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A Semi-Primer for Realistic Starfighter Combat.Granted, science fiction space fights as portrayed in movies, TV shows, and literature have had varying degrees of realism ranging from none at all to quite believable. In my own pursuits, I've always been drawn to what might be, what is possible, and what is believable and realistic. I couldn't settle with the notion of breaking the laws of physics, as we currently understand them, or depending on more fantastical elements to explain away things that are either not really plausible, or not yet possible. The list of things I have here likely isn't definitive, probably isn't comprehensive, and certainly not exhaustive, but should provide an idea of reasonable constraints to actually doing combat in fighter sized craft in a science fiction setting, given our current understanding of warfare, and the science behind what is and what could be.In no particular order, here is a list of things to consider when trying to write or illustrate combat with starfighters:1) Dogfighting will not truly be a thing, if it is one to begin with. Fighters deployed in a non-atmospheric environment will be more analogous to one-man or unmanned, highly-maneuverable missile boats, maybe with some kind of gun. Deploy your payload (meant for smaller threats like patrols and small ships), score hits, and run. Shoot and scoot… it works well for the infantry. It will work bloody wonders for you. 2) Engagements of whatever kind will tend more towards surgical strikes where larger ships might have a problem, planet side ground support roles, and interception; where you go out, shoot whatever down, and return to base. Dogfighting, even in the more traditional sense, would be more likely to occur in an atmosphere, but chances are that whatever you’re trying to hammer away at will be defended by automated batteries of missile and gunnery platforms, and will likely know of your presence, even if it’s just a reasonable expectation rather than outright knowing you’re there. Don’t count on racking up fighter kills. 3a) Space combat in general will be relegated to fleet-on-fleet engagements, satellites and orbital defense platforms, ground-to-orbit launch platforms, or orbital bombardments, let alone any combination of these. Any fighters deployed will likely be kept in relative proximity of their host fleet and meant for very small sized objects of reasonably high threat, such as standoff missiles, drones, berserkers or kamikaze style weapons. Point defense weaponry, if there is any, will generally be sufficient for this task, however.3b) Fleet engagements will look a lot more like naval doctrine from about WWII onward. Simple, deliberate movements. Long range fire with overlapping fields of fire. Based on capital ships like carrier battlegroups or led by the equivalent of dreadnaughts, battleships and battlecruisers. It'll all be in a three dimensional arena, so pay special attention to enemies coming from "above" and "below" you. It will not look like the hokey garbage of Star Trek and series of the like where your big ship fly around like a swarm of angry hornets. Your fighters will also, as pointed in point 7, be more ballistic in their flight paths, though still retain such maneuverability. Babylon Five and even BSG, to a point, illustrate this nicely. The Expanse also has very good examples of fleet or ship based fighting in a vacuum, though it is very conceivable that most of you will be using ships that won't necessarily need to do retro burns or breaking maneuvers outside of emergency stops, like they do in The Expanse Series. 4) Designs and manufacture of “space fighters” would be better off following more of a multi-role approach. Even if the more classic idea of Air Combat Maneuvers “coulda, woulda, shoulda” happen, it’ll be rare, but still a possibility. As mentioned before, a pilot or drone would more likely see surgical strikes or ground support, possibly scouting or interception on their frag orders. 5a) Sensors, telemetry, and information gathering of some form will still be important, probably more so than it is even now, in real life. One thing to consider, however, is that by the time you see a juicy frigate or destroyer worth hitting, it will likely have long since been made aware of your approach. Sensor systems and intrusion detection will also be a lot more likely to operate in EM bands outside of just thermal IR and microwave based radar systems.5b) Reading the information that it all has gathered would also have to be presented in a true 3D manner, or in something that can adequately emulate a 3D appearance if screens and flat panels are still used. 5c) Stealth will be the norm in terms of widespread adoption, but will be an evolving tool within the greater arms race of making things bigger, better, stronger and faster. Space is full of things that are wicked hot and wildly cold, as well as other emissions that could interfere with sensors and possibly present false returns. Detection systems would then have to be multispectral to limit false returns, and adapt to the environment being scanned. This would likely have a negative impact for you as a pilot as far as being seen outright, but with proper manufacturing processes put into your craft, it can be minimized.5d) Decoys and countermeasures, such as chaff, flares and electronic jamming, will also grow to accommodate the change in technology. Real life CM’s narrow in on a certain band of EM emissions, Thermal IR for flares, microwave based RADAR for chaff, and ECM pods through a wider gamut of electromagnetic “noise.” With the change of sensors to be more broadband and multispectral, these decoys will have to match the EM signature to be seen in whatever band is being used, and you likely won’t really know, nor have time to figure out what you’re being painted with. Best solution is, as stated, build for stealth and carry decoys as encompassing as possible. 