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Old February 15 2013, 08:03 PM   #13
Continuity Spackle
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Re: Aircraft carriers & realism in space

Relayer1 wrote: View Post
There was a very interesting thread about a year ago regarding space fighters and would they be any use against capital ships with shields, computer guided weapons, FTL drive and inertial dampers.

The verdict was that TTF here was little point to fighters, but playing devils advocate, one or two of us made a limited case for them.
This discussion has come up more than once in Trek Tech as well, and it's always interesting. I think one common mistake that's made is the assumption that fighters would be deployed against capital ships, and that's not their function if they're to be considered analogs of modern fighters. Their function is to be air/space superiority fighters or perhaps attack/support fighters, which means they'll fight enemy fighters and perhaps ground forces. This is how they behave in series like Star Wars and Babylon 5 where fighters are common.

Capital ships are geared for fighting other capital ships and big targets, so there's no reason for fighters do to so unless they have numerical superiority, better tactics, or they have enough support (big ships) to pull it off.

Christopher wrote: View Post
I think using fighters at all is an outmoded idea. Even in the present day, there are more drone pilots than fighter pilots in the US Air Force. Drone technology has advanced to the point that there's little need to risk a person's life by sticking them in a fighter -- and in an SF/space-battle context, an uncrewed drone can perform better than a fighter, because it doesn't need to waste mass and power on life support and radiation shielding and can accelerate far harder.

The one advantage to live pilots in a space-combat situation is that there's no lightspeed time lag for remote control. Autonomous smart drones are another possibility, but there are ethical questions with taking humans out of the decision-making loop. Still, in such a case it might make more sense to keep the pilots in a well-shielded command ship that controlled an armada of drones that stayed within a light-second of it.
I'm not convinced it's entirely outmoded, and I think one other advantage of living pilots is their ability to learn, think and react better than drones with a degree of autonomic programming. A human pilot might succeed using a tactic that shouldn't work by all the logic of their situation, where a drone might not be able to view past its programming and eventually fail. I have often found this to be true with a lot of the chess programs I've tried, that the game is less rewarding because the AI's programming makes it less likely to make mistakes than even a skilled human champion. It's more likely to choose the best possible move in any given circumstance, with the result that most games become a stalemate.

That being said, though, the Battletech universe did have a highly sophisticated space defense system which was designed to protect the Terran system at all costs, and which included a high degree of automation and sophisticated programming. It was never designed to function entirely without human supervision, but the drones did benefit from upgrades like extra weapons and better engines to replace their normal crews, and the ability to function as pure weapons. They were also programmed in all of the known tactics that had been developed for traditional militaries at that point, which made the system a very difficult enemy to destroy.

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