Author Topic: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?  (Read 2259 times)

Hammerhead

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So, I’m curious.

In the deep dark of the Bad Old Days, it was often said that fighter support was the purview of house militaries and larger mercenary units (being somewhat fragile and expensive, as stated in some Merc-related books I believe) but what about the smaller ones? Like Leopard to Union sized units living one day to the next? How common would it be to swap out those fighter bays for ground units or cargo?

What do you all think? Was this a relatively common occurrence, or did Mercenary’s Star make it seem to me that maybe Aerospace assets weren’t quite so hard to come by? Are transport bays too hard to swap? Is it all propaganda to keep the flyboys working for the Great Houses instead of seeking out that lucrative Merc Lyfe?  :cheesy:

I’m kinda enamoured with the idea of a pair of Manticores for some additional punch on ground instead of fighters to stay in keeping with the cash-strapped Merc trope.




Alan Grant

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #1 on: 29 November 2023, 07:04:51 »
I tend to think of FM: Mercs as a better resource for this topic. As it actually devoted a section to aerospace support in the mercenary industry.

It doesn't say it's just the purview of large units and Great Houses. What it says is that mercs tend to rely on fewer ASFs because they view them as a poor investment. A damaged or destroyed 'mech or tank might be salvaged to some degree. But a destroyed ASF is likely to be a total writeoff because it came apart in the crash or went off into the void of space. So, they tend to rely on fewer ASFs and put veteran pilots in them who are more likely to bring the craft back safely.

It says that mercenaries tend to rely on a formula of 1:12, meaning 1 ASF for every 12 BattleMechs. Whereas the Great Houses double that as standard doctrine.

In practice, fighters still work in pairs, so the smallest unit of fighters that is standard is an aerolance of 2. It just means that while the average Great House might think of standard ASF support for a BattleMech regiment as being approximately 18 fighters. A mercenary BattleMech regiment might run with fewer, more like a squadron or two.

In practice we see plenty of mercenary units of all sizes operate with ASFs, and plenty have full squadrons and wings of them. But a few do notably seem to lack them, probably counting on employer provided air support getting tacked on as part of the contract. So the reality I'm sure varies a lot from unit to unit.

As for swapping out bays. We know it happens sometimes. We have writeups of some merc units here and there that say things like "the dropship <insert name> has been modified to carry the entire unit comfortably."

So it can happen, does happen.

But I'd be just as likely to leave the bays intact. Still need air support, that's still a thing. If the employer is willing to attach some House fighters to my merc unit, I might offer to carry them in my dropship. The employer might find that more agreeable in contract negotiations than having to supply not only some fighters, but also a Leopard-CV or some other carrier dropship for them.

We also have in BT history, plenty of references of smaller specialized merc commands. Think an independent merc fighter squadron here and there. The kind of units you might sub-contract, to tack on to your command to fill the fighter support gap on a more temporary basis. Some of those might have their own dropship support or they might not, and just like employer-provided fighters, need bays to operate out of.

When those bays aren't actively being used for fighters, I don't think it's hard to dream up other uses for them. I forget what canon rules actually say on this. But I used to be in a game where we had an in-house gaming group rule that said it was acceptable to put VTOLs in ASF bays, and they could launch/recover from them when the dropship was landed, and so that was a common alternative use for those bays.

EDIT: Personally, I'd rather have a few ASFs. Seen plenty of "C" grade canon merc units who have at least an aerolance with them. I'd probably go that route to have some air power rather than risk having nothing at all. We've even seen this with cash-strapped mercs, like Avanti's Angels. The novel depicting the Angels in Canopian employ found themselves working with a couple Canopian pilots (government pilots, not mercs), one of them they eventually recruited into the unit, they picked up a couple "old but serviceable Stingrays" to create an aero lance and have some basic fighter support that they added to their roughly battalion-size unit (2 'mech companies and one company of mixed infantry and vehicles). That kind of thing seems pretty normal in the merc world and actually fits nicely with the aforementioned 1:12 formula.
« Last Edit: 29 November 2023, 07:33:43 by Alan Grant »

AlphaMirage

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #2 on: 29 November 2023, 07:10:35 »
I agree with Grant on the House Fighter support bit.

The Bays aren't actually that difficult to change out if you had the appropriate facilities. I think it would take a month if you are cautious for a Leopard or Union.

The trick is though, that adding anything but cargo/quarters might be a little difficult. Aerospace bays don't exactly have ramps to the ground and you'd have to rearrange the interior structure if you want it to be combat deployable. By rules you even have to basically crane a landed fighter or VTOL into a grounded dropship (or risk a difficult VTOL landing). That said adding a crane or slightly enlarging the corridors for cargo duty is probably best.

