Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; EuroFightas Typhoon

The canard-delta wing craft  multi-national pride Eurofighter Typhoon first flew in March 27 1994. The Typhoon began as a joint project between Great Britain,  France, Germany, Italy and Spain. As we know, France split from the group in 1985 to pursue their own fighter, which became the Rafale. The two fighters share a similar overall appearance because of their common origin.

Whatever you want to call the Typhoon, there’s no denying that the fighter is well-suited for its air dominance role with instantaneous and sustained turn rates, low wing loading, high thrust-to-weight ratio, excellent all-around vision and ease of handling. It’s two turbofans generate a combined thrust of 18 396kg, which is comparable to the F-14 Tomcat’s, but an unladen Typhoon weights half as much as the weight of an empty Tomcat. This is due to the Typhoon being constructed by using lightweight composite materials and glass fibre.

The good vision the pilot has from a Typhoon serves it’s sophisticated attack systems well, and its identification and defence systems include Infra-Red search and track, advanced medium and short-range air-to-air missiles and largely a comprehensive electronics warfare suite. Despite it lacking stealth the Typhoon can put up a tough fight, especially when you realise that it doesn’t just have chaffs and flares, but decoys as well carried on its wingtip pods.

Despite it’s intended role, the Typhoon is really an all-around multirole combat fighter. It’s basic armaments consist of one 27mm cannon and 13 hardpoints carrying up to 6 500kg of ordinance from short and medium range AAMs to wide range of stand-off weapons, bombs and rockets. It’s underside looks like they just bolted every single sort of missile and rocket they could and made it fly fast.

All this sounds good, but it could’ve been even better, if not for Germany threatening to remove themselves from the joint project in 1992 due to rising costs.

The Typhoon requires fly-by-wire system as it is aerodynamically unstable. This offers the fighter  high levels of agility, enhanced lift and reduced drag. Fly-by-wire has become standard to a large extent, which can be equated to power steering in cars. The pilots also have a relatively advanced cockpit with wide angle HUD and three monitors displaying the needed instrument information and flight data. The helmets even have a sight for the weapons, and direct voice input allows the pilot controls by talking to the fighter. That’s some serious sci-fi shit right there; Next  thing you know is that some poor bastard falls in love with their machine while fighting some strawberry jam aliens.

The British variants of the Typhoon are assembled by BAE Systems from components produced in partner countries, and partner countries have their own assembly lines in Munich, Turin and Madrid. There are numerous variants of the Typhoon, and even a navalised variant has been proposed.

Unlike the F-14 Tomcat, the TSF version of the Typhoon stands well next to its original counterpart. Numerous elements are instantly recognizable, despite the legs again being more or less based on nothing.

F-14 Tomcat
Original and image board version

Much like the fighter, the TSF EF-2000 is a fast hitting machine wielding sharpened components in almost every part of its body, which gives it an edge in engaging the BETA over American F-22A. These components also work as control surfaces during high speed maneuvers. Then you have the Euro Front only weapons: BWS-8 Flugelberte with the Germans, a goddamn axe, and the choice of weapon of the British Storm Vanguards, the BWS-3 Great Sword that’s made so insanely over the top that it’s nickname’s the Fort Slayer.

It's a ridiculous sword
It’s a damn ridiculous sword. Type 74 and Type 77 PB Blades, XCIWS-2B, BWS-8 Flugelberte are all reasonable weapons, but the BWS-3 and Falcate Sword are just way over the top, BWS-3 topping everything else

Despite all these close-combat abilities, the EF-2000 is able to carry the more or less usual GWS-9 Assault Guns, but also has the access to the absolutely bombastic Mk.57 Squad Support Gun, which is essentially a high-mobility support gun for the TSFs. While the US doctrine is to shoot everything and most others combine traditional armour forces with the aforementioned traditional forces, the Euro Front employs the Mk.57 with its TSFs to support each other, freeing thanks and others to stay at defensive positions. With the range of over 20km and high mobility of the EF-2000, the Mk.57 has made its impact.

