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SFAX PROGRAMME 2087 [Experimental one-off challenge]

i probably should’ve just waited for 4.2 but whatever i’m bored


As the Cold War continued into the 21st Century and with the expansion into space, major leaps have been made in terms of military technology. New more efficient space engines and fuel types have allowed for breakthroughs in the militarisation of space.
No longer did humanity need to rely upon inefficient liquid fueled rocket engines and the subsequent rockets that were oh-so-desperately needed to traverse in space. As in 2007, engineers of the Socialist Federation first pioneered a “new” type of engine. Not exactly new, but building upon older Hall effect thrusters and boosting their efficiency and power significantly by incorporating nuclear technology into engines.

They were called Nuclear Ion Engines. Utilizing a new radioisotope that produced little radiation, yet was capable of giving off great energy in a very small space.

These new thrusters were capable of doing things never before thought possible, space maneuvers could be done more wastefully without the need of complex calculations, nor did they need major planning. Space travel soon became a very easy thing to do, and the Socialist Federation then became the first country to begin colonization of the Moon.

Of course, they came with drawbacks, notably how their radiation was lethal if ever a craft powered with such an engine went down. Or perhaps how they produced less thrust at less efficiency when not in a vacuum, but that changed with the introduction of Hybrid N-Ion engines, combining the thrust and efficiency of a jet at lower altitudes and the space efficiency and sheer power of Ion engines at higher altitudes and in vacuums.

The Unified States came close by with their own development of these new engines, too, as they utilized these new engines for interplanetary travel, sending the first men to Mars by the 2030s.
With the introduction of Nuclear Ion Engines and their Hybrid equivalents, Single-stage-to-orbit spacecraft were becoming no longer a pipe dream, and the price to get items to space significantly lowered, meaning more space missions were possible and were being performed every decade. Science had now reached a new frontier.

And of course, so did the military.

The first space warfare vehicles came about by the time the US had gotten to Mars and the Socialist Federation was expanding their space bases. It is still unclear which of the two countries were first to deploy a true space weapon, as the Socialist Federation had attempted in the 1980s and 1990s with their secret space stations. But it was said the Cold War’s space frontiers truly began when US President Doydlid Tyatsmir’s first “Space Force” law came into act in 2037.

Eventually entire military fleets were being launched into orbit by each country’s corresponding space forces, with different types of military spacecraft being made, from space battleships, to orbital cannons, and most importantly, space fighters with their own corresponding carriers.

With the advent of such powerful technologies, the Cold War was made even tenser. And with orbit being a bunch of jargon requiring lots of fancy spanky wanky space glitterdust nonsense, it was only natural that many close calls were being made. Risks were everywhere for large orbital fleets, with the first few space skirmishes between the Unified States and the Socialist Federation developing new tactics never before expected.

Thus, we have arrived at the present.

June 2087
The Isoca
The Unified States’ main military headquarters.

The Space Force and the Navy have begun planning reintroducing a doctrine that it retired nearly a hundred years ago. The Socialist Federation’s latest weapon; deadly swarms of MiG-325 “Salamander” Laser Bombers. These bombers are very large but very stealthy, and theoretically could wipe out an entire US carrier group with one flyover, or perhaps an atmospheric fly-under.

Enter: The Space Fighter Attack-eXperimental Programme, or SFAX for short. A new large space fighter is under design to defend carrier battle groups from these threats.

A combination of stealthy, maneuverable both in space and in the atmosphere, as well as being capable of loading their latest ASiM-9X Reaper Missile, a very large, very fast, and very long range air/space missile capable of taking down multiple targets in close formation all at once when paired with the SWG-654 space-tracker radar.

Perfect for deterring the Socialist Federation’s new long-range laser bombers at long distances.

Among those other requirements was the usage of the new Plank & Stocking RF-60 engine. Initially designed for the failed TSW-X programme aircraft, the Space Force wants its contractors to utilize this engine to save potential cost of developing a new engine.

They plan on the aircraft entering service by the time the 90s rolls in.

And so, it begins.


Set in 2087, the US Space Force and Navy are looking for a new Fleet-defence interceptor and attack aircraft that will be responsible for defending both on-earth carrier battlefleets and orbital battlefleets as well.

As there is literally zero way of making functional fighters in Automation this will be a purely design-based challenge. However, I won’t be just going “ah yes this looks better than that plane and as such this will win” (well actually I will). Since the rules are almost entirely free with the exception of engines, missiles and seat count, it’s up to your imagination as to how far the potentials of your space fighter design will go.

With that out of the way; time for some guidelines/rules because that’s fun!

  • Fighter must be made in Automation. (lmao no shit)

  • Spacecraft requires a description of its specifications and capabilities. I don’t expect whole paragraphs and essays about its combat abilities here, all I need is a list of what it can do, what it runs on, etc. Though if you want to do the former, that’s up to you.

  • Spacecraft must look functional (Aka show your specifications in your design, if you’re gonna say it can supercruise at Mach 3 while at sea level and pull a negative 20G inverted dive, make sure it at least looks the part.)

  • Spacecraft must be able to carry at least three ASiM-9 Reaper missiles
    “But Yuri!” you may ask, “How are we gonna tell if it can do that?”
    Easy! Just take the largest cylinder in the 3D fixtures menu, and scale it to:

    And with that, the cylinder should now be in the scale of an ASiM-9.
    NOTE: This is not the diameter of the missile fuselage, if you are adding fins they must be within this scale too.

  • Spacecraft requires P&S RF-60 Nuclear Ion engines.
    Like with the ASiM-9, the engine innards are a fixed size and you can measure its size by rescaling the cylinder as such:

    This won’t be judged too hard so you can go marginally larger/smaller for the engine nacelles.

  • Spacecraft requires seating for two: A WSO (Weapon Systems Officer, aka the other pilot that controls most of the plane’s weaponry systems), and the pilot. (Again, show this in your design!)
    To see if your spacecraft can fit more than one pilot, it is recommended to use the helmet mod fixture to get a reference of the seating arrangements in the cockpit.

  • Standardized prototype paint/insignias are required (Basically, I’m not expecting there will be any squadron insignias or anything like that on the spacecraft). The Air/Space roundel of the Unified States must also be visible on the spacecraft (Air/Space roundel is basically the Gasmea roundel from this pack.)
    The spacecraft’s designation (YSF-###) must also be visible on the spacecraft. The rest of the paint scheme can be done to the entrant’s liking.