Daryk

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #3 on: 30 November 2023, 19:52:42 »
For the smaller ships at least, I wouldn't allow swapping ASF cubicles for the 'mech kind.  The dimensions are just that far off...

Cannonshop

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #4 on: 01 December 2023, 00:07:09 »
For the smaller ships at least, I wouldn't allow swapping ASF cubicles for the 'mech kind.  The dimensions are just that far off...

but are they really? or is that bay more than just the landing platform door suggests?  consider that if you're launching into hard vacuum, you might want your launch portion to work like an airlock, and you need space to do maintenance, so the door might just be what's immediately visible.
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Daryk

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #5 on: 01 December 2023, 04:14:29 »
I suppose that could work... the Leopard just looks too small...

PuppyLikesLaserPointers

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #6 on: 01 December 2023, 04:31:00 »
Well, only for the data discuss on the techmanual, I don't see any difference between a mech bay and an ASF bay. But in the reality it would be VERY different, indeed. I do think that the interior and the components are largely same, but the problem is the locations on each bays. It is already a well known fact that the two ASF bays of a leopard has the doors on the location that is not so good to be changed by a mech or vehicle bay, and the broadsword, the alternative model that has five mech bays instead, have the problem for the additional bay that replaces two ASF bays is difficult to use.

Since it's the discuss about refit the existing models, rather than make a whole new one from nothing, it is not so hard to guess that the design of the dropship and the location of the ASF bays in it would be usually optimized for using ASF but is usually not expected to be swapped by a mech or vehicle bay. The change between mech - (ground)vehicle would be very easy, I guess, but while ASF is not required to put its wheels on the ground the mechs and ground vehicles definitely required to do that. If a random dropship isn't the case, then it must be either intended to be swapped for an ASF bay instead as well or it's just lucky.

glitterboy2098

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #7 on: 05 December 2023, 03:20:07 »
in some of the early novels, like Mercenary's Star, we get mention of Leopards being used to move companies of vehicles. in the case of Merc' star, the vehicles were a company of Galleons. it deployed them pretty fast, so under current rules it would have had to have a light vehicle bay for each. though where it found another 300 tons for the extra 3 bays is a bit of a question. (if carrying them as cargo, it would just need to strip it bays for cargo space.. but it would have taken hours to unload)

Warship

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #8 on: 05 December 2023, 15:56:21 »
Probably, this was done quite often.  But, having CAP seems more valuable.  For a 'Merc unit, making sure that dropship is protected is everything.  Eyes in the sky would be wanted to protect that Union.

Daryk

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #9 on: 05 December 2023, 16:06:35 »
It's certainly more valuable tactically, but I imagine the ASFs are the first things sold off to pay the mortgage...

Alan Grant

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #10 on: 05 December 2023, 16:42:45 »
Dunno about that.

You can possibly reduce the size of your ground force and have what's left make up the difference somehow. But having no air cover at all can be both a tactical and strategic disaster. Whether we're talking about air support while on the ground, or trying to get in and out of the system.

Just two enemy heavy ASFs can get behind a Leopard and shoot it down. They'd have the advantage in speed and maneuverability to get into the six-o-clock slot and then they'd just hammer away from there at its weakest armor/weapons and the engines. Without that air cover, the Leopard wouldn't be able to do much about it besides fire the few weapons in arc and get ready to send everyone to the escape pods.
« Last Edit: 05 December 2023, 16:47:31 by Alan Grant »

Daryk

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #11 on: 05 December 2023, 16:46:22 »
A planet will always have more ASF capacity than a DropShip, though.  Unless it's a CV variant, a planet is unlikely to hire a Leopard for air support.

Alan Grant

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #12 on: 05 December 2023, 16:55:27 »
The point simply being, even with all that, to have zero air support is to put a put a LOT of trust in the fact that your Leopard won't run into just 2 ASFs. That's all it takes. Leopards aren't that strong in a fight. You are really rolling the dice and betting it comes up just the way you want it.

But having 2 of your own, now you have a fighting chance and getting through a scrape with just a couple enemy fighters.

Bombing and strafing runs are nice multipliers too.

But I've definitely met players who are quite happy to roll the dice and not use air support at all. So <shrug>

I think we've given the original poster enough information to work from. At the end of the day, he's gonna do... whatever he's gonna do.

« Last Edit: 05 December 2023, 16:58:16 by Alan Grant »

Daryk

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #13 on: 05 December 2023, 17:36:17 »
Agreed!

