Fighter Logistics

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Heliogenesis
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Location: On the Shinsari city-ship Beacon of Hope, rediscovering the galaxy

Sat Dec 27, 2014 8:29 pm


The air fleet of an enemy will never get within striking distance of our coast as long as our aircraft carriers are able to carry the preponderance of air power to sea.


— Rear Admiral W. A. Moffett, Chief of the US Bureau of Aeronautics, October 1922.

LINK TO MOD ON XELERUS

This mod is my own take on the concept of fighter bays. Each hangar module contains a number of "bays", each of which can hold and launch a single spacecraft. These spaceframes can be purchased from certain dealers throughout Human Space, as well as from certain stations (e.g. Black Market and Ringer shipyards).

By default, spaceframes are automatically generated using algorithms from all non-capital ships in the game. To exclude certain ships from being generated, add them to the blacklist in HGN_FB_NameReplacements.xml (under heligen_generatespaceframeblacklist). The included blacklist excludes a number of vanilla ships.

Note that compatibility with CC/EP and other paid extensions is not guaranteed, as I do not own either and so no testing has been done with them.
Additionally, the default function korOnShipDestroyed has been overwritten to prevent player-owned fighters from calling "Pirate!" when the player destroys a freighter. (Note that this override is still compatible with PSD v6)


MODULAR FIGHTER BAYS

The concept of an armed and armored military vehicle designed with the sole or primary purpose of carrying other armed units as its primary armament has existed in human history for centuries. From the armored personnel carrier to aircraft carriers, and eventually spaceborne carrier craft such as the Marauder raid platform and Commonwealth star carrier, the versatility and portability of carrier-borne warmachines has solidified their role in modern space warfare, where the short operating lifespan and high logistical requirements of strikecraft are mitigated. This allows them to bring their enormous power projection and force multiplication capabilities to the field, easily overwhelming enemy fleets with sheer numbers and firepower. Even in the civilian market, portable defense "autons" have become popular as a response to pirate activity, with ships such as the new Constellation-class freighter even utilising this as a selling point.

Despite the popularity of autons and auton bays, "true" spacecraft carriers remain mostly out of the reach of most civilians and mercenaries, as specialized ships are required to house any vessels larger than autons. Due to the small size of most autons, their combat utility is greatly limited in large-scale fleet battles. As a result, autons are extremely rarely used in military operations in dangerous areas, such as the Outer Realm. The small size of autons also prohibits most of them from taking advantage of missile weaponry. In an attempt to capitalize on this deficiency in the market, a number of corporations have begun introducing modular fighter bays - fighter carrying facilities that can be attached to most ships. Capable of repairing, modifying, rearming and refueling strikecraft of all sizes, fighter bays are capable of transforming common freighters into fully-capable light fighter carriers, easily capable of carrying a pair of Wolfens or Ronins to deter attackers. Fitted with full-service repair and refueling systems, powered entirely by the fuel on the mothership, modular fighter bays allow even the venerable EI100 freighter to effectively serve as a self-sufficient "fleet-in-being". Recent designs have expanded on the concept of the auton bay first pioneered with the Constellation, allowing even small strikecraft like the Wolfen to carry a wing of autons in order to engage enemy fleets from multiple directions simultaneously. The most impressive advantage held by modular fighter bays over current market solutions, however, involves not their logistical capabilities, but their usage of proprietary artificial intelligence systems to vastly increase the combat capability of both manned and unmanned fightercraft. These artificial intelligence systems allow users to exert as much or as little control over strikecraft as they desire, from simply using them as extra wingmen in a battle to orchestrating entire sieges against stations without ever entering the battle proper, coordinating strikecraft wings from outside the battle zone. In effect, modular fighter bays possess the potential to forever alter the rules of space combat, turning even small spacecraft into one-man armies. The majority of MFB-use ships are able to accept a wide variety of AI commands, from mining asteroids, to patrolling a perimeter, to combat tactics and returning to the mothership when unable to continue combat. This versatility allows AI-controlled MFB vessels to rival human-piloted strikecraft, if not surpass them, in their effectiveness both in combat and in non-combat situations.

