The New Tactics of Space Combat Operations

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Previous Entry: Vengeance of the Kilrathi

The New Tactics of Space Combat Operations

The changes in space combat and other operations in the 10 years since I'd been assigned to the Tiger's Claw were based on advances in technology. Confederation pilots hadn't come up with any new acrobatic maneuvers that would guarantee a kill. Tactically, the afterburner slide was still the most effective move in a dogfight. The pilots in 2664, however, had to approach dogfights with a new respect.

Watch the Rear Turret guns on Heavy Fighters

The two most powerful fighters in the Kilrathi fleet were the Jalkehi and Grikath. They were both extremely heavy ships with an impressive array of forward guns. The Jalkehi carried a particle cannon and four lasers. The Grikath carried three neutron guns. Firepower alone didn't alter the way we fought against the heavy fighters, but a change in the location of their guns had a significant impact on our strategy and tactics.

Other than capital ships, the Grikath and the Jalkehi were the only ships that had rear turrets. While we had always looked to approach the first heavy fighters Jalthi and Gratha) from the rear, the presence of the neutron guns on the backs of the new fighters altered our game plan. After recent engagements against these ships, our pilots had abandoned our tactic of using Javelin heat-seeking missiles and our most powerful guns from close behind. Attacks to the sides of the ships were the most prudent.

Acceleration and maneuverability had become the weak links in the defensive capabilities of the Jalkehi and Grikath. Their acceleration ratings were average and bad respectively, so only our Broadswords had any trouble keeping up. Over the years, our pilots had determined that attacking from the side with the most powerful gun in the arsenal was the best course against these fighters. When a pilot did attack from the rear, the after-burner slide was employed to reduce the chances of being caught by the rear-turret neutron guns.

Using the Tractor Beam

Confederation Sabres and Broadswords were equipped with a tractor beam that was used in rescuing pilots and retrieving other objects in space. The tractor beam could only be operated from the rear turret. The tractor beam was extremely powerful, but there were a couple of points that would ensure success.

Since the rear turret was used for both the tractor beams and neutron guns, a switch (the G key) was used to toggle between the two functions. In the heat of a dogfight or rescue operation, it was easy to forget to change from the default "guns" setting. Nothing could be worse than putting yourself into position for a pickup, then blasting the object or individual away with your guns. Always be certain that you check the setting before engaging the tractor beam with the fire button.

Tactical Command issued a recommendation for the use of the tractor beam. The safest method to retrieve an object was to fly past it, hit the backspace key to bring your engines to full stop. Then switch to the rear turret and begin the pickup sequence. If your engines were still running when you moved to the rear turret, they would automatically accelerate to maximum velocity and increase the time needed to tractor the object.

Engaging Stealth Fighters

The Kilrathi Stealth fighters might have been the most difficult enemies to engage unless you were aware of the chinks in their shields. When an invisible Stealth fighter reappeared, its shields hadn't yet had time to regenerate. Confederation experts theorized that the power needed for their cloaking capability caused the problem. At any rate, Stealth fighters were most vulnerable when they first reappeared in space. Pilots who kept a close watch on their radar screen, and turned and fired quick volleys at the first sign of their presence, were often rewarded with a one-or two-shot kill. If you knew Stealth fighters were in the area, you didn't fly in a straight line for more than 10 seconds. That would have allowed them to reappear in a perfect attack position.

Author's Note

This information was not found on the computer network at this point in time, since I was the only pilot who had ever seen a stealth fighter. Instead, the in-formation comes from my own encounters with them. I've included it here for the benefit of Wing Commander II players.


The appearance of rear turret guns on our Sabres and Broadswords spawned a new tactic in space combat, commonly known among our pilots as the "run-and-gun." Kilrathi pilots, even those on escort duty, have a tendency to chase anything that runs away from them. In the past, we never wanted to turn our engines toward the forward guns on any enemy fighter. Now, however, we can take advantage of our rear turrets and bait the enemy into a rear attack, then blast them away.

The tactic seemed to be most effective when you turned away from an enemy fighter or fighters and then moved the throttles to full. As soon as the enemy pilots appeared close behind on the radar screen, the pilots quickly switched to the rear turret, then hit them with rapid-fire volleys from the neutrons.

Author's Note

Only in the Wing Commander II game was it necessary for the pilot to control the forward and rear guns. In real life, gun crews handled the turret guns.

Torpedo Runs

When phase shields first appeared on Kilrathi capital ships, Confederation pilots were stymied. It was impossible to break through the shields using our conventional missiles or guns. It didn't take long, however, for our research and development teams to design a weapon that would slice through the shields. The torpedo was the weapon, but it required specific procedures to ensure successful delivery.

The effectiveness of torpedoes was affected by the range at which they were fired. The power of the torpedo blast increased as the range at which they were fired decreased. In addition, our torpedoes could be destroyed by flak cannons. When torpedoes were fired at longer ranges, it was more likely that Kilrathi gunners could destroy the weapon before it connected.

Since it takes a long time for torpedoes to lock onto a target, Confederation engineers had determined that only ships with turret guns would have any chance at delivering the weapon. The turret guns were needed to engage Kilrathi fighter escorts that would attack during a launch procedure. Tactical Command had produced a procedure for our Broadsword and Sabre pilots that increased the odds of success:

1. Destroy enemy fighters before starting a torpedo run. It didn't guarantee that new fighters wouldn't appear later, but it gave us fewer enemies to worry about.

2. At a range of 8000 to 10,000 meters, select the torpedo (W key) and lock the target (L key). This started the torpedo-lock sequence, which took about 20 seconds to complete. Staying at long range, either by stopping the engines or moving at slow speed, prevented your ship from taking heavy damage until the lock sequence was completed.

3. When the torpedo-lock sequence (not target-lock) was completed, we increased speed and headed straight for the target. Our path couldn't waver, or we would lose the lock with our weapon.

4. At a range of 2000 meters, we launched our torpedo.

While the above procedure increased the odds of a successful torpedo strike, Kilrathi gunners were still able to knock a torpedo down about one-third of the time. Since only one torpedo could be launched per run, if a torpedo was destroyed, the procedure had to be started again from the beginning.

Author's Note

In the Wing Commander II game, you operate the rear and side turret guns. If enemy fighters appear during a torpedo run, you must switch to one of the turrets and engage the enemy. You will be informed when the torpedo-lock sequence is completed.

Next Entry: New Kilrathi Ship and Pilot Tactics