@Feil, as one of the volunteers flying with you last duty shift, I think you did an excellent job as Wing Commander, especially for your first opportunity. I hope to fly with you again (though I do enjoy engineering and want to return to my training in it). Also, I agree with your comments, spot on. In particular, I think it’s worth stressing that communication is a make-or-break factor: having a dedicated CAG, who can track the group and give to the Wing Commander the information needed to coordinate the fighters, is essential, and the Wing Commander has to relay key items to the group with crisp precision. Otherwise we’re just a bunch of individual ships operating independently with inadequate information.
Here are my thoughts, for what they are worth. I am sure I am not the first to note many of my observations, but I don’t recall seeing prior conversation really explore them as much — apologies if I’m just late to the party.
To anyone who has not (yet) had the opportunity, flying a fighter is a completely different experience from piloting any other ship class I have tried, even a scout. It is exceptionally suited to 3D tactics, with perhaps the most effective strafing run coming from directly above or below the target (for those ships we faced, the enemy beam arcs did not extend vertically), a tactic capital ships simply cannot use. And while an individual fighter doesn’t have a lot of punch, three fighters working together can inflict considerable damage to a target.
Also on the subject of weapons, interestingly there is no “auto-beams on/off,” it’s a hybrid: you must manually fire your beams each shot, but if the target ship is close enough and in your gunsight, you will always hit, and you cannot target specific systems. There is no “safety” mechanism, so if a friendly ship flies in between you and the enemy, you’ll hit them instead. Missiles, similarly, are a little different than on a ship, in that you fire in the general direction of the enemy and rely on the missle’s on-board proximity to lock on. A fighter only has three missles, so they must be used thoughtfully. With training, a fighter pilot should be able to compensate for these differences readily, but new pilots like myself, who are used to ship weapons and helm controls, will find the differences to be a little jarring.
On the downside, it’s very easy to get disoriented because all you can see is what is directly in front of your fighter, the display has no radar or similar tool to enable broader situational awareness. Although the viewscreen does have compass and elevation guides, those don’t tell you where the other ships are, so you can easily go blundering off in the wrong direction — and as we learned, a figher group splitting up inadvertently can be deadly.
Also, as Feil noted, the viewscreen does not project ship-specific designations, which made it surprisingly hard to know if you’re correctly following the order to “attack the lead Karelian” when all you can see is 2 or 3 ships out of a larger group. Likewise, the command “focus on the ship the Phoenix is attacking” is not easy to follow when the Phoenix isn’t in your viewscreen. Moreover, without those designations you essentially have to know ship silhouettes, friend and foe, cold. Also, we were enirely unable to attack bases — a glitch in the ship’s software meant our targeting sensors could not see bases at all, and so the computer would not fire the beams even at point-blank (oddly, my torpedo also didn’t lock on the base). I hope the next batch of fighters will have these items fixed.
Another issue is that the fighter isn’t equally useful against all targets. Weak ships are the best targets, including heavy ships weakened by ordinance. We could easily come up behind a small Karelian group and pick them off one by one, and even nail a wounded Torgoth with nine missles. We were also reasonably effective against Skaarans whose special weaponry is designed for big ships — shield drain, anti-torp, and the like — as long as we stayed away from their heavy-beam arcs. Pirates with gatlings, however, shredded us, as did larger healthy fleets. Drones were also a challenge, as our only defenses are to turn the fighter to aim directly at the drone and kill it with the beam, or try to run away, both difficult in a melee — and you only know to do either if you see it coming. It doesn’t take many drones to off a fighter.
Obviously, basic training for fighter pilots has to start with simulators at the Academy (//see below). Maneuvering absolutely must be second-nature, as having to think about that plus targeting plus listening for new orders is impractical in the heat of battle. So, once a trainee advances to the real thing, I think the first exercise should be simply forming up with and following the Wing Commander through a series of preset 3D maneuvers, for example:
* Pattern “Epsilon Z -XXX, bearing YYY” means “level out at elevation -XXX, turn to bearing YYY, and form up” (reorganize);
* Pattern “Pi” means “climb to elevation +200, level out, then on my mark, dive to -200, rinse and repeat” (strafing run);
* Pattern “Iota” means an Immelman (turn around); and
* Pattern “Sigma +XX” means “on my mark, turn to starboard XX degrees from our current bearing and then, again on my mark, turn to port XX degrees, resuming the original course” — “Sigma -XX” would be port, then starbord (serpentine/avoidance).
Something like those, anyway.
After maneuvering skills, fighters will need their own unique battle doctrine for dogfighting. That will probably have to evolve with experience, but maybe we can dust off some tactics manuals from other eras for ideas (//for example, http://www.zenoswarbirdvideos.com/OffensiveTactics.html, particularly on coordinated attacks).
//Especially as I am not an aficionado of flight-sim games, I’d really like to be able to practice flying on my own between duty shifts even when I can’t find anyone else, let alone enough to field a carrier. I envision a “maneuver practice only” scenario, in which I (or, if several of us meet up, we) have to stay in close formation with an AI Wing Commander through a timed set of randomly selected maneuvers, which would be scored based on my average distance from the WC. I also would like a few sole-figher-vs-enemy scenarios with just a base for resupply. If I had programming skills I might take a crack at setting them up myself, but as I have none, this idea requires someone else to volunteer. Sorry about that.
I hope these comments provide useful feedback.
Ens. (Act.) Draeco
- This reply was modified 5 years, 5 months ago by Draeco.