6) Fuel, even in the most fuel efficient engines, will truly be a range limiting factor. You will also burn more of it if your craft is capable and actually flying through a medium that will act in anyway that an atmosphere typically would, as you’re overcoming aerodynamic forces as well as (usually) a gravity well. You’re engines would only need to engage or even pulse with considerably less thrust and fuel consumption in the relative vacuum of space, and more of it to counteract the centrifugal/centripetal forces of changing directions or orientation. Even then, however, space is vast. You are an insignificantly small half-a-grain of dust on a flea’s ass compared to it. If you need to get somewhere, even if you have FTL capabilities… check your fuel… and catch a ride on a bigger ship, if you can. 7a) Physics will also be a matter of concern. G-forces will, without a proper working counter, be enough to pulp even the more sturdy of organic pilots. While inertial dampeners do exist in the technological standards of the time and universe, without them being used outside of FTL jumps (hyperspace or warp), you’ll likely be executing relatively slow and wide turns versus a droid fighter that is usually capable of pulling turns well in excess of 9G’s, and that’s just so that the organic pilot would A) not black out, and B) not be killed by the exertions physics naturally would impart on them.7b) Speed being another factor, especially when you consider the differences imposed by being in a gravity well, atmosphere, or a vacuum. You might get a brisk few mach in level flight in an atmosphere, but in space you are likely to exceed that many times over, since you’re dealing considerably less with gravity making your massive craft weight tons, and dense gasses causing resistance and friction due to your speed. If we assume that the Star Wars measurement of sublight speed, a unit of megalight, is about the same as a unit mach speed, the classic T-65 X-wing, for example, would be capable of about 96 mach in level flight. Going along with this, such high speeds in a vacuum would make your flight path largely, if not completely, ballistic in nature, from low orbit on up. 8) Full on battle operations, like a major offensive on some location, will consist largely of fleet work, and ground ops or boarding and takeover actions. WWII offers really good, if relatively primitive, examples of this in real life; Normandy Invasion (D-Day), or the island hoping campaign in the Pacific Theater of Operations. “Air cover” and supremacy did tend to be more along the lines of surgical and ground support roles. More contemporary examples reinforce this, such as the 1991 Gulf War, and the various campaigns in the War on Terror. 9) Energy weapons would likely be preferred for any system analogous to a gun or gun battery, whether it’s a smaller point defense system, larger naval cannons, and all things in between. Flight times of the shots fired tend to be considerably faster than current ballistic technology and not as constrained by loss of energy, though considering aerodynamics (or lack thereof) physical rounds may still have a place in certain situations. Fire placed right here and now would heavily favor energy rounds, where as area-denial weapons that would likely sit there for a while would favor physical objects. 10) Alpha-strikes, where whole squadrons or wings worth of fighter craft would move to strike a target all at once, would not necessarily be effective. Accuracy and precision of just about every weapon from your fighters through to your capital ships and orbital defense platforms will typically relegate such a thing to historical texts. The power of these weapons will go hand in hand with it, too. If fighters are deployed for a precision strike, it will likely follow something more alike modern air combat. It’ll only need a craft and a wingman, maybe double that in a small strike package. TLDR: This ain’t your daddy’s style of fighting. It’s all different. ALL OF IT! It isn’t that a fighter sized craft will be a thing of the past, per se. But with all things, they will be in need of an evolutionary and revolutionary change in doctrine, among other things. Our own space programs have demonstrated that the physics of flying in space are remarkably different from an atmosphere, though at least some of the same rules will still apply. That's even irrespective or us ever finding real world, practical faster-than-light technologies to let us run among the stars. Hopefully this list was helpful and insightful, and would provide some interesting challenges to your next work of fiction space battle with starfighters and ships. Stay creative and have fun.
