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These tend to be small manoeuvrable ships with a single pilot, an anti-fighter gun, and a rack of missiles. Life support tends to be bottled oxygen, and the pilot sits directly in front of the engine/reactor which has a burn time of about ten minutes at full thrust[1]. Due to low quantities of pretty much everything, Fighters have to rearm very frequently in a battle, or would if they actually had time to arrive, attack, and land before the battle were over. Mostly they are one hit wonders, and rarely survive more than a few minutes in battle, not surprisingly the pilots have some of the shortest life expectancies in the fleet.  

Fighters are actually a point of contention in most Sci-fi settings[2], as they don’t technically work given that there is no actual horizon to hide behind. Vast World Fighters actually fill quite a different role, not acting as a long range weapons platform but instead a hardened platform. Fighters can traverse the hail of anti-missile fire and are virtually immune to E.C.M.s so can get extremely close to a target before loosing its missile load. These will impact with a far higher frequency than a similar number of carrier launched missiles, and can be rigged to hold a lot more explosives so the damage potential is disturbingly high. Fighters are also capable of precision strikes on ship systems[3], which make them even more dangerous.

Fighters will also be deployed to intercept other Fighters. These tend to be of a lighter weight, carry more, smaller missiles and have repeat fire weaponry such as gatling guns or rapid reload rails[4]. Generally these will escort the host ship and intercept any incoming Fighters and larger missiles, but can be deployed to defend other vessels. They are quite vulnerable to missiles however when away from the host ship.

Side note: Fighters are very powerful against civilian ships, as they can get across a gravity well very quickly and have more than enough firepower to threaten a lightly defended merchant. This does relegate them to police work in peace time, and they can be caught unawares if anyone is packing military grade hardware, but this is rare so not a serious issue. The pirate threat of the nineties was dealt with almost totally by Fighter squadrons, mostly because very few of the pirates would or could run heavily armed and, as freighters would surrender at the slightest show of force, so even interception Fighters outclassed them.

[1] Full thrust is rarely achieved for anything more than a few seconds at a time, so this translates into an operational life of about twelve hours. For many early fighters the actual range was determined by the strength of the pilot’s bladder.

[2] There is an issue with manned fighters that persists in Vast Worlds as you would expect computers be more effective. But, because computers offer no additional acceleration benefits (due to grav’ panels) and only negligible mass savings (computers on board a fighter have to large enough to resist hacking attempts and E.C.M.s and still fight. Humans don’t have do deal with the first two so can be just as efficient) they tend only to be used in situations where humans wouldn’t be able to operate. There have been many incidences in Vast World’s history to implement computer controlled vessels (especially in the A.I. wars) but they have a tendency to backfire spectacularly and, by late in the setting people really don’t trust a computer to do a humans’ job.

[3] Guided missiles tend to become overly confused due to the ECMs and rarely strike with enough accuracy to hit specific areas, most are directed towards the centre of mass instead.

[4] American Fighters actually use an array of sixteen small rayy guns spaced along the wings, and linked so that only four will be active at any one time. This allows for much higher rates of fire as cooling the barrels is much easier. The whole system is a massive power drain however.


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