WC wargame idea

I don't think there's any point to distributing the Java runtime with your application. It seems kinda silly, since many people already have it (not all, but they can download it easily enough). You might want to consider using Java WebStart to install your application over the Internet; I haven't used it myself, but it might be a cool option.

As for fighters being basically expendable munitions... well, to quote Tolwyn, "We're all expendable." The main advantage of fighters is numbers. As much as we like superheroics, it's really not all that realistic. Maybe you could have a "pilots" feature where you can install special supercharacters into select fighters to increase their effectiveness. Sorta a RPG element.

I really don't know what good the SWACS would do. It's a nice tactical option, but in the games, the main form of recon is fighter patrol and carrier-based radar. The SWACS were only used in like one mission in WCP (more's the pity), and I'm assuming their main use is long range, stealthy recon (since you don't need as many ships to cover the same amount of space, I assume it's stealthier).
SWACS freaking own.

I can't believe they are so underutilized in Wing Commander.

I mean hell, Bondarevsky keeps an entire Kilrathi Assault force Occupied for HOURS with just TWO SWACs craft...

Imagine the results you could get if they escorted/assisted strikes and always flew duty over a carrier group.

Not to mention the targets they would become.

It's really a shame we don't see them more heavily used. There's only a single refernce, that I've been able to find, to ConFed SWACs craft (Aside from the SWACs in Prophecy/SO) and that's when Tolwyn reflects back to the SWACs Corvettes ConFed was using during the war...

I can't believe that a term like "Flattop" Would survive from WWII and not the tactics/usage strategy surronding the SWACs aircraft..

BTW, Casper, Have you ever played a game called Jane's Fleet Command?

If you haven't, I STRONGLY recomend you pick up a copy, it's a shitty game, and usually goes for around 10 bucks, but that game is nearly a complete project of what your trying to accomplish here, but with modern weapons and equipment as used by the United States. You might get some useful ideas out of it, such as how to handle combat in 3d, with only a 2d map, and how to use and show SWACs craft and others...

Check it up, it's damn cool.

Hmmm...I'm going to read my Electronic Warfare Manual again...
I didn't actully see GeeBots post until now...so lemme list out a couple of the SWACs potential missions/uses (Slawter, please fill in any gaps I leave out):

A note about the SWACs: SWAC stands for Spaceborne Warning and Control. In the US Navy (This is what I'm familar with so I draw my assumption accordingly) there is the AWACs and the EWACs craft. EWACs are referred to as Early Warning and Control, or so I have been led to believe. This means that the name "Warning and Control" is meant to be an indication of the capabiles of a WACs craft, including SWACs. That the name has been changed to SWACs instead of AWACs or EWACs doesn't change the potential mission roles, just the operating environment.

WAC's craft serve in a number of differant ways. Primarily they were created to Provide overhead radar that could "see" over the horizon (I stress that it is no less necessary to "see" around planets moons black holes and deep scan asteroid belts, all of which is tricky without a capital ship or numerous fighter patrols) and to Detect Enemy Fighter Craft at a greater ranged to provide Advanced Warning of a pending strike.

WAC's craft have another use: Air Traffic Control. They can line up friendles and ID Uknowns that pop up without having to vector off a fighter. They can arrange military positions so as not to interfere with Civilian traffic. Air superiority is maintained because of WACs aircraft.

On that note, below I will explore the potential uses of WACs craft specifically in a WC environment. This is difficult to do, we have very little information on the SWACs of WC, so some speculation was necessary. I do not feel personally that my speculation is so far off based as to be unreasonable however.

First a couple of assumptions here:
a: SWACs craft have Bomber like speeds, as opposed to Capital Ship speeds.
b: SWACs craft radar have the same or (more likely) greater range then Capital Ships Radar
[This is contentional, it might not be true. However, I personally feel extermely confident that SWACs craft have BETTER RADAR then capital ship, simply because that's the way SWACs (or AWACs) craft have always been built. If they DO have better radar, then it's obvious what good the SWACs would do.]
c: SWACs craft have far superior range then a fighter radar
d: SWACs craft can be docked with a carrier in the same way that a fighter can (And thus protected from attack/assault
e: SWACs have longer range communication (and faster/better qualty) then that of fighters.
[There's reference to a laser lock, which is hard to do with fighters because they manuver and it requires line of sight, an SWACs craft, when deployed properly and escorted well would not have to manuver, and could maintain that communication link back to the carrier.]

