U.S. SF-72 Starblade Hypersonic Fighter:

The KEM launcher flashed, and Captain Avery flew through the fireball which had been the last of the fighters defending a Middle-Eastern country. He turned his Starblade around to take a look at the devastation being wrecked by the Hypersoar bombers which his squadron was escorting. Together the flight of bombers and fighters had travelled through the stratosphere all the way to a country across the world to rain fire and death on its inhabitants.

"So much for those damned terrorists!" Avery thought. His sister had been in the New York Arcology when the bioweapon had been released. Mary had been one of the first victims, and now Avery was here to avenge her. The Hypersoar bombers were hitting targets which the sea-launched cruise missile strikes might not take out, and Avery and his men had taken great care to clear the skies of any who would challenge the bombers. Not that that had been particularly difficult, with the enourmous speed and maneuvrability advantages the Starblades enjoyed.

His sattelite radio came to life with the voice of colonel Jones, all the way from Cheyenne mountain.

"Alpha and Beta force, prepare for Arclight thirty miles to your east. Splash will be in thirty seconds, I repeat, splash will be in thirty seconds from NOW!"

Avery checked his instruments a final time. His plane was fully shielded against EMP, and he didn`t worry much. Even the shockwave shouldn`t pose much of a threat at this distance.

Thirty seconds later night became day as the light from nuclear fires illuminated the sky and millions of people died.

Through the sensornet Avery watched the distant fires with interest and glee. It wasn`t like you saw nukes going off every day, and the Starblade`s sensors gave him a unsurpassed view. Deep in his hart he knew he should have felt horror at the deaths of so many, but all there was in his mind was hate, and a terrible joy. So enthralled he was with the growing mushroom clouds that it took the voice from his weapons officer to make him take notice of something else.

"Say Captain, what do you suppose makes those lightnings? Atmospheric disruptions from the shockwaves?"

Avery didn`t answer right away, but the Lieutenant was right: strangely colored lightnings crawled in intricate shapes around the base of the mushroom clouds, and at maximum enhancement it almost looked as if something was moving INSIDE of the lightnings themselves. "I really don`t know Lieutenant" answered Avery, "but it looks as if those things are moving in our direction. I think we should get out of here. No use gawking around anyway, the bombers are already done."

As the flight of Starblades began to climb and gain speed, the lightnings were converging into ever larger streams of fire. Suddenly one of the streams leapt away, and started out at the Starblades. When the pilots realized it, they opened their throttles fully, and climbed more steeply, all to reach an altitude where they could safely ignite the full power of their nuclear pulse engines and race out of there. The Rift continued to open up wider, and swallowed the first fighters, the pilots barely having time for a scream.

Avery cursed at the threat, and reached out for the button which would maximize the plasma feed into his pulse engines, which would then propel his fighter into the safety of the Stratosphere.

He nearly made it.

Excerpt from Fox’s Combat Aircraft of the World, 2090 to 2091:

The Starblade fighter is the front-line fighter of the USAF, and last year saw the introduction of this magnificent fighters C version. Few pictures of the new version have been released, and much of the data in this discussion regarding the C version is conjectural.

In 2080 the Starblade came out of a requirement of the USAF for a escort for their new Hypersoar bombers. This obviously meant that the fighter to escort these bombers had to be something rather special. Like the bombers it was able to reach mach 11 at the very boundary between atmosphere and space, but unlike the bombers it would still have to be every bit as agile as a normal fighter when flying in the atmosphere. Added to that would have to be a good sized weapons load and, if at all possible, the plane also had to be reasonably stealthy. Lockheed delivered the then very controversial Starblade.

In the years that followed the Starblade proved itself to be everything that both Lockheed and the Airforce had said it would be. The single-seat A version was followed in 2083 by the two seater B version which proved to be even more efficient because of the addition of a weapons officer. Last year saw the introduction of the newer C version. Like the B version this appears to be a two-seater craft. This version is supposed to keep the Starblade in service well into the next century, and as a matter of fact there is still no word that the USAF is looking into a replacement for the Starblade. Which does NOT mean that there isn`t work being done on one...

