One other thing- would it be too much of a stretch to consider Cardinal Spear as shedding some light on the war?
Yes, it would be. I respect it for being the first to cover the time period, but I didn't think it was very good and a lot of what it did was limited by the tools available in FS1.
I think when it comes to the apparent use of intersystem drives by fighters, it might come about more as a problem with fighters ENTERING subspace, rather than LEAVING it. That might explain the fighters (destroyer/carrier dropped them off inside subspace). Maybe. Possibly.
I honestly think that it was a design mistake made before the final story (and the lack of the drives for the fighters) was completed. I also think that many of the designers thought that cruisers had fighterbays (at least one wanted one on a Cain for a mission). This might explain the extreme lack of carriers and how Vasudan fighters get around so easily.
I do have one last thought on why the war was such a stalemate for so long: It wasn't really much of a war for the bulk of it. And by bulk, I mean the first 10 - 12 years.
Ever play Civilization II? You'd be out exploring, come across some random civilization that would promptly declare war on you even though they were half a world away? You'd never see a single unit of theirs for hundreds of turns, and battles, if they happend at all, woudl be if your units just HAPPENED to come across each other.
I think this is how most of the 14 Year War was fought. Sure, they declared war early, but the actual FIGHTING almost never took place, not just for the early part, for MOST of it. It was only in the last few years that we see any serious fighting at all. This would explain odd names (Aldebaran Encounter
, Vega Engagement
), and also why the Vasudans held off the Terrans for so long: They just plain never fought them. There were battles, of course, rare, but they happened, and they were good sized, but never big enough to consititute the kind of war we see in FS1 and FS2. Once they were over, it could be months before the two sides ran into each other again.
Except on the ground, where they probably still had the heaviest fighting of the war. The space war, however, was a yawn. It was probably more like the navel war of World War I, which really didn't do much of anything outside of ONE big battle. Then nothing ever again.
All this would explain some oddities we see. Vasudans in Betelguese and Ross 128 because they had colonies there that the GTA didn't find right away, Terrans colonizing Regulus, and the NTF making Sirius one of the core systems. Also remember that the GTA had only been in interstellar space for about 7 years before the 14 Year War started, which is a pitifully short amount of time to expand through this small corner of the galaxy. Add on another 10 years, though, that's more than enough time to build sizable colonies outside of Sol, ones big enough to withstand losing Sol at the end of FS1.
The war didn't actually get hot and interesting until the Vasudans deployed the Typhon, and they probably only did it after they were sure they could take on an Orion. And even building the Typhon was probably not something they needed to rush to build, so it would explain the absence of a PVN destroyer and why the GTA just simply roll over the Vasudans: Neither side knew where the other was, and neither was really looking either.
Still makes for a damn boring war/campaign. I still prefer my original stuff for that.