- Role: Fleet Offensive
- Length: Varies; 496 meters
- Weapons Systems: Spinal EMSEL cannon, Point-defense EMSEL batteries
- Country of origin: American Empire
- Users: Springfield Pact, United Technocracies of Man
Designed to give Imperial battlefleets a more competent escort while at the same time used as a platform for a new weapons system, the Charles Sumner-class assault cruiser is intended to showcase the new charged particle weapon system. The principle behind the charged particle cannon is to use a stream of ultra-high-energy electrons to damage a target by disrupting electrical circuits, including those of the nervous system. A single hit against an improperly defended ship could disable the ship and its crew, bypassing traditional defenses against depressurization and disabling the energy shielding of the era.
During the Collapse, the cruisers had a negligible effect on combat, as there were not enough fielded by the Imperial Navy. The flaws in the charged particle system were apparent: the weapon could not be fired rapidly and drained the power reserves of the ship, meaning that each cruiser could only fire a few shots and had to make sure those shots hit. While the charged particle weapons worked as planned, it was found that coilgun and missile assaults were more cost-effective. The Imperial Navy’s Charles Sumners were consequently refitted with spinal coilguns; the charged particle cannons were scrapped or sold.
However, while the charged particle weapons are too inefficient for militaries, they were useful for pirates and other non-government groups, as they needed to capture ships and their cargo relatively intact. This allowed enterprising men to build up entire fleets with relative ease. The charged particle cannons quickly became expensive rarities that only the most powerful warlords could field. Charged particle cannons are some of the most valuable possessions an independent fleet could have, and to lose one is considered a disaster. Today, a few Charles Sumners exist in their original form, serving in countless fleets across the galaxy.