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Outside the GAU-8 Avenger the A-10 carries, this gun is the best gun ever. Then again, the A-10 is a TSA and not a TSF

What more to add? While visually the real life fighter is a bit dull, the TSF is absolutely spot-on.

Plane Elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; F-14 Tomcat

The Grumman F-14 Tomcat. One of the most iconic fighter jets out there. While many fighters can be mixed together at a first glance, the Tomcat can’t be mistaken with its twin-engine and variable-sweep wings combined with mostly unique silhouette. Its main missions have always been air superiority and fleet air defence with a touch of precision strikes against ground targets in any weather.

Despite its age, the Tomcat was one of the most potent interceptors in the world before its retirement in 2006. In a non-stealth fight, the Tomcat would still be a considerable threat. It can attack its targets anywhere between few meters away to 160km, and with flight altitude upper limit being somewhere around 18km, the F-14 Tomcat is a beast.

I really like the Tomcat if you can’t tell. It’s one of the earliest fighter jets I can remember having an awesome effect. It’s not just me, but the popular culture before F-22’s arrival knew that the fighter that represented American fighter superiority was the F-14. The plane is well known from movies such as The Final Countdown and the Top Gun. Most people associate the Tomcat with the Fighter Squadron 84, also known as the Jolly Rogers. These factors has made the fighter to be associated with yellow, black and grey very well, and Macross’ / Robotech’s Skull Squadron made this asociation even stronger in this matter both in Japan and US in the minds of the children. Pretty much any and every fighter game in the 80’s and at least early 90’s had a Tomcat prominently in there somewhere, and perhaps one of the most famous examples is SEGA’s After Burner series. Hell, the fighter has its own damn pinball machine!

The Tomcat saw most action in the 1980’s and 1990’s, having its first kill in the Gulf of Sidra incident. The Tomcat saw action during Operation Desert Storm and one of its variants, the variant F-14B got nicknamed as the Bombcat due to its role as an accurate bomber in Bosnia in 1995. Iran has been the only other country that has employed Tomcats thanks to Nixon, who offered the last Shah of Iran to gain access to the latest American fighter technology.

But what of the TSF? you ask.

F-14 Tomcat
Original and the lacking image board version

There’s not much to discuss the Grunnan F-14 Tomcat. The TSF doesn’t reflect the real fighter all too well. The F-14 was the first variable geometry carrier-borne aircraft to step into service, whereas its TSF counterpart merely employs these in the Jump Unit. The TSF’s big grandeur seems to be in its AIM-54 Phoenix long-range missile system, it’s two-seat control unit and overall normal stuff you get with more advanced TSF tech. I admit that my lack of enthusiasm for this TSF stems from the design feeling very sparse, weak and uninspiring compared to what the actual fighter plane could’ve offered. Perhaps it’s partially because the core TSF designs don’t accommodate F-14’s general silhouette too well, or it could be that whoever was in charge of these designs was too busy fapping over Russian fighters during production of Total Eclipse’ mechas.

The TSF Tomcat stays true to the American doctrine of fighting; shoot it until it’s dead. Add the Phoenix missiles in, and you don’t even need to be at visual range to do it. It’s nothing new or exciting. In Altverse, the Tomcat didn’t stay silent when it was being replaced by the F/A-18/F Super Hornet as US Navy’s main fighter.

The F-14Ex Super Tomcat is based on a real idea to produce Super Tomcat 21, a sort of overhaul update to give the base F-14 high-end navigation systems, targeting pods, ground attack modes and new weaponry options as well as physical changes to accommodate better control surfaces and enlarged leading edge root extensions for more fuel. Add digital controls with possibility of thrust vectoring with a single piece windscreen, and you possibly had a winner. I don’t know the F-14Ex managed to add shit on top of the sleek prototype model, but the TSF Super Tomcat is a failed design in this regard. Add another injury to the F-14’s TSF treatment, the F-14AN3 Mindseeer is a mess visually speaking, and the it is recognized as such in-universe as well. The less said about it the better.

