May 18, 2004
Space Fleet Combat - Background
Earlier I posted in response to a post by Steven den Beste on some theoretical and practical aspects of space fleet combat, detailing some aspects of laser weapons. So I'll just continue mining this vein.
What we're doing is trying to imagine what fleet combat might look like, given what we know or might predict about the realities of physics and engineering. This is an iterative thought process, looking at what forms weapons might take, what properties we're stuck with, how they would function, and then how these weapons can best be used and countered. Once you understand how the new weapons work, you can engage in some mental war games or mathematical calculations and perceive winning strategies, and thus future war tactics appear as a result of the thought exercise.
At no point are we allowed to just toss in some totally fantastic or imaginary property that we can't crunch numbers on, because if we do that everything devolves into spouting off about Romulan cloaking devices, Martian heat rays, and hyperspace windows opening up from Zignor VII. After all, if you're not going to apply what you know about physical reality, why did you bother coming to grips with it in the first place? Rolling the imaginary combat around in our heads reveals flaws and potential improvements or innovations in ships, weapons, and tactics, and so we integrate these into our mental model and think through the problem again.
Since we're now all connected together on the web, "peer review" is easier to get, and extremely useful, because it's very, very easy to make mistakes and overlook things when were dealing in theoreticals. "You missed a step in part B," or "You're hypothetical stealth missile would vaporize itself due to heat loads," is going to be par for the course. You just have to say "Damn. Missed that," and move on. Sometimes you may spend weeks heading down a blind alley, or think you've found the ultimate solution, only to get tripped up on one little detail. And once you think you've reached a pretty stable view of combat, someone else might point out how your agile ship can actually always be hit by something you didn't think of, and the model of Future Fleet changes yet again. And what's the real point of the exercise? To get a feel about the likely or potential future, while giving an excuse not to write up yet another post on why John Kerry sucks.
In reasoning about what future space battle might look like, assuming no violations of physics as currently understood, it's helpful to first go over why fleet or air battles take the forms they do. There are clear reasons why navy ships are long, fighter planes are agile, and sailing ships fired broadsides. There are also reasons why we keep innovating in ways that force changes in our tactics and weapons, since actual weapon designers go through the same thought process that we'll apply to our space fleet exercise. They cogitate on what it's technically possible to do, and then on what advantages their potential innovation might bring. Ideally these innovations change the mathematics of winning and losing, and sometimes they even change the game itself. So let me touch on some basic concepts that will come into play.
When aerial combat was envisioned prior to WW-I many people imagined it would entail two large warplanes flying side-by-side exchanging broadsides, just like the warships of the day. The prognosticators were completely wrong because they didn't carefully consider the dynamics involved. They just assumed the new craft, armed with the same basic weapons as the old, would end up fighting in forms that were similar to the old. Along came WW-I and aerial combat quickly turned out wildly different. So we learned that ships fire broadsides and planes dogfight. Unless of course you again change the weapon dynamics and get a U-boat madly dogfighting with a destroyer, circling, pivoting, and dodging, or end up with modern fighter planes sometimes taking long range missile shots before clearing the area, as if they were PT boats. Some of the key questions that determine how you'll utilize a warship are the simple dynamics of the system of weapons and warships, taken as a whole.
For example if you have two sides with 4 ships, each of which simultaneously fire four missiles, the outcome is drastically different depending on the kill probability of each missile. If a missile always kills its opponent, yet flight times are long, then the ideal tactic would be to sacrifice one of your own ships by having it launch four missiles just before it's hit with four enemy missiles, yet killing each of those four enemies with a single hit of its own, for a four to one exchange ratio. However, if each ship can intercept or absorb just one missile then this strategy guarantees a loss, as the four grouped enemy ships defeat the single missile fired at each of them while combining massed return fire for a victory. They then repeat this tactic three more times to win 4 to 0. Simple stuff, but it shows how fleet tactics can be radically altered by a simple change in the physical capabilities of the weapons and ships. How single ships behave in one-on-one encounters is likewise determined by the physics, or what you might think of as the rules to a war-game that's reflective of real weapons.
