Based on how Tolwyn addresses the UBW during his initial address to the assembly, "...remember that during the Kilrathi War the border worlds were trusted and loyal allies." (or words to that effect) and later Vagabond states that "When Confed needed a dumping ground for anything from prisoners to toxic waste the border worlds are the place...they're treated more like a colony than a partner" (Again I'm paraphrasing here). So at the very least my take is that the UBW was always a protectorate or territory of Confed like Puerto Rico is to the US. I've always figured them more of an autonomous political entity even prior to WC2 based on those descriptions.
It is hard to say, with the paltry information we have at our disposal. At first glance, much of it is conflicting, too - which doesn't necessarily mean a conflict in the canon, but rather that we should accept things often have a different informal meaning. The Border Worlds are discussed as allies, it is true. They also happen to declare independence right at the start of WC4, with the news report explicitly talking about how the Border Worlds no longer recognises Confed laws.
I'm tempted to point to a variety of analogies from European history. For example, "Ukraine" literally means "border lands" in Polish, and that's no coincidence. Within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, The Ukraine was a semi-desolate wasteland in the conflict zone between us, Moscow, and the Turks & Tartars - and gradually started leaning towards independence as the Cossacks became convinced that they'll be better off without the Polish (and then promptly got gobbled up by Moscow, losing their freedom entirely - go figure!). But probably it's best to stick with the example of the Thirteen Colonies, as this is almost certainly the main thing in the minds of the developers. Can we imagine, in the context of the wars between France and England (and then its successor state, Britain) in the 17th and 18th centuries, a British general talking about how the colonists are proving to be loyal allies to in the war? I think we can safely assume this. Can we also imagine a sympathetic British soldier saying, right before the rebellion began, that the Thirteen Colonies are treated more like a colony than a partner? This may sound oxymoronic (they *were* the Thirteen *Colonies*), but it really isn't. One of the biggest bones of contention, after all, was the fact that the colonial self-government was being trampled by British interference, and that rather than being treated as equals subject to the same rules as Great Britain itself, the Colonies were being treated, ahem, like colonies.
Given the general tendency for WC to simply paint the Confederation as the United States writ large, I would propose that the Border Worlds are literally states and territories in the modern US meaning of these terms, and not in any way independent. However, the frontier situation would have produced - as it had in the Ukraine so many centuries earlier - a bizarrely skewed situation where local governments probably spend more on defence than all other parts of the budget combined, and would deeply resent the fact that Confed is unable to provide sufficient protection, while also not providing enough funding for them to spend both on defence and development. We can imagine that particularly after the end of the war, this would have generated a lot of totally unexpected tensions. From the little we know, it is clear that post-2669, Confed radically slashed its defence budget. From the perspective of Earth, the war was over. From the perspective of the frontier, the main difference would be that instead of a single hostile Kilrathi Empire, they now face a jumble of different Kilrathi entities, some of which adhere to the treaty, while others carry on the fight. On top of that, add pirates, Retros (why assume the Church of Man was limited in influence to Gemini - or that there aren't other similar organisations elsewhere), and you get a situation where the Border Worlds would most definitely agree with the slashing of defence budgets. And they would be furious that there is no "peace dividend" for them, because in their local (state & territory) budgets, rather than allocating less money to defence and more to economic reconstruction, they're now having to make up for the shortfall of the central budget. In other words, because there are less Confed warships patrolling the "waters", the Border Worlds may well be finding that on top of their stationary bases and fighter squadrons, they now actually need to start investing in warships to project power. Perhaps it is for this reason that a Union of Border Worlds formed *within* the Confedarion, in order to enable these states to pool their resources together for self-defence on a slightly broader than local scale?
Hey, now... did I just, through an act of idle speculation, basically write the history of the Border Worlds?
Even if they became a Union after the war, that doesn't necessarily negate the need for rapidly building a credible military using surplus Confed equipment, or locally produced export variants of older Confed designs, the stuff the brass would be willing to sell.
