Author Topic: fighter formations  (Read 1412 times)

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Offline Michael Sandy

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fighter formations
« on: January 18, 2017, 04:42:51 PM »
This is an outgrowth of a discussion on AMM and AFM that have sensors.

The question I was turning over in my mind was what sort of formation should a box launcher equipped fighter force use?  Also, do you optimize them for anti-ship work, or do you have a resolution 5 missile fire control as well, so they have some defense against fighters?

If you have point defense fighters with your box launcher fighters, your formation is pretty simple.  Everybody in a tight ball so you can use final fire PD against anything incoming, with the anti-missile sensor fighters a little in advance of the formation to get better firing solutions.

I suppose a lot depends on what kills your fighters, or what you expect to kill your fighters.  If your fighters are spread in a line perpendicular to the enemy force, their missiles will all arrive at the same time, but be in lots of different volleys, and missiles targeted at destroyed fighters will likely be out of range of retargeting other fighters.

In WWII, the Allies had night fighters lurking over German airbases to shoot down enemy bombers as they were preparing to land.  Intercepting box launcher fighters that are empty and returning to base, all you would need would be to have a couple faster beam equipped fighters, or a missile equipped fighter with a decent magazine that could stay in range long enough to fire its missiles.  Even 1 missile volleys would be sufficient if the box launcher fighters are empty, and have no point defense.

I would guess that the AI uses the fighter ball strategy, but aesthetically, there is something to be said for wider formations, at least where there is some tactical benefit to it.
 

Offline 83athom

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Re: fighter formations
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2017, 05:01:15 PM »
You would want a wing/arrow like formation with the box launcher fighter/bombers as the wings and you gauss/laser fighters as the tip. You could have support fighters wither in the main body of the arrow (behind the tip but between the wings) or as their own separate formation ahead of the grouping.
Give a man a fire and he's warm for a day, but set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 

Offline Iranon

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Re: fighter formations
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2017, 08:28:28 PM »
My approach tends to be crude and unglamorous:

One clump of unescorted fighters carrying a single box launcher, probably in the 150-200t range. Fire controls effective against decent-sized warships only.
 

Offline Michael Sandy

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Re: fighter formations
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2017, 08:42:41 PM »
If you don't have point defense with the fighters, you may as well spread them out, so overkill missiles have a harder time homing in on other fighters.

And if you do run into beam armed fighters, being spread out means at least you have a warning, so you can scatter or something.
 

Offline Iranon

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Re: fighter formations
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2017, 07:20:06 AM »
I suppose I could spread them out on the approach, I want them together at missile launch to deny enemy PD multiple opportunities.

My main reason for using box launcher fighters in the first place is that they can be tiny and only have to outrange anti-missile sensors/FCs. If they're shot at, something went terribly wrong. Against beam fighters... before launch, they should outrange beam weapons even with mismatched fire controls. Escape is unlikely anyway, these typically aren't very fast (1 size-1 engine, usually not high-powered).
 

Offline Michael Sandy

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Re: fighter formations
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2017, 11:40:28 AM »
As an RP matter, I think it is a good idea if each player run empire has a doctrine for dealing with a mirror fleet. If for no other reason than wargaming a civil war or coup scenario.  So a race that relies on small fighters should have sensors and fire controls capable of at least dealing with the previous generation of fighter.

I suppose ECM helps a lot versus small box launcher fighters, because it forces them to close more, and therefore increase the likelihood that they will be detected.

I am interested in logic of large vs small fighters.  Large fighters get more bang per fire control, have a longer range, use less fuel per payload delivered, while small fighters can get closer to their target before being detected and targeted.  What weapon systems and roles do you want the fighters as large as possible, and what weapon systems do you want as small a fighter as possible?
 

Offline Iranon

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Re: fighter formations
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2017, 01:32:25 PM »
Oh, I usually have capability agains small craft... it's just typically on full-sized ships, combined with large fine-grained sensors. I usually don't have an elaborate doctrine for symmetrical fleets, my approach is more along the lines of "can gain a decisive advantage if everything works as planned, still has its uses if things don't".