For example, if aircraft carriers protect each other better when tightly grouped together, through combined defenses, while absorbing the small amount of damage from attacks that do get through, then it's best to group them in a major fleet action. But if you slightly increase the odds that an attacking plane can succeed in sinking its target then grouping your carriers just makes for one-stop shopping. The Japanese decision to group carriers at Midway was a mistake, since the combination of dive bombers and their thin decks with aviation fuel stored right underneath made single hits catastrophic. The US had separated our carriers but the Japanese kept theirs bunched, and we came away with a four to one exchange ratio in our favor. Yet with slightly less effective US aircraft or slightly tougher Japanese ships and the Japanese decision may have been correct.
Fleet combat theory prior to WW-I was extremely sound, and fleet engagements in that war almost exactly confirmed the predictions of the earlier naval thinkers. You may recall from history the naval race caused by the HMS Dreadnought. That was caused by two interesting things. Alfred Thayer Mahan's book on sea power's importance to a nation's success, and then some sound technical thoughts on how the capabilities of the day could allow a fleet to control the seas.
Gaming fleet combat mathematically showed that if a side had an advantage in total guns and throw weight, with longer ranges than the enemy, they would almost always win at fleet combat. A battle would be completely decided before smaller secondary guns could even be used. Given advances in gunnery and armor, they correctly perceived that a fleet engagement was a game of using large guns to knock out enemy guns.
The math also showed an interesting trend, in which a very slight initial advantage translated into total obliteration of the weaker side, sort of a cascade effect. Mathematically it works this way. If in each broadside exchange each of your fleet's guns has a 10% chance of knocking out an enemy's gun, and vice versa, then the side with the most guns is knocking out enemy guns faster than it is losing them. Its initial gun advantage keeps on growing till at the end of a combat it's still got half its guns left and the enemy has none. Such an analysis is also the world's easiest spreadsheet to write, and this math was reinforced by another bit of gunnery physics to drive the battleship race. In calculating the odds of making a fatal hit on an enemy gun, the way to increase the odds of a kill is to use an every larger, heavier, longer-range, more accurate gun from a more stable firing platform, i.e. a larger ship, and the way to decrease the odds of having your own gun knocked out was to make it armored more heavily, indicating the need for a larger ship. One simple piece of math and physics, a mental exercise, was pursued to its conclusion in the Yamato and Iowa class battleships.
We could possibly have our exercise end up in a similar race, regarding beam weapons, based on a simple bit of physics. A mirror big enough to resolve an image of an enemy mirror is big enough to target it with a laser. The tightness, or focus, of a laser beam follows the same optical laws of diffraction limited performance as a telescope. If we imagine a fight with beam weapons with a finite amount of energy, the side with the tightest and most intense beam can destroy the enemy's own beam weapons. This puts an upward pressure on mirror size and light frequency, and is one of the reasons lower frequency energies, like microwaves, might not be as effective, since to focus their energy they require a much larger mirror or antenna. On the other hand, microwave antennas are infinitely easier to upsize than optically perfect optical mirrors, so this might not actually work out in favor of lasers.
We also already run laser power levels to the absolute limits of our best optically reflective materials, and if you slightly exceed these levels you destroy their reflective properties, the beam's energy is absorbed by the mirror instead of reflected, and you blow the optical surface off your own weapon. This might be analogous to flawed cannon barrels that explode when you fire them. But note that a mirror twice as large as another can in general resolve or focus its beam to half the diameter of the other, while also having a reflector with four times the area, and thus potentially four times the power. Its beam can focus in one forth the area of it's half-size cousin, with four times the energy, so if this turns out to be critical to combat effectiveness then you might have a fourth power law pushing up mirror diameters. The point is that if you can put more energy onto an enemy mirror than the enemies own laser source does, you damage its reflector and render it useless. The same math and design pressures of WW-I gun on gun battleship fleet combat would apply in this case. However, we quit using battleships because we found a way to hit them without getting hit in return, and this might figure into our own design exercise. For example, after I make a long and detailed post on laser on laser combat that indicates one giant laser cannon dominates all, somebody will comment "I hit your laser cannon with a handful of sand traveling at a velocity of 0.02c. There is no counter, its surface is pitted, it's now optically flawed, you cannot fire it without it self-destructing, and "all your base belong to us." That's just how it goes.
