1. The Blank Spot in the Roster
Battletech has been nothing if not efficient in filling every possible equipment and weapon system, from the footman up to interstellar battleships massing over a million tons each, but there is an actual gap. There is an arbitrary limit of aerospace fighters maxing out at 100 tons, and the smaller frame a dropship can be built on is 500 tons. The Battlespace game provides Small Craft to fill the 100 ton to 200 ton span, but between 200 and 500 ton craft, there is nothing. Likewise the small craft 100-200 ton bracket is sparsely populated. Thus, the purpose of the Heavy Craft is to fill the gap between aerospace fighters and dropships.
2. Missing Roles
Battletech and Battlespace are both very shooty games, and only lip service is paid to the things that an aerial vehicle can do besides strafe and make guns on attack runs. There are several really damaging things that aerospace assets can do, but the game doesn't devote any room to this. Cargo craft are enormously important, but just on the logistics side, and big cargo craft can pretty easily be turned into dope gunships where their massive size lets them carry some unexpected firepower with lots of ammo. Gravity bombing, with smart bombs, or just carpet bombing, is a time tested technique, but as there are two or three cargo craft, there are no dedicated bombers. Modern and cold war bombers were quite massive. Going to the navy, they made extensive use out of dive bombers and torpedo bombers, both of which could see a resurgence with the use of heavy craft.
3. The Devastator and the Avenger
During WWII, the US Navy made use of the TBD Devastator torpedo bomber, and later the TBM Avenger torpedo bomber. These were both immensely cool airplanes, and the men who flew them had to have iron nerve, because their planes were heavy, not fast, and to make their attacks they had to pick their attack angle and make a run at the target, getting low enough that their torpedoes would hit the water at the right speed and angle to hit the target, and not dive too deeply, or break up when they hit the water, all the while being chased by highly agile and pretty fragile Japanese fighters. They were making the Death Star trench run, staying on target to drop their torpedoes while being shot down in droves by the Japanese.
In the CE, creating large anti-ship missiles, 20 and 30 ton weapons, to take out the massive space bound warships, is viable. These heavy attack craft would have multiple crewmen, carry these massive, likely armor protected anti-ship missiles, and bring back the dramatic practice of squadrons of attack craft barreling towards a space battleship and firing a wave of torpedoes, through a storm of AA fire and enemy fighters desperately trying to shoot them down.
4. The Dauntless and the Helldiver
Again in WWII, the navy used the Dauntless Divebomber in anti-ship and ground attack roles, and eventually replaced it with the larger and more powerful Helldiver. Like the torpedo bombers, these pilots had to have steady hands, iron nerves, and tremendous resolve. They flew high and then would nose down toward their intended target, using the entire plane to aim the racks of bombs they were carrying. Cue the Stuka's dive siren and then explosions everywhere. The attack can miss, divebombers can be shot down, and then just the determination of how fast the pilot is willing to dive, and how close to the target they are willing to get before dropping and pulling up out of their dive.
As with the torpedo bomber, there is no reason the CE to not have their own dedicated dive bomber and ground attack craft. With the advent of superheavy vehicles, arcologies, CE bunkers, surface ships, mecha, and superheay mecha, direct hits with heavy ordnance can do a great deal of damage. Scaling things up, these CE divebombers can drop the equivalent of 10 ton tallboy bombs, or dedicated armor piercing bunker buster bombs.
5. The Flying Fortress and other Heavy Bombers
The heavy bomber from WWII is iconic, with its four engines, massive bomb loads, and bristling with machine guns. Gravity bombing remains much the same since the inception of aerial warfare, the vehicles have gotten larger, the payload has increased, and the ordnance dropped has evolved from throwing hand grenades and bricks to JDAM GPS guided and smart weapons that can pick their own targets. The pinnacle of the medium and heavy bomber was WWII when the sky was filled with these large craft intent on removing cities and industrial fortresses. The modern age saw the decline of the bomber, and the increased emphasis on missiles and much smaller numbers of aircraft carrying more sophisticated and expensive weapons, rather than the skies filled with bombers in mortal combat between enemy fighters and flak guns.
The CE heavy attack craft, the bomber, is a 300+ ton monster with ample thrust power, defensive armor and firepower, and the ability to carry large amounts of weaponry. These are slower than other aerospace craft, but are powerful enough to carry multiple huge missiles, drop fighters of their own, or have impressive range and endurance allowing them to patrol long distances, and attack targets with their payloads, or even moving in close to use their defensive guns in an aggressive fashion.
6. Dedicated Carriers
It is relatively common in Battlespace/Battletech that many dropships and jump capable ships carry integral fighter support. In this new vein, these new heavy craft specifically cannot use the same berths as traditional aerospace craft. The traditional aerospace fighter bays are sized and equipped for 20-100 ton craft with a single engine, and according dimensions. The large craft can have 2,3, or more engines to make up the thrust they need, and are physically larger, not just heavier. An F-15 Eagle and C-5 Galaxy cargo plane can't use the same facilities on the ground, nor could they on a carrier.
The Battlestar and other combination combat/carrier craft are specifically equipped to only carry aerospace fighters, the heavy craft requires a dedicated craft that has more space for hangar use, larger corridors, larger elevators, and associated equipment, rather than fighter cradles. The launch and recovery systems likewise have to be more robust to handle the larger heavy craft. These dedicated carriers would very easily be able to handle large numbers of regular aerospace fighters, and would carry a mix of both types. The amount of space required for large craft bays will make turning dedicated carriers into armored gun and missile fighting ships difficult, or the ships would be even larger and more expensive than the already astronomically expensive Battlestars.
7. Space Realism is Boring
Ultra-realistic space combat is going to be boring, and in no way cinematic. The ships that carry out combat in the future are like to be predominantly made of scaffolding, and small armored sections that house beam weapons and long range missiles, all controlled by computers that take guidance and direction from human controllers who are nowhere near it. The ships will have no crew, no life support, and will engage each other at tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of miles apart, and it will happen at the speed of light, with the only thing fast enough to handle to numbers being top end computers. There will be no heroics, no dramatics, it will be a new version of the Cold War where the space weapons are launched at each other and the hairless apes sit and watch their screens, or they will be unaware of the battle happening thousands of miles from them, until one side wins, or they are given warnings to shelter in place, or the anti-city and planetary bombardment commences.
This is perfectly fine for a paranoia and fear of the apocalypse based game, but in a heroic war and action game, its a shadow puppet play on a screen that ends in spectator relief or death, regardless the players of the game are viewers and not participants.
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