Only if we argue like scientists (ie: to gain knowledge, to re-contextualize the data we have, and to reform our opinions as we discuss… as opposed to digging in our heels and assuming our initial position is the correct one regardless of new information).
I would posit that fighters and missiles dominate modern naval warfare because of:
- The Z-Axis
- Ineffectiveness of armour vs capacity to inflict damage
If all that was required to dominate modern naval warfare was a different medium, then both land-based defensive emplacements or submarines would also outstrip the capacity of surface warships to contribute to a fight. Land-based weaponry doesn’t have the requirement that it be capable of floating, and therefore can far outclass naval armaments (theoretically… there is still something to be said about putting a set of 45cm cannons on a single platform that you can then move wherever you need rather than having to build 50cm cannons around every naval port). Submarines can have weaponry designed exclusively to dominate naval combat (torpedoes) without fear of retaliatory attacks from larger caliber cannons (ie: I can fire my biggest torpedo at you, but you can’t fire your 45cm cannons at me).
Now, how does this translate into space?
The biggest contribution to space combat (under reasonable extrapolations) will be:
The range/accuracy discussion is a difficult one to quantify. Let us assume we have the longest ranged, most accurate weapons we possibly can (lasers? Missiles? Probably missiles, actually, given the beam coherency issues involved with light weapons).
The ability to change directions is a direct correlation to acceleration. And since we all know that Force = Mass X Acceleration, that leads us to state that Acceleration = Force / Mass. We also have to deal with the Impulse (the tendency of an object to continue to move in a straight line as a function of its mass… basically, the heavier something is, the harder it is to make it go in a different direction).
This means if we want to design a more maneuverable ship (to evade enemy fire, since we are going to assume that weaponry will continue to far-outpace armour/defensive capabilities), we can either generate more force (bigger engines), or we can reduce the mass (smaller ship).
This leads us back to fighter-craft as a dominate contribution to future space warfare, since:
- They are going to be small
- The lack of mass means the ability to change directions quickly (and theoretically reach combat speeds sooner), due to low Impulse and high Acceleration.
All that aside, I don’t think we’re going to see Star Wars-era fighters (which are basically WW2 dogfighters in space), but more like Babylon 5 era ships (thrusters in every direction designed specifically as high-maneuverability interceptors)… or those from the Expanse (although I think Expanse-fighters are outfitted with railguns, which has issues of inertia/Newtonian physics involved with firing… space fighters will probably be torpedo/missiles boats more than anything else? I guess that will be a function of Phalanx-style defenses…).
Gosh, I love discussing sci-fi… sorry if I got carried away!