- "They are no more hated now then back during the war, but the various additions made by our weaponmasters have given them some measure of respect - as distasteful as it is to make the most of these Wraggaili."
- ―Skymaster Brit 'Warhur
The CSS-class banshee, classified by the UNSC as the Type-27 exoatmospheric multirole fighter and colloquially known as the Space Banshee, is an incredibly agile space fighter manufactured in the millions by the Covenant Hegemony. The smallest manned space-superiority fighter used by either side during the Human-Covenant War, the CSS banshee is designed to adapt the hull of the basic Farrital-pattern ground support craft to be more suitable for space combat. Armed with two heavy plasma cannons and a thin hull made up of micropolymar plating, these fighters are generally regarded as inferior to nearly every other model of spacecraft utilised during the war. This saw them only instill fear when deployed in overwhelming numbers.
Designed in response to the dangers Yanme'e bomber craft represented during their Age of Conversion. Despite being a common sight during the war, CSS-class banshees would see little use throughout the centuries after, as their dedicated design was only useful during times of war - a distasteful reminder for the politicians of the Covenant. Used only by money-stricken security forces and merchant groups, the space banshee would only return to prominence during the Human-Covenant War to supplement their various models of Seraphs. They would become the primary fighter used by the Covenant military, using their speed, firepower and overwhelming numbers to achieve orbital superiority over the various human colonies. So many were constructed that they are still a common sight within ex-Covenant factions, who begrudgingly use them in their effort to exterminate each other.
The original pattern of CSS-class banshee, the Birrmi-pattern, has its roots established within the Fourth Age of Conversion, better known as the Yanme'e-Covenant War. Beginning in 1,112 CE, the Covenant had initially experienced significant gains, glassing three major colonies and laying siege to their homeworld of Palamok within six months. Key to this advantage was the empire's advanced starships, which were able to effortlessly wipe away the Yanme'e defenders. Unfortunately, when news of suspected relics were detected on the Yanme'e homeworld, the Covenant's campaign reached a sudden roadblock. They could no longer afford to glass and batter aside the insectoid swarms, and even atmospheric support was discouraged when some hives, when pressured, would sacrifice themselves in a massive explosion.
Unsurprisingly, the control systems on the CSS-class banshee are a hybridisation of the standard dual manual control system seen on the Farrital-pattern banshee and the neural-interface link seen on the Covenant's many dropships and fighters. The left yolk controls the pitch of the banshee, with the right one controlling its roll. Both sticks have the relevant inputs to activate either the weapons or countermeasures. Three holographic displays, fed imaging from nanocamera sensor clusters on the upper aerodynamic shell, provide the pilot with frontal and peripheral vision. Only the central screen displays information onto a heads-up-display, providing targeting data, heading and the readiness of the weapons. The pilot can switch to various other angles from below, behind, and even a trailing third-person view from a near-invisible sensor module. All the input controls are linked to a basic fly-by-light surface control system, with the controlling computer sacrificing safety in favour of total high-sensitivity control for the pilot.
As on other fighters such as the Seraph, the pilot is connected up to a basic neural link which is only designed to interface with the flight harness - pilots ignoring this have been known to be killed or reduced to an unresponsive vegetable. After undergoing a brief synchronisation session which best optimises the on-board Apostle-class associated intelligence to the mind of the user, the banshee will induce a paralysis from the neck-down, with only their head and forearms freely moving to the pilot's will. It will also share raw supplementary information on every system, no matter how minor, with the biological pilot. While some of the data influx is restricted with crude filters to avoid killing the pilot, the pain and ever-maddening chatter from the AI is enough to make many individuals go insane after their first flight. To reduce this risk, Sangheili pilots are given extensive training in battle meditation techniques to allow them to raise their pain tolerance and learn how to carefully sift through the available information. Fortunately, continued use with the same craft eventually teaches the AI the limits and quirks of its pilot. As a result, while its hostility never falters, it does change up how and when it presents certain information reports, when to automate certain systems and when to limit its interactions with the pilot. As a result, a pilot that has spent most of their career with a single fighter has often proven to be a difficult opponent to beat.
With the exception of the Lodam-pattern interceptor, the CCS-class banshee has little in the way of life-support systems. There are no air-recycling intakes, no nutrition and water drips to keep the pilot fed and hydrated, and only minimal thermal protection to keep the cockpit from reaching below-freezing. Indeed, it's reactor only has enough fuel for three days of use. Only it's gravitic gyroscope helps to keep the user healthy by mimicking the gravitational pull of a 2G environment, preventing muscle and bone atrophy. However, since it's also partially built into the wings to vary the gravitation pull in an effort to speed up the banshee's turn rate, it's clear it is not installed for biological health. The only thing it replaces these systems is an adrenaline-rich dream shaper stimulant which not only reduces the pilot's reaction times during combat operations but allows them to remain awake during extended deployments.