The shape of the fighter itself is almost identical to the B version, and is a remarkable compromise between the need to achieve extreme velocities and the need to maintain a good maneuvrability. The latter is most clearly seen in the forward-swept wings, and the two canards PLUS two elevators, rudders and vectorized exhausts. This is a abundance of control systems seldomly seen in a modern plane, and it provides the Starblade with a remarkable agility.

It also offsets the detrimental effects of the shape of the main body. The air inlets are located conventionally enough just below the canards, but for some reason the slightly downswept canards seem to run all the way over the back of the plane, leaving a sharp indentation beneath them, and giving the plane the appearance of having a slight hump. The most likely explanation put forward is that this feature allows the planes hypersonic shockwave to be funneled to provide some measure of thrust, much like the far simpeler shape of the Hypersoar Bomber does. The Starblade C appears to have a somewhat more rounder shaped body than the B, with a correspondingly larger internal volume, but it is unclear if this volume is taken up by more weapons, electronics or the new engines.

Weapons loadout is a point which is unclear in the C version. Unlike the A and B versions which carry both a laser and a mini-missile launcher in the nose for a versatile mix of weapons the C version appears to have a single firing port on the bottom of the plane just aft of the nosecone. Since this is shuttered closed in all pictures it is unclear what for a kind of weapon is behind it. Most likely this will be a ion pulse cannon, since these versatile weapons seem to have become the new standard for any USAF craft.

Located on the bottom center of the body is still a single large ordnance bay. This bay appears to be unchanged in size from the previous versions, and conventional wisdom and the size of this bay seem to dictate that the loadout should be around 4-6 large munitions, or a corresponding amount of smaller ordnance. Since versatility is a must nowadays, even in such a highly specialized machine it is likely that both missiles and bombs can be carried. The same cannot be said from what appear to be two smaller bays, one in each wing root. Their location and shape would seem to restrict them to missiles only. Like in the A and B versions there is no clear way of telling how many weapons can be mounted in these bays. They might even be connected to magazines inside of the plane.

To the rear of these two smaller bays are two (for each wing one) large panels. These appear to be acces panels of some kind, but to what is unknown. At first they were thought to be covering flight avionics bays, because the wing at that point is too thin to house large munitions. New information seems to indicate that these are in fact hardpoints, countersunk into the wing to minimize aerodynamic disruptions.

On the each of the wings proper there is a single standard hardpoint, but it is unknown what the effect of carrying munitions on these points would be on the Starblades high speed performance.

Electronics are among the hardest to determine: The only thing to be said with safety is that at the very aft end of the plane there are two decoy dispensers. The streamlined covers are instantly recognisable from the A and B versions.

Radar is almost certain to be a Phased array type, perhaps a enhanced version of the set mounted in the earlier versions, which itself was closely related to the set carried in the Sea Hawk fighter.

Visual equipment must be present and quite powerful, since the plane has a opaque cockpit cover (apparently made of the same armor composite as the rest of the plane). Almost certainly fiberoptics are used, dispersed throughout the entire hull. In combination with the latest virtual helmets this would give the pilot a full and unhampered 360 degree vision all around the plane.

No real guesses on countermeasures can be made. For quite some time now the antenna for such systems have been integrated as phased arrays into the skin of a plane, and as such are no longer recognisable.

Engines are equally unclear. The smaller size of the engine covers and the shape of the vector exhausts seem to indicate a different engine than the P&W 1300 MKII airbreathing nuclear turbines carried in the A & B versions of the Starblade. These engines provide more than enough thrust to propel the plane to the required speed of mach 11. They are also capable of delivering this thrust over the entire performance spectrum required, and are extremely reliable. It is unclear with what for a kind of engine the nuclear turbines have been replaced. Some sources indicate that a new kind of fusion pulse engine has been mounted in the Starblade C, but at this moment in time it is impossible to verify this.

