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Author Topic: Fighter of the Week Special Issue #005 - Overview, Free Worlds Fighters  (Read 3194 times)

Trace Coburn

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FIGHTER FORCE OVERVIEW: FREE WORLDERS
Originally posted 8 Mar. 2006.


  You’ll recall that I defined the ‘ideal’, ‘complete’ overall fighter force back in the “Generic Fighters” Overview column; please take the time to refresh your memory before/while you read what follows, and bear it in mind; however, the bare acceptable minimum for any force is one (or more) interceptors, a dogfighter and an attack bird - the other roles are the ‘nice-to-have’ spaceframes which act as force-multipliers.
  For the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to handle the signature Succession Wars-era Free Worlds fighters on their own, then throw in the ‘generic’ fighters they have access to (according to FM:U, TRO3050U, TRO3075, and MadCapellan’s excellent work Objective Raids 3067), then handle the IS2-era stuff in one big whack.  }:)  ::)


FORCE ASSESSMENT: SIGNATURE FREE WORLDS STARFIGHTERS, c.3025

F-10 Cheetah - INTERCEPTOR (CLOSE ATTACK)
  25t, 12/18/12/4, 13/11/13, 10 SHS; N: SL, W: ML

  A speed-demon with only a fair armament for its mass, the Cheetah is great at getting where it needs to be, but arguably isn’t so good at achieving meaningful results once it gets there.  :-X

F-90 Stingray - DOGFIGHTER (ATTACK)
  60t, 6/9/6/5, 60/45/34, 20 SHS; N: PPC, W: LL, ML

  Sexy by looks and nasty in a turning fight, the Stingray has been a benchmark of ‘Intro-Tech’ dogfighters since its service-entry in 2748.  The armour could be a little better, but it’s far from the most egregious sin I’ve ever seen in ASF design, and I’d happily use this spaceframe any day of the week.  :D

F-100 Riever - ATTACK
  100t, 5/8/10/5, 86/61/48, 25 SHS; N: AC/20(2), LRM-10(2); W: 2xSRM-6(4)

  A hundred tons of fusion-powered bad attitude, the Riever has been ruining peoples’ days since 2815.  The rate at which they consume ammo means I don’t envy the quartermaster assigned to an F-100 unit, and without even token energy weapons being jumped on the trip home after going Winchester is a deeply lonely experience, but nonetheless, the Riever is one of those spaceframes that flies right up to you and says, “I don’t like your face - I’m going to smash it in.  I dare you to stop me.”  }:)


IN TERMS OF THE ‘IDEAL’ FORCE - ALL FREE WORLDS-BUILT STARFIGHTERS, 3025

  ROLE                           ADDRESSED
Interceptor                           YES (1)
Fast Dogfighter                       NO
Dogfighter                            YES (1)
Fire-Support                          NO
Attack                                YES (1)
*Close-Attack                         NO


SIGNATURE FREE WORLDS FIGHTERS IN ’25 - FORCE POSITIVES:
  Clout is not something a Free Worlds force runs short on: the Macross-like wall-of-steel a Riever can generate means that things that get in front of FWL starfighter units can get broken really easily, and when you consider that they’re usually escorted by Stingrays (among the best dogfighters of the time-period, and no great slouches as attackers themselves), meaning that anyone trying to break through to get at the heavies is going to meet a very warm reception, a ’Ship or ground-target’s life can get un-fun in a great hurry and enemy dogfighters are going to be sharing the misery.  :D
  The Cheetah is also as swift as the Thrush and slightly tougher, so you have great long-range/high-speed interception capability (as long as your lightfighters remember to stick-and-weave).

