Unknown Enemy Upgrade

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
I think if you were to ask someone like me, they'd say it'd be fantastic to add the Arena material in. Now from a slightly more practical perspective, it's not that big a deal. You certainly wouldn't want something like that to hold up the whole project, but it'd be nice icing on the top if it was easy enough to do.
Well... it really isn't difficult to add those designations. I mean, fundamentally, it's a matter of changing a few lines of text. If anything about it can be called challenging, it's that I'm not sure what would be preferable for all the other designations. That is to say - the three ships from WC4, the Banshee, Avenger, and Vindicator (which, oddly enough, doesn't even appear in UE) all have designations from Arena. But the Border Worlds in UE have a whole bunch of other fighters, too. The Scimitar, Epee, Ferret, Bearcat, and so on. What I'm really trying to make up my mind on - and would very much welcome other people's opinions - is whether each of these ships should get a new designation similar to the ones for the WC4 BW ships, or should they instead revert to their original Confed designation?

Fifteen years ago, I clearly was of the mind that the Border Worlds would at some point have established a total designation system encompassing all their equipment, no matter how old. But all the historical entities that inspired me in imagining how the BW forces would develop over time, actually did things much more chaotically, on a more ad hoc basis. Some countries liked to give their own designations to most planes. The British liked doing that. But even the British eventually gave up on it, leading to a bizarre situation where early model Avengers served the British as the Grumman Tarpon, whereas late models were Avengers again. Other countries would sometimes make up local designations if they were going to produce the aircraft locally on license, while sticking with the foreign designation if they were only buying aircraft from the overseas manufacturer.

A bit of chaos like this is actually nice, in theory... but might not work out too well in practice. What works in reality often just makes things confusing in fiction, where most people like to see more consistency than can be found in reality. So, at the moment, I'm trying to decide what's best for all the other ships, if I do use the Arena designations. I'm inclined at the moment towards the solution where, at least old ex-Confed aircraft that were no longer in production when the Border Worlds formed (the Scimitar most definitely, the Ferret and Epee maybe) should retain their original Confed designations, because there would have been no point in giving them new designations. Others, like the Bearcat, might have been given a new designation, or they might not, because again, no production was taking place - after all, we have no reason to believe the Border Worlds would ever get more Bearcats than they stole in 2673, and even them retaining the ones they stole is a somewhat controversial idea. Only the brand new fighters that were somewhere just over the horizon, such as the Rapier IV, should definitely get a new Arena-style designation.

Also, with the Scimitar in particular, it's hard to even say what the Confed designation should be :). The only official designation we have for it is from the Confed handbook (CF-105, IIRC). Did the Scimitar get a new Confed designation at some point, as it seems the Broadsword did (provided the Handbook Broadsword is the same as the WC2 Broadsword)?
 

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
Well... it really isn't difficult to add those designations. I mean, fundamentally, it's a matter of changing a few lines of text. If anything about it can be called challenging, it's that I'm not sure what would be preferable for all the other designations. That is to say - the three ships from WC4, the Banshee, Avenger, and Vindicator (which, oddly enough, doesn't even appear in UE) all have designations from Arena. But the Border Worlds in UE have a whole bunch of other fighters, too. The Scimitar, Epee, Ferret, Bearcat, and so on. What I'm really trying to make up my mind on - and would very much welcome other people's opinions - is whether each of these ships should get a new designation similar to the ones for the WC4 BW ships, or should they instead revert to their original Confed designation?
I wouldn't make up new designations for sake of any type of perceived consistency. Note that Arena's Star*Soldier is written from the perspective of the frontier, and they refer to ships with the conventional Confed designations like F-36 Hornet, F-107 Lance, etc.

Also, with the Scimitar in particular, it's hard to even say what the Confed designation should be :). The only official designation we have for it is from the Confed handbook (CF-105, IIRC). Did the Scimitar get a new Confed designation at some point, as it seems the Broadsword did (provided the Handbook Broadsword is the same as the WC2 Broadsword)?
Nope, no other designation that we know of for the Scimitar.
 

Iceblade

Admiral
They (Confed) probably decided to not bother with a new designation for the scimitar since it was going to be retired not long after the Rapier I.

