|This article, Longsword Interceptor (Specops306), is currently under active construction.|
Strictly speaking, the term "Longsword" can be applied to any of dozens of different aircraft in service with the UNSC during its extensive lifespan. Introduced into service in 2460, extensive (and sporadic) modernisations campaigns have ensured that even almost a century after the design was adopted the Longsword has remained at the forefront of the UNSC's aerial and space campaigns. Adopted by UNSC Navy and Marine Corps Aviation Wings and UNSC Air Force Wings, the Longsword is the most visible and memorable symbol of space warfare, and their successful record against enemy counterparts has been one of the few advantages the UNSC has enjoyed in space warfare against the Covenant. Even after the introduction of the C800 Blackburn Claymore Space Superiority Fighter, the Longsword in all its variety still remains the most flexible and adaptable weapons platform in service in the UNSC Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
Development and Introduction
Although the period of time between 2164 and 2490 is generally regarded as a peaceful era, the truth was anything but - Koslovic and Frieden holdouts persisted until long after their relevance had faded away, committing terrorist acts within the Sol System against UNSC targets. Pirate and privateer groups established bases of operations near profitable merchant routes, intercepting and capturing valuable freight for sale on the black market. The use of small, hastily armed shuttled by Frieden forces during the Jovian Moons campaign had proven to the UNSC that the concept of space fighters had some merit, and their continued spread was beginning to outpace the abilities of UNSC Navy corvettes, frigates and destroyers designed to intercept them, especially the use of "kamikaze" tactics, crashing a remote-piloted "fighter" into a UNSC ship, turning it into a makeshift missile. By 2550, it was readily apparent that the UNSC desperately needed their own equivalent of the concept, if only to keep up with their opponents.
Established in 2455, the LONGSWORD Initiative was originally a modernisation effort by the UNSC Air Force to replace many of its aging and outdated designs in the face of new technologies and innovations, and especially with new combat philosophies. Rather than a dedicated exoatmospheric fighter, the Longsword, then codenamed "GA/TL-X", was conceived as an atmospheric multirole fighter, capable of engaging enemy aircraft, hitting stationary or moving targets with missile or autocannon strikes, and supporting soldiers and Marines on the ground with close air support. Interest from the Navy would lead to LONGSWORD becoming a shared project, with Naval research and development being combined with Air Force experience and doctrines to produce a far better fighter. Over time, the two branches would cooperate on a number of craft and equipment, but the Longsword would be the most successful of these.
When one looks at a Longsword, it is difficult to think of it as a fighter. Indeed, its profile is more reminiscent of some of the largest bombers of previous wars, such as the B-2 Spirit or the B-44 Renegade. Partially, this is a concession to its space role - layers of thick armour plating and internal compartments are designed to prevent explosive decompression in the event of a hull rupture, and protect the occupants from environmental threats, such as the radiation that UNSC starships regularly have to endure during patrols. Partially too, this is an adaptation to its flexible nature - with a few small modifications, Longswords can operate in virtually any colonial environment, taking into account atmosphere pressure and composition, local gravity, and other factors. During the Insurrection, this ability would prove to be crucial to the UNSC's suppression campaign, allowing the deployment of Longsword strikes in virtually all combat theatres. Internally, the Longsword can carry virtually any payload, ranging from missiles and rockets held within hull-recessed missile pods, to wing-mounted recessed 110mm or 120mm rotary turrets for strafing runs. Dedicated CAS, Ground Attack, Reconnaissance, Air Superiority and Space Superiority, and even transport variants all require little hardware modification, a product of its extreme modularity - it takes very little time, technical specialisation, and expense to convert a Longsword from one variant to another. This same modularity also allows constant upgrades to its performance, replacing equipment as improvements enter service. Given the huge span of space the UNSC must patrol, these upgrades do not all enter service at once, or even on all Longswords, producing a patchwork of ability - Longswords based closer to the Inner Colonies generally recieve upgrades quicker than those stationed further out, and upgrades to the entire fleet require significant time to recall affected units, install upgrades and improvements, and redeploy them.
