Giant weapons, or giant numbers of weapons?

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Re: Giant weapons, or giant numbers of weapons?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Thu Jun 13, 2013 5:36 pm

Coalition wrote:Fighters would not be used much in a fleet battle either, because whatever a fighter can do, a missile can do as well. A fighter has to accelerate towards the target, slow down relative, accelerate back to its base, then match the base's velocity. 3-4 times the fuel needed compared to a missile that just goes. There is also the problem where fighters are limited in acceleration to the human inside, while missiles aren't. Whatever g-dampening system is available to fighters would also be available to missiles, and the hardware of a missile would require less of it too.

True, but fighters have the Mk 1 human brain in them which allows them to assess and react to defences in a way missiles can't. There's also the cost element; a missile the size of a fighter would have range greater than the fighter, but potentially is just as expensive as the fighter as a result. The fighter can carry small, short ranged and cheap weapons over that long range, then go back for more.

Or if you want small fighters attacking a battleship, have them go after surface installations.

Yes, potentially a fighter swarm could mission kill a battleship even if they couldn't seriously harm it. Although shields would mitigate against this, if your shield tech is such that the ship doesn't take damage through them.
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Re: Giant weapons, or giant numbers of weapons?

Postby Tyyr » Thu Jun 13, 2013 5:50 pm

My biggest concern with fighters is directed energy weapons with computer targeting. Once you start to give your CIWS a rapid fire laser I wonder how long anything fighter sized is going to last.
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Re: Giant weapons, or giant numbers of weapons?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Thu Jun 13, 2013 7:43 pm

So you start to give your fighter stand off weapons so it doesn't have to come that close. Or shields if it's in sci fi.
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Re: Giant weapons, or giant numbers of weapons?

Postby Teaos » Thu Jun 13, 2013 9:28 pm

Rather than carrying lots if them for long missions they could just have rather substantial industrial capability which might take a lot of space. Also double for repair work.
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Re: Giant weapons, or giant numbers of weapons?

Postby McAvoy » Fri Jun 14, 2013 12:23 am

If we are talking about energy weapons and shields than a larger ship will almost always have more than enough energy to shrug off energy attacks from a fighter, a little ship with a limited energy supply even if it had shields for example. Take for example Star Trek, for the most part they have accurate weapons that can target fighters. Even if one hit doesn't destroy a fighter, the Trek ship will have a second or third shot. Design a dedicated faster firing phaser for fighters and I can see them almost useless.

However you design fighters that can launch photon torpedos or a smaller one, that can be launched from a distance than I can see fighters working.
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Re: Giant weapons, or giant numbers of weapons?

Postby Mikey » Fri Jun 14, 2013 2:10 am

I think it was Tyyr who mentioned stand-off weapons being key for fighters. I could easily see the science-fiction-ish version of the AIM-54, except armed with warheads made of :Q
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Re: Giant weapons, or giant numbers of weapons?

Postby McAvoy » Fri Jun 14, 2013 2:54 am

Mikey wrote:I think it was Tyyr who mentioned stand-off weapons being key for fighters. I could easily see the science-fiction-ish version of the AIM-54, except armed with warheads made of :Q


It could work but why would you need fighters from far away? Physical weapons like missiles and torpedoes take up space. Might as well have small ships armed with a bunch of those torpedoes if you want or need small ships.
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Re: Giant weapons, or giant numbers of weapons?

Postby Coalition » Fri Jun 14, 2013 4:34 am

GrahamKennedy wrote: True, but fighters have the Mk 1 human brain in them which allows them to assess and react to defences in a way missiles can't. There's also the cost element; a missile the size of a fighter would have range greater than the fighter, but potentially is just as expensive as the fighter as a result. The fighter can carry small, short ranged and cheap weapons over that long range, then go back for more.


