WC Fighters on Atmospheric Missions

Drakon

Spaceman
I was wondering about this subject and got a little lost along the way trying to make sense of it. I know that many WC ships are capable of atmospheric flight, but are all of them? If not what kind of features set apart those than can and those that can't? Do certain design features alter ship performance under such conditions? Maybe the questions will be easily answered and won't make for much discussion, but I'm curious to see what you all think. :D
 

DangerousCook

Rear Admiral
As far as I know, the fighters (from the games) that are capable of flying atmospheric missions are:

Confed - Hellcat, Excalibur

UBW - Vindicator

Black Lance - Dragon

Kilrathi - Ekapshi, Vaktoth (in cutscenes and the novel?) Bloodfang (novel)

Of course the novels probably have way more and I'll leave that research up to someone else.

From the Academy TV show there is also the Scimitar, Satha and I believe the Epee among many others...

Well those are the ones that I'm pretty sure of, but to answer your question, not all of the fighters are atmosphere capable.
 

Mancubus

Rear Admiral
Add Dralthi MkIV to this list. Also, Longbow is not atmospheric capable in wc4, but longbow-SAR in AcademyTV seemes to be.

Oh, and last but not least all Wc3/4 fighters seem to fly (or at least hover in atmosfere filled flight decs... so it is pretty difficult question.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
The long-standing fan belief that all fighters aren't atmophere-capable comes from two things.

One is an unusual line from Secret Missions 2. For some reason Halcyon takes time out of his briefing to war your squadron: "And under no conditions are you to engage in combat in the planetary atmosphere. Our fighters aren’t equipped for planetary overpressure. One close call with an enemy missile, and the pressure differential will explode your ship." Now... I'll argue that that's a darned strange thing to say *unless* the fighters in question (Rapiers II) are sometimes atmosphere capable. Otherwise it would be like a real squadron commander reminding his pilots that they can't fly their F-14s underwater. In other words: duh. (Of course, we go on to see even Rapier IIs in an atmosphere, in End Run.)

The other is the fact that the FMV games limit you to a single fighter per atmospheric mission - the Excalibur in WC3 and the Hellcat (Confed) and Vindicator (UBW) in WC4. This wasn't the original intent of these games, they simply didn't want to quadruple the number of atmospheric entry and exit videos (at least in WC3 it was just assumed that it didn't matter - who would choose a Hellcat when an Excalibur was available, anyway?). Just the fact that the Hellcat *wasn't* the 'atmospheric fighter' in WC3 and then was in WC4 should suggest that this is a gameplay limitation rather than a 'fiction' limitation. In defense of earlier thought, the games do several things to suggest that 'atmospheric' fighters are limited - including limiting defending spacecraft types (Ekapshi in WC3, Hellcats and Vindicators in WC4) and adding an unusual class designation for the Excalibur ("Space-Atmospheric Fighter-Bomber" in WCKS, "Heavy Fighter/Low-Altitude Atmospheric Fighter" in WCSO).

Action Stations establishes that the reason carriers entered service in the first place (in an age of space battleships) was largely for space-to-ground strike missions. In the end, a heck of a lot of WC fighters have been seen flying in atmospheres. To wit, organized by game (not a complete list):

Wing Commander:
Scimitar - Engage in atmospheric combat on WCA.
Rapier II - Ground support at Vukar Tag in End Run.
Dralthi - Bombs Hurricane in WC1 cutscene.
Dralthi II - Lands on Firekka in Freedom Flight.
Krant - Atmospheric combat at Vukar Tag in End Run.

Wing Commander II:
Ferret - Lands on Ghorah Khar, Novaya Kiev in WC2.
Epee - Visible on ground bases in WC2.
Sabre - Ground support at Vukar Tag in End Run.
Broadsword - Attack Mylon in Wing Commander novelization.
Sartha - Atmospheric combat at Vukar Tag in End Run.
Grikath - Engage in atmospheric combat on WCA.
Jalkehi - Land on a planet in WCA.

Wing Commander III
Arrow - Launches from Sirius on WCA.
Hellcat - Option for atmospheric missions in WC4.
Longbow - Enters atmosphere on SAR mission on WCA.
Excalibur - Option for atmospheric missions in WC3.
Darket - Land on Nargrast in False Colors.
Dralthi IV - Fly into throne room in WC3 intro.
Vaktoth - Fly into Kilrah's atmosphere in WC3 novelization.
Paktahn - Fly over Capitol Building in WC3 losing endgame.
Bloodfang - Fly into Kilrah's atmosphere in WC3 novelization.
Ekapshi - Atmosphere-specific fighter.

Wing Commander IV
Vindicator - Option for atmospheric missions in WC4.
Lance - Option for atmospheric missions in WC4.
 

