Nycarian Wraith class Subfighter
Wraith class Fleet Defence Fighter / Interceptor
16.0 meters (52.5 feet)
11.1 meters (36.4 feet)
2.6 meters (8.5 feet)
Approximately 90 tonnes.
Heavy, single-layer Neutrium composite. (outer skin) Light titanium fuselage. (frames)
Rarely would one expect such heavy construction on a class of subfighter, but as is the norm for most vessels of the Nycarian fleet - the Wraith appears to be based off recent technological developments pioneered by the Imperial Navy; chief amongst them the use of extremely heavy neutrium materials. Understandably, the Wraith class - relying on speed and mobility - cannot be as heavily armoured as its larger capital-class cousins, the Neureon and Nexus, but it still makes use of the same construction theory. For this reason, the neutrium materials found on the fighter - while very durable, and offering unparalleled protection for a craft of this size - are composites. Typically speaking, most pulse-laser and particle weaponry (not to even mention the Hades cannons...) employed by UEO and Macronesian forces are capable of defeating their respective cousins; be they Lysanders, Broadswords, Spectres or Raptors. Observed in combat against Macronesian forces in 2041, the Wraith class appeared to be virtually impervious to glancing and even some direct hits. More interesting still - and in the same fashion as the larger vessels of the fleet - the neutrium composite plating offers virtually flawless protection against Alliance subduction weaponry, which gives it an unprecedented advantage when fighting Macronesian forces.
Maximum Operational Depth:
"Greater than 30,000 feet."
Primary - 1 annulus fusion core
Primary - neutrium oxide.
Range: Unknown. As seen operating in close support of Nycarian carrier forces and subfighter bases; presumed to be short range.
(Note: This is a trans-supercavitational speed; it is suspected that the fighter is capable of surviving speeds far in excess of this, but the lack of an air-breathing engine limits its performance to conventional, subsonic speeds. UEO R&D efforts have been unable to produce an engine (let alone a hull) capable of enduring more than 400 knots without massively compromising the fighter's structural limitations)
Cost per fighter:
(Based on observed performance)
- Twin oculus pulse cannons.
The Wraith class fighter is a very capable fleet defence fighter; armed with a pair of small, fighter-class energy weapons derived from anulus technology. While no where near the yield of the megaton-range cannons employed by capital ships, the capabilities of the oculus guns found on the Wraith apparently match those of the SGA-14 Hades gattling cannons developed for the UEO SF-37 and 38 Raptor series. The oculus cannons can punch through all known (or thus far observed) fuselage plating on subfighters; typically burning straight through reinforced layers of titanium and often exiting the other side; incinerating most things in its wake. The kinetic weight of the impact alone is usually sufficient to cause irreperable, often terminal damage.
Unsurprisingly, in keeping with their respective nomenclatures related to ancient mythology, both the UEO and Macronesian intelligence services quickly codenamed this weapon "Phoenix"; clearly in reference to the mythical, near-invincible bird symbolic of fire and divinity.
Sophisticated neural network; capable of direct interface with the human brain allowing for neural-feedback control of the fighter by the pilot.
Shadow of the Nether; the Wraith...
One might expect that with so many subfighter concepts inspired by the ideas of flight, birds and in particular, mythology, the name that might immediately be associated with the Nycarian Empire's advanced fleet defence fighter would naturally be the Phoenix - the bird which lives and dies in fire, only to rise from the ashes once more to begin life anew; an apt and poetic analogy given the origins of the Nycarian Empire. Perhaps the only reason then that this fighter did not earn this most apt of names is because of the history it helped create for itself.
During most of the 2030s, shipping and attempts to traverse the seas immediately surrounding south Africa were met with often strange, unexplained and usually mysterious "incidents". The self-imposed embargo and blockade of Africa which the Nycarian government had enforced was ruthless; ships were initially warned to stay clear of these waters and eventually, after continued ignorance of these instructions, more drastic measures were taken to secure the Empire's borders. In Layman's terms; not a single vessel which crossed in to Imperial waters after the year 2032 ever came back. Increasingly, sightings were reported around the sea lanes traversing the greater horn of Africa of unknown, high speed fighters. Contact was often brief - the apparent raiders leaving no trace of who they were or what their intentions were, and for many years; not a single identification was made on these craft. Several Macronesian attempts to send scout patrols in search of these rumoured 'raiders' ended in utter failure; the Captains commanding the patrols remarking that the endeavour was akin to chasing ghosts or shadows. On the odd ocassion where Alliance subfighters had the chance to intercept these mysterious raiders they turned and withdrew at high speed, utterly vanishing before the Alliance even had opportunity to give chase. The UEO, in a less direct investigation of the activities, was happy to let the Macronesian Alliance send increasingly bold patrol missions across what was becoming known as the "South African no-fly zone" and observe their efforts from afar. Eventually, the Alliance navy commited the Tempest class Heavy Cruiser ANS Dechaineaux (at the time this was the largest ship in their fleet) to ingress across the border to hunt down and destroy what - at the time - was believed to be bands of organized pirates. Forty five minutes after crossing the border, all contact with the cruiser was lost, and it was never heard from again. Declared a maritime exclusion zone soon after, the waters off south Africa were never ventured in to again.
