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I'm developing a game right now focused on starfighter based combat where the character is a pilot of said starfighters. I had intended for bombers to be surgical strike craft, taking out weak points that would otherwise be out of view for opposing capital ships. Fighters would then serve as escort or interception for/against bombers.

The big advantage I see to the starfighters and bombers currently designed for the setting are that a great number of them are made for both atmospheric and space combat (some [expensive] models are even capable of re-entry on their own.) They could essentially double as atmospheric fighters in the case of planetary landing.

In reality, I'm certain they would be easily picked off by point defenses alone. Most likely a high power laser that could vaporize most of the fighter before they could even get a good visual on their target.

So, I wanted to turn here for suggestions on making starfighters a more viable while keeping it mostly realistic and get thoughts on the solutions I've thought of. What are some other realistic means of countering, or at least reducing the effectiveness of point defenses?

Solution one - Laser-resistant armor:

A new technology or alloy has rendered the most effective forms of point defense useless against fighters, forcing them to use less reliable means. I don't want to have them jam tracking systems, but maybe their hulls are layered with something that is resistant/reflective to high power light-based weapons such as lasers. And more powerful, larger, lasers that could overpower that defense become too hard to turn quick enough to track. I feel it is a weak option as other point defense systems could easily take their place.

Solution two - Situational use

Another thought was creating scenarios where ships have to fight in close proximity where fighters might shine. The only reason I can think to force capital ships into close quarters would be for the sake of capturing stations and other points of interest that require boarding, but I'm not sure about putting that in every battle. I could see fighters being reserved for exactly those battles and being left in hangar in long range engagements (which from a gameplay standpoint sucks a little bit of variety out of the game, unfortunately.)

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    $\begingroup$ The only thing I see in here which resembles a question is your statement that you are seeking "thought on the solutions I've thought of". Can you edit the question to be more specific, such that there is a specific question to which we can provide an actual answer rather than merely opinions? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jun 13 '17 at 21:07
  • $\begingroup$ Other than what @MichaelKjörling already said: What is preventing any bigger ship from creating a shield made from shrapnel? They'll most likely be in any given orbit, so a shield/shell/bubble will just travel with them :/ $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jun 13 '17 at 21:10
  • $\begingroup$ I'm rewording it now. I kind of rushed my post. $\endgroup$ – Arvex Jun 13 '17 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ The Honorverse book series had three defenses for light attack craft - the small size of the craft against the aiming resolution of the capital craft's lasers, the the limited distance of said lasers, and the "impenetrable" gravity bands that provided locomotion. That gravity band was not only impenetrable by weapons, but also provided an uncertainty on the actual location of the ship. The last one - uncertainty around the exact location of the ship - seems the best defense. $\endgroup$ – Mark Roberts Jun 14 '17 at 5:52
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Drone Command Center

I think the most realistic role for a fighter craft in a science fiction setting would be as the command center of a small swarm of drones. We even see this development today in the F35. ( http://thediplomat.com/2015/05/will-f-35-pilots-command-a-swarm-of-drones-in-flight/ ) It is more economical to field 1 sophisticated fighter and just connect it to other more expandable and specialized platforms that can carry out scouting; or even the attacks themselves.

These drones are much better fitted to run up against point-defense lasers and can carry out your suicidal but highly effective surgical strikes. Jamming and electronic warfare means that the mothership will be unable to maintain a connection to her drones in the thick of battle.

To keep the story interesting you can obviously make sure that your fighter is armed. Maybe it even looks exactly like all the other drones in the swarm and takes part in the attacks so that the enemy has no other choice then to target the drones and your fighter equally, even though taking out the fighter would neutralize the rest of the swarm.

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  • $\begingroup$ I do like that idea. I already have one faction written to use primarily drone squadrons led by human pilots, so I can retool them to behave more like that. Have them fly identical fighter models so the lead fighter isn't easily identified. $\endgroup$ – Arvex Jun 13 '17 at 21:44
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Laserproof enter image description here

Resistant / reflective is fine but transparent would be cool. The lasers would go right through. The pilot poses a problem and so maybe it could be only the pilot who wears reflective armor. enter image description here source

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think making the internal components of the ship transparent would be feasible. $\endgroup$ – Arvex Jun 14 '17 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Arvex - feasible, no. Cool, yes. $\endgroup$ – Megha Jun 15 '17 at 1:27

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