PuppyLikesLaserPointers

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #14 on: 06 December 2023, 04:32:51 »
Agreed. Have weaker air support means you are not likely to be get the air superiority, but nonetheless having weaker aerospace arm would be far better at protect your dropships than no aerospace arm at all. Maybe two ASFs are not so serious threat, but it's a threat, although weak, and if you want to take down a dropship with those tiny escort units you do need some effort to at least distract those in order to aim for the dropship even if you have superior aerospace force.

idea weenie

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #15 on: 06 December 2023, 23:26:50 »
in some of the early novels, like Mercenary's Star, we get mention of Leopards being used to move companies of vehicles. in the case of Merc' star, the vehicles were a company of Galleons. it deployed them pretty fast, so under current rules it would have had to have a light vehicle bay for each. though where it found another 300 tons for the extra 3 bays is a bit of a question. (if carrying them as cargo, it would just need to strip it bays for cargo space.. but it would have taken hours to unload)

 :huh:  I thought Light Vehicle Bays were 50 tons each?  The Mech and ASF bays together mass 900 tons, so that would be enough for 18 vehicles (minus cargo needs).

glitterboy2098

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #16 on: 06 December 2023, 23:49:42 »
:huh:  I thought Light Vehicle Bays were 50 tons each?  The Mech and ASF bays together mass 900 tons, so that would be enough for 18 vehicles (minus cargo needs).
doh.
you are right.

actually would let you do a light tank transport for 12 vees without sacrificing the fighter bays. which would help explain why said dropship was able to recover the GDL's fighter pilot and her wrecked fighter. (which was why the ship arrived late and those tanks became a "wave 2" in the attack on the Phobos, instead of backing up the mech lance that was also sent.)

Wolf72

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #17 on: 07 December 2023, 20:40:19 »
which is easier and/or cheaper to support? a Mech or an ASF?

I'm thinking the Mech in general for both, but I have no idea what the rpg rules say or describe.
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idea weenie

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #18 on: 07 December 2023, 22:05:33 »
which is easier and/or cheaper to support? a Mech or an ASF?

I'm thinking the Mech in general for both, but I have no idea what the rpg rules say or describe.

Mechs would be easier.  A Mech just needs 1 empty hex outside the Dropship to walk outside, and can also walk itself into the Dropship when needed.  An ASF needs enough clear hexes in a straight line to serve as a runway (unless you want to use VTOL for all of its needs), and to get back on board the Dropship it needs a crane to lift it back on board (or the Dropship to take off and the ASF docks in orbit).

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #19 on: 08 December 2023, 03:39:46 »
I think most merc units would keep the ASF Bay and just store cargo in it than to spend lots of time and money replacing it. They can stack crates where they park the fighter. Keeping the bay allows the mercs to use the ASF bay for fighters in the future. Until they have one they can stack crates of cargo in the bay. Removing it, means they'd have either have to convert back, store fighters as cargo, or hire another dropship to carry them. That's a lot of time and money gone. I think it'd be easier for them to sell or trade their dropship for one that suits their needs.

For those who do choose to swap out ASF Bays, I think what replaces them would depend on the Merc Unit and the Dropship. A unit that specializing in garrison duty may want infantry more than the ASF. It may also be easier to change the bays on some dropships than it is on others. I can't imagine it'd be easy to swap an ASF bay for a Mech bay on a Leopard. It'd need to many structural changes.

Alan Grant

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #20 on: 08 December 2023, 07:32:01 »
which is easier and/or cheaper to support? a Mech or an ASF?

I'm thinking the Mech in general for both, but I have no idea what the rpg rules say or describe.

I don't know of any official rules.

I do recall all the weird frankenmech incidents. Improvised battlefield repairs and so on that leave certain 'mechs wading into battle. I know I've read of incidents where techs slapped the arm of a different 'mech onto a chassis out of sheer necessity. I also think about all the incidents of relatively poor groups with little to no technology having 'mechs.

Perhaps the best representation of how 'mechs are easier to maintain are the desert nomads of Astrokaszy. They literally have no technology at all. They use their few 'mechs, often franken-mechs with pieces of different models of machine slapped together, for battles but also to carry a lot of the tribe's stuff as part of their nomadic existence. Even improvised handboxes and 'mech backpacks to carry livestock. To be clear these machines are in barely working order, but it's interesting that they can exist at all given the lack of support.

By comparison fighters are more fragile, and you can't do a lot of franken-fighter work on one. They are more sophisticated than Formula 1 cars and similarly and require the upmost precision care. You need the right parts and expertise and in some parts of the Battletech universe both are notably harder to come by. I have a harder time picturing the desert nomads of Astrokaszy somehow keeping fighters in working order.