  • Other than those six “guidelines”, that’s pretty much all there is. Everything is free game basically and it’s up to you as to what could potentially come up with for the Space Force.

  • Naming scheme:
    for .car file: Model: <forum username> Trim: <fighter’s name goes here>
    Aircraft name: YSF-<number above 45 here> <(optional) aircraft name>

  • To submit an entry, send a private message on the forum with the topic set as “SFAX submission”. I will not be accepting entries sent through Discord.



Engineering in design + Description fidelity

How well written your spacecraft description is, and if your design matches along with what is written.

Details + Proportions

How well detailed and proportioned your spacecraft is. I don’t expect you to do full-on interior bullshittery and engineerings whatevers or full out smooth 5th gen stealth panelling nonsense because i myself can’t do that lmao but extra points will be rewarded for those with spacecraft that stand out from the rest.
TL;DR, how good the aircraft actually looks.

Actual feasibility by the Space Force/Navy

This section is where Officials will be seeing how feasible your spacecraft could be for the Armed Forces. From ease of maintenance engineering, to capabilites, gimmicks, whatnot.
This would at the very least be just extra flavour text based on what my eyes see and what your description says.


Other Tips + Trivia
(Not rules but helpful for aircraft design)
(Also known as extra lore)

  • Hybrid Nuclear Ion Engine-powered fighters most commonly utilize either thrust vectoring or a reaction control system (RCS) to maneuver in space. What you will use as RCS is completely up to you.

  • The fighters will still be flying through the atmosphere occasionally, and Hybrid Nuclear Ion Engines need air in the atmosphere in order to work, so intakes might be necessary.

  • As the fighters work in both space and in the atmosphere, they need a way to efficiently enter the atmosphere from orbit without burning up. Although it is possible to re-enter using mainly engine thrust to slow down, this is a practice not commonly used as fighters still utilize non-ablative atmospheric shielding during re-entry, usually in the form of a very fine ceramic coating on the edges and underside of the wings, as well as the underside of the fuselage. It is encouraged to come up with other more creative re-entry solutions for your fighters.

  • The fighters still utilize landing gears with wheels as well as arrestor wires and cable hooks. However, instead of utilizing a glideslope in space, the fighters instead approach almost parallel to the carrier’s landing deck. In the atmosphere, they land like normal with a glideslope.

  • Deck and hangar spaces on space carriers are still limited, and as such folding wings would be appreciated by both the Navy and Space Force.

  • If your design has multiple modes and you wish to add more fidelity to it (Say for instance, lowered gear, opening internal weapons bay, foldable wings, variable-sweep, variable incidence, etc), you may send more than one .car file showing the various states of the spacecraft. (If possible, do send a version with landing gear as it’ll be easier to display at a standstill.)

  • The RF-60 engine generates 250kN (56,202 pounds-force) of thrust at full atmospheric military power. Dry thrust generated is 99kN. In a vacuum, the engine can generate 5-130kN of thrust and has an Isp ranging from 3750-13,500s. The engine weighs 4,050kg (8930 lbs) and has a thrust-to-weight ratio of 6.29:1.

  • The RF-60’s specifications are not final. Potential entrants are encouraged to work with Plank & Stocking with additional development of the engine. (In other words, you’re free to change the specifications slightly to your design. So if you decide on a single-engine fighter, you can opt for more thrust and vice versa for twin-engine fighters.)

  • The radioisotope powering the RF-60’s systems is an advanced and non-naturally generating derivative of Plutonium-238, with a slightly shorter half-life whilst producing less radiation but still a relatively large amount of heat. The fuel used is a blend of Helium and Argon (HARP) with a blend of JP-D, a type of heavily compacted jet fuel. Potential entrants are encouraged to come up with more creative fuel sources.

  • I have not yet come up with an idea of what the ASiM-9 missile looks like, so this is completely up to creative interpretation by potential entrants.

  • The ASiM-9 is a very large and long range multi-mission nuclear-armed missile capable of both anti-satellite and anti-aircraft. Think of it as the result between a threesome of the real-life ASM-135, AIM-54 Phoenix, and AIR-2 Genie. The missile in its entirety weighs just a little under two tonnes at 1370kg.

  • Powering the ASIM-9 is a conventional solid rocket motor, in a vacuum the missile has a useable ∆v of 4700m/s. In-atmo the missile has a range of around 500km.

  • The SWG-654 radar is a rather large and heavy APAR capable of tracking multiple targets at once, and has a great scanning range. The system is modular so it is recommended to come up with creative add-ons to the radar to improve its combat capability.

  • The largest 3d fixture cube in-game is 25cm^3 (1 side is 25cm), useful for size referencing.

  • Spacecraft will likely not be able to fit in smaller design rooms, and the camera in Automation only goes so far. It is recommended to use the F key whilst selecting a distant fixture to move the camera around.

  • When coming up with other weapon systems for your fighters, anything goes. Just replace machine guns with lasers and try not to go too absurd with your weapons selections. (But generally, I look forward to a lot of cool stuff that I somehow haven’t thought of.)

  • The deadline saying 2091 is for effect, it’s actually 2021 lol


Additional reference air/spacecraft.

you found me!

du du du dunnnnnnnnnnn




  • Strategic space bomber fleets of the Socialist Federation are usually comprised of at least five space bombers, and escort spacecraft usually ranging from a single fighter to a small wing of three.

  • MiG-325s and derivatives are observed to have no self-defense armament to save weight and increase bomb payload and range, thus needing escorts like the Su-71 and its derivatives. The MiG-325s do feature countermeasures however, and are often observed to act like Spaceborne Early Warning spacecraft as well.

  • The MiG-325 has recently been reported to have been carrying newer RDS-80 Family Thermoplasma orbital bombs, with a yield of approximately 15 megatons and a laser range of approximately 140km.

  • Sukhoi Su-71s, reporting name “Firefox”, is the latest in the Socialist Federation’s family of fourth-generation low-observable (Stealth) space fighters. The spacecraft was first observed over the skies of ██████, ███████ in December 207█. Latest intelligence reports suggest the spacecraft is of multirole capability, is highly maneuverable in-atmo, and is capable of large amounts of movement in space.