Although questions remain over the abilities of the new Starblade C, it is safe to say that they will exceed the capabilities of the earlier versions. In 2080 the Starblade was cutting edge, and even today the A and B versions are among the finest planes in the world. There seems to be little doubt that the C upgrade will allow the Starblade to eclipse all of its competitors. Unfortunately this performance comes at a price. A very steep price in fact. A Starblade B sold for a whopping 193 million Dollar in 2089. Compared to a price of about 60 million for a Navy Panther VSTOL fighter this is a lot, especially if we take into account the fact that the Navy plane actually carries the same amount of ordnance as the Starblade....

Some detractors of the plane have in fact mentioned this as the reason that the Starblade has never been used in the Air-to-Ground mission, but the Airforce has always been remarkably reluctant to use its fighters in the "Mud-moving business". The plane itself certainly seems up to the task.

Designation: Lockheed SF-72 Starblade
Vehicle Type: Air Superiority Fighter.
Crew: A version: One Pilot. B&C versions: Two, one Pilot, one Weapons Officer.

M.D.C. by Location:

A&B versionC version
Laser Cannon: 40 -
Mini Missile Launcher :60-
Kinetic Energy Missile Launcher (C version):-80
Large Belly Ordnance Bay:150180
Small Wing Root Ordnance Bays (2):70 each85 each
[1] Wings (2):170 each200 each
[2] Canards (2):60 each70 each
[3] Rudders (2):90 each110 each
[3] Elevators (2):90 each110 each
Landing Gear (3):20 each20 each
[4] P&W 1300 Engines (2):130 each-
[4] FT-1500 Engines (2):- 175 each
[5] Main Body:320 400
Reinforced Crew Compartment / Cockpit:90100
Pilot/Weapons Officer Seat :5 each5 each

[1] Destroying a wing will cause the plane to crash while in a atmosphere. Destruction of the fighters wing has no effect on the fighter in space but fighter will be unable to re-enter an atmosphere safely
[2] Destruction of a canard will still allow the fighter to be controlled by the varying of power levels of the engines but fighter has a penalty of -2 to dodge, and a -10% penalty to all piloting rolls. Destruction of both of the canards will impose a penalty of -6 to dodge and -30% on all piloting rolls.
[3] Destruction of rudders or one elevator will still allow the fighter to be controlled by the varying direction of the engines but fighter has a penalty of -5 to dodge, and a -20% penalty to all piloting rolls. Destruction of both of the elevators will leave the plane uncontrollable and pilot must eject to survive.
[4] The destruction of one engine will reduce the fighter’s top speed by half and give the pilot a -2 penalty to dodge as well as giving a 10% penalty to piloting. Destruction of both engines will cause the aircraft to crash. Pilot may attempt a emergency landing or can choose to eject. The engines are placed deep in the main body of the fighter, and can only be hit on a called shot: -3 to strike.
[5] Depleting the M.D.C. of the main body will shut the aircraft down completely, rendering it useless and causing it to crash if in flight. Damage to the main body will also reduce the aircrafts stealth, for every 10% of damage to the main body, reduce the aircrafts stealth by 10% of its total.

