Post by AtomHeartDragon on Mar 5, 2019 19:36:15 GMT
First a disclaimer:
By fighter I don't necessarily mean cramped (faux)aerodynamic piece of hardware with crew of 1-2 and no habitability to speak of. I also don't necessarily mean that any sort of fighters is necessarily a sound idea. However I can dismiss some of the criticisms and post some some reasons that may make small, low endurance, minimum crew combat spacecraft potentially a viable choice, at least given limited, COADE-like tech level.
First things first:
- Fighters don't necessarily need 4x delta-v. They would in space battle between gravitationally unbound fleets, but I wouldn't expect this kind of space battle to actually be a battle in any meaningful sense, rather than few seconds of abject terror involving missiles and point defence (preceded by days to months of growing anxiety). If a fleet manages to successfully inject, fighter no longer needs 4x delta-v and probably shouldn't expect to waste most of its delta-v on orbital manoeuvres, but jinking. With primitive propulsion tech it is also likely that recovering fighters would be the job of their plodding, but much more efficient electric-nuclear mothership, so you could even risk making it 1x delta-v.
- There is a "horizon" of sorts in space. Both projected energy weapons and dumb kinetics work poorly at very long ranges, OTOH habitable volumes and large amounts of propellant are notoriously expensive to armour. Partitioning off only small amounts of propellant and habitability (if any) to armour and put in harm's way might be a sensible choice.
- Drones are generally going to be much more sensible option than fighters, but depending on EW, political climate and possibly ways to disincentivize enemy from trying to specifically target squishy motherships/tenders to disable the whole operation a case might possibly be made for autonomous, manned ships.
- For severely delta-v constrained designs, durability of meatsacks on board is not going to be particularly limiting. When using something like solid core NTR increasing acceleration immediately cuts painfully into combat endurance, so going above perfectly tolerable 0.5-2G is likely going to be pointless. Of course, just having a meatsack on board is going to be a delta-v and survivability hit, so additional incentive would be needed, but acceleration is not going to be the problematic part, at least not with early combat spacecraft.
Now, if on top of that you don't want to put all your eggs in a single basket, your essential combat technology scales down well enough, and the situation is murky enough to incentivize putting crews close to the action, you might have fighters - of sorts.
Maybe not X-wings (boo) or even Starfuries (half-hearted yay), but pieces of hardware well below kiloton, with crews in low single digits, minimum habitability (if still way higher than any atmospheric fighter) and able to spin on a dime.