Fighters may have the Mk 1 brain in them, but they also have the Mk 1 nervous system that transmits data at less than 240 m/s. The transmission time from eyes to brain, processing, and sending the instructions to the fingers will take enough time that a CPU can change targets before the fighter pilot can squeeze the trigger.

If you want a launch platform firing smaller missiles, you can design a larger missile that fires lots of smaller munitions, from the original post. Since the larger missile doesn't have to go back for reloads, you can pack in more of the smaller missiles, put in a warhead on the larger missiles, and/or put in more maneuvering capability (since it doesn't have any squishy bits to worry about). It also means the missile only has to worry about one life support system (for the CPU), instead of two. You also have to recover the pilot after sending the fighter out, while with missiles you can just fire and forget. If you suspect an enemy is hiding behind the moon, you launch a sensor drone. If the enemy shoots it down, they reveal themselves. If you send a fighter, you lose a pilot. If you are suspicious, you can tell the drone to go and loiter, continuously scanning. It may only have a 10% chance of spotting the enemy, but it will be doing that 10% every turn (at whatever scale you prefer). A fighter will eventually have to return.

The other fun is when the loiter drone has its own self-destruct warhead to make sure it doesn't get taken intact.

GrahamKennedy wrote:
Or if you want small fighters attacking a battleship, have them go after surface installations.

Yes, potentially a fighter swarm could mission kill a battleship even if they couldn't seriously harm it. Although shields would mitigate against this, if your shield tech is such that the ship doesn't take damage through them.


Which is why I would have small launch platforms (fighters or missiles) either packing dedicated anti-shipping warheads, or operating with a larger platform that has the firepower to take down those shields.

The fun part with fighter munitions declared as 'superior', is that the capital ship can mount them as well, but it has a better targeting system to break enemy jamming. Fighters firing AIM-54 will be just as vulnerable to the capital ship firing AIM-54 back at them, or just using a minor point defense setup to shoot the missiles down (or watching as its shields and armor are strong enough to just let the missiles impact and there is no damage).


The places where small spacecraft shine is when they are capable of being built-assembly line (in a futuristic Willow Run facility) so you can have hordes of them being built. You can also deploy smaller craft to far more locations than you can a single battleship equivalent. Smaller spacecraft would also have a higher surface area:volume ratio (all else being identical) so they could use higher power reactors (for their volume). The problem is that high surface area means their armor will be thinner on a ton for ton basis, so they will get popped faster than straight tonnage will suggest.

Fighters and bombers on earth vs capital ships have an advantage because they operate in a different medium than surface vessels. Air allows 3-D flying, and is much easier to move through than water. In space, both units are in the same medium, and use mostly the same types of engines. Don't compare surface ships with fighters, compare them vs PT boats or speedboats with a rocket launcher if you want a better mental model.
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Re: Giant weapons, or giant numbers of weapons?

Postby Tyyr » Fri Jun 14, 2013 3:28 pm

Coalition wrote:Fighters and bombers on earth vs capital ships have an advantage because they operate in a different medium than surface vessels. Air allows 3-D flying, and is much easier to move through than water. In space, both units are in the same medium, and use mostly the same types of engines. Don't compare surface ships with fighters, compare them vs PT boats or speedboats with a rocket launcher if you want a better mental model.

Damn, beat me to it.

Fighters even being useful is predicated upon them being able to do appreciable damage to a capital ship. So again, we're back to the question of armor and how tough is it. My own personal opinion is that by and large in space fighters are going to be irrelevant. What would be called fighters would wind up being more like corvettes. Small fast ships with minimal warload used as pickets rather than massed and attacking enemy capital ships.
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Re: Giant weapons, or giant numbers of weapons?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Fri Jun 14, 2013 9:31 pm

Coalition wrote:Fighters may have the Mk 1 brain in them, but they also have the Mk 1 nervous system that transmits data at less than 240 m/s. The transmission time from eyes to brain, processing, and sending the instructions to the fingers will take enough time that a CPU can change targets before the fighter pilot can squeeze the trigger.