The operational history of the TSF does reflect the real life fighter to some extent, but that’s not what these posts are about.

All in all, from TSF like Su-47 you recognize the plane well enough  or with the TSA A-10. I didn’t realise what the F-14 TSF was suppose to be before seeing the name Tomcat with it. It’s a too generic TSF look for this particular model.

Well, we’re all humming it already, so here it is.

Observable rules in TSF design Part 2; Early consistency

When discussing Tactical Surface Fighters designs both in and out of universe perspective, we have two points that we have to notice that absolutely breaks the previously discussed basis for the core ideas of TSF designs. These two points are the early first generation TSFs and late third generation TSFs. We’ll concentrate on first generation TSFs and direct descendants of the F-4 lines that share similar design points this time and return to late Third generation and F-5 line at a later date.

The first mass produced Tactical Surface Fighter, the F-4 Phantom, is an awesome, heavy piece of shit that set the standard in which its immediate predecessors would follow. This is due to TSF being mainly one line of design that branches off to multiple directions rather than multiple lines of designs you see e.g. in Mobile Suit Gundam with its Zakus and GMs. That’s where the argument that TSFs look the same falls short and has some basis at the same time, as the TSF tech tree is more comparable to GM or Zaku tech tree than the whole variety of designs from multiple points.

The relevant units for this post. The F-5 lines has been dropped and the MiG-23 has been left in to show how much Soviet's managed to move their designs forward after MiG-21
The relevant units for this post. The F-5 lines has been dropped and the MiG-23 has been left in to show how much Soviet’s managed to move their designs forward after MiG-21

The early TSFs mirror this very well. The F-4 is a basis the rest 1st Generation Surface Fighters simply modify. The Soviet Union MiG-21 Balalaika and Japanese Type-82/F-4 Modified Zuikaku are good examples how the basic design of the F-4 was taken a step further while still basically using the same core frame and design. This is also why, to certain degree, the discussed observable rules of TSF design does not apply to them fully. The exceptions here are F-5 Freedom Fighter and the line it gives birth to. This is to give a consistent line of evolution to the tech tree. We are ignoring plane elements in this post, as the focus is set how all and any early First generation designs we may get in the future has to adhere to certain things F-4 has laid down, except if it follows the F-5 line.

While the F-4 essentially has a whole family of variants that look different only in weapon loadout and paint on the chassis, the Soviet’s spun their versions, the F-4R , into development of MiG-21. In real world the fighter was only nicknamed Balalaika, but here it seems to hold as its official name for whatever reason. Anyway, the MiG-21’s design stands very close to the progenitor F-4 while streamlining some components. The MiG-21 was designed to enter and exit combat at higher speeds than the F-4 as well as engage in melee combat. As such, the MiG-21 follows multirole ideology for a surface fighter rather than just sticking the American doctrine to shoot or nuke everything that moves from afar.

Needless to say, it tickles some funnybone I have to think how Russian and Chinese TSFs have direct elements from F-4 because of all this.

While the silhouettes between F-4 and MiG-21 are similar, the key differences are in the aforementioned smoother design. The head has seen mostly changed from chin up. The grooved sides have been replaced with much more low-key sides, whereas the top has an additional communications antennae. MiG-21PF has a different antennae found in the forehead and a smaller rudder-like at the back of the head. This versions was produced in more limited numbers and was designed to function where heavy metal clouds would interfere with communication. We’ll be seeing some of this unit in Schwarzesmarken.

F-4 - MiG-21
F-4, the American pride, and MiG-21, the Soviet working force

The torso and shoulder units between F-4 and MiG-21 govern both Surface Fighter’s to a large extent and the two are basically the exact same. The only difference the arms have is the change in the angle of the knife housing, the so-called Blade Sheaths. Outside that the two could be switched without anyone noticing the difference outside paint application.