Unfortunately, fighterbays also, as a direct side effect, put a strain on a ship's supplies as a result of usage. Fightercraft by their very nature require a non-negligible expenditure of resources to keep in working order, and the utilisation of carrier-borne fighters is a careful balancing act that involves wise distribution of one's resources so as to not put too much of one's metaphorical eggs in a single basket. This issue has kept modular fighter bays from becoming a mainstream armament choice for mercenaries and privateers, although they are rapidly gaining popularity as a result of their force multiplication capabilities. A number of enterprising fleet captains have even utilised carriers that carry strikecraft equipped with auton bays, using the exponential increase in fleet size to overwhelm enemies, although the logistical issues of such a fleet arrangement are equally massive. Strikecraft not only require rearming and repairs in order to function, but also must be individually fitted. While MFBs feature systems capable of refitting large numbers of ships at once, acquiring the equipment to refit an entire squadron of strikecraft can be difficult for the casual MFB operator.

In order to make conventional spacecraft fully compatible with modular fighter bays, major modifications to the spaceframes are necessary. These modifications include, among numerous others, a reinforced spaceframe capable of surviving launch from an electromagnetic catapult, enhanced EM shielding to prevent damage from said catapult, hull components to allow deceleration by the fighter bay's electromagnetic arrestor, and external-access refueling ports to allow easy in-place refueling by the hangar bay, as well as an artificial intelligence control system. Such modifications, collectively referred to as "navalization", result in most fighters having different armor and device capacities (often reduced, although in some cases increased) compared to the original, non-navalized versions that are deployed by purpose-built carriers and stations, in addition to precluding the usage of certain popular spacecraft peripherals such as cargo bay capacity extensions. As the facilities to deploy non-navalized fightercraft are extremely expensive and bulky, the vast majority of carrier craft besides purpose-built ships such as Commonwealth Star Carriers deploy navalized fightercraft, and they are the only option for use on modular fighter bays both external and internal. In addition, the vast majority of modular fighter facilities are not capable of performing modifications to the loadouts of non-navalized craft.

Navalization, however, is not without its benefits. While navalizing a space vehicle results in a reduced ability to customize its armor capacity as well as limited device space, navalized spaceframes are often less expensive to procure than non-navalized spaceframes, as a result of the removal of numerous luxuries common on conventional spacecraft, such as crew and passenger quarters as well as long-term life support systems. Navalized spaceframes may be purchased and resold through dealers, or procured through specialized salvage equipment. Note that the manufacturers of navalized spaceframes do not condone the procurement of spaceframes via piracy, and thus have successfully lobbied the Commonwealth government to criminalize the possession of spaceframe salvage equipment.

The majority of off-the-shelf auton types are not compatible with modular fighter bays, due to their usage of proprietary configuration methods and custom mass optimization that allow them to be compatible with a primary competitor of modular fighter bay technology: auton bays, of the type used by ships such as the Constellation-class freighter, which allows for limited customization and repair of auton units and deployment thereof straight from the cargo bay of spacecraft. As the navalization methods are mutually exclusive and incompatible, units optimized for deployment from auton bays are not deployable from fighter bays, even in specialized auton-oriented modular strikecraft facilities sometimes marketed as "auton bays" (although they are usually termed "auton racks" to avoid confusion). Such units include all units marketed as "autons" by the OmniDefense Corporation.




Modular fighter systems are a combination of two distinct control systems: a fighter refit and configuration system (such as the Elbereth "Auton Logistics/Integration Command Engine" (ALICE-II), Astraeus "Real Time Fighter Management" (RTFM), or Kawashima "Drone-assisted Refit System" (DARS)), and a strikecraft AI system (the Elbereth DroneAI being the most commonly used solution in the current market). The fighter refit system allows for the repair, configuration, and launching of fighter craft, while the strikecraft AI system interprets and executes commands sent by the mothership.

The Elbereth DroneAI system is capable of interpreting a wide variety of commands beyond that of most common autons. The following is a complete list of commands accepted by the DroneAI system.
-Attack, Wait, Form up, Break and attack, Return to ship: These commands are identical to those used by OmniDefense Systems' autons.

-Scout the system: This is identical to the scout function used by the Taikon TX3 explorer auton.

-Guard: With a target selected, this orders the fighter to protect the target. With no target selected, this orders the fighter to engage any hostiles near the mothership's current position.

-Loot target/Loot nearby targets: This orders the fighter to collect any cargo aboard the target wreck (for the former), or on any nearby wrecks (for the latter).

-Collect mined ore: This functions similarly to the above, but instead orders the fighter to collect only mined ore. A miner's cargo hold must be fitted on the fighter for this command to be available.

-Mine nearby asteroids: This is only available on ships equipped with mining weapons (plasma torch, mining laser, Ferian plasma cannon), and should be self-explanatory. Note that a separate ship with a miner's cargo hold is needed to collect the mined ore, and that the ship will utilize all onboard weapons (not just mining weapons) for mining. It is strongly advised to ensure that ships ordered to mine asteroids have been stripped of all non-mining weapon systems to prevent destruction of mined ore.