The fighter's relative fragility also gets brought up in FM: Periphery. In the periphery, generally speaking, fighters are rarer. In the periphery ASF production is just less and given the scarcity of replacement airframes and parts, it's just harder to maintain an air force. As I also mentioned, it's also more difficult to franken-fighter your way to an effective fighter force.

Correspondingly FM: Periphery tells us, the impact of a fighter lance appearing overhead is often taken way out of proportion to what they can actually do in battle, in some cases practically signaling victory or defeat based on who's side that air lance belongs to.

The Outworlds Alliance is the obvious anomaly here. But they also chose to devote a lot of resources to ASFs, their pilots, technicians and everything else. Even then FM: Periphery notes that the people of the Outworlds Alliance voted to devote more resources to fighters, partially because they hate BattleMechs (seen as "Inner Sphere tools of hate") but also FM: Periphery tells us they voted that way out of the "mistaken impression that the purchase and care of aerospace fighters was cheaper than that of BattleMechs." (quoting the book)

Last note on this. I honestly think it depends a lot on what part of space you are in. If you are part of a good supply chain of airframes and parts and technicians, it's easier and cheaper relative to some part of space where all of those things are harder to come by. That can be true in parts of the Inner Sphere as well, but the periphery gets called out as the place where its harder to maintain an air force. And in general ASF production tends to be weirdly concentrated onto a few worlds and factories in each realm. Whereas even production of more classic BattleMech designs can be found in more places.
« Last Edit: 08 December 2023, 07:36:58 by Alan Grant »

Daryk

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #21 on: 08 December 2023, 08:17:32 »
The other factor on Astrokaszy is the fact that the states doing weapons testing there don't want snoops... ;)

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #22 on: 08 December 2023, 11:30:18 »
Somewhere line of questions, I've noticed older ships or some designs use small craft days instead of the fighter base. Since the bay capacity is larger for the small craft. I was told sometimes they put light fighters inside those bays. Is that an actual rule or conversion?
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Alan Grant

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #23 on: 08 December 2023, 11:41:25 »
I've always regarded it as ok to put fighters instead small craft bay and I've certainly seem it referenced in fluff alongside TRO data, especially the fluff for jumpships that have a small number of small craft bays. But just 1. So 1 small craft bay can accommodate 1 small craft or 1 ASF of any weight.

The way you worded your question almost made it sound like you were thinking you could put multiple ASFs in there? Based on the way you framed it as light fighters specifically? But I think it's just 1.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, or if there's a rule that says something different.

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #24 on: 08 December 2023, 12:04:11 »
No, it can be done, if for no other reason than Small Craft can be smaller than 100 tons.

Dave Talley

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #25 on: 08 December 2023, 17:07:29 »
I assume you could allow certain small mechs or a quad like the scorpion to use the doors of a leopards aero bay but no drop equipment for the mech inside

As mentioned you could strip and reconfigure to allow 2 or 3 vehicles in each, personally I would prefer 4 vehicles and use the other 100 tons of space for 50 cargo and 50 for enlarged crew accomodations even beyond the minimum covered by the actual bay space
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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #26 on: 11 December 2023, 10:52:39 »
Its important to remember The FM:Mercs is covering some of the most famous, largest, & most popular units.

For every FM:Mercs entry there is a Lance sized unit with Zero fighters, Zero Droppers, Zero Tanks/Infantry, & 1/2 the total Techs needed to actually do maintenance.
They take contracts that provide transport to lesser worlds to provide 4 mechs on garrison in support of the regiment of infantry that the planet can provide.

Think the OG Carlisle's Commandos or Wilson's Hussars & then go down 1 grade on the scale.

Also, true swapping of a bay takes a full shipyard, which many won't be able to get access too.

So as mentioned above, most would likely just put cargo in there & any tank/infantry there would have to be slow loaded & use up more food/water than normal for the trip.
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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #27 on: 11 December 2023, 18:00:50 »
I like to think infantry "bay" quarters can be containerized, to limit the consumption of consumables.

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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #28 on: 11 December 2023, 19:59:01 »
I like to think infantry "bay" quarters can be containerized, to limit the consumption of consumables.

Almost a plug 'n' play option, which is not as easy to do with larger size vehicle+ units?

Although, even though the bays themselves are considered independent, I thought (read or discussed somewhere) that also connected or were part of a larger common area.  So, moving a Mech or ASF from one bay to another was possible internally.  In that case I could see a greater difficulty in modifying the larger bays.
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Re: Swapping fighter bays for other types in the Succession Wars?
« Reply #29 on: 11 December 2023, 21:40:00 »
To be fair, I use three kinds of container: sleeping quarters (full size), heads (full size), and air conditioning (half-size).