Not an issue in space, since targets can't dodge or maneuver except by thrusting, and that's going to be slow... you're not going to miss as long as you can acquire a target, and there will never be any dogfighting. it's an issue in planetary combat though, and that is quite different.macfluffers wrote:There are things a plane (or starfighter I suppose, but I'll just call them planes for simplicity) can do that a missile can't. If a missile misses it's target, well, it can't try again. Let's not forget that planes generally only have a handful of missiles--dogfights usually come down to guns. If you simply fire a couple G to A missiles at an enemy fighter, he'll dodge most of them and release chaff and flares for the few he can't.
Again, not an issue in space. There are thermobaric/FAE explosives and cluster bombs to strike large areas, though.Also, what about situations where explosions are excessive or unnecessary? Sometimes attackers will have to lay down weapons fire over a large area to weed out enemies who are hiding (infantry and armor often do the actually attacking after that), and they don't do it with missiles because that's dumb. Again, they use their guns, not their bombs or missiles. Guns cause less infrastructure damage, and missiles can only be used against a single target. There are other problems to consider such as accidental collateral damage and risk factor, both of which are greater for explosive weapons. Guns may be less showy, but there's a reason we don't hand out grenade launchers to every soldier.
Guns work in a vacuum too, better than they do in atmosphere. But, they're less likely to be 20mm autocannon and more likely to be on the lines of the 16" naval gun... again, in space you're not likely to miss because targets can't really dodge, and they can't hide either.
You could also launch missiles with different warheads, or even ones that can be changed in-flight for different targets (these exist!), but in general you'd have a good idea of what you'd need beforehand.And lastly, a plane can have a modular loadout. In addition to their guns, they can have normal bombs, fuel air bombs, rockets, a whole large selection of missiles, bomb dispensers, napalm bombs, etc. What's important about this is that they can mix and match if they need to. Yeah, you can just shoot multiple missiles from the base, but a pilot can bring different weapons to a fight and use them the moment they're needed rather than wait to see which missiles need to be launched, fire those missiles from the base, and then wait for the missiles to find their way to the targets.
Horses also have an advantage over wheeled vehicles in rough terrain too, which may be surprising. They were put to good use in the Soviet-Afghan war, if I recall right. Anyhow, yes, they would need a specific role for ground combat, as they wouldn't be able to replace armor, but they could provide heavy fire support for infantry and be able to move with them where a wheeled/tracked vehicle couldn't.That said, robotic pilots do certainly have an advantage over human pilots. In real life, the USAF is phasing out their fighter program and replacing fighters with drones, and predator drones already do a lot of the stuff that attackers are supposed to do. Soon after, I'm sure we'll have drone bombers too. We'll always have pilots for transport craft--that stuff isn't complicated enough to warrant something as expensive as drone tech.
Still, missiles are not objectively better than fighters. As for mechs, smaller mechs may have use in rough terrain, but they would be nothing like what we see in anime or Western sci-fi. They'd likely be no larger than twice a human's height.
Sure they can, telemetry. How do you think deep space probes like Cassini and Messenger work? They're essentially a missile-deployed recon drone.PS - Missiles can't do recon.
All in all, this is a fine justification for using fighters as, well, actual atmospheric fighters; which is what they're good at and intended for. Vacuum is a very different environment, and would require different approaches to fighting. However, a military space fleet would likely still need to be able to engage enemies on the surface of a planet, so having some trans-atmo craft could still be quite useful there, in that role. They could be brought out in emergencies for a point-defense screen in space combat as well perhaps - not the role they were designed for, but more useful than sitting in the hangar.
So! A space fleet could use aircraft and mechs for fighting on planets, among other tools in the belt. This would make sense and get a Physics Thumbs Up. Additionally, it's more likely to be interesting from a story perspective than deep space combat, which would take place at extreme range barring anything unexpected.
I'm really thinking this discussion could be taken somewhere else, though, as it's going farther and farther off track from the forum. But it's fun!