The Broadsword looks like it recieved a structural redesign between the movie (CF-131) and academy versions (A17 - academy and onwards of course being the same basic hull design with minor changes between versions).

Do we know whether the Avenger, Vindicator, and Banshee designations are BW created rather than the Confed designations. IE these fighters being the first to use the new Confed designation system. It would still imply these hull designs are quite old assuming they weren't also older redesignated designs.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
No, unfortunately the WC4 novel did not capitalise on the opportunity to give us more background on the BW fighters. They're nowhere to be seen in the book, replaced by older Confed fighters. That in itself is kind of interesting - it makes me wonder whether this is a similar case like with the Concordia-class being described as resembling the Concordia. In that case, it was (apparently - not sure to what degree this was ever confirmed) because the Concordia-class was originally intended to recycle the WC2 Concordia model, but ultimately ended up recycling the WC3 Victory instead. Is it therefore possible that at the time when the book deal was being made and the basic details of the book were being hashed out, the idea was floating around of actually having the Border Worlds armed with old WC1/WC2 Confed fighters?
 
So for the HW mod, we're adding some old WC2 ships in for the UBW as second-line fighters. We're fannonizing here as far as designations go, but for example we're hypothesizing that the Rapier for example would be an export variant much like how the F-16 export variant for the Israeli air force is the F-16 I. It's "logical" to assume that companies like Origin Aerospace would similarly license fighter builds for allied powers, which at the time, the UBW was (prior to WC4). So we're calling the Rapier II for the UBW the F-44 J (since G was the last known Confed prod variant and B was already taken, and H and I sounded ugly to me).

As for Bearcats, we know the UBW is fairly tech savvy, so they may be able to reverse engineer one. But they'd probably give it their own designation. As for the standard designs (Banshee, Vind, Avenger) I was thinking they might have a WW2 navy style numbering scheme. So an Avenger might be a TB-XX (Torpedo Bomber), a Banshee might be a P-XX (Pursuit).
 
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Quarto

Unknown Enemy
So for the HW mod, we're adding some old WC2 ships in for the UBW as second-line fighters. We're fannonizing here as far as designations go, but for example we're hypothesizing that the Rapier for example would be an export variant much like how the F-16 export variant for the Israeli air force is the F-16 I. It's "logical" to assume that companies like Origin Aerospace would similarly license fighter builds for allied powers, which at the time, the UBW was (prior to WC4). So we're calling the Rapier II for the UBW the F-44 J (since G was the last known Confed prod variant and B was already taken, and H and I sounded ugly to me).
Well, this very much depends on what the buyer wants - I mean, in the case of the F-16, it's not the US nor the manufacturer that called it F-16 I. That would have been the IDF's decision. By contrast, any time Canada buys US aircraft, they slap a C at the start (e.g. the F-18 is CF-18, and even the transport C-130 ended up as the CC-130). Other countries frequently don't bother, for example the Polish Air Force simply uses the same designation for the F-16 as the USAF, the only difference is that they've named it Hawk instead of Falcon, because we already had a helicopter named Falcon. Most other air forces that use the F-16 (and there's plenty of them) also just call it the F-16. Localised names usually only come into play when an aircraft is produced locally on license, and even then that's not necessarily going to change anything.

The other thing is that we don't really know what the Border Worlds were like prior to WC4. We don't actually know what it means that they had local forces. Were they actually independent? Semi-independent? I suppose that, given how WC generally bases most things in Confed on the United States, it would be reasonable to assume that the border worlds (no capitals!) were simply those "states" or even "territories" out near the frontlines, and they became a united entity (the Border Worlds, with capitals) in the run-up to WC4. Possibly a Union of Border Worlds had already existed earlier as a more or less informal association within the Confederation, where these states discussed issues in order to get better results when it came to debates at the central level. This still doesn't tell us much about their actual forces, though. WC establishes that there are local militias as early as Privateer (by which, I don't mean as early as 2669, but as early as 1993). The WC3 novel also adds some details here, IIRC (Flash's story is different in the novel than in the game). Were these militias basically equivalent to US National Guard units? And if so, what does that even tell us about their makeup? I don't know much about the US Air National Guard, other than the fact that they exist, and they generally have reasonably modern equipment. Is it all hand-me-downs from the USAF, though, or is it produced on order for different National Guard units? And is there any kind of coordination, or are Air National Guard units literally run separately and managed separately in every state that has them?