But the limit is not simply in how fast the CPU can go. It's how fast the sensors can gather data, how fast the weapons can lock on, how long the weapons take to reach the target. If it was as simple as computers > people then there wouldn't be a place for manned fighters today. But in reality the effectiveness of defences isn't all that great.

If you want a launch platform firing smaller missiles, you can design a larger missile that fires lots of smaller munitions, from the original post. Since the larger missile doesn't have to go back for reloads, you can pack in more of the smaller missiles, put in a warhead on the larger missiles, and/or put in more maneuvering capability (since it doesn't have any squishy bits to worry about).

Sure, but again you're building a missile that's as expensive as a fighter. Your fighter expending munitions brings 90% of the cost back to be used again.

The places where small spacecraft shine is when they are capable of being built-assembly line (in a futuristic Willow Run facility) so you can have hordes of them being built. You can also deploy smaller craft to far more locations than you can a single battleship equivalent. Smaller spacecraft would also have a higher surface area:volume ratio (all else being identical) so they could use higher power reactors (for their volume). The problem is that high surface area means their armor will be thinner on a ton for ton basis, so they will get popped faster than straight tonnage will suggest.

You're also back to the issue of shield/armour vulnerability, as to whether the smaller ships are actually going to do you any good.
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Re: Giant weapons, or giant numbers of weapons?

Postby Coalition » Fri Jun 14, 2013 10:19 pm

GrahamKennedy wrote: But the limit is not simply in how fast the CPU can go. It's how fast the sensors can gather data, how fast the weapons can lock on, how long the weapons take to reach the target. If it was as simple as computers > people then there wouldn't be a place for manned fighters today. But in reality the effectiveness of defences isn't all that great.


Sensors have to gather data for the humans too.
The human has to wait for the weapons to lock on too (then approve the launch)
Manned platforms have to wait for the munitions to reach the target too.

Manned platforms have to deal with squishy slow organics. The primary role would be that humans don't trust machines to do the job, so they send the human there to make the final decision. Similar to officers and enlisted in the military. The enlisted is a specialist and will know more about a specific field, but the officer has the approval of the nation's government to make independent choices that affect overall operations. (I.e. the enlisted may know that the regular parts aren't available, so the vehicle has to be taken out of service. The officer knows the overall strategic situation, and lets the enlisted know they need the vehicle running somehow. The enlisted then has to figure out a way.)

So manned fighters would be out there for legal reasons, rather than practical. Plus also a heavy ECM environment would reduce communications, so you need a local control node, either manned or automated.

GrahamKennedy wrote: Sure, but again you're building a missile that's as expensive as a fighter. Your fighter expending munitions brings 90% of the cost back to be used again.


Is the expense due to needing to make sure the platform fly multiple missions, or due to the equipment? A fighter has to be able to fly multiple missions, reliably, and keep the pilot alive. A missile just has to fly once. Compare the F-18 ($29-57 million) with 6 Tomahawks ($3 million = $18 million). You need to send out an F-18 2-4 times to break even with a Tomahawk, but you also have to keep the support base set up, plus the maintenance, etc. A Tomahawk will sit inside a launch canister for several months without a problem. Pilots tend to complain when you do that to them.

At this point you'd have two types of missiles. The control platform that coordinates missile strikes, and has the expensive sensors. The expendable munitions that destroy the enemy. If the control platform gets shot down, you merely activate its backup and launch spares. If you lose the fighter you have to write a letter home.

Think more like an AWACS platform rather than direct combat.

GrahamKennedy wrote: You're also back to the issue of shield/armour vulnerability, as to whether the smaller ships are actually going to do you any good.


In which case you get into figuring out the smallest size platform that can damage the enemy, and deciding which of the following options you want:
1) reuseable/not (non-reusable means the more expensive sensors on it, the more it will cost to deploy, but the more likely you are to succeed. Cost-Benefit studies are needed.)
2) manned/not (Manned means you have a squishy slow processor than is legally allowed to operate independently. Legal and procedural studies are needed.)