  • The Firefox carries its weapons in an internal weapons storage bay, though it has been seen with up to eight wing-mounted hardpoints capable of carrying either highly maneuverable AA-23 Anteater heat-seeking missiles, or the longer-ranged radar-guided AA-24 Alvin missile. It is said that these weapons are controllable by thought in combination with the Firefox’s avionics systems, the Agency of Intelligence is currently dispatching Agent ██████ ███████ to ██████ and ████████ a ██████ ██-██ ███ ████ ██ ████ ██ ████ from the ██████ ███████████ ████████. [DATA EXPUNGED]

  • The Firefox is assumed to be capable of Hypersonic flight in the atmosphere, with an estimated top speed of Mach 6 or lower. Though this is being debated, as studies have shown that sustained Mach 5 or higher flights could cause significant damage to the airframe and the engines.

  • In the atmosphere, the Firefox is observed to be supermaneuverable at speeds of up to Mach 2, and is capable of sustaining up to 15+Gs in a turn. On accounts of the Incident over ██████ ███, where a Dassault Faucon of the █████ ████ encountered two of the type, a █████ maneuver was performed at speeds exceeding Mach 1.

  • Carrier-capable variants of the Su-71, designated Firefox-C, have been spotted testing near the Sea of █████ near ██████ aboard the carriers Red October and Iyosef Staling. The Su-73 with reporting name “Firefox-C” is a carrier-capable variant of the Su-71. Said to have nearly the same specifications as a regular Su-71.


Updated as of 5/15/87

Lightweight Multirole Strike Fighter

First flight: 2061
Introduction: 2065

General Characteristics
  • Crew: 2 (1 Pilot, 1 WSO)
  • Length: 53.4 ft (20.1 m)
  • Wingspan: 44.6 ft (14.9 m)
  • Empty weight: 41,382 lbs (18,771kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 53,484 lbs (24,260 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2x Generic Electro F9060-GE-500 Hybrid Nuclear Ion Engines, 15,000 lbf (66 kN) thrust each dry, 40,400 lbf (180 kN) with afterburner, 170-21,800 lbf (0.76-97 kN) in a vacuum.


  • Maximum atmospheric speed: 1,400 kn (1,600 mph, 2,600 kmh) at 40,000 ft (12,190 m)
  • Maximum atmospheric speed: Mach 2.1
  • Atmospheric range: 1,160 nmi (1,330 mi, 2,150 km)
  • Atmospheric combat range: 550 nmi (630 mi, 1,000 km) combat radius
  • Atmospheric ferry range: 1,500 nmi (1,720 mi, 2,800km)
  • Design load factor: 10.5 g


  • Guns: None
  • Hardpoints: 9 (3x under-wing 3x under fuselage)

Large Multirole Strike/Air Superiority Fighter

General Characteristics
  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 22.5m
  • Wingspan: 16.3m
  • Empty weight: [NO DATA]
  • Max takeoff weight: [NO DATA]
  • Powerplant: [NO DATA]


  • Maximum atmospheric speed: 4,300+ kn (5,000 mph, 8,000 kmh) at altitude (estimated)
  • Maximum atmospheric speed: Mach 6.5+ (est)
  • Atmospheric range: [NO DATA]
  • Atmospheric combat range: [NO DATA]
  • Atmospheric ferry range: [NO DATA]
  • Design load factor: 20+ g (est)


  • Guns: [NO DATA]
  • Hardpoints: 11 (7x internal, 4x external)

DEAD LINE: 2300U MAY 31 2091


This is the most escapist thing you have ever done - and highly reminiscent of Infinite Warfare. I can’t wait to see how well it turns out!


> briefing.start

OP has been updated with the following:

  • Opened up ASiM-9 size interpretation to potential entrants
  • Added extra tip about cockpit size
  • Removed strict Tri-Service designation number requirement
  • Added extra tip to encourage diversity with Reaction Control Systems
  • Clarified ASiM-9 missile type
  • Added tip for aircraft designing in-game
  • Added planned programme timeframe (Subject to change depending on schedule.

More revisions are to be expected before finalization.

> _


Well, if this isn’t right up my alley, I don’t know what is.

Expect that whatever I design will almost certainly use elements of sci-fi that I’ve been working on.

Edit: Well, from preliminary experiments on design, I can say that I’ll probably have the ugliest fighter in the lineup. I can’t translate the ideas from my mind into Automation’s 3D editor, so, I’ll likely have a more generic design than I’d prefer, if I enter.


Absolute madlad

> briefing.start

OP has been updated with the following:

  • Added a requirement for vehicle description for showing other specifications.
  • Added guidelines on submissions.
  • Added additional missile tips.
  • Added additional engine tips and information of fuel source.
  • Reduced weight of ASiM-9 because quite frankly a 2-tonne missile was pretty fucking stupid.

More revisions are to be expected before finalization.

> _

A̶s̶ ̶m̶u̶c̶h̶ ̶a̶s̶ ̶I̶ ̶h̶a̶t̶e̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶a̶d̶m̶i̶t̶ ̶i̶t̶, Yuri definitely knows how to make a challenge feel… period. Great job on the briefing and design so far, I can’t wait to see what will come out of this challenge next.

Did some quick calculations based off of figuring out how tall to make something for another challenge. Since the largest cylinder is the same overall size as the largest cube, here are the irl dimensions of the missiles and engines, so if you’re comparing irl engines and stuff for inspiration, this should help with a sense of scale.

ASiM-9 missiles: 156.8 in long x 23.5 in diameter (3.9 m x .59 m)

RF-60 engine: 196 in long x 50.9 in diameter (4.9 m x 1.29 m)

Yuri if I have these specs wrong, please feel free to correct me. X3


They’re about right!
Sidenote: Missile diameter is not the diameter of the missile fuselage itself, in case I didn’t make that rule clear enough. So if you want to add fins they have to be within that scale too.

1 Like

> briefing.start

OP has been updated with the following:

  • Added guidelines for paint schemes/insignia positions.
  • Added section Report 3A with scoring guide.
  • Added trivia about fighter atmospheric re-entry.
  • Added paint scheme references.
  • Finalised deadline and start date

Close to final revision before finalization.