Over time, southern African waters were forgotten by shipping lines and supply convoys; posessing no real strategic or (known) resource value and easily avoidable by sailing deeper in to the antarctic circle. No further incidents were recorded between the years of 2035 and 2041, although periodic sightings of the mysterious subfighters continued. Frequently, the craft were seen to shadow convoys which strayed close to the border; but never did they engage outside of their own territory. Some vague visual characteristics were catalogued over the years by freighter captains, but the identity and exact classification of the fighters remained a mystery. It was by 2038 that they were commonly referred to, and known as, Wraiths.
(It's been subsequenty revealed that Nycarian pilots also refer to their fighters by this name; whether this be by coincidence or design isn't clear.)
In 2041, a launch belonging to the UEO Atlantis DSV was attacked and sunk by raiders in the North Atlantic. The attack was apparently unprovoked, and orchestrated by unknown forces. A chance meeting with a Neureon class cruiser not long after suggested some degree of Nycarian involvement in the affair, but there is speculation over how much responsibility the Imperial Fleet actually bears for the attack; at the time, mercenary forces operating their own subfighters and answering to the Macronesian Alliance were confirmed to be operating in the vicinity of the attack, and subsequent revelations that South African rebels had obtained Nycarian military hardware had led many to question who was responsible for the loss of this launch. The recovery of the craft's crew - alive and relatively unharmed - ensured that there was no lasting political damage, and indeed the Nycarian fleet itself bears some responsibility for the safe rescue of these officers from mercenary internment. This brief cooperation between the Atlantis and the battlegroup of the RNV Narcissis did not involve any Imperial subfighter forces, and it wasn't until several months later that the Wraith was confirmed to belong to the Nycarian fleet during events surrounding the Rising Thunder crisis in the Pacific.
Wraith class subfighters were observed in limited combat during the Battle of Pearl Harbor where Nycarian forces battled one another in the shadow of the Macronesian Alliance's assault to take the islands of Hawaii from the UEO. Present only in small numbers - perhaps two squadrons at best - their appearence nonetheless confirmed the origins of the mysterious craft. A month later during a failed Alliance assault against the Drakensberg Line - previously known as the South African No-Fly Zone - the Wraith made an impressive appearence where, acting virtually alone against an entire Alliance battlefleet, they were able to totally rout the attack without any considerable losses. Of all the Nycarian forces present during the brief, but one-sided engagement, 90% of them were subfighters; with only two Neureons and a single Nexus making an appearence during the battle. (It should be noted that the Nexus did not appear until the Alliance fleet had been routed)
Of all the Macronesian fighter divisions present during the battle, only the elite 188th squadron commanded by Captain William Bishop was able to engage a squadron of Wraiths and achieve any success. The 188th's performance, while impressive by any standard, was not enough to tip the scale of the engagement, and they were soon forced to withdraw along with the remnants of the Macronesian fleet.
The Wraith's precise capabilities still remain as much a mystery as the fighter itself did during the 2030s. What little information there is available comes as a result of what was provided by Nycarian Viceroy Narius Rhodes to the UEO Navy. This information was limited; mostly outlining the technology and some of the features which make the fighter unique. Perhaps foremost amongst these abilities is the fighter's unique system of control which does much to infer that Nycarian computer technology is extremely advanced - being on par with (and in some manner, exceeding) the neural, biological computer AIs aboard UEO DSVs. The first thing one will note when looking at a Wraith is that it posesses no cockpit canopy; immediately reducing the vulnerability of the fighter tenfold. The pilot sits within the confines of a small, roughly-elipse shaped capsule, and the 'canopy' commonly, and incorrectly cited on the fighter is nothing more than a particularly reinforced covering of Neutrium-A battleplate which opens only for access to the cockpit. Once inside the fighter, the pilot is able to interface directly with the subfighter's computer systems through a form of neural magnetic resonance interface and control the fighter purely by act of thought. The technology, while impressive, is not impossible to grasp when considering the fact that the ability to read and analyse brainwave activity is already commonplace in medicine, and the system could very well be likened to a sophisticated form of MRI.
