|This article, RIM-332 Azrael, was written by Specops306 and The All-knowing Sith'ari. Please do not edit this fiction without the writers' permission.|
Development of ship-launched missiles stalled after the age of space colonisation - the creation of a comparable navy required resources and infrastructure that simply wasn't available to mere pirates, privateers and insurrectionists, allowing the Navy almost two hundred years of naval dominance. When the Covenant attacked, the UNSC found itself in the unenviable position of having to field a fleet intended to support ground campaigns unhindered against a technologically superior fleet of warships. Progress was made even in the early years of the war, but in the end it all came down to a matter of technology - the Covenant had the advantage, and the UNSC wouldn't even come close to catching up for decades.
As part of Project TEMERITY, the Office of Naval Intelligence investigated a range of replacements and supplements to the standard Archer Anti-ship Missile, eventually adopting a number of different types to fill extremely specialised roles in ship-to-ship warfare. The RIM-332 Azrael was designed almost exclusively to deliver significant damage to unprotected ship hulls, relying on more "powerful" nuclear or EMP warheads, or MAC fire, to lower these shields first, leaving the ship vulnerable. Once past this defensive layer, the Azrael proved devastating, and would see wide adoption throughout the Navy after the end of the First Great War. By the time of the War of Vengeance they had become one of the standard ship armaments, though ONI had restarted Project TEMERITY to devise improvements to the weapon system.
The first block developed were intended to be used in conjunction with the RIM-442 Anubis EMP missile and the RIM-441 Neith fragmentation missile against heavily shielded and armoured Covenant ships. Camouflaged by the other missiles' efflux streams, upon entering attack range, the Anubis missile would speed ahead of the rest of the salvo and activate its EMP generator approximately four hundred metres away from the Covenant ship's hull. The EMP would interact with the ship's shields and force them to collapse. Taking advantage of the gap in the shields, the Azrael nuclear shaped charge missiles would aim for the gap and detonate their payloads: A nuclear shaped charge capable of blowing through even the toughest Covenent armour, blasting holes in the immensely strong outer hull and ripping through several decks.
At that point, the Neith missiles' targeting computers would lock on to the holes in the ship's hull, and fly straight into them. When they were inside the Covenant ship, the missiles would detonate, ripping through the weaker internal decks of the ship. Volleys of missiles launched by UNSC ships typically consisted of Anubis-Azrael-Neith-Azrael-Neith, so that after the first salvo of Neiths had ripped apart the ship's internal decks, the second salvo of Azraels could exploit this damage, fly into the ship, and puncture the inner hull in order to destroy ever more vital components buried deep within the ship, such as the main reactor.
The second block of missiles was even more destructive than the first, as they contained ten Multiple Independently Targetable Launch Vehicles (MILVs), each mounting a nuclear shaped charge five times as powerful as the larger one mounted by the Mark I missile. They also rendered the Anubis missile obsolete, as each MILV was equipped with its own miniturised EMP generator. Since the missile was also an MSM, they also had double or triple the range of a standard single-stage missile. This extreme extension of range meant that UNSC ships could strike at Covenant vessels from far outside plasma torpedo range. Along with the arsenal ships they proved to be "war-winners" for the UEG during the War of Vengeance, and also saw service against the Governors of Contrition during the Second Great War.
The first block of missiles developed consisted of one nuclear shaped charge acting as the warhead, an advanced Hall Effect Thruster, with smaller chemical rockets along its horizontal axis for three-dimensional thrust vectoring in space, and in the nose cone, a GGF8 target acquisition computer incorporating AESA radar, LIDAR, ultraviolet, and infrared sensors. The missile was also equipped with a jam-homing function, allowing the missile to attack systems emitting electronic jamming and destroy them, making the job easier for follow-up salvos. The warhead worked on the principle of a "firecracker under a tin can": An Teller-Ulam type nuclear device was encased in an shell of x-ray opaque uranium, with a single hole in the top of the case. When the nuclear device was detonated, the uranium forced the x-rays to exit from the hole, and they were forced into a large mass of beryllium oxide. The beryllium transformed the x-rays into a massive blast of heat with temperatures comparable to those of a G2-type star. Perched on top of the beryllium was a thin plate of a low atomic number metal (the exact type of metal remains classified November Black). The blast of heat turned the metal plate into a star-core hot spindle of plasma that was blasted straight into the target with enough force and heat to blow through ten metres of Covenant shipbuilding alloys.