These factors would prove absolutely crucial after the introduction of the Longsword into active service. Within its first twenty years of service, the Longsword had proven itself more than capable of holding its own against anything that the enemies of the UNSC could throw against it. Even before the Insurrection, Longsword deployments against pirate vessels proved the crafts performance to be without match. When conflict erupted right across the Outer Colonies, Longsword deployments proved a crucial factor in the UNSC's campaign to pacify the rebellious colonies. Air support from Longswords would allow UNSC soldiers and Marines superior firepower in ground campaigns against enemy armour and artillery, and the Longsword's high speed, huge and flexible payload, and ability to launch from orbit rather than being confined to landbased airstrips allowed it to be deployed in a capacity more like a bomber than a fighter, retaining the ability to engage airborne gunships or fighters, and even larger capital ships in-atmosphere. During the Epsilon Eridani portion of Operation: TREBUCHET, Longsword strikes would target training and bomb manufacture camps, support the main ground campaign, and play a vital role in a number of orbital engagements.
The Longswords would prove themselves so effective that they became a much-sought after commodity for Insurrectionists themselves - shipments of Longsword parts and equipment would find their way into rebel hands, largely through contacts among the CMA, allowing the Insurrection to construct and field their own cheap knockoffs, though they would still prove effective. Even in Insurrectionist hands, the Longsword would prove to be an adaptable and flexible weapons platform, easily accepting non-standard armaments and equipment, at the cost of standardisation - rebel Longsword forces would often differ in composition and capability, producing mismatched units that, while certainly effective, still failed to live up to their UNSC variants. Colonel Robert Watts' campaign of eluding the UNSC while coordinating hostile actions would be supported by a squadron of customised Longswords, outfitted with advanced equipment and armaments stolen or bartered from the CMA or bought on the black market - though rumours of Sierra Space Systems providing such material to the Insurrections have circulated, so far they remain unsubstantiated. Suffice it to say that Longswords fought on both sides of the Insurrection to dramatic effect.
The beginning of the Human-Covenant War instantly rendered many UNSC technologies out of date. Directed energy weapons cut through UNSC battleplate like a knife through butter, and energy shields withstood even the most powerful human weapons - the only weapons capable of penetrating a cruiser's shield were nuclear warheads or MAC rounds. While the UNSC possessed superior tactical and strategic capabilities on the ground to counter the Covenant sheer superiority in numbers, the battle for space was virtually lost at the outset. During the early engagements with the Covenant, virtually the only successes the UNSC enjoyed were in small-scale skirmishes between light capital ships and fighter formations - against the small, nimble and fast Seraphs, the Longsword would prove remarkable adept. The combination of large payloads, multiple autocannons with independent targeting vectors, and the ability to slave these systems to onboard or external "dumb" AI constructs would allow Longswords unmatched kill-to-death ratios against Covenant fighters, and especially against their light capital ships - in such battles, a ship would use a MAC shot or missile salvo to cripple the shield, deploying Longswords to deliver ordnance to damage the ship's hull. It would prove to be an effective and popular tactic.
Nevertheless, even the Longsword was beginning to show its age. Efforts before 2542 to modernise the fleet's fighter complement were, as mentioned, sporadic and produced a mixture of performances that FLEETCOM was unsatisfied with. Development of the YSS-1000 Saber and C800 Claymore was begun, hoping to find a better alternative to in space combat, incorporating developments in energy shield technology, but the Longsword would continue to be upgraded to remain the UNSC's mainstay multirole fighter. In 2542, Project EXCALIBUR was begun by the UNSC Navy, using assets from the Army and Air Force, to introduce "game-changing" technologies into service - as part of these technologies, several Longsword squadrons were reassigned to serve as testbed prototypes for next generation armaments and defences. Elements of VFA-306 "Hellbringers" were instrumental in the testing of various missiles, such as the RIM-442 Anubis, REM-226 Gungnir, REM-225 Eris and AIM445 Thanatos for compatability issues with the Longswords internal missile compartments and external hardpoints, as well as the incorporation of prototype Solid Light Barriers to radically improve defensive capabilities. The squadron saw heavy combat during Operation: HOT GATES, the first successful combat deployment of the next-generation Longswords, and saw further action during the Battle of Earth as the Covenant invaded. Still more participated in Operation: BLIND FAITH as the UNSC and Sangheili Fleet of Retribution launched a concerted attack to follow the Covenant to the Ark, eliminate crucial ground positions, and locate and kill the Prophet of Truth, finally ending the war. Longsword strikes would destroy heavy anti-air emplacements and deal with Phantom and Seraph aerial threats, though a number were brought down by enemy fire. When the UNSC and Sangheili began retreating most of the Longswords that had participated had been destroyed by the overwhelming firepower of the Covenant - but despite this, the survivors achieved higher kill ratios than in any other battle, proving once and for all the effectiveness of the design.
