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The Atmospheric Strike Fighter 7, also known as the Knife, is a UNSC fighter jet designed to be able to strike targets with accuracy and speed while being capable of taking out Covenant Banshees. It was made to replace the aging ASF-6 Cleaver which was too slow to be able to deal with Covenant Banshees or to strike Ghosts with accuracy. Air Armoury was chosen to help UNSC Scientists and Engineers design the vehicle. It was first used in 2529 when it was deployed to UNSC forces on Harvest.
It was often used alongside the Eagle Fighter. While the Knife specialised in low level flight and fast turning, the Eagle specialised in dive bombing and pouncing aircraft from above. Quite often Knifes would be used to lure Banshees into a fight which would then be joined by Eagles.
Differences to ASF-6 Cleaver
The Knife is longer, shorter and thinner than the wide as it is long Cleaver, making it more aerodynamic. This coupled with the lightweight titanium it is made of make it faster and more maneuverable than the Cleaver. Despite carrying four less Sidewinder Missiles, the Knife packs just as much of a punch due to the support for the latest generation of Sidewinders, and it's machine guns fire faster than the Cleaver's, making it much deadlier in aerial combat. The Knife's systems are all much more modern, giving it a longer radar range, better targeting systems and the ability to turn much faster. Due to less titanium being used in the construction means the Knife isn't much more expensive than the Cleaver.
Numerous tests were run to find the material used for the Knife's hull, looking for the best combination of resilience and agility possible. Eventually a lightweight form of Titanium was chosen, and ordered in large numbers. Early prototypes of the Knife all failed due to the powerplants not being properly connected to the thrusters. This led to midair thrusters failures, and the death of three pilots. The Knife went through a minor redesign to allow a stronger connection and after that the development of the Knife went flawlessly.
Great War usage
On March 8, 2529 the UNSC received 500 Knifes and deployed 36 them to a Frigate headed for Harvest. After great results against Covenant Banshees and ground forces were reported the UNSC quickly moved the remaining Knifes to the outer colonies, where 350 were placed on Harvest, and the rest given to various battlegroups on call to respond to distress signals from any colony within range.
After the end of the Battle of Harvest in 2531 the UNSC ordered another 1000 Knifes, all of which were put straight into service in the Inner Colonies. The Battle of Somnus IX in late 2531 saw the destruction of almost 150 Knifes to Covenant 'Vampire' aircraft and 'Tyrant' anti-aircraft guns. A new Override functionality was added to all Knifes still in service, allowing them to temporarily increase their speed. Another 200 Knifes were ordered to replace those lost in combat.
A new override functionality was added to the Knife in 2532, allowing temporary bursts of speed, which reduced the number of Knifes lost in combat by 43%, however the Covenant started targeting UNSC Airpads, resulting in a new design that stored aircraft underground. The ASF-7B was made in 2537, featuring better armour, a more efficient engine, two more Sidewinder missiles and a better live battle map.
The final batch of Knifes was made in 2544, and the new ASF-8 Knife II was put into production. Supply shortages in the UNSC meant the Knife was kept in service until the end of the war, fighting alongside the Knife II.
Like most outdated UNSC vehicles, all Knifes were destroyed for metal after the formal end of the Great War in 2553, but a few were used by Insurrectionists and Rebels. However, the completely superior Knife II and Knife IIb fighters used by the UNSC were able to destroy them without trouble. The last active Knife was destroyed in 2558 by UNSC ground forces when it's Insurrectionist hangar was abandoned.
The ASF-7S, standing for Atmospheric Strike Fighter 7 Stealth, was a variant of the Knife used by special operations teams for strikes on positions with heavy air defence. It was first used in 2532 after Knifes took heavy losses to Covenant Tyrant AA guns. It was covered in a stealth coating and designed to fly higher than AA guns could strike. Two of its machine guns were removed and replaced by radar jammers to prevent it from being detected. 100 of them were produced and flown by special operations pilots, often being assigned to SPARTANs and ODSTs.
The Atmospheric Strike Fighter 7B was an upgraded version of the Knife made in 2537, featuring better armour, a more efficient engine, two more Sidewinder missiles and a better live battle map. Large numbers were produced and used to replace damaged original Knifes and supplied to pilots instead of older Knifes. The 7B was better all around than the original Knife, but there were a few complaints among HIGHCOM that they weren't enough of an improvement on the original Knife to make up for the higher cost.