Once interfaced with the fighter (aided by the stimulation of the brain through systems inherent to the cockpit itself) the world outside is displayed on the inside of the cockpit capsule's surfaces by manner of holographic projection, providing the pilot with visibility and situational awareness far exceeding that which the pilot of a 'glass-canopy' fighter would otherwise experience. Concerns were raised by some over the possible medical implications such a system may have on the pilot - neurologists perhaps validly asking the question of whether or not the interface could cause damage to the brain or nervous system. However, as pointed out by Viceroy Rhodes, the connection works only one way - the interface between the computer and the pilot, and the resulting transfer of brainwave activity to the computer being no different from electrodes used to monitor neural frequencies in hospitals all over the planet. It was conceded however, that the pyschological condition of Wraith pilots is something which is vigilantly monitored and conditioned, not because of the physical side effects, but rather the mental effects that come from being exposed to a hyper-real environment which can leave more inexperienced pilots experiencing anxiety, vertigo and even extreme episodes of claustrophobia culminating in cold fever and the manifestation of other symptoms one might expect from direct exposure to such an environment. The later raises questions about the level of realism the interface is able to provide in portraying the unforgiving environment under the sea in which the Wraith operates.
(To consider; imagine being imersed in a world of perfect darkness, where, in every direction you look, you are faced with a seemingly endless, literally freezing abyss where every sound made travels and echoes close to 5 times faster than it would in air... This is a common experience for Wraith pilots, and this experience does not even account for the added chaos and uncertainty of battle...)
Wraith pilots are usually jaded, and often grim individuals who frequently lead isolated, 'distanced' lives. Rotation of fighter personnel is far more frequent in the Imperial Fleet than one would expect from the UEO or Alliance due to these concerns. Not every pilot who enlists will serve a full career, and some will not even complete training; often finding the experience far more vivid and chilling than they are capable of dealing with. Because of the direct neural control of the fighter, an untrained pilot who is unable to control these fears risks losing control of the craft - which, needless to say, can result in dire consequences. Because of what they endure, and the 'haunted' nature of these individuals, it's not uncommon for them to be referred to by their comrades in the fleet as "Wraiths" themselves. The term embodies far more than just the craft itself; for Nycarians, the term "Wraith" refers to a dark, often macabre state of 'being' which is as much revered as it is reviled. (Reviled in the sense that no one envies the lives which these pilots lead) For those who volunteer themselves for such service; there is no higher level of respect, and the name they bear is as much a badge of honour as it is a curse. Indeed, a true "ace" in the Nycarian navy is not one who can simply kill a faceless opponent during battle, but a pilot who can simply maintain their sanity while doing so. Arguably, the increased mental discipline that comes from being Nycarian to begin with offers them an advantage in this situation, and it's questionable if any UEO or Alliance pilot with even a shred of humanity in them could carry out the job at all.
The nature of the Imperial Subfighter corps is admitedly dark, and it is reflected in their sub-cultural order in similar overtures. While the standard Imperial Officer's naval dress is a mandarin-styled, knee-length black velvet tunic embroidered in the finest of gold lace... one can easily spot a Wraith pilot by their stark, all-black uniforms, characterized in particular by knee-high riding boots and cavalry trousers. They frequently represent not only the darkest side of the Imperial Military, but without doubt - the most elite. Their demeanour will often seem cold, and seldom will one feel welcome if they enter the inner sanctum of their ranks without invitation. But one should not mistake their cold demeanour for disrespect; for these pilots serve for a love of their country and its ideals, and would gladly give everything to that end.
The Wraith is also an incredibly mobile fighter; being easily the fastest craft thus far seen on or beneath the waves. Capable of an astounding 400 knots, it represents a level of technical achievement not yet matched by the world's navies. Physically speaking, the fighter is capable of withstanding supercavitational velocities - something which would ordinarily destroy a fighter hull due to the extreme pressures involved. Despite this, the fighter does not actually cross the supercavitational barrier; presumably a limitation of its engines which are still water-breathing. It's ability to nonetheless 'ride' this trans-supercavitational wake gives it unprecedented maneuverability for an underwater craft. (Which is unusual for a subfighter at such extremely high speeds.) While fast, some question the operational range of the fighter - citing that they have seldom been seen operating far from major Naval installations which surround the Drakensberg line, or the fleet's expeditionary carrier forces. This has done much to categorize the Wraith as a fleet defence fighter and short-range interceptor used primarily for maritime interdiction and close support of larger forces; it is not a strike fighter, and hasn't been seen to be used in such a manner to this point.
Throughout the Nycarian Fleet, Wraiths are believed to operate primarily from the Nexus class battleship, although their appearence amongst other battlegroups centered on the Neureon class would at least suggest the existence of a smaller carrier in service to the Nycarian navy. (It is known that the Neureon class is not a carrier, and as such cannot support subfighters directly.) This carrier - if it exists - has yet to be seen by UEO or Macronesian forces, and is likely to stay well behind a battleline where it is removed from direct confrontation with enemy forces.