- Main article: War of Vengeance
The conclusion of the Human-Covenant War brought with it a chance for humanity to finally regather itself, derive what it could from the technologies it had available for study and reverse engineer, and introduce what it could into service. While fighters like the YSS-1000 Saber and C800 Blackburn Claymore were introduced as specialised space superiority fighter craft, and would prove themselves effective in this role, the Longsword would still remain as the UNSC's premier multirole air/space craft, serving throughout the War of Vengeance and well into the Second Great War. Further modernisation efforts were made to radically extent the lifespan of the aging craft - modifications to the internal missile bays allowed compatability with a wider variety of ordnance, improved thrust assemblies improved acceleration and agility, and thus performance, and innovations in shield technology were introduced right throughout the UNSC's arsenal. By 2555, the entire Longsword complement for the UNSC Air Force, Navy and Marine Aviation units employing them were equipped with EXCALIBUR-derived upgrades, especially the SLB85C Solid Light Barrier. With the newest advances in missile technology, Longswords would prove an extremely potent force against even the largest enemy capital ships, from Destroyers and Cruisers right up to Assault Carriers.
Naturally, such a potent force was targeted by the enemies of the UNSC. During the War of Vengeance, the Blood Covenant struck hard against the Sigma Octanus IV shipyards, chosen by the UNSC as their new military industrial hub. Many of the orbital installations were destroyed totally by Blood Covenant commander Arboreus, including the REGENT Construction Facility, operated by Misriah Armouries and dedicated to Longsword production. A number of the production models were hastily deployed to aid in the defence of the shipyards, allowing the evacuation of civilians as the Blood Covenant tore the defence fleet apart. Lacking Shaw-Fujikawa Translight Engines, the Longsword squadron could only watch as the enemy tore the shipyards down with plasma torpedoes and energy projectors, fully expecting the fleet to begin to glass the colony - these expectations were not met, as the fleet instead opted to capture a Sangheili supply convoy delivering rare materials to the colony. The Longswords would make a strike to try and prevent its capture, but arrived too late, forced to retreat once more out of weapons range, and could only watch as the fleet jumped to slipspace, leaving the colony shaken but relatively unscathed.
It would be a long time before the UNSC rebuilt its military industrial infrastructure to optimum levels, choosing a terraformed Reach for mostly symbolic reasons. Until the reactivation of Reach as a fully-functioning colony again, Upsilon Andromedae would become the new bastion of UNSC military power, training soldiers and Marines and producing starships and equipment for the war effort against the New Covenant during the Second Great War. It would prove an extremely tempting target for the Governors of Contrition, and once again the UNSC's primary facility for Longsword production was destroyed in a strike by enemy forces. Personnel and equipment evacuated from Upsilon Andromedae would be evacuated to Reach, where they would reestablish production, but it would set the UNSC back for several years, long enough for the Governors to abandon their plans, deeming humanity no longer a threat. It would be a mistake they would live to regret - civilian officials would deem the war of the utmost importance, promising the public the output of Blackburn Claymores, Sabers and Longswords would double. In fact, output would triple as the public began to rally around the military agains the Governors, with the Navy took this opportunity to propose another modernisation phase for the Longsword, introducing innovations to the SLB generators, improving the onboard weaponry, and installing Shaw-Fujikawa Translight Engines aboard them, a function that other fighters would not recieve for another twenty years. Deployed as advance strike fighters, these new slipspace-capable Longswords would prove a stunningly effective strike force, attacking enemy fleet formations, strategic assets, and generally harrassing the enemy without the need of larger capital ship support.
Further refinements of the Longsword were made just prior to the Third Great War, improving the output of the onboard reactor while reducing its size, allowing a larger payload or passenger capacity; further refinements to the Solid Light Barriers, improving its defensive capabilities; incorporating limited directed energy weapons to replace a number of its autocannon emplacements; and improvements to its SFTE, allowing vastly improved transit times and accuracy, even for such small craft. Even so, in engagements with Sovereign drones, modernised Longswords would prove hard pressed to hold back the advance of such devastatingly powerful and advanced weapons of war.
Many civilian observors raise the point that the Longsword seems poorly designed as a space superiority fighter, and it is a valid point. The Longsword was adapted for space combat in the face of a growing Insurrectionist presence in space, but it retains innumerable hallmarks of its atmospheric legacy - wheeled landing gear, an aerodynamic fuselage, lifting wings and a direction-controlling tail. The use of RCS thrusters on exoatmospheric variants makes these features redundant, but its retention of them allows atmospheric operation, as well as compatability with atmospheric variants as well, dramatically improving functionality.