> _

1 Like

> From Unified States Agency of Intelligence

  • Revised data on Prototype insignias.
  • Added new intel on Socialist strategic space bomber fleets.
  • Added new intel on MiG-325 “Salamander” Space bomber.
  • Added new intel on Sukhoi Su-71 “Firefox” fighter. [!]
  • New intel accessible via APPENDIX C, requires clearance from DefD.

> _


> briefing.start
> REPORT.load

2087-04-28 - INCIDENT B 344

On April 9th at 1700Z, two Socialist Salamander bombers came within 300mi of the carrier Enterprise whilst orbiting in Geosynchronous orbit above the Eshetian Ocean.

Two SF-36F fighters of VF-202 Stargazers with callsigns Fairy 404 and Fairy 406 were scrambled to intercept the bombers.

Fairy-404 engaged in a dogfight with a Firefox fighter serving as escort for the Salamander. The Socialist bombers quickly switched to a lower orbit following the encounter, and the fighter escorts eventually broke off the engagement and followed suit.


2087-04-29 - INCIDENT FF 34

On April 29th at 0100Z, two SF-36F fighters from VF-181 Hoggers launched from carrier Constellation and with callsigns Aces 14 and Aces 15 engaged with Socialist Firefox fighters over Berkeley Ridge on the Lunar South Pole Basin.

Flying in Aces 14 was Lt. Andrew “Cobra” Nagata, with WSO 2nd Lt. Dolan “Peking” Murphy. In Aces 15, Lt. Col. Martin “Saber” Kowalski with WSO 2nd Lt. Cecilia “Blondie” Wong.

SWACS Bulldog reported that both aircraft of VF-181 were shot down less than eight minutes into the engagement. Both pilots and their WSOs are presumed to be KIA.

A search and recovery operation cannot be conducted as the fighters are presumed to have crashed in disputed lunar territory.
NEW REPORT FROM MOSCAU KREMLIN, 2nd Lt. Wong was recovered from the wreckage of Aces 15, and is the only known survivor of the encounter. She is currently being held in custody by the Socialist Federation, presumably being interrogated.



2087-05-01 0000U


The Space Force and Navy of the Unified States is submitting a Request for Proposals from aerospace companies within the Unified States and her allies.

The Request for Proposals is for a new long-range, carrier-borne multirole aerospace fighter, with a primary focus on interceptor and aerospace superiority roles, forming a new Space Fighter Attack Experimental Programme.

Specific requirements have been finalized and outlined.

> log.end
> _


update as of 5/16/21 no major formatting because i’m too lazy to make it sound logical with whatever i was doing last time

Since there are still zero submissions as of this post going live (lucky me!), I’ve taken the liberty of adding some additional reference/lore material (In APPENDIX D) that is completely up to you if you want to take reference from.

I should also probably make it clear that the reason i’m adding more world-building material is for expanding the lore and trying to make the world more believable and more immersive for the entrants, as well as to hopefully be able to re-use some aspects of SFAX lore in future challenges similar to it.

In case you’re wondering, only 3 vehicles officially have been built for the SFAX Universe ( that’s what i’ll be calling it for now lmao), the MiG-325, the Su-71 and the SF-36F. All the other vehicles mentioned in lore posts are still being thought of.

Anyway I think that’s all I have to say, have fun building and ciao




IT was late in the evening as Clark sat at one end of the cantina. Beer in hand as he stared at the television with blank eyes. He didn’t care for what the news reported, his own reports were far more accurate, he thought to himself. “Arthur” someone called out to him, yet he paid no mind to it. Until of course, he was forced as he felt the flick of someone’s finger land on the side of his head. “Spacing out about those Sukhois again?” Gus asked him, as innocent and almost clueless looking as ever. “I tell you what, next time we come around up there, we’ll fry that son of a bitch well-done.” Clark felt Gus’ hand land onto his shoulder. Fry them? With what? Those Starfires can’t possibly lay even a finger on those god damned Sukhois. Clark shivered as he reminisced.

It was all still very clear in his head. The menacing red stars upon the sleek black fuselage. The blue exhaust plume of the highly advanced engines many times superior in every way to what they had. Clark argued to himself that they didn’t mean much in the way of harm, but the high pitch of the Missile Warning System constantly rang in his head. It was definitely pure luck. He had never seen anything move as sharply as it. Nor had he seen anything accelerate as quickly. The way it changed attitude and went from turning its back to facing head on was enough to send him up his seat.

The reports were no doubt right. Mach six point five? Fifteen G sustained turning? It sounds overinflated, but after seeing it in the flesh… He looked at the younger man next to him as he chugged down another bottle. I doubt he recognized the danger we were in at that time. Face to face against an uncertain enemy, twenty thousand miles above the earth with only a pressure suit and thin amounts of steel to protect you. No matter how much he drank, the thoughts continued to ripple within his head.

Gus looked at his crewmate, he could sense the anxiety and distress that radiated off Clark. Anyone could, really, but no one more than Gus. Perhaps the reason he didn’t come to the same conclusion, was that he simply was a passenger along for the ride. He didn’t do any flying, he didn’t do any maneuvering, he wasn’t subject to the same amount of pressure that Clark experienced in the pilot’s seat. All he did was sit, and await orders to arm. ”Do not fire until fired upon” my ass. If we ID a threat, we should be able to fire a fucking shot. Gus scoffed at the thought as he took another sip from the half empty bottle. ”Fairy 404, Hold your fire!”, Like hell I would next time.

The report blared on the television, heroic tales of a squadron of fighters outnumbered three to one fending off bravely. A truth to an extent, but how much of it? Press reports are getting more and more desperate to find positive news in light of the latest red scares. The technological disparity between the West and the East couldn’t have been greater than it is now, yet Gus refused to believe that. Even encountering it first-hand, he had confidence in his aircraft. But did the pilot?

He rejected the thought.
Of course.
Why wouldn’t he?

> _





THE roar of the sirens blared into Doctor von Schneider’s ears. He could only stare in horror as the rescue team attempted to put out the flames. But the heat radiating off of the Plutonium isotope in the engine continued to set aflame the burning wreck of the prototype fighter. He viewed everything else through his peripheral vision as his eyes were locked onto the cockpit, or at least what remained of it.