1) Forward Deployment : Deploying and SWACs craft inside of friendly fighter cover/patrol zone but forward of the Carriers position allows the "bubble" of radar coverage to be extended that much farther in front of the carrier (Or behind it, above it, or to the side of it) allowing for as much as a few minutes extra warning. This includes being able to look into the "shadow" created by a planet. You can fly the SWACs out and peek around behind the planet without jeapordizing the Carrier. It is important to mention here also, that if you have all your fighters on board and an SWACs for early warning, when a strike is detected you can launch your fighter for defense (many MORE fighters fully fueled and armed) then if you had to recall them from patrol. [How many times in WC do you come back from patrol to find the Carrier under attack?]

2) Patrol Missions : When flying a fighter sweep, or a patrol to search for enemy ships (Especially CapShips) taking an SWACs along would render it unnecessary to actually engage the ships to ID them. The SWACs would be able to ID and register the targets LONG before either side got in range to shoot at each other. This applies to patrols, search and rescues, and strike missions. One SWACs craft can cover the same area as at LEAST Two patrols, probably more likely three or four, and it can do it without flying to the edge of the zone to see whats there.

3) Simple Intelligence : Stationing an SWACs at strategic locations (Again, with fighter cover) in a system allows the Carrier (or Task Force Commander) to monitor a much larger area of the sytstem then he would normally be able to do, UNLESS he spread out his entire task force to use their Shipborne radars. SWACs craft could also be assigned to tail an Enemy Battle group, or group of fighters, at extreme range, back to their origin point. If such fighters did turn around to chase the SWACs it would know it long before they reached the craft and sooner then fighters/capships who might have been tailing the Enemy Ships instead. If her own radar range is greater then that of the target, an SWACs craft could track an enemy ship/battle group/fighter for hours without being detected and the target having no idea it's being followed. SWACs could also hang back in contested space after a withdrawal, providing valuable intelligence for re-taking the planet/system later. Also they could scout jump points, be the first ship through or the first deployed, giving vast radar range without the necessity of dumping all your fighters and sending them on patrol (leaving the Carrier defenseless).

4) Furball Support : Stationing an SWACs between Friendly fighters and Capital Ships can do two things. Firstly it supplies a linked communication point, and secondly it can vector friendly fighters onto intercept courses for enemy fighters heading towards a carrier (or her escorts) BEFORE the individual fighters would be able to pick them up on their own radar. SWACs craft can arrange targeting information and distrube it, no overlapping targets, and if someone needs help and hasn't called for it or doesn't know it SWACs can handle that as well.

5) Strike Support : In addition to Strike Corrdination (Which is a tricky manuver even with SWACs support) they again play the role of early detection, that is, they can see the enemy vessels before the fighters can, and possibly before the enemy ships can see them. Also they can watch the fighters and allow a senior offical back at the carrier (With a data link) to issue orders as the situation changes rather then having to rely on voice transmissions or the Carriers own radar. (I highly doubt that ConFed fighters preform a strike inside radar range of their own carrier, that would mean the Enemy Capital Ships could target the Carrier with their radar and possibly get a message off) Probably the most important factor is that it can tell the enemy group composition before the fighters are engaged, allowing them to break off before they are committed.

6) Friend or Foe : SWACs craft with a more powerful radar would help prevent Blue on Blue firings and to alleviate such threats. SWACs more powerful radar would be probably be better at detecting Stealth craft, as well.

7) ELINT : Stands for Electrionic Warfare. I have no idea if SWACs are capable of such things, but it certainly seems like a possability. This includes: Jamming Enemy Transmission, Friendly Encryption/Decryption, Long Range Communication, Jamming/Disruption of Radar. Certainly at least a few of these are possabilites for an SWACs craft operating in the ConFed fleet.

