Boeing-Northrop F-64 Osprey
Air Superiority Fighter
By Jason Weiser
The F-64 Osprey is a multirole fighter optimized for the air superiority mission. However, the aircraft can perform credibly in the ground attack and anti-satellite roles. The fighter is in service with both the USAF and RTAF, as well as being delivered in limited numbers to Tanstaafl on Aurore, It is a capable fighter utilizing many advanced technologies and is one of the most agile atmospheric fighters in the world today. It has held its own against Kafer opponents in recent fighting on Beta Canum.
Thanks to James Boschma, Dan Hebditch, Byrn Monnery and David Gillion for their advice and feedback!
Captain Mark Heller was leading yet another boring four-ship patrol over the Southern “K-Zone” on the German Continent. It had been a grueling 4 hours, with one tanking already from a KC-74 and another due before RTB. He worked the kinks out of his neck muscles yet again and looked blankly at his Passive EM display, and at the AWACS drone repeater on his two main MFDs.
Suddenly, the Air Intercept light began to blink in the upper right corner of his Right MFD, the one with the datalink display from the AWACS drone.
Heller looked at the display, and blinked once, and the display gave a course and speed for a bogie, whatever it was, it was flying low, fast and not squawking IFF. Meanwhile, the aircraft’s Combat Management system was working out a rough intercept heading for the aircraft and was calculating a NPI based on fuel, weapons load and speeds of both target and aircraft, it was data linking this information to the other aircraft in the flight and directing the autopilot to change course and speed to comply with the system’s directions, of course, a simple word from the pilot and that could be overridden.
Heller keyed his mike with another blink and simply said “Go Spread”, which sent the formation into a Combat Spread or “finger four formation”.
The response was instantaneous; each of the other aircraft in the formation answered:
The Ospreys, with their forward swept STOL wings and their and fuselage lifting bodies looking more like something that was poured into shape whole rather than built. Their forward mounted canards, fluttering as they made millions of adjustments called for by the Flight Management System, glided seamlessly into the new formation.
In each of the aircraft, the pair of blips stayed low, and fast, heading straight for a German Panzer Brigade cantonment, and no IFF squawk. It smelled to Heller like Kafers, probably a pair of “Flying Roach” VTOL ground attack aircraft. They were pretty maneuverable, especially for an aircraft of its type, and worse, a hit by its 4cm Mass Driver was enough to blow just about any Human design from the sky. The only real advantage the Ospreys had was speed and better air-to-air missiles. One didn’t get into a close range gun fight with a “Flying Roach”.
Suddenly, a bleating noise came from his flight helmet and the bogie symbol turned to BANDIT. Heller’s aircraft had also picked up Kafer UV band targeting lasers for Kafer guided bombs and their “Smoker” ATGMs.
Heller waggled his wings, then broke formation and dove after the Kafers, his flight followed, all in a 30-degree dive staggered at close 250-meter intervals, but soon they caught up and again spread out in a classic “finger four” as they continued on in a shallow dive to 3500 meters. A growling noise and a reticule appeared in Heller’s HMS. It was a speck, ringed in a red reticule, a SHOOT prompt appearing his field of vision. Heller said “Lock target” and the reticule flashed twice, and the growling in the helmet became steadier. Heller then said “Shoot”, and a AIM-95 Scimitar leapt off the right inboard wing rail, a pencil thin smoke trail in it’s wake from its smokeless low vis motor. The other pilots did likewise, with each Kafer target being engaged by one missile each from two aircraft.
The AIM-95 had been recently programmed with all available data on Kafer aircraft and atmospheric capable spacecraft. The weapon had been set for Passive Homing mode before firing, which happened to be the default setting for the missile, but the weapon had the ability to switch modes before going terminal to defeat the ECM from the target. The Kafers were, so far, so intent on setting up for their attack runs on the German cantonment, that they failed to switch on their active ECM, which might have defeated the incoming Scimitars, but as the weapons acquired the targets, and then went into terminal optical homing mode, and matched the optical picture with the onboard database, they moved into optimal range and position for detonation of their High Explosive Proximity Fused warheads...detonation was within milliseconds of terminal acquisition. Both “Flying Roaches” exploded, but while both were spinning in, they were, as a testament to their alien designers, not breaking up.
Suddenly, the TWRS lit up like a Christmas tree, all sorts of horns and buzzers went off, Two Kafer SAMs, with more following, were launched from the forest below, the Ospreys were in the SAM NEZ and were massively vulnerable with only their counter-measures to protect them. “Damn Kafers,” Heller swore, “The goddamn bugs are getting smarter every day”. The Ospreys scattered, pulling massive Gs as the SAMs raced upwards to intercept.
