The aerial series of hunter killers was a tremendous tactical success, mainly due to the fact that the Resistance had no air power and their anti-air capacity was both limited and rarely used. SKYNET, true to its name, owned the air and space. In the early stages of the war, the large turbofan powered aerials were deemed adequate for their role in close air support and threat suppression. Combined arms doctrine insured that the ground mobile units were supported by aerials capable of both spotting targets as well as directing fire against targets of opportunity.
As the war progressed the Resistance became more organized and better equipped. SKYNET began to notice an alarming rate of combat losses to the aerial units and it searched for a solution. Again, combined arms doctrine was the answer. As the aerials provided overwatch for the ground roaming hunter killers, so in turn was something needed to provide overwatch for the aerial units. SKYNET began to expand its arsenal with a variety of specialized ground and air units, the first of which was the Model 320 Series 12 recon aerial, a small kite winged, ducted fan powered machine that was lighter, smaller, quicker and more agile than the larger aerial unit. The Model 320 was deployed either singly, in pairs, or in groups of three.
The Model 320 had a width of 4 meters, a height of a meter and a half, and a length of just over 6 meters. Most of the construction was from blown hyperalloy with a carefully controlled honeycomb structure giving it both support strength and light weight. The diamond shaped wing that gave it the distinctive shape was used to house the opposed ducted fan lift arrays and was itself bisected down the middle by the main fuselage.
The main fuselage itself housed the navionics and the system controls as well as the tactical sensor and scanner arrays. The body was waspish and tapered, rounded at the edges with a pair of small tail fins on the rear for flight stability. The wing tips tapered off at the edges and curled up slightly at the ends. Special anti-turbulence intakes surround the ducted fans, providing for smooth lift and performance envelope maintenance despite buffeting and high speed NOE operations. The individual fans rotated on their frictionless gimbals through four axis of traverse. Two small nuclear power sources, housed in component armored housings, provide power to the lift fans as well as to the various systems of the Model 320. Operational time was limited to 120 hours with a sizeable reserve and the 320 could recharge from any automated servicing center in about an hour at normal rate or it could have its modular power sources removed and replaced with fresh units in under ten minutes in an emergency situation. The docking cradle for the Model 320 was also modular and three such cradles could be installed in a storage / maintenance bay that normally housed a single aerial.
Primary sensors are mounted in the front of the fuselage and also along the lower body, allowing the Series 12 HK a superior look forward and down range of data acquisition. Early models featured the PRH-34D electronics but later models were upgraded to the much more powerful PRJ-34C electronics suite which included high resolution infra-red, thermal imaging, and televisual.
The tactical processor arrays of the Model 320 could track up to a hundred and fifty targets and were linked to SKYNET through Band Ten modulation and data pulsers.
Armor for the Model 320 was light, just nine millimeters of force hardened hyperalloy with a plastisteel wrap beneath. A single, General Dynamics RGM-34P rapid pulse phased plasma repeater was mounted on a gimbaled mount underneath the fuselage. Power was provided from reactor waste heat and practical rate of fire was greater than 300 pulses per minute. A pair of high intensity white spots were mounted beneath the forward lip of the fuselage, and another pair of HIWS was mounted on the RGM-34P mount itself. Dedicated high resolution target scan as well as thermal imaging was provided. A single high intensity active infra-red spot light was mounted in the forward assembly.
The Model 320 massed 1800 kilograms and had a top speed in excess of 200 klicks an hour. Four hundred units made up the initial production run in 2018 but after that, production was held steady at 750 units per year. SKYNET continued to upgrade the Model 320 up until the very end of the war.The highly successful T400 HK, also known as a Model A4, was SKYNET's version of a fully automated aerial close support and area suppression gunship. The A4 model provides SKYNET with air superiority, close air support / escort of ground forces and installation defense capabilities. With the Resistance limited to simple ground assault, SKYNET quickly achieved both tactical and strategic air supremacy in all theaters of operations.
Some Resistance units have even referred to the A4 as a "fighter," though it is not a fighter in the Pre-Awareness definition of that term. The A4 is a semi-autonomous combat unit, self controlled by a battery of four redundant tactical microprocessors which share the load independently as well as collaterally. A high capacity fiber optic relay network that rivals the human nervous system. it has no 'pilot' onboard, the Aerial being the ultimate advancement of a dedicated close air superiority and ground support UPV (Un-Piloted Vehicle). Early human data on the idea that the A4 was piloted by a model of bipedal machine were found to be false by later investigation by Tech-Com personnel and post War analysis of SKYNET's designs showed that at no time were any of the Aerial units under the physical control of any other machine (other than SKYNET via remote interface).
The A4 is powered by a high capacity, high efficiency compact nuclear reactor and maneuvers on vectored thrust provided by two large variable output, high pressure turbofans as well as several body mounted swivel thrust dispersal nozzle ports. This setup allows the A4 to function as a full VTOL unit, switching from hover or VTOL mode into full flight at speeds.
