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Author Topic: Fighter of the Week, Issue #089 - MSF-42 Bluehawk/ASF-23 Protector  (Read 6178 times)

Trace Coburn

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MSF-42 Bluehawk/ASF-23 Protector - Handbook: Major Periphery States

  All proposed fan-variants should be posted in the corresponding “FotW Workshop” thread.


  As a self-confessed Culture Vulture who rarely gets to actually play any BattleTech-related game, I’m often dismayed by the degree to which TROs and stats-blocks, rather than extensive sourcebooks, drive the evolution of the BattleTech franchise and its universe.  Apparently the majority of BT fans do not fall into the same category, because according to TPTBs TROs are far and away the biggest sellers in the BT range, and in order to meet their demand for new and interesting ways to blow each other up, even the Handbook series (each meant to be a definitive look at its respective faction(s) in terms of history and culture) include some elements of ‘crunch’.  With five factions to cover in almost the same pagecount its counterparts devoted to one, I find this focus especially lamentable in the case of Handbook: Major Periphery States, since it further reduces the room each faction gets for its fluff, but at the end of the day BattleTech is a war-game first and a sci-fi space-opera franchise second, so my free opinion is worth exactly what you paid for it.  :D
  On the other side of the coin, of course, there is the factor that looking at the hardware a faction/culture chooses to produce gives you some insight into their economy, their tactical thinking, and their approach to engineering problems, which in its own way can be as informative as a four-page wall o’ text.  This may mean that the mini-rant to which I just subjected you all may not be entirely justified, but, to use the common Internet slang, meh;D
  In any case, the Magistracy Metals Bluehawk and the United Outworlders Corporation Protector might be strikingly divergent in appearance and internal arrangements, but they’re so similar in performance, and were introduced so contemporaneously to each other, that no-one’s quite sure whether the original specs came from the Canopians, the Outworlders, or a joint project between the two - and the MoC and the OA sure are saying a whole lot of nothing to clear up the confusion.  Cheap atmo-fighters meant as missile-boats and bomb-trucks, the two designs have achieved a pretty fair degree of market penetration since their first appearance in munitions brochures in 3019, outfitting not only planetary air-militia squadrons in their parent nations the MoC and the OA, but also in the Taurian Concordat and indeed in some outer areas of the FedSuns and the Combine.  (The fluff also makes note of a dirty trick played by owner-operators, who often buy the two designs and deploy them together: since the two machines are so radically different in appearance, such mixed squadrons tend to bamboozle targets, as they don’t know what to expect from each and can end up paralysing themselves asking ‘which one do I shoot first?’ instead of more properly following the air-defence motto of ‘shoot ’em all down and sort ’em out from the wreckage’.)
  For the sake of convenience, throughout the rest of this article I’ll refer to the type by the slightly more evocative Canopian designation.  Though it makes little material difference, I’ll also assume that the Bluehawk is the rearward of the two designs pictured above, the one with the canard foreplanes, a vertical stabiliser, and wingtip missile-pods; there’s only a fifty-fifty chance I’m right, but hey, it’s not like I’ve got money riding on it.  :D  (Besides, with the OA’s aviation bias, I figure they’re the ones more likely to produce an X-wing wannabe like the other design.  :P)

  The Bluehawk hits the top end of the ‘conventional fighter’ bracket at a ‘clean’ maximum-takeoff weight of fifty tons, driven by a 250 turbine that gets the ship up to a reasonable 5/8 thrust-curve at the price of half its mass-budget.  (For those running the maths at home, it means the MSF-42’s top cruise speed is just under the Mach, like most modern tactical fighters.)  Three tons of fuel yield 480 points, nominally 20% better endurance than most ASFs; I don’t know if the designer noticed the subtle change Tech Manual made in the construction rules that allows half-tons of fuel, but even if they had I’m not sure it would have made much difference, given the limitations of CF technology.  Three tons of armour, 14/12/10, may not be superlative survivability, especially protecting an SI of only 5, but it’s about as good as it gets for a conventional fighter.
  On the other hand, the Bluehawk is meant as a ‘utility attacker’ in militia arsenals, and that’s what it delivers.  Three machine-guns and a half-ton of ammo are snuggled into the nose, making for Strike firepower that can scythe down half a battalion of infantry in a single pass - perfect for COIN duties and ripping up ‘soft’ targets like supply-depots.  Each wing holds a vanilla LRM-10 - low-tech, but entirely serviceable - and the two tons of ammunition available to those launchers mean that all manner of ‘alternate warhead’ options are available to a pilot/commander willing to foot the bill.  (Given the close relations (^-^) between the MoC and the CapCon these days, various flavours of Thunder munitions are almost certainly available to Canopian MSF-42 squadrons, which makes for all manner of terrain-denial options.  Throw in TAG or Narc from ground-units, and things can get downright miserable on the receiving end of a Bluehawk squadron.... }:))  Lastly, the plane being built to the very top of the CF mass-spectrum is clearly a conscious attempt to maximise external warload capacity: depending on your budget, the contents of your munitions igloos, and how much or little attention you pay to the Ares Conventions, that can give you as much as ten tons of bombs or ten pods of free-flight rockets, a pair of air-to-ground Arrow-IV missiles (with optional Davey Crockett or Alamo atomic warheads, for those wishing to unleash their inner Taurian), or for those who need air-defence options, up to five Lyran Light AAMs (or two LAAMs and a centreline Arrow-IV AAM, if you need to really rattle their teeth).  Max-load thrust is only 3/5, so you’ll have ‘fun’ getting off the runway and Gawd help you if you get bounced short of your target, but as long you can get airborne you can keep ’em honest.