It wasn’t supposed to go like this. Not at all. What was supposed to be the future of short take-offs now ended up a flaming, smoldering, radiated wreck in the middle of the desert. The calculations didn’t show any flaws, Why would they? He constantly thought to himself. Guidance errors were said to only have less than even the tiniest fractions of outcomes. Did the failsafes not work? Why didn’t he eject? What doomed the mission? All sorts of questions ran through von Schneider’s mind as he awaited for any sign of life to emerge from the wreckage. While internal horrors and rebellions all riled up within him, he remained calm on the outside. Completely still as he closed off his surroundings. He simply closed his eyes.


AND there it was. The prototype tech demonstrator stood proudly on the ramp. The grey airframe of the vehicle draped in the roundels of the Space Force and the Space and Aeronautical Research Administration contrasted against the heat-distorted, bright tan-coloured surface and the heated background of Boone Lake within the Deseret Test and Training Range. Years of research and development on the shoestring budget culminated in what could arguably be called the most advanced VTOL craft currently in existence, the XS-33.

“Drake, vertical switch?”
“Vertical switch is armed.”
“Perform confirmation test according to briefing checklist, in order.”

The pilot of the vehicle armed the switch, and the engines tilted themselves to direct air directly beneath the vehicle. Forward mounted dorsal exhaust vents directed extra air ahead of the vehicle’s centre of mass to balance it, and the ailerons, elevators, and flaps locked themselves into a neutral position to avoid messing with the delicate aerodynamics. When he tilted the stick slightly to test the reaction systems, a white cold gas shot through the small thrusters mounted upon the wingtips of the demonstrator, and as he pulled on the stick, the same cold gas shot beneath the craft’s nose.

“All systems are go.” The pilot communicated after following the checklist.
“Drake, your call. Go for liftoff of XS-33 demonstrator.” von Schneider spoke into the radio to the pilot.
“Go for liftoff on my call, roger.”

Lt. Anthony Samson, callsign “Drake”. Whilst a junior grade Lieutenant, he was beyond well qualified for this type of business. Performing training on a simulator prior, and having the vehicle built to his descriptions, this test flight should be a simple breeze to him. Samson pushed the throttle forwards, and the turbofan engine spooled up behind him in resonance with the generator heating up. Dust flung from beneath the craft as he continued easing the throttle forwards, the suspension loosening up and the craft rising from its sitting point. Gradually, the vehicle continued to rise, the gas thrusters on the craft’s axes all firing as the automated balancing system performed the work. One foot, two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty, fifty, and fifty. The vehicle hovered above the ramp, slowly spinning in place as Samson stepped on the left rudder pedal. Releasing it, the balancing system fired one of the gas thrusters on the nose, and the vehicle slowed its spinning down and went back to hovering eerily still in place.

The first part was a success. However, cheers were not held just yet, getting off was likely the easiest part, now the vehicle had to transition to horizontal flight flawlessly. von Schneider spoke into the radio; “Drake, prepare for transition to horizontal. Arm the switch and the computer will take over.”
The switch was armed, and the craft continued to do nothing for a grueling amount of seconds. Too much time, von Schneider thought to himself as he observed the craft continue to hover still, fifty feet above the heat-blurred surface. Eventually the vehicle did something, and the engines began to transition towards horizontal movement, yet something was off but not yet apparent, at least not apparent to the rest of the crew. As soon as von Schneider noticed it, he felt his stomach fill with dread as he knew something had gone fatally wrong.
“Drake, eject!” He desperately yelled into the radio, before leaving his station and running outside towards the ramp. Through anxious corridors and guarded doors, he weaved his way through and as his skin met the bright Deseret sun, his eyes filled with horror as he just barely caught the sight of the vehicle falling from its hovering position, and impacting with the hard ground beneath. The landing gear collapsed like a frail structure of toothpicks, and the airframe crumpled like tinfoil. He looked into the sky, and all around, no sign of a pilot ejection.

von Schneider opened his eyes, and there before him lay the flaming, radiation contaminated wreck of what could’ve been the Unified State’s potential leap ahead of the Socialist Federation. His eyes widened as something caught his attention. Movement came from where he last saw the cockpit pummel into the ground. Without hesitation, he ran past the guards and towards the wreck of the XS-33, where as he got closer, the silhouette became more apparent. He grabbed the humanoid figure by the torso, and felt the worst possible burning sensation through his palms. The figure grabbed him back, and the burning sensation ran through the rest of his arm as its charred hands desperately grabbed his. He pulled with all his might, ignoring the great pain that seethed through him, until he cleared the flaming wreckage. He fell onto the floor below him and felt his lungs fill with anxiety, and he coughed out loudly.
The paramedics rushed towards the body he’d just pulled out, they ripped the suit off of him and began treating him. von Schneider only caught a glimpse of the body, and it was a nightmare to him that no words in his wide vocabulary could ever hope to describe. He only felt one emotion in that time, and it was rage.

Rage that he could not develop a safer vehicle. Rage for he was unable to secure the required funding to make development truly worthwhile. Rage that he was unable to polish the vehicle’s flaws. Rage from knowing the true nature of the XS-33.
That it was nothing more than an underfunded, nuclear death trap for the pilot.
What would the big wigs think of the project now? He pondered to himself. What do the other researchers think of it? What would the public think? Would they even get the chance to? Would this mission just get swept under the rug under another classified mission that never came to fruition? What would the Socialists think of our failures had they been observing?

But more importantly, he thought about the pilot.
What would Samson have thought about the truth behind it all? If he knew the project was underfunded, so they picked a rookie like him? If he knew we all grew incompetent? If we were so desperate to gain an advantage over the Reds, we fund every single stupid idea we get ahold of? What then?

His family, would probably never forgive me

As of 2087-02-14, the nature of the XS-33 Demonstrator, the Long Beach project, and all research done in regards to Nuclear Ion Integrated Vertical Take-off and Landing technology has been classified. Civilian reporters hired to document the events have since been prescribed amnestics, and all known data is to be hidden from the public eye at any cost.

The 44th Test Range, the location of the XS-33 tests and the home of US VTOL research, was contaminated with the special Plutonium type, and was closed down on 2068-01-03. To the outside world, lacking the true knowledge behind the base, the 44th remains open and still plays a major role in Alien conspiracy theories, but internally, it is known for one of the greatest failures in Unified States military space aviation history.

To this day, although the cleanup of the once-irradiated site has finished, the charred outlines of the XS-33 and subsequent debris trails are visible on the ramp where it crash landed.

