Monday, June 16, 2008

Fighter Theory IMTU

The benefit of fighters is well known: they provide a lot of hardpoints, ton for ton. However, if each fleet follows this theory, it suggests that the initial clash will be between fighters, which means that only the side that can withstand the onslaught of the other will be able to carry the fight to the enemy's carriers, and possibly win the day.

Ton for ton, fighters need better than basics if they're to be survivable: either superior computers, or superior crews; preferably both. One doubles the expense of the craft; the other is nearly priceless, and impacts the number of effective fighters seriously. It does seem clear that in order to have a winning fighter wing among comparable fleets, one needs to have absolutely stellar Ship's Boat pilots and crack gunners, which are nearly as rare as stellar pilots in the Navy.

A fighter wing needs a strong missile element to be able to strike at the opposing fleet's capital ships. Missiles can also be used on the opposing screen, but an element of capable interceptors with crack pilots and gunners might be able to attack fighters without wasting missiles.

A basic missile fighter will usually be -2 to hit, -4 at 250,000-500,000km, and -7 beyond that. A single seat basic laser fighter with predict-3 will only get a +1, and can't expect to hit at missile range at all. If the pilot is an exceptional gunner (3) he'll get a +2. If it's a two seat fighter and the gunner is decent (2) he'll get +2. Since the basic fighter can only rely on its laser for missile defense, this isn't a good proposition.

A 10 ton fighter with a computer/2 can employ ECM for defense, and can do a little better with the gunnery but not by an order of magnitude: the bigger computer precludes the separate gunner's seat.

A Ship's Boat, armed with a laser and a pair of missile racks and supported with a powerful computer, might be the best fighter killer. It's just as fast. It has a dedicated gunner. A computer/2 would allow it to fire at +3 as a minimum, evade at -5, and employ ECM: a more powerful machine might shift the offensive side even further. And its expense with a big computer is not significantly greater than a fighter with a similar upgrade. And it can deliver missiles against distant targets and capital ships.

The big difference is tonnage. Can a militarized SB defeat its tonnage in upgraded fighters?

11 Comments:

Blogger Omer Golan said...

This looks like a place for two smoke-tests: first, finding out if numerically-superior but pilot-skill-inferior fighters would defeat numerically-inferior but pilot-skill-superior fighters; and second, finding out how effective is a high-end Ship's Boat against fighters.

8:06 AM  
Blogger Festeria said...

Yes! I have a third: to see how great a difference can be made by one excellent fighter crew among a normal crowd.

I'd also like to see how well a starship with an elite crew can perform against a fighter wing: if CharGen is anything to go by, the sheer difficulty in producing decent pilots might make sky-darkening clouds of fighters unfeasable.

In looking at some of the CT ship designs, I recall seeing a lot of fighters on Zhodani warships, but few on Imperial ships: a philosophical difference, perhaps?

8:49 AM  
Blogger Festeria said...

Here's a thought.
When I have time, I want to run a series of battles, at varying techs.
The first will be a battle between tech 9 starships versus tech 8 small craft/fighters: Representing one of the earliest battles in Fester's expansion versus neighbor worlds.
The next will be two star-capable fleets, perhaps of tech 9 and 10, built with the results of the first war in mind. And so on.

Sigh. It'll be easy and fun. It'll just take TIME.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Omer Golan said...

Concerning the amount of pilots available, just how many fighters a typical navy would have in comparison to the planet's population? A multi-world empire with several high-pop worlds could probably produce a large number of quality pilots even if only one in many pilots is an ace.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Festeria said...

See, I just don't know... Let's see. CIA Factbook gives about 304 million for the US population. Out of that, the Navy, according to navy.mil, has 331,391 on active duty. So a thousandth... For one world populated at ten billion, a raw swap brings things to ten million. That seems like way too many for MTU! I might think about a million would do it, though, with maybe a tenth of that actually assigned to ships. So for the full navy, maybe one ten-thousandth of the population of a starfaring world?
So, maybe ten billion people on Fester = 1,000,000 active duty navy. I rolled a hundred navvies and only got 15 with SB, and only six of them had gunnery skill as well. So maybe 150,000 can be rudimentary boaters - far more than there are boats available. How many do you suppose have higher levels? Is it a question of applying that 15% again? I'm not mathy. If I do, I'm seeing about 430 SB-4 pilots, and 75 SB-5 aces.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Omer Golan said...