Anyway, things like this are why did battleships died out. However, it's still very interesting that fleet commanders in WW-II would sometimes misdeploy their fleets, such as the Japanese at Midway, and this occurred because new weapons and innovations were altering the optimal tactics and strategies prior to and during the war. In essence, the rules of the game were changing under their feet. Fleet combat theory prior to WW-I was extremely sound, and the fleets in that war almost exactly confirmed the predictions of the earlier naval thinkers. But airplanes and submarines changed the game, because they can hit without getting hit in return, at least by the giant guns that were the whole basis of battleships in the first place. As technology continued to advance the elegant mathematics and tactics of battleship theory went right out the window, as did many aspects of fleet theory.
During WW-II aircraft carriers became the center of the fleet, while battleships and cruisers where used to pound shorelines instead of being the centerpiece of fleet combat or serving as armed fleet reconnaissance, respectively. Destroyers were used to hunt subs and serve as AA platforms instead of delivering torpedo attacks on the enemy's fleet, except for one incident off Guadalcanal. "Fleet" submarines were used as lone hunter killers or in wolf packs instead of as adjuncts to the main battle fleet. Just about the only warship that got used in accordance with prior theory was the minesweeper, which was indeed still used to sweep mines. But instead of being a theoretical failure, the war was actually an outstanding success for new thinking, in which advanced mathematics were brought to bear on things like searching and screening, where our college professors produced differential equations to calculate the optimal method for combat air patrols to spot and intercept enemy planes, ships, and submarines.
Just as the history of fleet combat shows major changes and innovations, so will any exploration of future space fleets. There's not just the one correct answer, but an array of them depending on which weapons are dominant at any given time. The combat can take remarkably different shapes depending on which type of weapon happens to hold an innovative advantage against some previously dominant weapon, and just as WW-II showed the optimization of tactics for ships that were designed for very different roles, so too might thoughts on space fleet combat let you explore how you would conduct your fleet actions when you've just found out you've got the wrong kind of ships, just because some guy in a lab somewhere thought up something new.
Depending on what we can build, space fleets could end up being made up of giant, unmaneuverable behemoths or small, stealthy, and agile craft. The attacks might be with extremely high velocity projectiles, guided missiles, tightly focused laser beams, or even something as odd as millions of mirrors that focus solar energy into concentrated areas of space, frying cubic mile after cubic mile in a walking barrage. But what you might end up with is just part of a continuum of thoughts on what we can build and what we can use, but as with all such tactical and technical questions the answers can get quite interesting. So I'll first be posting some thoughts on the various basic aspects that will come into play, such as dodging, spoofing, maneuver, counterfire, and ballistics. I just hope I don't put everyone to sleep.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Space Fleet Combat - Background:
» Targeting Beam Weapons from Inaniloquent.com
While traditional weaponry will probably always exist, the new age of energy weapons is dawning. In some respects, it foreshadows a Star Trek future. A future in which the firearms operator is able to make a decision about the effect their weapon wil... [Read More]
Tracked on Jul 23, 2005 1:21:10 PM
I won't be sleeping. I've been following this thread on Den Beste's site as well. I find it fascinating reading.