Despite their small size, the CSS-class banshee is still armed with frighteningly lethal weapon systems that have claimed the lives of millions of pilots. These armaments are specialised towards dogfighting, and for the most part, can do little against anything thicker than a dozen centimetres of armour plating.
The banshee's main weapons are two heavy plasma cannons, much more powerful than those on a similar-sized atmospheric craft. Identified by their long magnetic shaping vanes, these are far more lethal than those of their atmospheric counterparts. The plasma bursts discharged by these weapons have a muzzle velocity of sixteen kilometres per second and have a maximum range of up to one hundred kilometres before dissipating away - by comparison, most planetside plasma beams can only remain intact within five kilometres. However, because of the unique qualities of plasma, lethality declines the further away the target is from the user. Because of this, most pilots do not use these weapons until they come within a dozen kilometres of their prey, with overzealous personnel flying waiting until they enter less than a kilometre away to deliver maximum damage. At this range, only four shots are needed to inflict enough damage on a Longsword's engines to cripple it.
Because it is likely to tangle with superior fighters and even light warships on occasion, the CSS-class comes with a Hrraus-pattern projectile cannon. Roughly comparable in payload to the UNSC's Argent V missile, the projectile cannon fires a fast-moving reactionless fuel rod that's rapidly accelerated from a launcher beneath the banshee. It is capable of both homing and dumbfire settings, the former requiring a brief targeting time as the banshee records the scanned signature into the munition. Once it acquires this, the target's only defence is high-speed maneuvering, as the fuel rod cannot be fooled by wide-spectrum flares and burns through Iron dust and incoming point-defence slugs. Missiles have proven to be effective at stopping them, though the UNSC has been slow to adopt them. If the fuel rod's target has been destroyed, it will utilise the remainder of it's imparted energy to travel in a straight line before exploding in mid-air. Depending on where it hits, it can create a hole through a Titanium-A slab about ten centimetres thick and has an explosive radius of six metres. This is enough to defeat the armour of most spacefighters and medium vehicles. In addition, the residue left behind not only further burns unprotected soldiers and the area of impact, but it also exposes them to high levels of radiation that will kill them if they do not seek immediate medical attention. There have been cases where minutes after being hit, aircraft suddenly lose control of their engines and crash into the ground.
Armour and Defensive Systems
In the aftermath of the Human-Covenant War, many factories and shipyards were finally freed from the draconian hold the Hierarchs held over their innovation. Driven by the freedom and desperation from the various Covenant successor-states, engineers within the Lodam Armoury were able to revise many traditional designs that were formally considered sufficient for the Covenant's needs. Their tinkering resulted in their indigenous Lodam-pattern interceptor, a significant deviation from the basic Navarl-pattern fighter that would quickly find itself in the hands of dozens of Covenant successor-states, with a deliberate exception to those dominated by the Jiralhanae.
Unlike most modern craft, the Lodam-pattern interceptor did not forgo the original aesthetics of its predecessor in favour of traditional Sangheili themes, though it is more notably streamlined. Rather, most of the differences lie beneath the hood. Slower and less maneuverable than Covenant-built banshees, these aircraft are poor dogfighters. This is in spite of two energy shield arrays fitted onto the wings in place of the secondary boosted gravity drives. Rather, these strikecraft are equipped with light pulse lasers to allow them to eliminate superior aircraft such as Seraphs several dozen kilometres away. These are so accurate that the banshee can act as mobile point-defence platforms to shield their fleets against human missiles - an important consideration during the period after the Great War. From this viewpoint, it becomes reasonable that the light shields are there only to keep the aircraft from breaking apart in-atmosphere, rather than offering any real protection. To further increase the banshee's usefulness, the edges of the wings are lined with highly-attuned Hyperscanner detectors, which can identify, assess and break down incoming silhouettes faster than any other model of aircraft. This allows the banshee to act as a basic detection measure when more specialised stealth corvettes are unavailable. Somewhat surprisingly, these interceptors do not have stealth systems, though their small size does make it difficult for most sensors to detect them before they strike.
Other minor improvements enhance it's usefulness to Sangheili at the cost of other species. For instance, the interior of the base model is specifically engineered with accommodating a Sangheili in mind, using controls and padding perfectly suited to their shape. This prevents stolen banshees from being flown by Jiralhanae, and even species allied to the Sangheili are rarely permitted a version built for their physiology.
The Xyrk-interceptor is a model of spacefighter that's manufactured by Alakav Forges exclusively for the Forsaken.
A squadron of banshees in tight formation.
The underside of the banshee.