Fuel is has got to be one of the most underused features of this game - lets try and change that
Caveat! - All the below numbers are just pulled out of thin air but are indicative of what I thought would be reasonable. They are all of course going to change. They are just to be taken as part of the example
Idea - Instead of only having ASF as your only air to air combat units my thoughts would be to split the options available to air players into 2 different roles, giving two options that both have their own strengths/weaknesses etc (a bit like titans and percies).
Proposed Air to Air units would be:
- ADF (Air defense fighter) = this would be something similar to the current ASF in terms of buildtime, speed & turn rate. However would have lower cost, HP, slightly lower DMG and substantially less fuel (less than an inty so say ‘ 200s’ flight time)
- LRSF (Long Range Support Fighter) = Would behave like a beefed up fighter that has a higher damage (20% more) and health(80% more) than an ADF, but only 90% of their speed speed and 80% of their turn rate. They would also cost 30-40% greater and a slightly longer build time but A LOT more fuel (1500s flight time - roughly the same as a strat).
ADF would be primarily used as the name suggests in a defensive situation where they can stop strats or drops / Exp within a relatively similar manner as to how ASF fulfills that role now. But due primarily to their low fuel they are not amazing at all at long distance patrols or air combats that would take them far from refueling stations. Basically they would need to be landed for the most part to ensure they have appropriate fuel for any potential intercept that might be required. Given however that they still had the highest speed and turn rate they would in theory still be the best in a ‘dogfight’ if microed properly*
LRSF would fulfill a completely new role as an escort/patrol fighter. Their fuel load would allow them to for the most part to ignore refueling stations and would allow them to escort and support raiding gunships/exp/bombers over enemy territory. Having higher HP and Alpha damage would allow them to engage an ADF and they would be able to 1 shot it(assuming that the LRSF has a firing angle on the ADF), however due to their lower turn rate, speed and higher cost there would generally be outnumbered by ADF. Due to LRSF‘s inferior maneuverability the ADF would be able to get multiple shots off per each LRSF shot if microed properly*
This would also lend itself to more tactical play with the fuel now a concern for the assumed defender the attacker can try and bait out repositioning of the defenders forces constantly, all the while the defender has to think about any movement of their defensive units and what would affect fuel balances and thus if an air fight was drawn out (say a minute and a half of postering prior to the engagement) the defender with the ADF would have to either partially retreat some of his units for fuel (cycling through units) so as to maintain enough deterrence with sufficient air time or he has to force a potentially unfavorable engage. Either way it's forcing both the attacker and defender to have to make tactical choices.
This model would also help to level out snowballing as an attacker would have to pay more and wait longer to build up his offensive force. The defender on the other hand would have a cheaper(albeit less useful) defensive fighter that would enable them to maintain some sort of air deterrence. As the ADF would be reasonably quicker to produce the defender would have a better chance of catching up if you were to lose an air fight. This would be an improvement on the current situation where it seems at the 40 min mark if you lose 1 critical air fight - you are never able to recover and the game is effectively lost just off 1 poor engagement.
Having a cheaper/quicker build time replacement for a defender at least provides them with a slight hope of being able to recover.
It would also promote the use of units like aircraft carriers or forward basing refueling stations which in turn would allow you to use your ADF in an offensive role as this would allow them to be closer to the fight. But this would only be viable if you were already holding more ground than your opponent.
ADF would however be less useful over enemy AA due to their low health they would not be able to tank the ground based fire compared to their escort cousins.
Finally having a cheaper defensive fighter would help to mitigate the very early strat rush, as you would be able to build a couple of ADF at a substantially cheaper fee than a strat and supporting LRSF
In Summary - Split current ASF into a defender and attacker variants, by significantly reducing the fuel of the defender variant this now adds another level of tactical depth to the t3 air stage.