8) Weaponary : While it hasn't been developed yet (probably because ConFed's SWACs program is a little...slow) it's possible that a missile could be developed that could be fired from EXTREME Range (Something like the Pheonix Missile in the US that has a range of something like 120 miles) and vectored onto it's targets by the SWACs. Protecting friendly craft for that much longer and giving them that much more of an advantage. As well, an SWACs in atmosphere flying top cover could help direct orbital strikes down onto targets over a much greater range then a fighter or Marines on the ground. The same holds true for Torpedoes. It wouldn't take much to modify a ConFed Torpedo to be controllable by an SWACs craft. For that matter, the manuver in End Run/Fleet Action when they drop torpedos and expose their bellies while the torp homes could be done away with. Bombers wouldn't need second pilots anymore, just drop the Torpedo and have an SWACs crewman take it over, or guide it to it's target with a specially fitted laser lock. This last section is purely speculation, but the only reason we hafe to speculate about it is because SWACs have been ignored for to long in WC. Still, it would be nice to see some of these things in the game.

9) Decoy and Distraction : Let's not forgot what they used SWACs for in the book. Two SWACs craft kept an entire Kilrathi Battle Group hunting a phantom Terran Carrier group for HOURS. SWACs can do the same thing all over the fleet, dummying up signals radar and all sorts of adhoc impressions.

So there you have, Nine Potential Mission roles for an SWACs craft, most of these include two or three breakdowns of other kinds of the main missions.

Pft. And you didn't know what good it would do.
I can't see you forgetting any ideas, but i'll try to get more.

The SWACS, if done that way, would really ROCK.
A note on SWACS and a question

First of all guys I love this idea. This could be really cool if it gets of the ground. Are we (the Players) going to need any special downloads (i.e. secret ops) to run this thing? I only ask because its a relavent question in todays wing commander free age.

As for the On running SWACS discussion. I only have one more role/mission to point out for craft that do much the same role in today's world that would apply here.

One of the nice things about an SWACS type ship is that it can send information back to a carrier type vessel and if the "mother ship" is listening it can feed that information into its own computer. so the home carrier can get information passivly thus concealing its position from the enemy. this has a great deal of tactical value.

general comments:

as for era wc3 forward would be fine.

2d works just fine

as for how to supply fuel and weapons to your carrier/battle group as the case may be.

A handful of years ago I stumbed across a flight simulator built around this same general idea (except you commanded a squadron rather than playing cag) every few missions you got a shipment of weapons (a small one but a shipment none the less) which gave you a degree of resupply. the same could be done for fuel. i don't think its a good idea to have unlimited fuel and weapons because by limiting them you add a degree of skill and planning to the game.

glad to see other people like this idea too keep up the work.
Ha! I completely forgot about passive/active radar systems!

That is definatly true with SWACs and true in WC as well, though to a much smaller extent.

Part of Radar's ability is the ability to detect other radar signals being trained on it or that are operating...in WC I think with a Carrier flying around if the Radar sweeps across it it's going to reflect back enough of a Radar Cross Section anyway.

Hmm, I'll look into this more and get back to you. This thought has much possability, despite being differant then the way it's used presently.
wow - thanks, Jason - I hadn't thought of half of that stuff - it'll be a nightmare to program, but I'll try

periodic resupply is a good idea - perhaps you would have to defend a transport convoy to get it

I haven't thought about terrain yet, but planets, nebulae, and asteroid fields should be practical to include

you won't need SO to run it

just as a progress report, I have most of the underlying classes - Gun, Missile, Ship, Fighter, etc. - done, and am working on writing the threads to update things in real time
Yes, all of that would be a nightmare to program, wasn't a list for you...so lemme give you a run down of what your game should do:

a) SWAC should extend the carrier radar range, or have it's own radar bubble
b) Should see around planets and black holes and deep scan Asteroids]
c) Should be larger then the standard carrier radar range
d) You should be able to use SWAC to do decoy, just have an option for an SWAC to look just like a carrier battle group to distract enemy units.

That's all you really need to program. The rest is just info about how SWAC could have been better used in WC.
how should I do coordinates?

a standard x-right, y-up system
WCP system (x-right y-down)

if there's another coordinate system from another WC game, please suggest it
Hrm, I didn't know that WCP's system had Y down. I'd go with the X-right, Y-up system, but that's just my mathematical background talking. I also like X up, Y right, since I often think in terms of up being the far side, and that being where the enemy is, I like the X coordinate to be in that direction. In any case, though, I don't know if your game should really have people dealing with punching in numerical coordinates, so it's probably best to go whatever's easiest to implement for you.