As for Bearcats, we know the UBW is fairly tech savvy, so they may be able to reverse engineer one. But they'd probably give it their own designation. As for the standard designs (Banshee, Vind, Avenger) I was thinking they might have a WW2 navy style numbering scheme. So an Avenger might be a TB-XX (Torpedo Bomber), a Banshee might be a P-XX (Pursuit).
Whoa, hold up there. "Fairly tech savvy" just means that the UBW has capable mechanics, who can repair stuff and sometimes put something new together out of existing parts. Reverse engineering a fighter is an entirely different proposition. It's not something Pliers can do :).

Consider, firstly, that no fighter (in the modern world, that is - which is our only point of comparison when it comes to trying to understand fighter production in WC) is ever built by a single factory, or even a single company with multiple factories. A fighter contains a great many different components that come from completely different companies. Aircraft manufacturers are generally not experts in developing avionics systems, weapons systems, radars, or engines. Even when it comes to ejection seats, which presumably are fairly uncomplicated affairs, for a very long time (not sure if this is still the case), most aircraft manufacturers depended on Martin-Baker. Why reinvent the wheel, when you can just call up the wheel manufacturer and get more wheels sent over? This also applies further down the chain. An engine may be built in one location, but many parts of the engine come from other places. This is why, in WWII, the Allies really did try at various times to block up German production entirely by destroying a couple of ball bearings factories that supplied most of the German industries, not just for aircraft engines but for just about everything.

The implication is that reverse-engineering a fighter is, on the one hand, for the most part a case of simply looking at how it's put together from ready-made components.... and on the other hand, facing the question of what to do about those components. Suppose the Border Worlds decides to produce Bearcats locally. Well, ok. They've gained a tried-and-tested airframe, and they can see how the pieces fit. That's a huge amount of engineering, to be sure - but the pieces are still missing. Where do you get the engines? The weapons systems? Etc. Some of these can simply be replaced by products from another manufacturer, maybe even a local one. Of course, when this happens, your fighter starts performing differently, because its parametres change - generally, two engine manufacturers, producing engines with the same capabilities, will deliver engines that differ in size, mass, and performance (even though their performance is supposed to be the same). That affects the entire package.

But then you get to those components that cannot be replaced. Maybe the Bearcat has an engine of a new type (e.g., in UE we claimed that its engines are a part of the development line from the Excalibur to the Dragon, so they are like a hybrid between conventional fighter engines and capship engines), that can only be obtained from the original manufacturer. But the original manufacturer is in Confed, and why should Confed permit them to export engines that a) they might not want any foreign buyers to have, and b) will be used to manufacture stolen technology?

Which of course brings in something that I haven't mentioned thus far, but which is critical in a situation like this: licensing and politics. In reality, there are many things that can be relatively easily reverse-engineered and produced locally, at least to a certain point. But not if you want to retain friendly relations with the country from which this stuff originates. Let's suppose that the Canadians, being the sly devils everyone knows them to be, decides to buy just one F-18 from the US, reverse-engineer it, and then build hundreds more in their secret arctic workshops (yeah, we all know you have 'em, Canucks!). That's fine, but... then the US threatens to terminate all defense cooperation, and also to cut NAFTA ties, which basically ends the matter right there.

Even when you already possess aircraft of a given type, as in the case of Iran's F-14s (which they bought before the revolution), ongoing usage depends heavily on the possibility of obtaining spare parts. Iran has done wonders to keep their F-14s flying, but even then, it has mostly been not through reverse-engineering, but through secret deals such as the Iran-Contras affair and other similar situations that they've been able to obtain spare parts to keep their existing fleet of F-14s flying in relatively good order. This is why I said that the Border Worlds even retaining Bearcats is a controversial idea - because it presupposes that Confed not only agreed to let them keep the spoils of the crisis (which is probably reasonable, as politically the Border Worlds certainly would have been perceived as the side deserving war reparations), but also that Confed will subsequently want to keep the Border Worlds fed with spare parts for their Bearcats. Would they want it? Well, who knows?

