Fighter Missions

INTRODUCTION

The primary mission of the Viper is air superiority. In the case of our game, this means that these aircraft are charged with keeping the space clear around them for the safe operation of the Genesis, Pandora, other major vessels, and the Raptors. In this same context, it also means that the Vipers are to perform denial-of-space operations against Raiders - meaning that Vipers kill Raiders to make sure they don't do anything bad. According to Robert Shaw, "Airspace control allows strategic and tactical bombing, close air support of troops and armor, airborne or surface reinforcement and supply, reconnaissance, and other missions vital to the success of any military operation."

The big military qualities of the aircraft are speed and freedom of movement. Thus, they are best suited to offensive operations because it is too hard to defend from all directions, all the time, with fighters. The materiel and personnel are too vital to waste on anything except offensive operations. Paradoxically, though, the role of the fighter is defensive in nature: It defends (air)space once it takes control. The same attributes that make this weapons platform so damned effective in the offensive role are also the same ones that make it the best defensive platform ever produced. So what does that mean? It means you don't use fighters to defend fixed targets. SAM Sites can do that - for a much cheaper cost and much more effectively. It means that fighters are used in the aid of offensive operations.

"The most important branch of aviation is pursuit, which fights for and gains control of the air."
-Brig. Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell, USAS

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FIGHTER SWEEP

This is the primary mission of the fighter. It is exactly what it sounds like: The Vipers take off and perform a patrol over hostile or contested grounds. In the old days, fighters would range out and get enemy fighters to rise up and meet them. Doing this was a common practice during World War Two. For our purposes here in BSG, a Fighter Sweep would be sort of like jumping back to Picon and hanging around until a group of Raiders show up. This would normally be done to prepare for some kind of strike. Maybe landing troops for some reason. At the very least, they are decent recon aids if you can't kill a lot of enemy fighters. However the goal of a Fighter Sweep is to kill lots of hostile aircraft, so they are generally conducted in areas where there are known and confirmed 'high concentrations' of hostiles.

One of the guiding principals of a Fighter Sweep is (air)space superiority. Now because of this, resources should be readily available to exploit this opening. During modern combat operations, fighter-bombers would be on-hand to strike enemy airfields and other strategic targets while the enemy is down. Another exploitative element is the ability to provide close air support while performing a Fighter Sweep. For our purposes, Raptors or a captured Heavy Raider would be ideal for this purpose once the Vipers have cleared the airspace. Another way to exploit these Sweeps is to use very high numbers of friendly fighters. This divides the opposing enemy forces into smaller sections so that it can try and cope long enough to try and get at least some more fighters into the area. If insufficient friendly fighters are available for such operations then a CAG should employ "Slash-and-dash" tactics where Vipers just burn through the area, making one pass at a group of enemy fighters and exiting the combat zone quickly.

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POINT/AREA DEFENSE

"Orders to protect objects are very much disliked by fighter pilots. Their element is to attack, to track, to hunt, and to destroy the enemy. Only in this way can the eager and skillful fighter pilot display his abilities to the full. Tie him to a narrow and confined task, rob him of his initiative, and you take away from him the best and most valuable qualities he possesses: aggressive spirit, joy of action, and the passion of the hunter."
-Lt. Gen. Adolph Galland, Luftwaffe


Nobody wants the point-defense job but it has to be done. Defending a single area is tedious and boring and its rare to get any action. Kind of like watching Weekend at Bernie's II. The quote above effectively sums up why it isn't the most desired posting. However, as stated before, the fighter is perfect for it if the target is valuable enough… Like a giant space station or Battlestar.

Air attacks will come against these High Value Assets (HVAs) in two general forms:

  1. Penetration Strikes: These involve one or more aircraft attempting to penetrate a defense network undetected in small groups or in singles. Often times, they will perform this operation from numerous directions simultaneously to overwhelm the defense systems when they are discovered. These are generally performed, once deception operations are confirmed successful, by large numbers of enemy fighters and/or bombers. Nuclear armed penetrators, IRL, would come in singles. However, given the nature of BSG it is likely that if such an operation were successfulyl carried out, the Cylons would use numerous nuclear-armed Raiders.
  2. Massed Attacks: Pretty straightforward. In this style of attack, the Raiders will essentially perform a Fighter Sweep against friendly forces and attempt to either distract or clear the (air)space of Vipers while their nuclear-armed ships and/or Heavy Raiders attempt to blow through and hit the friendly HVAs. These are always very costly for both sides and this means that there is very likely some sort of logistical supply nearby for them, be it a refueling ship, a basestar, or something along those lines.

But Point/Area Defense comes in a few primary forms.

-CAP (COMBAT AIR PATROL)

These are the Vipers already in the air. You seem them on the show. A set of Vipers (or more) get airborne and fly around in a giant patrol around the fleet. They are the first pilots in line to respond to a threat to the fleet. As said on the Pilot Slang page, CAP's are ranged patrols from home and generally flirt with enemy territory. BARCAP's (Barrier Combat Air Patrols) are what the pilots on BSG fly. But for the sake of argument, they're CAP's here in this theme.

