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Author Topic: Fighter of the Week, Issue #024 (repost) - Sai  (Read 3987 times)

Trace Coburn

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Fighter of the Week, Issue #024 (repost) - Sai
« on: 23 February 2011, 06:28:41 »
Sai - 40t, Objective Raids/AeroTech 2
Originally posted 4 May 2005.

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


  The Dracs did it again.
  I'm not kidding.  When the gorram Clans adapt and adopt your design (and no fewer than six Clans, according to the FM:U RAT's), y'all gotta know you did something right!  :o  Appearing to be a quasi-replacement for the legally-challenged SL-25 Samurai, the Sai is not in the same league as the Sholagar as an interceptor, nor the SL-17 Shilone as a fire-support platform, nor is it quite as good a dogfighter as the Samurai... yet it can perform those roles very well and adds its own specialities as a fast bomber/attack bird.

  I didn't have access to the actual fluff on this bird when I first wrote this column (if there is any; if someone with Objective Raids could let us know and/or post it on this thread, it would be appreciated) (though TRO3039 fixed that - see the next post), but HM:A and some deductive reasoning tells me a fair bit - and perhaps reflects the different mindsets of different nations.  The Federated Commonwealth recovered Star League technology via the Helm Memory Core and/or the NAIS, and when they wanted to try their hand at an 'advanced' aerospace fighter, they took a methodical approach and tried to replicate the old HMR-HD Hammerhead, using it as a stepping stone to more advanced aircraft.  The Combine, on the other hand, got Star League goodies directly from ComStar (thanks to a Precentor who seriously boned the beagle; whether this was a genuine blunder or "accidentally-on-purpose" may never be known), but it seems that Gunji no Kanrei Theodore Kurita had imparted his spirit of calculated daring to his people (or was quietly desperate to find ways to fend off the new superpower on his doorstep(s)), because rather than build an old fighter and take things step-by-step, they started with a clean sheet of paper and created an entirely new design as a testbed, taking a rather more high-risk/high-return mentality which seems to have paid off quite handsomely.  There used to be a Sholagar factory on Schuyler, but at some time during the 3040s, as the Dracs gained enough understanding of what they'd received to start building it, that factory was closed to SL-21 construction and retooled to produce the new starfighter design; named the Sai, this new 'experimental' fighter was a formidable complement to the already star-studded DCMS fighter corps... until Clan Smoke Jaguar invaded the planet in June of '50 and annexed the plant for themselves, at least.  :D

  In any case, the original S-4 Sai was an interesting start for a foundtech programme, a revolutionary new craft rather than an incremental development of an older type.  Forty tons of starfighter driven by a Shinobi 240XLFE loaded with twelve DHS and five tons of fuel, the Sai turns out an 8/12 thrust curve and offered a level of internal weapons volume that was unprecedented in the Successor States (the THAF somehow having managed to conceal its deployment of XL engines on ASFs ::) ).  Using all three of the 'new' construction technologies (and thus taking an exponentially higher engineering risk), the Sai gave seven tons of its all-up mass to ferro-aluminium armour, laid out 35/32/26; unfortunately, this is vulnerable to ML thresholding across all aspects, but some things can't be helped.  :-\  The arsenal was also foundtech: a nose-mounted ER PPC, offering Long-range capability and a solid ten-point whack to anything getting in front of it, and SRM-6s in each wing with Artemis-IV guidance-modules and a ton of ammo per launcher for close-range "Who's your Daddy?"  }:)
  This spaceframe offers so many options, it's downright criminal.  As a dogfighter, the S-4 Sai can out-turn even the Samurai, and its ERPPC and missiles can inflict much pain either far away or in close; note well, it can and will maintain its rate of fire, since the Combine's mania for heat-efficient starfighter designs shines through again here: the S-4 Sai can dissipate 24 heat but generates only 23 on an alpha strike!  :o  It can hang back behind other fighters and provide them with fire-support from its ER PPC for pretty much as long as its fuel lasts, either alone or in company with Shilones to compound the other guy's misery.  It can carry eight tons of external payload at 6/9, making it a fearsome fast, light bomber (or an ideal long-range complement/escort to Slayers, if fully loaded with external fuel).  It can act like a flying Panther in the strafe/strike mission, punching holes with the PPC and crit-seeking with all those lovely, lovely SRMs.  A squadron of S-4 Sais in the anti-shipping role is nothing to sneer at, either: a PPC bay of 6 Capital from Long range and two SRM bays of 5 Capital each at Short range will (or at least should) get the attention of most 'Ship captains in a hurry.
  The one caveat to this is, however, the unfortunately thin armour that is a consequence of being so small a spaceframe.  A single medium laser will threshold any aspect of the S-4 Sai, so the best plan would be to avoid engaging enemy interceptors, instead picking on bigger, slower birds that can't resist too effectively - ideally, from behind at Medium or Long range, where their tail-guns can't exact revenge.

