While merchant ships carry cargo, Warships are dedicated combat ships, carrying powerful weapons, thick armor, and are faster and more maneuverable than a merchant ship. Warships are usually exclusively operated by a Navy, though some organizations and companies have operated their own.

Both the Covenant and the UNSC operate their own fleets of warships. UNSC ships tend to be smaller than their Covenant counterparts, utilizing weaponry significantly less advanced than Covenant technology, though making excellent use of coordination and tactical thinking. Covenant ships are large, heavily armed, protected by Energy Shields, and often carry large quantities of ground troops.

In the 26th Century, the term warship encompasses several terms:

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