The large size of the Longsword, especially in comparison with far smaller fighter counterparts, has also been a major complaint, but one that is readily countered by pilots. As a multirole craft, the Longsword is expected to fulfill a variety of roles simultaneously. To do this, it requires sufficient equipment and armament to engage a multitude of threats, including redundant features for emergency scenarios. Furthermore, its exoatmospheric capabilities require a certain amount of weight and a thickness of armour to improve vacuum protection and prevent explosive decompression, endangering the crew. Larger fuel tanks are required to keep the Longsword in the air long enough to fulfill the missions it carries out, especially long-range bombing and ground-to-space launches. Critics have pointed out that smaller designs would be more agile and save costs, especially with the development of full-scale energy shield systems, and they are correct. The C800 Blackburn Claymore Space Superiority Fighter embodies these design philosophies, and has seen dramatic success in its service life, though the craft are also more expensive, have shorter loiter times, and carry smaller payloads. But until such technology can be implemented cheaply and efficiently, the Longsword remains the UNSC's dominant multirole fighter, regardless of criticism.
The modularity of the Longsword means that it can be fitted with virtually any armament for any mission profile, often with little effort at short notice. Wing-recessed 50mm autocannons are standard armament for the F-700 and GA/TL-1 and GA/TL-2 variants, with the latter equipped with the SS-700 uses instead hull-recessed 110mm and 120mm cannons for superior penetration against energy shielding and starship hull armour plating. All variants are able to carry virtually all UNSC missiles or bombs in their internal storage bays, up to and including nuclear weaponry, such as FURY, SHIVA or HAVOC nuclear missiles. These storage bays can be converted to carry additional processing power for onboard sensor equipment, or to carry MORAY mines or deployable resupply canisters. The B-705 variant is equipped with high-precision munitions, while the EA-700 variant carries advanced electronic warfare systems for jamming enemy electronics.
The most common armament for the SS-700 is the ASGM-10 missile. While technically classed as an air-to-air missile, intended for use against fighters, the design has also proven extremely effective against Covenant capital ships, with concerted Longsword strikes bringing down small sections of the ship's shields to allow missile or MAC strikes. SS-700 fighters also carry the MORAY space mine, usually carried by Prowlers. For engaging enemy fighters, such as the Banshee light fighters and the Seraph heavy fighters that the Covenant commonly deploy against UNSC warships, the SS-700 use the 110mm rotary cannon and 120mm cannon, the former mounted ventrally and the latter dorsally, favoured by the Navy for their superior penetration against Seraph energy shielding. These turrets are slaved to the co-pilot, using separate targeting matrices, semi-autonymously tracking and selecting targets for recommendation. During operations in areas where Covenant attack is expected or anticipated, preprepared Longsword-placed minefields have been crucial in the defensive operations, crippling fighter waves and damaging enemy shields. In atmospheric combat, Fighter and ground attack variants carry the M9109 ASW/AC 50mm MLA for close air support and air interdiction operations. For special operations missions, Longswords are even capable of carrying a starship-grade artificial intelligence, allowing the Cole Protocol to be enforced without the destruction of the AI.
- UC-680: a cargo and utility transport craft, the UC-680 is used by the UNSC Air Force for transportation of personnel and equipment from ground theatres to orbital space stations or ships, and vice versa. Onboard cryonic storage allows larger personnel complements without the need for additional supplies, and the craft can even be used for interplanetary travel in a single system. While the UNSC Navy and Marine Corps prefers the smaller D77 Pelican series of dropships, the Air Force and Army operate the UC-680A and UC-680C respectively. Internal storage capacity includes space for a platoon-strength unit, or several armoured vehicles.
- SS-700: a dedicated exoatmospheric combat craft, the SS-700 is equipped with a variable payload for different mission types - interception and interdiction, minelaying, and even tactical bombing operations against enemy capital ships. Armed with a dorsally mounted 110mm rotary gun and a 120mm ventral gun, both recessed within the hull and mounted on canfield joints to provide a full three-dimensional range of fire along all axis'. Internal storage bays allow the craft to carry a variety of payloads, including small MORAY space mines to establish prearranged kill zones, air-to-air, anti-satellite, anti-ship, electronic and thermal countermeasures, and even larger nuclear missiles for engaging Covenant capital ships. Large internal fuel tanks, as well as external hard points for supplemental fuel tanks, allow the craft to take off from planetary airfields or launch sites, and give it a long loiter time, while RCS thrusters provide the SS-700 with excellent manoeuvrability, including the ability to perform the Helmejong Turn, a feature for which it became famous after the Battle of Delta Pavonis.