Main directional thrust and sustained hovering capacity is provided by two huge reactor driven electric turbofans mounted in wing tip armored cowlings. The body of the A4 was streamlined to the point of being insect-like, gaining a psychological advantage against the Resistance units and generating such descriptive names as "Dragon-Fly", "Wasp", and "Mosquito" but SKYNET never referred to the unit by any of these names or designations. Such romantic nicknames for any of SKYNET's units were strictly the realm of its human foes. SKYNET had no need to name its units nor was it prone to doing so, they were simply weapons and referred to by a complicated system of data including type, model number, series, production run, allocation, serial number, and status.
A hyper-alloy airframe was constructed with honeycombed / blown enduralloy, similar in design to the skeleton of a bird. The airframe was connected to three separate engines. The first engine was an advanced design and provided primary VTOL and stationary/hover maneuvering using a series of twelve vectored, rotating nozzles mounted along the fuselage. The new engine, designated NED-VPR25A according to post-War data analysis, was slimmer, lighter, and easily fit in an airframe that didn't have to worry about the G-force limits of a weak human being. Electronics could be hardened against acceleration forces that would normally kill a human pilot and the A4 could maneuver with inhuman precision which resulted in such superior performance being recorded for this unit throughout the span of operation and production.
The two main engines are housed on servo powered body stub mounts. These servo mounts can rotate the engines through a full 90 degree forward or aft rotation, allowing superior maneuvering and massive acceleration or deceleration. The engines are protected by a armored cowling with not only keeps debris from entering the compressor assembly, but also protects from small arms fire up to 25mm HE, HEAP, KE and KEAP.
The whole air frame of the A4 is armored in a light layer of hyperalloy, able to withstand small arms fire and to survive large caliber hits up to 40mm including HEAP rounds. A retractable tripod configured claw landing gear assembly is installed as well as a upper docking clamp for gantry docking at advanced bases.
The A4 possesses a sophisticated navigation system, using TERCOM along with satellite GPS and a host of radar, ladar and NOE navionics. Target acquisition relies on visual target identification, and includes a larger, though not more powerful version of the same sensor and communication suite found in the 1200 Series Scout. Advanced optics and range systems allowed the A4s to isolate individual Resistance units on the ground and engage them with surgical precision. Advanced motion video was capable of picking out movement among the ruins and the liquid optics could identify anything that the motion sensors could track.
The main armament of the A4 series aerodyne consisted of a reactor fed, very rapid fire General Dynamics Model 25D3 phased plasma cannon mounted in a remote electric drive ventral mount turret. The M25D3 had a throughput range of 250 kilowatts with a practical rate of fire of 2000 pulses per minute. Payload, feeding from the reactor waste, was for all tactical purposes, infinite, but required periodic refueling of its magazine cell, limiting the operating time of the unit. The remote electric drive mount rotated on frictionless bearings and was universal, allowing the A4 to engage targets not only to the front, sides, and rear, but also targets almost directly below the unit. Slew rate for the RED-T mount was +/- 180 degrees a second. Secondary armament was in the form of a configurable, modular internal bay which could hold up to 1 metric ton of equipment, electronics, additional self contained plasma gun pods, or free fall ordinance in the form of chemical, biological, explosive, or even tactical thermonuclear devices on rotary launchers.
Some early production models of the A4 were equipped with modular sling rails on the underside for the addition of scatter pack rocket pods, smart bombs, NBC ordinance, and Air to Air (AAM) or Air to Ground (AGM) advanced precision guided missiles. With the destruction of most forms of Resistance armored vehicles (tanks, APCs, from Pre-Sentience stock piles), the need for these units dwindled and most were eventually modified back to the original A4 series (higher aerodynamic efficiency). The types of 'armored fighting vehicles' (AFV) that the Resistance could field in 2019 were easily dispatched with the power of the mounted plasma gun.
The performance of the A4 Aerial was exceptional; with a combined thrust output of 35,000 kilograms and an airframe weight of just 5000 kilograms (unloaded internal bay), the A4 could pull up to 20 Gs of sustained thrust with a top speed in excess of Mach 1.4 in level high altitude flight and a high subsonic NOE speed. Due to its advanced power plant and electric ducted fans, the A4 could also maintain indefinite VTOL and hover / loiter conditions. The A4 could reach a service ceiling of 18 kilometers in altitude and had a operational life of 3 months of constant operation, more with routine power conserving protocols enacted, before the mini-reactor required scheduled maintenance and periodic refueling.
A4s were housed in underground armored hangers, brought to the surface by a heavy elevator through heavy armored doors. Each A4 had a separate 'pit' for refueling, rearming, and maintenance. Some advanced bases were equipped with gantry docking, allowing the A4s to maneuver up canyons and dock on existing free standing gantries. Other A4 units were kept on hardened concrete and pourstone tarmacs, out in the open, ready and on stand-by alert for instant take off and defense of their assigned critical installations. Advanced bases with many A4s were referred to by the Resistance as 'Aerodromes' and were often protected by high walls, automated gun turrets, and even dedicated ground units. The nomenclature has been traced to early 20th century centers for civilian air transportation.
The Aerial was SKYNET's platform for air power, and various designs as well as airframes grew from the data collected from A4 field use.
FLIGHT PROFILE WITH ENGINES REMOVED FROM POWERED ROTATIONAL SPONSONS, VENTRAL RAPID PULSE
PHASED PLASMA GUN LOCKED ON MOUNT, AND TRIPOD LANDING LEGS FOLDED BENEATH