There are always those that live in the shadows of someone or something else that is more well-known or popular than them. For every Porsche 911, there is the Porsche 912. For every Porsche 944 and 928, there is the Porsche 924. For every Nintendo NES, there is the Turbo Grafx 16 and the ATARI 7800. For every Coca-Cola, there is RC Cola. And this is very true within the realm of military aircraft as well as fictional space fighters. For most people, the hero starfighters of the Star Wars universe are the X-Wing and the TIE Fighter...but there is the TIE Bomber and the Y-Wing that live in the show of them. In this first installment of the new StarFighters serial, we will exploring and explaining the fighter classification that lives in the shadow of the fighter interceptor and the air superiority fighter: the Fighter-Bomber!
What Will this New Serial be About?
What is an "Fighter-Bomber" and how is it Different from other Military Aircraft?
Given the wide, weird of military terminology can be baffling especially to those of us on the outside of the world of the military. As with naval warship classifications and designations, we need to break down what is and what is not a fighter-bomber. Currently, the term of fighter-bomber is used, especially by civilian, but the new term for this type of military jet aircraft is “multi-role attack aircraft”. The term fighter-bomber is either a fully designed or a special variant fighter that occupy both roles as an attack jet and a light bomber that carries a limited stock of bombs. The need for the fighter-bomber came about due to the high price that the bombers suffered due to anti-air artillery and interceptor aircraft. Thus, the fighter-bomber could do both. At times, the fighter-bomber is a variety of an already existing attack fighter, like the F-4 Phantom. At times, the lines get blurred, such as with the USN/USMC A-6 “Intruder”.
What is Difference between Fighter-Bombers and the Bomber
What is the Difference between the Missile, Bomb, and Torpedo in Sci-Fi Space Combat
During the research phase of this article and something I have noticed throughout my lifetime of being a sci-fi fan…the use of the word “torpedo” in space warfare. Given the trope of sci-fi creators connecting wet navies to space navies along with the trope of spaceships being submarines in space concept, the use of torpedoes in sci-fi goes back to its founding despite the fact that torpedoes are used for naval combat. With some sci-fi creators really wanting gravity bombing like we witness in World War II, they will create the use of falling bombs in space as well, as we witnessed in the fucking bullshit The Last Jedi bomber scene along with the Wing Commander “film”. Then we have missiles, which are part of current space combat.
The History of the Fighter-Bomber
The Modern Fighter-Bombers: The Multi-Role Strike Fighter Aircraft (MRCF)
Technological advancements in fighter technology, material technology, and missile technology all allowed for the role of the fighter-bomber to be rolled into a multi-role attack jet fighter platform. This is far, in terms of logistic, easily for most military organizations, especially those that are more economical minded…military attack jets are extremely expensive machines with a nation like New Zealand not having any. A great deal of modern military attack jets are being designed and fielded as a MRCF classification. Some nations, like the US, China, and Russia still have air superiority fighter like the F-22, J-11, and the Su-57 respectively.
Some Thoughts on Endo/Exo Atmospheric Starfighters
Could Space-Based Fighter-Bombers Really Exist?
The Space Fighter-Bomber in Sci-Fi
The starfighter-bombers, like many starfighter classifications, are often confused and muddled. Some creators lump in the torpedo-bomber and the fighter-bomber onto the same fighter, as seen Space Cruiser Yamato. Originally, FWS was goin to craft a sperate article on space torpedo-bombers, but the realities of confusion among sci-fi creators caused the two classifications to be fused. There there is the World War II bomber issue and the lack of clarity of what a "fighter-bomber" is. This causes starfighter-bombers to carry both missiles and torpedoes.
One of the factors with all space naval and starfighters classes that are appear in visual sci-fi media is money. Most productions have to limit the amount of spacecraft that are on-screen or in-game due to cost with special-effects and filming. Interestingly enough, most science fiction fighter-bombers are their own dedicated spaceframe (or model) and not often an upscaled attack fighter, as we have seen with the Babylon 5 EathForce Starfury Fighter-Bomber variant. Some RPG systems like Renegade Legions and Battletech, use the “Heavy Fighter” to describe the fighter-bomber and is actual term used in military aircraft around the 2nd World War. The heavy starfighter of sci-fi are not always a fighter-bomber and one has to look at the loadout associated with the craft. In addition, there is no consistency with the amount of crew members in an fighter-bomber of sci-fi.
Some will have one pilot, one pilot with a droid, one pilot and one gunner and so on. Even the most iconic starfighter-bomber, the Y-Wing, there is no consistency with regards to the amount of crew in the Y-Wing and sometimes, it depends on the source material and the Y-Wing variant. The rarest fighter-bomber in sci-fi is the dedicated endo-atmospheric only, due to the domination of dual-atmospheric vehicles in all of science fiction. I can imagine that in the next few years, the concept of the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft will populate throughout the realm of sci-fi and creators will turn away from fighter-bombers and Heavy Fighters to the MRCA concept.
What About Sci-Fi Bombers?
