Lack of starfighters?

The Next Generation

Lack of starfighters?

Postby Meste17 » Fri May 22, 2015 11:51 pm

Doesn't anybody find the lack of actual fighters or fighter craft kind of irritating? I mean we DO see the attack fighters in episodes like Preemptive Strike, The Maquis, Parts I & II, Sacrifice of Angels, et al. But that's about it. Doesn't the Federation actually KEEP a fighter force around for wartime? Like, some sort of Air Force or something? Hell, I can think of a name for this new fleet of fighters right off the top of my head already: the United Federation of Planets Star Force.

Get it?

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Re: Lack of starfighters?

Postby Mikey » Sat May 23, 2015 12:45 am

I never considered the lack of fighter craft to be a real want. Not much call for them as I've seen it - "space superiority" as maintained by fighters is really sort of obviated by orbit-capable starships.
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Re: Lack of starfighters?

Postby Captain Seafort » Sat May 23, 2015 8:01 am

Mikey wrote:I never considered the lack of fighter craft to be a real want. Not much call for them as I've seen it - "space superiority" as maintained by fighters is really sort of obviated by orbit-capable starships.


Precisely. The key reasons aircraft replaced battleships are because they have much greater range than any gun, their speed, and their ability to deliver firepower equivalent to a battleship's shells. In Star Trek, while the former remains true, the larger ships tend to be the fastest, and the effectiveness of fighter-class weapons against warships is at best limited. Even after being swarmed by Maquis ships for several minutes, Evek's Galor was still in fighting condition, albeit losing, whereas a GCS could kill one in seconds, and the Fed fighters in Sacrifice of Angels were merely nuisance value, to provoke the Cardassians into breaking formation.
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Re: Lack of starfighters?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Sat May 23, 2015 12:08 pm

Pretty much what Seafort said. In the Trek universe it seems that bigger ships are faster than smaller ones of equivalent tech, as a general rule. And given the accuracy of Federation weapons, which makes misses pretty rare, fighters don't seem all that survivable.

I know the Lysians were a primitive race, so this isn't really proof of anything, but I always thought fighters vs a Federation capital ship would go about like in "Conundrum"; fighers attack, ship goes "pew-pew-pew-pew", fighters explode.
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Re: Lack of starfighters?

Postby RK_Striker_JK_5 » Sat May 23, 2015 9:52 pm

Seafort aND Graham are pretty much spot-on. Fighters have limited use at best in Star Trek. The ships are just too powerful and fast already.
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Re: Lack of starfighters?

Postby Coalition » Mon May 25, 2015 3:57 am

The advantage of fighters would be:
  • Surface area:volume for heat dissipation: smaller craft is their larger surface area, meaning they can dissipate more heat per ton than a larger vessel, meaning it can use more power for shields, weapons, etc.
  • Mothership endurance, not fighter endurance: 'fighter' to me would mean short-endurance vessel, so instead of needing maintenance supplies for several months, it only needs a basic system that will let it limp to a carrier. Similarly, fuel requirements are lower, no effort is needed for crew comfort for anything over a few days, so those are mass requirements that a ship needs but a fighter does not.
  • Maneuverability: thanks to the square-cube law for structural strength, a fighter can handle higher g tolerances than a larger vessel (structural strength depends on the cross section, while mass increases as the volume). Even if using structural fields, there would be limit of the amount of power flowing through the member above which the member would start to heat up and melt.
  • Weapons placement: the larger surface area means equal tonnage of fighters can carry more weapons. While a starship might have 360 coverage with its phaser strips, several of those phaser strips might not be able to see the target, while a carrier can have all of its offensive weapons pointed at a target.
  • Steady damage degradation: With a regiment of fighters, you have to pop each of them in order to remove all the potential damage.
  • Ease of repair/replacement/upgrade: By having the weapons mounted upon the smaller craft that are easy to launch and recover, fighters allow for easy upgrading of a carrier with new weapons. Instead of needing to remove and install new weaponry at a spacedock, a carrier merely has its old fighters remove and new ones flown in.
  • Speed/Parallel construction: As the fighters are smaller, this means you can construct them much faster than a larger vessel. You also only need a smaller facility to assemble them, compared to a single larger yard needed for a Galaxy class starship. Similarly, you can have multiple fighters being assembled at the same time, assembly line style (Willow Run)
  • Harder to detect: Instead of a single power source that a ship would appear to be, a fighter force could disperse itself wider, their combined signatures similar to that of a cloud rather than a spot.


The disadvantages are obvious too:
  • Shield strength: higher surface area:mass means its shields will be relatively thinner, so larger vessels will simply be able to punch through and damage/destroy the fighter, compared to only hitting a shield on a larger vessel. (For example, assume 2 ships, all else identical, the vessel that is 2* longer, wider, and taller will have 8* the volume and only 4* the surface area, meaning its shields can be twice as 'thick'.
  • Computer capability/competition: in targeting/jamming, the fighter will be going up against vessels that have targeting/jamming systems that are larger than the fighter itself. So fighters will have to get closer than a standard ship in order to hit the same target.
  • Weapon size/effectiveness: the fighters will carry smaller weapons, so there may be cases where they simply can't do enough damage (except in The Jem'Hadar, where Dax offered to send Runabouts with Odyssey, and Captain Keogh declines the offer because he doubted the station crew had combat experience).
  • Maneuverability: space fighters are in the same environment as a capital ship, so unlike current carriers where fighters only have air resistance vs ships having water resistance, in space fighters might be merely 2-3 times as nimble as a capital ship.
  • Power utilization: if one fighter is low on energy (for whatever reason), the other fighters cannot transfer power to aid it, compared to a starship being able to transfer power internally. Similarly, if one fighter has an excellent shot at a weak point, only it can fire in there, while a starship would divert power from other weapons for the one key shot.
  • Communications: A fighter force has to remain in communications with each other, and must rely upon their sensors to coordinate. This means an opponent that uses extensive jamming can do a lot of trouble to a fighter using force, making the squadrons operate on a smaller scale, instead of a single coordinated force. Lower power and CPU availability means a fighter cannot punch through interference with brute force or spotting a pattern as easily as a larger vessel.
  • Endurance: A larger ship can take damage that would destroy fighters and still be able to repair itself. A fighter force would have to retire soon, to receive replacement fighters (and pilots)
  • Confirmation of detection: If a fighter force detects a target, it has to communicate that to the other members. This can show up as comm chatter (unless using laser comms, but that requires knowing exactly where the recipient will be), which the target might be able to detect. Also related to their shorter endurance, a fighter force might not have the endurance to sit and wait for a target, while a starship will.


Result:
Star Trek fighters can have their place, but I would see them operating as PT boats vs capital ships. They would be used to harass intact vessels and keep them from angling shields in only one direction, disable/destroy wounded vessels, and allow a single vessel near the rear of the formation to provide its firepower across a much larger volume.

This is all off the top of my head, if anyone can add pros and cons, please do.
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