U.S. FV-38 Panther II VSTOL Fighter:

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

The development of the Panther dates back to just after 2040. Most people consider this to be the Golden Age when there were few wars and most places were reducing military budgets. The United States militaries were no exception to this and were fighting to keep the programs that they had. An additional problem was that they needed a replacement for the F-35 fighter, originally known as the Joint Strike Fighter, which was reaching the end of its service life. As the F-16 was to the late Twentieth Century, the F-35 was to the first half of the Twenty First Century. Like the F-16, the F-35 was operated in huge numbers in United States Service and was sold to a great many other nations. A replacement fighter design would be needed within the next decade but it would be virtually impossible to get funding for a new fighter program.

Like with the Joint Strike Fighter, the United States Air Force and Navy pooled their resources for the development of a new fighter. The money would still not be enough to fund a whole new aircraft but it was hoped that they could develop a more advanced fighter design from the previous VSTOL version of the F-35. It was estimated that a design with three quarters of the capabilities of a new fighter could be developed for a little over half what it would cost to develop an all new design. The F-38 fighter was meant as an interim design but the fighter turned out to be an outstanding aircraft.

The basic concept of the design was to use the basic F-35 design but enlarge it slightly and replace many of the internal systems. Later versions of the F-35 used new high strength composites and alloys that both had a low radar cross signature and allowed the aircraft to withstand far more damage than was conceived when the Joint Strike Fighter was first developed. These materials were also used on the FV-38 and made for an extremely tough fighter. New fusion aircraft engines were being developed at the time the fighter was being designed and the fighter was the first to carry a fusion turbine engine. The FT-200 Fusion Turbine was developed by General Electric and initial versions produced 250 Kilo-Newtons of thrust. The Fusion Turbines allowed for far longer operations than previous fighter designs. The aircraft retained the forward lift fan of the VSTOL F-35 to allow it to make vertical take-offs and landings. The initial YFV-38 prototype carried the same electronics as the latest versions of the Joint Strike Fighter but later models featured all new electronics including a radar system that is both longer ranged and has a larger tracking capacity. The Fly by Wire controls cables on the FV-38 are quadruple redundant and are each protected by light armor to make it very unlikely that the fly by wire controls are disabled by a single hit. The F-35 had to carry a towed decoy on a hard point and reduced the amount of external ordnance and reduced the aircraft's stealth. The F-38 was designed from the start to carry its towed decoys on wing tip mounts. The internal bay was increased in size to allow the fighter to carry up to four long range missiles. The fighter also retains four external hard points for additional ordnance. While the fighter loses much of its stealth while carrying external ordnance but allows the fighter to carry up to eight long range missiles. A 27 mm cannon was developed for the F-35 to replace the 20 mm Vulcan cannon that was carried on virtually all American fighters since the 1960s. This cannon was carried on the first models on the Panther. While there are many models still in service that still carry this gun, a rail gun replaced the cannon in later models. American fighters used a canon adapted from the SAMAS power armor and many other nations Panther use this cannon as well. Some non-American manufactured fighters use other rail gun designs but the performance is similar. Many older models have been upgraded to the rail gun and some have even been upgraded to a pulse laser with an unlimited payload.

Lockheed Martin was the primary contractor and Northrop Grumman as the secondary contractor for the fighter. The initial order for the fighter was sent to Lockheed and Northrop in 2045 with the first YFV-38 Prototype being delivered in 2048. Due to the pressing need for the aircraft, the prototype was rushed through testing. The first prototype crashed but the second passed all Air Force, Marine, and Navy tests. Many pilots grumbled about the rapid pace of testing and the low budgets but is was either this or they would get no new fighter. The name Panther was chosen for the fighter by Northrop due to an earlier Grumman design know as the Panther. Grumman had been part of Northrop since the latter part of the Twentieth century. The Navy, Marines, and Air Force all liked the name so accepted for their new fighter. The first production model Panthers came out of the manufacturing plant in 2050 with the fighter reaching squadron status in the Air Force in 2052 and the Navy in 2053. The Panther attracted the interest of many other countries and was purchased by many nations to replace their aging fighters. The biggest interests came from nations which operated Joint Strike Fighters from their carriers. These included Great Britain, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands. Great Britain received their first shipment of the fighter in 2056. A huge number of Panthers were produced over the years. Production of the fighter is calculated to be over 6000 fighters total.

