The State of Fighter Design

In a rocket/painter setup my testing shows that it is marginally better to have the rocket fighters stick together but not the painters. This makes sense to me since it doesn’t seem like there would be any advantage to having a whole squadron paint a single target, but having a bunch of rockets aimed at a single target can be a good thing. The ratio of painters to rockets as well as the relative value of rocket/painter combos vs. laser varies with the number of fighters. rocket/painters work best with large numbers of fighters. Fewer fighters would require a higher ratio of painters to rockets. If there are only a few squadrons then lasers can outfight rocket/painters.

Agreed; you really need to double down and invest in swarms of the things to ensure that there are always rockets and there are always painted targets.

although most of what the original post said seems to be true, it doesn’t all seem to be the best way to do things. like i never use anything but fighter lasers on my fighters and always use fighters for there ability to do a lot of damage quickly not for there ability to distract stuff. even my bombers have lasers, they just have 2 instead of the fighters 1 and are using the rebel fighter hull that has 5 slots. i find rockets to be normally worthless although sometimes devastating, and torpedos and pulse lasers to both be a waste.

my bombers with 1 level ?(i cant remember) fighter engine, 1 level 3 generator, 1 ablative armor and 2 fighter lasses, set to attack frigates from the closest range possible can easily destroy even heavily armored cruisers, the only reason i need fighters is these bombers go slightly too slow so can be easily killed by enemy fighters, though still fast enough to avoid enemy cruisers and frigates weaponry. so fighters hulls do have other uses than distracting things and killing fighters.

It seems like there’s a lot more diversity of opinion on design and use of fighters than I had assumed at first. They are the simplest ships, and a large percentage of their modules and hulls are blatantly uncompetitive, so this surprises me.

I see that nobody has stepped up to defend:

-Fighter torpedoes
-Any Order fighter besides the acolyte, especially the one with the goofy 3.31 power
-The Tribe sunset fighter
-Any Empire fighter besides the Phalanx

I conclude that all of the above are useless. Yurch points out that pulse lasers are effective against tribe ships, and Mrblitz has fairly credible evidence for the effectiveness of target painters. Just play one of his challenges. Incidentally, I beat one of his large and evil Tribe fleets using mostly pulse laser equipped Achilles. Learning FTW.

Conclusions drawn: Goofy equipment can be made to work given a sufficiently devious mind. The very high DPS of the pulse laser and the very impressive force multiplier provided by the painter can be made effective in certain situations. Underperforming equipment, which offers no benefits over other options, or which has crippling flaws, cannot be redeemed.

It seems that in general, the best regarded hulls are those with high installed power or a speed boost. Double weapons slots are nice on occasion for dedicated anti-cruiser strafing designs, but these are very situational and don’t always open up lots of viable options. It’s impossible, for instance, to have double lasers on the Federation leopard fighter and have it still be able to move.

Fighter survivability seems to be the key to cost effectiveness, and for that reason a lot of people are advocating single rocket, single engine fighters. The cheapest way to achieve good fighter survivability is to make them stupid fast. Happily, every race can field perfectly viable cheap “rocket jockey” designs of this sort. 12/12 armor/shield penetration makes these designs dangerous to frigates, but not to cruisers unless they have shields down. Hitting other fighters in the 3+ speed band appears to be quite difficult, and either calls for dedicated anti-fighter weapon suites or for cruisers which can ignore the little speed demons and complete their mission.

Laser designs are a little more complicated, and not all races can field very good ones. A surprising number of people advocate double laser designs for cruiser strafing in lieu of torpedo designs, as these might actually live for more than one pass and actually inflict better DPS. Given that it’s easy to armor a cruiser beyond 8 and thus be immune to these fairly expensive and fragile designs, I’m regarding this as a situational design rather than a general one.

Quirks of the fighter design panoply as it exists now, which might be profitably altered by modders or future developments are:

-The wide gap in power consumption between the rocket (.1) and the laser (4)
-The lack of any fighter weapons with good shield penetration or good armor penetration. I’m not counting the torpedo; that’s not a weapon, that’s something you use to punish insubordinate squadrons
-The general lack of fractional power consumption values on modules when the design process frequently generates decimals
-The weird thrust/weight slope that has higher-rated engines producing lower thrust to weight ratios, and doubly so when you factor in their inefficient power usage!

Quirks of fighter deployment and AI with significant consequences to use include:

-Tunnel vision/ADD which compels torpedo bomber pilots to waste ammo on passing fighters or continue to spar with enemy fighters when there are cruisers below them that just lost shields
-Unstoppable compulsion to pull in close to enemy cruisers’ tractor beam range
-Inability to fire rockets from within cruiser shield bubbles

Well, conceivably, the torpedo has a niche role against isolated, unshielded, armored targets between 12-50 armor. It could happen!

Generally, the speed to watch out for is 2.00 speed. Going slower then that not only means increasing vulnerabilities to standard AA weapons, but new exposure to the powerhouse weapon that is the ion cannon. Any fighter below that speed better be going up against cruisers only.

I have been experimenting with Torpedo Bombers, and they have very situational uses.

In order to work, they need A. No fighters nearby, either because they are all dead or because they are somewhere else, and B. Another (faster) Fighter Squadron to serve as targets.

I tried two Federation Leopard Fighter Squads with Torpedo, Painter, Armour 3 and Engine (III, I think, maybe 2) and two with Torpedo, Laser, Power and Engine (almost certainly II).