> _



COSMOFLOT 307, a routine flight route performed by a defenseless civilian spaceliner, just one of many sail-powered spaceliners making the frivolous thirty day traversal between Earth and Mars. Three hundred and sixty lives on board on departure. On arrival? Well, It never did arrive.
At least, not as a whole.

You wouldn’t believe what me, and many others felt as the news got to us. “Socialist Spaceliner shot down by an interceptor of the Unified States”, bizarre isn’t it? April 14th, 2074, a date I’ll never forget. The date where the tides turned for the worse as I watched the news on the television. We thought they had the best judgement out of the two powerhouses, but with what had just happened? We were starting to have doubts. Sure, you could say it was paranoia over space bases, but this happened on one of the busiest interplanetary lines currently in operation, there was no reason that you could mistake it for some kind of “Military Bomber Strike”, or whatever nonsense reasoning they were trying to come up with. But alas, there was my call.

The following week as I walked into the office, it seems to everyone that the world has flipped on its head. The Unified States making mistakes in these times weren’t unheard of, but one of this calibre? We couldn’t believe it ourselves. Ron, a member from my team who always seemed the most up-to-date on world happenings, played the live news on the big screen in our office that day, and it broadcasted a press conference directly from the Moscau Kremlin, with the Socialist Premier himself, Nikolai Rostyslav, giving the speech.

“On April 14th, 2074, a ground-based missile interceptor from the Unified States, deliberately and carelessly, fired at, and downed a completely harmless, defenseless, and innocent civilian spaceliner en route to Pushkingrad, in Socialist Mars Territory. […]”

The Premier was definitely very upset. Everyone was, really. However, he really did like to emphasize the blame on the military of the Unified States. With some claims, we really couldn’t count as true. It wasn’t even a few days later when the US President Raymund Jelani had his own press conference.

“Fellow citizens of the Unified States. This is a press conference regarding the alleged shootdown of Cosmoflot 307. […] We can neither confirm, nor deny the shootdown of a civilian space transport liner, but we can confirm the shootdown of an unidentified Socialist military spacecraft over Miramar. We have been prompted by the Socialist Federation to perform investigations on our side, […]. But all reports show the identification of an unidentified Socialist military spacecraft breaching US Aerospace. As we have not confirmed it is a civilian transport, […].”

And it was at that point, or at least a few days after, that formal investigation began. I, Benedict Bernard, was set as the lead, and I got to work. First order of business was attempting to communicate with the operator over the US military installation where the space liner re-entered the Martian atmosphere. It was probably the largest can of worms I’ve ever opened in the course of my career. You would’ve expected them to handle the scenario professionally and be accommodating about it, but they played it off as some sort of joke. They all acted like incompetent children that simply treated the whole deal as if it wasn’t their fault.
Eventually however, we got to communicating, and a flight was ordered for me and the team to fly to Mars. Great, now we too will be shot down! However, they were courteous enough to send us on a military transport, which was hell and arguably I’d rather risk my chances of being shot down riding on a civilian space liner than fly on that pile of junk ever again.

We arrived at Miramar after two weeks in transit. Military vehicles didn’t use sails unlike civilian transports, and still relied on using Ion engines constantly running almost the entire way. Inefficient? Sure, if you could call it that, but it was certainly a whole lot faster than waiting for the sails to speed the craft up. We eventually arrived at the military base Miramar, and we were given a few days to rest and get used to gravity again, which meant we were escorted to a hotel in the city of Miramar, definitely wasn’t confusing.

Miramar is definitely different compared to an Earth city. Instead of a bustling open air urban city with towering skyscrapers, or the average suburban town with houses and large lawns, you had these large glass domes encompassing smaller apartment block-type buildings. While the domes were made of glass and steel, the buildings were manufactured out of a type of martian rock blended cement, and knowing it’s composition, it means there’s some form of ferrite embedded into the walls, thus giving it the distinctive red tint.

Eventually after a bit of exploration and some recuperation, we were sent over to the Miramar base, and came to talk with the base commander. Colonel Albert V. Tyatsmir was the commander, and the colonel was getting old. It seemed as though the Martian surface was getting to him already. A short chat later and they let us access the records of that fateful day.
What the team found was, rather disturbing to say the least. 1350J was when the so-called “military craft” was first detected, a few hours later at 1600J was when the object began re-entry. Records from the base indicated a state of panic from everyone, it really did seem like an attack was imminent, but the question I asked myself was, why? But eventually, the reason hit me.

Weeks after weeks, the Socialists often performed their patrols over US Martian aerospace. From the deployment of those new stealth fighters, to warships, and bomb tests near Miramar. Colonel Tyatsmir told me the experiences of having yourself isolated from HQ, millions of miles away and being faced with an overwhelming enemy. You had to think fast, not twice. And as such, when the vessel began re-entry and it was picked up by Miramar, they were really in a live-or-die situation.
Looking closer, we found there was no mention of a military vehicle in the logs, nor was there any kind of mention of a civilian space liner. What we (Or rather, the Socialists) identified as Cosmoflot 307, was simply known as an “unidentified object” to the base’s radar systems. No transponder signals, no nothing. Just a mysterious space blip that appeared out of nowhere. Even checking the logs of the base’s IFF systems brought, well, nothing.

Cosmoflot 307, a regularly chartered flight from Low Earth Orbit to Pushkingrad, Mars with a layover in Geosynchronous Orbit at the Civilian Space Station Varyag. Departure date was 2074-03-12, with a scheduled arrival date of 2074-04-14. Flown by a Tupolev Tu-663 space liner on this particular date. The liner could arguably be called cutting edge, with four large deployable space sails and two Ion engines to serve as means of propulsion. At full economy configuration the liner can hold up to 450 people, and required a minimum crew of six. The liner has many systems aboard to ensure complete safety of the crew and passengers, and if you thought that wasn’t enough, in the event of an emergency, a lot of data logging systems were present on the vehicle, and according to the Socialists, they’ve tested them for the rigors of spaceflight following the break-up of the shuttle Natsiya back in the early 1990s.

