When accepting a challenge off of the challenge board, if the opposing fleet has no fighters, my first inclination is to also go with no fighters.
The reason for this is that, their frigate/cruiser configuration could be fighter-deadly. If I go with no fighters, there’s a chance that the opponent has wasted some resources in defending against non-existent fighters.
On the other hand, some of these fighterless fleets are wide open to laser or rocket fighter attack, and not going with the fighters could make an easy win difficult.
Always, on the 2nd time around on a challenge, one is more aware of what the opponent is deploying, fighter-wise. The trick is in making a good fighter decision on the first challenge attempt.
If I’m presenting a challenge to the board, more often than not my own fighters will be for fighter superiority, and in an escort role. It’s dicey setting a large fighter force out there, without escort orders, and having it automatically thrown into the fray, and chewed up versus a challengee.
You could leave a fighter force untethered (no escort orders), and have it set to attack frigates, or attack fighters, and it will get lucky in some battles, not so much in others.
Again, when presenting a challenge does it have any chance of defeating the opponent on the opening try?
The key is whether your fighters can win, on either side of the challenge; that crucial first matchup. Winning on the 2nd or 3rd try is not important.