The FV-45 Sea Hawk was at first designed to simply be a larger supplement to the FV-38 in the United States Navy but as time went on, the Sea Hawk began replacing the Panther in front line naval service. The Panthers were transferred to reserve units and allowed the Joint Strike Fighter to finally be retired. A similar situation happened in the American Air Force except the replacement was the hypersonic fighter know as the "Starblade." The Reserve Squadrons of Panthers make up virtually half of the United States Fighter forces and the Panthers are well maintained. It is not planned to decommission in United States Reserve squadrons until the replacement of the Sea Hawk enters service. This will likely not be until around the year 2105.

While the fighters have been removed from front line service in the United States, it still is the main fighter of several Air Forces and the fighter still carried on British Carriers although augmented by Sea Hawk fighters.

The Navy Sea Hawk retains many design features from the Panther but has a larger payload, has more powerful electronics, and is far faster. The Sea Hawk is VSTOL as well and is designed as a multi-role aircraft. In one way, the Panther is actually superior. The standard Sea Hawk has a higher radar cross signature than the Panther although the Stealth version of the Sea Hawk has a lower cross signature. The Starblade has few features in common with the Panther and is a convention take off and landing aircraft. The Air Force fighter is also far more expensive than either the Panther or the Sea Hawk.

Designation: FV-38 Panther
Vehicle Type: Single Engine Multi-Role VTOL Fighter
Crew: One

M.D.C. by Location:

Forward Mounted Gun (1; Wing Root):40
Wing Mounted Missile Hard Points (4):10 each
Internal Ordnance Bay (1; hatch):60
[1] Wings (2):100 each
[2] Elevators (2):60 each
[2] Rudders (2):60 each
[3] Forward Lift Turbo-Fan Engine (1):30
[3] Protective Doors for Forward Lift Engine (2, top and bottom):30 each
[4] Main Engine (1):100
[5] Main Body160
Landing Gear (3):10 each
Reinforced Pilot’s Compartment / Cockpit:80
Pilot Seat (1):2

[1] Destroying a wing will cause the plane to crash. Pilot must eject to survive.
[2] 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 -10 to dodge, and a -30% penalty to all piloting rolls. Destruction of both of the elevators will leave the plane uncontrollable and pilot must eject to survive.
[3] Destruction of doors protecting front lift engine will increase drag. Reduce top speed by half and the fighter has a -4 to dodge and piloting is at -20% at high speeds (Above 400 mph / 644 kph). To damage the forward lift engine, a called shot at -3 is required and the shielding doors either must be open or destroyed. If forward lift fan is destroyed, the fighter cannot hover.
[4] Destruction of the fighter’s engine will cause the aircraft to crash. Pilot may attempt an emergency landing or pilot can choose to eject. Pilot may attempt an emergency landing or pilot and weapon officer can choose to eject.
[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. Pilot must eject to survive. Damage to the main body will also reduce the aircraft's stealth, for every 10% of damage to the main body, reduce the aircraft's stealth by 10% of its total.

Driving on Ground (Taxiing): Only possible for 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: The jet propulsion system enables the Panther to reach a maximum speed of Mach 2.1 (1557.1 mph / 2,505.8) and climb to an altitude of 55,000 feet (16,800 meters). When the fighter is carrying ordnance on its external hard points, the fighter has a top speed of Mach 1.8 (1,334.6 mph / 2147.9 kph.) The fighter has a minimum glide-speed of 120 mph (192 kph); if it goes any slower, the wings cannot provide sufficient lift and the aircraft will crash unless VTOL engines are engaged. Cruising speed tends to be between 250 mph (400 kph) and Mach 1.0 (741.4 mph/ 1193.3 kph).
Maximum Effective Range: Nuclear powered, giving it continual energy, but the jet engines begin to overheat after 12 hours of continual use. Occasional rest stops every 4 to 6 hours, giving the engines an hour to cool down, will allow the aircraft to travel indefinitely.

