The reason fighters start scenarios deployed is because in 99.9999999% of encounters, there is plenty of time to launch them before combat starts.
Remember how T-space works; a ship needs to accelerate over a long period of time to enter T-space, and when they exit T-space, need to decelerate for an absolute minimum of 30 minutes (a thrust-5 ship dedicating full power to engines decelerating from the minimum T-space velocity of 30 hexes per 5-minute Lev turn), not taking into consideration matching vectors for the meet. On top of that, T-doppler will detect the ships approaching before they exit T-space.
Simply put; the Renegade Legion universe is not like Star Wars, where ships exit hyperspace right on top of the enemy fleet, or the re-imagined Galactica universe, where ships “jump” in close proximity to the enemy fleet. Levs have plenty of time to launch fighters and get them into formation before the battle.
By the same token, fighter recovery takes place after the battle, or at the very least under circumstances where the carrier is not potentially under fire. This is because the carrier has to turn off its shields, stop firing its point defense and capital weapons, stop maneuvering, and coast for the entire duration of the recovery.
The fighters to be recovered must likewise not be engaged in combat maneuvers, switch off their shields, match velocity and heading with the carrier, and be brought in.
Just matching vectors with the carrier takes time; at the very least one 5-minute turn, followed by the recovery turn, meaning that the carrier is a shieldless, immobile target for at least ten minutes; just not doable while a firing solution can be drawn on it.
If you need to break it down by turn, the carrier declares that it is launching during the Power Allocation Phase. The carrier cannot maneuver or fire weapons while launching (it can have shields active). The launch takes place during the movement phase; at the end of the movement phase, the fighters are placed in the same hex with the same heading and velocity as the carrier. The fighters cannot maneuver during the turn in which they are launched (the launch uses up their movement phase). The turn following the launch, they are free to move normally (some might argue that if not launched from squadron-level or flight-level facilities, the fighters need to spend one turn “falling into formation”, but that is up to the players).
Recovery is also declared during Power Allocation; once a carrier declares that it is engaging in recovery maneuvers, it cannot expend thrust until recovery is complete. The fighters to be recovered must also declare that they are docking, and expend their entire movement phase in docking maneuvers. At the end of the turn (yes, turn, meaning that the Combat Phase still has the fighters vulnerable to enemy fire), the fighters are considered recovered and inside the carrier. As many fighters can be recovered as the carrier has recovery facilities (small craft facilities can also be used to recover fighters, if they are unoccupied and not engaged in small craft recovery at the time).
Until the end of the movement phase in which the fighter is launching, it is considered to be inside the carrier in its bay. No such thing as a half-launched counter.
Fighters are assigned to squadrons and are generally launched from specific launch bay facilities, but they can be recovered by any fighter bay; in most cases, carriers can move fighters internally to appropriate launch bays.
Once a fighter is recovered, it cannot move at all without risking the destruction of the fighter, the bay, the ship, and his/her career.
A fighter engaged in docking maneuvers can choose to abort the recovery on the final turn; if this is done prior to the movement phase, the fighter can maneuver normally, but it it happens during the maneuver phase after the docking is declared, the fighter remains with its velocity and heading for the rest of the turn (though it is not considered immobile), does not dock, and can move normally the following turn.
The carrier may abort recovery operations at any time; if it is done during Power Allocation, both carrier and fighters inbound for recovery can maneuver normally during the turn. If the carrier aborts during Movement Phase, both carrier and fighters cannot move, but are not considered immobile. If the carrier aborts during the Combat Phase (because the recovery bay is destroyed, for example), both ships are considered immobile targets, and the docking fighters need to make piloting checks to avoid crashing into the carrier.
After the fighter is launched, the carrier and the launched fighters are free to maneuver independently the following turn.
Generally speaking, rearming a docked fighter takes place between engagements, meaning that it is not measured in combat turns.
That being said, sometimes you need to know just how long it takes.
First, “fast” rearming can take place only in fighter launch facilities (if a fighter docks in a small craft bay, it can be rearmed, but it takes significantly longer, since the ordnance must be brought from the fighter bays.