I think it's really debatable if the WC SWACS have superior radar range. The main reason why airborne radar has such superior range in wet navies is because they're airborne. A carrier-based radar has a range of hundreds or even thousands of kilometers, but because of the horizon, in practice it's limited to the short end of that range (and even worse for sea-skimming targets). There's probably no debating that you could theoretically mount a superior radar system on a ship-based platform, but the practical benefits wouldn't be there. I'm not sure of the capabilities of the AEGIS radars, but since I'm pretty sure the Hawkeyes at least use mechanical scan, I'm guessing the electronically scanned phased array radars on AEGIS ships have superior performance, at least in that department.

Now, take that into space, where the line of sight is essentially unlimited. I think one of the reasons why we don't see the SWACS used a lot is because a carrier can effectively mount a superior radar system in space, as opposed to the planetary situation. While SWACS would be effective when lines of sight are blocked by celestial bodies, this is arguably a niche role, since as far as I'm aware, almost all the combat in the WC games takes place well away from planets.

This makes sense, since in space you probably want to keep the combat a good distance away from the planets, which is presumably the objective, especially since jump points are much more defendable. The cases of planetary combat we know about (WC3/WC4) have involved isolated fighters dispatched on missions; perhaps this is evidence for planetary defenses that would make an approach by carrier suicidal. Some of the novels bring things in a little closer, but remember what happened when the Kilrathi drew in bombardment range of Earth in Fleet Action--presumably, it's the goal of space fleets to keep the enemy fairly far out.

That said, I do think SWACS have their uses, but I don't think they're as much of an automatic advantage as they are in wet navies. I think, robbed of the range advantage, they're definitely more for helping to coordinate detached duties at long distances from the carrier. This still help appreciably extend the carrier's radar range (even if their individual radar range is less), and it's also useful in cases where active carrier radar would be a very bad idea. There have been a number of situations when carriers have been hiding in nebulas or what-not where SWACS would have been helpful; the Black Lance did use a number of craft with SWACS-style capabilities.

On the other hand, assuming SWACS have significant capabilities over fighters, to the point of carrying no armament and being somewhat fragile, you can understand the reluctance of Confed's tacticians to unnecessarily expose them. I also think, as a gameplay matter, it'd be kind a stupid to have an SWACS parked next to your carrier all the time (as a routine matter to extend the radar range); rather than making the SWACS more useful, the longer range means it's too valuable to risk on independent actions.

I don't want to get in a big debate with the SWACS fanboys over whether or not they're a good idea; I just want to point out that just because something works well in today's navy doesn't mean it necessarily translates into space (my main quibble here is the range thing). I also tend to separate the idea of electronic warfare birds from the early warning birds. There's really no good reason why they should be one and the same, since the equipment isn't 100% complementary. I agree completely that electronic warfare is a fun element (although perhaps a bit much to integrate into a first pass at such a game).
I just threw the EW bit in there because it has potential for use with the SWACs.

It is true that the WAC craft may not have the same uses in WC as they do in the Navy, for differant reasons, but I think if ConFed examined the possabilites of the WAC craft it could in fact become more useful.

For example, the Radar mounted on a Capital Ship (Let's say a Midway-Class carrier) isn't going to be there simply to be a radar, it's a part of a carrier. The Original WAC craft used by Confed was a Corvette outfitted specfically to hold Spaceborne Radar. I think the design differance between giving the Midway a way to see Space around it and giving a Corvette a way to extend Radar range means that the distance of radar coverage by a WAC Corvette would be greater.

to give you a more direct comparison:
Presently in the United States Navy & Air Force there are Three types of Craft we're discussing:

Carrier Radar
Range: 60 Nautical miles

Carrier WAC Craft
Range: 300 NM

Air Force WAC Craft
Range: 173.795248

(Apologies for the raw conversion data)

The Carrier WAC Craft has a relativly larger range then the Air Force WAC craft and the Carrier itself. This obviously shows the design differances built into the ships. It makes lots and lots of Sense to put the biggest baddest bestest radar you've got into the primary ship in the fleet, that ship ISN'T designed to be a floating radar platform, its a combat vessel. And as such, size and constraints (as well as placement) are limited by the designers and planners of the vessel.

