It's 20 years into the future, and humanity is (trying to) reaching for the stars. And congratulation, we have met a lot of quirky alien civilization, as per SF tradition. Unfortunately, this isn't Star Trek, so conflicts do happen. Luckily, this isn't 40k either, so none of the star-faring nations are going for total war here. So long as human ships can prove themselves capable of fighting in a skirmish, the media (human and alien alike) is going to blow it up to the point everyone thinks we can handle a space war, and ironically, no full-scale war is going to happen.
The problem, of course, is that the majority of alien crafts are protected using energy shields, which render many types of weapon inefficient, however. As far as that future scientific understanding goes, the best way to beat them is with a large dose of neutron radiation to penetrate and destroy the shield mechanism underneath, which weapons would be the best to do so?
We are assuming that with futuristic technologies, anything modern piece of technology on Earth can be mass-produced reliably, at record-level performance, in space. The neutron source is standardized, the same amount of reaction material create the same impulse of radiation, regardless of weapon. Costs, weight, and other factors will be considered, but only as secondary, after 2 main criteria:
- Damage: The amount of radiation delivered to the target
- Combat usability: How good that bundle of radiation is at getting to a moving (though still limited to dogfight combat speed, since the enemy also want to shoot, too, and their targeting system is not noticeably better than ours) target in space
The 2 ideas I have in mind are missiles and beam weapons. Of the 2, missiles with neutron bomb warheads seem like it should do more damage (it is a modern weapon, after all), but also seem a little bit too easy to counter (speed, point-defense weapon, etc.). Whereas it is impossible to dodge a neutron beam, but people keep them in labs, and not battlefields for a reason, right? Is there any other way to deliver radiation accurately to a distant spot in a vacuum?