Oggy

Rear Admiral
IIRC, Col. Halycon makes reference to not engaging in the atmosphere as the rapiers aren’t rigged for atmospheric flight and one close missile explosion would burst the ship in the briefing of one of the mission of SM2 (I forget which, sorry)

EDIT: Beaten to it, curses
 

Vinman

Vice Admiral
I remember reading Victory Streak repeatedly for like a year before I was able to get the game to run, and I'm positive that some weapons didn't work in atmospheres. If there are ships armed with exclusively space-based weapons, it stands to reason that they wouldn't be atmospheric.

Wouldn't ships equipped with these weapons try to stay up high where they have a firepower advantage?
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
The three guns that aren't effective in an atmosphere, per Victory Streak, are the Laser Cannon, Meson Blaster and Particle Cannon.

... except the atmosphere-only Ekapshi mounts Mesons and Lasers in WC3 and the Hellcat uses Particle Cannons in WC4.
 

Aginor

Vice Admiral
Nice list, LOAF!
I just want to add something from WC3, concerning the Hellcat V, if I may:
Vagabond used a Hellcat when he landed on the prison planet on which the Kilrathi kept Dr. Severin imprisoned (Alcor V, IIRC), so I think that is the first prove that the Hellcat V is atmosphere-capable.

-Aginor
 

Mancubus

Rear Admiral
I always thought that there is difference between fighters beeing able to fly in atmosphere and being actually able to effecitvely fight in atmosphere as i pointed out evry ship in wc3/4 is able to lift in flight deck, wich is typical atomesferic condision with air hold by contamination field and artficial gravity. However, perhaps the non-aeroynamic designs (like wc4 Banshee) can't manouver easily in these conditions and are usless in combat? I want to point that this is olny my theory...

Also to add atmospheric fighters - the Avanger-like shuttle in WCATV also has atmospheric capabilities IIRC
 

Aginor

Vice Admiral
Maybe you are right. So a Thunderbolt can use its antigravity-or-whatever-it-has to land on a planet but isn't able to fight in an atmosphere because it has no wings and therefore has a poor maneuverability.....
Let's see what the canon-masters say 'bout that... :)
 

Dundradal

Frog Blast the Vent Core!
There is actually a narrative by Bear in End Run during the attack on Vukar Tag where he talks about flying in the atmosphere and what needs to be done by a pilot to prevent from destroying one's self. I'll look up the quote when I get home from work, but it does a nice job of answering these questions.
 

Drakon

Spaceman
That was sort of what I was trying to get at originally and I hope this is answered. In the WC3 scene where the paktahns where flying over the buildings I noticed that the Kilrathi capships could as well. I was thinking that perhaps all the ships are able to fly in air at least well enough to take off and land, or manuever crudely.

It would sort of work out like with how aircraft like the MiG-25 functions, would it not? Increasingly fast and manueverable at higher altitudes, but very sluggist handling and not particularly fuel-efficient when the air gets dense at low alititudes. I suppose like it was said above that it's purely theoretical, but payload weight, conditions, and air density would all play a role in how effective each ship is at handling it, would it not? Or are there ships that can be completely ruled out as even being able to handle it? :)
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Also to add atmospheric fighters - the Avanger-like shuttle in WCATV also has atmospheric capabilities IIRC

The 'shuttle' Avenger lands on a moon, but it doesn't seem to have an atmosphere... it flys into a pressurized bay just like any carrier-based fighter. (Also - although it's become popular to call it a shuttle, all we actually see it doe is fly an SAR mission... which is something bombers and even ordinary fighters often do in the games.)

Maybe you are right. So a Thunderbolt can use its antigravity-or-whatever-it-has to land on a planet but isn't able to fight in an atmosphere because it has no wings and therefore has a poor maneuverability.....
Let's see what the canon-masters say 'bout that...

Well, the question there is just - do you need that to be true? Nothing in the continuity suggests this, but it isn't explicitly contradicted either... so if you want to write that into a fanfic or a fan project or something, more power to you. As simple speculation alone goes, it's an odd leap - since we just don't see it. Rather, it seems to be an attempt to rationalize something people assumed (that fighters don't all fly in atmospheres) rather than something that was stated and then contradicted.

(I would say that several of the ships we fly in atmospheres don't really have wings in the clear-cut sense we're thinking about... the Excalibur, for one! Also, it's worth pointing out that in any of them we have engines that let us float in place and fire.)

There is actually a narrative by Bear in End Run during the attack on Vukar Tag where he talks about flying in the atmosphere and what needs to be done by a pilot to prevent from destroying one's self. I'll look up the quote when I get home from work, but it does a nice job of answering these questions.

This is the section you're thinking of: "He hated atmosphere fighting, where anything much beyond a click a second was far too much. He bled off speed, watching the nav screen which was plotting out his trajectory, a thin blue line on the bottom of the screen showing the edge of the atmo- sphere. He felt the controls go mushy, the Rapier's computer automatically switching from thrusters to wing control surfaces. Fuel was now going to be a constant concern; flying inside the atmosphere, the hydrogen scoops would simply create too much drag. He closed the scoops and soared in."
 