So naturally, we requested to get the blackbox, but according to Colonel Tyatsmir; “… The entire vehicle disintegrated over the Meridiani Plains. No debris was found.” Something we found hard to believe. They were hiding it, for sure. Even after explaining how the blackbox of a Tu-663 could be able to survive that, they continued to refuse.
Our investigation was forced to be cut short, but even as we returned back to Earth later that year to finalize it with whatever Miramar gave us, I still couldn’t help but think of the true nature behind the downing of that flight, if it actually was a civilian liner, or if it was something entirely different in and of itself.

Upon our return, and with the announcement of the results of the investigation, the people could not have been less angrier, especially those in the Socialist East. We were invited to Moscau to talk about the results later in August, and what did we see when we arrived there?
Anti-capitalist and Anti-US propaganda. It seems as though with such high public morale in the Federation, we may never see the conclusion to this whole thing. Even more so when we were invited to their totally-not-scripted press conference, which announced the “results” of the investigation by the ICSO, and completely put the blame on the US, despite us telling them that the information was too incomplete to make a full conclusion. Needless to say, it didn’t make a very pretty image out of the Unified States from here on out.

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(AS OF 1217U)

Helios Aviation presents:

Helios YSF-88 “Astraea”

Large Multirole Strike/Aerial Superiority Fighter

General Characteristics

Crew: 2 (1 Pilot, 1 WSO)
Length: 23.25m
Wingspan (Extended): 22.5m
Wingspan (Retracted): 15.25m
Empty weight: 20425 kg
Max takeoff weight: 53400 kg
Powerplant: 2x P&S RF-60 Hybrid-Nuclear Ion engines (main engines), 24,504 lbf (109 kN) thrust each dry, 61,822.5 lbf (275 kN) with afterburner, 1236-32,597 lbf (5.5-145 kN) in a vacuum, 2473 lbf (11kN) retrothrust,
1x HHI SS55m Hybrid-Nuclear Ion engine (EVS), 7,418 lbf (33 kN) thrust dry, 337-8,992 lbf (1.5-40 kN) in a vacuum.

The Helios YSF-88 “Astraea” is a proposed Space fighter for the Unified States Space Fighter Attack-eXperimental Programme. The craft utilizes variable geometry technology with a forward swept configuration. The craft utilizes this configuration primarily in lower speed flight, in atmosphere combat and takeoff, where the additional lift and maneuverability is beneficial, especially in thin atmospheric environments such as Mars. With higher speed and in space flight however, the outer wing is retracted into the inner wing, reducing drag, profile and rotational inertia. This design allows for very high mobility and increased stealth capabilities. While the craft is larger than the SF36Fs, with its retracted wingspan only marginally larger, there will be little expected storage difficulties on existing carriers.

The YSF-88 is built with largely Titanium alloys, Carbo-titanium fiber and Carbon-nanotube reinforced parts. Its large fuselage design is purposely done for thrust vectoring internals, increased weapon capacity, additional room for avionics and increased fuel load. As the frame is still relatively lightweight for its size, there is little loss in mobility while keeping a very strong structure to handle the expected loads its movement control systems can generate. Fuel is the standard HARP blend, allowing for bases to stick with one supply.

The interior is what you can expect from a modern fighter, with a full augmented reality heads-up display for the pilot and weapon system officer and physical screens for redundancy. Electronics are protected with faraday cages, along with triple redundancy. Life support systems include an air recycler, water vapour extractor and waste recyclers, along with occupant medical scanners. The cockpit area also includes storage for a week’s worth of MRE rations, water as well as medical supplies and emergency communication systems.


Maximum atmospheric speed: 4,518 kn (5,200 mph, 8,369 kmh) at
Maximum speed: Mach 7
Supercruise: Mach 3
Atmospheric range: 2000 nmi (2,301 mi, 3,704 km)
Atmospheric combat range: 800 nmi (920 mi, 1,481 km)
Atmospheric ferry range: 2500 nmi (2,877 mi, 4,630 km)
Design load factor: 25 g

Utilizing twin P&S RF-60 engines, the YSF-88 offers exceptional performance built to far exceed the SF-36F and also outperform estimated performance of the Socialist Federation fighter models. As requested in specifications Helios, the thrust power of the engines have been improved by 10% over the initial specifications for the engine. This is to account for the expected high takeoff weight requirements that the YSF-88 armament and avionics suite had. Additionally, 2D thrust vectoring and redirected thrust (in the form of retro thruster nozzles) functionality were also added in for the engines to improve maneuverability, reduce landing distance for the craft and ease of landing approach in space and atmosphere.

It is also equipped with Helios’ 8-way vector system (EVS) for space maneuver RCS and in-atmo thrust vectoring. This system has an internal 8 individual thruster nozzles powered by a smaller third engine to control pitch, roll and yaw in space. This along with the RF-60s regular and retrothrust operation allows the pilot to perform highly agile maneuvers similar to in atmosphere operation, perhaps even exceeding it. Each thruster in the EVS outputs roughly 3.5% of the main engines thrust power, which can be boosted to up to 6%. The retro thruster nozzles, powered by the main engines, can utilize up to 10% main engine thrust power. Reverse thrust can be utilized fairly quickly, however is not typically recommended at full speed due to the stress and instability it can cause.

Additional operations for the EVS is the utilization while in atmosphere as a 3D thrust vector system for an additional boost in agility and achieve true supermaneuverability, with the pilot having full control of how much thrust assistance is used while in-atmosphere. This allows for far sharper turning and higher angle of attack than normally allowed with just aerodynamics and unstable designs, at the cost of increased fuel consumption. It can also be used to quickly recover from stalling should that occur.

The EVS is theoretically capable of VTOL operation, but following the classified test 20 years ago, the inherent risk and instability - not to mention the possible damage to the landing surface - of performing that operation is too great to be worth doing, and thus is not included as part of the current maneuvering and operation suite.


Guns: 4
Hardpoints: 10 (6x External 4x Internal), with option to extend to 14

[Internal Hardpoints] 4x ASiM-9 Reaper Missiles

As the largest of the armaments as required by the SFAX programme, the 4 AiSM-9s are centrally placed internally in the rotary weapon bay. This allows the craft to preserve a better stealth profile as well as keep weight distribution even, especially after a missile has been fired.

