Well - now that I’ve figured out how to challenge myself I’ve answered my own questions pretty much - but not detail.
The 2.23 speed fighter with Fighter Armor III murders the 2.56 speed fighter with no armor every time. I tested this around 10 times with Achilles fighters. Clear victories for the fighters sporting Armor III.
What is also interesting is I tested 2.23 fighters with Fighter Armor III against 2.05 speed nomad fighters using dog fighting lasers, and the nomad got massacred. Whether I had the nomads with Armor III, or no Armor at all, it had a near zero affect on the results.
Big Fat Disclaimer: This is of course, a strictly pilot/cost limit test. If pilots were not the issue, I have no doubt that the 2.56 speed fighters at around 30 less per fighter, would make up for it. Specifically, in very large engagements (where it would be 4:3 odds… so around 400 vs 300)
I have no clue why the pulse laser is supposed to be better. It seems extremely marginal, especially considering its higher power cost and LOWER penetration values. It does do a bit more damage at the same fire rate. It also might have a faster projectile (not sure if this helps or not).
As for armor, fighters usually have pretty bad hull values. A single Fighter 3 armor will increase its health almost 50% or more. More importantly, when a fighter DOES eat a stray shot or two, its better to have armor take the hit and leave your systems intact. Eating an engine hit is pretty much game-over.
As you mention the speed hit is relatively minor and the major problem is that armor is so freaking expensive.
I believe the hit formula is somehthing like: (Speed of Target / Speed of Tracking Weapon)*100% = the speed portion of the equation. This is only for targets SLOWER than the tracking speed of the weapon. Otherwise, it CANNOT HIT except for a 3% (or 2% i forgot) lucky shot chance.
Note that the size of the craft matters too. It is basically (Size of Craft / 256)*100% (cannot go over 1 I believe). Both the Speed factor and Size Factors have a 50% weight (i.e. divide each by 1/2 and add em both together).
For fun testing, try a 2.7 speed fighter with armor, vs a 2.9+ish speed fighter with no armor and see what that does for ya. In theory, the 2.9 will be all but unhittable by the 2.7 fighter, whereas the 2.7 will have about a 55% chance to hit, based on speed-factor alone.
Pulse laser deals a lot more DPS vs “unarmored cruisers”, which is the only reason to ever put lasers on fighters to begin with. Stick to dual rockets/painter for all other purpose, unless you are Tribe.
Dogfighter laser, or nomad fighters in general, is crap. You really shouldn’t worry about winning dogfights if you are not Tribe, Rebel, or Swarm.
Armor is pointless on fighters because you will be so slow you die to cruiser pulse lasers. So they are just a big waste of credits.
Armor has two really big drawbacks. First the slowing down of your ship and secondly the increased price.
Speed is pretty important and if you go from 3.0 to 2.7 due to armor you have totally hozed yourself since you were getting hit 2% of the time, and now youre probably closer to 5% (assuming about a 50% speed hit rate and 10% size rate). That is a HUGE difference.
Going from 2.8 to 2.6 also is reasonably significant as a 2.8 tracking weapon goes from a 50% hit rate (speed aspect) to a 55% rate… i.e. you get hit 10% more often basically.
So the loss of speed from armor is really only negligable for final speeds above 2.8ish, where most weapons cannot even track you, thus the same 2% hit rate.
Secondly, a fighter will be an engine, gun and little else, leading to low costs. Even adding +30 to the cost means you are getting a lot less fighters for the credits!
Going from 90 to 120 means that 10800 credits buys you 90 expensive fighters vs 120 cheaper ones. Thats a big difference.
Especialy when you consider that armor only increases your effective hit points by a relatively low percentage. Sure the ablative ones are super light, but 7.5 armor out of 50 health isn’t much of an increase, considering the 30% cost premium.
Remember, fighters will NEVER EVER have enough armor to repel anything (which is one of the primary benefits of armor on cruisers and even frigates…stuff bounces off with no effect).
No, I am saying armored fighters are so slow they will be blast apart by cruiser pulse laser like super easy.
Fighter can only dodge those big mean cruiser pulse laser, they have no chance trying to tank them. And pretty much all the higher end online challenges will be pack with those pulse lasers and escort fighters.