Posted by: Ken at May 19, 2004 11:39:07 AM
Your piece on Space Fleet Combat is interesting, but I think that your analysis of Japanese carrier fleet formations as the deciding factor at Midway is not fully valid. Yes, the Japanese, by grouping their carriers, gained a certain level of AA coverage and surface warfare protection, but it was not their formation/grouping per se that led to their loss -- it was the fact that the US fleet was in a distributed formation, with each CV operating away from the others, as opposed to the Japanese clustering their carriers into a single large carrier group.
This gave the US an *intelligence* advantage in that they only had to find *one* target, as opposed to three targets that the Japanese had to find. This allowed the US to get in a first strike that crippled the Japanese carrier fleet. As Wayne Hughes points out in his 1986 "Fleet Tactics: Theory and Practice," the exchange rate for carrier battles was petty much 1 for 1. That is, one carrier would, on average, be able to sink one carrier with its air strike. Because of this, the side that discovered the other side first, and got in the first strike came off best. In Midway, three US carriers sank three Japanese carriers. The remaining Japanese carrier sank one US carrier before it was sunk by the surviving US carriers. I think that the importance of recon and First Strike doctrine still holds, and in fact the Soviet fleet was designed around a first strike doctrine -- though of course that doctrine could only succeed if they found the US/enemy fleet first.
What does this mean for Space Combat?? Not sure, except *formation* will be dependent upon the weapons and vehicles used (a tight CV Battle Group can be effective against conventional aircraft and missile threats, but vulnerable to nuclear attack, etc.), and recon/intel will play its role according to the nature of the environment. If there will be "perfect" spotting in space combat as many now argue, given the difficulty of masking a ship in space due to IR/thermal and physical radar/sensor signatures, etc., that will dictate a certain type of combat. If you can achieve stealth capabilities in space, that's another combat environment.
My two-bits...anyway, if you like interesting approaches to space combat in science fiction, I suggest you read the space combat examples in Scott Westerfield's "Risen Empire" and "Killing of Worlds" books. He grapples with "contemporary" space combat theories that involve thermal control/waste heat, EMCON, energy weapons vs. missiles and AI-controlled sensor and combat drones, etc. Thanks for the blog, I quite enjoy it.
Posted by: John Cunningham at May 19, 2004 5:04:02 PM
Good point John. And the Fleet Tactics book is excellent! I gave my copy to a friend in Korea, along with some others, so the guys in the O club would have something interesting to read about what those Navy guys are up to.
Anyway, I think my point was that if the math was slightly different, the attack on three grouped carriers would've failed, and the Japanese would have delivered a counterblow on an American carrier with a 3:1 advantage.
And I might have to pick up a copy of Westerfield's books.
Posted by: George Turner at May 19, 2004 7:36:29 PM
I don't think that recon will be as important in space combat. Without inventing the Romulan cloaking device, its very hard to hide in space. Everything is 'on the table', so to speak.
Just thinking of board games, it seems to me that it will be more like chess than battleship. As den Beste said, everyone will be throwing off too much heat to pretend their a wandering asteroid. Additionally, anyone who's playing 'defense' will have already mapped every asteroid and comet in their sectors. Anything which is slightly suspicious will immediately draw attention.
Any natural asteroids or comets big enough for a team of commandos to ride in on will have its course changed.
I think that space battles (before cloaking is invented) will be a return massed forces, or perfect stalemate. Any defender will have ungodly amounts of firepower just waiting for anyone who tries to sneak in.
The most likely scenario, in this solar system anyway, is that it won't come to that. The moden nations are completely dependent on each other for their respective ways of life. America would be in a world of hurt without China's manufacturing. China in turn would be in a world of hurt without our technological advances. Eventually these two particular factors will balance themselves out, but they will be replaced by others.
For the foreseeable future the outer worlds will never be "the New World" the way the Western Hemisphere was. Too inhospitable. We will mine the Moon and the asteroids for their rare and valuable minerals - but wars will be won and lost here on earth. For at least the next century or so (I imagine), any space colony cut off from its earthbound sponsors is a goner.
