To begin with, what ARE the various scouting missions, and how important are they?
1) locating enemy fleet on offense
2) early warning of enemy fleet for strategic or tactical defense
3) shadowing enemy vessels to direct fleet assets, or to find enemy entry/exit points
4) monitoring jump points/gates. Requirements, the resolution to detect anything that can make transit. Must be able to detect transit over the range a jump ship about 2 tech levels higher could jump in.
5) probing jump points
6) probing inhabitable planets
7) early warning of missile attack, to allow fleet time to turn away or forward deploy anti-missile escort
recon by fire. Sometimes the only way to find out what range the enemy can detect or destroy missiles, fighters, ships is to probe. Against a faster fleet, especially precursors, you have to have this information early enough to disengage.
9) providing targeting information vs missiles, fighters and/or ships for other ships whose weapon ranges would otherwise vastly exceed their onboard sensor range.
Scouts can be anything from missiles with sensors on them, drones, fighters, lacs, all the way up to capital ships with a quarter or more of their tonnage devoted to sensors. So what keeps them alive?
1) speed. They can outrun anything that is armed
2) small size, they can detect anything big enough to harm them outside of their opponent's own sensor range
3) range, they have sensors of such size that they can sit comfortably outside of the enemy's range while directing the fight
4) they are a deliberate target, with lots of armor and shields
5) alive? They are cheap and disposable and built in ordnance factories or fighter factories
6) not as fast as possible, or as small as possible, but armed to take out or force back their opposite numbers, or part of a squadron where the design of the hitters is tied to the speed and size of the sensor equipped ship.
Some scouting doctrine ideas:
Every jump point should have a sensor on it, preferably both sides, in every system with assets that are not considered to be "disposable". Every system worth protecting should at least have a patrol capable of shadowing an enemy fleet, so in the event of a surprise attack through an undiscovered jump point, the attack can be traced back.
So, some questions:
Approximately what percentage of your fleet build is devoted to scouting? How specialized are your scouts? If your scouts are small, like missile to LAC sized, specialization seems the way to go. But for capital ship scouts, you may not have enough of a production run to justify an EM specialized capital ship and a thermal specialized capital ship etc...
Ok... I'm late responding to this thread but this is one of my favourite part of Aurora... the scout, hunt and stealth part.
I see this as the MOST important part of my defenses, period. Being able to know the position, strength and quality of the enemy is key to mounting any type of defence or offence.
Since the best defense is a good offense it is important to know where your enemy is so you can strike at them before they strike at you.
My own systems would of course be monitored with Tracking Stations. Although I have some house rules for them since the can be a bit abusive with higher levels and the fact they are freely upgraded with research... so I restrict them with five levels for regularly populated worlds, level three for smaller colonies and military outposts and level one if completely unmanned outposts.
In addition to tracking stations every Jump Point that I discovered will be marked with passive buoys on both sides so I can monitor any traffic going through them. If they are blown up I know something is wrong and I will have to send ships to investigate. For this purpose my main explorer vessels are equipped with launchers to place these buoys.
I take loss of life to be one of the most important thing to prevent even though there are no direct mechanic in the game to represent overall moral, it is more of a RP thing. This has great impact on the risk I'm willing to take with ships in general so any scout ship must have some means of defending themselves be it by stealth, speed or armament. In general once missiles are being used then capital ships first line if defence is stealth or simply never being detected, this put a high emphasis on smaller scout ships performing the probing of enemy territory.
The first thing you need to do when you enter into enemy territory it to search for enemy ground bases what might have any tracking stations and either destroy them or take them by ground assault with marines. This has been very important in my campaign where I played more than one side, against the AI this is not as important.
Second thing I do is to send out scout frigate or destroyer groups who each carry many different scout and reconnaissance crafts. Their purpose is to find and locate the main enemy force and neutralize and fighter/FAC launched to try and intercept the scout ships.
Once the enemy main force have been found it would be time to send in the fleet of either missile cruisers or carriers with strike fighters to deal with them.
If everything goes according to plan the enemy would never have spotted any of my ships except some of my scouts and recon elements and been neutralized from my initial strike.
This would be in ideal conditions.
The main task for scouting is basically to find out the capability of the enemy, their strength and composition of their forces. This will give me a good understanding of my chances to either defeat them or if I will need to retreat and regroup.
My capital ships only use active sensors for personal protection and they usually are relatively short in comparison to the range of their main missile batteries. My tactics are that missiles need to have a good range advantage so they can be fired in safety of being detected while a few scouts paints the target. It becomes easier with carriers since fighters usually have great range and can have much less range on their missiles.
Another reason for trying to keep sensors small and on smaller ships is research and development costs and detection ability. It is far harder to detect several smaller active sensors on EM than on large that cover roughly the same area. You also rarely need to cover every angle of approach as vigorously.
EM sensors can usually be small since many active sensors have a really large power signature for Thermal sensors its not really the same thing. I usually put larger EM and thermal sensors on the actual scout ship such as corvettes, frigate leaders and destroyer leaders. Minor craft usually get enough EM so they can detect any hostile active sensors far enough before they become a threat to themselves.
Ships like Corvettes and Frigates are the ones who first get access to Stealth technology and they most if the time will have reduced thermal output of their engines. This way they can enjoy a higher cruising speed without the threat of being detected.
The most important part of a system defense fleet is to detect and assess any threat that enters into that system... preferably I like to keep a buffer zone of at least one system between any inhabited system and potential threats. So for me it is important to keep at least some presence in outlying system with scouts and patrol ships.
The first mission of system defence forces is therefore to gain intel of an enemy so I know what forces are needed to defeat them, their second goal is to engage the enemy if it is deemed possible to do so from the intel gathered.
Overall I do not keep any capital class scout ships, at least not until advanced Stealth technology is available and the use of smaller crafts are not as needed. If capital class ships are ever deployed they are always accompanied with destroyers and/or frigates who are specialized in the role of scouting and screening. Although all capital class ships will have hangars and will be able to act as scouts and usually contribute to the overall scouting capability of a fleet.
A Corvette are usually a really small ship without any major hangar, usually only a small one for rescue operations. They are meant for system defence patrol duties and are fast ships with decent passive sensors and some rudimentary active sensors. They also carry at least some sort of beam self defence system and in many occasions a small AMM system using box launchers. Corvettes would usually be 3000-4000t.
A Frigate comes in two configurations. The regular frigate and the frigate leader. Frigates are ships who operate in small groups of 2-5 ships and their main job is reconnaissance and they also have a small capability to engage enemy fighters and FAC crafts. The frigate leader usually have a slightly larger hangar and less weapons in addition to better passive sensors. A frigate is a small ship but big enough to operate alone under relatively long times and can be about 4000-6000t or so.
The Destroyer are the main picket ship for fleet task-forces and also are quite big and have enough weapons to engage and eliminate large amount of smaller enemy crafts. Destroyers are mainly and escort ship and don't carry weapons that are directly intended to be used against other capital ships or even other destroyer sized ships. Their weapons can be used that way but it is not their intention. A Destroyer are usually between 10 and 20.000t in size.
Destroyers deploy a screen of recon ship to search and hunt for enemy fighters and FAC type ships and engage them head on, mostly using missiles.
Smaller Recon crafts can be from 1000t and below, most recon crafts are at 500t and below. These comes in all shapes and configurations and ships can be equipped with whatever scout crafts are deemed necessary for any particular mission. Smaller scout crafts are easy to build and cheap to design.
I think this pretty much sums up my overall doctrines in regard to recon, scout and intelligence gathering in Aurora. I see this as the most important part of my fleet and worth putting serious resources and thinking into.