Statistical Data:
Length: 56.0 feet (17.1 meters)
Wingspan: 36.3 feet (11.1 meters) extended and 32.8 feet (10 meters) folded
Height: 16.8 feet (5.1 meters) with landing gear down and 11.8 feet (3.6 meters) with landing gear retracted.
Weight: 27282.2 pounds (12,375 kilograms) empty, 54,564.4 pounds (24,750 kilograms)
Power Source: Nuclear Fusion, Should have an average lifespan of 10 years.
Cargo: Minimal (Storage for small equipment). Does not include hard points and ordnance bay. Ordnance bay, if emptied of ordnance can carry up to can carry 4000 lbs (1816 kg) of cargo.
Black Market Cost: Not available. Other than those operated by the New Navy, none are known to have survived the coming of the Rifts. The jet has never been recovered by enemies or mercenaries. Such an aircraft would sell for 60 to 80 million credits on the open market.

Weapon Systems:

  1. Forward Mounted Gun: A fix forward weapon is mounted on the Wing root of the fighter. 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 when they are out of missiles. Many pilots do not like being exposed to ground weapons fire so it is an uncommon practice.
    1. 27 mm Cannon: Developed originally for the F-35, this cannon is carried in early models of the FV-38 and is quite effective against most targets. Payload is more limited than it is for the rail gun carried in later models of the fighter. Weapon fires a combination of armor piercing and explosive rounds to inflict heavy damage on targets.
      Maximum Effective Range: 4,000 feet (1,220 meters).
      Mega Damage: 1D6x10 for a burst of 15 round, 2D6 for each round.
      Rate of Fire: Equal to the combined hand to hand attacks of the pilot (usually 4 or 5).
      Payload: 390 rounds (26 bursts)
    2. USA-M31 Rail gun: Mounted on later American FV-38 models and refitted on many earlier models. It does not require any primer and a larger number of rounds can be carried than the original 27 mm cannon. The weapons design comes from the original Pre-Rifts SAMAS design. The rail gun has fewer bursts and is heavier but the rail gun inflicts more damage than the post Rifts C-40R. Some non-American fighters mount different rail guns although the damage is approximately the same.
      Maximum Effective Range: 4,000 feet (1,200 meters).
      Mega-Damage: A burst of 40 rounds does 1D6x10.
      Rate of Fire: Equal to combined hand to hand attacks of pilot or commander.
      Payload: 4,000 round magazine for 100 bursts each.
    3. Pulse Laser Mount: Refitted on many Panther VTOL Fighters. The weapon replaced both the 27 mm cannon and the rail gun due to having an unlimited payload.
      Maximum Effective Range: 4,000 feet (1,200 meters)
      Mega-Damage: 1D6x10 per pulse.
      Rate of Fire: Equal to combined hand to hand attacks of pilot or commander.
      Payload: Effectively Unlimited.
  2. Internal Ordnance Bay: The fighter has a large bay in the main body that can carry a wide variety of different ordnance types. Ordnance types include missiles, torpedoes, and bombs. While depth charges can be carried, their limited utility means that torpedoes are carried in most ASW missions. Missile and bomb 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 missiles, four light bombs, two medium range missiles, or two medium bombs for one long range missile or heavy bomb. Both guided and unguided ordnance may be carried. An equivalent number of torpedoes or depth charges to the number of missiles and bombs may also 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: Ordnance is dropped or fired one at a time or in volleys of two to thirty two but must be the same size (light, medium, or heavy) and style of ordnance (all missiles or bombs in a volley.)
    Payload: 16 short range missile or light bombs, 8 medium range missiles or medium bombs, or 4 long range missile or heavy bomb. Ordnance can be mixed and torpedoes and depth charges may be carried as well as missiles and bombs.
  3. Wing Hard Points (4): The Panther has four external hard points for ordnance and equipment. 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 negate the aircraft's stealth from the bottom, sides, front, and back of the aircraft. The aircraft will retain normal stealth from the top when carrying wing mounted ordnance. Reduce Stealth by 10% for every hard point carrying ordnance.
    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 missile 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.
      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), or eight (8) 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.
  4. 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. Rifts Earth decoy systems are assumed to not operate against Phase World missiles due to technological difference. Reduce effects by 20% against smart missiles (Add +20% to rolls for smart missiles.)
    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: Eight (8)
  5. Advanced Towed Decoys (4): These are mounted in dispensers on the tips of the fighter’s wings with two decoys in the dispenser on either wing. These drones are dragged about 328 feet (100 meters) behind the aircraft on a thin cable. 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 below.

Combat Bonuses:

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Writeup by Kitsune (E-Mail Kitsune).

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