The science fiction militaries of my latest project field large numbers of space faring battleship style capital ships.
Historical, combat formations have been dictated by the capabilities of the combatants: classical century infantry had limited mobility and range, so dense lines and blocks of troops were commonplace. Sailships used lines astern effectively focus the side mounted weapons of all the ships in combat. Modern armour is highly mobile and faces hard hitting weapons, so irregularly disperses its units to minimize the effect of hostile fire and facilitate rapid maneuvering.
What formations may be used in stellar combat where capital ships face attack from any direction with little to no forewarning, can take significant amounts of damage before going down, and can rapidly bring fire to bear on any vector?
Details of the scenario
Faster than light travel is readily available to all ships, but ships can neither fire from nor reliably detect targets at FTL speeds.
The battleships' primary role is to blaze away at other big ships from the longest possible range they can reliably hit their target. The battleships' weapons and sensor packages can be considered extremely precise, and the main cause of missed shots is that the propagation of weapon bolts (shall we just call them lasers for now?) are limited to the relativistic constant, c, which permits target ships to take evasive maneuvers. This puts a soft limit on effective range based on the target maneuverability.
A typical range for battleship combat is 300,000 km, but battles that relied on volume of fire, or luck, have been fought at ranges an order of magnitude higher.
Guided missiles and combat drones are frequently used to fight from ranges into several billion kilometers, but they're often rendered ineffective by the close range point defense weapons of capital ships.
More agile battlecruiser-cavalry style capital ships attempt to engage other capitals at point blank range to create and exploit breakthroughs, strike high value targets, and cause confusion. The battlecruisers carry dramatically more powerful weapons that are, inherently, limited to close ranges.
Capital ships are usually accompanied by smaller, less resilient escorts escorts which perform more specialized roles.
Thanks for you help, all you armchair generals out there!
Thanks for the help so far.
Here are the requested clarifications:
- FTL in this universe can only be used to relocate, and renders the ship undetectable. FTL ships cannot fire nor be fired upon.
- Point defense weapons are cheap and can be used whenever unnecessary without blowing the budget.
- I'm going with anti-gemoetry weapons for the main battery; point defenses and close ins vary from ship to ship: Lasers, masers, mini-missiles, gravity-flank, and projectiles all appear in places
- FTL systems can be brought to readiness in under a minute, sometimes a lot less.
- Because of the ready availability of FTL, and that FTL travel co-incidentally renders the ship undetectable, units can rapidly deploy onto any attack vector, hence why little warning of attacks are available. Most combat is started by smaller groups as bait.
- FTL can be used in combat for a convenient escape or re-positioning.
- Crews are usually sentient AIs, hence a (ballpark) "one second at the speed of light" safe reaction time. The AIs have approaching equal rights, so generally aren't used in suicide attacks. Lone human pilots (even in capital ships) appear, but have AI copilots.