  Offensively, the Bluehawk is a classic ‘swarm’ fighter: throw an entire squadron at a given target-unit, blow it up real good, and hope/pray you get back more than half your airframes and/or two-thirds of your pilots.  Entire wings should go after an enemy’s rear-area soft-parts, like supply dumps, repair depots, airfields, or DropPorts, and again, it’s a cold-blooded matter of trading planes and lives for seriously hurting your enemy’s ability to prosecute the campaign.  While evasive routing, nape-of-the-earth flying, and similar tactical basics can mitigate the attrition, and you need to make every loss count, conventional fighters bleed every time they tangle with front-line forces and there’s no point pretending otherwise.  (Of course, the fact that the MSF-42 has a BV2 of only 441, and a material cost somewhere under 800K C-Bills according to HM:A, means that you can afford to procure replacements in bulk.  You’re gonna need ’em.)
  The ideal combination for going after ’Mechs and other hard ground-units would lead with MechBusters and maybe Heavy Strike Fighters (like the Taurian BatHawk) to punch holes in armour, followed by waves of Bluehawks, Light and Medium Strike Fighters, and possible Guardian fighters to pelt the already-rattled target(s) with missiles, rockets, and bombs and finish them off.
  If you’re up against aerial defences (including ASFs, Gawd help you), make sure that the strike-package has a decent escort.  Again, LSFs and MSFs can do this work decently enough for a militia unit, especially if someone’s managed to filch a goodly supply of LAAMs to give you some stand-off capability.  If Bluehawks find themselves alone against enemy ASFs, frankly they should conentrate their fire on one or two birds at once and pray they’re fighting something with armour soft enough for their LRM clusters to generate TACs, because otherwise they’re hosed.

  All of which suggests a great deal to the defender, of course.  ::)  Pike vehicles aren’t going to be great SPAAGs against Bluehawks, since their nose- and wing-armour is just thick enough to negate Threshold threats from an AC/2, but the ever-popular PartyVan Partisan can make their lives unutterably miserable.  Hell, scattering a few Striker missile-tanks around the perimeter of likely targets will quickly start thinning out the oncoming swarm, and backing them with a few Scorpions loaded with flak ammo makes for the attackers’ squadron briefing-room being a quiet and a gloomy sort of place even before take-off.  And if you can spare a flight or two of interceptor ASFs from other duties....  }:)


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Maelwys

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Re: Fighter of the Week, Issue #089 - MSF-42 Bluehawk/ASF-23 Protector
« Reply #1 on: 21 September 2011, 09:54:47 »
I think the Bluehawk is an interesting addition to the Magistracy forces, one that I hadn't really considered before. With a [historical] lack of aerospace fighters, I have to wonder if the majority of Canopians that want to fly are pushed into the Conventional Fighter units, with only the best/richest actually allowed to be aerospace pilots. I'm also sort of surprised that they appear to be limited to planetary militias, rather than showing up in line units as well. The fluff I could do without perhaps. Its jut another "mystery" or "secret" that seems out of place.

Looking at the stats, it seems quite capable really. Its got enough of a long range punch that it can loiter at the edges of the battlefield and "snipe" with its LRMs without putting it in too much risk. Since they're concentrated in planetary militias, until the Jihad they probably weren't fighting much more than pirates and other low tech organizations, and so didn't have to worry about much more than the occasional flak round as long as they kept their distance. The MGs also make sense, since if the Bluehawk limits its MG attacks to enemy infantry, I don't believe the infantry can shoot back (barring being equipped with AA weapons).

The Bluehawk seems to hold up well against the other Conventional fighters that appear in 3039 (though not the upgraded versions), but it doesn't seem to have an overwhelming advantage against the heavier Strike Fighters, and a fight is probably going to come down to luck and clustering (And using its range bonuses well).

