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The Fleet Ship designs, strategies, and tactics.

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Old January 17th, 2008, 06:17 PM
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Default Fighters

All this talk about cruisers, and the various size breakdowns of warships got me thinking. Most of the stuff I've read recently about Traveller is from T4, and in T4, the advent of using fighters in fleet battles was decisive in favour of the Imperium.

What do you folks think? Would there be a point to a "carrier" class ship in space combat? Are masses of fighters effective against larger ships? Some people have already discussed how a cloud of missiles can pretty much take out anything - what about a cloud of agile armed small craft?

If fighters work, then a greater emphasis has to be placed on point defence, altering the overall effectiveness of large capital ships.

I'm starting to think that however kewl they may be, the economics and dynamics of space combat do not favour bloated battleships.
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Old January 17th, 2008, 06:54 PM
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I've been giving fighters some thought lately, mostly in the context of how they would assist in a planetary assault but also how they would support the fleet.

I can't say what canon will have to say on this particular subject, but I think there would be two distinct types of fighters - atmospheric and non-atmospheric.

Non-atmospheric fighters don't require streamlining so they are cheaper and they can afford more armor (imagine a bunch of flying bricks being launched to defend the fleet). These "fleet fighters" would have variants based on their roles:

Light fighters intended to engage at (relatively) long ranges using lasers.

Heavy fighters that get as close as possible to avoid enemy defenses - heavily armored so maybe a bit slower and mounting fusion guns.

Strike fighters - missile carriers that hold the middle ground between light and heavy fighters.

Patrol fighters - long endurance craft with a mix of offensive weapons intended to perform recon, screening, and something analogous to combat air patrol.

The atmospheric fighters would be broken down into light, heavy, and strike variants and would be designed with speed in mind. Since grav vehicles have taken some of the roles of the attack helicopters and fixed-wing fighters of today, the atmospheric fighters would be designed for extreme speeds to hit enemy planetary defense targets prior to the drop troops being released. This would be a phase of the operation where extreme speed would help keep the fighters safe and the light fighters might be able to stand off and use their lasers to hit pinpoint targets from beyond the enemy's range (depending on how they array the defense). They'd also hang around after the troops drop to provide on call support.

Then again, all of this is nothing more than a product of my brain housing group - do these roles make sense in game terms?
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Old January 17th, 2008, 10:29 PM
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I suspect that the answer is very rules version dependant.

In CT book 2 combat there are no Bay Weapons or Spinal Mounts, so a swarm of 20 dTon fighters might overwhelm a 2000 dTon warship.

In CT High Guard combat it is an easy matter to create an armored ship immune to all but the largest spinal mounts – fighters would be harmless gnats to be swatted at leisure (without some house rules to change that).

Other Traveller versions would probably fall somewhere between these two extremes.
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Old January 18th, 2008, 04:41 PM
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It all depends on what weapons are allowed on your fighter and how much damage it can do.

Current atmospheric fighter can carry enough fire power to knock out the largest atmospheric ship and cause significant damage to sea and land-based targets.

If you envision space fighters having that same kind of fire power, then Fighters will be very effective and cost effective.

Using HG, fighters cannot damage large, high tech ships, so their effectiveness is limited to smaller or lower tech opponents.

A fighter is very effective against Scout or Free Trader but worthless against a Tigress.
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Old January 18th, 2008, 05:07 PM
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Hurm. Assuming one wants to play with the 2nd law of thermodynamics in full effect, weaponry should always be a step ahead of armour at the same TL. Thinking back to my lego days, it was always easier to break something than make something.

It makes sense that a warship should be able to pack enough armour that a single fighter would be hard pressed to do any significant damage before getting picked off. But it is counter-intuitive to see such a vessel as an impregnable shell, without any vulnerabilities against a fighter. Sensor arrays have to stick out, M drives are visible, hardpoints, communications, etc. - these have got to be vulnerable to fighters - even if we take it as a given that structural armour is too thick for their puny weapons.

And fighters, if they are able to close to less than a kilometre, have got to be troublesome to hit with a spinal mount. I'd say pretty much impossible. So that means warships have to invest in some degree of anti-fighter point defense weapons.

Well, we'll see what T5 has to say on the matter. I'm also planning on setting my game pretty far back in Imperial history, so maybe TL is also a factor.
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Old January 18th, 2008, 07:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atpollard View Post
I suspect that the answer is very rules version dependant.

In CT book 2 combat there are no Bay Weapons or Spinal Mounts, so a swarm of 20 dTon fighters might overwhelm a 2000 dTon warship.

In CT High Guard combat it is an easy matter to create an armored ship immune to all but the largest spinal mounts – fighters would be harmless gnats to be swatted at leisure (without some house rules to change that).

Other Traveller versions would probably fall somewhere between these two extremes.
Hi,

As noted by atpollard, above, the effectiveness of fighters and carriers is probably dependent on what rules you are using, as the way fighters are treated kind of seems to very somewhat from rule set to rule set.

Specifically, the 1st Edition of CT doesn't really include fighters but all other small craft tend to be fuel hogs. In the game MayDay fighters are added, and in that game the fuel consumption impacts are reflected in terms of how many turns a small craft can accelerate. In MayDay, the fighters provided have a maximum maneuver rating of 4G's and a maximum number of fuel burns of 12 turns.

In the 2nd Edition of CT, fighters are added, and their fuel consumption is greatly reduced (effectively eliminating any limits on fuel burns for game purposes).

In Book 5 - High Guard, fuel consumption is similar to 2nd Edition CT but the book adds limitations on launch, recovery, and stowage.