Legs are the point where you can see designers dropping the first heavy armouring the F-4 has. The smoother and more streamlined legs also mean that the weight has been distributed higher in the Surface Fighter, a trend that would continue with most mainline designs, at least visually. There’s few interesting points going on with the F-4’s feet with those additional support pieces both sides of the calves, something that no other new design that wasn’t a direct F-4 variant didn’t use. We can assume that this is both a slight remnant of YSF4H-1, the prototypical test piece that was developed into F-4. That, and the fact that F-4 was most likely heavy enough to warrant these pieces to need additional weight distribution.

J-8 uses the MiG-21 line Jump Units, unsurprisingly. Notice the head and the yellow lines of interest high in the legs
J-8 uses the MiG-21 line Jump Units, unsurprisingly. Notice the head and the yellow lines of interest high in the legs

J-8 being a MiG-21 variant shares the same body, it just has a new head. The J-8 was also optimised for close combat and thus the Type-77 Close Combat Battle Halberd was born. The J-8 doesn’t strike as a close combat unit, but combined with the Type-77’s heavy topped cleaver it could easily strike down even a Fort-Class. Whereas the Type-74 PB Blade Japanese use should be mainly used with two hands as per the whole katana thing it has going on, the Type-77 CRBH’s heaviness allows a good striking power with just one hand. The recovery time is worse thou due to the very same reason, but it is a preference between power and balance. I can see a J-8 doing TSF kung-fu and doing precise strikes to take down any and all BETA with one large swing. Then again, the the Type-74 PB Blade is depicted to go through BETA like knife through hot butter, so we can assume Type-77 CRBH does that, just better with heavier swings.

Chinese
Chinese Type-77 Close Range Battle Halberd above with Japanese Type-74 PB Blade below it

The MiG-23 spun the MiG line to its own unique direction with elements fusing elements from the F-4’s line, especially from F-18 Hornet and F-15 Eagle, leaving Zuikaku as the last unit that uses clear elements of the F-4 line. Whenever we get to Su-37 Terminator in the TSF comparisons, we’ll have to take account similarities with the F-15.

However, let’s return to Zuikaku for now. TSF Type-82 Zuikaku is essentially a variant of F-4J Gekishin, a variant of F-4 Phantom itself. As such, Zuikaku is essentially just a modified piece of a modified piece and it shows. Zuikaku’s design follows the F-4 nicely with new twists. The head unit is still the same with additional rudder shoved at top back of its head and rabbit ear winglets at the sides.

Unlike with the J-8, Zuikaku doesn't do anything to me. It looks more or less like a knock-off, which it essentially is
Unlike with the J-8, Zuikaku doesn’t do anything to me. It looks more or less like a knock-off, which it essentially is

The torso is overall the same, with the hole replaced with a line on its chest. I haven’t seen any explanations what these are, but seeing how TSF cockpits are closed with no windows, they’re most likely just interesting pieces of design to break the monotony on the chest. Zuikaku also has additional intakes just below and before its armpits.

Zuikaku’s shoulders overall follow the F-4 line. However, there’s some extra armouring to hold thrusters. Outside that, the overall design is the same. The energy indicators are of different design, but that’s a small change. Arms still use the stock F-4 pieces with slightly elongated Blade Sheaths, but then again they are the lightest and most effective pieces F-4 had. It’s interesting to notice that Second generation TSF have relatively lightly designed arms, and the Third generation then returns to the heavy handed designs.

The F-4 line always had thunder thighs for legs, and Zuikaku follows the suit. While the Zuikaku strips some bells and whistles off from the F-4, the most important change is with the lack of extra supports in the calves. This would signify to us that Zuikaku is lighter than the rest of the F-4 line. This is due to Japanese being unable to realize their own original design and had to opt to take combat data from European Fronts from the late 70’s, and modify existing units to emphasize close combat similar to J-8. Naturally, the output was also higher, allowing the Zuikaku follow the set Japanese doctrine of hack n’ slash with some shooting in there. However, despite it being a good upgrade over the base F-4, it still suffers from being based on that heavy frame. Shiranui and Fubuki are early Third Generation TSFs, and it took Japanese that long to realize their own design that would serve them as they saw fit. During that time the Americans and Soviets had produced their own designs by large loads, while Europe mostly opting to importing those and making modifications to those as needed.

Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; Dass-Ault Rafale

rafale
Here’s the original as per usual and the image board version

With the rather recent news of India and Qatar purchasing Rafales from Dassault Aviation to bolster their airforces, and the more recent new of Schwarzesmarken getting animated later this year, it’s pretty good time to celebrate the more obscure side of Muv-Luv a little bit, if obscure even is a thing when it comes to this franchise.

Rafale, the fighter, is pretty damn neat. It’s a multi-role fighter to some extent, able to do both short and long range missions, dogfight, attack land and sea targets and if necessary, enact a nuclear strike. It’s a fighter bred and born in France, developed by major French defence contractors. There is something French in the shape of the fuselage, with all the slight curves one would want to caress with interesting details to explore. It should be noted that prior to Rafale’s development, French Air Force and French Navy had a need for a proper next generation fighter. Due to this fact, it was chosen to combine the two projects into one, which would explain why Rafale is Duke’s wet dream coming true, able to fight in the land, sea and air. Still, the original project fell through due to multiple nations being part of the project, which is without the doubt why French took it to themselves to tackle the project. Nevertheless, the Rafale is a successful result despite all this and essentially has been replacing numerous different fighters the French forces have been using, including classics like F-8P Crusader.

The Tactical Surface Fighter mirrors the real life fighter in this nature. France was part of a multi-national project to replace Second and earlier generations TSF, that could not meet the need to tackle BETA to the needed extent. The European Front is different from America and even from Japan. It’s more akin to Kamchatka we saw in Total Eclipse, with constant threat from BETA from everywhere. There’s not much water to use in the middle of the continent, whereas Japan is a set of islands that can make use of Navy when needed. The rivers and lakes aren’t the best place to bring your naval support. Just like in real world, French dropped from the multi- national project because there was a disagreement on the engines of the Jump Units.

The Rafale and EF-2000 Typhoon share a lot same elements, as they were built from the same set of data and all that. The Rafale as a TSF has curved surfaces to it than the Typhoon, though the two have comparable performance in how they slay BETA. Indeed, both of them were built to kill them invaders by the dozen, and combined with the A-10C Thunderbolt II squadrons, both Rafale and Typhoon are pretty damn effective in their intended role of kicking ass and taking names. Their high-mobility design puts them well on par with the rest of the third generation machines and a good Surface Pilot could do whatever insane stuff is needed to weave through the enemy lines.

However, as Rafale is designed to fight the BETA, it lacks any notion of stealth. Stealth is useless against BETA, but against human targets it offers good leverage. I could see a future where Semi-fourth generation and actual Fourth generation European TSFs would employ stealth as one of their secondary capabilities just to counter the the possible battles they would have against the US forces. Knowing how much the US wants to fuck with the rest of the world for their own ends, there’s very little doubt that at some point after Alternative we would get at least minor wars between human fronts using TSFs.

Outside what reads on the chart, there’s not much to say about Rafale’s design. Its groin guard lacks the fighter’s nose, but outside that it incorporates all the elements the archetypical TSF takes from the planes. I would argue that the torso the design has should be more shaped to looks similar to the plane. While the EF-2000 Typhoon is related to the Rafale in visual concepts, the torsos are far too similar and making Rafale smoother with curved surfaces would’ve made a larger impact on the viewer. The geometry is more complex to create, but that would’ve been a small price to pay.  It also lacks the flight refuelling probe, but there wasn’t much they could done with it with the TSFs, and as it is removable, it was dropped.

There’s few things I’d like to put out there. I aim to use illustrations from the books as much as possible as not all TSFs or TSAs have sprites. In case of Rafale I could have used some of the sprites, but for uniform look I’ll stick with scanned illustrations, if possible. Secondly, despite I wanted to to write about the Falcate Sword the Rafale works, but that’s just slightly out of topic. There will be a post or two about TSF weapons at some point, as they could make a decent post on whether or not they are actually practical. For Falcate Sword, I’ll just say that’s it’s pretty damn retarded weapon, and that scythes don’t do too well on the battlefield due to obvious reasons.