-Move to position: This allows the user to place a number of waypoints, after which selected ships will fly along all of the waypoints in order. Upon reaching the final waypoint, ships will enter a holding pattern and engage all hostiles near that position.

-Change command mode: This changes whether commands issued to a ship will be issued only to that ship, to all ships in the selected ship's flightgroup, or to all fighters currently on sortie.

-Close range/Long range/Standard tactics: These commands allow the operator to change the preferred engagement distance of selected craft.

-Disable/Enable launcher: Some strikecraft may be equipped with launcher-type weapons, careless use of which could be undesirable due to limited ammunition, risk of friendly fire, or both. These commands are designed to mitigate this issue.

Most fighter refit systems, in an attempt to reduce the tedium of configuring large numbers of craft individually, offer commands to set AI profiles. When adding new ships to the bay, these AI profiles can be used to quickly configure the combat behaviours of the strikecraft.

In addition, the Elbereth DroneAI system is capable of relaying sensor information from the fighter's scanners to the mother ship, allowing the use of fighters as reconnaissance or surveillance platforms. To activate this feature, go to "Options" in the fighter bay, and turn on "Display detected friendly/enemy ships on system map".





ELBERETH AUTOMATA

Elbereth Automata is considered one of the major contributors to the modern-day modular strikecraft facility. Founded in 2387 by two PhD graduates from the University of New Victoria, Department of Computer Science, the corporation specialized in advanced artificial intelligence systems. Elbereth's main products in its early days were advanced, artificially intelligent
neural-net firewalls designed for the purpose of protecting computerized systems against cyberattacks (especially quantum attacks and advanced persistent threats) with more effectiveness than the then-conventional Bayesian packet filter firewall systems in use by most corporate and government servers. Elbereth later expanded into the field of security robotics following the success of its advanced security software: first personal security automata, and later into auton control systems.

The first generation of Elbereth space combat automata was developed as part of a contract with the Commonwealth Fleet to create a low-cost unmanned strikecraft vessel capable of matching human pilots in combat. While the project was a failure and was ultimately cancelled in 2395, Elbereth later developed, using its work with the Fleet as a base, a custom software suite for several OmniDefense autons, allowing them to perform complex actions such as mining, performing coordinated strikes on larger targets, and even choosing a preferred engagement distance for attacking targets. This software suite was what led OmniDefense Systems, the current leader in commercial auton technology, to purchase Elbereth in 2397.

Today, Elbereth is owned by OmniDefense Systems, and focuses its operations on creating the "next generation" of autons, termed "autofighters", with improved firmware, customizability and versatility over OmniDefense's older auton line. Its products include a line of fully customizable autonomous strikecraft, ranging from civilian security autons to powerful combat units intended for military and PMC customers, and hangar bays capable of modifying them. Due to the fact that its auton hangar facilities were designed in cooperation with Astraeus Logistics (which focuses on modular fighter bays designed to house navalized versions of conventional strikecraft), Elbereth strikecraft can be housed in Astraeus fighter bays, and navalized strikecraft can be housed in Elbereth auton racks, should they be sufficiently low in mass to be houseable in auton facilities. Corporate security forces have already adopted Elbereth's technologies on their enforcer cruisers, and the Commonwealth is considering using Elbereth autofighters to bolster its aging strikecraft forces. Controversy over the deployment of autonomous combat units, however, has kept the Commonwealth from purchasing and utilising autofighters, and the vast majority of military-grade autofighters are currently being deployed by corporate security forces and licensed PMCs.

AUTOFIGHTERS:
Pros:
-Cheaper and more expendable
-Take up much less cargo space
-Easier to launch, easier to equip
-More versatile than autons, even if not as versatile as navalized spaceframes
-Come in many equipped versions, functional right out of box and competitive with most spaceframes in combat performance
-Autofighter bays can prepare for launch very quickly
Cons:
-Very limited cargo space
-Quite a few have no cargo space (cannot use ammo-based weapons)
-Limited capacity for modification compared to navalized spaceframes
-Specialty item, so most cannot be found at commonwealth stations - can only be bought from specialized corporate (Elbereth) retailers
-Less durable than navalized spaceframes