The F-64 Osprey was developed in response to a RFP submitted by the Department of Defense for a new fighter to replace the ageing F-40 Cheetah. It was hoped that the aircraft would also attract many export sales, as it was known that the RAF was looking for a replacement for its Cheetahs. While the UK MoD preferred that the Cheetah’s replacement be a domestic design, there was quite a groundswell in the RAF brass to buy American, so some interest was taken in the selection process for the new American fighter.
The aircraft was meant to be a quantum leap over the old, conventionally designed Cheetah, and was meant to showcase the very state of the art when it came to American aerospace design. Congress also mandated, much to the horror of many USAF brass, that the French aerospace firm Dinant-Aerospatale was to be allowed to submit a modified version of its Faucon II Air Superiority/Attack aircraft, a mature design in service with the Armée de l'Air but built primarily for export. (The horror was a result of the usual US military procurement disease, NIH (Not Invented Here) syndrome).
Meanwhile, the US Navy was looking for something to replace the obsolescent Hornet II in the Fighter/Attack mission, and soon joined the RFP flyoff that resulted in the Osprey, a development that led to some delivery delays as the orders for the aircraft went from just 1000 over the next 5 years for just the USAF, to 3000 in the next 5 years for the Air Force and the Navy.
The Osprey wasn’t just meant to be a fighter but a showcase, a showcase of the heights of technology that could produce an aircraft that was deadly in both the BVR and close-in environment. It was to have a good STOL capability and exceptional agility and performance characteristics. The design team put a lot of effort into making the fighter a cutting edge design in the close quarter dogfight as well as being a good missile platform. In the race to get the plane into operation an older sensor suite was chosen than those on other modern fighters, however as USAF doctrine placed great reliance on off-board sensors this was seen as an acceptable measure.
The team at Boeing-Northrop delivered. The aircraft they delivered as a prototype to Wright-Patterson AFB on July 17th, 2289 was a masterpiece. Sadly, design issues meant it missed the UK MoD fly off that would eventually lead to the development of the Fury. But, the Aerospace Force couldn’t help but be impressed.
The aircraft had twin engines of hyperfan technology, and with its lifting body and small STOL wings, the aircraft had a lot in the way of lift. It was a large aircraft for its intended mission, but it was extremely agile, due to it’s RSRT (Responsive Skeletal Reinforcement Technology) which made it possible to make slight alterations to suit various situations to minimize drag and maximize available thrust and lift. With its forward swept wings and front mounted canards, as well as its controlled instability, the aircraft was agile enough to match any other comparable fighter.
The aircraft had provisions for 8 SRAAM and 8 MRAAMs in low-observable wing and fuselage-mounted hardpoints (the fuselage hardpoints had a three round internal carousel arrangement. Also included was a 20mm M73 VRF Mass Driver. It was felt to be more reliable and a more mature technology than a laser and with no explosive ammo to potentially explode or cook off in the aftermath of battle damage or a crash, it was to add to the aircraft’s survivability. The SRAAM and MRRAM points could be converted easily with a multi-tool and twenty minutes of time to convert into hardpoints suitable for a wide variety of ordinance, but one did give up some stealth for the conversion.
The Osprey was subjected to a three-year prototype and development process mainly due to Congressional concern at the price tag. Many in Congress were reluctant to support such a costly program as the Osprey. However the USAF placed pressure on key members of Congress, while Boeing-Northrop also mounted a huge lobbying effort as well. Both groups used the procurement by the Fuerza Aeroespacial Mexicana, of the Faucon II as the major point of their case, pointing to the bloc obsolescence of the Cheetah. Funding was allocated to bring the Osprey into squadron service by 2295, but even so there was a 45-hour floor fight and the funding bill only passed by one vote.
The first F-64 was delivered to the 23rd Fighter Wing at Tyndall AFSB on March 3rd, 2293. She was a single seat model, S/N 445346, with her was 4 B model dual seat trainers meant to begin the conversion training from the squadrons Cheetahs. Delivery of the initial order of 230 was on-schedule, and the aircraft had little, if any real teething problems, mostly of the software kind.