Driving on Ground (Taxiing): Only possible for conventional take offs and landings as well as for parking and storage. Speed is 40 mph (64 kph) when traveling and not on take off or landing.
Flying: Standard (A&B) versions: The jet propulsion system enables the Starblade to reach a maximum speed of Mach 11 (7,260 mph / 11,616 kph) and climb to an altitude of 93,000 feet (27,900 meters). It can achieve this with its inner (aerodynamic) hardpoints loaded. When the fighter is also carrying ordnance on its outer external hard points, the fighter has a top speed of Mach 8.3 (4,478 mph / 8,786.7 kph)
C Version: The Fusion Pulse engines enable the improved Starblade to reach a maximum speed of Mach 14.3 (9,405 mph / 15,085.6 kph) and climb to an altitude of 126,000 feet (37,800 meters). It can achieve this with its inner (aerodynamic) hardpoints loaded. When the fighter is also carrying ordnance on its outer external hard points, the fighter has a top speed of Mach 9.6 (6,336 mph /10,163 kph)
All versions of the jet have a minimum glide-speed of 150 mph (240 kph); if it goes any slower, the wings cannot provide sufficient lift and the aircraft will crash . Cruising speed at lower altitude tends to be between 500 mph (802 kph) and Mach 1.6 (1,186 mph/ 1,902.7 kph), although the Starblade in all versions can reach up to mach 5.8 (4,463.1 mph / 7,158.8 kph) at altitudes below 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) as long as the outer hardpoints are not used. If the outer hardpoints are used, maximum speed below 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) drops to mach 4.7 (3,616.7 mph / 5,801.1 kph). Cruising speed in the stratosphere tends to be close to the maximum performance of the plane. Anything less would be defeating the very purpose of the Starblade.
Maximum Effective Range: Nuclear powered, effectively unlimited. The Starblade`s engines, both the Turbines and the Fusion pulse engines, do not need to cool down. The plane can effectively circumnavigate the Earth without stopping.

Statistical Data:
Height: 12 feet (3.6 meters)
Wingspan: 66 feet (19.8 meters).
Length: 90 feet (27 meters)
Weight: A&B version: 39 tons (35.5 metric tons), C version: 44 tons (39.9 metric tons) fully loaded
Power System: Nuclear, has an average lifespan of 20 years.
Cargo: Minimal (Storage for small equipment), does not include ordnance bays. Heavy Ordnance bay, if emptied of ordnance can carry up to 15,000 lbs (6,840 kg) of cargo. Light Ordnance bays, if emptied of ordnance can carry up to 5,000 lbs (2,268. kg) of cargo each.
Black Market Cost: Not for sale! Before the Rifts came this was the latest and most powerful USAF fighter in production; less than 400 appear to have been produced before the Rifts, and less than 60 of the C version. None are *believed* to have survived. If found and in reasonable state the Coalition or the black market would gladly pay up to 500 million for a Starblade C!

Weapon Systems:

  1. Forward Mounted Laser (A&B version): A laser is mounted on the left side of the nose. The forward laser cannon is controlled by the pilot. It serves as the one of last line of defense against enemy planes and missile volleys, although some pilots use it for strafing runs against ground targets. Although facing forward, the guns can be positioned up and down 30 degrees.
    Maximum Effective Range: 4,000 feet (1220 meters)
    Mega-Damage: A single blast is 5D6 M.D.
    Rate of Fire: Equal the pilot’s number of hand to hand attacks.
    Payload: Effectively Unlimited.
  2. Mini-Missile Launcher (A&B version): A large mini-missile launcher is mounted on the right side of the nose. This weapon is mostly used against enemy aircraft, missile volleys, and other aerial opponents, or on strafing runs against troops and other ground targets. The weapon has a much larger punch than the laser cannon and is controlled by the pilot.
    Maximum Effective Range: Varies with missile types, mini-missiles only (See revised bomb and missile tables for details.)
    Mega Damage: Varies with mini-missile types (See revised bomb and missile tables for details.)
    Rate of Fire: Equal to the total number of hand to hand attacks per melee. The missiles can be fired one at a time, or in volleys of two, four, or eight.
    Payload: 30 mini-missiles in the launcher.
  3. KEM-1000 Kinetic Energy Missile (C version): Mounted in the Nose of the fighter. This weapon is only carried on the C version of the plane, and replaces the Laser AND the mini-missile launcher. This was actually intended to be a test before the weapon was mouinted in the Star Talon, but the results were so promising that the weapon was also mounted in the Starblade C. The weapon launchers a large rod of high tensile strength mega-damage material. The rod is initially driven by a magnetic accelerator and uses a rocket propellant to increase the speed to even greater speeds. This weapon reaches incredible speeds by this method. The missile travels at 6,500 mph (10,460 kph) faster than the fighter when it launches the projectile. These missiles can be used against unmoving targets beyond the weapons normal range but suffers the same penalties that normal missiles do.
    Maximum Effective Range: 8,000 feet (2,400 m). [Non revised rules, cut ranges by 3/4]
    Mega Damage: 3D4x10+20 per missile / projectile.
    Rate of Fire: Equal to pilot’s hand to hand.
    Payload: 48
  4. Large Ordnance Bay: The Starblade has one large ordnance bay in the belly of the aircraft. Ordnance types can include missiles, torpedoes, naval mines, and bombs. Missile and bombs sizes may be mixed between different types of ordnance but an ordnance drop or launch must include the same type and size of ordnance. Ordnance may be carried at the rate of four short range missile, four light bombs, two medium range missile, or two medium bombs for one long range missile or heavy bomb. Because of the layout of the bay extra heavy bombs or cruise missiles cannot be carried. Both guided and unguided ordnance may be carried.
    Maximum Effective Range: Varies by missile type for missile and varies by altitude dropped at (See revised bomb and missile tables for details.)
    Mega Damage: Varies by missile or bomb type (See revised bomb and missile tables for details.)
    Rate of Fire: Ordnance is dropped or fired one at a time or in volleys of two, four, eight, or sixteen but must be the same size (light, medium, or heavy) and style of ordnance (all missiles or bombs in a volley.)
    Payload: A&B version: 20 short range missiles or light bombs, 10 medium range missiles or medium bombs, or 5 long range missiles or heavy bombs.
    C version: 24 short range missiles or light bombs, 12 medium range missiles or medium bombs, or 6 long range missiles or heavy bombs. I all versions ordnance can be mixed and naval mines may be carried as well as missiles and bombs.
  5. Small Ordnance Bays (2): The aircraft has two small ordnance bays in the wing roots with one in each wing root. These bays are reserved for air to air missiles, and bombs and mines cannot be dropped from these bays. Ordnance may be carried at the rate of four mini-missiles, two short range missiles, for one medium range missile.
    Maximum Effective Range: Varies by missile type (See revised bomb and missile tables for details.)
    Mega Damage: Varies by missile type (See revised bomb and missile tables for details.)
    Rate of Fire: Ordnance is dropped or fired one at a time or in volleys of two, four, or eight.
    Payload: A&B version: 8 mini-missiles, 4 short range missiles, or 2 medium range missiles each bay.
    C version: 12 mini-missiles, 6 short range missiles, or 3 medium range missiles each bay. Ordnance can be mixed in all versions.
  6. Wing Hard Points (4): The Starblades have four hard points for ordnance and equipment. The inner hardpoints are actually semi-merged into the wing/body of the plane, and all ordnance loaded into these is not detrimental to the aerodynamics of the plane. When not in use these are covered up to smooth out the planes skin. The outer two hardpoints are simple pylons on the wings, and ordnance loaded on these reduces the planes performance. The hard points can be used to carry missiles, bombs, and rocket packs as needed by the mission. Missiles, rocket packs, and bombs can be mixed or matched but all ordnance on a hard point must be the same type. Carrying ordnance on the aircrafts external hard points negates the aircrafts stealth from the bottom, sides, front, and back of the aircraft. The aircraft retains normal stealth from the top.