I regard small footprint quite highly... unfortunately, there's not much that can be crammed into a small fighter. Some typical combatants (there may be command and tanker variants, scouts with passives etc):

Small fighters:
a) Single box launcher, as small as possible to sneak in undertected. May be slow or fast (usually slow).
b) Bottom-of-the-barrel tiny Gauss fighters. Soaking missiles, harassment without logistics overhead that may allow real combatants to get some work done. Tried it, didn't like it.

Large fighters:
a) Quick-fring size 1 missile launcher. Fast enough enough to keep up with (slow, high-yield) missiles -> salvo dispersion.
b) Large box launcher. Options like differently-sized submunitions of same speed for salvo dispersion, devastating point-blank torpedos, mines.
c) Unpowered box launcher pod, very long mission life because that can be had for cheap. Makes a carrier function like a missile cruiser with additional options.
d) Microwave (possibly also smallest Gauss for cleanup). Blind larger opponents faster than they can destroy fighters; support boarding attempts.
e) 10cm Railgun -> generic firepower, used offensively or defensively.
f) Slow, dedicated escort fighters with reduced-size Gauss turrets. Not too happy with it.
 

Offline Michael Sandy

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Re: fighter formations
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2017, 07:20:20 PM »
Interesting fighter variants there.  I like the concept of the fighter that keeps up with the missiles idea... except that if the missiles are slow enough for a fighter to pace them, a similar speed point defense fighter could conceivably wipe out the whole wave, if it is far enough in advance of the wave from its target.  As a specialist solution to a hard target that has lots of point defense, especially point defense missiles, it would be a good way to swamp defenses.  Still, that could just be one load out option, and a fast fighter with anti-fighter missiles could be a good and economical counter to fighters with box launchers loaded with anti-ship weapons.

I think that a point defense fighter that can keep pace with enemy missiles would generally require a serious tech advantage, one you could not count on for all encounters, but for use against a particular foe would be very economical.

The changes to how refueling works may make boosted engines on fighters less attractive, as you will no longer have the option of a low footprint refueling tanker.

As a solution to long ranged box launchers, a very boosted 500 ton PD fighter could be interesting.  You would have to hold off on deploying it until the incoming missile wave was detected, cause to have enough speed to overtake missiles it won't have space for much fuel.
 

Offline 83athom

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Re: fighter formations
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2017, 09:34:30 PM »
The changes to how refueling works may make boosted engines on fighters less attractive, as you will no longer have the option of a low footprint refueling tanker.
Thinking about it, you could honestly make a 3000 or so ton ship with one or two of the 500 ton refueling system, 1000 tons of fuel, and a single commercial engine (1250 tons) with heavy thermal reduction. And if you really wanted to, you could add a small cloaking device (if you don't mind making it military). An economical tanker to use as a range increaser that the enemy shouldn't be able to spot so easily. Although saying that my current enemies do have a long range res 20 sensor that could spot them from a few million km, but they shouldn't be getting quite that close.
Give a man a fire and he's warm for a day, but set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 

Offline Michael Sandy

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Re: fighter formations
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2017, 05:07:11 AM »
I had been considering cloaked carrier for refueling.  Will carriers need refueling systems too, or will that be part of the standard hangar package?

Of course, unlike a fighter tanker, a cloaked carrier/tanker would likely be unable to outrun a fighter squadron that tracked the box launcher fighters back to their support.
 

Offline 83athom

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Re: fighter formations
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2017, 07:42:24 AM »
I had been considering cloaked carrier for refueling.  Will carriers need refueling systems too, or will that be part of the standard hangar package?
Steve said that hangars will have them built in.
Give a man a fire and he's warm for a day, but set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 

Offline Iranon

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Re: fighter formations
« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2017, 08:11:02 AM »
Interesting fighter variants there.  I like the concept of the fighter that keeps up with the missiles idea... except that if the missiles are slow enough for a fighter to pace them, a similar speed point defense fighter could conceivably wipe out the whole wave, if it is far enough in advance of the wave from its target.  As a specialist solution to a hard target that has lots of point defense, especially point defense missiles, it would be a good way to swamp defenses.  Still, that could just be one load out option, and a fast fighter with anti-fighter missiles could be a good and economical counter to fighters with box launchers loaded with anti-ship weapons.

