A Warp Fighter

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by Mars, Aug 31, 2012.

  1. Albertese

    Albertese Commodore Commodore

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    Really, space fighters are really a silly idea in the first place. The whole point of having fighters in today's military is force projection: you have a target over the horizon and planes are a good way to get your weapons over there with a minimal exposure of your humans' lives.

    In space, there's no horizon! Your little ships are visible from beyond their own tactical range and get shot down before they do much good. They are too small to carry effective defenses. I'm sure the a small craft like a fighter would need hefty hardware to power a shield strong enough to protect against a full sized capitol ship's phasers or what-have-you. And to top it off, your sending real life people in these eggshells to get fried.

    Star Trek is a little different because fuel consumption never seems to be an issue, but if it were, you have to carry enough gas to get you to the fight and get you back (assuming you like you pilots) which is double what you might need if you sent a drone out there.

    It seems to me that the sole use of big ships on the line makes good tactical and strategic sense.

    Of course, we do see fighter-type craft in later years of Star Trek, so what do I know...

    --Alex
     
  2. tighr

    tighr Commodore Commodore

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    As I mentioned several times earlier in the thread, all fighters would likely be launched from a carrier ship. This carrier ship would likely be very near to the battle, possibly even a participant in the battle (and a heavily armored target to draw away enemy fire). The fighters themselves wouldn't need to traverse across space alone, they would have constant back-up. In fact, most other science fiction depicting space battles has this paradigm.

    Star Wars features Star Destroyers and the Death Star, from which the Tie fighters are launched. Battlestar Galactica features Battlestars, from which Vipers are launched. Starship Troopers even takes this a step further with infantry. Starcraft features Carriers that launch ships.

    The reason Trek used capital ships and the battles were short is (surprise) they are insanely expensive to film. It's easier to show the bridges of two ships and have the captains duke it out over words than it is to launch several dozen fighters. Even the battles in DS9 were repetitive, even to the point of reusing footage. Over time, that became the style of Trek, and so even today they're reluctant to change that model.
     
  3. Mars

    Mars Commander Red Shirt

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    A warp fighter as I described has a total maximum one way range of 50 light years, that means they could be based on a planet that was 25 light years away, and their are about 80 star systems within 25 light years of Earth. Carriers make sense when ships fight at sublight velocities and can't fight while in FTL. The usual tradition is that when ships are going FTL then they can't engage each other, that is the way Star Wars is designed, once they make the jump to "light speed" they are safe, in Star Trek this is not so, ships fight at warp velocity, and if they do this, then fighters need to have warp drives as well, otherwise they might as well be shuttles.
     
  4. Unicron

    Unicron Continuity Spackle Moderator

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    In my experience, one of the flaws when it comes to Trek-based fighter discussion is the assumption that fighters would be used against capitol craft, and I don't think that's likely except in rare occasions (as we saw in DS9, where they were part of a combined fleet). If we assume they're essentially extrapolations of real fighters, then they're primarily going to fight other fighters and small craft. This is how they behave in Star Wars and B5. They never engage a capital unit unless they have a whole lot of help, or unless they can employ a strategy that gives them an advantage (Rebels vs. Death Star, which was still likely suicide but logical since the DS was built to repel capital ships).

    I think the other potential advantage human-piloted craft might offer, depending on the circumstances, is that they can use institution and even recklessness to win missions that a computer controlled drone might never succeed in. It would depend on a number of things.
     
  5. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    It is worth noting that the fightercraft seen in DS9 were explicitly called "attack fighters", perhaps reflecting today's practice of equating attack with ground attack and even considering it the antithesis of fighter-to-fighter fighting. Moreover, when first used in DS9, two of these craft were deployed against a "soft" ground target. When used the second time, against Cardassian starships, they fared very badly, wave after wave of them achieving virtually nothing.

    The TNG use of a single such craft as part of a greater fleet of comparable designs, in "Preemptive Strike", had slightly more success, but that may have been due to there being actual dedicated anti-ship craft in the mix.

    It could very well be that this particular attack craft is intended to go against ground targets exclusively, serving as a poor man's starship of sorts where there is little or no opposition. Enjoying considerable independent propulsive capabilities (say, interstellar range, outrunning runabouts), they could be deployed from poorly equipped forward bases rather than from carriers - especially since Starfleet doesn't seem to have carriers in evidence, just assorted starships with fairly large shuttlebays (Galaxy and Nebula, Steamrunner) capable of holding perhaps half a dozen.