SIGNATURE FREE WORLDS FIGHTERS IN ’25 - FORCE NEGATIVES:
  With the exception of a few ERLL/missile-armed F-94 Stingrays that only appeared in the late 3030s(?) after the resurgence of foundtech, there are no fire-support platforms on the Leaguer ‘pure’ roster, and they’re SOL as far as the ‘nice-to-have’ fast-dogfighter goes, too.  (One might argue that the Stingray doesn’t strictly need the help, but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t use the help).
  Their chosen interceptor is also a little short on legs and fearfully frail, so horde tactics are essential, especially if you’re facing off against Lyran Seydlitz and their BFGs.
  The Riever’s ferocious throw-weight comes at the price of (very) short ammunition stocks and a complete lack of defensive energy weapons, so close-escort is vital, especially during the post-strike phase.

  Like the Capellan Confederation, the Free Worlds League gets only the faintest of relief from the ‘generic’ fighters.  According to my sources, the Leaguers deploy all six generic birds but do not build them anywhere, meaning that they’ll see service in only sparing quantities in League purple.  That’s unfortunate; the Sabre and Centurion do a great job of covering the inadequacies of the Cheetah (fuel and armour); the Hellcat I supplements the dogfighter corps with very little encouragement; specifically noted in TRO’75 as being common everywhere except in the Free Worlds, the Lightning can dash about and tear chunks off of targets in a way that the bigger, slower Riever simply can’t match; the Eagle can play ‘Big Brother’ to Stingrays quite handily; and the Thunderbird adds much-needed energy weaponry and Medium-to-Long-range hitting power to Riever squadrons.
  Nonetheless, however much they may like and use them, the Leaguers build none of these spaceframes in significant quantities (indeed, AFAICT they build nothing but signature fighters, which is a touch unusual!) and therefore can’t use they as much as the above tasking would suggest.  More to the point, they still don’t have a fire-support platform in meaningful numbers.  :(


FORCE ASSESSMENT: SIGNATURE FREE WORLDS STARFIGHTERS, c.3067

LX-2 Lancer - FAST DOGFIGHTER
  50t, 7/11/7/5, 38/33/32, 10 DHS; N: LRM-10 w/Art-IV(1), W: LPL

  Intended as a low-cost spaceframe to fill out the strike-wings of Thera-class supercarriers, the Lancer is fast, cheap, and has reasonably accurate weaponry (to offset its undertrained, mass-levee pilots?), but those armour specs are downright criminal>:(

F-92 Stingray - DOGFIGHTER
  60t, 6/9/6/5, 60/45/34, 20 DHS; N: ERPPC, W: ERLL, ML

  A simple, solid upgrade package for the F-90, the F-92 gains a good deal of reach and loses nothing in heat-efficiency, though the armour didn’t get any attention (and might well have benefited from it).  If you’re looking for a reasonably-priced dogfighter/fire-support platform that says it with charged particles and coherent light, look no further.

F-94 Stingray - DOGFIGHTER/FIRE-SUPPORT
  60t, 6/9/6/5, 60/45/34, 20 SHS; N: ERLL, (ER?)ML, W: LRM-10(1), ML

  I thought the F-94 came out before the ERML was introduced, but RS’39 says that’s what it is, so maybe it was installed as part of an after-market refit package.  [shrug]  Another decent dog-fighter, and although the missile-racks are a little smaller than I’d like, its being interoperable with one of canon’s better main-line dogfighters means that this combination of ERLL hole-punching and LRM crit-seeking is high on my list of preferred 6/9 fire-support platforms.

SHV-O Shiva - ATTACK (OMNIFIGHTER)
  85t, 5/8/8/5, 60/42/35 (FAA), 18 DHS; 52.5 tons pod-space

  The FWLM’s first OmniFighter, the Shiva perhaps reflects too strong a subscription to the ‘Clan Smoke Jaguar’ school of aerospace design: too much emphasis on guns, not enough on survivability.  :'(

F-700 Riever - ATTACK
  100t, 6/9/10/5 (XLFE), 81/60/47, 20 DHS; N: AC20(3), LRM-10(2); W: 2xSRM-6(4)

  Despite picking up a turn of speed to match many medium fighters, at its heart this foundtech Riever remains the same machine it was before the Helm Data-Core went public.