    1. Bombs and Missiles: The only restriction is that a hard point must carry all the same type of missiles or bombs. Both unguided and guided bombs can be carried.
      Maximum Effective Range: Varies by missile type for missile and varies by altitude bombs are dropped at (See revised bomb and missile tables for details.)
      Mega Damage: Varies by missile or bomb type (See revised bomb and missile tables for details.)
      Rate of Fire: Missiles can be fired and bombs can be dropped one at a time per hard point. Multiple hard points can be linked as one attack but must be the same size (light, medium, or heavy) and style of ordnance (all missiles or bombs in a volley.)
      Payload: One long range missile or heavy bomb, two medium range missiles or medium bombs, or four short range missiles or light bombs (see above - all ordnance on a hard point must be the same size and type of ordnance)
    2. Mini-Missile Pod: Large capacity mini-missile pod. The mini missile pods are normally carried for ground strafing, anti-troop, and anti-emplacement attacks. Normal missile used are armor piercing, plasma, or fragmentation mini-missiles. Mini Missile pods are normally controlled by the pilot.
      Maximum Effective Range: Varies with missile types, mini-missiles only (See revised bomb and missile tables for details.)
      Mega Damage: Varies with mini-missile types (See revised bomb and missile tables for details.)
      Rate of Fire: Each pod can fire missiles one at a time or in volleys of two (2), four (4), eight (8), or sixteen (16) mini-missiles and can be linked with other mini-missile pods for greater number of missiles (Counts as one attack no matter how many missiles in volley.)
      Payload: Each pod carries sixteen (16) mini-missiles.
  7. Anti-Missile Chaff Dispenser: Located at the very tail of the fighter are two chaff dispensers. When tailed by a missile, a cloud of chaff and other obtrusive particles can be released to confuse or detonate the enemy's attack. Reduce effects by 20% against smart missiles (Add +20% to rolls for smart missiles.)
    Rifts Earth decoy systems are assumed to not operate against Phase World weapons due to technological difference.
      01-50 Enemy missile or missile volley detonates in chaff cloud - Missiles are all destroyed.
      51-75 Enemy missile or missile volley loses track of real target and veers away in wrong direction (May lock onto another target.)
      76-00 No effect, enemy missile or missile volley is still on target.
    Also note that the chaff cloud will also blind flying monsters that fly through cloud. They will suffer the following penalties: reduce melee attacks/actions, combat bonuses, and speed by half. Duration: 1D4 melee rounds.
    Payload: Ten (10).
  8. Advanced Towed Decoys (4): These are mounted in dispensers on the tips of the mounting of the fighter’s elevators with two decoys in the dispenser on either tip. In effect they are at the very rearmost points of the plane. These drones are dragged about 328 feet (100 meters) behind the aircraft on a thin cable and are identical to the ones mounted on the latest versions of the Panther II fighter. Each is a specially designed radar lure that creates a radar image to mimic the aircraft. The decoy has a special jammer that is designed to decoy missiles that have been programmed to home on jamming signals. If decoys are not destroyed, they can be recovered and repaired. Rifts Earth decoy systems are assumed to not operate against Phase World weapons due to technological difference.
    M.D.C.: 5
    Effects: The decoy has an 80% chance of fooling ordinary non military radars and non smart guided missiles, the decoy has a 50% chance of fooling military level radars (like those of the Coalition), and the decoy has a 25% chance of fooling advanced military radars (Like those of the New Navy and Triax) and smart missiles. Against missiles homing on a jamming signal, jamming has an 40% chance of tricking missiles if both the aircraft and missile are jamming and an 80% chance if the jamming system on the aircraft is deactivated before the missile reaches it.
    Maximum Effective Range: Not Applicable although decoy is deployed 328 feet (100 meters) from the aircraft
    Rate of Fire: One can be deployed at a time and requires 15 seconds to deploy (Reel Out) another decoy
    Payload: 4 Decoys (2 each)

Special Equipment:
The fighter has all the standard features of a standard fighter (same as standard robot minus loudspeaker and microphone) plus these special features listed.

Combat Bonuses :

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[ Beyond the Supernatural®, Heroes Unlimited®, Nightbane®, Ninjas & Superspies®, Palladium Fantasy®, and Rifts® are registered trademarks owned by Kevin Siembieda and Palladium Books Inc. ]

Picture is taken from the game "Ace Combat 3 Electrosphere" by Namco. Go here for the official Namco website: Namco

Writeup by Mischa (E-Mail Mischa ).

Copyright © 2002, Mischa. All rights reserved.