Despite the cost, I think it's alot more cost effective to stick the radar in a smaller ship like an SWACs craft, and give it four of those instead of four fighters, rather then stick the best radar you have in the carrier.

Logistically, if you lose on SWACs craft, you still have radar capabilites, possibly better then that of the carrier, and you can lose two more craft and still have radar capabilities.

In Propechy we've seen the introduction of the HARM Missile (Which is poorly named, HARM is supposed to be ANTI-Radiation, and is supposed to home on Radar sites on the ground, not turrets) it wouldn't be hard at all to build a missile designed to home in and destroy specifically a Capital ships radar. It would be a brilliant idea. So now you've got a problem, either your radar is heavily Armored and less powerful, tucked away in the middle of the ship and unable to get/send good signals, or incredibly vulnerable.

One more good reason for the SWACs craft.

By the way, if you look at my post it says right at the top that you have to assume that SWACs have good radar, better then that of a carrier, something I think still holds true in WC.

I mean, look at the models for the Concordia and Lexington and the Midway...where on there do you see Radar arrays sticking out scanning space? Maybe they are differant and better so that they can be contained inside of a ships hull, but I doubt you'll get better reception in there then with a huge triangular radar out exposed and scanning. My personal take on that is that the Radar arrays they WERE using were to vulnerable, so they stick them inside the ship to proctec them.

Again, this is an area about WC we don't really know much about, so this is pretty wild speculation on my part.
Don't forget the SWACs fangirls. Wherever they are.

Anyway, just because you have to assume that SWACS have superior radar, doesn't mean it's true. I already mentioned that carrier radars are limited in range because of LoS issues with the horizon... at sea level, the range isn't going to be more than about 20 nm, maybe slightly more with over-the-horizon capability. There's no practical benefit to outfitting a carrier with superior radar; in any case, a carrier's escorts (both airborne and seaborne) can help extend that range considerably.

I would think a big capital ship with a huge power plant would be able to mount a big honkin' radar at a minimal additional cost. It's also fairly obvious that SWACS are not used routinely in the WC games in any sort of close support role to carriers. As for whether radar arrays have to be obvious, if you look at the phased array systems on AEGIS ships, they're not obvious, either: just flat areas covered with hundreds of brick-like transceivers. That makes just about any area of the very-angular Midway an appropriate spot to put a radar. Note that the superstructure extends both well above and well below the hangar "wings" (for lack of a better term). This should eliminate the problem of the "wings" blocking radar coverage from one side. This aspect of the design might then suggest that the Midway does have sophisticated radar. Then there's that big thing sticking out the back; I always thought it looked kinda silly. I think it's supposed to be used by the science team, but this also suggests the possibility that it might be equipped with special sensors used for scientific data collection (I mean, why else is it so freak'n huge?); it might even be a radome of some sort.

The fact of the matter is, the only directly destroyable structures in Prophecy-era phase shielded capital ships are shield emitters and weapon turrets. The weapon turrets need to be on the outside, because you can't seem to beam lethal energy and missiles through phase shields (makes sense). Everything else is protected by the phase shields. There's no reason to think that the radar should be any different; heck, maybe you could incorporate radar into the phase shield generators themselves. Communications can clearly be transmitted through phase shields, but there are no obvious communication arrays, either.

Unfortunately, the game designers didn't seem to give the idea of "blinding" capital ships much thought (even blowing up the bridge doesn't seem to have much effect; I flew a number of missions with the Cerberus's bridge supposedly blown to kingdom come--die, Enoch, die!), so we really don't have any idea whether or not ships mounted sensors at all. I think it's obvious that such ships needed radar, even if just for navigational purposes, so the likely conclusion is that the radar just simply wasn't vulnerable (like, strangely, the hull--the most disappointing part of the WCP/SO engine was the fact that capital ships wouldn't blow apart, no matter how many nukes you dropped on them). The HARM missiles were for use against the weapon turrets (although I think they pretty much sucked at that role; my HARMs always ran into some part of those damned angular alien capships--I kept hoping they'd skim along the surface and hit them from the side, instead of going directly through as much armor plate as possible); I'm thinking that turrets had their own fire control radar (like the Phalanx CIWS), perhaps in case central coordination broke down, or just for terminal guidance.

