Fighters are small craft launched from carrier motherships. Fighters are such small targets that starship beam weapons can rarely hit them, while point defense is somewhat more effective. It is not until the development of Anti-Fighter Missiles such as the AFHAWK that fleets can truly defend against fighters without fighters of their own.
Early model fighters have no internal weapons and two fighter external ordinance racks, while later ones have one, two or even three internal weapons and four XO racks. When armed with fighter "rockets" (FRs), fighters have a massive one-shot close range attack, while fighter missiles allow for a less damaging stand-off attack. Fighter guns, lasers, and other fighter weapons allow fighter-versus-fighter combat and additional attacks on starships. By the end of ISW-4, Terran Federation fighters mounted internal fighter hetlasers and carried Advanced Antimatter FRs (FRAAMs).
The Ophiuchi were, one-on-one, the best fighter pilots in known space, as they were descended from an avian species. However, it was the Orions who were the best at carrier ops in known space. For them, combat between individuals was the only truly honorable way to conduct war, making the fighter a gift from the gods that they wielded with more elan and skill than any other navy. For them, the fighter was the decisive weapon, and it wasn't uncommon for an Orion pilot to reach the rank of small claw or even claw while still drawing flight pay. The TFN had a more balanced organization, with carrier forces being co-equal to the battle-line, and fighter jocks had to move on to something more "important" than squadron or even strikegroup command to advance beyond the rank of Commander.
Fighter pilots' combat life expectancies were lower than battle-line personnel, which made sense as fighters are cheap compared to starships, combined with a small flight crew these were ultimately expendable assets. It normally took a minimum of almost 30 minutes to completely service and rearm an F-4, but during the second battle of AP-5 every safety margin was thrown out the window in an attempt to cut that time down to only ten minutes.
Fighters were typically organized into 6-fighter squadrons, although a carrier normally carried twice as many pilots as fighters so as to rotate the fighter jocks, reducing pilot fatique during extended operations. In the KON, the farshathkhanaak, or senior pilot of the task force or fleet, represented them at the highest levels and led them into combat.