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Torb Light OmniFighter Has A Close Call by TheCentipede Torb Light OmniFighter Has A Close Call by TheCentipede
As part of the TME Industries push into the Clan market in the late-3060s, the Torb light aerospace fighter actually predated the Mahat BattleMech project by about a year but only reached its full potential four years afterwards. No one at TME Industries could reasonably complain about this, however, as it was the result of the Torb being a fundamentally capable concept and perhaps overdesigned when compared to its original purpose as a production testbed. Its evolution from testbed to TME Industries' first OmniFighter was one of TEAM MELTA's greater victories.

The original specification request from Management was a clean-sheet testbed for manufacturing and integrating Clan technologies acquired via the Acquisitions Department and through trade with Clan Diamond Shark. TEAM MELTA, not known for opting into manufacturing testbeds, volunteered to work on an aerospace fighter using surprisingly rational arguments: aerospace fighters were far less mechanically complex than BattleMechs and so this would accelerate the schedule; at the same time, fighters generally had to be built to tighter tolerances and so this would thoroughly test TME Industries' capabilities with regards to the worst reasonable manufacturing scenario. With this being remarkably sane for TEAM MELTA of 3066, Management concurred and gave them the task of making "Project Blizzard" work.

Project Blizzard centered around the development of a forty-ton aerospace fighter built from the ground up using Clan technology. As a testbed it used modular structural connections and attach points, effectively Omni systems in everything but name and specification. The testbed consisted of a long area-ruled fuselage with a large low-mounted spade-shaped wing and landing gear mounted aft in sponson and forward in a starboard compartment. The spade-wing held good properties for flight in various regimes but, from historic experience, could be aerodynamically unstable compared to a conventional delta wing due to spanwise flow bleeding off the differing sweep angles of the leading edge; these were mitigated using equipment blisters spaced out along the wingspan, two per side. The primary equipment bay stretched out across the bottom half of the nose and was sized to be able to contain heavy vehicle-scale Clan weaponry. In a potentially risky move, Project Blizzard omitted a vertical stabilizer for drag purposes and included downward-facing blended winglets that effectively increased wing anhedral and therefore instability. These made Project Blizzard nimble but dependent upon thrust vectoring to maintain stability in atmospheric flight; because of this, in case of in-flight engine failure, ducted bypass air from the inlets still passed out the vectored exhausts, generating enough thrust to maintain control authority and keep Project Blizzard critically stable if not much else.

As far as TEAM MELTA was concerned, testing TME Industries' manufacturing was being overly cautious and so to them Project Blizzard was all about testing the AeroSpace Arrow-IV System (ASA4S). Derived from the modifications done to the conventional artillery system as used on the Steinschuler artillery helicopter, the ASA4S was supposed to be a weapon usable by aerospace fighters and large craft capable of extreme ranges and splash damage. The ASA4S itself made up most of Project Blizzard's development effort, with trade studies and scale test models built to choose between various configurations: the 'conventional' five-tube launcher, a rotary-spindle 'missile dropper' like the Steinschuler, or a combination of the two in a revolver-feed short-tube launcher. There was little tactical or strategic difference between the three proposals; as even the five-tube launcher that had been the universal standard since the Naga and CPLT-C3 Catapult were dependent upon the mechanical linkages from the ammunition storage bins to the firing tubes. For Project Blizzard, the revolver-feed system turned out to be the one that fit best into the forward equipment bay and was therefore developed to full operational capability.

Flight testing in mid-3066 proved out Project Blizzard's aerodynamic handling and its structural integrity. Overall, it was a maneuverable fighter that flew unusually well in an atmosphere. Live-fire testing of the ASA4S with inert warheads however proved out a fatal flaw in that system: the Arrow IV-class missiles were simply not suited for air-to-air combat, either being too inaccurate or requiring terminal laser guidance from target acquisition gear, which was never common equipment on aerospace fighter forces. Project Blizzard's ASA4S was useful for ground attack, if one needed something like a super-Steinschuler, but it was not the game-changing weapon TEAM MELTA wanted and they spent the next decade working out the construction and programming of active-guidance seeker heads on Arrow IV-class missiles, and by then their solutions were incompatible with the external-stores Arrow IV variants becoming common for aerospace fighter use. (As a side note, experiments with Air-Defense Arrow IV missiles as produced by the Capellans in 3068 resulted in no improvement as the onboard electronics of the missile expected it to be fired from a low-speed ground vehicle and its error-handling functions reverted it into a basic dumb-fire missile.)

While TEAM MELTA's new weapon system turned out to be a wash, Project Blizzard itself still worked rather well and Management directed TEAM MELTA to clean it up and get it ready for production, under the new designation Torb. The resulting Torb, released to the market in August 3067, stayed at forty tons and mounted a 240 extra-light fusion reactor with a maximum emergency acceleration of six gravities. TEAM MELTA opted to make the Torb a dedicated air-to-air platform and thus equipped the fighter with a twenty-class LB-X type smoothbore assault autocannon with two tons of ammunition and a medium pulse laser in the nose as well as a medium pulse laser in each wing. While optimized for shooting down aircraft, the Torb lacked any standoff weapons and its six tons of ferro-aluminum armor only gave it average protection. Five tons of fuel gave it suitable mission endurance, at least, so this was seen as sufficient. As an afterthought the Torb-02production variant swapped out the entire nose bay for a large pulse laser, an extended range large laser, and four additional double heat sinks to resolve the fighter's lack of range, though that variant required careful control of group firing to manage heat.

The Torb made a passable second-line aerospace fighter and sold enough for TME Industries to investigate improving the model line. Its conversion into an OmniFighter, completed in September 3071, was a logical progression. The Torb-AO Prime-1 and Prime-2 variants matched the Torb-01 and -02 exactly, which explained why both were designated as Prime. The Alpha variant did actually equip the ASA4S Arrow IV artillery missile system, in case anyone could make use of it, four extended range medium lasers in the wings, and two double heat sinks added to the engine's integral ten. The Bravo variant mounted a Gauss Rifle with sixteen rounds in the nose, four extended range medium lasers in the wings, and a total of twelve double heat sinks, making it an effective long-range combatant. The Charlie variant, intended for long-range support, mounted two twenty-tube long-range missile launchers in the nose with a total of thirty-six salvos between and a medium pulse laser in each wing for short-range backup. The Delta variant, nicknamed 'Mandibles,' carried two extended-range particle projector cannon in the nose, a total of eighteen double heat sinks--redundancy built in--and nothing else. Last, the Echo variant used fourteen heat sinks to counteract the load of a total of eight medium pulse lasers: three in the nose, two in each wing, and one facing aft in a dorsal blister.

Later, in 3076, the Torb Prime1 variant was revisited with the Torb-AO Foxtrot, which replaced the nose bay with a 30-class Hyper-Assault Gauss rifle and twelve bursts of ammunition. This use of an open-bore coilgun would later influence the Phantom III aerospace fighter-bomber.
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GrumpySkeleton Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2014  Student General Artist
Loving the smoke detail ya got here =D
TheCentipede Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks! I drew this during a meeting... and the meeting didn't stop. So more details got added. ;)
Colourbrand Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is a real brute of a fighter - can smash teeth this one :)
TheCentipede Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
And hopefully it can look stylish while doing so!
Colourbrand Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Always does sir :D
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