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Let's say that my Verrisirs (see here for more info on them: What factors would allow this caninoid species to evolve successfully? ) have achieved space flight and have developed starfighters. I was wondering how they would develop such starfighters. Now, these fighters are similar to those used in Wing Commander, so there will be some space dogfighting (even though this isn't actually possible but I grew up on Star Wars so eh).

Now, since the Verrisirs are digitigrade, they would have a different seating arrangement than we do:

This is an example of what I'm talking about.

As you can see, the legs are bent a bit to allow their legs room to move, so they can be able to control the pedals and the controls are made to be similar to a bicycle handles, whereas our controls consist of buttons and a joystick (to put it simply). This would mean the controls for a Verrisir fighter to be a bit confusing for a human to control.

Now, the Verrisirs like high-speed thrills, so their fighters would lend towards speed, but they would use lasers and kinetic weapons. They're not stupid though, so they would have missiles and torpedoes, just not a lot.

I thought about the Fulcrum and the Tomcat as an examples, but those are human man fighters. A good example I did find was this: http://acecombat.wikia.com/wiki/CFA-44_Nosferatu

But again, this is human-made fighter.

So, here's my question: what would the fighters of a caninoid species look like in terms of cockpit design and ergonomics and how would they operate?

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  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps this question could be narrowed down to focus on cockpit design and ergonomics for your Verrisirs? That seems to be the gist of what's impacted by who they are... $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay May 7 '17 at 23:35
  • $\begingroup$ Good idea. I'll go ahead and rephrase the question. $\endgroup$ – SCPilot May 7 '17 at 23:38
  • $\begingroup$ BTW -- the MiG-29 is a great example of bad cockpit ergonomics in many, many ways. $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay May 8 '17 at 0:56
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    $\begingroup$ Not to be a total bummer, but if your canids have developed spaceflight, then they should have computers and drones by then too. Even if you posit that space dogfights are possible, there is no reason to specifically include human pilots. From the perspective of modern air warfare, missiles > aircraft; and this has been true since at least the 1970s. This was practically demonstrated in the Yom Kippur War. If there is ever another total war on Earth, fighter aircraft will be no more than expensive coffins for their pilots. $\endgroup$ – kingledion May 8 '17 at 1:01
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Human fighter designs are based on centuries of human equipment design; the instruments are built based on our expectations to sense the world, their location based on our sight lines... even the position of the seat is based on our design as an ape. Throttles, levers, and buttons are all based on our long fingered hands.

The cockpit of a Verrisir space fighter would be completely different than anything remotely human; unless, in the progress of becoming a space-age species they threw away most of the features that make a canid a canid. That's why most games and sci-fi movies that have furry crew people turn them into humans with a few animal features; they still have ape like hands and an ape-like body plan.

So, with this in mind, how would a canid cockpit be like?

Sensors

We apes like big windows, and need all kinds of gadgetry to support our rather pedestrian senses.

One thing you didn't touch on in the description of your species in the other question is their visual ACUITY. Cats and Dogs have better night vision than us, but their resolving capacity is much lower; they're rather nearsighted compared to us and, while they have a slightly wider angle of vision, the angle of vision which is highly resolving is narrower as well.

So what we know is that these canids can see better overall in various light levels, but their resolving capacity is much lower. In addition, their hearing and smell is much better than ours.

As stated in responses to your question, these critters would need some hefty computational capacity to be effective spacefighters as well; they would use computers to augment what they're bad at and utilize what they're good at.

So...

A Verrisir fighter cockpit would be designed in such a way that the Verrisir tends to stand on all four paws, in a pursuit posture. Instead of levers and buttons, the computer uses the relative pressure of each of the four paws and the angles of the ears and tail to "fly by wire" the spacecraft. Instead of big windows, cockpits are entirely enclosed with armor. A repeater screen/vr system is placed within the center of vision to give high fidelity views to the center of vision based on head angle. Around the edges of this viewscreen are "idiot lights;" where color, intensity, and location convey their messages instead of printed characters like apes would use.

To augment the skills already belonging to this species, the tactical computer in the craft plots the location of all detectable objects (spacecraft, planets, asteroids, missiles) in 3D space, and presents an aural image to the canid's ears. Whereas an ape would be flailing their neck around to see an oncoming enemy, your Verrisir would hear it coming. Each signal would be identified by a fingerprint of frequencies, so that your canid doesn't need to look at an object to identify it's location or any other parameters about the object.

(Yes, I just canonized loud spaceship engines in your universe. You're welcome.)