  Essentially, in the offensive playbook the S-4 Sai may well be the ultimate utility player, useful for any assignment it may be needed in.  I'd use them three ways:
  - in partnership with Sholagars and Samurais, providing fire-support to the SL-21s as they lunge ahead to engage the enemy first, then 'shooting in' the specialist-dogfighter Samurai, then finally mixing it up themselves
  - alternately, they'd partner Shilones and/or Slayers (I won't call it "escorting" them, since neither type really needs it), with much the same intent.
  - they'd be the heavy punch in a light fighter wing; two squads of Sholagars would keep enemy fighters busy while the Sais went after heavier metal, like the enemy's transports or WarShips.
  As long as the player remembered his mantras and steered clear of enemy interceptors like Sparrowhawks and Seydlitz, he should do just fine for himself.  ;D

  You can take S-4 Sais out of the picture in two main ways: crushing firepower, or better turning performance.  FedSuns Sparrowhawks which get inside an S-4 will have it for lunch, since it lacks tail-guns and cannot turn hard enough to dislodge the nimbler Feddie, and a couple of solid hits from a Stuka's LRMs and large laser bays will likely send an S-4 on an abrupt detour to Queer Street.  ::)  (I'd also be interested to see the results of a duel between a DARO-1 Dagger Prime and an S-4 Sai, pitting as it does agility, light armour and a Long-range weapon against a devastating RAC/5 and almost ridiculously thick armour.  My money's on the Sai if the pilot keeps his head about him and holds the range open, but if the Dagger got a clean shot at Medium range, it'd be all over bar the whimpering.... ;D)  Lyran SYD-Z4 Seydlitz combine both of these approaches to perfection, so I don't hesitate to recommend them for the job, though F-92 Stingrays can crit the hell out of S-4s at Long range and would make very, very good fire-support platforms for such Seydlitz units, as they can at least try to evade counter-attack; forget the Lucifers - unless you really hate their pilots.  ::)

  There were two variations on the S-4 Sai before the release of TRO3039, and the tale of their existence is quite bemusing.  The S-4C comes from the original plant on Schuyler; despite the spaceframe's being considered decidedly inferior by Clan standards ('\/\/3 4R3 t3h l33t!  \/\/3 pwn J00 4|_|_!  EXTERMINATE!  EXTERMINATE!  EXTERMINATE!'), the Smoke Jaguar who annexed the Wakazashi plant apparently took great glee in deploying S-4s against the Combine in a classic "FYVM!" - and in upgrading the production facilities to manufacture the S-4C to further that same act of spite.  Carrying only six tons of Clan FA armour (profiled as 35/27/26) to make extra weapons volume available, the S-4C mounts fourteen(!) DHS, a Clan ERPPC in the nose, and twin(!) Streak-4 launchers in each wing, with a two-ton magazine in the fuselage.  While even more fragile than its forebear, the S-4C remains an alpha-baby with staggering hitting power and eye-opening versatility, as long as you don't go out of your way to expose it to enemy fire.  (Not that the Jags ever concerned themselves with pilot survival, but still....  >:()  Being that the S-4C appears in the FM:U second-line random tables of no fewer than six Clans - Diamond Shark, Fire Mandrill(!?), Ghost Bear, Nova Cat, Wolf, and Wolf-in-Exile - one has to believe that the S-4C has made one hell of an impression on Kerensky's Children, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that.  (I think I follow the line of proliferation, though: the Cats got them from the Jags during Operation BIRD DOG, and possibly bought/scrounged a few from the DCMS afterwards; the Bears got them from the Cats in the Trial of Retribution; the Wolves got them from raiding the Jags and/or the Bears; the Sharks simply bought the damned things from whoever was running the plant that week; and presumably they then sold them to the Wolves-in-Exile and the Mandrills.  That's about the only way I can imagine they got to a Home Crusader Clan, 'cause nothing else is tracking.  ::))  The S-4C is much the same as the IS S-4, and should be used much the same way.

  However, during Operation BIRD DOG in 3059, SLDF forces led by Victor Steiner-Davion retook Schuyler, depriving the Smoke Jags of their only(?) source of S-4Cs and putting a Clan-grade starfighter factory in the hands of the Combine, who probably couldn't believe their luck.  :o  Unfortunately, it was too good to be true, because despite the military benefits of continuing S-4C production, the economics of building ClanTech with an Inner Sphere technology support-base seem to have forced them to downgrade the Wakazashi plant to resume production of the less-advanced S-4... and the S-7 series which followed it.  (Interestingly enough, the fluff text on both the ON-1 Oni and the MIK-O Tatsu implies that the S-7 Sai is a testbed OmniFighter, complete with teething troubles!  :o)  The S-7 Sai (or should that be the S-7 Sai Prime? ???) mounts twin ERMLs in the nose and MRM10s in each wing, with two tons of ammo in the fuselage, giving it fearsome Medium-to-Short-range throw-weight, and it carries 20% more fuel than the base model, improving its operational range quite a bit.  It even mounts twelve DHS, making for an alpha-strike at -6 heat!  However, the S-7 lacks the range-advantage of its forebear(s), making it more of an attack specialist.

