A trio of blindingly bright fighters cut through a sunbeam. The mirror-clad Sunbreakers take the fight to the solar abominations, outnumbered but not outgunned, and beat back an incursion once more.
The Sunbreaker SF-2
is a superiority craft built by Kallisti Aerospace
specifically for defense of Mercury
. It is a modification of a previous design, the venerable Sunderer SF-1
which was used heavily on and around Ganymede
during the Cadamite Wars and exported all across the solar system afterwards. The Sunbreaker is intended as an all-purpose weapons platform that can operate for extended periods during Solar Pulses and the diurnal season, capable of air-space superiority, strike missions, and even close air support. There are two main variants, the single-seated SF-2a and the double-seat SF-2b with an expanded payload bay.
Now is the worst part of takeoff: the gap between when Eun gets her wings and when she’s allowed to fly. The hum of her craft seems to collect inside her as impatience.
Although the chassis of the Sunbreaker is nearly identical to that of its predecessor, nearly every other part of the craft has been updated or upgraded for use in the unique Mercury environment.
Similarly to the Sunderer, the Sunbreaker uses two swivel-mounted engines mounted towards the rear. The twin Kurundam engines provide omnidirectional thrust and allow the craft to vertically take off, hover, and cruise both in and out of atmosphere. The Sunbreaker can also hover or fly in reverse, but most pilots tend not to use this capability due to the added difficulty of the maneuver. Loss of one engine massively degrades maneuverability and top speed but allows the damaged craft to return to base.
Sunbreakers are designed to operate both in and out of atmosphere, so its cockpit is sealed and has oxygen generation systems, and pilots are expected to wear atmosphere suits. Kurundam engines are often used for small spacecraft as well, and the craft does not depend on wing-generated lift for flight. The cockpit is equipped with windows with adaptive dimmers, but direct visual contact is unused in most combat situations in favor of electronic systems and heads-up displays.
The eject system includes a canopy disconnect and a rocket-equipped chair that also uses retrorockets to cut velocity before impact. Finally, a reflective composite blanket with a transponder is stowed in the chair. Survival times when ejecting in the dinural phase is up to thirty minutes, while nocturnal phase survival times are relatively long thanks to an also-included chemical heat generator.
Sure, it looks like a million compact mirrors glued onto a Sunderer, but this bird can fight. I swear, the sundogs take damage just from seeing their ugly mugs reflected back at them.
The most striking feature of the Sunbreaker is its mirrored armor plating, which drastically reduces the amount of energy required to cool the craft. Most of the armor is reactive, breaking away to absorb impacts. Advanced sensors are hidden beneath certain sections of the armor, hardened against heat and light and providing pilots with tactical awareness.
When parked in a hangar, a Sunbreaker's armor plates have noticeable gaps between them. This is because each plate is expected to expand in the intense heat of the sun. Additionally, the gaps facilitate access to the joins that attach each plate to the frame, allowing plates to be easily replaced when required. A downside is that Sunbreaker armor is substantially less effective in the nocturnal side of Mercury, but this is considered an acceptable cost to pay as few enemies are found in the shade.
Eun swears she can hear her Sunbreaker creak and groan as if stretching after a long nap, the hexagonal mirror panels rapidly warming and expanding to fit each other snugly. The deck crew always tell her she’s imagining it. She pulls up the armor integrity screen with an easy twist of a selector dial, making sure each section goes from grey to green.
Two weapons pylons on each side of the frame utilize universal weapon stations to allow switching loadouts depending on the mission, and a payload bay can carry missiles, bombs, or extended sensor equipment.
One weapon station on the nose of the craft is intended for mounting a forward-facing weapon, usually a simple slug thrower as a weapon of last resort.
After the initial wave of Solar Pulses were weathered and Project Ikarus
was concieved, Penumbra
started procurement for superiority craft. Kallisti Aerospace's bid was accepted primarily due to the fact that there was an extensive base of Sunderer pilots that could pilot a Sunbreaker without retraining, as well as the relatively low costs of the platform. The fact that the craft was delivered on time and within budget shows that it was the correct choice at least in that regard.
Penumbra only maintains a small fleet of Sunbreakers on Mercury, approximately enough units for its pilots to fly. Extra Sunbreakers are delivered to orbital hangars around Venus and couriered when required, reducing the amount of mobile storage that must be maintained in the difficult Mercury environment. The craft are usually stored ready to be deployed save for munitions, which are stored separately when not in use for safety reasons.
Upon return, a series of tasks must be completed to ensure that a Sunbreaker is ready for its next deployment. Any remaining munitions are removed and stored. Next, armor plates that have been damaged must be uninstalled and replaced. Because Sunbreaker armor is reactive, even light damage usually requires a full replacement for optimal protection. Finally, system checks must be run. While simple defects can be fixed with on-planet facilities, more serious problems will require craft to be shipped off-world for repairs, usually to Venus. The most damaged craft may instead be salvaged for spare parts or materials and the remainder discarded, if the hangar crew determine that it will not be worth the time and money spent to refurbish the vehicle.