In Traveller 4, stowage requirements for small craft, including fighters are increased beyond that in CT, and the maneuverability of standard fighters range from 6G for light fighters to 4G for heavy fighters.

Unfortunately I can't find my copies of TNE or MegaTraveller right now, but you can kind of see how things vary from version to version, and you can also see that in many cases the maneuvering rating of many of the standard fighter designs provided are only on par with other vessels. As such, in some ways fighters in some versions of Traveller may be less along the lines of modern real world atmospheric fighters (which are relatively fast and maneuverable in comparison to the ships they operate around) and more along the lines of just really small ships of similar speed and maneuverability of the larger ships they operate around.

Anyway, just some thoughts.

Regards

PF
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Old January 18th, 2008, 10:05 PM
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I saw fighters in TNE as being scouts and a harrying force. With TNE's fuel limits a force could extend it's sensor and attack reach by carrying fighters - which generally had a lot of g-turns.

The standard missiles in TNE had limited g-turns - 12 I think, so fighters could also extend the missile engagement range of a fleet by bringing them closer to the target.

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Old January 18th, 2008, 10:57 PM
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As many others have pointed out, it's going to be very dependent on whichever set of rules for ship construction, operations, and combat that you're using.

While it's possible to make capital ships that are essentially invulnerable in game terms to the weaponry that can be carried on a fighter (always excepting the handy-dandy nuclear warhead), it's significantly harder to build everything in the fleet to that standard, especially at tech levels lower than "top of the line Imperial". Fighters will generally be really fast for whatever TL they are built at, and it will be somewhat harder to hit them. However, their cost per displacement ton built will be somewhat higher, as you will have to be buying multiple copies of all the things that a single hull of equivalent size would only be carrying one set of. On the other hand, you get a lot more hardpoints available (and thus, a larger number of deployed weapons) for a given displacement tonnage, too.

There are advantages and disadvantages to having a lot of little ships. You can cover multiple locations by simply sending some of your force to one place and some more of it to another, whereas a single hull doesn't have that luxury. You can't have the entire force knocked out by one lucky hit from a big gun (presuming you've launched); instead, that meson gun will only knock out one fighter per round, if it can even hit them. However, it's more expensive (especially when you include the cost of the carrier), and it's harder to do massive damage in a short period of time, and it's potentially harder to train a lot of qualified pilots.

In general, for situations that fit actual scenarios that might arise (as opposed to generic Trillion Credit Squadron "two fleets enter, one fleet leaves" games set far from any notable astrographic feature), fighters have some utility for purposes other than "engaging the enemy battle line". Is that utility enough to make them worthwhile? I'd say "probably, in some contexts". If your ship design rules let them be faster than anything else around, that's helpful. If they bring more guns to the party than anything else, that's also helpful. If they let you scout out more space than you could possibly cover any other way, that could be helpful, too.
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Old January 19th, 2008, 01:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Renaissance Man View Post
It makes sense that a warship should be able to pack enough armour that a single fighter would be hard pressed to do any significant damage before getting picked off. But it is counter-intuitive to see such a vessel as an impregnable shell, without any vulnerabilities against a fighter. Sensor arrays have to stick out, M drives are visible, hardpoints, communications, etc. - these have got to be vulnerable to fighters - even if we take it as a given that structural armour is too thick for their puny weapons.

And fighters, if they are able to close to less than a kilometre, have got to be troublesome to hit with a spinal mount. I'd say pretty much impossible. So that means warships have to invest in some degree of anti-fighter point defense weapons.
Renaissance Man makes an excellent observation in that no matter how well armored a ship may be, there will "exposed" areas on the hull that a fighter's weapons can damage and destroy. Given enough of this "minor" damage - the capital ship's fighting ability will be reduced or nulified... Even the biggest gun is useless if it can't be aimed - a battleship without sensors or communications will have difficulty hitting anything....

Another thing to point out is that while the capital ship's weaponry is focused on the fighters, those fighters that are carrying missiles (especially nukes) will be getting close in shots... A nuke exploding in contact with the enemy hull will take a huge chunk out of it - and open another weak spot for fighters to concentrate their guns...
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Old January 19th, 2008, 11:39 AM
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Part of the problem with my questions here is that I'm I total newb. I end up calling out all you old hands and rules experts who dutifully research the canon, and then I turn my nose up at it because it doesn't make logical sense.

Just letting all you folks out there who have been helping me out know that I AM interested in the canon answer, though I may not want to use it in my game if I can't think of a good explanation for it. I want MTU to have some solid consistency, and a good answer for any question I or my players might have.

Now for fighters, I'm thinking that they are on their own of limited utility. But because of their ability to hit vulnerable targets on even large warships, and their agility, they represent another aspect of fleet combat that cannot be ignored. In addition, if they ARE a threat, and can draw the attention of a ship's spinal mount or bay weaponry, they are tying up crucial resources that might otherwise be used against an larger opponent. They are useful for harrying a fleet, scouting, and raiding vulnerable ships (e.g. freighters). The big boys better have some good point defence, or even better, fighters of their own to engage in dogfights.

I do NOT think that fighters can carry weaponry that can reliably destroy a warship single-handedly (except with maybe several direct hits on a specific area, a near-impossible feat in a combat situation.) That is 20th and 21st century thinking that may not be analagous to the Traveller era.

What I am for is Major B's toolbox analogy. Fighters are another tool in the toolbox, turning fleet combat into something more than just hammers and nails. Incidentally, that goes for the ecm/eccm discussion as well.

Thanks to all of ya, BTW. Ideas are flowing at an almost intoxicating pace on this board, and I'm loving it
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