Next time in TSF comparisons we’re going back in time to check out either MiG-21 or branch off to TSAs and check out what sort of elements the A-10 Thunderbold II has.

Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; F-22A

Time for some FREEDOM.

F-22A Raptor_2
Original here and here’s the image board version

There’s some few interesting points overall with the Raptor. The knees’ sides for one carry a similar V-cut than what the YF-23 had. Another is that much like the Berkut, the Raptor is far more inspired by the plane than outright transformation. This can be seen in the frequent use of diamonds, triangles, hexagons and saw edges all around the body. This seems to be a thing with the 3rd Generation TSFs.  Another is that it tends to be surprisingly smooth and jagged at the same time, and this juxtaposition is not the easiest one to design.

Another thing is that a lot of the plane’s elements are sharpened, whereas the thrusters on the shoulders get a hexagon shape instead. The shoulder units can be understood very well, as it needs to go with the rest of the design of the unit. The Jump units are the best example how things have made sharper, best seen in the wings and fins.

The fighter itself has become iconic to large extend because of this, and that it poisons its crew due to materials used in it. The TSF similarly has become somewhat infamous in the Muv-Luv fandom for being designed to fight other TSFs with properly functioning stealth and heavy emphasize on ranged fighting as opposed to the general TSF battle doctrine, where ranged and close quarters combat are balanced to a large extend. Japan is somewhat an exception with its emphasize on direct sword fighting, and as a special case of the SU-47 Berkut’s knife dance. As such, the TSF fails is to deliver the idea of stealth. While it doesn’t have too much bulk in TSF terms, it has far too much grooves and protruding surfaces to give the visual cues of a vanishing trooper.

I admit that some bits are a bit far fetched. The fighter’s nose is practically nowhere to be found in the TSF without allowing some loose reading. The nose could be seen on the groin guard, but it’s far too flat nature to be the nose. The chest on the other hand can be seen using the overall shape of the nose, just with far more harder lines and changed tip. The change can be understood, as the whole TSF is more about angles than sleek sleek surfaces.

Because of all the aforementioned, the Raptor doesn’t have any clear hardpoints to poke the BETA with. The knee is clearly a one, but those knee points also house the battle knives.

The page 95 of Integral Works has some other stuff too, but this is where we need to turn our eyes on for now
The page 95 of Integral Works has some other stuff too, but this is where we need to turn our eyes on for now

The knees could work on piledriver principle. However, as the tip is rather flat, I doubt it would as a hardpoint. Then again, blunt damage is still damage. Unlike most of its contemporaries, the Raptor’s arms are completely free of any weapons. The guards are there to protect from the TSF close quarters weapons, not to add more lethality of the unit. The knife itself reflects this with its switchblade nature. The CIWS-1B is without any doubt the worst TSF combat knife,  CIWS-1A and Type-65 PB Knife being far superior in design and form. Switchblades are mostly good for generic working as replacement tools when you don’t have an access to a proper blade, which seems to again reflect the ranged fighting the US army favours.

Ultimately, there’s not much to the Raptor. It follow similar ideology with the Su-47 Berkut in that only a number of elements to inspire their looks rather than actually adapting the plane itself. As such, neither of them are actually good examples of TSF core idea. Next time we’re going to go full baguette with the Dass-Ault’s Rafale with all of its curves.

Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; SU-47 Berkut

A personal favourite; the Russian Golden Eagle.