  [VARIANT PROPOSAL(S) REDACTED] All proposed fan-variants - including my own - belong in the corresponding "FotW Workshop" thread: http://www.classicbattletech.com/forums/index.php/topic,2163.0.html

  Be advised: the attached .txt transcripts of previous runs of this thread contain numerous reader-proposals for variants.  I'll try to change those out for 'sanitised' versions of those threads when I can, but I can't promise it'll be soon - that's a lot of ground to cover.  ;)

Trace Coburn

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Fighter of the Week, Issue #024 (repost) - Sai ('39 Update)
« Reply #1 on: 23 February 2011, 06:32:22 »
S-** Sai – TRO3039 Update
Originally posted 13 Feb. 2008.

  First of all: to whichever of the writers designed the new expansions to the Sai family lineage, please proceed to the bottom of this post to collect your prizes.  You absolutely NAILED what makes this fighter 'tick', and giving us an explicit progression from variant to variant turns an already intriguing 'First in Centuries' to a big, luscious slice of AWESOME!   [notworthy] [applause] [rockon]  [notworthy] [applause] [rockon]  [notworthy]
  (Hell, if you're willing to identify yourself, I'll PM you an image-link that shows the TRUE extent of my feelings - though it does contain some NSFW language not suitable for the boards.  :P)

  Mangon Aeronautics, makers of the Sholagar, managed to avoid ruin for decades thanks to the burial of the report on their bird's pilot-killing aerodynamic shortcomings, but the death of a pilot with the last name 'Kurita' unearthed that same report once more, and the combined financial strains of the resulting plummet in Sholagar sales and the DCMS-ordained designing of an all-new replacement for their defective product put Mangon's fiscal health to the sword.  (Presumably, any executives who knew of the suppressed report were encouraged to share such a fate.  :P)  Wakazashi Industries bought them out in 3045 and inherited that development programme, including a single flyable prototype: the first Sai.  Intrigued by the craft's specs, they replicated it for further testing, and were quite happy with what they found.
  For one thing, the type used a conventional wing-design that didn't have the SL-21's 'idiosyncracies' in atmosphere, and indeed proved admirably manoeuvrable.  For another, the Mangon engineers had taken a new tack in dealing with enemy lightfighters: sick of DCMS starfighter pilots being outgunned by SYD-Z1s and out-toughed by SPR-H5s, they'd decided to merge the BFG of the former with the armour of the latter, figuring that combining those two qualities was worth accepting a slight decrease in overall thrust.  Eager to test this concept 'for real', Wakazashi built thirty or so and put them into the line for combat evaluation, an effort spearheaded by one Tai-i Reggie Hotspurn - who quickly grasped the S-3's 'concept' and proceeded to conduct some absolute clinics in how the new type should be employed against both Seydlitz and Sparrowhawks.  [rockon]

-> S-3 Sai: 40t, 8/12/8/5, 40/30/20, 14SHS, N: LL, W: 2ML
  This is a hell of a fighter for the Succession Wars era, and I would not hesitate for an instant to field it in a Combine force of that time, given the opportunity.  The heat-balance isn't exactly perfect, but being heat-neutral on the LL and one wing's worth of mediums is perfectly acceptable for the era, and the type can stand up to about as much punishment as the Davion machine it was matched against.  (From a meta-game viewpoint, I'm a little disappointed that the armour layout is classic 'default HM:A', and would be a little happier to shave a couple of points off each wing to bolster the nose and/or aft against ML and SL thresholding, respectively, but given the quality of the rest of the Sai entry, I'll let that one slide.  :D)

  However, despite the success of the type Wakazashi closed down S-3 production/testing in 3048, retooling their production facilities to incorporate Star League technologies 'obtained' through the offices of ComStar.  The next generation of the Sai was in the offing, and if I may quote the entry directly for a moment:

Quote from: TRO 3039
The original S-4, now classified as the S-4X, would be the first known mass-produced aerospace fighter to mount an extra-light engine (until the recent revelation of just how advanced the Star League Royal divisions were).

