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'.
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)