    Carrier deployment in the Dominion War would still appear likely. Even if the fighters can outrun runabouts, as per "The Maquis II", that only means about warp five or so; flying in formation with a starship fleet, they would significantly slow down the fleet. So perhaps these "CAP" formations seen whenever a fleet sets out at impulse are subsequently taken aboard starships for the warp jump and then quickly launched again at the destination.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  6. Mars

    Mars Commander Red Shirt

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    The barrier would be the ability to miniaturize the warp drive, as the Capitol ships could always outrun them. Maybe in the 25th century this will change.
     
  7. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    Something to keep in mind is that Star Wars and BSG is that their AA (or in this case Anti-Starfighter) Guns have very poor accuracy, echoing WW2-style combat.

    If they had accurate guns like in Star Trek (minus the fixed-arc Defiant's phaser cannons) then fighters will get hit and explode before they can get within range. It would require improvements in compact tech as seen in DS9 for better power generation AND shields for warp fighters to be useful on the battleground, IMO.
     
  8. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    As you stated, in DS9 or TNG a hit doesn't mean immediate destruction, and even though a miss is an incredibly unlikely occurrence, a formation of fightercraft is only met by a very small number of these as such accurate defensive beams. So the main argument against fighters is that they for their part achieve very little, even in great numbers.

    However, highly accurate beam defenses were already a feature in the 22nd century of ENT: NX-01 basically never missed a shot, and could actually fire more beams in a given length of time than her 23rd or 24th century counterparts. It would have been interesting to see what that ship could have achieved in anger against fightercraft, say, the Vulcan ones that got slightly hurt by the beam weapons of a shuttlepod...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  9. Crisp Crinkle

    Crisp Crinkle Admiral Admiral

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    The Orion suicide craft in Journey to Babel was doing just fine until it underestimated the Enterprise and slowed down.

    But, yeah, I agree with Unicron: the assumptions discussed in the forum of how fighters would be used in the Star Trek universe are generally all wrong. It's a straw man fallacy to say that, since a small number of unsupported fighters aren't expected to defeat a top-of-the-line ship in a frontal attack, therefore fighters have no place in the Star Trek universe.
     
  10. Unicron

    Unicron Continuity Spackle Moderator

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    It's worth noting too that on the subject of weapons, most universes which employ fighters have weapons specifically for dealing with enemy craft of different ranges. The capital guns in Star Wars typically aren't geared for hitting small craft with nearly the same accuracy as another warship, and they have other weapons for that. The same is true in Battletech, which tends to rely heavier on missile based anti-fighter weapons and energy or ballistic anti-warship weapons. Capital grade energy or ballistic weapons simply aren't geared for hitting small targets, so they use other weapons and their own small craft.
     
  11. tighr

    tighr Commodore Commodore

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    Wouldn't the smaller profile of a highly maneuverable fighter be more difficult to hit, even by ultra-accurate phasers? Note that we see the Delta Flyer outmanuever larger ships in several episodes while avoiding the firefight.
     
  12. Mars

    Mars Commander Red Shirt

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    Yes, the only advantage Capital ships have in Star Trek is they can outrun the smaller craft, as it seems there is an efficiency of scale in Star Trek that allows the larger ships to achieve higher warps, this could be because antimatter containment is harder to achieve with smaller ships, or possibly because the components of warp drives are hard to produce in miniature. Another thing about fighters is there is no engine room, there is no damage control, there is only the pilot and the engine has go to last for as long as the pilot's using it.
     
  13. Mars

    Mars Commander Red Shirt

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    Even in Star Wars, and X-Wing fighter is not going to blow up a Star Destroyer, usually it takes swarms of fighters to do that. One is not going to pit one capital ship against one fighter, but a squadron of fighters could destroy a capital ship, as has been done in World War II. For example the Battle of Midway.
     
  14. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    I thought about the NX-01 Enterprise and granted it fired a lot more often her phase cannons it has several weaknesses not present in TOS. 1) Phase cannons had a limited range allowing fighters to be able to close and attack it and 2) Less power (although arguably TNG falls into this category as well.)

    As far as accuracy goes, I think in Voyager they fought mostly against other powers where they might not be as accurate at targeting as Federation combat ships. Although I think there was one or two Voyager episodes where they did encounter some fast moving small ships where Tuvok had difficulty targeting.