-> S-4X Sai: 40t, 8/12/8/4 (XLFE), 35/27/18 (FA), 21SHS, N: ERLL, W: MPL
  If the Clans hadn't shown up to prevent full production and the fifth game of 'Risk: Inner Sphere', the AFFC's fighter arm would have spent the first stages of the next Succession War being thoroughly terrorised by the S-4X, frantically casting about for a counter.  Hell, even those few articles which did make it into service got so far up the Smoke Jags' collective nose that they took a certain sadistic glee in capturing the factory on Schuyler, upgrading it to Clan-level technology, and putting a version of the S-4 into production to use against the DCMS.  (Somewhat ironically for both sides, the fighter that they produced in that uprated plant - the S-4C covered in the original FotW - was actually based on a proposal by Wakazashi engineers found in the plant's computers, which proposed a centreline PPC and wing-mounted SRM racks as a somewhat-replication of the SL-21's original weapons layout.  For later purposes, I'll call this abandoned concept the S-4A.)
  If anything hurts the S-4X, it's the absence of DHS.  Whether they couldn't make them yet, or simply couldn't get enough of them in time, the weight-penalty for making the S-4X Sai heat-neutral with SHS kills most of the additional weapons-cubage the XLFE freed; moreover, the twenty-first SHS is downright superfluous and (as I note above) requires downrating the fuel tankage, which would have been a weakness soon identified and siezed-upon by the AFFC in the event of SW5.  Everything else is pretty solid - good reach, decent knife-fighting weapons, thing's as cool as a breeze even on an alpha-strike, acceptable though not spectacular armour - so it's another 'use without reservation' from me.  :P

  After the reclamation of Schuyler by the DCMS during Operation: BIRD DOG, Wakazashi tried mightily for some time to keep making S-4Cs before finally, oh-so-reluctantly admitting that they simply couldn't keep the plant operating at Clan efficiency-levels and once again downrated it to Star League standards.  The resulting 'IS foundtech monkey model' of the S-4C which was still pretty frickin' respectable for its day - being the S-4 so familiar from the previous article, and for years the only one we out-of-universe types ever knew.
  In later years, heartened by the success of the S-4 (though probably a little wistful for the S-4X and dreaming of what might have been), Wakazashi would once again use this now-well-proven spaceframe as a basis for experimentation, seeking to explore different tactical niches and different customer needs.  The first new variant was the S-7 Sai, armed with ERMLs and MRM-10s and possessing additional fuel capacity, which was covered in the previous FotW and has apparently found acceptance on border and fringe worlds as a long-range patrol/escort craft.

  The other such variant was the S-8, the other new entry (soon to be seen in RS:39, we hope!), which returns to the S-3's original concept of a flashbulb with centreline 'heavy' guns and secondary medium lasers in the wings.
-> S-8 Sai: 40t, 8/12/8/6 (XLFE), 54/40/27 (FA), 16DHS, N: 2 Lt.PPC, W: 2 ERML
  (Above stats are speculative, based on the characteristics specifically attributed to the type.  Note that if TPTB are willing to skimp on the DHS for those willing to 'eat the heat', it's entirely possible that the S-8 could be an SFE-powered 'budget fighter' for rapid mass-production in the face of the Blaker Jihad - or an overgunned XLFE-driven 10/15 interceptor meant to finally replace the Sholagar for fair!  :o  My HM:A work came up a ton shy putting in everything else specifically mentioned in the type-description, but the RS doesn't mention fuel capacity at all, so I figure that's where it went.)
  If I'm right about the specs, this iteration of the Sai family will be a truly fearsome medium-range interceptor/fast dogfighter, using its heavy Medium-range arsenal and extremely healthy fuel-fraction to harry an enemy from the initial interception all the way up to the time the other guy finally takes his ball and goes home.  Anyone seeing these in his sky is going to feel a fair compulsion to go home and cry to his mommy (or Master), 'cause it's gonna be a long day.  }:)

  And for reference, the below ASCII art shows the apparent 'family tree' of the various models of Sai.

   S-3  ----> S-4X                              --> S-8
        \                                      /
         \                                    /
          \-> [S-4A] ---->  S-4C  ---->  S-4  ----> S-7



  [VARIANT PROPOSAL(S) REDACTED] All proposed fan-variants - including my own - belong in the corresponding "FotW Workshop" thread: http://www.classicbattletech.com/forums/index.php/topic,2163.0.html
« Last Edit: 23 February 2011, 06:40:10 by Trace Coburn »

Moonsword

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Re: Fighter of the Week, Issue #024 (repost) - Sai
« Reply #2 on: 23 February 2011, 09:19:01 »
An excellent little fast dogfighter.  Unfortunately, the Sai has the misfortune to be a very good light to medium fighter in an environment (even just looking at the Combine's borders) that's become saturated with them, meaning that while the S-4X was a nasty eye opener at the time, it doesn't have nearly the impact anymore.  Still, I have some fondness for the Sai and would gladly field one.