More than a century out,the laws is physicas will probably be different.
For now its probably more helpful to imagine how NEO craft will affect wars down hear on ol' Terra.
Posted by: Brock at May 19, 2004 7:37:49 PM
Good points, Brock. I just posted a bit on observation. The key question we haven't gotten around to asking is just what the space fleets might be fighting for, and my guess on any early conflict would be domination of earth orbit to make sure enemy spy satellites can't impinge on your ground operations.
Posted by: George Turner at May 19, 2004 7:53:19 PM
to day is most of space moiion are use to delever
food serpillys to the gewers that live on the pleatform in earth orbit when the men and women who spend most of there time working on the computers looking at the stars and planets on the
tv srceens they keep a record on the disce which
is stord for future use by the people who may visit the space pleatform to chick on the infaster geartions by the seriters who mit be looking playis to visits by future spaceships
Posted by: brian at Jun 10, 2004 9:54:25 AM
This is an interesting argument, and an important one for me, as i am about to come out with a space combat game for miniatures. In my game, I play more with the space opera aspect of beam weapons, missiles, fighters, dreadnoughts, and shields. Movement is much more realistic, based on a simple vector system, but beyond that, i didn't try to borrow too much from the real world of today. In part it was for the fun of space opera, in part to match the miniature line i'm designing the game for, but also in large part because we simply cannot come very close to guessing the nature of future warfare. Take for example Jules Verne, he was very realistic in determining that submarines would be in use, but the combat was completely different from that of a modern boomer submarine. We can argue that physics will always deny the possibility of faster-than-light travel, but the question is not can we defy nature, but do our physicists truly understand it well enough? Also, if genetic work isolates genetic causes of aging, will thousand year journeys matter to humans living 50 or more millenia? The possibility of interstellar should never be ruled out. Also important is the idea of "no where to hide." The trick is not necessary invisibility, but camouflage. What if there were means to disguise a ship as a celestial object? What if engines could thrust in a way that would be read as a solar flare? It would affect the angle of approach dramatically, but that is no different from coming in from the direction of the sun in a WWII dogfight. What about thrusting while line of sight is blocked by a planet or moon, then coasting in until on target. With radar absorbent materials and a "smart skin" that reflects and exact pattern of the stars "behind" it.
I think the big question in space probably won't be detection, or firepower, but speed to intercept and endurance. Ships may well be on their "attack runs" for months on end. Of course warp speed or hyperspace may make all this irrelevant as well, but i wouldn't be surprised if patrol times are measured in years, not days.
I was dead set against fighter and carrier space combat for years, because there is no dimensional advantage in space like aircraft have over surface vessels, and smaller fighters would just be easier to kill. But then another point came to mind. Long space journeys may take tremendous amounts of fuel and resources, creating giant ships, which are essentially giant targets. Assuming weapons do not outrange detection these giants would find it favorable to send out smaller, more agile, and expendable, combatant vessels to counter any raids. These fighters may themselves mass 1000s of tons, but still be dwarfed by the motherships. In turn the motherships could maintain all the extra fuel, ammunition, repair facilities, and creature comforts for the fighting crews.
The most important thing you have said is absolutely undeniable: technology will dramatically affect tactics and the whole layout of combat.
Posted by: Dan at Oct 28, 2004 5:55:59 PM
Interesting Dan. I hadn't thought much about the smaller ships, but when you need to put a small number of equipment, personnel, or firepower in some area that's off the course of the main ship, then it really doesn't make much sense to accelerate the larger vessel if it can dispatch a smaller one. I guess we get used to Star Trek where fuel seems free.