The Mark I missile was designed to be used in conjunction with the Anubis EMP missile and the Neith fragmentation missile, with the Anubis bringing down shields and the Neith exploiting the holes created in the hull by the Azrael and detonating inside them, ripping through the weaker internal decks of the ship.
The AIM-333 Azrael was developed as a fighter-launched anti-ship missile for use by the C800 Blackburn Claymore Space Superiority Fighter. It has a similar range and yield to the Block One missile, but in order to fit into the Claymore's revolving magazines, its size was reduced dramatically. Apart from this, however, it is identical to the RIM-332, with the exception of the addition of a miniturised explosively-pumped EMP generator, the XGTZ-4431 Electromagnetic Pulse Generator (the smallest EMP generator ever developed for space warfare use), designed to bring down the target's shields before the missile detonates. The missile was often used in conjunction with the AIM-443 Neith, punching holes in the target's hull, which were then exploited by the Neith. First deployed against Blood Covenant forces invading the Alpha Centauri System during Operation Hammer in 2557, the success of the EMP-headed missiles spurred the development of the Mark II Azrael (see below).
The second block, designed in 2559 and first deployed in combat in 2561, rendered the Anubis missile obsolete and was perhaps a "war-winner" for the UNSC during the War of Vengeance. The second block of missiles was even more destructive than the first, as in stead of one warhead, they carried ten Multiple Independently Targetable Launch Vehicles (MILVs), each mounting a nuclear shaped charge five times as powerful as the larger one mounted by the Mark I missile. The reason for this massive increase in yield was that they utilised the induced gamma emission of a nuclear isomer of hafnium, rather than a fission-boosted fusion weapon, to create the blast of radiation to be converted into heat. They also rendered the Anubis missile obsolete, as each MILV was equipped with its own miniturised EMP generator, the GTZ-4429 Electromagnetic Pulse Generator, and so the Mark II missile was not dependent on the Anubis bringing down the target's shields. The GGF8 Target Acquisition Computer was also expanded to include "Hawking Homing". This allowed the missile to home in on the Hawking Radiation generated by a ship's Slipspace drive when active. This was done with the intent of having the missile home in on and destroy the active Slipspace generator, preventing an enemy ship from escaping, rather like the rigging-destroying chain-shot of the Age of Sail.
The Mark II was also designed as a Multi-Stage Missile, or MSM. It was equipped with a second-stage Hall Effect Thruster that took over after the first stage had burned out, effectively increasing the missile's range by a factor of two or more, giving the missile a minimum range of 1.2 million kilometres. Larger models, such as those fired by the Invincible-class, were equipped with three stages, and had minimum ranges of 2 million kilometres. This meant that UNSC ships could now launch strikes on Covenant ships from far outside plasma torpedo range. Since the enemy could not strike back, this effectively made the UNSC Navy almost invincible, until the development of new ship classes with a greater emphasis on energy projectors by the New Covenant.
- We were scared of Human weapons during their campaign of Vengeance against us, especially their nuclear missiles. Ten of those spears of nuclear fire could strip down our shields in a matter of minutes, even before they added EMP emitters to their warheads.
- I had the honour of serving on Arboreus' flagship at Undefeated Glory. When the Human force arrived in the system, we knew we would take losses, but given our numbers and our matchless commander, we were confident of pulling off a victory. Then the Humans opened fire, from thousands of kilometres outside our engagement range, and those impossible missiles blasted down our screening ships' shields and destroyed them before they could even fire a single shot. I was in the command centre with Arboreus and I saw the great man's face crumple - I think he knew then that now there could be no victory for our Covenant.