Print
Here’s the first one and the original

The SU-47 Berkut is a bit peculiar Tactical Surface Fighter in that it lacks most of the normal TSF/plane element crossover. It can almost be said, that the only thing taken from the plane itself are the Forward Swept Wings (FSW). However, unlike the plane, the TSF itself is rather busy and filled with more or less useless visuals. For example, what the hell are those red boxy things on its shoulders? Why does it have an angry looking glowing duck bill as its chest? It’s also funny to notice that the Jump Units basically cut the nose and cockpit off, giving them slightly evil look. Overall, it should be said that the TSF SU-47’s most common points with the plane are the wings colour. The overall impression is removed from the actual plane’s smooth surface. The bottom of the plane went more or less unused in making the TSF, not even the intakes were used anywhere.

It has to be said, that the Berkut does seemingly use parts and sections from past Soviet TSFs, similarly how the real life SU-47 had a forward fuselage,  landing gear and vertical tails from SU-27 and its derivatives. The asymmetrical tail booms are also mirrored in the Jump Units.

Anyways, I’m a fan of the real life SU-47. While the plane itself was/is just a testbed plane and only one was produced as far as I know, it was a pretty little thing. The FSW, canards and twin outward-canted vertical stabilisers create a nice tandem triplane configuration. While some people diss the FSW design overall as weak and useless, the Berkut would’ve been a beast of a machine in a straight up dogfight with its higher angles of attack in post-stall maneouvres. This was because the FSW allowed the machine to gain better lift closer to the fuselage, which also made the ailerons have more control. The inboard lift that the configuration wasn’t restricted by wingtip stall, or at least to the same extent than the other wing configurations. The thing what made the Berkut a nightmare to design and produce was that the FSW is a geometry that causes wing twisting under load, thus putting more stress on the wings. This was countered with a solution where the wings twist when they bend. The SU-47 had some level of stealth with the surface being coated with radar absorbing material. The downside in all this is that scratches, loose screws and slightly misaligned panels cause the RAM coating’s effectiveness. Knowing Russian industries and their lacking quality control in places, combined with their economy, the Berkut was a plane that was too expensive and hard to produce in any sensible way.

Still, the SU-47 Berkut would’ve been one helluva machine in dogfighting. The TSF reflects this with chainsaws stored in its arms, multiple hardpoints all over its body and KNIVES in its legs. Why knives, you ask? Well, modern fighter pilots have described dogfighting akin to a knife fight in a tight space. The Berkut was made to fight close and fight mean. Total Eclipse TV showcased some of this, but most of it was Newtype power crap. Hell, you have a scene where the Berkut crosses its chainsaw blade with a Type-74 PB Blade. The chainsaw would’ve been unusable after that, but I’m sure the dead psychic ghost in the back prevented it. While the SU-47 would carry the standard TSF armament otherwise, it’s speciality is to get close and personal with either the enemy TSF or BETA, and then enact the goddamn tropak with knives glued to your legs while wielding two mini-chainsaws. It can even poke your eyes out with the hardpoints in its fingers. Hell, it’ll headbutt your skull in two with its horn.

This, of course goes against the ideology of FREEDOM!, where you’re free to shoot every living target behind stealth and far, far away. The F-22A Raptor, both in real life and in TSF form, are all about fighting the ranged fight at Beyond Visual Range. In real life, the Berkut would have a hard time getting close to something that’s already shooting it beyond the horizon, but I’d imagine it would give the Raptor one helluva ride for its money if it ever got to close in.

The SU-47 isn’t dead and forgotten. Colonel General Viktor Bondarev claims that the research and development on the Berkut or similar FSW fighters is still ongoing, and we might just see new prototypes of its nature. Fingers crossed. Then again, perhaps that money could be used to develop Russian industry and help to build a better society to live in.

Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; YF-23

I decided to go with YF-23 instead of Su-47 Berkut, because this way I can keep things tied together slightly better.

Print
You can see the original chart here

There’s some points of interest with the YF-23. I’m not sure if it would be safe to say that the jagged shape at the tail end of the fighter is a recognizable shape in itself, but it does repeat itself at few points on the TSF where there really isn’t any reason to have a jagged shape outside generic appearance.