Posted by: George Turner at Oct 31, 2004 1:25:25 AM
Hello I was searching the web and stumbled upon this site which interests me greatly. I think everyone has made an excellent point as far as answering the question of "What would space combat really look like?" I think all the assumptions made have been legitimate except for the fact that I don't believe any provide background for the scenario. It is important to remember that not only is combat and technology a factor but also background of the situation. Because as important as our ship's, i.e. America or U.N. or Earth, technology, weaponry, and speed may be, it is our enemies ship/vessel that really defines what ours would look like. So, if we were fighting against a corporation trying to gain economic sepremecy in the galaxy or were fighting another nation over territory or whatever reason, their technology would most likely look much like our own. The way we fought would then be comparible to WW2 airforce battles. But assuming that it was another species of creatures (aliens) from another part of the universe, it would be likely that the engagement would change entirely. And if this board is still alive by the time this is posted, could we start brainstorming on the subject of the realism of the newer version of the show "Battlestar Galactica". It is in my view the most realistic show I have ever seen regarding space combat and operating. I believe though that there are many flaws that I'm not seeing. Could someone inform me?
Posted by: Kevo at Mar 8, 2005 5:58:01 PM
One thing that I have noticed in every depiction of space combat is the belief that every space vessel will have a common "up" and "down" Large scale fleet tactics have great possibilities due to the three dimensional nature of space. You could design vessels with weapons only firing forward, and yet by positioning a fleet of these ships you could cover any conceivable angle of attack. Ships would have to be adequately protected, either through armour, allies or individual power so as to combat threats from any angle. Similary a ship could adopt a rolling gait against an enemy using the nature of space so as to fire a continuous broadside or barrage as the guns located on the ship. The main shackle on our conception of space combat is our notion of a set upright position. Watch any sci fi film and the ships in a fleet are all the same way up...when in space there is no way up. A fleet of identical ships would not be advised to adopt the same position in this respect as they could not cover themselves effectively or to the same degree from all angles.
Posted by: Muakhah at Mar 11, 2005 5:25:16 PM
Well, while you make a great point about the up and down thing you have to keep in mind that you are taking all of your visuals from sci-fi films... These films are for entertainment and as such should be disreguarded completely for acutual tactical information. We should instead be looking more towards what has been said here. What we say here is the obvious stuff that any spaceship captin will be learning. But these foundations are important. We all understand that weapons, armor, and speed are important because they are things that make-up fighting. So it will all come down to bigger and better. who has more and who is crazier. I think you all have been over-looking one huge factor in all this math. The Human aspect, lets take the midway example. The leaders of the US carrier groups made their desitions based on information gathered before the battle, but when it all came down to it they had to make the desitions to send their planes out or to run and try again. At the end of the battle when we had confermed the destruction of the Japanese carriers they had a choice to make. They could press the attack and fight at night, which would have ended poorly for us, or pull back to repair and resupply. I guess my point is that in war against humans it will come down to the individual because weapons will be so similar. Oh and as for the why we would be fighting. Ours is not to reason why, but simply to do or die. Don't worry when the time comes we will find an excuse to blow eachother up in space. ~Zak
Posted by: Zak at Apr 14, 2005 1:43:25 AM
Space is huge and inhospitable. Depending on the scenario enemy fleets could be significant distances apart.Communications, even at light speed become slow and cumbersome at these distances. The amount of shielding required for human survival against radiation would also be ridiculous.
As it is space i doubt any army would not be worrying about using nuclear weapons. So fleets would be spread out to avoid being taken out by a single nuke. Hence you have the aforementioned communication dificulties.
I would imagine artificial intelligence guiding any ships, or for that matter, just weaopns. Im not talking terminator movie style artificial intelligence, more 'smart systems'or Artificial neural networks.
These systems could go through training like any pilot and learn from mistakes. I would imagine that any space combat would have very little in the way of human control. I think it would be a case of automated ships guarding the tactical priority, such as transports.
