The overall background and setting of this question: a mashup of Star Wars and the Freespace video game franchise.
Note: There's a comprehensive reference wiki on Freespace (easily searchable on Google) in case you need to look anything up.
The question: Can you set up a fleet of blockade-runner freighters (Millennium Falcon or similar) so they outperform the equivalent value in single-seat fighters in 95% of sci-fi combat scenarios?
Important background info - The scenario in question uses nonstandard physics common in classic sci-fi fighter squadron combat games:
- Spaceships don't accelerate up to relativistic speeds on sub-light engines like they would in regular space. Instead, they have a maximum speed where acceleration drops down to 0 (similar to air resistance). Consider it similar to fighting in-atmosphere with no gravity.
- Engines are completely electric and require no propellant. For all practical purposes, no one runs out of fuel in the middle of combat. "Afterburners" in that context simply dump inefficient amounts of power into the engines to maximize acceleration and top speed at the cost of overheating or running out of energy.
- Missiles are a lot slower than you would expect. It takes an extremely agile and light missile to have a good chance at hitting an interceptor; anything faster than a heavy assault craft (on full afterburner) could probably outrun or dodge the average missile.
Features of a typical "Millennium Falcon" comparable blockade-runner transport after being combat-modded:
- 2-3 anti-fighter turrets
- Additional forward-fixed primary (energy weapon) mounts in 2 arrays: anti-fighter (for dogfighting) and anti-capital (for hammering large ships when you're out of missiles).
- Cargo space has been thoroughly repurposed. The canonical Millennium Falcon features only a small rack of missiles. For purposes of discussion, militarized blockade runner transports convert all of their cargo bay space into missile launchers or extra powerplants to support better shields and primaries.
- Extremely durable (compared to any single-seat fighter), able to repel a large wing of incoming light fighters on its own and eat the damage. This actually happens in the Star Wars movies, where the Millennium Falcon single-handedly repels a squadron of Imperial fighters.
- Modified for speed and agility. They don't call these "blockade runners" for nothing. Acceleration and speed varies from "superiority/multirole fighter" (X-wing in Star Wars, Myrmidon in Freespace 2) to "just below an interceptor" (A-wing in Star Wars, Perseus/Valkyrie/Horus interceptors in Freespace). Maneuverability is comparable or slightly below a superiority/multirole fighter. While a blockade-running transport has much more mass than a fighter, it has room for a larger engine and powerplant which should make up for it.
- Requires minimum of 2 crew members to operate properly; up to 5-6 recommended.
- Costs several times what a single-seat fighter costs. Credit for credit, a blockade-runner transport is valued the same as a wing (4-6) of single-seat combat craft with similar tech level and tier.
Advantages of canceling the single-seat fighter program and building combat-modded blockade-runner transports instead:
Higher durability per unit with no significant downgrade in speed or agility translates to a steep decrease in lost ships and pilots.
Save money on FTL engines, which don't grow on trees and are probably one of the more expensive pieces. If you're using a swarm of fighters, you either have to cough up money for FTL engines on each one or use a dedicated carrier - neither of which are cheap or economical. Using blockade-runner transports means you can carry the same amount of firepower contained in a wing of fighters on a single FTL engine.
More independent and self-sufficient. A single-seat fighter has no bathroom, which means the pilots would typically have to eat a special diet (or starve) to avoid needing to take a dump. There's no room for eating on a single-seat fighter obviously, which further limits its operational range. Meanwhile: a blockade-runner transport could obviously be stocked with enough supplies to last a week (even if you turn most available cargo space into missile racks), and it has real living quarters and bathrooms. This means you aren't constantly tied to a base or carrier.
Intuitively, facing a swarm of militarized blockade-runner freighters should be a nightmare. They can pack missiles heavy enough to threaten capital ships (anything up to and including a large destroyer) in bulk while being fast and agile enough to dodge much of what those capital ships could fire back with (except perhaps a hitscan beam cannon, which would take out perhaps 1-2 blockade runners before being targeted and disabled).
Sending in fighter wings against the blockade-runners doesn't help much. They have enough defensive power to shrug off energy attacks from a fighter. You might do a lot of damage if you can camp a wing on the transport's tail and continuously hammer it, although good luck with that considering a blockade-runner handling is close to whatever you're sending at it. Blockade-runners are too fast and agile to reliably hit with light anti-capital missiles, but their shields and hull are just heavy enough that it would take numerous anti-fighter missiles to down them.
Another major problem that blockade-runner swarms pose against carrier-fighter tactics: Each blockade runner is able to fend off fighters while focusing fire on capital ships. Typical fighter vs. capital ship and fighter tactics include sending slow heavy fighters with anti-capital ordnance covered by superiority fighters to prevent interception. Using blockade runners eliminates the need for cover, since the turrets already provide that. Interceptors become obsolete, largely unable (short of ramming attacks) to distract the blockade runners from hammering their carriers out of existence.
The question: Are there any major problems with this setup, or do blockade runners become the next superiority fighter, interceptor, strategic heavy assault craft, and bane of the Empire at the same time?
Update - I added a fully worked through example of what a combat-modded Corellian freighter might look like in Freespace 2 with both anti-capital (missile-focused) and heavy assault (primary-focused) configurations. Bear in mind that a militarized freighter would have specs significantly higher than a traditional garage-modified blockade-runner:
- Cargo space fully converted to missile bays on the missile variant; the heavy assault variant converts half of its cargo space into an extra powerplant and the other half into a missile bay.
- 550 hull, 2000 shields. Same hull and over double the shields of the Ursa, the most durable ship available to the player. The combat-modded freighter doesn't have more hull than the Ursa because it needs to minimize weight for agility - in fact, its overall armor is probably lighter and the extra hull strength is attributed to more overall bulk and size. Shields are the big winner, considering you can fit a much larger powerplant. The heavy assault variant would have perhaps 2600 shields (close to triple that of an Ursa), supported by the extra powerplant.
- 2 anti-fighter turrets (1 on top, 1 on bottom), probably Prometheus (Standard) for range and projectile speed with balanced energy cost. Those will cause serious damage to incoming fighters before they get close enough to damage you. The heavy assault (anti-fighter) variant doubles the turrets (2 on top, 2 on bottom) and upgrades them to the higher DPS (more costly) Kayser.
- 2 extremely large secondary slots (each with the maximum 100 loadout space). A fleet of blockade-runners with Trebuchets and Cyclopses becomes more of a blockade-break than a blockade-run. The anti-fighter variant has only 1 large secondary bay, which will probably be loaded with Trebuchets (to help take down large ships) or the more flexible, multirole Tornado swarm missile that provides a good balance of damage and agility.
- Speed and agility profile would be similar to the Myrmidon with slightly lower absolute maximum speeds: average maneuvering and acceleration, max velocity 70 (regular energy allocation) - 80 (fully allocated to engines), maximum afterburner velocity 120.
- Primary loadout: A ring of 6 (anti-fighter) primaries in the center. The missile variant would typically carry something with lower power consumption like Subach or Prometheus (Standard); the anti-fighter variant sports a ring of 6 Kaysers. Additionally, 4 primaries are bolted on the sides and fitted with the Maxim cannon (effective against capital ships).
- Power generation profile: The missile variant will typically have about 10% more primary energy generation than the Ares strategic assault fighter (known for having the best primary energy generation of its type). While a blockade-runner transport has a much larger powerplant than anything you would fit on a fighter, most of the extra power goes to shields and engines on the default configuration. The heavy assault variant (with dual powerplants) fixes this problem, boosting the overall primary regeneration rate to perhaps 130% more than an Ares fighter.