Sky Reavers – Sahaquiel
Allied with the Mechanicus in their efforts to creating and testing the Talaria from the strange relic found on Mars, the Sky Reavers received special dispensation to create their own version of the superiority fighter. Among the burning lava-flows of Mezoa they more closely adapted the Sahaquiel variant from it's original design, creating a truly dangerous superiority fighter feared amongst the enemies of Man.
With the Sky Reavers help in the initial Talaria development it was decided that a pact and a project would be made in conjunction with the Mechanicus. From the ranks of the Divisio Artisan, Fabricator-Architect Diagus Setp-Unum were dispatched along with a cadre of Forge Lords and Cybersmiths to the Forge World of Mezoa. From their fiery new workplace on Mezoa the foundries worked night and day to churn out the raw materials needed to feed the cadre as they went about iterating on the already impressive chassis of the Talaria. Going through several different design branches headed up by a different Forge Lord the end result could have been very different had the Techmarines and Commanders of the XIIIth decided otherwise.
The project in fact was rather fruitful for the Sky Reavers, seeing many of the alternate designs and functional elements picked up later on despite their rejection, the main result however, was a league above the parts of the others.
Though limited in it's testing phase it had a remarkable effect on both the observing body and shockingly enough, for the test pilot as well. Over the lava plains of Mezoa's southern hemisphere was a hostile ground of ash-choked sky and volcanic thundertorms Sky Reaver pilots would bring the machines to the very edge of their capabilities. With several of the previous tests ending in failure of the machines involved it had proven itself a harsh and unforgiving regime that worried the Forge Lords with it's extremity. As the final set of test flights spooled up for the day the pilot, Sliknos Barra, would make legion history, a fact which his fellow pilots wouldn't forget for a long time.
As the testing of the final design commenced, Barra engaged the plane in a number of modes, performing aerial acrobatics expected of the Legion's name, it was however, during the final set of manoeuvres that he would black out. A feat that had never happened before, the Forge Lords, bolstered by the advice of the Apothecaries, had assumed that a transhuman pilot would never fully succumb to the effects of high-G movements. They had assumed wrong. For a short while during a violent turn Sliknos blacked out, leaving the aircraft in free fall. Within moments he had recovered and continued on with the test, not saying a word to the observation crews. Though his companions in the Legion might jest it proved to be a new problem to be considered and overcome by the design team, that even the mighty circulatory system of an Astartes would have it's limitations. After several more iterations the final candidate was chosen by Kyösti Salminen of the Second Wing, sent to judge the designs based on the every-evolving frontier of the Great Crusade at the time. It was by his experienced hand then that the Sahaquiel was chosen, having overcome it's issues and risen amongst the others as a veritable master of the skies.
From here on Sahaquiel's were produced and allotted to the various Wings of the Legion, though always in small numbers, in the hands of any Sky Reaver it dominated the sky and space of any planet it was deployed to. Several traditions have emerged as a result of the culture of both Maaparatiisi and the Imperium intermingling throughout the Great Crusade. One of those derived by Sahaquiel pilots is the 'Crusades' they held after campaigns. Named in imitation of the Great Crusade pilots would drink specialised alcohol that could even effect astartes physiology. Each pilot would attempt to drink amounts equal to the amount of kills they had scored together. At the end of the night before everyone retired they would drink a full flagon for every comrade that had been killed in the squadron. This final drink of course was never turned down, no matter the marine's state prior to it. Some also chose to remember the fallen by having an ale mug with their initials or callsign painted onto their craft to forever remember them. Alongside some of the other traditions involving personal coins, a pilot's naming ceremony and the burning of large instruments, the pilots of the Sky Reavers have developed a distinct sub-culture all of their own.