In squadron service, the aircraft proved to be an easier to handle than its radical construction suggested. It simulation tests it could do things the Faucon II, being a much more conventional design, couldn’t match in close combat. It was becoming embarrassing for Dinant-Aerospatiale to see an American upstart "outperform" their best export, even in only one area of combat flying, and the FAM protested loudly. When the US Navy began to accept the delivery of the Osprey two years later in 2295, the Mexicans demanded all kinds of concessions from Dinant-Aerospatiale, from discounts on future orders of the Faucon II, to demands that Dinant provide upgrades for the entire Mexican fleet to the Faucon III standard already in service with the Armée de l’Air squadrons. The French at first balked, but then acquiesced when the Mexicans began to woo German aircraft manufacturers. It was costly for both France and Mexico, but at the end of three years, both finally produced a fighter for the Mexicans that could at least compete with the Osprey in close combat.
In 2298, the Republic of Texas Air Force was looking for something to replace its own mix of Cheetahs and British Hunters in the multirole squadrons. They ran a fly off between the Osprey, German Ohu and the Faucon III. The Osprey won mainly because it was somewhat cheaper than its competitors, thanks to Boeing-Northrop offering the Texans a sweetheart deal, and it was slightly superior in the close combat air battle likely in the skies over the Rio Grande. Texas eventually purchased 165 airframes and seems happy with the design, and has become a major partner in the eventual development of the Strike Osprey.
One of the largest problems the Osprey had was an initially poor safety record. The fighter was unlike anything a lot of pilots had flown and it had a propensity to react badly when mishandled at the edge of her flight envelope. A lot of older pilots, used to the more sedate, rock-steady Cheetah, got complacent and paid with their lives in the Osprey. Six pilots died before the training syllabus for transition from Cheetahs to Ospreys was tightened and the number of required flying hours doubled, this served to create a bottleneck of Ospreys at the depot, but within 2 years the snags were worked out. By 2296, the aircraft was considered one of the safer in the US inventory, with a remarkable safety record has marked the Navy’s use of the Osprey, the Navy having learned from the Aerospace Force’s experience.
In a another move to drum up potential sales, four B model Ospreys were donated to the Tanstaafl Air Force in 2300, but, the high technological demands of the Osprey were a too much for the Tanstaaflians and only one example is still flying, as two are grounded for various maintenance issues and one was lost in 2301 from a Snapfire hit.
The first US Ospreys to see combat were in 2302, when the 18th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing was deployed from their base at Hingman ASFB on Tirane to a forward base on Beta Canum under British command. The Osprey did well and had surprising rough field performance, while it lacked the Fury's multirole ground attack capability; it excelled in providing top cover. There was few Hotels left for the Ospreys to prey on but their agility proved very handy tackling slow and low Kafer ground attack aircraft. Like all other Human aircraft, almost all of the 18th TFS’ losses were to Kafer air defenses. By the beginning of the new year, the 18th had 12 airframes left, and was rotated back to the American arm having been replaced by an Earth based squadron from the US Navy, VF-177 off of the carrier USS America.
Other than the obvious plans to upengine the aircraft and improve avionics as time and technology allow, the only plans for future development of the Osprey is to develop a dedicated strike version that would be a 2-seater able to deliver ordinance, while giving up little of its exceptional maneuverability and power. Hopes are that such a variant would be easy to produce and a prototype is in the testing phases now at Wright-Patterson. Projected entry into squadron service is early 2305.
Armor: All Faces: 2
Armament: 1 M73 20mm VRF Mass Driver, 8 Missile/Bomb hardpoints
Sensor Range: 350km (+3)
Max Speed: 2.478 kph
Cruising Speed: 1,982 kph
Combat Movement: 4,956m
Endurance: 4 hours
Price: MLv 3.5
AIM-95 Scimitar SRAAM
Type: Short Range Air-to-Air Missile
Missile Weight: 40kg
Range: 33 km
Homing Value: 32
Attack Angle: Direct
Price: Lv 3430
AIM-104 Stiletto MRAAM
Type: Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile
Missile Weight: 79kg
Range: 550 km
Homing Value: 32
Attack Angle: Direct
Price: Lv 3859
M73 20mm VRF Mass Driver
Type: Vehicle Mounted VRF Mass Driver
Action: Single Shot or Bursts
Ammunition: 20x20mm Dart
Muzzle Velocity: 2500mps
Magazine: 10,000 round hoppers
Magazine Weight: 1,362 kg
Aimed Fire Range: 5,000m
Area Fire Range: 3,000m
Area Fire Burst: 20 (AFV=2)
DP Value: 9
Price: Lv 10,000, Lv 2400 for 10,000 round hopper.