The fighter bay must be appropriately-sized (no fitting a 290-ton fighter in a 23-ton bay). Larger fighters can be recovered in small craft bays, or soft-dock externally for pilot recovery (the carrier cannot maneuver, of the fighter is lost). A fighter may also hard-dock in an appropriately-sized recovery tube, but this disables the tube until the fighter is removed.
It takes one turn to refuel a fighter in a launch or small craft bay. This can be done while the fighter is rearming.
If the fighter has not sustained damage, it takes three turns (15 min.) to rearm a fighter with internal ammo and missiles. Correct ammunition must be available (a carrier with a fighter wing composed entirely of Slingshots cannot rearm a Ventura's MDC-8, for example).
If the fighter just landed and has sustained damage to its armor, add a turn (5 min) to this total; this is time in which the tech crew confirm that the damage is literally only “skin deep”.
If the fighter just landed and has sustained a penetrating hit to the armor, it takes an additional two turns (30 min. total) for these checks to resolve and be jury-rigged with the equivalent of duct tape, staples, and sealant spray foam.
How many missile reloads is entirely dependent on the ship in question; a Pharetra will have far fewer reloads than an Overlord, for example. This is usually dealt with under scenario rules.
Q: Is it possible to build additional launch tubes/landing bays of different sizes?
- -RAW: No.
- -Interpretation: Sure, as long as you're willing to handle all the overhead and paperwork of keeping track of the different launch capacities.
A capital or patrol-class ship can indeed carry fighter facilities of different sizes.
RaW: Leviathan rulebook pp. 43: “Additional launch and recovery facilities can be purchased at a rate of an additional 5 times the mass of the heaviest fighter carried for each launch facility or recovery facility.” This means that (functionally) fighters are carried in squadron-sized launch facilities that need not be the same size across the fighter wing. For example, a Destroyer may have fighter bays for four squadrons; one launch facility is for superheavy 400-ton fighters, two are for 300-ton fighters, and one is for 180-ton ground support jobs.
Q: How many small craft can you launch/recover each turn?
A: Small Craft bay BF is calculated per groups of 6 or faction thereof (Lev pp. 43). Generally speaking, you could launch OR recover one small craft (of appropriate size) per facility (i.e. 1 per 6). However, as a reasonable house rule, you could assign an extra 30 BF for an extra launch facility without adding more docking capacity. For example, a ship with 6 small craft bays uses up 30 BF and can launch (or recover) 1 small craft per turn; if the designer dedicates 60 BF to the design, it can still carry only six small craft, but it can launch or recover two small craft per turn (or launch one while recovering another). Such a ship could add up to six more small craft berths without paying extra BF (or the present bays could be sub-divided; six 1,000-ton berths become twelve 500-ton berths, for example).
Since there is no separate mention of small craft recovery facilities, it can only be assumed that they do not exist.
Q: Does a newly-launched small craft inherit the velocity of the launching ship, or does it miraculously come to a stop the moment it is launched?
A: Small craft launch the same way as fighters. At the end of the movement phase on the turn in which it is launched, a small craft has the same heading and velocity of the carrier.
Q: Can you build additional small craft launch and landing facilities into a ship?
A: Yes, provided the design has BF to spare. Note that for small craft, recovery facilities are one and the same with launch facilities.
Q: How long does it take to reload fighter-scale missiles on a small craft?
A: At least three times as long as it takes for fighters, due to the greater complexity and size of the design.
The problem is the need to remain functionally motionless, with shields down, for a minimum of ten minutes, unable to use point defense turrets.
The key is that in space, a battle will not take place unless both sides choose to engage, because it is really easy to avoid a meet. One side will not choose to engage unless it is reasonably confident of winning.
If retreat becomes a necessity, and losing the air wing to safe the fleet is not an option, the fighters can disengage to rendezvous with a ship for refueling (by drogue), or simply dock (if space and circumstances allow), regardless of whether the fighters belong to it or not. You really need just a few turns without the threat of enemy fire, and larger carriers can recover *many* fighters in short order.
On the plus side, chances are really good that you will have to recover only a fraction of the fighters you launched.
The key is finding a stretch of several turns outside of the range of enemy fire.