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Library: piloting and manuevering

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Author: Ran
Date:Oct 14 1997

Ship piloting and basic manuevering, by Ran

First, use all the safety equipment.  I know especially for girls, it can be
uncomfortable, but in atmospheric manuevering especially, it isn't unheard of
to experience between 10 to 15 times "earth standard" gravity.  The intention
of the equipment is to hold your body in one place so you can pay attention to
piloting and so that you don't get thrown around, hurt, or possibly killed.

Flying a ship is not at all like flying a plane. So don't think just because
you can fly a plane that you can jump right in.  You'll probably crash.  

The body of a typical ship is made to move straight ahead, with minimal force
up (lift) or to the sides.  Manuevering is done via multiple "drives", which
are controlled by the pilot.

Atmospheric

A modern ship has at least two drive engines mounted on the rear, as well as a
number of thrusters on the bottom pointing down.  If the ship is circular, it
will likely have drive engines mounted in every direction from the hull and
three or four pointing downward at each side.  

In the atmosphere, delta-shaped ships are capable of greater speed, but have a
facing and are designed to only move in one direction.  Circular ships are
designed to fly in any planar direction (just not up or down).  

Delta-shaped ships designed exclusively for atmospheric travel may have wings
or other structures to provide lift, as may spacefaring ships designed for
military combat.  Most ships designed for basic non-military use are circular,
not delta-shaped unless they are designed as large, high-speed transports.  

In the atmosphere, a ship has some drag and therefore you need to use some
thrust to keep your speed constant.  The maximum speed of the craft is
dependent upon the type of craft and the atmospheric pressure. 

In the atmosphere, the most basic manuever is the turn.  This is done rotating
the ship into the desired direction of travel, and then firing the thrusters
for a period of time.  When making a sharp turn, turn past the direction you
want to end up, and turn back in the desired direction gradually as you apply
thrust.

Turns do not need to be limited to a plane.  You can also turn up or turn
down, or even turn completely around (180 degrees) to stop.

When you need to reverse your direction completely (180 degrees), the simplest
way to do this is to do a 180 degree planar turn.  But there are two other
commonly used manuevers, called the "vertical downward turn" and the "climbing
reversal turn" or "half loop".  These are different from aircraft maneuevers
since the ship gets just as good lift right-side-up as it does upside-down. 
Rather than doing the roll before or after the vertical turn, you do it during
the vertical turn.  This takes considerable skill with the controls, and some
practice to master.
  The point of manuevering is to give yourself an advantageous position over
enemy ships.  The main philosophy of ship combat is to be able to seize the
offensive and hold onto it.  If you are continually firing while an enemy ship
is trying to dodge your shots, then you are at an advantageous position.  If
you only dodge but do not have time or energy to return fire, then you are at
a disadvantageous position.
  Ship's will have gunners or an automatic firing system, so time is not as
much as issue as facing, energy, range, and such.
  In the atmosphere, conserving energy is not as important as manuevering and
having an advantageous position.  The two main things accounting for an
advantageous position are altitude and speed.  If you are higher, you have
more room to manuever and can trade altitide for speed by heading downward. 
If you are moving faster, then you are harder to hit.  Other than not doing
anything totally stupid (like flying directly toward an enemy that is firing),
you should try to maximize both altitude and speed with respect to enemy
craft.
  When it does come time to dodge, try to shorten the amount of time you need
to do so.  If you spend too long manuevering or dodging enemy fire, your enemy
will simply keep firing at you.  Try to target the enemy craft soon after
evading his shots, otherwise you will be stuck evading for some time.
  Keep in mind that basic manuevers should not be used all the time, as doing
so makes dodging rather predictable.  For instance, ~d so makes dodging and
evasive manuevers predictable.  One manuever can easily lead into another one,
or be used to fake a manuever.  For instance you can pull a half-loop
normally, and then finish off as a whole loop, flying staight in your original
direction.  There are many permutations, succh things take practice and are
too in-depth to be described here.

Low-Orbit

  This takes place not quite in near vacuum, but not in normal atmosphere
either. There is little drag up here, but it still is a relevant force once
higher speeds are reached.  This is similar to atmospheric combat only that
speeds are faster, and as you head upwards you will be albe to go faster,
since there is less drag.  

Weaknesses of standard aircraft

  Standard military aircraft have weaknesses that one can and should exploit
if faced with fighting them in a ship.  The first type of military aircraft is
a helicopter.  These are used primarily as ground attack vehicles, and hence
pose little threat to flying ships.  They are also incredibly slow.
  Bombers, attack craft, etc., also pose little threat to a craft, so long as
it is airborne.  Fighters or interceptors, planes designed to shoot down other
planes, pose the the most threat to ships.  
  The main weakness of these craft is their high-speed manuevering.  Above the
speed of sound, very few can make any sharp turns.  Also, their speed, engine
power, and therefore acceleration is highly limited.  Finally, they are not
highly stable, they depend solely on lift to stop from falling. 
  When fighting these craft, you should assume a high speed.  You can consider
yourself safe if you are going at least 6 times the speed of sound, but most
pilots do 10 for good measure.  At that level, you can knock one of of these
craft out of the air simply by flying near it, or pulling in front of it.  The
weapons of these craft typically do not exceed 5 times the speed of sound, and
no known weapons exceed 10 times the speed of sound.  Be advised humans think
these craft are really very good, so it's considered nice to let at least flee
and return to base unharmed, so he can verify what went on.

In Vacuum (no atmosphere), planetside

  Not every planet has an atmosphere.  The hardest kind of ship combat is this
type, since you have to account for terrain, energy, and spatial advantage. 
With no drag, extremely high speeds (relative to the surface) are reachable,
and any crash with the surface is almost certainly fatal.  Therefore, it is
important for novice pilots to avoid situations like this, until they feel
they have a feel for extremely high speed manuevers close to the surface.  
  If the surface is highly mountianous, then a skilled pilot can use the peaks
to tracking or homing weapons.  This makes the use of energy weaponry, and the
subsequent energy management, an important part of non-atmospheric planetside
combat.
Inner Space

  This is still within a star system, but not in the vicinity of any planetary
body or star. There is a minimal amount of free gas that is in the area, which
might cause drag at extremely high speeds.


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