Although distinctly the same profile as the Talaria the Sahaquiel variant has a plethora of improved elements to help raise it above even it's predecessor in dogfighting capability. With the advent of improved missiles, thrusters and alternate weapon loadouts the craft has been optimized as much as possible for aerial and space combat. The largest and most obvious difference is a set of 2 new thrusters placed under the air intakes. While it may seem counterproductive that they face forwards, the thrust they output can help perform feats of aerial acrobatics thought impossible before. They, along with the improved manoeuvring thruster nozzles are used to great effect in void combat, helping dodge enemy fighters and ship point defence systems with ease. In terms of weaponry a switch to fixed heavy lascannons and new missile types accentuate it's abilities against both swarms and harder single targets. Coupled with a direct-link harness system able to monitor the pilot's health and adjust blood-flow, the Sahaquiel has been adapted into it's 'Superiority' well, opposed to the Dune Serpents relative departure from the original design.
In keeping with the superiority class of the aircraft it has had a major redesign of it's main weaponry, that, contrary to the other two variants, leaves more space within the body, rather than taking more up. In addition the new missile types -able to be mounted within the body and on wing pylons- allow for an array of enemy targets to be harried and destroyed. Listed below are weapons that have either been changed from the base Talaria design, or new weaponry that can be mounted. All base Talaria munitions can still be mounted.
3 Internal Bays
4 External Pylons
Strix Missile Pod
Changing out the laser destroyer array brings a two-fold change to the craft that the Sky Reavers were in favour of. First, it's removal and replacement with a lighter system allowed for the craft to gain a large boost of speed, which in turn would better serve it's role in combat. Second, was the replacement system; a set of twin-linked 'Arachnus' heavy lascannons. The rapid rate of fire of cycling smaller lascannons was deemed a waste of energy by the XIIIths Techmarines. They did this knowing that their pilots would more reliably be able to score single-hit-kills with the more powerful system easily overcoming the loss of the gimbal mounting system. Affixed to the fuselage on either side of the cockpit, they are angled inwards slightly to converge at a set point in front of the aircraft. This point angle is usually adjusted to the pilots specifications by maintenance crew to person preference.
Thanks to the hardened nature of both the Stiletto missile and it's short range, the weapons system fits snugly into the Sky Reaver doctrine. The close-range guidance needed is something easily achievable thanks to the expertise imbued within the XIIIth Legion pilots training. Able to overpenetrate smaller single fighters and even cause significant damage if aimed well at larger targets such as dropships and bombers, it is an esoteric but effective weapon.
With a pair taking up an entire pylon to themselves or replacing an entire internal missile bay with their bulk the Strix missile pod contains a storm of firepower waiting to be unleashed on the enemy. Within the unassuming oblong structure are a myriad of small guided missiles that can be fired off in volleys to distract, deny or kill enemies with a wave of flak and high explosive firepower. With each pod able to fire off several volleys before expending itself it is a highly effective weapon when it comes to overwhelming their defences, or fending off hordes of smaller flyers often seen among xeno ranks.
The obvious change between the basic Talaria design and the Sahaquiel to a casual observer would be the addition of two thrust-vectoring nozzles mounted just under the air intakes. They would be even more surprised then that not only do they add to a pilot's repertoire of combat manoeuvres, but they, along with the original engines are now capable of vertical take-off and landing as well. Able to turn all 4 sets of engine nozzles downwards they can allow the craft to take off and land from virtually any clear surface, doing away with the need for large runways. In terms of tactical flexibility this alone gives the Sahaquiel another edge over the Talaria, but in tandem with the addition of more powerful manoeuvring thruster jets it's effectiveness in both atmospheric and void dogfighting is second to none.
