Fighters are a vital part of fleet battle tactics, and nearly all ships larger than light cruisers carry at least one squadron of fighters. Fighters can carry the battle to an enemy fleet while your own capital ships are safely out of range. They can scout ahead of a fleet and around sensor-blocking obstacles such as planets, moons, and asteroids. They can protect the vulnerable sides and rear of a warship or unarmed civilian vessels. They come is 3 basic flavors. Interceptors emphasize the ability to destroy other fighters. Strike Fighters have the ability to damage or destroy enemy capital ships, but can also engage enemy fighters. Assault Fighters are dedicated shipkillers, designed to take out even the largest enemy vessels with nuclear-tipped missiles.
F-7 Corsair Medium Space Superiority Fighter:
This used to be the most common fighter and any smaller ship carrying fighters will generally be carrying this. Its four engines are locked in place but multiple thrust redirectors allow excellent maneuverability. It also mounts a high velocity railgun with multiple ammunition options. This gun has massive damage capabilities when used to strafe a target. Also various fighter missiles and rocket pods can be carried in two internal bays between the wings. The only critical deficiency is in its lack of ability to carry the heavier missiles and its relatively low total delta-vee (range). This fighter is being phased out much to the dismay of several captains and pilots who like the fighter's smaller size and ease of maintenance. The Corsair can go into atmosphere but can not land, and it is manufactured by the Boeing/Airbus Consortium on Avalon.
I/SF-16 Warhawk Heavy Interceptor/Strike Fighter:
This is now the most common fighter in the fleet. It carries two packs of five each 20-cm anti-fighter missiles, mounted on either side of the cockpit. She also has a single railgun under the nose and a pair of 15-cm fixed chemlasers on the wingtips. The Warhawk can enter the uppermost layers of a planetary atmosphere, but cannot penetrate to ground level without burning up. There is also a single internal light modular missile bay at the aft of the underside, behind the railgun. This fighter is designed primarily to eliminate enemy figthers, not attack and kill heavy warships. The Warhawk is produced in the Blackbird asteroid mining belt of Phoenix by the Blackbird subsidiary of Harrington Industries.
SF-25 Crusader Heavy Strike Fighter:
Somewhat larger than the Warhawk, the Crusader represents the pinnacle of fighter technology. She is faster, more armored, and more deadly than any previous fighter. The problem is she is even more expensive, and her close-placed engine pods give a slight maneuvering penalty. But pilots say it is worth it. The Crusader mounts two railguns under the nose and a 20-cm chemlaser fixed to each wingtip. There are also two heavy modular missile bays on the top of the aft fuselage, and a pair of slightly smaller bays on the underside. The large wing provides both an extensive fuel capacity but also the ability to enter atmospsheres and land on a planetary surface. The Crusader is used for both anti-fighter and anti-starship missions, and it is manufactured on Avalon by the Boeing/Airbus Consortium.
AF-12 Avenger Heavy Assault Fighter:
This is the big momma of the fighter corps, only carried on the largest warships. She is big, slow, and ugly. That's her downside. On the upside she is armed to the teeth, surprisingly maneuverable for her size, and is the only fighter equipped with computer controlled, turret-mounted point defense weapons. Offensively, she mounts two six-tube launchers for heavy anti-ship missiles. Nothing compares to a squadron of twelve of these puppies kicking off 144 Heavy Anti-ship missiles in a few seconds. The first use of these fighters even stunned the bugs who when confronted by the massive launch hesitated before charging in. For self-defense, there are a pair of railguns for taking out enemy fighters, and four plasma phalanx point-defense weapons for defense against incoming missiles. The pilot sits in front of a panoramic viewing dome in the nose, while the gunner sits behind him and operates the sophisticated targeting and defense systems. The massive phased-array radar next to the pilot's dome can burn through almost any enemy jamming. The Avenger cannot enter an atmosphere, and is manufactured on Avalon by the Sukhoi Grumman Corporation.
In addition to fighters, all Earth Fleet vessels carry one or more other small craft, from simple supply shuttles to Marine Assault Pinnaces. A Pinnace is a shuttle capable of making a round trip between orbit and the surface of a typical planet, fully loaded, without refueling. A Shuttle can make a one-way trip either way, but needs to refuel before coming back. A Cutter is a space-only shuttle that cannot operate inside an atmosphere or climb out of the gravity well of anything larger than an asteroid.
AT-14 Skyranger Assault Pinnace:
The Skyranger is a medium-sized Assault Pinnace capable of both atmospheric flight and single-stage-to-orbit launches. It is also capable of vertical takeoffs and landings, and can carry up to 25 fully armored Marines and has four hard points for ground-support ordinance. Too slow and ungainly in space flight for use as a fighter, but that's not its job. The Skyranger is used to land a platoon of Marines on a planet's surface or to board hostile starships. It can also be used as a supply shuttle, although its pure cargo capacity is small. It's composite hydrogen-fueled turbofan/ramjet/rocket engines give it good performance in both atmosphere and low orbit.
AT-30 Hercules Heavy Assault Pinnace:
The Hercules is the largest orbit-to-surface craft in the Earth Fleet inventory. It can carry 100 troopers in Power Armor or up to 150 tons of cargo. It can even carry a single Mark III Assault tank along with a platoon of 20 troopers in Power Armor. It is used both for assault landings on hostile planets and for logistics runs to support an invasion with heavy equipment and supplies.
CT-6 Proton Personnel Pinnace:
The Proton is a heavy orbit-to-surface shuttle used for supply runs and personnel transfers. It can carry up to 50 passengers or 20 tons of cargo.
CT-4 Lakota Supply Shuttle:
The Lakota is a heavy shuttlecraft used for routine supply runs between ships and orbital bases. It can carry up to 20 passengers or several tons of cargo. It can even shuttle between an orbiting starship and a prepared base on the surface of a planet, although it will require refueling before returning.
CT-8 Courier Light Cutter:
The Courier is a small space-only craft used to ferry up to 6 personnel between ships and starbases. It cannot enter an atmosphere, and has a very limited endurance.
In addition to fighters and shuttlecraft, a variety of other small craft can be carried on board Earth Fleet Vessels.
AH-42 Raven Light Scout Aerocopter:
The Raven is a common aircraft used by the Tech Infantry. Its twin turbo vacuum fans give the Raven quite a bit of power despite the engines small size. The craft is stealth screened and mounts two quad pulse guns. Also the raven has a complete sensor and counter measures suite. While it is not capable of space or suborbital flight, it is usually included in the crated ordnance in Marine assault transports.
RP-12 Utility Repair Pod:
The RP-12 is the standard medium repair pod used for field repairs to the exterior hull of Earth Fleet starships and starbases. It is basically an enlarged spacesuit fitted with computer-controlled heavy manipulator arms, an onboard toolkit including an enzyme welder and plasma cutter, and an enhanced maneuvering thruster system for extended untethered spacewalks. These can be used to conduct routine maintenance on exterior sensor arrays and weapons mounts, as well as conduct some repairs of battle damage such as sealing small hull breaches.
LAC 1054-class Light Attack Craft:
Basically a huge strike fighter, Light Attack Craft are stationed at Starbases and Battlestations for last-ditch orbital defense of planets, asteroid belts, jumpgates, and other fixed targets. Too large to be carried in the launch bays of starships, these are used in a purely defensive role against commerce raiders and invasion fleets. Their four engines are capable of high acceleration, but have a very limited range. Their four Lance Torpedo Box Launchers give them a powerful anti-ship punch, and they are usually uses in large numbers to swamp enemy point defense. They also have some light chemlasers for defense against enemy fighters.