As long as they are targeting cruisers they will absolutely eat them up. Brutally. The armoured ones obviously survive longer against stray shots but I imagine the Fighter-Bomber type puts out a lot more damage due to the target painter on the other ships.

Unfortunately if any squad strays out of the group a bit and starts getting shot at exclusively by enemy frigates or fighters, they will be toast in relatively short order. The chances of this get higher as the level progresses, as the bombers (squads, not individual ships) tend to split up from one another

I also tried a dual torpedo but that didn’t last very long even if someone else was being shot at it seemed :slight_smile:

So, Torpedo Bombers have a niche use that as long as they are not being shot at, they are great against cruisers.

I’ve never flown multilaser fighters, but if you think more than 8 armor makes your cruisers immune to laser fighters, there’s a savage mauling with your name on it. Many fleets have weak enough antifighter defenses that laser fighters can survive to chew through quite thick armor. You can tear through a surprising number of challenges that way.

Does anyone know how the armor penetration calculation works?

Keeping in mind that any weapon has a 2% chance of hitting, just how weak would your anti-fighter defenses have to be that a swarm of laser fighters could kill you through thick armor before you could kill them?

Re: Torpedoes

I’ve had a similar experience where there was a challenge with a bunch of identical enemy cruisers with no engines and very little anti-fighter armament to speak of. Torpedo bombers killed them all with only 30% losses. I considered such a situation too contrived to really count for anything though.

Armor has a ‘critical’ bypass (much like lucky hits on fast targets) where a small percentage of hits will simply damage the armor as if they had penetrated.

Armor resistance is a function of the original resistance and the condition of the armor. As it degrades, the resistance value drops.

A large mass of fighters can focus a considerable amount of damage onto a cruiser, and they only have to wear armor down to the 8 armor threshold before they start penetrating with every hit.

A repair module can be used to delay this.

Only a few weapon systems can kill reasonably fast fighters at all quickly. And a lot of things that can hit them leave them a decent chance to run away to a carrier for repair. Put it together, and you can keep the swarming on for many minutes, and the critical erosion eventually hits breakpoint.

Tractor beams may be a semi-hard counter. They seem to drastically raise the loss rate, and being cruiser-mounted rules out killing them fast to stop them.

I’m still equivocal about the idea of masses of laser fighters being a serious menace to cruisers. They really have to stick to it for a while, and really have to hope nobody brought tractor beams or suchlike to the party.

This would be race-dependent though. Empire and Tribe fleets have to worry about fighters more than the Alliance does, for instance.

I will agree that with AA features in play, the effectiveness of laser fighter swarms is a bit stunted. But if you really want proof that they can shred a cruiser like piranhas, you can try them against a practice dummy (I built an Empire cruiser with substantial shields and armor, plus a small amount of offensive non-AA weaponry) with some frigates or cruisers as backup. if you set their engagement distance for cruisers to the minimum, you will find that they are capable of wiping out the target before the larger ships get in range. The Stick Together order works especially well, focusing the whole squadron’s damage in a single slug.

I find myself using primarily laser fighters rather than rocket fighters at the moment because they can dogfight and harry larger ships as well.

yea, i’ve shredded over half the stock maps using laser fighters. just one laser and engines. get a speed of >3 and low min range means they kill enemy fighters (slower) and then nip the cruisers like a bad terrier.

There’s also the option of stapling laser fighters to your forward attack cruisers. Most of the concerns about armor and shields go away once there is a cruiser nearby to strip defenses away.

At that point having even a few fighters is like having another active cruiser laser in the fight in terms of raw damage output.

Dumb question I think, but does this mean having a squadron of, say 12 rocket fighters and 4 painter fighters, and then putting them in a formation together? That’s what I’ve been doing. Or does this mean having the painters Escort the Rocket fighters, or maybe Coordinate? Or should I be doing something else?

There’s no good way to get separate fighter squad/entities to escort or formation with each other.

The best way is either to try to get them to engage the same general targets or tether them to a frigate or cruiser with the ‘escort’ order. You’ll probably have more luck with the latter.

I don’t really like using single-rocket fighters in my air defense solutions, personally, although there are some odd benefits like fighter rockets distracting point defenses.

Okay, thanks Yurch. I’m actually going to give your painter fighters with AA Missile Frigates suggestion from that fighter repellant thread a try when I get home tonight.

I actually find Tribe fleets to often pose problems for laser-swarms, because their repair-based survivability can often have more endurance than armor-based, and because they seem to more often be equipped with decent anti-fighter weaponry. Alliance-based fleets, on the other hand, often more than make up for their armor tanking with inadequate defensive armament. When your payload is anti-cruiser missile systems and plasma launchers, you might as well be unarmed as far as fighters are concerned.

I noticed that sometimes I can very easily distract opposing fleet with the fighters. I just place fastest fighters on one part of the map, main fleet on other part of the map, and often the fighters will occupy several cruisers, frigates and fighters until your main fleet clears the path.
Not so easy on impossible, but still something can be gained. So I often use them more as a distraction to keep my main fleet alive, then as a damage dealers. It’s just important that they are very fast so that they dont die too soon.

Edyai mission only with fighters.
Tried to use rebel achiles with 2 rocket launchers and 1 ablative armour vs. achiles with 1 rocket launcher and 2 ablative armours.

To my surprise, variant with only 1 rocket launcher was MUCH more effective, ending with 41:16%. While other combo was on even grounds with the opponent to the end.

I am gonna experiment some more with heavily armored fighters.