-GAI (GROUND ALERT INTERCEPTORS) or "ALERT VIPERS"

GAI. Kind-of a misnomer when there's.. you know.. no ground to launch from. But regardless, BSG has provided us with the same concept under a different name - "Alert Vipers." These are the Vipers which are kept pre-flighted, hot and ready in the tubes. They are fueled, armed, and the ejection seats are armed. All the pilot has to do is literally strap on the aircraft, close the canopy, and go. The pilots "on alert" don't need to be sitting in their Vipers but they are generally known to be ready to dash towards them at a moments notice from anywhere on the ship. In today's terms, GAI or "Alert" aircraft come in a few forms. 'Alert-5' means that the aircraft can be airborne in five minutes. They are sitting at the end of the tarmac with the crews in a nearby bunker. 'Alert-15' means the aircraft can be airborne in fifteen minutes. In this situation, the aircraft are ready to go but are not 'warmed-up' and ready to launch. Almost any modern fighter aircraft, as long as it is armed, fueled, and undamaged can be put into the air inside thirty minutes.

STRIKE ESCORT

Let me make one thing perfectly clear about escort operations.. One single loss is unacceptable. If you are escorting someone or something, that is because it cannot stand up to the withering fire from enemy Raiders. That means that these people are depending on you, quite literally, with their lives to get them home. When you fail them, its like losing a wingman. The rest of the escort group see's you lose one and you brush it off? Forget it. They've completely lost faith in you and your squadron and you will never earn it back. Why? Because they have seen that when they die, it doesn't matter to you. Escort missions, while the hardest and most frustrating mission of any fighter, are also the most demanding and potentially rewarding. Whenever your escorts are attacked, you should swarm the aggressive Raider and destroy it before it has a chance to inflict any casualties whatsoever. Chasing other kills all over the sky while one of your escorted is taking cannon fire is something that should humiliate even the most seasoned fighter jock. Period. End of argument. If it doesn't, you don't deserve to fly Vipers… There is no 'but' or 'what if's to this. Expect to catch Hell as if you had lost your wingman, for you have failed yourself, your squadron, and the people whom you were to protect. And for what? An enemy kill?

But I digress. These missions are incredibly hard to balance. The role is inherently defensive in nature. However, once the escorted group has been discovered and the enemy rises to meet it, then the fight is on. The fighters can become offensive once again and hunt the ever-living Hell out of those who might bring harm to their charges. But they are still essentially performing Point Defense on a moving object. Please refer to the sections above about vulnerabilities in general. For details on the different kinds of 'escort,' continue on. Keep in mind that under ideal conditions, all of these would form a 'screen' and they can be used in concert to great effect. However, they can also be used singularly according to mission profiles and requirements.

RECEPTION ESCORT

This sort of mission means that Vipers would be dispatched to the area where Raptors or other vessels would be jumping back to. They would be there to ensure that Raiders did not follow them back or possibly provide search and rescue (SAR) coordination on any wounded aircraft. For non-jump situations, Reception Escorts would cover egress routes used by the strike element to ensure that Raiders would not disrupt the return to base for anyone who may have already been damaged.

REMOTE ESCORT

The fighter pilot's favorite. This often begins as a Fighter Sweep designed to push deep into a certain area. Once (air)space superiority has been established, the strike or escorted elements move in to perform their mission as planned. This can also be used as a feint maneuver to misdirect enemy attention and air defenses into an area where the strike or other elements won't even be going. If such is the case, then the strike/escorted should do their best to remain hidden. However, this type of escort can also be used effectively to perform CAP's over enemy bases of operation. These flights would be charged with intercepting any and all enemy Raiders moving towards the strike/escorted element or their egress routes.

DETACHED ESCORT

While the name is a bit misleading, these escorting fighters are actually ranged only a small amount from the escorted group. They are far enough that they can see and intercept the incoming enemy fighters before the Raiders have a chance to engage the escorted ships. There is a lot of detailed geometry that goes into these escorts that covers rear-quarters missile-shot considerations, min/max gun range considerations, but most of that isn't too important due to our +combat system. What is relevant is that these types of escort are the most common and how to perform them should be ingrained into every Viper pilot's head.

CLOSE ESCORT

These are the escorts that most people think of when they picture images of P-51D Mustangs escorting B-17G Flying Fortresses over Germany during World War Two. This doctrine establishes support elements, in front of, around, behind, on top of, under and inside the escorted formation. They are the last line of defense and this doctrine, it should be noted, rarely works without the preparation and warning provided by Detached Escort operations. If the Raiders have gotten this close, the escorted elements are in trouble. Close Escorts are a tripwire force only and should not be counted-on to defend a wide array of Raptors or other craft.

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