In the particular case of the Bearcats, by the way, things are made all the more interesting by the seeming disappearance of the type by 2681. We see Thunderbolts and Excaliburs around. We may also speculate that the Panther is the Bearcat's successor. But the Bearcats are conspicuous in their absence. Is it just because outside of the WC universe, Origin decided that Excaliburs and Thunderbolts are more memorable for a cameo appearance? Or is it because the Bearcats actually did fall out of use in Confed? Presumably, there may not have been many of them built in the lead-up to the crisis, and perhaps in the immediate aftermath of the crisis, the Bearcats got the chop, sort of as collateral damage to all the Black Lance stuff being terminated?

Ok, that's lots of talking about the Bearcat and such. But in terms of the Avenger and Banshee designations - that's the neat thing about Arena. It supplied us with unofficial designations for the WC4 Border Worlds stuff. Note that these designations are unofficial, because they come from the unpublished lore materials that were going to show up on the Arena website, but... well, didn't. But in the near-certainty of no other source ever contradicting what Arena almost established, it's good enough. And so, you've got the TBP Avenger (in the pre-1965 US designation system, that means the Avenger was the first TB craft supplied by Psaab. A follow-up torpedo bomber from Psaab would have been TB2P, while a follow-up variant of the Avenger would have been TBP-2), the F3V Banshee (interestingly, making it the third fighter from Verier), and the F2M Vindicator (the second fighter type from Murphy).

(oh, and those website descriptions are also where the F-42 designation for the Hellcat comes from. Just mentioning that because I always forget, and then in other discussions, I go and declare that I have no idea where people came up with F-42 :) )
 
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Were they actually independent? Semi-independent?
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. 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.

In the case of localized nomenclature: the F-16 I as I understand it is the generally accepted model variant for anyone looking to reference the IDF version of the fighter in the broader context of F-16dom. The Israelis probably just call it the F-16 internally, much like the Hellenic Air Force would call their variant an F-16 (Although technically I think they're F-16 C/D Block 52M's) (although neither call it the Falcon or Viper). Now I grant you that the shiftless and untrustworthy Canadians totally throw this into a cocked hat with their CF designations of fighters, but I largely think this is the fault of the Quebecois and should be considered a one-off for this discussion ;). 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.)

Whoa, hold up there. "Fairly tech savvy" just means that the UBW has capable mechanics, who can repair stuff and sometimes put something new together out of existing parts. Reverse engineering a fighter is an entirely different proposition. It's not something Pliers can do :)
Aw come on, I think you're short-changing old Pliers here. He DID build a cloaking device out of spare parts from memory, powered by pure plot-devicium to boot! :)

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). Now whether or not its cost effective or politically expedient to do so is another matter entirely. 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).

Also - as for the Bearcat going away by 2681, it may still be in service with the ISS or acting as a second-line fighter while Panthers take on the front-line roles. I mean Rapiers and Broadswords are still being built during the Nephilim War evidently. If they are in fact defunct, it might not be representative of the fighter's performance, maybe Douglas went belly-up or merged with another company, or decided that maintaining the contracts for the Bearcat (or letting them expire in favor of a more lucrative opportunity - the YF-108). Just because they aren't on the Midway or Cerberus doesn't mean they aren't around. I think the designers chose the Tbolt and Excalibur because they are the most memorable and iconic designs of WC3/4, and the Hellcat already had a successor.

BTW - thanks for pointing me to the unpublished Arena stuff, it was a fun read.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
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? :p

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 :p.

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!).
 

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
The implication is that reverse-engineering a fighter is, on the one hand, for the most part a case of simply looking at how it's put together from ready-made components.... and on the other hand, facing the question of what to do about those components. Suppose the Border Worlds decides to produce Bearcats locally. Well, ok. They've gained a tried-and-tested airframe, and they can see how the pieces fit. That's a huge amount of engineering, to be sure - but the pieces are still missing. Where do you get the engines? The weapons systems? Etc. Some of these can simply be replaced by products from another manufacturer, maybe even a local one. Of course, when this happens, your fighter starts performing differently, because its parametres change - generally, two engine manufacturers, producing engines with the same capabilities, will deliver engines that differ in size, mass, and performance (even though their performance is supposed to be the same). That affects the entire package.
This is fascinating topic for me, since this is my actual day job. :) "Reverse engineering" is such a common fictional trope that most people don't grasp how terribly difficult it would be. There's a few historical examples where prominent military designs were copied, but it just gets harder and harder as designs become more sophisticated. Today's commercial airplanes are built to much tighter tolerances with more more specialized hardware than our top military aircraft were a couple generations ago.