[Internal Gun] 2x 20mm SIAEML Autocannons

An autocannon with rotary barrels utilizing electronically initiated superimposed ammunition fired via an Electromagnetic Launcher. Effectively an automatic railgun, the SIAEML uses 40mm rounds that require no propellant, making it an ideal space and in-atmo projectile weapon. It fires a barrel stack of rounds at a time, theoretically reaching up to 30,000 rounds per minute if not for the fact it has to fire in bursts due to the barrels reloading. The internal compartment can hold up to 500 rounds, with each burst limited to a maximum of 50 rounds.
ROF: 30,000 RPM
Muzzle Velocity: 3000 m/s
Effective Range: 3000m (in-atmo)
Effective Range: Classified (in-space)

[Internal Gun] 2x PuLSe Lasers

Alongside the SIAEMLs are the twin Pulse Lasers. Energy efficient compared to the beam variants, the pulse lasers are the ideal weapon when a lower caliber weapon is all that is needed, or for extended missions where resupply is limited. As with all energy weapons, it has much further range than projectile weapons. With the use of a redirecting focusing crystal, the PLSL uses pilot eye tracking to aim, with only 1 side firing if blocked by the nose.
Effective Range: 130km (in-atmo)
Effective Range: Classified (in-space)

[External Hardpoint] 2x 160mm Annihilator ElectroMagnetic Launchers

An EML artillery cannon that fires 160mm shells. As the same as all railguns, as there is no propellant required it is ideal for both space and in-atmo combat. With computer assisted targeting, the EMLs are a powerful alternative to taking down enemy combatants and targets. It may lack the homing abilities of missiles, but their extremely high projectile velocity and unguided projectile nature means avoiding them takes a skilled pilot rather than using countermeasures. Due to the size of the ammunition, it can only hold 5 rounds per launcher. The design of the pod allows it to withstand atmospheric reentry, though it is recommended to not fire during the duration of reentry.
Muzzle Velocity: 3500 m/s
Effective range: 119km (in-atmo)
Effective Range: Classified (in-space)

[External Hardpoint] 2x IC-31 Rocket pods

A Rocketpod pair containing either 62 MSRTBSSMs (Micro Short-Ranged Tactical Burst Space-to-Space Missiles) or MSRTBAAMs (Micro Short-Ranged Tactical Burst Air-to-Air Missiles). The quantity of missiles makes for an excellent way to overwhelm opposition in dogfights, as well as for space/ air control. With the EOS and AVPS they can be used to counter fire and intercept enemy missiles as well. The pod is also rated for atmospheric reentry, though it is not recommended to fire for the duration of reentry.

The pods can be alternatively replaced with triple hardpoints for missiles instead, or two additional ASiM-9s

[External Hardpoint] 2x ATSSM or ATAAM

On the wingtips are two Advanced Tactical Space-to-Space Missiles Designed for space combat only, they are only equipped for space combat, however the atmospheric counterpart (ATAAM) can be equipped for atmospheric operations. Both are Beyond Visual Range Missiles.


Super-Scattering Anti-Heat and Radar Adaptive Coating (SSHRAC)

SSHRAC utilizes an aerogel coating with an electromagnetically activated crystalline mixture. The aerogel coating provides a super lightweight alternative to ceramic coating, while the crystalline mixture creates a surface that will absorb and diffuse radio waves as well as heat from energy weapons such as lasers. Unlike ceramic coating, as aerogel coating is low density rather than high density, the infrared signature of the craft also fades off far quicker after being heated (via atmospheric friction during re-entry/ supersonic flight or by energy weapons). While active, SSHRAC also has the secondary benefit of being able to be used as active camouflage, changing the exterior color and visual signature of the craft. SSHRAC’s construction also make it optimal for atmospheric reentry as well, as its thermal insulation and diffusion properties are rated much higher than what is required. SSHRAC can either be activated manually or put into passive mode, which activates when high energy sources are detected as an incoming threat.

Radar (SWG-654)

Standard radar for SFAX programme fighters.

EOS (Electro-Optical Scanner)

Add-on module for the SWG-654, the EOS is a sensory suite of infrared, LASER and ultraviolet scanners that maps a 3D space around the craft. The range of this goes over 1500 km while in the atmosphere and further in space. The EOS can track and detect objects ranging from space debris, asteroids, or projectiles with a refresh rate of 144hz out of combat and up to 1000hz in combat. EOS requires 2 sensor arrays mounted on the craft, one to scan the upper hemisphere and another to scan the lower hemisphere relative to the plane. As such, the lower one is usually ran at a higher scan frequency while in the atmosphere to locate ground targets and threats and at equal frequencies while in space.

AVPS (Analyzed Vision Predictive System)

Addon for the SWG-654, the AVPS is a predictive AI, capable of analyzing data fed in by the planes sensory suite for a predictive model. This effectively tracks projectile, missile and space/aircraft trajectories, as well as for enemy targets, their armament status and operation status (such as current fuel load remaining, weak points) based on current and historic data, not to mention environmental factors. The AVPS also outputs a predictive model that shows lines of fire, pre-fire energy fluctuations (for energy and railgun type weapons), projectile trajectory and the trajectory movement of every craft within the zone of detection (which can be stretched further with additional data). The pre-fire energy fluctuation detection is known to be accurate enough to trigger avoidance warnings just like in the case of missile locks. To prevent data overload to the pilot, the predictive model is made available to the pilot if requested but meant to be interpreted by the WSO. It is important to upload and sync data from other planes utilizing AVPS as the more data it receives the more accurate its models become.

EMP-Flare Countermeasures

With the capabilities of IR and radar guided missiles, the EMP-Flares were developed as a consistent countermeasure to both. The combined EMP-flare emits both an immense heat source as well as an electro magnetic pulse to disable/ scramble any incoming guided missiles. The downside to this is that it can disrupt friendly missiles, communications and vehicles/ structures lacking in EMP protection. Standard flares can be equipped instead to mitigate this, but they of course lack the effectiveness of the EMP-flares.

[Test flight on Earth. Classified Location.]
[Test flight on Mars. Classified Location.]
[High atmospheric supersonic test. Taken after atmospheric reentry with SSHRAC active.]
[SSHRAC in space]

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  • CMW


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give me a few weeks or maybe a month to get the first few results out, i wanna get the best out of these four as much as possible, you’re all okay with that, right? it’s a one-off anyway so i’m probably free to set my own timelines for this

oh yeah entries that haven’t yet sent in their descriptions, expect to get bugged by me for the following days until you send me that description