F-700a Riever - ATTACK
  100t, 5/8/10/5 (XLFE), 86/61/56, 20 DHS; N: 2xLB-10X(4), 2xSRM-6(6), W: 3xSRM-6

  No great shakes at punching holes (especially under TW rules prohibiting slug rounds in LB autocannons), the -700a would be one of the finest ‘crit-seeking’ machines in existence if TW Cluster rules allowed for individual SRM warheads.  ::)  That said, anything that mounts EIGHT SRM-6s is going to be none too shabby at it even if the rules do enforce five-point clusters.  :o

F-700b Riever - ATTACK
  100t, 5/8/10/5 (XLFE), 100/73/49 (FAA), 18 DHS; N: UAC/20(6), LRM-10(1), W: 3xSSRM-6(4)

  The original F-100 on ’roids and angry, the -700b laughs at your puny AAA defences and screams “Marik SMASH!” as its firepower crushes a ’Mech with every pass.  For that matter, WarShips need to treat it with a certain degree of respect.  }:)


  The Stingray is now its own fire-support, which is no bad thing (though back-up missile-platforms would still be nice... more on that in a minute), and the Riever can now actually keep up with its escorts, which is good for operational coordination.  Hell, the Lancer even (technically) meets the standard of ‘fast dogfighter’.  On the other hand, both of the brand-new starfighter types are ridiculously under-armoured, and the armament loadout on the Lancer could be a lot better.  Admittedly, most of the Shiva’s configurations make them phenomenal complements to the old-style Rievers... but the foundtech F-700 is a near-complete paradigm shift compared to the F-100, and folding Shivas into Riever squadrons to cover their weaknesses (as would be one’s first impulse) works only if you’re using the old, ‘clapped-out’ 5/8 F-100s (or the foundtech F-700a (AKA “the ALPHA-BABY CRIT-SEEKER OF DOOM!” :o) or -700b models), not the far fleeter F-700.  :(
  On the whole, the Leaguers didn’t do especially badly out of TRO3067 and the AT2/TRO’39 update files; it’s not like they were the only ones to overlook the need for missile-boats.  It’s just that they could have done much better if they’d simply thought to tweak their old favourites, rather than building billion-dollar boondoggles like the Lancer and Shiva.  Observe:

  [VARIANT PROPOSAL(S) REDACTED] All proposed fan-variants - including my own - belong in the corresponding “FotW Workshop” thread: http://www.classicbattletech.com/forums/index.php/topic,4787.0.html


CONCLUSIONS:
  In the pre-foundtech era, the Free Worlds fighter force is a classic three-tier system conforming to apparent IS ‘accepted wisdom’ of the era: light interceptor, medium dogfighter, heavy attacker.  They do not build or field truly significant numbers of ‘generic’ fighters, so the F- series fighters are more or less on their own, and they try hard.  Lyran ‘lumbering herds’ would have their hands full with this lot; on the other hand, Cappie units would make a stout contest of it.  Without fire-support, though, it can’t claim to be properly integrated.
  Post-REVIVAL, with foundtech achieving better and better market penetration every year, the FWLM gets some relief, gaining a decently-armed, relatively cheap fast-dogfighter in the Lancer (look at it - it just screams ‘I’m built for horde tactics’!) and a pretty fair attack-sniper in the Shiva.  However, fire-support remains the domain of a few converted F-92 Stingrays, so the guys on the sharp end have to be feeling awfully lonely when they head out into the black.  :(
  After the Jihad, there pretty much isn’t a coherent FWLM to seek a ‘complete’ fighter force anyway, and my sources are a little sparse on hard data to assess who might’ve fared better or worse out of things.  According to TRO3075, Andurien is supplementing its Stingrays with Deathstalkers, and as of TRO’85 they’re in talks with Federated-Boeing over a licence to build Ares Mk.IX EW/strike small-craft; the F-77 and its offshoots are fair-to-great attack-birds, and the Ares can certainly take care of itself, but without knowing what’s flying ahead/alongside of them, there’s little to be said on the matter.  The Marik-Stewart Commonality is splitting production of the new Poignard between itself and the nascent Republic of the Sphere; this well-armoured(!) 35t, 9/14 machine packs a LAC/5, four ERMLs, and enough DHS to avoid overheating significantly on a forward alpha-strike, making it better than fair as a fast dogfighter, but again, we don’t have enough information about the M-SC’s other ASF assets to draw solid conclusions.  :-\