- F-700: an air superiority fighter, the F-700 differs little from the other dominant atmospheric craft, the GA/TL-1, in terms of appearance. It is armed with two M9109 ASW/AC 50mm MLA, can carry a variety of air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, and features an advanced sensor package for automated target detection and designation, integrated with the pilots' neural interfaces for nearly instantaneous performance.
- GA/TL-1/2: similar to the F-700, the GA/TL-1 is designed for tactical bombing, air interdiction and close air support roles in support of ground forces, and is armed with six M9109 ASW/AC 50mm MLA turrets, internal missile and rocket bays, and emergency countermeasures to prevent destruction by anti-air weaponry. Each flightgroup is provided with a GA/TL-2 Longsword, a similar variant equipped with the SX343B LASER Target Designator, used to "paint" the target for the followup strike. All GA/TL Longswords carry a variety of armaments, including Scorpion air-to-ground rockets and ASGM-10 missiles, deployable resupply canisters, and FURY nuclear missiles.
- SR-800: one of the rarest aircraft used by the UNSC, the SR-800 is a stealth reconnaissance craft used by the UNSC Air Force and Navy, but under the direct oversight of the Military Intelligence Division and Office of Naval Intelligence respectively. The SR-800 is equipped with a series of powerful sensor packages, including optical/infrared imaging, electronic intelligence, side-looking airborne radar and redundant recording devices. Prototype Tarnhelm radar refractive/reflective metamaterial reduced the craft's radar cross-section to near-zero, providing almost total sensor invisibility, and experiments with Covenant active camouflage systems allow some test units optical invisibility. The majority of SR-800 craft lack such a feature - at the high/low orbit and high altitudes the craft operates at, optical invisibility is normally unneccessary.
- EA-713: developed in 2536, the EA-713 Longsword is operated in both atmospheric and exoatmospheric combat theatres in opposition to enemy vehicles and sensors. Possessing effective electronic warfare and intelligence gathering systems, the EA-713 is operated by the UNSC Air Force and Navy, in support of other combat units, such as the SS-700 and F-700. EA-713 Longswords were also used to provide additional guidance for Archer missiles before the introduction of the RIM-442 Anubis, and even afterward was used to launch the Anubis for long-range missile strikes.
- B-705: developed during the early years of the Insurrection, the B-705 was replaced as the UNSC Air Force's premier atmospheric bomber in 2525 with the introduction of the Shortsword bomber. Capable of carrying laser-guided munitions, equipped with the S331 LASER Target Designator, and equipped with electronic and deployable countermeasures. During early service, the B-705's saw use against Insurrectionist training and manufacturing bases, and extensive service during the complete uprising of Far Isle. During the Human-Covenant War, they were mostly replaced by newer Shortsword bombes due to the latters' ability to deploy from orbital platforms and ships, but were retained by various reserve units and combat units where replacement would be impractical, such as frontline Outer Colony units.
- SS-709X: an advanced prototype created by Project TEMERITY, the SS-709X was a testbed for technologies waiting to be introduced, and was acquired specifically for Operation: RED FLAG and carried exclusively by the UNSC Pillar of Autumn. For the most part, it was identical to the SS-700, except for improvements to its pilot-vehicle neural interface uplink system, a larger internal storage capacity for missiles, mines and 110mm and 120mm ammunition, and the use of limited energy shielding originally developed for the YSS-1000 Saber. Only twelve were produced, of which eleven were destroyed during the Battle of Alpha Halo. The last was used and heavily damaged by human survivors to board and capture the supercarrier Ascendant Justice, and was eventually destroyed during Operation: FIRST STRIKE.
First Generation (2460-2525)
Second Generation (2525-2554)
Third Deneration (2554-2565)
Fourth Generation (2565-onwards)
- "My dad was a Longsword pilot. His dad was one too. His dad was a test pilot for the prototypes. I guess it runs in the family!"
- "We're pinned down by a platoon of Wraiths, lobbing plasma mortars onto us. We call in to Command for close air support - a Longsword puts a pair of missiles right in the enemy column."
- "Geez, they've been in service for nearly a century. You'd think we'd be able to field something even better from scratch, but noooo, we keep these tin cans in service."