Dundradal

Frog Blast the Vent Core!
\


This is the section you're thinking of: "He hated atmosphere fighting, where anything much beyond a click a second was far too much. He bled off speed, watching the nav screen which was plotting out his trajectory, a thin blue line on the bottom of the screen showing the edge of the atmo- sphere. He felt the controls go mushy, the Rapier's computer automatically switching from thrusters to wing control surfaces. Fuel was now going to be a constant concern; flying inside the atmosphere, the hydrogen scoops would simply create too much drag. He closed the scoops and soared in."

That would be it. Thanks LOAF.
 

Farbourne

Rear Admiral
One other piece of information that would seem to point to some fighters being, at least inappropriate, if not incapable, for atmospheric combat comes in WCIV. I forget the exact context, but I *think* it is when you are in the ship selection screen, and you switch to the Vindicator. Either in the "Pliers written text" or possibly in a Pliers voiceover, I think Pliers says something to the effect of:

"The Vindicator might not have the staying power of some other fighters, but its the only one you can use for atmospheric missions".

Can anyone confirm/clarify this quote?

It does seem that many of the "atmospheric" fighters do have fairly aerodynamic shapes (Hellcat, Excalibur, Dralthi), but others have decidedly non-aerodynamic shapes (Ferret, Ekapsi), so I don't think one can conclusively argue that fighter shape is the deciding factor.

However, I would certainly imagine different technologies dominate a fighters performance in atmosphere versus in space, and as such, there are probably significantly different ways to tune a fighters engines, repulsor-whatever field, acceleration absorbers, targeting computer, etc., to be optimum for atmospheric combat as opposed to space combat. Very probably, since fighters shifted to a more space-based role, only the few fighters that are easiest to tune to atmospheric combat or that are most effective in atmospheres are so tuned, and hence while any fighter might (or might not) be able to enter and atmosphere and land, probably each side only relies on a few to actualy use to fight.
 

Farbourne

Rear Admiral
One other thought. On the weapons effects thing--I can certainly imagine that certain weapon technologies would be less effective/ineffective in atmospheres. For example, current laser weapons technology requires advanced adaptive optics to be used viably at reasonable ranges in the atmosphere, but such technology would not be necessary in space. Now I'm not suggesting that the "lasers" in Wing Commander are actually "lasers" according to our current technology (otherwise, why would the laser beams resemble little balls (WC1-2) or bolts (WC3-4/P) that travel at finite speeds?).

However, it's an example of an additional device needed to make a weapon viable in atmosphere versus space combat. So maybe there are technological differences necessary to make WC weapons work in atmospheres, and since it would be a waste of space to install such devices on every fighter, maybe they only install them on the fighters that are most effective at flying in the atmosphere. In other words, maybe every fighter could be modified to fight planetside, but since it might require the addition of bulky equipment or be very time consuming, they only bother to do it on a few fighter classes, and then use only these classes in planetary missions.
 

Farbourne

Rear Admiral
OK, sorry about triple posting, but I keep having thoughts about this.

Did anyone else notice in WCIV that missiles seemed to be more destructive when used in the atmosphere? Maybe it was just remembering Halcyon's comment from SM2 that was biasing my perception, but I would swear that my ship took more damage from a missle hit when fighting in the atmosphere, and that my missiles did more damage there too. For example, I was once on the tail of a Vindicator , skimming the ground in my Hellcat. The Vindicator dove sharply. Now it's braking speed was better than mine, so I couldn't dive as steeply without worrying about hitting either him or the ground, so instead I pulled up to loop around behind him, and gave him a momentarily beautiful view of my engines. He fires a HS (I think) up my tailpipe, and BAM--instant death, even though I had full shields and armor. (Incidentally, I was very impressed by the AI in WCIV--it seemed lightyears ahead of the AI in previous, and subsequent, wing commander games, and better than the AI I've seen in any other combat simulator game. Maneuvers like that had me swearing I was playing against a human pilot!). Now, I'm pretty sure in all the spaceside missions I've flown on that same difficulty, a Hellcat can survive a HS hit (my shields and armor were full). Maybe it was a dumbfire, not a HS...but I would swear that it only killed me because we were in the atmosphere. It seems like my own missiles were more effective in the atmosphere as well--taking down Vindicators and other Hellcats with one hit where a hit and some gun hits were generally necessary in space. Has anyone else noticed this? It would be one cool addition to the game if it really was in there (it makes physical sense, too. In an atmosphere, an explosive detonation is accompanied by a blast wave of high pressure that would do more damage to a nearby object, especially a relatively fragile object like a spacecraft, than would occur in a vacuum).

Or maybe its just me...
 

Dundradal

Frog Blast the Vent Core!
Did anyone else notice in WCIV that missiles seemed to be more destructive when used in the atmosphere?

Or maybe its just me...

The missiles in WC4 are extremely destructive in or out of atmosphere, I don't think any values change between the two.
 

Mekt-Hakkikt

Mpanty's bane
I think it's also mentioned in FF that Hunters sees some Jalthi coming from the planet Firekka after doing some bombing.
 
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