In 3019, these were a game changer in the MoC I'm sure. 3067, not so much with the spread of advanced technology. They might have been able to hit WoB supply depots and cause havoc if they survive the opening battles, but the lack of VSTOL capability probably crippled them when it came to resistance and guerrilla combat.

Still, I think its a worthwhile addition to the MoC lineup, especially in earlier Era games. After the Clan Invasion however, I'd probably limit their fighting to that of support of other units. Alternate munitions, harassing attacks and attacks of opportunity, rather than the direct confrontation of the 3020's.

invallid effort

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Re: Fighter of the Week, Issue #089 - MSF-42 Bluehawk/ASF-23 Protector
« Reply #2 on: 21 September 2011, 13:48:59 »

"Luke you switched off your targeting computer whats wrong"....cant help it  :D

Once again an awesome article....Has anyone actually tried one of these in a game?
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Re: Fighter of the Week, Issue #089 - MSF-42 Bluehawk/ASF-23 Protector
« Reply #3 on: 21 September 2011, 22:00:11 »
Yay, a new FotW!

Am I the only person who pronounces that as fatwa, or really close? ???

As for the BlueTector, I like 'em. It seems optimized to go after conventional units, while buddies in 'Busters or Meteors go after the 'mechs. Maelwys is indeed correct that non-AA infantry cannot respond to air attacks at all, making a BlueTector just mean when cutting down an infantry battalion, one platoon at a time. The clusters of LRMs combined with the MGs also means that a strike into the side of a tank has very good odds of crippling it in one pass. Heck, in certain situations, I might consider it worth the cost of a BlueTector to cripple a Partisan, leaving the rest of the ground force wide open to future air attacks as the battle progresses.

In air-to-air situations, I would see a BlueTector as a serious threat to any other conventional bird short of an Inseki II, primarily due to the reach and punch of those LRM racks. Even if you only get one salvo before the merge, that damage can wipe out smaller planes, or strip the armor from the bigger ones, leaving them wide open for killing shots from MGs during a dogfight, probably from a wingman. The same tactics can apply against light ASFs as well, though you have ZERO margin for error. You HAVE to connect solidly with LRMs before the merge, and then you HAVE to finish them off quickly within the first turn or two of the dogfight with superior wingman tactics, because even Swifts or Cheetahs have the firepower to take you down in a salvo or two if they can stick on your tail.
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Re: Fighter of the Week, Issue #089 - MSF-42 Bluehawk/ASF-23 Protector
« Reply #4 on: 22 September 2011, 02:46:50 »
Am I the only person who pronounces that as fatwa, or really close? ???
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VhenRa

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Re: Fighter of the Week, Issue #089 - MSF-42 Bluehawk/ASF-23 Protector
« Reply #5 on: 22 September 2011, 09:38:53 »
How did you determine half a mach?

Trace Coburn

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Re: Fighter of the Week, Issue #089 - MSF-42 Bluehawk/ASF-23 Protector
« Reply #6 on: 22 September 2011, 10:02:01 »
How did you determine half a mach?
  Just under Mach 1, actually, and I took cray's word for it.  :D  Hit the old forumarchive and look up his non-canon A-4 Spindizzy, perhaps the ultimate in cheap bomb-trucks (to go with the similarly cheap/non-canon T-90 tank and BMP infantry-carrier, all deployed by the Defenders of St. Croix).  He quotes the 'just under Mach 1' number there, though I'll admit I was a little busy looking at the statblock to actually open the rulebook and run the maths myself.  :-[

  cray being the materials engineer/Resident Reality Check among TPTBs, I figured I could trust him on the matter.  To a point, anyway.  :D

Maelwys

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Re: Fighter of the Week, Issue #089 - MSF-42 Bluehawk/ASF-23 Protector
« Reply #7 on: 22 September 2011, 12:58:55 »
Yay, a new FotW!

Am I the only person who pronounces that as fatwa, or really close? ???

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say "Yes."

Quote
As for the BlueTector, I like 'em. It seems optimized to go after conventional units, while buddies in 'Busters or Meteors go after the 'mechs. Maelwys is indeed correct that non-AA infantry cannot respond to air attacks at all, making a BlueTector just mean when cutting down an infantry battalion, one platoon at a time.

Well, I'm glad that I found the rule. It took me quite a bit to find it in Total Warfare, but it certainly adds an interesting advantage to the Bluehawk. And since the rule is "Infantry" it seems that in modern days, the Bluehawk would be safe from BA as well (though obviously less effective, unless they start out off with a series of Cluster bombs).

Quote
The clusters of LRMs combined with the MGs also means that a strike into the side of a tank has very good odds of crippling it in one pass. Heck, in certain situations, I might consider it worth the cost of a BlueTector to cripple a Partisan, leaving the rest of the ground force wide open to future air attacks as the battle progresses.