Dyad's Blessing, Dyad's Curse - Chapter 28Step, step, step.Ben still gripped the parallel bars during walking practice like they were a lifeline, even though his legs were getting stronger. Almost normal – but in his case, that wasn’t a desirable thing. Recovering meant he’d go straight from the hospital to prison, after all.“Ben, I think you might be ready to try to walk on your own.”“I don’t think so,” Ben said a little too hastily, which Doctor Renda seemed to notice.“Ben,” she said, “are you saying that because you really don’t feel ready to walk or because you’re afraid of leaving here?”“Does it matter?” asked Ben, looking down at his bare feet with the blue veins snaking along the skin. “You can’t legally force me to do anything I don’t want to do.”“True,” said Renda, “but we also can’t legally keep a healthy patient in a room that could go to a sick patient.”Ben sighed. “Well I am sick. Healthy people don’t murder their parents. Healthy people don’t torture prisoners for information. Healthy people don’t violate people’s minds. Healthy people don’t order entire villages destroyed – should I go on?” His mind’s eye saw his father’s face, causing him to grip the bars tightly enough to whiten his knuckles.“Ben, I understand . . .”“No, you don’t!” Ben’s head snapped up to glare at her. “You’re in the same room as someone who murdered his father! Doesn’t that bother you? Don’t you wish you could just get out that concealed stunray and shut me up?”“Ben, I’m here to help you.”“Then the least you could do is be honest and stop acting like you’re perfectly fine with having Kylo Ren as a patient!”Now she actually looked angry. Were doctors even allowed to get angry at their patients? He couldn’t say he knew for sure, but now her lips were quivering and her eyes were narrowing, which was almost a relief. It meant the Twi’lek doctor might actually have a side beyond wanting to help him no matter what.“You want me to be honest?” she said in a low voice. “All right, I’ll be honest. When you first came here, yes, I was scared. I was ready to stun you at a moment’s notice, but the more I got to know you, the less I feared you.” She swallowed, glancing at her datapad as if unable to look him in the eye. “And you remind me of my daughter.”“Wait, what?”She looked back up at him. “Strictly speaking, I’m not supposed to share personal stories with my patients, but maybe this will help you. My daughter – she’s sixteen and she’s in jail. Well, technically juvenile hall, but it’s as good as jail. She’s been part of a . . . a gang for the last two years or so.” Ben felt like he had been punched in the stomach. “Why?”Renda inhaled as if trying to keep herself from crying. “I don’t know. Maybe because her father left before she was born and wants nothing to do with her – we’ve both tried contacting him and he never responds. Maybe because I have to work such long hours, or maybe it’s a combination, but when I visit her I keep telling her that it’s not too late to turn her life around when she gets out. I have to believe that she still has a future.” She wiped a hand over her eyes. “We can’t change what we did – I can’t, you can’t, she can’t, but there’s always a tomorrow. I want to help both you and her to realize that.”Ben couldn’t speak. The cheek where Han had touched him suddenly felt numb. A dying father, felled by his own son’s hand . . . yet he still used his last moments to show that he believed in tomorrow. His eyes squeezed shut in a vain attempt to keep tears in. Both his dead parents in his subconscious’s wilderness, still believing in tomorrow even after everything he’d done . . . “Ben? Are you all right?”Ben opened his eyes, the doctor’s face little more than a large green blur through his tears. “I’m sorry,” he said, unable to think of anything else. He sniffled, wiping his eyes on his hospital gown’s sleeve, though the tears kept coming. “I hope she can find her tomorrow even if I can’t.”“You can. In fact, you can start by learning to walk again.”Again he gazed down at his feet. “I’m still walking to prison.”. . .Rey sat at the edge of the indoor hotel pool, savoring the smell of chlorine, her pants pulled up to her knees, her bare feet soaking in the cool water. She gazed out at the various children and their parents playing in the water, splashing each other, older children showing off how they could swim and parents holding younger children up. So normal.“Rey?” Rey looked up and there was Finn towering over her, barefoot but otherwise dressed, a swimsuit and towel dangling over his shoulder. “Rey, are you all right?”“I’m fine.”“You wanna go swimming together?”“I don’t know how to swim.” She went back to gazing out at the pool. “Maybe my parents taught me before they left me on Jakku, but I don’t remember if they did.”Now Finn was rolling up his own pants. After placing his swimsuit and towel on the floor, he eased himself into a sitting position next to Rey, sticking his own feet into the water. “I could teach you to swim if you wanted.”“I don’t know,” said Rey, glancing at her hand. What if lightning shot out of her hand here, killing all the innocent souls in the pool?? Maybe she should stay away from water . . . but that wouldn’t stop her from losing control on land.“Rey?” Finn repeated. “Are you sure you’re all right?”Rey took a deep breath. “Have I been all right at all lately? I found out I’m Palpatine’s granddaughter, I almost killed Chewie and I could lose control again, I’m trapped in a dyad I can’t control, Ben and I are dreaming of each other’s memories – no, I’m not all right, but you can’t fix it!”Finn’s eyes bulged as he gave an audible gulp. “You’re right,” he said in a low voice, “I can’t fix it, but I wish I could fix it.” His eyes shifted a bit. “Uh . . . is he here, you know, right now?”“No, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t appear at any moment.”“Damn,” said Finn, “you . . . really don’t have any privacy at all, do you? That must be hell.”Rey slowly kicked her feet back and forth in the water, her toes peeking through the surface before going back under. “Sometimes it is hell, but sometimes . . . it’s not.” “How is it not?”How could Rey explain it when she couldn’t understand it herself? “You’re not alone” – Ben’s words from so long ago echoed in her mind. That night when they’d touched hands, when she’d felt light within him . . .“There are times . . .” She fumbled for words. “. . . times when it feels right.”
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