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Fighter Balance Issues (LONG)

From: Jerry Han <jhan@c...>
Date: Sun, 15 Feb 1998 05:43:47 -0500
Subject: Fighter Balance Issues (LONG)

The Nature of Fighter Combat involving Starships
Can fighters appear in future universes?  Of course they can. 
that we are talking science-fiction, you can design the appropriate
of technologies into your universe to make fighters viable weapons.

But what type of balance is required to make fighters viable? Let's
what makes fighters useful as instruments of war.  To help, analogies
be drawn with 'wet navy' aircraft carrier operations over the past sixty

This will be a somewhat 'soft' argument, as I am delibrately trying to 
avoid concrete numbers, and speak in general terms.  This means I will 
use terms 'small', 'large' etc. which are open to interpretation.  I use
these terms in their relative sense; a 50 000 tonne attack craft may be 
considered small vis a vis a 2.5 million tonne destroyer.  

First of all, a question of terminology.  When I say 'fighter', I mean
all sorts of 'small' attack craft - interceptors, air superiority craft,
attack, bomber, recon, etc.  

Second of all, let us make the assumption that in order to be a useful
weapon of war, fighters must have the ability to damage warships
efficiently.  It is through warship damage that the fighter can most 
directly influence the outcome of battle.   It is assumed that all other
'fighter' functions - recon, defence, etc are either derived from, or 
are in response to this type of threat.  

Therefore, what preconditions must be satisfied before fighters are
weapons of war?

1)  A fighters maneuverability sphere must be much greater than a
maneuverability sphere over a given small period of time.  (By a
maneuverability sphere, we mean the possible position of unit within
time and velocity condtions.) A fighter must have the ability to chase
down a
warship, in order to be able to hit it.  Since it can be safely assumed
that a
fighters range will be much less than a warships, a fighter must make up
for it
in terms of speed, being able to get to the warship before the warship
get out of range.  

In terms of modern carrier operations, a modern fighter craft (F/A-18)
almost a twenty-five times speed advantage over a warship, when both are
at cruise.  While a modern nuclear warship has a range almost one
times that of the fighter craft, the fighter has the ability to chase
the enemy warship to utilize its weapons before the warship can get

2)  Fighters must be survivable against the defences of the enemy ship. 

Fighters, by nature of their small size, have customarily relied upon 
maneuverability and stealth as their primary defences against enemy
as opposed to durability.  If weapon technology improves to a point
'If we can see it, we can hit it' becomes a practical reality, then 
fighters as a weapon become that much more vulnerable.

In terms of carrier ops, modern fighter craft use stealth, defensive 
electronics, tactics, and maneuverability to keep loss rates at
levels.  Defense weapons either have high accuracy but low range (e.g.
CIWS systems) or long range, but are vulnerable to countermeasures (e.g.

3)  Fighters must have weapons that can damage enemy warships, otherwise
point of the exercise is lost.	One of the arguments (eventually proved
used against aircraft for naval strikes in the 1920's was that a
armor was invulnerable against the armaments available to aircraft at
time.  This was proved false when Billy Mitchell and his demonstration 
squadron sank a captured German battleship.  

The balance between these three factors will influence how fighters 
are used; indeed if they are viable at all.  

For example, in current times, fighters have much higher speeds than
target ships, are fairly survivable against ship based weapons and are
vulnerable to other fighters, and carry relatively cost effective
weapons that
can severly damage or even sink ships.	Hence, aircraft in current times
considered a decisive weapon for attack and defence, and are considered
cornerstone for a navy performing power projection.  And, until
recently, they
had an enormous advantage over shipboard weapons, being more accurate
carrying a larger payload.  (The maturing of the standoff cruise missile
the increase of sophisitication of air defences has changed the equation
somewhat; with what results remains to be seen.)

Thus, current doctrine favours independent strikes by mutually
types of aircraft, at long range if at all possible.

Compare this to the FT universe.  FT fighters, while more maneuverable
their target warships, do not have an enormous speed advantage.  They
lethal to smaller warships, but have trouble taking on the largest
by themselves, because Level 3 screens renders batteries very weak, and 
the 3 turn endurance means fighters (if they survive fire that long) do
not have the time to peck their way to a threshold check.  Thus, FT
are used in support and screening roles, used as extra firepower at a 
decisive moment, but unable to render a decisive decision by themselves.
(A FT battle as an equivalent to the Battle of Midway would be much more
difficult, if not impossible to pull off.)  

Okay, I'm done rambling.  (8-)	Comments are welcome.


Jerry Han -  CANOE Canada - -
  ***** Visit the Canadian Online Explorer! => *****
The opinions expressed are mine, and not necessarily those of CANOE
	 "Is there no escape from the words that plague me so?"

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