Posted by: Bagga at Apr 21, 2006 7:40:50 PM
Bagga you bring up a good point about ships being AI-controlled. It would make much more sense to let AI worry about the weapons or better yet space ship, but im afraid this is pure logic. The reason thats a problem is simple, people(military or civilian) ARENT logical. We would NEVER leave the "evil" robots in control of an entire ship, much less fleet. Plus we have the problem of moral. ie, what if there was a moral reason to not continue on with a mission, such as the possibility of civilian casualties. So i find it far more likely that yes, the AI will control the ship and its weapons, but the human ALWAYS has the final say.
Posted by: general cow at Apr 20, 2007 3:35:13 PM
While I do like the idea of an AI controlled ship, one major flaw that will always pop up is that you cannot replicate the human mind to make moral decisions or great tactical decisions. For example, if there was a city of a hundred people and 40 of them were enemies, the computer will think of numbers, not walking, talking creatures each with an individual future. And also, if 5 trucks are coming down the road, will the computer be looking for ways to use the terrain to its advantage like we do, or will it open fire at the first person it sees? Until we can synthetically create a human mind, (not brain, MIND) there is no way to remove the human from the art of war.
Posted by: Sen at Feb 2, 2010 11:14:10 PM
Well, this is my say for smaller crafts.
They have a higher Engine to non-engine ratio. Therefore, they have a higher acceleration.They will only need basic life support for maybe a day, and almost no need for radiation protection as it is a day.
Finally, what of space drones with no life support? Just a connection to a joystick hammering dude inside the mothership and auto-programed to return to base if it lost signal?
This is a very interesting debate, and I have designed a few capital ships using magnetic rail cannons based on this artical.
Posted by: Chuck at Jun 25, 2010 9:18:07 PM
The problem with leaving fleets in control of AI is how does the fleet determine what an enemy is or not? While I imagine certain system could be controlled by AI, for instance targeting systems for weapons or perhaps fighter drones, however a human has to be there to decide what happens or the computer is just as likely to do nothing or do all the wrong things.
Also, why wouldn't smaller craft be useful in space? They're lighter ships that would be more expendable, faster, and harder to hit. If you are up against a big ship armed only with long range ballistics meant for other big ships, then unless its has smaller turrets that can track small ships more efficiently, it simply won't be able to handle those fighters. Smaller combat ships I am convinced will ALSO be a possibility. Even if combat is done mostly between large ships, the second someone introduced smaller ships which can out maneuver a vessels heavier weapons or attack from a ships blind spots, then an opposing force will have to have an answer for them.
Plus, lets consider some other uses for strike craft. Assume an enemy fleet decides the battle is not progressing well and that it must retreat. Ever since ancient times when people discovered the use of horses to intercept routers, so too can strike craft be used in this manner. You have a big ship that outguns another. The opponent moves out of range and continues to flee. Your ship could not begin to catch it. Answer? Send smaller vessels which can.
Also, before we shoot down the idea of "hiding" in space lets consider a few things here. One) How are we tracking our enemies? If its by heat signature, then they need only hide those signatures and we can't see them. If by other means, it will depend entirely on the technology at hand-- but rest assured that if someone comes up with some form of long-range "radar" to see other ships, somebody else will come up with a countermeasure, either in the form of negating the effects or disabling the tracking devices. Two) Consider the environment of space. If you think space is completely empty, you're very mistaken. Sure it might be rather sparse, but there are stars, clouds of gas, asteroids, etc. There is also a lot of radiation and a various things that can potentially mess up sensors. And if you think looking out a window would be enough to spot ships well, considering, I'm sure if you can see it, its already too late.
Everything can and probably will come with time. Space combat I doubt will start out glorious. Currently the US is developing ways of sending troop transports filled with marines into space so that those vessels can land in any country the US is currently deemed at war with so as to avoid complications in going through another country's airspace. If that happens, you can be sure it wouldn't be long before fighters are designed with the ability to intercept those ships while en route. Then other fighters would be used to escort and so-on and so-forth. But I doubt we will have "star wars" in the next 100 years.
Posted by: Allen at Oct 12, 2010 3:07:59 AM