I don't think the technical feasability of mounting sophisticated radar on cap ships is any obstacle. What we then need to consider is whether it's tactically advisable to put sophisticated radar on capital ships, or use any such installations routinely. The Midway, designed for independent action, would probably integrate sophisticated radar, while maybe older carriers would not (however, I'd think otherwise, since in many cases in the games, we're stuck on carriers operating independently). The Plunketts are one of the few ships that has a rotating radar (as ridiculous as mechanical scan 6 centuries in the future might be), so maybe this indicates that the Plunketts were designed with sophisticated radar (perhaps in line with their long range engagement mission).

The main argument against using active radar on a capital ship is that it puts a big flashing "kick me" sign on the battle group. Thus you'd probably want to keep active broadcasters on the less valuable ships, like destroyers, and most of the time you'd use passive radar; this is, in fact, how it's largely done today, and it would make sense in the future as well. However, I don't think this necessarily indicates that the radar on cap ships would be inferior to an SWACS; given the high value of capital ships, I'd say you'd want to have the best radar available, just for emergencies alone. After all, you can afford to lose any number of SWACS, but if the carrier goes up in smoke, well, you're royally screwed over. And contrawise, there's no point to having 4 SWACS if your carrier goes up, so might as well put all your eggs in one basket.

Now, with all that said, please let me repeat that I am not opposed to SWACS. Even if the radar range on the carrier is 1,000,000 km, an SWACS with a range of 100,000 km is still valuable, because you can fly it out a million klicks and extend the range to 1.1 million km, or patrol an asteroid field looking for hidden craft, or coordinate actions far from the carrier, or whatever. However, I think the high value of the capital craft argues strongly that you'd want to put the best radar feasible on such ships (mainly as a defensive measure, not really offensive), and I think the size of cap ships argue that they'd be inevitably superior to what you could mount on an SWACS. And, as I argued before, it'd be rather lame gameplay-wise to force you to park an SWACS in the center of your battle group, simply because the radar range exceeded that of a carrier (not to mention it'd help to pinpoint your position just as well as putting the same radar on a carrier). Better to focus on the mobility and expendability of SWACS, rather than the superiority of their sensor suite.

So, in conclusion, SWACS are good for offense, but I think their defensive suitability is more limited.
I guess we'll agree to disagree...maybe when Caspers game comes out we can test some of these theories, or alter the programming of the game slightly (with his permission) to allow the testing of such theories.

I guess if I was desiging a game like Wing Commander I would design the ships to look like they had radar mounted on them somewhere, part of this I understand as the limits of the Game Engines and the fact that most people just don't care.

I don't think there is enough factual information available to us to really continue this argument, its mostly just theory and speculation anyhow.

As for SWACs fangirls...well I only know of two SWACs fanboys (And I'm one of them)...I don't think very many other people really give a hoot. =P Which is fine, I think SWACs/ELINT/EW is a more elegant and vital part of Air/Space Operations, and I'll stick with that over guns-and-glory combat anyday.
Agree to disagree sounds good to me. However, I agree completely that the electronic warfare element is highly important, actually. While I'm not so sure about the WC universe, conclusions I've drawn about what space war in real life would be like clearly indicates that electronic warfare might be the most important element.

If you consider that there's basically nowhere to hide in space, the only way you can gain appreciably advantage is (1) numerical/weapon superiority or (2) stealth. Assuming roughly equal capabilities (thus dispensing with case 1), then space war would basically boil down to a sensor war; basically, submarines in space (whee, insert Wing Commander movie sonar, but-there's-no-sound-in-space, reference here).

Assuming the unrestricted use of nuclear weapons, and the lack of anything like "shields" or truly massive amounts of armor, it's not implausible that space war would amount to 1 shot = 1 kill missile duels, in the absence of any sort of electronic countermeasures. In which case, victory would boil down to who could fake out who the most, before unleashing a coordinated volley of ordinance.

Of course, that would kinda make capship duels and fighters superfluous, so I don't know how much fun that'd be. :)