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The SF-44 Tempest is a twin-engine, single-seat, all-weather multirole stealth combat spaceplane developed under contract through the UNSC's Next Generation Multirole Fighter program. Intended as a more versatile successor to the under-utilized S-14 Baselard, the Tempest is designed for aero-superiority, deep reconnaissance, assault, and electronic warfare purposes.

The SF-44 was manufactured chiefly by Aegis Dynamics with additional industrial support from Kiroshi Systems, Alonso Stout Engineering, and Misriah Armory. There are three permutations of the Tempest in production: the SF-44A intended for deep-space action, the SF-44B for localized planetary defense, and the heavily upgraded SF-44C which incorporates extensive post-Covenant war technologies.

Development

In 2529, following numerous demonstrations of their spacefighter fleet's severe underperformance in combat against the Covenant's own interceptors, the UNSC Navy activated the Next Generation Multirole Fighter (NGMF) program, a multi-branching research and development venture aimed at spawning a new generation of combat aerocraft. One of several sub-programs beneath the umbrella of the NGMF was Project VORPAL, meant to develop a multirole fighter that takes advantage of more contemporary technologies and design philosophy to replace the archaic, underperforming S-14 Baselard.

A corporate contractor team consisting of Aegis Dynamics, Kiroshi, Alonso Stout, and Misriah Armory was chosen in early 2530, with R&D taking place at Special Warfare Center Seongnam on Earth. The first operational prototype to come from VORPAL was the XF2-2500, which took its first test flight in July 2534.

The SF-44 would finally enter widespread production in the mid-2540s, with the UNSC Navy SF-44A being deployed on its first combat operations in 2546. The UNSC Air Force SF-44B entered service the following year, assigned to the defense of several Inner Colonies. The SF-44C wouldn't enter service until after the Covenant War, but was far more advanced than either of the earlier two variants and was heavily utilized by ONI in their secretive operations against separatists and alien warlords. Even still, the Tempest—while more prevalent than the Baselard—would remain largely tertiary to other multirole spacefighters like the Longsword or Broadsword in both the Navy and Air Force due to production costs.

Design

Overview

Stealth and signatures

Tempest silhouette

A maintenance team inspect a Tempest's ablative hull.

Between the airframe shape, electronic countermeasure suite, and radar-absorbent materiel used in its construction, the SF-44 was designed to be as difficult to detect by both UNSC and Covenant sensors as possible. Like most UNSC covert operations vehicles, the Tempest employs a stealth ablative plating to passively obscure its radar, infrared, and acoustic signatures while texture buffers utilize photo reactive panels that, when activated by the pilot, can completely hide the Tempest from visual detection as well.

Cockpit and flight controls

Tempest cockpit

The cockpit of Cpt. Paul Jones's SF-44A.

The SF-44 has a pressurized glass cockpit featuring a polarized stealth canopy with an indium-tin-oxide that reflects incoming sensor frequencies. A 3D holographic panoramic display at the center of the console serves as the primary flight instrument, presenting data from the motion tracker, navigation system, and avionics in a single projection. The Tempest makes use of a speech-recognition direct voice input system to issue instructions to the fighter verbally, though this system can be over-ridden with the implementation of an artificial intelligence.

The primary flight controls are dual side-sticks and while the SF-44 is fully capable of being piloted with only one of these sticks, two were implemented to take full advantage of the attack craft's advanced flight control system for more complex maneuvering in zero-G. The later SF-44C also features a neural interface system for improved pilot feedback and control capability.

Armament

Tempest bombs

A trio of SF-44Bs deploy heavy ordnance.

To maintain its stealth-friendly silhouette, the SF-44 features a concealed weapons system which stores most of its armament in weapons bays and retractable compartments located at several points along its fuselage. The Tempest is outfitted with two dorsally-mounted, retractable ELS-83 missile launcher pods—each with three tubes—which can be loaded with a variety of anti-fighter missiles, such as the ASGM-10 or ST/Medusa.

Two triple-barrel variants of the 40mm M7044 autocannon are embedded near the fighter's wing roots and, like the ELS-83s, are retractable to maintain stealth. These weapons are effective against both light air and ground targets. An advanced fire-control system ensures the pilot maintains peak accuracy and efficiency when operating the cannons. The primary weapons bay of the SF-44 is a large compartment located on the underside of the fuselage. Depending upon the mission or Tempest variant, the bay loadout and payload can vary greatly as it is possible to mount either a vertical deployment bomb rack or a rotary system. Typically, SF-44s carry three heavy munitions such as the ALRAAM-22X BVR missile, MGEDM-17 cluster missile, or Shiva-class nuclear missile.

Operational history

Tempest ophistory

A pair of SF-44A's engage a Grandeur-class corvette during Operation: SYRACUSE. (19 Sep. 2544)

The SF-44 had first been employed on 19 September 2544, when a flight of two attacked and disabled an insurrectionist warship in the Fortuna system. Days later, on Tuesday the 27th of that month, a full squadron was unexpectedly pulled into combat over planet Corona when two Covenant frigates entered the planet's orbital sphere. More than a third of the squadron's twenty-six fighters were lost.

On 19 October 2544, the UNSC Pyramid deployed two SF-44A's to provide surveillance and close air support to SPARTAN-III Beta Company during Operation: LULLABY. On the first of November, the Pyramid deployed these same Tempest's to covertly deliver a high-yield nuclear payload to a Covenant-operated facility in the Delta Gemini system.

The UNSC Air Force began fielding the SF-44B on 7 February 2545. Several were assigned to Colonial Defense Squadrons stationed on numerous Inner Colonies on the border with the Outer Colonies. The first of these to see combat were on Gilead, used by the local defenders to initiate a nuclear-armed sneak attack against Covenant invaders who'd pushed beyond the first two layers of orbital defense. SF-44B's on Actium, Skopje, and Gannick 22 were utilized in similar defensive operations with varied degrees of success. By October 2552, all of the remaining Tempests were relocated to the Sol system where they would eventually participate in the Battle for Earth.

The Tempest would continue to see service following the war, employed primarily by the Office of Naval Intelligence and its Prowler Corps during this period. The year 2556 saw the introduction of the SF-44C, an advanced variant of the Tempest that saw its functionality improved in every way thanks to the integration of exotic technologies provided by the Reverse Engineering and Prototyping–Xenotechnology division (REAP-X). ONI used these fighters heavily in the post-war years, often attaching them to heavy prowlers or stealth cruisers.

Variants

SF-44A

SF-44B

SF-44C

Operators

SF-44A

United Nations Space Command

  • UNSC Marine Corps
  • UNSC Navy
    • Office of Naval Intelligence

SF-44B

Actium

  • Actium Orbital Guard

Gannick 22

  • Gannick Defense Forces

Gilead

  • Gilead Colonial Defense Force

Falaknuma

  • Scorpii System Defense Force

Skopje

  • Unified Forces of Skopje

United Nations Space Command

  • UNSC Air Force

SF-44C

United Nations Space Command

  • UNSC Navy
    • Office of Naval Intelligence

United Rebel Front

  • Talitsa cell

Trivia