  Be advised: the attached .txt transcript(s) of previous run(s) of this thread may contain numerous reader-proposals for variants.  I’ll try to change those out for ‘sanitised’ versions of those threads when I can, but I can’t promise it’ll be soon - that’s a lot of ground to cover.  ;)

Moonsword

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There's no particular evidence I've ever seen the Lancer is being bought in large numbers.  The majority of them wound up with the FWLM Navy, but the "TIE fighter" suggestion originated in one of the articles, not the TRO itself.  The Marik handbook doesn't imply it being a huge contract, either, focusing more on the F-94 Stingray.

A couple of historical notes to round things out: the Eagle is originally a Marik bird in decline in its homeland thanks to the destruction of the production line.  The Regulans also had a few Corsairs to call their own in the Bad Old Days.

Minemech

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 The Lancer was a proof of concept type next generation recon fighter. It won't be a replacement for the Stingray.

 The Shiva is no boondoggle. It has a lot better heat control than the Eisensturm, and offers an extreme range sniper variant. Additionally it performs well in atmospheric combat. It has its weaknesses, but it does its job well. Its greatest weakness was not armor, but logistics.
« Last Edit: 19 April 2011, 12:16:53 by Minemech »

Kojak

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Excellent article. I'm a little surprised there's no mention of the F-95 Stingray in there, though.
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DragonKhan55

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Any chance of a writeup for the Ares strike craft?

Jellico

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Fun TRO3085 fact. The Poignard's armour comes from the irony of a light fighter out armouring a Shiva. How much of a game changer is this little fighter in the context of the FWL states.

On the issue of Shivas and Rievers, I don't find the thrust difference to be much of an issue. They aren't direct wingmen so the Shivas don't have to stay on the shoulders of the Rievers. They just need to be able to provide fire support.

Where did you get the idea that LBs can't use slug ammo? The only restrictions are the minimum 10 rounds of ammo for large craft? Unless you mean the Aerospace damage listed in the back of TW?

Trace Coburn

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Any chance of a writeup for the Ares strike craft?
  In due time, Padawan; until then, patience;)

Fun TRO3085 fact. The Poignard's armour comes from the irony of a light fighter out armouring a Shiva. How much of a game changer is this little fighter in the context of the FWL states.

On the issue of Shivas and Rievers, I don't find the thrust difference to be much of an issue. They aren't direct wingmen so the Shivas don't have to stay on the shoulders of the Rievers. They just need to be able to provide fire support.

Where did you get the idea that LBs can't use slug ammo? The only restrictions are the minimum 10 rounds of ammo for large craft? Unless you mean the Aerospace damage listed in the back of TW?
  Yep - specifically the note When fired as a Cluster Weapon by non-aerospace units; aerospace units always apply the -1 To Hit Modifier.  RAW, TW gameplay doesn't seem to provide for LB-equipped aerospace units actually firing slugs, and IIRC that interpretation has been supported by several statements from TPTBs, both on the Official Interaction boards and out here 'in the wild'.  ::)

Moonsword

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I get the feeling the rule against using slug ammo is probably fairly frequently ignored by people who don't actually like that rule (I'm one of them).  Unfortunately, the rules represent the common starting point we all have to work from or we might as well turn it into a novel discussion club.

 

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