Say you've managed to come into possession of an enemy nation's most advanced omelette. Then your top scientists study everything under a microscope and figure out there's a complex blend of eggs, meat, vegetables, etc. To Quarto's point, half those items are only grown over seas, but say you intercept those shipments and manage to procure all those ingredients. Then what? In what order do you mix those ingredients? If you put the mushrooms in too early and they got soggy, you've ruined it. Do you possess a Kitchenaid QX-4000 whipper to properly blend the eggs to the right consistency prior to pouring in the pan? Do you have the right T-Fal teflon 13.5-inch skillet (oh crap, all your pans are in metric??) that properly disperses the heat so your precisely proportioned ingredients don't dry out? Building aircraft without the entire proper production system behind it is just like this, but exponentially scaled up for the complexity of something with millions of parts.

My entire job is taking all of the skilled labor, specialized equipment, specific parts, engineering designs and so on that you already have in existence and turning that into a factory that actually outputs a functional airplane at the end. Similar to the example above, for the UBW to make Bearcats, they're going to need all of right tooling jigs that precisely hold the fuselage in exactly the right configuration to keep things lining up correctly without introducing stress loads on the frame. They'll need all of the robots that are custom built to perform drilling, countersinking, fastening and sealing that are impossible to do by hand. They're going to need to know which systems testing procedures are relevant to ensure an undetected fault doesn't cause your craft to blow up randomly after X maneuver is performed (oh, and although it seems like solvent Y is run through the fuel lines to ensure there are no leaks, solvent Y happens to slowly dissolve the lines from the inside out after a year). They're going to need the software masters to install all of the craft's operating systems, avionics, etc. They'd need to know about all the temporary intermediate steps the occur during manufacturing - coat your fiber optic lines with an anti-static sleeve or else they'll be fried during electromagnetic testing, but make sure they're removed before flight or critical data won't be transmitted and the plane will crash. The list goes on for miles to the point where everyone is almost better off designing their own thing from scratch. When foreign industrial espionage hackers going around doing their hacking, they're not necessarily trying to steal blueprints and designs. Just as importantly, they want to know about all the problems encountered during development and also on a daily basis so they can try to mitigate those issues before they get bitten.
 
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Quarto

Unknown Enemy
This is fascinating topic for me, since this is my actual day job. :) "Reverse engineering" is such a common fictional trope that most people don't grasp how terribly difficult it would be. There's a few historical examples where prominent military designs were copied, but it just gets harder and harder as designs become more sophisticated. Today's commercial airplanes are built to much tighter tolerances with more more specialized hardware than our top military aircraft were a couple generations ago.
Hey, thanks for chiming in on this - I kinda thought you might :). It seems even though I basically said reverse engineering really gets you nowhere, I still managed to underestimate the difficulties involved. My own knowledge of this stuff is really fairly incidental, in the sense that you inevitably come into contact with production issues when reading up on historical aircraft, which has been a significant part of my work in gamedev. Even then, however, it seems the difficulties in copying a modern design such as the Boeing planes you work with would be vastly greater than the difficulties in copying a WWII-era aircraft, which is where most of my knowledge comes from.

But even in WWII, the difficulties were enormous - and sometimes, surprisingly prosaic. For example, for the Germans in WWII, getting access to a working Spitfire was really no big deal. Both sides were usually able to quite quickly get their hands on a fairly up-to-date sample of the latest warplanes, simply because of the frequency of successful crash-landings behind enemy lines. Both sides certainly also spent a lot of effort on evaluating captured aircraft, with specialised squadrons of test pilots who would fight against friendly aircraft in mock combat to get as deep an understanding of the plane's performance as possible. Even so, it was very rare for a captured aircraft to influence R&D in any way. Perhaps the most famous example was the influence of a captured Zero on the design of the Hellcat - but even then, it was a case of designing against the Zero, rather than being inspired in any way by its design. There was simply no point.