Remember that the majority of naval (or army or marines for that matter) personnel both IRL and in Traveller are non-combat troops doing support work: clerks, logistic personnel, quartermasters, R&D scientists, land transportation personnel, dock workers, recruiters, guards, naval military police (much of it on shore especially military jails), doctors, nurses, cooks, technicians, personal aides for senior officers, procurement offices, naval industry workers (in some cases) and so on. Only a fraction are on actual vessels, and even then there are harbor pilots, rescue boats, logistics ships, tankers, freighters and so on.

And even on combat craft a significant are technicians, engineers and mechanics keeping the ship running, as well as doctors, medics, quartermasters, naval police, cooks and so on. Pilots (or even gunners for that matter) are only a fraction of the total crew.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Festeria said...

Well, absolutely, I agree - so then, given a million-man navy, how many of them would you give Pilot and SB skill to: and how many of them would get it enough extra times to be able to rate a pilot's chair? It has a big effect on the kind of navy one builds.

I'm picturing a lot of those sb-1's as desk jockey putting in simulator time, and additional staff on the bigger ships. Same with pilot skill, only they're fewer - about 5%? With them, I'm coming up with about 125 Pilot-3's, and maybe four or five Pilot-fours - lots of people who are simulator-rated but never fly a ship, maybe a couple thousand who rate Pilot 2 and can be assigned to skipper patrol ships and transports.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Omer Golan said...

Someone with Pilot-1 or Ship's Boat-1 is a qualified pilot, though not a very professional one. These would be the people doing non-combat cargo runs with the ship's boat from surface to orbit or similar low-risk flights. Pilot-2 would be enough to sit at the helm of an auxiliary craft or transport; SB-2 would probably be enough to hold a regular position as a non-combat cargo-shuttle pilot. Pilot-3 and SB-3 would be, under optimal conditions, the minimum for piloting ships and small craft in combat.

Under less than optimal conditions, however, you'll find many people with SB-2 or Pilot-2 piloting craft in combat... Or even with Skill-1!

11:04 AM  
Blogger Festeria said...

That sounds about right! Especially once ships start blowing up and the Pilot-3's aren't flying anymore.

I'm going to have to sit down and see how these numbers match up with the naval budgets I've been figuring.

So far, I'm leaning towards this: a significant fighter element kept in reserve strictly for set-piece battles: the frontier fleet will have them, the home fleet will have them. The rest of the navy may have a smaller fighter element, but there will be more focus on starships: more survivability, fewer hulls with better pilots.

I can imagine an Evil Empire With No Respect For Individual Lives fielding vast swarms of tiny missile fighters piloted by young fanatics of limited skill. Their numbers strike fear in the hearts of the veterans attempting to ward them of, and inspire horror in the commanders facing them and contemplating the meatgrinder they're forced to participate in... "Hundreds of them, and hundreds where they came from, and they're all dying like flies. It makes me sick to see it, but we can't let them get through. We have to kill them ALL."

11:23 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

A wondered about this, and recalled that Ship’s Boat seemed rare in the higher numbers; I had not spied any “fighter aces” in the numerous characters I had generated. Out of 200 “Most Suitable” Naval characters rolled with SignalGK’s character generator, between 3 and 8 terms, 49 did not survive; of the 151 surviving, that would be suitable fighter pilots/ gunners, 5 had Ship’s Boat-2, one of whom had Gunnery-1; 12 had Gunnery-2, of whom 4 also had Ship’s Boat-1; 4 had Gunnery-3, of whom 1 had Ship’s Boat-1; 1 had Gunnery-4, and one had Gunnery-5.
From this, we can infer the following: 2% of the sample are suitable fighter pilots, but about 0.2% (none out of 200; 2 out of 750) had Ship’s Boat -3; none had higher. Suitable gunners outstrip suitable fighter pilots by over 4 to 1, but many or most of these would likely be diverted to other duties; about 2%. Fighter pilots with -2 or higher would thus be fairly scarce; since there is nothing in the UPP to predict whether someone will be more likely to get Ships’ Boat, then mass squadrons would require a training system different than what the IN apparently has.

1:59 PM  
Blogger Festeria said...

Sam, that's awesome work. Since I'm modeling Fester's Navy tightly off of Book 1 generation, then we can assume that Fester's Navy doesn't have a sufficient training system to support sky-darkening hordes of fighters. Indeed, Navy pilots are pretty lousy, too: I expect that every Navy ship of the line would be dependent upon the power of their computers (Maneuver/Evade 6!)for defense, and most fighters don't have the space for big computers that can run that kind of software.

So maybe the Festrian Navy's not a fighter navy? HMM.

2:30 PM  

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