I read on the forums about how the Achilles used to be the best high speed fighter, but it seems that the title has passed on to the Icarus, at least for single laser cannon (non pulse) fighters. So the Icarus seems to be the fastest single laser fighter design at 2.65, while the Achilles is only 2.56 now. It does seem like the Achilles makes a faster rocket based fighter, though I’ve found laser based fighters to be more useful in general. I suppose rocket fighters might be good for killing specialized anti-fighter frigates since they are so fast.
So what are the best torpedo or pulse laser based fighter designs? While these sound interesting, I’ve been having too much fun with laser fighters to experiment much.
You can make a single laser Icarus up to speed 2.68. That makes for a pretty effective dogfighter. The Achillies can get up to 2.58. Set them against each other than the Icarus should come up on top, but in more general fights the Achillies may still be competitive (it has a little more HP.)
For rockets… Just one rocket you can back an Achillies go at 4.40… Two rockets slows it to 2.99. The Icarus does 2.98, but is a little cheaper (but less HP). Rocket fighters are excellent for killing anti-fighter frigates. Not because they are fast… But because fighter rockets are great at eating frigates (but not much else.) Make sure to only issue them starting orders to attack frigates… You’re pretty much wasting time trying to get them to hit fighters, or get past cruiser shields. By the time they’ve killed all the enemy frigates, hopefully there’ll be some cruisers with downed shields for them to move on to.
Torpedo fighters are waaaaaaaay better than I thought at first… They’re very fragile though, you have to plan out your deployment carefully for them to be effective. I tend to use a relatively cheap single torpedo design, either a 1.35 speed Achillies, or a (cheaper) 1.22 speed Icarus. Sometimes I’ll play with a armoured design though, for example a two torpedo, two armour, speed 0.63 Atlantis. Slower speed can actually be better in some deployments (gives you more time for your interceptors and frigates to shut down the enemy anti-fighter defenses.)
It’s a lot of fun to work out ways to defeat challenges using mainly fighters (plus a carrier and perhaps a handfull of very fast anti-fighter frigates to help clear a path for your torpedo bombers.) Most challenges can be beaten like this with under 50% of the cost. Not much point posting up a fighter-only challenge though, since they’re just as easily beaten (tractor beams + interceptors = dead fighter-only fleet.)
Last I checked, disabled armour modules don’t get repaired/rebuilt, which makes armour even less appealing than without a carrier available for repairs. I’m hoping that this’ll change in a future patch, which’d make armour much more competitive again.
I did some pretty exhaustive testing of fighters, when carrier modules first came in (1.22 or 1.23 if I remember right), and at that time speed was far more effective at keeping your ships alive than armour was.
I’m too much of a traveller old-hand (and gearhead in that realm) to like fighters that are faster than ships. Bigger is better from most standpoints, though smaller can be harder to hit. Fighters could turn (and hence laterally accelerate faster) since the pilot can be put at the center of rotation. I think Newtonian, though. With reactionless drives, I suppose all bets are off.
Cruiser repair bays replace fighter armor these days. It was an undocumented change going from 1.22 to 1.23. Basically, all versions of the released game allow fighters to pick up new armor. I tend to use ablative armor when there is a repair bay, to improve the odds that my fighter will get to use the repair bay. If there is no repair bay, then it’s a tough call. Fighter armor is now very light, so it’s just a question of cost.
Heavier fighter armors suffer two problems:
Fighters do not execute the cautious order until they take non-armor damage. So if the armor first absorbs a couple hits then a full laser blast goes to the engine, the armor didn’t really improve the odds of getting to a repair bay!
I haven’t tested if a two-engine design outperforms the ablative armor design in terms of survivability. It probably does, but I believe at a non-trivial increase in total cost to deploy.
Designs should probably be based on the rules of the game, and not (irrelevant) Newtonian daydreaming.
I haven’t played since 1.18, and it appears the hit calc has been changed and huge speed isn’t the protection it used to be. Now that fighters are more characterful between factions, is there any point deploying a fighter-heavy fleet that isn’t rebel?
Fighter heavy? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean that fighters with high speed don’t serve a purpose for other races - even if they’re not as effective in the space-superiority role.
Speedy rocket fighters from all races still have a merry old time with frigates that don’t carry tractor beams, regardless of race.
Dual engine laser fighters still put up enough of a fight so that fast frigates can move in to support them with AA missiles in an fighter slug fest
Torp bombers are still good cruiser botherers
That’s the beauty of this game, everything has an effective counter, and over specialising will result in eventual death against certain fleet compositions - there is no “best build”, only the correct tool for the job.
Fighter heavy fleets burn through a lot of pilots during deployment and can easily be countered by single pilot, tractor beam and AA missile frigates.
…but yeah, the rebel fighters are all like pew pew…