The William Howard Taft-class Strike Carrier is the first of the ‘Highpoint Hybrids’, a nickname for the unique designs of ship thought up and build at the USEF base at Ursa Minor. Since humans developed the ability to field small fightercraft in deep space, carrier ships had always been large and lightly armed. Their size made them slow and vulnerable.
This new class of ship was designed to improve upon these flaws. The Taft is as fast as the average cruiser and thus able to react much more quickly than traditional carriers. It also packs armament worthy of a warship, with long and medium range anti-ship weaponry. This means commanders can defend themselves without the need for a cavalcade of escort ships.
All of these enhancements meant a compromise on fighter capacity. The Taft can deploy just six craft of it’s own; four from inner hangar bays and two from the forward-facing ‘ready positions’. However, USEF commanders value quality over quantity; only the sharpest, slickest Scimitar pilots are assigned Strike Carrier duty. Additionally, carrying only six fighters means they can be deployed and collected in short order. This increases the Taft’s ability to react to changing combat situations quickly.
The first model was brought into service soon after the tragedy at Freya VII. The USS Taft led the American fightback, using it’s speed and adaptability to seek and destroy Wun’Tux raiding parties in human space. These counterstrikes cumulated in the assault on Dronta VIII; in which the three strike carriers and a number of support ships worked together to destroy and dismantle the galaxy’s largest slave market.
- USS Ranger – the first of the class to be destroyed by the Wun’Tux; lost to a cleverly prepared trap.
Crew: 110 [including flight crews]
Role: Battlefield command, independent operation
Manufacturer: Lockheed-Boeing SpaceWorks
> 2 x Photonic Cannons [underslung turrets]
> 2 x Fragmentation Cannon [belly turrets]
> 4 x “Starsnipe” Flak Turrets
Special: Fighter Bay [default load: 6 x X-33 Space Superiority Fighters]
The American military were the first to field the ‘strike fighter’ class of vessel: the smallest ever ship design capable of Faster-Than-Light jumps. Strike fighters only became possible at the advent of the Fourth Age and all of the miniaturisation of jump technology that came with it.
The forward thinking tacticians and designers at Highpoint Base had seen the advantages of such a theoretical craft long before production was possible. So when the technology was finally possible, blueprints were of the highest priority. The final design of the X-39 ‘Tomcat’ was an impressive cocktail of dangerous technology, featuring heavy shields, a dual core computer matrix and the ability to equip mid-range missiles. The first squadrons were pressed straight into service with the USEF. Tomcats’ epitomise the new thinking of Highpoint.
As a break from the traditions of large, rigid formations of fighter groups, Tomcats most often operate alone. Highly trained pilots learn to rely on their wits and technology to against superior odds and more numerous opponents. These pilots are usually chosen from battle hardened X-33 squadrons, aces and veterans alike. Tomcats are regarded as quite the asset, not risked on anything but the most vital of missions. For an enemy pilot to take one down in combat is the quite the feather in their cap, amongst none more than the dreaded Wun’Tux Twin Fangs.
Role: Long-range tactical strike fighter
– 2 x Photon Blasters
– 6 x Missile Hardpoints
FTL: Capable (Short jumps]
“First in, last out, last standing.”
– Frank “Greeneyes” Jackson, Knighthawks XO.
Carrier Fighter Squadron 177 (AKA The Knighthawks) are one of the most famous fighter forces of the United States Expeditionary Force (USEF), respected by allies and feared by damned near everyone else.
Pictured above: ships of the Knighthawks in ready positions on a strike carrier.
Before the First Age, the Knighthawks served in the skirmishes between human factions around Sol. As humans took to the stars and met hostile races like the Wun’Tux, the American military realised it needed new tactics and new ideas in order to remain cutting edge and competitive. The secret base at Ursa Minor was established to develop these ideas and nurture such a culture. The Knighthawks were initially deployed as the base’s garrison fighter squadron but their obvious dedication and discipline put them to the front of the queue for deployment on the new Strike Carriers.
The Knighthawks fly X-33 Scimitars, a modern space superiority fighter. Incapable of Faster-Than-Light travel, the Scimitar necessitates a carrier. The pilots live, sleep and eat together in the confines of the carrier craft, forming the tightest-knit of groups. Scimitar jockeys live in direct competition with pilots of the FTL-capable strike fighters, each striving to out perform the other.
The Knighthawks served with distinction in the US-led fightback against the Wun’Tux, operating off of the new Highpoint carriers. And when they lost their long serving Wing Commander to the reptilian slave mines, their hatred of the Wun’Tux was sealed.
Pictured above: A four-ship lance of Knighthawks in formation, the rearmost in the custom colours befitting an ace.