One other advantage of slow high-yield missiles: If you have equally fast beam combatants (possibly railgun/microwave fighters from my above categories), those could also fly in alongside the missiles, and you might even keep the spent missile fighters as decoys.
You'd probably fall back with your ships just before entering beam range, to pounce on the enemy the instant they take the missile alpha strike.
This would be more relevant for larger ASMs fired in a more conventional manner though - those would benefit greatly from having PD tagging along. 20-40 size-1 missiles in single salvos per fighter is difficult to defend against anyway... but they may tie up fire that would otherwise be directed against your ships/fighters, not sure about AI priorities (and I don't specifically play around AI tactical limitations, too easy).
 

Offline Michael Sandy

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Re: fighter formations
« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2017, 02:02:04 PM »
I may have been looking at the fighter firing slow missiles the wrong way.  It doesn't make much sense to build slower missiles than you are capable of, not as much as it makes sense to build fighters that can use obsolete and obsolescent missiles in a useful manner.

So instead of scrapping old missiles for a fraction of their mats, deploy specialized fighters that can use them to launch cheap large volleys.  Makes sense for rear area system defense on a budget.

My dad told me stories of National Guard vs Air Force drills, where the National Guard pilots had a lot more experience, but much older aircraft.  And he told me that they got old fuzz-buster radar detectors, so they could at least tell when they were being painted, so they could jink and dodge at the right time, and apparently it gave them enough of an advantage that it made a difference in the results.  Might make for a nice story, where you have veteran pilots making do with obsolete equipment, with some tart comments about the bean counters.
 

Offline Iranon

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Re: fighter formations
« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2017, 04:19:51 PM »
Interesting idea, that hadn't occured to me yet.
Having used this style of fighter quite a bit, I have my doubts though.

These very fast fighters are expensive as about half of their weight goes into the most powerful engines I can build, fuel use is also high. I want to maximise the effect instead of skimping on ammunition, especially if there's a chance they'll come under fire.
They may also not be fast enough to use once-fast missiles... and if the missiles are so thoroughly obsolete that the speeds match up, they may lack the agility to hit anything I care about.

Purpose-built slow missiles aren't bad. Against most targets, expected damage doesn't suffer much: What you lose in accuracy you gain in warhead, especially on long-ranged size-1 missiles.
My experience:
For a slow missile with twice the usual warhead, you lose up to a quarter of expected damage against fast targets (assuming your slow missiles can still catch them), are slightly ahead against targets of "standard" speed (3000km/s if you have Ion tech), and obviously deal up to twice as much damage against slow targets.
The biggest strike against such would normally be the susceptibility to PD, but easy splitting into single-missile salvos turns this on its head
« Last Edit: January 20, 2017, 04:22:05 PM by Iranon »
 

Offline Michael Sandy

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Re: fighter formations
« Reply #14 on: January 22, 2017, 04:16:59 PM »
Can missiles home in on active emissions?  I have been thinking it might be a good idea to have some distance between the active sensor being used to direct missile fire and the fighters delivering the offensive package.  Missiles with EM sensors instead of thermal, do they work?  They would probably be more effective when used by a computer player against a player that has specialized sensor ships.

Also, while it may not be necessary from a mechanics perspective, having two or more active sensors that rotate which is active, so that if one is taken out by long ranged missile fire, another can come on and continue to direct fire.  Having separation makes it harder for the enemy to intercept the strike force, especially before it launches, and means that homing missiles that overkill the scout won't have nearby strike craft to hit.

Which brings up another question:  do you build your sensor fighters to match speeds with your strike craft, or do you have slower, longer endurance sensor fighters to keep them on station for longer, and to afford greater space for sensors?

I would want anti-missile and anti-fighter sensor fighters to keep pace with the strike force, as their sensors are going to be comparatively shorter ranged anyway.
 

 

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