Well, this is certainly true, and we can imagine a lot of stuff was up for sale in the aftermath of the war. It may well have been that rather than supply, there was a problem with demand, namely that the various militia entities permitted to buy weapons might not have the funds to buy all that is for sale, resulting in tons of stuff heading for the scrapyard.
The thing is, however, it seems unlikely that this would have been a single, unified process. It seems more likely that initially, everyone would have wanted to disarm and start buying up butter instead of guns. It's only as local conditions evolved - e.g. a Kilrathi raid here, a pirate problem there - that some local governments would have started buying equipment. How long would it have taken before things got to a point where these local governments decide that they need to start working together? And it's only when working together that we can imagine them thinking about bigger equipment. In today's world, we can imagine Texas buying up patrol boats, revenue cutters, and jetfighters for its state forces. But it's hard to imagine, even if Mexico and Columbia were in total anarchy, with both the land border and the sea border teeming with gangs, drug smugglers and the like, that Texas would invest in destroyers or carriers, or even buying up surplus B-52s. And this becomes even less plausible if it seems like Texas is heading for independence, and the United States now has a concern that those surplus weapons may be used to resolve some old fishing rights dispute between Texas and Louisiana.
So, at all times, these things would be messy and complicated, and probably varying from moment to moment. It may well be that there were even opportunities that I haven't considered. Perhaps Confed saw the problems of the Border Worlds as an opportunity to keep its own defence industry afloat without being able to place orders for their own forces. I just remembered that the factory producing Bearcats is actually placed in Border Worlds territory... is it possible that the Bearcat was, far from being a top-of-the-line fighter, actually conceived as a reasonably modern but not great fighter to satisfy the Border Worlds while keeping its Confed manufacturer (Douglas?) in business until funding becomes available for new fighters? The Bearcar is certainly more impressive than the Excalibur in many aspects (though severely underarmed), in the same way that the F-5 Tiger was certainly in some ways more impressive than the F-100 Super Sabre... but in the same way that the F-5 loses its lustre when compared to the F-4 Phantom and a variety of other top-of-the-line fighters looming on the horizon, so the Bearcat would be nothing to shout about, if you were already developing the slower, but sturdier and better armed Tigershark. Especially if the Tigershark can actually hit things, by virtue of not having its guns set far apart on the wingtips
So, was the Bearcat actually conceived as an F-5 Tiger, and actually produced locally in the Border Worlds (by a Confederate company, however, using mostly Confed-produced components) for that reason? If so, then this would basically render the discussion on reverse-engineering Bearcats completely unnecessary, without in the least bit invalidating the story of WC4 (when the shooting started, there would of course have been no more talk of Bearcat sales... but the factory may well have continued working, ostentibly for Confed needs, but in fact mainly as an incentive to goad the Border Worlds into launching more raids to get weapons and get some bad PR in the process).
But it'd be easier to call the Rapier an F-44 J than F-44G Block 2; and at best if you want to give the Canucks their due, then it might be a BF-44, (UF-44?) or using the UBW designation system a F-44V1? ( Incidentally - in the blurb I wrote up for it I mention how the UBW factories producing the variant have taken to modifying the plans to accommodate more locally available parts which has become the source of a legal dispute between the UBW and Origin Aerospace.)
Well, again, it's more a case of "we don't know" than "the Border Worlds would do X". That's why I launched this discussion in the first place, because if I wish to use those Arena designations, then I have to think about what to do with all these other ships as well.
