within its territory. Any such were, IIRC, treated as pirates. Even Ambuscade and Pirate's Bane were only allowed to be armed because they was technically Silesian Confederate Navy (in that Captain Bachfisch managed to acquire, through the help of ONI, warrants as naval auxiliaries of the SCN). I don't think it was mentioned but given that the Atlas-class liners carries RMN tech that was still quite secret (and therefore the weapons/ECM crew would have needed security clearances - if not actually been RMN personnel) I suspect that they may also technically have been registered as naval auxiliaries; just RMN ones. Though there are probably limits on how many semi-civilian armed naval auxiliaries of foreign militaries Silesia was willing to accept swanning around their territory. Manticore presumably couldn't have gotten away with handing out naval auxiliary warrants to every freighter interested in mounting a defensive weapons suite.

The key difference between Wayfarer and other armed merchantmen is that Wayfarer was actually and RMN naval warship. As such she was allowed to be present and armed anyplace an RMN destroyer would have been. (Also nobody cared how much cargo capacity and cargo hold access was given up to stick weapons in her because she never carried paying cargo - the cargo holds were just used for stores and spare parts for her and her crew.

Also defenses are expensive and losses to piracy are still quite rare. It's cheaper to pay increased insurance for going dangerous places unarmed than it is to pay to install, maintain, and have operators for defensive weapons suites.



After all it's fairly cheap today to bolt some machine guns, or even 20-40mm stabilized cannon onto the deck edges of merchant ships - but in places with significant pirate problems, like off Somalia, nobody does so because of the reasons mentioned above. Instead anti-piracy protection there is done by taxpayer funded naval warships - not be armed civilian ships.
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Re: Space piracy (and OBS named SFIA book of the month)
Post by kzt   » Mon Jan 13, 2020 3:19 pm

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Jonathan_S wrote:After all it's fairly cheap today to bolt some machine guns, or even 20-40mm stabilized cannon onto the deck edges of merchant ships - but in places with significant pirate problems, like off Somalia, nobody does so because of the reasons mentioned above. Instead anti-piracy protection there is done by taxpayer funded naval warships - not be armed civilian ships.

Not completely true, but when they use security teams they typically board the ship outside a nation's territorial waters and disembark before it enters the destinations territorial waters. And they don't install fixed weapon platforms.

Even in WW2, the weapons systems on transports in convoys were manned by sailors. Who collected maybe a hundred dollars in pay while the merchant crew each made thousands in hazard pay.
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Re: Space piracy (and OBS named SFIA book of the month)
Post by Jonathan_S   » Mon Jan 13, 2020 3:33 pm

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lightningstar519 wrote:Maybe pocket carriers are inflexible for convoy duty, but I still see a space for them among the smaller member systems of the Manticore-Haven Alliance, especially in the Talbott Quadrant and Silesian province. In the same way as battlecruisers and battleships have been made obsolete in our wet-navies today, and Carrier groups are the main naval units, I feel that battlegroups built around pocket or full-size carriers (depending on the funds allotted) are the way to go for Manticoran systems which are not allowed to build wallers. When Manticore was a single-system nation, it was fine to have a centralised Navy. But, with so many member systems and LACs as the primary system defence platforms, I think pocket carriers would be needed as mobile bases for deep space operations and outsystem patrols, and to give the SDFs some teeth without the necessity of allowing them to build bigger ships.
Also note that in the Honorverse even commerce raiding is nearly impossible in hyperspace; pirates would have even worse luck there because they can't afford to deploy entire squadrons to ships to wait for a passing merchantman.

So the piracy threat is almost exclusively just inside the hyper limit of occupied star systems. Convoying merchant ships is generally only needed when they are traveling to systems that are not, or may not be, secure when they arrive. Naval shipping near the front is escorted during time of war because hostile navies have the forces to waste some on low probability events like a mid-hyperspace intercept and also because there's a risk that one of the convoy's destinations will have fallen (even temporarily) to the enemy before they arrive. So hence naval escorts to look for enemy naval units and to scout each system to ensure its still in friendly hands before the freighters get too far in to escape.

But against pirates you're primarily worried about the safety of your merchants only in normal space and mostly near the hyper limit. So you only convoy them when they're traveling to ports that aren't willing or able to secure their own system. Silesia was a special case because it was a bunch of systems valuable enough to make a profitable trade partner while also being chaotic and corrupt enough that systems were prevented from securing themselves from pirates and the SCN didn't have the capability or will to secure all the systems either. And even in Silesia it wasn't until the demands of the war withdrew most of the patrolling RMN forces (and the IAN similarly pulled back their forces to avoid looking like they were horning in on Silesia during Manticore's time of crisis) that things got bad enough that the inefficiencies of convoying were outweighed by the protection it offered over the suddenly heightened piracy threat.
Usually a system too poor to patrol its own hyper limit and run off pirates also attracts so little trade that pirates can't survive the long dry spells between interstellar traffic.

Now that Silesia has been partitioned the RMN and IAN will be putting in enough forces that each system they control will be capable of detecting and running off (if not always capturing or destroying) pirates loitering about. The same will quickly be true of the SEM's new Talbott territories. The same LAC bases they'll put in for system defense provide the mobile forces necessary to see off pirates.
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