    In "Journey to Babel" the Orion ship's warp difference was too great to overcome by the Enterprise to land any hits on it until it slowed down. The episode does illustrate an interesting option: a small suicide ship can outpower and outmaneuver a much larger ship. By overloading the power system the small ship was able to output more phaser power while simultaneously keeping a high warp speed. To me it would suggest that a Trek Carrier would have serious problems defending itself against this kind of attack. The good thing for DS9/TNG is that they are on a different tech tree and probably wouldn't see something like this....
     
  15. BK613

    BK613 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    ^ actually the ship had "standard phasers," they were "fast but not giants." And the Enterprise, which withstood several passes of the vessel, only needed one connecting shot to cripple them and render their suicide mission moot.
     
  16. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Which kinda defeats the purpose of having fighters, actually. Ultimately they're just fire support for the battleships, but at those ranges there isn't anything you could do with a fighter that wouldn't be done more effectively with a guided missile. In the end you get this sort of circular logic where fighters exist primarily to attack the OTHER guy's fighters, who in turn exist to attack yours. In both cases, those are sci-fi stories written by people who are apparently unaware of the existence of point defense.

    Maybe if you make the fighters the spearhead of some aggressive boarding actions -- say, a craft designed to clear a path for breaching pods or open a small hole in the shields through which away teams can be beamed. Beyond that, it's just Starwarsian silliness.

    Neither of which should NEED fighters, nor should they be vulnerable to them if their design made any sense. The plot devices used to justify the existence of fighters are rather flimsy in and of themselves.

    They don't really NEED to change that model. Star Trek doesn't lend well to the technical paradigm in which fighters excel; capital ships are well protected by defensive weapons and shields, and they're also very agile for their size. Fighters make a certain amount of sense for enemies who specialize in this sort of thing (the Suliban, for example), but not in the context of some kind of grand "space is an ocean" aircraft carrier analog. Fighters that can't operate autonomously -- and more importantly, that can't outrun capital ships in any given race -- are utterly impractical in Star Trek; if they're really that much of a threat, you can just pop into warp and dodge them, and if they AREN'T much of a threat, you plow right through them and eat the carrier for lunch.
     
  17. Crisp Crinkle

    Crisp Crinkle Admiral Admiral

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    The Orion blew away "number two" shield. It might have won. By the end, the Enterprise was hanging by a thread.

    The way I rationalize what happened, the reactor on the Orion ship was about to go critical anyway, so they chose to slow down for the final attack, on the assumption that the Enterprise really was as crippled as she seemed. If they had fielded a fresh suicide ship at that point though, the Enterprise could easily have been toast.
     
  18. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    Very true.

    It's like getting attacked by a ship more powerful and faster than the Enterprise with standard phasers but the ship didn't have any power left over for defense :)
    SPOCK: The thing that confused me was the power utilisation curve. It made them seem more powerful than a starship or anything known to us. That ship was constructed for a suicide mission. Since they never intended to return to their home base, they could use one hundred percent power on their attacks.
    I wonder if that suicide ship was just on the edge of blowing up in order to maintain the power output for each of those attack runs.

    EDIT: Corporal Captain beat me to it :)
     
  19. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I'm in agreement with Unicron that fighters being used against other small craft is really the only way to justify that sort of thing, and there's plenty of precedent for that even in Trek.

    The thing is, they wouldn't be "fighters" in that case, especially since it probably doesn't need to be designed for high warp so much as high agility (that is, high stability in a variety of situations and environments) and highly accurate weapons fire. In that case, what you've really got is a gunship, Starfleet's equivalent of the Scorpion class attack flyer.

    Stick a type-IV phaser on the nose of something like this, and suddenly you've got a case. You can imagine, for example, a platoon of Klingons running a berserker charge on a squad of hapless Starfleet scientists defending the last known genesis device. The science team is probably boned... until three or four of these gunships come over the treeline and start sweeping the Klingons with phaser fire. Better still if the Klingons actually GET the genesis device and try to flee the planet in a stolen shuttlecraft; if your local security force needs to chase them down in a hurry, you send a couple of shuttles and a runabout and about two dozen gunships to help cover more ground.
     
  20. Jerikka Dawn

    Jerikka Dawn Commander Red Shirt

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    I present you the fearsome Mars Defense Perimeter.