The Rapier, incidentally, has just reared its ugly head again, and reminded me of another issue
. Arena impacted Unknown Enemy in an unexpectedly big way, as it turns out that not only are Rapiers still produced circa 2681, and will continue to be produced (or at least available in surprisingly big quantities) for another 20+ years, but also... well, we no longer get to take the Rapier model from SWC and call it a new ship. So, if I want to incorporate Arena, I not only need to change designations, but also say goodbye to the Rapier IV. The bastards
In the UBW designation system as indicated in Arena, though, the Rapier could be various things, but it would definitely not be F-44V1. It may be something like... well, a randomly-generated example could be FXO-Y (where X is the the number of Origin Systems designs, and Y is the revision number of the Rapier). And of course, they might not use "O", as it can lead to confusion with zero (the current US designation system actually omits I and O for this reason, though I don't know of any aircraft that went through enough revisions to reach I in the first place, let alone O). But then it may simply be the F-44...
But more seriously Pliers may not be totally representative of the UBW techy corps but since he's the only thing we have to go off...I think its within the realm of possibility that the UBW could reverse-engineer a Bearcat; its largely an evolution of a Hellcat and is not possessed of any technical wizardry unlike the Lance. Speaking of, he learned enough about how a Lance and a flash pack works to repair them and keep them combat worthy in very short order (a couple of days if my memory serves).
No, setting aside plot-critical cloaking devices, I think you're looking at this too much from the game perspective. You need to look at the book more, as it does a much better job of establishing the material difficulties of managing the Intrepid's fighters, including the problems of managing the hijacked Confed aircraft. But even in the game, this is hinted at when you find out that Pliers just got done dismanting your Hellcat for spare parts. The fact that we get to fly Dragons and Bearcats as much as we like and they're always magically ready for another fight is meaningless in the greater context. It's just game mechanics (ahem, a double-entendre if there ever was one), in the same way that despite of Eisen's protestations, the Victory actually *did* seem to have little elves building fighters, including top-of-the-line Excaliburs
Also, bear in mind that an entity like the Border Worlds is characterised by being totally unrepresentative at any given point
. Pliers is Pliers. But another BW ship may have a bunch of mechanics that got cashiered at the end of the war because they weren't good enough to bother keeping, and the Border Worlds was desperate enough to hire them (an average mechanic is better than no mechanic). Just like Washington's forces in the American rebellion, so the Border Worlds would have been a confusing mess of genuine experts both local and foreign, then various kinds of opportunists posing as experts, and finally a core of well-meaning but poorly trained patriots.
In reality I would think Confed would be willing to basically roll over and give the UBW whatever it wanted within reason just to make the whole mess go away. They probably let them keep the "conventional" stuff like TCS Princeton and the Bearcat squadron (after all what's one squadron of fighters more or less) but I would imagine that they would negotiate a return for the surviving Lance prototypes and as part of the agreement, see them destroyed since we never see a Lance/Dragon or its cloaking device and anti-matter drives again (though not before both sides secreted away their notes on the fighter).
Well, the Bearcat raises interesting possibilities as I mentioned above - it may have been built for the Border Worlds in the first place. I wouldn't go too far in terms of Confed "rolling over", though. Even when rolling over, Confed would have great means at its disposal to exert pressure. Let's have no illusions: the Border Worlds would keep exactly what Confed would be *happy* to let them keep, and nothing more. The politics of the situation may push Confed to make big symbollic gestures, but under the table, those gestures may be either undermined or strengthened depending on Border Worlder pliability. The Princeton is a great example of this: the Border Worlders could so easily insist on keeping the ship. But they just inflicted serious damage on her engines. At the very least, they would need to buy new engine parts, if not totally new engines (unless they want to replace them with engines from another, probably smaller ship, but then performance suffers). How do you make that demand in public? Give us new engines to repair the damage we inflicted on your ship that we refuse to return?
At that point, Confed can dangle the carrot of letting them get new engines in exchange for a concession elsewhere (we didn't really want those Dragons, say the Border Worlders all of a sudden), but just as easily, Confed could make it clear that no engines will be forthcoming, and unless the Border Worlders want to keep a crippled carrier, they should consider returning it in exchange for some consolation prize (hey, we've still got a couple of them Wake-class CVEs, says Confed. Take two, they're much better than that crippled Princeton we won't let you fix!).