So in the sci.fi world I am currently building, I am trying for a fairly technical approach to space combat. Movement is cumbersome and you're strafing more so than performing maneuvers that aren't really possible in a vacuum. Larger ships are much slower since you're fully reliant on thrust to turn and you probably won't want to have a main engine facing in every direction (though that is an interesting thought to play with...) Space combat is a fairly long-distance affair (compared to modern ground/naval combat anyway), get too close to the target you're blasting and you risk collision with debris at critical velocities, etc.
It is also important to note that I have "shields", in the form of unstable Alcubierre warp bubbles which, rather than producing a coherent bubble, just creates a field of unstable/oscillating spacetime around your ship whose tidal forces can, at least to a certain extent, bend lasers and tear apart projectiles. It's a bit random though so of course ships carry varying degrees of armor as an extra layer of defense.
In such a setting, I am wondering what kind of weaponry would be the most sensible to carry on your spacecraft?
The primary types of weapons I am looking at are
- Conventional ballistic weapons
- EM-accelerated weapons (rail/coilguns)
- Self-propelled weapons
- EMR weapons (lasers)
- Particle weapons
Conventional ballistic weapons
Probably not the most convenient in space. May still be used for handheld weapons but the velocities and distances at which space combat happen make these a bit tricky to use. Gunpowder-based weapons probably won't fire well in a vacuum anyway, as far as I see it
Electromagnetically-accelerated weapons are probably fairly convenient. You fire them electrically, the payload need not that large and can be a simple ball of metal (the kinetic impact itself is fairly heft), and, for coilguns especially, there's not a lot of wear and tear. You can, as far as I understand it, achieve really impressive speeds, especially if you build a two kilometer long weapon. I imagine capital ships are, very simply put, just massive coilguns with ships attached to them and your main objective in space combat is to maneuver your ship/main gun into position safely and have it blast down stuff. Not sure if the speeds at which a coilgun fire can penetrate a warp shield well. Another idea is to have them fire plasma shells, going for burning rather than punching a hole in.
Self propelled weapons
By which I mean rockets and the like. Like conventional kinetic weaponry, probably a bit difficult to use efficiently at long distances, easy to shoot down etc. Can possibly attach small warp drives to them if warp drive miniaturization has come far enough (and production is cheap enough) that you can slap a drive to a torpedo and send it on its merry way; the spacetime distortion of a warp bubble should do significant damage to enemy hulls (and warp torpedoes may very well be able to penetrate warp shields with one of their own?). The question of whether the warp drive is pinpoint enough is also a problem.
Space is vast and it's pretty hard to observe everything, especially if it doesn't actually give off heat signatures or other such radiation. It's quite possible that mines can be potent; jettison them off in the direction of an enemy craft's flight path (or litter the area around space stations/common atmospheric entry locations with them) and mayhem ensures. It may be a good way to deter people chasing you.
Accurate, instant (unless you are fighting at a distance measurable in light seconds) and quite possibly lethal to spacecraft, though it might not pack the heaviest punch; maybe sufficient thermal armor might stop a laser from burning through a hull. Lasers are probably also really good at point defense; they can easily blast down incoming missiles, can be turret mounted to offer a wide firing arc to deal with pesky maneuverable craft and drones, and so on.
Imagine a particle accelerator, only you direct the particles at your enemies. It should in theory work really well and there's a lot of kinetic energy carried.
Not a different "weapon" per se, but small unmanned drones equipped with any of the other weapons can fly in swarms to try and overwhelm enemy crafts' defenses with a quantity over quality approach, they can carry signal interference to disrupt communications, and may be more viable users of plasma weaponry to burn through hulls.
I'm mostly just assuming how things will work and there's a lot of conjecture, so I'm very interested in hearing exactly what kinds of weapons are good, and how they would be good, in a space warfare setting. How exactly do lasers impact their targets and are particle weapons better at this? Do particle weapons have to deal with cooldown like lasers? Are there significant drawbacks to coilguns (apart from being dodgeable at long distances)? And, relevant for my setting specifically, will a projectile traveling at fast enough speeds survive a strong tidal force (warp shields) better (since it'd technically be affected by it for a shorter period of time)? Are there other kinds of space-based weapons I have not considered?