The Heavy & Super-Heavy Fighters from the Renegade Legion Universe
The Space Wing A-9 "Starmax" STS/Fighter-Bomber from the STARCOM: The US Space Force
In an era filled with military and sci-fi toylines, one of the most pure (and forgotten) military science fiction toylines was COLECO's STARCOM: The U.S. Space Force from 1986. While only lasting about 2 years in the US and a fewer more years in Europe, STARCOM also had a limited run cartoon series that also doubted as a advert for the toys...as was very common in the 1980's. There had been an attempt to bring real space science into the cartoon via the NASA Young Astronaut Program. Both in the TV series and the toyline, the most important vehicle of the US Space Force was the Space Wing A-9 "Starmax" STS/Fighter-Bomber.
The Koensayr Manufacturing BTL "Y-Wing" class starfighter-bomber from the Star Wars Universe
The first Y-Wing was the BTL-B that was fully encased in armor and featured a bubble-turrent manned by a gunner. Another variant was the two-man larger BTL-S3 Y-Wing that was not a starfighter-bomber, but classified as an "assault starfighter. This variant was first seen in the 1978 Splinter of the Mind's Eye book by Alan Dean Foster and later used in the Star Wars Holiday Special. The most common variant of the Y-Wing is the BTL-A4 that served in the Rebel Alliance and it was a more stripped down one-man starfighter-bomber.
One of the variants developed by the Rebel Alliance for the larger, and more rare BTL-S3 Y-Wing was the BTL-A4 LP "Long-Probe". Used by the Rebels as a recon bird and scout for evaluating strike targets, the Long-Probe variant could wait and watch with the larger interior space. This variant was first seen in the West End Games Rebel Alliance sourcebook for their Star Wars RPG.
Y-Wing returned for the Clone Wars animated show, it was designer Russell G. Chong that used the original concept art and reverse-designed the original Y-Wing design for the Clone Wars: "The Y-wing was a really fun project, bringing it back fully faired, We back-engineered the Y-wing and turned it back into a bomber. I took images of the actual Y-wing model from the files at Lucasfilm and I designed our new version over it. We revitalized the bubble turret that Colin Cantwell and Ralph McQuarrie had developed. All the body panels are very much the same as the original Y-wing. I did my best to give it the same styling and the same look as the original Y-wing."
The Heavy and Bombers Fighters of Battletech
The Proposed Colonial Fighter-Bombers of Classic Battlestar Galactica
The Kilrathi Starfighter-Bombers from Wing Commander Universe
Designed around front arch firepower with massive offensive capability with five DM cannons, this was better platform for ACM with Terran forces than the other space kitty starfighter-bombers. This was introduced late into the Terran-Kilrathi War and while impressive, it was expensive and less able to defense itself when out-maneuvered by a Terran fighter. Once on it's six, you unloaded and watched the kitty fighter burn. In-game, both of the fighter-bomber were trouble and often you were running interception missions to prevent the killer space-kitties from taking down a TC capitol ship.
The Imperial TIE/sb Bomber from the Star Wars Universe
For the Imperial Navy, Sienar Fleet Systems developed a starfighter platform and variants were developed off of the familiar TIE Fighter design. One of the most interesting and noticeable was the TIE/sb Bomber. Later and seemingly double stacked, the TIE Bomber was a powerful and fast fighter bomber that was used by the Empire to spread terror and fear. This campaign included the bombing of the Mandalorian homeworld and Rebel bases and installations. While the primary hull was for the pilot and fighter systems, the secondary hull was designed to carry whatever the mission required, up to 16 tons. This could range from missiles, drop-charges, proton bombs, mines, propaganda materials, and even thermal charges.
The Star Wing B-1 SF/B "Starhawk" Fighter-Bomber from STARCOM: US Space Force
The Earth Defense Directorate "Quadfighter" from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
When it came to film the SFX shots of the space combat and flight scenes in the first season, there were many mistakes made when matching up the two types of Thunderfighter to the footage of the actors in the mockups. So, why are we discussing the Buck Rogers starfighter? Well, because according to some online fan sources, the Quadfighter maybe the starfighter-bomber variant of the Thunderfighter class Space Superior Fighter. One source has the Quadfighter mount two anti-ship missiles on hardpoints on the belly of the starfighter-bomber variant. This was never seen on-scene and only the standard DE cannons are used during ACM. Still, it is nice to discuss a little-known variant to one of the best designed starfighters in all of science fiction.
The "Solvalou" Advanced Fighter/Bomber from the Xevious Franchise
The B-290 "Barracuda" Fighter/Bombers from Space: Above & Beyond
The Gamilon/Garmillas Empire Fighter-Bombers from the Yamato Universe
The EarthForce SA-23E Badger-class Starfury from Babylon 5
The Ko-Dan Deck Fighter from The Last Starfighter
The EDF SSF "Cosmo Tiger II" Attack Bomber from Starblazers and Space Cruiser Yamato
The Seymour Class Cargo Sled Fighter-Bomber from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
The EDF SSF Cosmo Tiger II "Electra" Attack Torpedo-Bomber from Starblazer & Yamato
The Confederation HF-66A "Thunderbolt" VII Heavy Fighter from WC: IV
Next Time on FWS...