An Offensive Unit was a purpose-built Culture combat spacecraft.


The most capable Offensive Units were classified as General Offensive Units (GOU.) Rapid Offensive Units (ROU) and Limited Offensive Units (LOU)[1] were lesser types.

Demilitarized shipsEdit

Offensive Units could be converted into personnel and cargo couriers[2] by removing much of their weaponry.[3] Demilitarized ships lost their status as Offensive Units and received new designations.

Initially, demilitarized ships were known collectively as DeMilitarized Vessels (DMV)[3] and identified by the prefix "(Demilitarized)". For example, a General Offensive Unit would, after conversion, become a (Demilitarized) General Offensive Unit ((D)GOU), while a Rapid Offensive Unit would be redesignated a (Demilitarized) Rapid Offensive Unit ((D)ROU).[4]

From the c. 20th century CE onward, Demilitarized ships were reclassified–with no change in role–as Pickets.[5] (D)GOUs became Fast Pickets (FP)[6], and (D)ROUs became Very Fast Pickets (VFP.)[7]

Demilitarized ships could be reconverted into Offensive Units simply by re-installing their weapons.[8]



Earlier classes of OUs had a central physical hull.[9][4][10][11][12]

Control systemsEdit

OUs were typically controlled by a single Mind.


The Culture built no purpose-built warcraft in the five hundred years leading up to the Idiran-Culture War.[13] Offensive Unit production was extensive during the war, and most were scrapped during post-war demobilization. Within 200 years the Culture had fewer active warships than at the start of the war.[10]

By the 29th century CE, OUs rarely carried crews[3], and modern LOUs had surpassed previous GOUs.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Hydrogen Sonata, chapter 16
  2. Surface Detail, chapter 16
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Hydrogen Sonata, chapter 5
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Player of Games, chapter 1
  5. Use of Weapons, chapter 1.One
  6. Matter, chapter 10
  7. Matter, chapter 16
  8. Hydrogen Sonata, chapter 9
  9. Consider Phlebas, chapter 9
  10. 10.0 10.1 Excession, chapter 4.5
  11. Surface Detail, chapter 12
  12. Surface Detail, chapter 9
  13. Consider Phlebas, The war, briefly