There are two classes of small scale vessels:
- Shuttles: lighter, slower craft tasked with handling RP missions. These are also the ones that can interact with mission scripting.
- Combat craft: Generally fighters or bombers. Fighters are faster, have stronger beams, but carry fewer torpedoes. Bombers by contrast are slower, have weaker beams, but carry many more missiles.
Ships in mod version 1.6.3A were equipped with shuttles. I believe they also carried two missiles, but were supposed to be shuttles. Ships had only one or two of these depending on the size of the vessel. In 1.7.5, Interceptors carry only the single shuttle that all ships can carry but the rest of the fleet has room for 3 additional craft. These can be configured to whatever outcome we like but it seems like the mission script usually forces the shuttle to be the standard variant instead of the LR and the remainder of the craft stowage to be filled with fighters. Therefore, every ship in the fleet is a carrier depending on how you define it.
For my part, if there are craft to be used aboard the ship we should be fine with letting them be. At the disposal of the ship’s captain and crew, unless the mission parameters require otherwise. If we allow fighter craft to remain aboard, I will continue to use them as force multipliers when the situation calls for it instead of doing the same with the shuttle craft because those are more precious. We can’t just replenish those at a station like we can with fighters.
I think there is also a difference in a cruiser that carries combat-capable craft and a carrier that carries a fighter wing. The differences are in combat doctrine and the way that personnel are assigned. A carrier would ideally have officers tasked to crew out the fighter wing. A carrier would be more likely to view its fighters as more valuable tools rather than materiel to be expended as required even though they will always be expendable. A carrier is less likely to abandon its fighters, even if that means loitering a bit longer for recovery. If I sortie now in a fighter, particularly in situations like today’s, I expect it to be expendable. I expect that if the captain says we need to move out, I retain responsibility of doing something productive with the fighter while I accomplish my primary duty. I am responsible for my primary duty above and beyond improving my effectiveness with a fighter. I’ve also successfully defended my ship more than a handful of times with a fighter, or used the fighter to delay or destroy an enemy so my ship doesn’t need to spend the energy, time, shield strength, and ordinance to effect that destruction. But since we’re not on a carrier, being a fighter pilot is extra duty when my primary station does not immediately demand my attention for that or if it’s something I can accomplish in tandem.
Fighters will always be useful as long as they have a beam. They can provide anti-drone defense. They can perform their own delta-1 maneuvers and lure enemies away from soft targets or through black holes and minefields. Moreover, Xavier stated that officers are expected to be proficient with fighter usage. How can we expect people to practice or learn with fighters if we restrict their use to a very narrowly defined strike carrier role?
Are there limits to fighters though? Absolutely. I think we should discourage machine gunning missiles as a general matter of course. I think we should encourage pilots to redock with their ships rather than let the fighter be destroyed. I definitely think that we should heavily restrict the combat deployment of an actual shuttle craft unless it’s absolutely vital to the survival of the ship or mission. I think that fighter pilots are responsible for their fighters and, baring prior arrangement or grave circumstances, launches should be done on non-carrier vessels by the authorization of the captain. On carriers, this bar should be lessened and permission also given to a CAG. The captain (and CAG if present) are responsible for their fighter wing, not fleet command. Fleet command has more important things to do in general than worry about the actions of a single fighter – particularly if it belongs to a carrier.
I would certainly like to increase the variety of tactics and experiences within the TSN. I’ve expressed for a while now the fact that I’d enjoy a jump-capable ship within the fleet, as have others. I’d appreciate if fighters were an option within the fleet even if not every ship or not every officer were expected to deal with them on a daily basis to the level of a primary or secondary specialty. I’d like there to be more variety in ship design and less emphasis on parade ground-style formation flying. These are all topics worthy of discussion in their own right and to delve into them would be to go off topic. I mention them only because I think variety helps keeps things fresh. It gives GMs and players, captain and crew alike, more tools even if those come with expectations and responsibilities. But more tools and more options, particularly as the fighter console becomes more player friendly and requires less expertise to be effective with – this surely cannot be a bad thing.
Now if only they would fix the fire control so friendly fire weren’t so easily accomplished.