Trope-a-Day (R): Airborne Aircraft Carrier

Airborne Aircraft Carrier: Enter the aerospace cruiser, a sub-class of assault cruiser specifically designed to get low enough in orbit that aeronefs and mostly-air-breathing vehicles can sortie from it – because once you’ve captured the orbitals, air supremacy may very well be the next stop in the orbithead-to-ground maneuver plan.

4 thoughts on “Trope-a-Day (R): Airborne Aircraft Carrier

  1. If you’ve orbital supremacy, then air supremacy is as simple as using orbital lasers to burn enemy air assets (which are often thin-skinned). Bringing your own air assets (aside from trans-atmospheric transportation) would be redundant and a needless expense. And flying carriers of any type would be a logistical and engineering nightmare.

    • One, as a rule, firing most starship-class weapons with the planet as a backstop has (a) a tendency to lead to undesired collateral damage, and (b) an alarming tendency to be provocative, in much the same way as breaking out the tac nukes is on the modern battlefield. While this is fine if you want the next size of war up, this ain’t always the case, or even mostly the case.

      Sometimes you want a scalpel, not a broadsword.

      Two, destroying enemy air assets only gets you halfway to air supremacy, and your own air assets are not perfectly substitutable by orbital assets. Close air support is not an optimal use case for ortillery.

      Three, thin-skinned doesn’t necessarily correlate to “easy to kill”, once you move beyond cheap aluminum-balloon fuel tanks. For example, a little thermal superconductor plating covers a lot of sins.

      Four, you misspelled “shock and awesome”.

    • (To clarify that last one: it’s shock-and-awesome because it’s an engineering nightmare. Being able to build a starship that can carry out a forced orbit at not merely low or atmosphere-skimming but actual intraatmospheric altitudes, and thereby pull off that whole “hang in the air in exactly the way bricks don’t” trick, sends a very distinct message to anyone who can’t.

      Specifically, it’s a million tons of “fuck you, we’re gods”.)

      • I’ll admit flying aircraft carriers are awesome, but their intimidation factor is dubious. At high altitude and range,they’re barely if not visible.

        Silent and sudden death from orbital laser seems a lot more terrifying. Lasers are also more accurate than guided bombs, and have significantly reduced collateral damage. They excel against air targets, but can attack surface targets too (submarines remain a threat however). Lasers can also be throttled up or down as needed, allowing for a nuanced application of force.

        From a 1000 km high orbit, lasers can be focused down to a spot a few dozen cm’s wide, which is considerably more precise than the blast radius of even the smallest practical explosive weapon.

        But in the end, it’s your story. I find laserstars and laser weapon webs fascinating, most people don’t.

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