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Next to address is combat range. Now, as this is space, every weapon has theoretically infinite range[1], but combat will rarely take place at these extremes and instead everyone tries to get within a certain engagement zone which is defined by your own ships capabilities, but also the abilities of the target. Key to remember is your weapons power, speed, accuracy and rate of fire, but you should also bear in mind your ships own power and target profile, not to mention the manoeuvrability and size of your opponent.

These combined give your optimum range of attack, where you inflict the most damage possible, while incurring as little as possible yourself. The only problem is this is actually as dependent on your opponent as your ship, so will be constantly changing during an engagement. Not to mention there is also the little issue of reaching and staying in this range, which is easier said than done, and in a big battle, may well be occupied by an enemy Cruiser.

Let’s take a few examples, and because I’ve been dealing with them recently, we’ll first look at the American Alliance frigate. This is an eighty eight metre frame with four decks, a standing five fighter squadron, six intermediate rayys, one spinal beam, and two hundred short to medium range warheads spread across six launching points. Pretty impressive, as just one of these has more firepower than every ship built in the eighteenth century combined, but how should it be used tactically?

Well, the spinal rayy is the ship’s primary weapon; this is a high accuracy but low tracking weapon, with good damage ratings. Ideally the frigate will engage the target at maximum range and force the target to charge, once they get closer the secondary turrets will fire and the ship will start jinking to avoid the retaliatory fire. This gets the maximum number of guns on target, and hopefully incurs low levels of damage, but it’s hard to maintain as you’ve got your engines pointed away from the target and so you can’t manoeuvre.

Let’s try another class, the Icarus, a popular class in the Corporation Wars. A slightly longer frame of one hundred and three metres, it mounts two short range gauss cannons, fourteen intermediate rail drivers and has mounts for either a lot of missiles or a lot of point defence. Icarus is almost the polar opposite to the Alliance[2], its engagement range is very short due to the relatively inaccurate main guns, and it relies on its secondary rails to do the majority of the damage. For its size it has large engines so charges the opponent, relying of electronic warfare and fore armour to hold of the enemy fire, and vectored thrusting to point its nose exactly where it needs to be to hit with the gauss rounds.

Of course, both of these plans go to pot if the enemy frame is significantly larger. In this case the Alliance would engage at medium turret range and have to keep jinking[3] in order to do enough damage, while the Icarus could engage from a greater distance as its accuracy would improved a lot by the larger target profile[4].

They would also be hampered when dealing with a corvette sized frame[5], the Alliance would be forced to spin rapidly to keep its nose towards its target, and this is something it is not designed to do, and wouldn’t be able to define the engagement range in the slightest due to the corvette’s superior acceleration. While it probably would be able to do some significant damage, it may not necessarily win. The Icarus would also be unable to keep its nose pointed towards the target, but it has twice the number of tracking turrets, so could keep a reasonable number of guns on target[6]. Actually, when this does happen the Captain tend to not manoeuvre to avoid the corvette, as it is fairly futile, but instead concentrates on not getting hit and arranging their next shot on a capital ship.

[1] Except for plasma weapons, but it’s not really relevant.

[2] And was in no small way designed to fight them as Alliance derivatives were still popular at the time.

[3] Something it would not be all that good at when dealing with an enemy that it packing its spinal gun as turrets.

[4] This does mean that the Icarus would be more effective against the larger ships, but this isn’t much of a surprise, it was designed in an era of ships three times its size, when the Alliance was produced it was the biggest thing around.

[5] The Icarus less so. I really should have picked Frigates from the same era.

[6] It’s a design thing again. Corvettes actually existed when the Icarus was made.


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