The angle of the Verrisir's ears tell the computer how much information to place on the sound of the object. A planet in the distance may have a ringing sound, or a low frequency rumble which gets louder as you get closer, while an enemy fighter would make a warbling "engine noise," with the parameters of the noise telling you distance, speed, throttle position (maybe by pitch?), and various other parameters. The object being "focused on" by the Verrisir's ears would have all the data overlaid, while perhaps all other objects would only have one or two identifying characteristics.

Note I'm not saying that the computer is rambling off facts and figures. I'm saying the computer simulates high-tech "prey" noises; the Verrisir is tracking the noise in space.

Olfactory "hallucinations" would be part of the sensor package; each object would "smell" like the pilot flying the ship for identification; enemies would "smell like" enemies, gas giants would "smell like" the gasses that make up the atmosphere, etc. Again, while an ape would be squinting at a screen to read labels or yelling at their android copilot to repeat the information, a Verrisir identifies make and model of the craft by sound, identifies it's location by the "location" of the sound around it's head, and identifies the pilot by smell.

A human would likely never successfully pilot this ship. We're not equipped with any of the right appendages at the right angles to fit into the void within the ship, and all the sensors are tuned to a predator with great sound and olfactory senses, but lacking our precise visual acuity. Should we find a way to jam ourselves into one, it would be a smelly, loud experience overwelming our brains with nonsense information which, in the mind of a Verrisir, feels right at home running on their planet and chasing down prey.

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  • $\begingroup$ LIDAR type detection system, but sensitive enough to pick up the vibrations in the hulls of surrounding ships and transmit this back as a 3D sound model in the fighter cockpit. Avoid transmitting sound through space, just simulate it. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix May 10 '17 at 11:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix, I was actually thinking that the sounds would be simulated by the spacecraft computer, not actual sound going through space. The "loud spaceship engines" were more a dig at standard presentations in media of loud ships in space than an actual statement of sound travelling through a vacuum. I know I've read before, other people discussing the "sounds" of ships in space being simulated for the benefit of pilots; I think it actually makes even more sense for canids who depend on smell and sound for tracking. $\endgroup$ – Zoey Boles May 12 '17 at 2:32
  • $\begingroup$ Awesome answer! My only concern would be how you keep from running out of olfactory indicators; do you have a good enough enviro plant to separate them back out for reuse? The nice thing about light and sound is they are fairly cheap to produce their only "consumable" being energy. (OTOH, dealing with the endurance limits of the olfactory system might make for an interesting plot point... suddenly your hero is trying to fight with half his indicators not working...) $\endgroup$ – Matthew Oct 11 at 15:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Matthew, good thought. I would suggest that the olfactory system would be intentionally activated, not ambient. By which I mean your Verrisir pilot would "sniff the butt" of another ship intentionally and get a squirt of the right smell. Sniff the planet, get at least a "breathable/dangerous" result. So small squirts of simple smells. Since this is the future, we could also imagine a "nose implant" that stimulates the olfactory nerves without actually releasing chemicals to the air. The idea is to leverage a sensory system that Verrisir pilots have that apes don't. $\endgroup$ – Zoey Boles Nov 9 at 4:36
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I'd do things differently. seats are terrible for starfighters. Human designs assume 2 usable limbs and being seated is actually not that good as far as gforces go

While humans haven't really gone for prone positions in aircraft, it makes a lot of sense for a species that's fine being on all 4s

enter image description here

So essentially a well supported, strapped in prone pilot, taking advantage of those digigrade legs and front paws to pilot the aircraft almost like a bike. It might also make sense to 'loosely' strap down the pilot and use their whole body movements (tilting to roll) to control the aircraft.

In babylon 5, the niall class fighters used a prone pilot position

I'd also consider overall tactics - rather than going for larger, air superiority fighters, something with similar design philosophies to a star fury or the classic tie fighter. Relatively small, fast craft working in large numbers, rather than large ones (and both the fulcrum and tomcat are fairly large). Think aircraft more similar to the f16 or better yet the Folland Gnat

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  • $\begingroup$ Not to mention that tails would be a pain in the butt (pun intended) for a canid trying to sit like we humans do. $\endgroup$ – Falc May 10 '17 at 9:26
  • $\begingroup$ .... I kinda forgot about the tail, tho my system would work great here. Edited my image $\endgroup$ – Journeyman Geek May 10 '17 at 9:26
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    $\begingroup$ A stretched-out and relaxed human has his eyes oriented orthogonal to their spine. A dog has them inline. (sorry for my lack of correct english terminology here). That means your caninoids, in order to use this design without having an aching neck after a short time will need to have preserved their four-legged gait, at least a lot of the time. $\endgroup$ – Burki May 10 '17 at 13:52

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