ASTRAEUS LOGISTICS

Founded in 2372 as a shipping company and rival to Korolov, Astraeus Logistics, in contrast to Korolov, specialized in the shipment of consumable goods, ranging from fuel, food and water to raw production materials and even ammunition for the Commonwealth military. While the first decade of Astraeus Logistics' operations are uneventful save for its expansion in and around the Saint Katherine's Star system, Astraeus, like many other shipping firms, was threatened by increased piracy and attacks from pirates and raider forces. This threat was compounded by the tendency of Astraeus convoys to supply ordinance to PMC organizations operating throughout Human Space, which made Astraeus weapons convoys an especially attractive target for properly-armed pirate forces, such as the Sung. Lacking the funds to hire and supply long-term escorts for their freighters, which often cross multiple star systems in a single shipment, Astraeus turned to the development of an escort solution capable of providing long-term escort for their freighters with a minimum of logistical upkeep cost (such as fuel, food and pilot housing). In addition, this solution must be easily adaptable to multiple freighter types, without necessitating serious revisions to the spaceframes of the Antares-series and EI-series freighters used by Astraeus. Without the funds to license and purchase NAMI auton bays and accompanying autons for their freighters, let alone the inefficiency of autons against most threats in the Great Beyond and Outer Rim, Astraeus turned to an crude but effective solution: the modular fighter bay.

The first modular fighter bays were not designed to accomodate fighters owned and operated by Astraeus, but to give the PMC and civilian escorts hired by Astraeus to protect their convoys a landing zone that could allow them to rearm, repair and refuel their craft while the freighters are en route to their far-off destinations. Like modern MFB modules, the first generation of MFBs could be easily fitted onto most ship types with minimal retrofitting, but unlike modern MFBs, they were manned by a crew of flight engineers responsible for servicing landed strikecraft, and lacked any form of AI retrofitting technology. Nonetheless, these modular fighter facilities enabled Astraeus convoys to travel in safety at minimal cost as they delivered their cargoes to far-off destinations. As the crude but nevertheless successful MFB technology became more well known, it was eventually released to the public, where it became a popular outfit for all spacers, from independent freighter pilots wanting more protection than autons, to private military contractors, both licensed and unlicensed, granting them a field headquarters from which they can service their craft.

The second, and arguably most important, breakthrough in Astraeus' MFB technology came as a result of a technology exchange deal in 2396 between Astraeus Logistics and Elbereth Automata. Elbereth, then still a software firm, granted Astraeus an exclusive contract to utilize portions of their strikecraft control software, as well as a modified version of the "ALICE" refitting software (which Elbereth developed in part) used in the NAMI auton bay, in exchange for an undisclosed sum of money. Astraeus later utilised this technology in order to develop their second generation of modular fighter facilities, which utilise fully-automated refitting systems as well as specially-modified, or "navalized" spacecraft that could be piloted by humans as well as by an AI system remarkably similar in performance to the type used by Elbereth's autons. This refit allowed PMCs and shipping firms of all sizes, from one-man contractors to multi-billion-credit corporations, to make full use of modular fighter facilities and travel in safety at a minimal cost of manpower.

At present, Astraeus Logistics is one of the current market leaders for autonomous strikecraft technologies, being in control of approximately 33% of the autonomous strikecraft market share. Its main competitors include OmniDefense Systems and NAMI. While its strikecraft facilities require much more room to install than a typical auton bay, Astraeus strikecraft facilities make up for this weakness with the fact that they can deploy modified versions of common consumer spacecraft, which are able to take much heavier loads than autons and therefore possess the advantage in versatility. There exists a number of retailers throughout Human Space that sell licence-manufactured and navalized variants of common spacecraft, as well as fighter bay modules. Many shipyards facilities also are likely to have a number of navalized spacecraft for sale.

SPACEFRAMES:
Pros:
-More versatile than autofighters
-Much more capacity for modification than autofighters
-Larger cargo space, and less burdened by heavy loads
-More space for devices
-More durable than autofighters
Cons:
-More expensive to modify than autofighters
-Most do not come with high-end mods (install them yourself)
-Require much more cargo space - spamming may not be a wise idea, and most small ships can have problems carrying them
-Many require modification before being able to function at full capacity
-Expensive to maintain if using ammo weapons - only recommended for freighter or capital ship captains (PSD users)
-Bays take longer to prepare ships for launch



CREDITS
George Moromisato - Transcendence game engine, as well as explorer auton code
PM - Fighter bays mod, and Auton assembly hangar mod, which formed the main inspiration for this mod, as well as some code from Playership Drones
X3: Terran Conflict, Homeworld 2, Gundam, Knights of Sidonia: Creative inspiration

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"In this world, there exists a balance between those who are creators, and those who are users. [...] I vow to dedicate myself to the side of creation. The labour involved becomes joy when I know there are those who will enjoy my work to the fullest."
-Hermit Gunsmith, Cave Story

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