(Hint - if selecting manned, you may want to go with reusable. Your pilots will appreciate it.)


Tyyr - those smaller corvettes would do a really good job with the enemy supply lines, plus being sent to dozens of systems to look for a nail that is sticking up. The ones that don't come back let High Command know where to send the heavy warships.
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Re: Giant weapons, or giant numbers of weapons?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Mon Jun 17, 2013 12:34 pm

Coalition wrote:Is the expense due to needing to make sure the platform fly multiple missions, or due to the equipment? A fighter has to be able to fly multiple missions, reliably, and keep the pilot alive. A missile just has to fly once. Compare the F-18 ($29-57 million) with 6 Tomahawks ($3 million = $18 million). You need to send out an F-18 2-4 times to break even with a Tomahawk, but you also have to keep the support base set up, plus the maintenance, etc. A Tomahawk will sit inside a launch canister for several months without a problem. Pilots tend to complain when you do that to them.

That's exactly what I'm saying. Your fighter is much more expensive, but it's also capable of flying many more missions. Your $60 million fighter can fly hundreds of missions, returning to base each time. If you fired off an expendable missile each time instead it would cost more over the life of the aircraft. Most especially so if you're going to have a missile to have all the capabilities of a fighter/pilot.

At this point you'd have two types of missiles. The control platform that coordinates missile strikes, and has the expensive sensors. The expendable munitions that destroy the enemy. If the control platform gets shot down, you merely activate its backup and launch spares. If you lose the fighter you have to write a letter home.

Think more like an AWACS platform rather than direct combat.

But again, you're now having a control missile that is as expensive as a fighter and less useful since it's not intelligent. Unless you put an artificial intelligence in it, in which case you're essentially just doing the same thing as using a fighter.

In which case you get into figuring out the smallest size platform that can damage the enemy, and deciding which of the following options you want:
1) reuseable/not (non-reusable means the more expensive sensors on it, the more it will cost to deploy, but the more likely you are to succeed. Cost-Benefit studies are needed.)
2) manned/not (Manned means you have a squishy slow processor than is legally allowed to operate independently. Legal and procedural studies are needed.)

(Hint - if selecting manned, you may want to go with reusable. Your pilots will appreciate it.)

Yeah, in the Coalition at least your AI pilots tend to appreciate it too since they're pretty likely to tell you to go fuck yourself if you try and send them on a suicide mission. :) Other sci fi universes may vary on this point.
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Re: Giant weapons, or giant numbers of weapons?

Postby Coalition » Tue Jun 18, 2013 7:35 pm

GrahamKennedy wrote: That's exactly what I'm saying. Your fighter is much more expensive, but it's also capable of flying many more missions. Your $60 million fighter can fly hundreds of missions, returning to base each time. If you fired off an expendable missile each time instead it would cost more over the life of the aircraft. Most especially so if you're going to have a missile to have all the capabilities of a fighter/pilot.


At this point it is a cost issue of reuseable vs not. The human pilot would be a liability since it has slower reaction times and a lower G limit.

GrahamKennedy wrote:But again, you're now having a control missile that is as expensive as a fighter and less useful since it's not intelligent. Unless you put an artificial intelligence in it, in which case you're essentially just doing the same thing as using a fighter.


But faster and less restricted by the pilot's limitations.

GrahamKennedy wrote:Yeah, in the Coalition at least your AI pilots tend to appreciate it too since they're pretty likely to tell you to go fuck yourself if you try and send them on a suicide mission. :) Other sci fi universes may vary on this point.


Program them right, and the little guys are eager to engage. A synthetic intelligence if you prefer. Also, AI pilots are programs. Digital data. If they need to be rescued, a spare antenna can be used, instead of trying to retrieve the whole craft.
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