The Lockheed F/A-178 Tigershark is a twin-engine, nuclear-powered, supersonic, all-weather, carrier-capable multirole combat aircraft primary utilised and designed as a fighter-bomber jet. Designed by a Lockheed-led consortium and manufactured by the Lockheed Corporation, it was developed as part of the Ministry of War's Future Fighter-Bomber Project, tasked with creating a versatile tactical aircraft. The Tigershark has proved to be among the most successful and potent combat aircraft fielded by the CGU Armed Forces. It has several variants, specialised for a wide selection of roles and capabilities.
It first flew in 3280, and was put into service as the F/A-178A/B in 3282, with the A as a single-seat and the B as the two-seater variant. Carrier-capable variants were introduced in 3285 with the F/A-178C/D. An upgraded Air Force version, the F/A-178E/F was put into service in 3290 in response to the challenges of the Magellanic War. It continues to serve as the main fighter-bomber in the Union Air Force, Central Galactic Navy, and Central Galactic Marine Corps.
The Great War, while successful and ending in victory for the human race, showed some inadequacies with existing armaments. Primarily, it demonstrated that the Terran Imperial Air Forces operated aircraft that were outpaced by some United Suns interceptors, and outgunned by Soviet fighter-bombers. The Terran air strategy of utilising the fighter as the manned, terminal component of a weapons system was shown to be flawed. Fighters were used as missile or gun platforms synchronised to remote air-defence and command-control centres. The extensive use of electronic warfare and surface-to-air missiles by enemy forces rendered these aircraft difficult to coordinate and utilise effectively, and led to tremendous losses.
After the final victory, the Ministry of War undertook a program to develop a new, stealthier multirole combat aircraft, and develop a training program for individual air combat or "dogfighting". The Future Fighter-Bomber Project, operated by the Advanced Research Projects Agency, was established in 3277. The project contracted Lockheed Corporation and their Skunk Works division to design the new fighter, with work starting in 3278. Lockheed quickly ran into problems and was forced to bring in other aerospace corporations and defence contractors to aid in the design and testing of the prototypes. A consortium was established in early 3279 between Lockheed, Mitsubishi, Hellfocker, Boeing, British Aerospace, and EuroDefence to finish the project, partly through the urging of the War Ministry.
The project was completed in early 3280, and the aircraft was designated the F/A-178 Tigershark, continuing the Imperial military's convention of naming aircraft after sharks. The first production F/A-178A flew on 11 March 3280.
The Tigershark has an unusual design, with aerodynamic instability structurally designed into the aircraft to allow for high manoeuvrability. Its fuselage is designed as a broad, lifting-body design to lower its radar cross-section and maximise lift in a variety of atmospheres rather than aerodynamic performance. Its wings are variable-geometry swing wings, giving it the ability to adjust its sweep and operate more efficiently at both low and high speeds. The Tigershark is devoid of a vertical stabilator, with slight pelikan-styled horizontal tail-fins. This contributes to the aircraft's inherent aerodynamic instability. The aircraft is operated through a system of quadruple-redundant electronic fibre-optic controls. Wireless controls were considered to save weight, but this was rejected in the face of potential weaknesses to electronic warfare, particularly hacking.
- Crew: F/A-178E, 1; F/A-178F, 2 (pilot and weapons officer)
- Length: 20.6 meters
- Wingspan: 11.2 meters swept; 19.2 meters spread
- Empty Weight: 15,000 kg
- Loaded Weight: 30,000 kg
- Maximum Takeoff Weight: 45,000 kg
- 1 x GENESIS Nuclear Aircraft Engine, rated at 2.2 MW
- 2 x F700GE-1 Thrust-Vectoring Turbofans, 204 kN each
- Maximum speed: Mach 2.62
- Supercruise speed: Mach 1.90
- Range: functionally infinite
- Flight Time: 12 hours continuous
- Maximum Ceiling: 22,000 meters
- Wing Loading: 550 kg/m2
- Thrust/Weight Ratio: 1.63
- Guns: 2 x 20mm M202 rotary cannon with 200 rounds each
- Hardpoints: 4 x underwing pylons, 4 x under-fuselage pylonds, 4 x internal bays with 1-2 pylon mountings, load dependent. Total weapons payload of up to 12,000 kg.
- Air to Air Loadout: 8 x AIM-291 BVRAAM, 4 x AIM-644 Short-Range Air to Air Missile
- Interceptor Loadout: 8 x AIM-291 BVRAAM, 4 x AIR-505 Nuclear Air to Air Rocket
- Air to Ground Loadout: 4 x AGM-502 Air to Ground Guided Missile, 2 x AGM-701 Air-Launched Cruise Missile, 2 x AIM-644 SRAAM, 2 x GBU-25 450 kg Guided Bomb
- Wild Weasel Loadout: 6 x AGM-801 Anti-Radiation Missile, 2 x AIM-644 SRAAM, 2 x AGM-502 AGGM, 4 x AGM-600 Ground-Attack Missile
- Nuclear Strike Loadout: 4 x AGM-701R Nuclear ALCM, 4 x B-101 Nuclear Bomb