For those of you who don’t know, Birth was the game I was working on when I first started this blog. It’s console based C++ and I may in fact pick it back up some day, just because.
The basic concept fueling Birth was that you were a ship bound AI in charge of running the basic functionality of the ship and dealing with both the moment to moment upkeep as well as writing and testing scripts for advanced targeting, heat management and communications. Exciting? Probably not for most people, but it was meant to be more of a simulation anyway.
As much fun as Freespace is, if we were to step back and take a look at the reality of FTL (Faster Than Light) travel mixed with warfare there just isn’t any semblance of reality in it. So what would be our biggest concerns with FTL travel? Firstly it would be the war of information. On the communications front we already have a theoretical method of instant communications that would impossible to intercept mid transmission. With the vast majority of those communications being handled by ship board AI, there simply isn’t any way besides old fashioned spies to crack the majority of closed communications.
The real valuable information though, is sensor feeds. When traveling at FTL, a ship the size of a moon could pass next to you and you probably wouldn’t see more than the slightest blip on radar as it would be traveling too fast to bounce back more than a very small amount of waves. Likewise if you could fire a projectile at the speed of light it could travel an AU (Astronomical Unit (The distance from the Sun to the Earth)) in roughly 8 minutes. Meaning that you can have ships within hundreds of millions of miles of each other placing perfectly accurate shots into each others hulls assuming they could attain correct targeting information.
Therefore the way I see attack fleets breaking down is thus, four classes of ships: Carrier, Cruiser, Freighter and Frigate. Basically the Carriers work as a supply and communications center, constantly on the move except when picking up a frigate for refueling. The freighters work as troop transports and supply ships, connecting the various carriers and cruisers, being military issue they would be built of for stealth and speed over maximum hauling economy. Cruisers are gun boats, also constantly on the move, but trying to keep their firing arcs open and staying close enough to the front to be within firing range at any given moment. The frigates on the other hand would be sensor boats with minimal armament, their purpose is to cover as much ground as possible dropping sensor buoys and recording sensor readings over time.
The basic job a frigate would be to attain the readings then plot a firing solution based on readings back over time, probably within a second due to the speeds involved. Since turning at those speeds will be comparatively slow it basically just needs to identify the pattern of an almost straight line of sensor readings. That line would then be extrapolated out into a firing solution and transmitted to the nearest cruiser. Even under almost ideal conditions there will probably a large number of misses due to the distances and speeds involved, but due to those same factors it will most likely be a matter of a single hit since if the sheer kinetic energy didn’t rip through it at a million times the power of a hydrogen bomb, a punctured hull would most likely rip itself apart from the inside out.
In all likelihood the biggest concern in most engagements would probably be the fear of one of the combatants turning their guns on a colony, rounds traveling at such high speeds could easily cause devastation equal to or greater than an asteroid the size of Rhode Island impacting on a planet. Of course it’s unlikely they would stop at a single round.
Much like nuclear power though, it would most likely be considered at best a weapon of last resort as all sides are equally vulnerable to the tactic.