One aspect of this, which I suppose wouldn't matter as much in the post-2673 situation, is that in wartime, even with full documentation and access to technology, repurposing an existing production line for a new aircraft, or setting up a new production line, was dangerous and involved a great sacrifice in production. One interesting example of this is the case of the P-51 Mustang. The British actually approached North American to ask about the possibility of the company producing for them, on license, another aircraft from another American manufacturer. The boss at North American looked at their proposal, and basically told them that if time is crucial to them (and it was), then it will be faster for him to design a new aircraft from the ground up using North American's own experience from their previous planes, than to set up licensed production. And, to his credit, he had the first P-51 prototype rolling out just 102 days after they signed the contract, so he probably was right. Another illustration of the same challenge can be seen in the fact that right up until the end of the war, the Germans continued to produce Me-109s, even though there were better alternatives, which the Me-109 production was actually holding back. But the Me-109s were rolling off the production lines by the thousands, and were being used up rapidly in combat (not just due to enemy-inflicted losses). Any reduction in Me-109 production, particularly for a period of at least a few months, would have been catastrophic.

In the WC universe context, I would say that this is probably one of the key reasons why we see Confed breezing so quickly through fighter designations, going from F-44 in 2654 to F-103 in 2669... and then slowing down dramatically after the war, going only from F-103 in 2669 to F-110 in 2681 (we actually see every single aircraft in that sequence). During wartime, there would have simply been many designs that never got to (or past) prototype stage, because there was no way to put them in production. It's funny that it worked out this way, because there's no reason to believe anyone at Origin actually had this in mind when coming up with fighter designations for the various games :).

Say you've managed to come into possession of an enemy nation's most advanced omelette. Then your top scientists study everything under a microscope and figure out there's a complex blend of eggs, meat, vegetables, etc. To Quarto's point, half those items are only grown over seas, but say you intercept those shipments and manage to procure all those ingredients. Then what? In what order do you mix those ingredients? If you put the mushrooms in too early and they got soggy, you've ruined it. Do you possess a Kitchenaid QX-4000 whipper to properly blend the eggs to the right consistency prior to pouring in the pan? Do you have the right T-Fal teflon 13.5-inch skillet (oh crap, all your pans are in metric??) that properly disperses the heat so your precisely proportioned ingredients don't dry out? Building aircraft without the entire proper production system behind it is just like this, but exponentially scaled up for the complexity of something with millions of parts.
Hehe, this reminds me that the absolute best omelettes I've ever eaten were in American hotels. We Europeans just can't seem to match them... I think it must be because all our pans are in metric :).
 

Dundradal

Frog Blast the Vent Core!
Even so, it was very rare for a captured aircraft to influence R&D in any way. Perhaps the most famous example was the influence of a captured Zero on the design of the Hellcat - but even then, it was a case of designing against the Zero, rather than being inspired in any way by its design. There was simply no point.
Sorry to burst your bubble but the amount of design influence the captured Aleutians Zero provided was essentially nil. What it did do was provide American pilots with detailed statistics on its abilities. They knew its weaknesses and how to take advantage of them. The only change that happened between the prototype flying and the first combat-ready units was the original engine (R-2600 Twin Cyclone) was replaced with a much better engine, the R-2800 Double Wasp. This was done, not based on the captured Zero, but from After Action Reports from the front.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Sorry to burst your bubble but the amount of design influence the captured Aleutians Zero provided was essentially nil. What it did do was provide American pilots with detailed statistics on its abilities. They knew its weaknesses and how to take advantage of them. The only change that happened between the prototype flying and the first combat-ready units was the original engine (R-2600 Twin Cyclone) was replaced with a much better engine, the R-2800 Double Wasp. This was done, not based on the captured Zero, but from After Action Reports from the front.
Well, I think the main thing I'm saying here, and I'm sure we can agree on this, is that even with a perfectly intact Zero, no reverse-engineering as such really took place :).