I'd assume that in 3025 atleast that conventional fighters are considered more expendable than aerospace fighters, much like conventional vehicles are more expendable than `Mechs. Though with their LRMs, and height advantage, is it reasonable/possible for them to be able to stay (mostly) out of range of the standard Partisans?

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Re: Fighter of the Week, Issue #089 - MSF-42 Bluehawk/ASF-23 Protector
« Reply #8 on: 25 September 2011, 20:45:56 »
These two jets were one of only two HB:MPS; the other being the maps.

Nice article on a remarkably effective conventional fighter. Like any CF it's not the greatest thing in the universe, but at the same time, it's far from helpless. Good use can make for a surprisingly effective craft. True, bad use makes for a very dead one, but...
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Re: Fighter of the Week, Issue #089 - MSF-42 Bluehawk/ASF-23 Protector
« Reply #9 on: 04 October 2011, 12:54:27 »
(For those running the maths at home, it means the MSF-42’s top cruise speed is just under the Mach, like most modern tactical fighters.)

Actually, like virtually all jet-propelled BT conventional aircraft it can cruise at just about mach 3 using 2 thrust points per turn. It just needs to move to the high altitude map and onto row 1, where the top safe speed is 3 hexes per turn. With 18km hexes and 60-second turns (300m/s), that's just under mach 3.

The low altitude map is a bit different. Each hex per turn of flight equates to 50m/s (one 500-meter hex per 10-second turn), so you need to move at 6-7 hexes/turn to reach mach 1.

The oddity of BT's atmospheric movement means that once you spend thrust to reach a selected velocity, you only have to spend half that per turn (round down) to sustain those velocities. You don't spend MPs to move hexes like a 'Mech on the ground. Rather, you spend thrust to fight drag (and accelerate, and change altitude, and turn), and drag is equal to half your current velocity (round down).

This means that a fighter can reach twice its overthrust rating in hexes per turn on the low altitude map. A 5/8 fighter is thus able to cruise at 10 low altitude hexes per turn (approx. mach 1.5), or sprint at 16 hexes per turn (approx. mach 2.5). The high altitude map has specific hexes-per-turn speed limits depending on altitude (ranging from 2 to 17, IIRC), beyond which the flying vehicle (DropShip, fighter, or Urbie punted by an Atlas) suffers severe damage.

Note that prop-driven support vehicles (e.g., the Boomerang) are strictly limited to 1-hex per turn on the high altitude map to avoid exceeding mach 1, while IIRC some vehicles (like airships) are banned from the high altitude map all together so you don't end up with mach-1 zeppelins due to a quirk in high altitude map scale.
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Re: Fighter of the Week, Issue #089 - MSF-42 Bluehawk/ASF-23 Protector
« Reply #10 on: 04 October 2011, 15:06:52 »
Just so you know the high altitude is 1080kph per hex traveled (moved five hexes, your at 5,400kph).
The Low altitude is 180kph per hex traveled (A safe thrust of 12 would mean the aircraft can move 24 hexes a turn or 4,320kph).

Though is not the low altitude speeds limited to twice the units safe thrust? Or did that change?

Ground level = 0 to 17km, max velocity is 2 or 2,160kph
Row 1 = 18 to 35km, max velocity is 3 or 3,240kph
Row 2 = 36 to 53km, max velocity is 6 or 6,480kph
Row 3 = 54 to 71km, max velocity is 9 or 9,720kph
Row 4 = 72 to 89km, max velocity is 12 or 12,960kph
Interface = 90 to 108km, max velocity is 15 or 16,200kph

Mach 1 at sea level is roughly 1,225kph (Mach 1.77 -assuming max speed)
at 16km it's 1,062kph (Mach 2.04)
at 34km it's 1,103kph (Mach 2.94)
at 52km it's 1,183kph (Mach 5.48)
at 70km it's 1,069kph (Mach 9.1)
at 88km it's 986kph (Mach 13.15)
at 106km it's 1053kph (Mach 15.39)

The speed of sound dose a little bit of a zigzag as you go higher in the atmosphere, it's higher at some points and lower at others. This is due in large part of the air temperature at that particular altitude.

Sea level is 1225kph, it then decreases until ~11km at 1,063kph it stays their until around 20km where it climbs back up until about 48km at which point it's at 1,188kph it then stays their until about 51km then it starts heading back down which it dose until it reaches 85km and 987kph it then hangs around their until around 91km at this point it starts heading back up.

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Though Fluff wise B-tech fighters are a bit hard to pin down as theirs no a lot of detailed events, though one instance (Dark age, IIRC flight of the falcon?) has them flying at hypersonic speeds over a city, low enough to brake window glass (and I saw that mythbuster episode on that...).