Whither Fighters?

Well, first of all – I've gone from 'thinking about' to 'clamouring at the bit' to start work on the next in the Alamo series. I've given myself a week off to think about it all properly, get everything arranged in my head, and more importantly to get the first of the beta readers' reports – which to my great relief continue to be pretty positive. Happy days indeed, though the biggest test, putting it on sale and seeing if it 'bites', remains to be seen. Currently that's some time in early June – pretty much boils down to incorporating feedback and the full proof read, though I've already worked out some of the howlers! Given that fighters form an important part of the next book, I've had to ponder them pretty heavily with regards to the setting. The priority – as ever – is keeping it realistic.

I think it boils down to three classifications of 'fighter'. The first of these is probably nearest to what we would classically consider a fighter – in that it is the atmospheric spaceplane. These are designed for upper-atmospheric interdiction, in an environment where you need fully-manned input. (Despite talk of drones, there is the constant danger of hacking. My thesis? Each 'fighter' has two-seats – the pilot and the swarm-jockey, the operator of a cloud of a dozen drones operated at close range from the fighter. Hacking the enemy's drones is as important as dogfighting him.) These probably have a good life-expectancy, because they are generally useful. You could base them on a planetary surface, and logically they would have that option, but they'd work better from a low-orbit space station. Or possibly a carrier; because if you were planning an invasion, this is where your control of the air comes into play. (In Triplanetary service, these are pretty rare, really. Mars might justify some, but the atmosphere isn't really dense enough. Titan's more likely to have some – Callisto won't.)

Then you have the interceptors. This brings to mind fast, sleek shapes, but in fact they have more resemblance to the Raptors from Battlestar Galactica. One pilot, three espatiers. Their job is to intercept small-to-medium ships and inspect them. The pilot gets you there, the espatiers conduct the inspection. These are going to be critical for enforcing blockades, and they can either be operated from space stations or again from carriers. Naturally, these will have weapon packages, and probably drones as well. (Sensibly, they would just operate drones. Realistically, they are going to have weapons of their own also, probably missiles.) These could be operated by a co-pilot, or by one of the espatiers – given that they are on board anyway. (This brings a new concept for a fire team – Sniper, Medic, Technician.) These again will probably be pretty common ships for a very long time, and could end up being the equivalent of a 'ship's boat' for smaller vessels as a side benefit. Everyone will have these in decent numbers. Probably the standard type of 'fighter'.

Finally, the shortest-lived classification – the bomber. Launched from carriers to deliver missiles to target. Now they have several different possible functions; they could 'tag' targets at close range, guiding in a cluster of larger missiles from other ships, operating a bit like the Pathfinders in World War II – helping have e-warfare countermeasures on the spot. As well as an instant 'abort' if necessary. These could drop bombs themselves, of course, either engaging space installations or enemy capital ships. The problem is that they are not very efficient. The only reason you would build them is if you are in some sort of emergency situation, and you need combat hulls in a hurry while larger capital ships are constructed. Given that the Interplanetary War came as a bit of a shock to both sides, I can actually see these being thrown together rather a lot in the early days, though increasingly obsolescent. Casualties and loss rates will be pretty high – think horse cavalry in World War I. That won't stop people trying to hold onto them, of course, and they might persist for a while. Again – all powers will have them. In decreasing numbers. Also – they would have a potential civilian market if converted to other uses, potentially orbital shuttles and the like. Designs would vary, but as I would expect them to carry drones, probably – but not necessarily – two-seaters. (They might make good training craft, potentially – another potential peacetime adaptation would be the two-seater trainer.)

To give an example of a Flight Group, the Battlecruiser Alamo is rated for the following:

3 Ship-To-Surface Shuttles (Capable of transporting an Espatier Squad)
6 Attack Craft (Interceptors/Fighters/Bombers)

1 Captain's Gig (Ceremonial Ship-to-Surface Shuttle, designed for the Captain and Aide)

No comments:

Post a Comment