But please, quit spoiling all the great romantic WWII-in-the-Pacific myths for me. First Fuchida, now this... you're so cruel. What's next? :p

(seriously, though - I never really gave the subject of the captured Zero much thought, but I rather suspected that given how the Hellcat is basically a Wildcat evolved, there really couldn't be that much of a connection between it and the captured Zero. But still, it did give them some concrete data to play with)
 

Dundradal

Frog Blast the Vent Core!
Well, I think the main thing I'm saying here, and I'm sure we can agree on this, is that even with a perfectly intact Zero, no reverse-engineering as such really took place :).

But please, quit spoiling all the great romantic WWII-in-the-Pacific myths for me. First Fuchida, now this... you're so cruel. What's next? :p

(seriously, though - I never really gave the subject of the captured Zero much thought, but I rather suspected that given how the Hellcat is basically a Wildcat evolved, there really couldn't be that much of a connection between it and the captured Zero. But still, it did give them some concrete data to play with)
Without question. The F6F prototype flew six months before Pearl Harbor. The major influence in design changes came from Grumman working with the Navy and F4F pilots on the front-line experiences.

Hahaha, I'll try to let your dreams live for a little longer next time...

You are correct with the last statement.
 
In a way, I think we've turned this discussion on its head a bit. We're dealing with a fictional universe after all; one in which spacecraft behave like jet fighters and force screens and faster than light travel is commonplace. It's written for entertainment and escapism not necessarily realism. The player and reader suspend their disbelief for these and many other examples both within the games and novels because first and foremost the story is what comes first.

One of the reasons that "reverse engineering" is such a common trope in sci-fi is that it allows the inclusion of some bit of technology that most lay-people (myself included) will largely accept and move on with because they don't want to get bogged down in the details of what would actually be required in the reverse engineering of it unless it's totally ludicrous. Star Trek is a good example; if the crew is in a bind and they have access to some alien gadget that will move the story along, amazingly engineering comes up with some doohickey that will magically make it work. There is no reason to even entertain the notion that a Romulan cloaking device would be remotely compatible with the Enterprise's engines, yet, it works allowing the crew to escape to fight another day. The existence of the X-wing in Star Wars is problematic using the above examples. The rebels can't just steal the design team and plans and expect to somehow have a functioning X-wing factory; yet it explains how the rebels have them and at first blush seems somewhat believable in context.

This is my long-winded way of saying that we've gotten bogged down in minutia in my opinion. The broader question should be "Does the UBW have Bearcats in its arsenal?" If the answer is yes, then an explanation on how they got them (buying surplus, stealing the factory, etc.) should suffice along with the original question: What is the damn designation?!?! :p

That said - I have a new appreciation for the depth of aeronautical and warbird expertise that lurk here. I should spend more time in the off-topic zones... :)

Also - I thought and it seems most agree that the Atukan Zero was largely a propaganda coup which basically confirmed what the intelligence community had largely pieced together from observations of the fighter's performance.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
In a way, I think we've turned this discussion on its head a bit. We're dealing with a fictional universe after all; one in which spacecraft behave like jet fighters and force screens and faster than light travel is commonplace. It's written for entertainment and escapism not necessarily realism. The player and reader suspend their disbelief for these and many other examples both within the games and novels because first and foremost the story is what comes first.
Yes... and no. Different sci-fi universes have a different feel. Star Wars is basically pure fantasy, and at times pretty naïve fantasy at that, with secret armies being built on secret planets and the like. Star Trek has always been about technobabble, where those heroic engineers can solve any problem with two pieces of gum. Wing Commander is about mankind fighting talking cats who sometimes pull 22 km-long dreadnoughts out of their pocket... but it has a strong military fixation that pushes it towards something like "realism" when it comes to fighters and fleet operations in general. Now, this is not realism, but "realism" - after all, we're talking WWII fighters in space. But because we're talking WWII fighters in space, things that aren't realistic to WWII fighters in general, will not be appropriate for Wing Commander. And these issues do come up time and again in the WC universe - fighter production times, technology, developing new fighters, testing new fighters and finding that they don't work quite right, all these things are a part of the Wing Commander story. In Star Wars, you could potentially get away with a fighter being captured one minute, and then five minutes later in the same film there would now be hundreds of such fighters - sort of how the Republic suddenly builds a massive fleet after discovering that it had secretly and unknowingly built an army of clones for itself. But not in Wing Commander, where the difficulties of new technology are so often emphasised.