The ability to mount and properly supply these upgrades with sufficient power does mean that a pilot has to watch their energy usage far more closely than before, with rapid use of multiple engines needing to be carefully looked after. In some cases the additional engines have made the aircraft a downright unruly aircraft to use effectively, with the sheer number of systems needing attention almost impossible, for mortals at least. While in atmosphere the secondary engines can close their nozzles to avoid intake of unwanted objects, and quickly activated by redirecting engine power through their outputs instead. In void warfare the secondary engines do a far better job of making themselves useful. The ability to rapidly accelerate, decelerate and change direction are key to winning. And with the main engines, forward engines and manoeuvring thrusters, the Sahaquiel has all 3 in spades
Type: Air/Void Supremacy Fighter
Vehicle Name: Sahaquiel
Forge World of Origin: Mezoa
Powerplant: 2x Alta-VII 'Vengeance' Plasma Reactor
Empty Weight: 28.5 tonnes
Loaded Weight: 44.2 tones
Operational Ceiling: N/A
Max Speed: 3395kmh (2109mph/Mach 2.75)
Aerlong's Grace – Lieutenant Barrik Varj
Motus Mort – Captain Darrell Torka
A rather odd weapon found amongst the arsenal of Sky Reaver pilots, the Stiletto is a unique weapon designed to cause as much damage as possible with minimal use of explosive force. With it's hardened nose cone it punches it's way into targets with impunity at short range.
Seen as something of a backwards weapon by those Forge Lords who initially helped create the Sahaquiel, the Stiletto is a small missile in comparison to those normally mounted in Imperial aircraft. With a large portion of the body taken up purely by a highly concentrated promethium engine it leaves little in the way of room for the warhead and targeting systems, but that is precisely the specialised role it is meant to fill. With machine-spirit linked to the targeting systems of the Sahaquiel, the missile doesn't rely on any complex internal machinery to acquire an enemy. Though this and it's small engine leave the weapon relegated to metaphorical knight-fighting range in aircraft terms, it's main method of damage is the hardened diamantine tipped nose cone. Where other missiles are meant to scatter flak or create small explosions to knock enemies from the sky, the Stiletto is designed to penetrate a target as deeply as possible, destroying as much internal structure as it can in the process.
Though it's limited range hinders it, a good Sky Reaver pilot can easily fire one of these missile at the right time to over-penetrate a target (passing through it completely) almost guaranteeing a kill while doing so. Though the targeting demands a pilot be within a short distance of the target, and maintain lock for a confirmed hit, the short size of the missile and the ability to hurt even large bombers and landers has more than made up for it's shortcomings.
Weight: 0.5 tonne
Engine: Hydris XII Promethium Jet
Targeting Cogitator: Unknown
Maximum Speed: Mach 2.5 ( 3087kmh/1918mph)
Maximum Range: 5km (323 miles)
Payload: Diamantine Armoured Warhead
Strix Missile Pod
The answer to the question of 'how many missiles is too much?' the Strix missile pod is a by-product of the project that created the Sahaquiel, who, while not creating the aircraft, instead made a weapon capable of tearing hordes of smaller flyers and craft from the sky in one volley.
Built in containers with row after row of missiles, the Strix is a relatively simple weapon when viewed from the outside. With well over several dozen small missiles loaded into them they are able to be mounted on a number of hardpoints on aircraft or in the case of the Talaria and Sahaquiel, two can be fitted within a single internal missile bay. They are primarliy armed with either high-explosive warheads, flakk warheads or a mixture of the two for use against air targets. To limit both ammo expenditure and as to not overwhelm the pilot with the sheer amount of firepower that might possibly damage himself, they are mainly fired in volleys that use up around a quarter of the box at a time.
The real power, however, lies within the pods themselves. Within each pod are several small cogitator units that link up to the aircraft' own machine-spirit, giving it a boost in it's capabilities. It is this boost that allows the missiles to target up to a dozen enemies per volley and be able to hit them reliably, with the accuracy only going up the more pods are connected. Mainly for use as an air-to-air weapon the Strix can be used against ground targets but it's accuracy is diminished somewhat. This is due to the cogitator-minds penchant of becoming confused with sensor returns from a variety of objects detected on the ground.
The significant issue with such large pods is a large increase in weight and a lack of heavy anti-air firepower. It is for this reason that the Strix is seldomly used alone as a pilot and the maintenance crews would make sure to account for enemy capabilities when assigning weapons. All the Strix missiles in the world might have no effect when the enemy is too heavily armoured to be damaged by them, or they could prove too manoeuvrable for the pilot should he be laden down with half a dozen missile pods slowing his speed considerably.