This is not to say such things never happen in Wing Commander. We see more than a few "magic technology" moments throughout the series. But these are usually de-emphasised as much as possible. The Kilrathi build a fleet of 22 km dreadnoughts? Ahem, we won't talk about that any more. The Midway's engineering crew manages to mount a giant crystal gun on top of the ship? Ok, but look, it's one-use only. See? Not Star Trek at all!. And so it goes. Even when Pliers builds that cloaking device, the world just shrugs it off - it's a one-off, and Confed has mass-produced cloaking technology already anyway.

This is my long-winded way of saying that we've gotten bogged down in minutia in my opinion. The broader question should be "Does the UBW have Bearcats in its arsenal?" If the answer is yes, then an explanation on how they got them (buying surplus, stealing the factory, etc.) should suffice along with the original question: What is the damn designation?!?! :p
While I agree the original question is what we really want to answer, I don't agree that these are details that can be ignored if necessary - I really do think that having plausible explanations is an important part of the WC universe, and discussions like this are a big part of the fun.

As for the designation, isn't it obvious? :p It's F2D-1. Or at least, that's what it will be in UE, unless I change my mind and decide otherwise :).
 
I really do think that having plausible explanations is an important part of the WC universe, and discussions like this are a big part of the fun
I agree fully. So we've clearly ruled out reverse engineering. Are you going with the F-5 Tigershark explanation?

BTW the next version of the Bearcat will sound like a Star Wars droid: F2D-2...:D
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Well, I'm not sure how far along I'll push it - generally, a safe rule is to not add too much in terms of new concepts, and not to be too specific. It's easy to forget things and accidentally break canon. For instance, when I wrote above that the Bearcat is not that great in light of its gun loadout, I actually forgot an extremely crucial detail: in WC4, the Bearcat has autoaim, a technology that up to that point, only the Excalibur had. That makes its weapons far more powerful than the statistics might initially suggest, because your hit ratio is far better. The reason I forgot it, of course, is because WCP doesn't have autoaim, so I remembered the Bearcat in UE being somewhat underwhelming.

I think in consideration of the autoaim, the idea of the Bearcat as a fighter-designed-for-export isn't very viable after all. What is more likely is that the Bearcat just didn't match policy very well, particularly after the Black Lance crisis was over (we can imagine at that point there would have been a second round of cuts to the military, perhaps aimed at specific projects that Tolwyn personally had been able to persuade the government to support). I mean, what exactly is the Bearcat? It's classified as a heavy fighter, but using WCP classification, what exactly are we talking about? Would the Bearcat have been classified as a multi-role fighter, like the Tigershark, or would it be a space superiority fighter like the Panther and Vampire? If we're talking multi-role, then the Bearcat is definitely underarmed for the role - the Tigershark has a far more impressive missile loadout, and better armour, too (but it is slower, in fact the Bearcat can outrun most WCP ships except the Vampire). If we're talking space superiority, than the Bearcat is quite comparable to the Panther, but while faster, is generally inferior (especially armour)... and ten metres bigger. Maybe in the aftermath of the Black Lance crisis, with no real urgency to replace war-era fighters still in service, and with new aircraft already on the drawing board, Confed decided simply to cancel its order to reduce the number of types in service? In that case, perhaps existing Bearcats were eventually "dumbed down" with the removal of autoaim, and in this form sold off to the Border Worlds (who already had those few Bearcats that they captured)? It may even be that the manufacturer continued production specifically for the Border Worlds.

Of course, it is equally possible that Bearcats are alive and well out there, perhaps serving in "second-rate" regions, such as the Gemini sector?
 

cff

Kilk'dymga'qith laq Ik'vikvi
Does autoaim help you so much? Personally I always had my problems with autoaim to the point I often actually deactivated it. It fires at the point where the enemy is rater then the point where he will be. This can be annoing for fast nimble enemies that dodge a lot.
 
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