The thrusters have been turned into intakes in most cases, and even on the shoulder units the thrusters only have a superficial similarity to them. I counted it in because the overall appearance of the TSF YF-23 uses the juxtaposition of angles and smooth surfaces, albeit not really mixing them to any large degree.

As a rule of thumb when it comes to TSFs, the Jump units are miniature versions of the actual fighter. In Yf-23’s case you can see how well they managed to mangle the overall shape in order to fit the standard Jump unit design. Similar rule of thumb is the groin guard, which has surprising similarity with the plane’s nose. I didn’t notice the torso’s similarity with the nose before I compared it with the plamo of Shiranui Second Phase 3, in which it comes out better due to the white accent line running at the top.

Ultimately, the YF-23 is rather light on the plane elements compared to some of the other TSFs. Some of them have a miniature plane sitting on top of their head, or at least the cockpit bubble, but with YF-23 only major elements were used. It may also help that the real YF-23 is overall featureless outside its silhouettes, which also explains why the TSF’s shoulder units are so busy compared most of the body. However, the shoulder units are also the point where you can see some elements of the overall plane design in the angle/smooth juxtaposition, but this may be just my eye trying to find something that’s not really there. That is actually a danger with this ‘series;’ as everything is more or less done with observations rather than first degree source, this all ultimately is nothing but fan speculation.

If you have any comments what should be changed and/or corrected, or suggestions otherwise, feel free throwing some on the comments section. If it’s something I can do and have enough time, I aim to make those changes. Time is essential to me at the moment, so don’t expect another chart too soon.Of course, if you just want me to stop, you’re free to say that too. This has been a long standing project, but I tend to play the long game with some matters.

As usual with any charts, there are bound to be revisions. These charts actually take about two or three times longer to make, because I tend to check and recheck what I do, and ultimately forget to spell check. Next to that, I decided to add all source pages I used, because that’s one way you can call me out and see how badly I edited the images out from their initial photos.

Review of the Month; Shiranui 2nd Phase 3

A small disclaimer is in place for this one. This isn’t a plamo review. Shiranui Second Phase 3 model already has reviews of it on the ‘net from people who know a thing or two more about general modelling that me. However, the design is under review here and will be contrasted against the other Third generation Tactical Surface Fighters in Muv-Luv Alternative. The model used here was built in less than four hours, and is an extremely quick built with practically no paint on it. A model was needed to explore the dimensions more properly than what an image can convey. While it is completely possible to review a design like that, the hands down experience with the actual dimensions give better understanding.

The colouring guide always make me feel like piece of shit for not having time to make my models look like this in few hours.
The colouring guide always make me feel like piece of shit for not having time to make my models look like this in few hours.

All I say that it’s very generic Kotobukiya quality. Nothing fancy about it in any way, plastic is decent but there are some interesting and wholly weird engineering choices. Not much articulation, but that’s mainly fault of the design rather than the engineering.

But let’s get to it.

I borrowed the stand from a certain character from a certain series about miracles in the sky
I borrowed the stand from a certain character from a certain series about miracles in the sky

Shiranui 2nd Phase 3 doesn’t deviate itself from the usual TSF design. Large shoulders with weapons rack on them, stick thin waist that just invites a Grappler-Class to snap it in half, pelvis mounted jump packs and surprisingly well balanced legs.

This Unit No.02 Yui Takamura custom was chosen because of its colours. The Unit No.01 has Yuuya Bridges colours, which are more or less ace repaint of the actual unit, and I don’t see that as the standard colourisation. The Unit No.02 has colours that resemble the original Shiranui much more closely, and without a doubt could be the standard all Phase 3 units would share, if they got widely mass produced. As such, the white top on the blue-purple main colour works well enough. It doesn’t offend the eye and while it can be a bit plain to look at, it does convey a strong unified look. Nothing special, but cannon fodder colours rarely are.

The blue power colours follows the Shiranui tradition, even thou I do have a slight preference for the green light. However, Shiranui has cold blue power lights and that’s non-negotiable. I would have changed the colour too.

But let’s start form the top; the head.

One rule with the Phase 3 is that it doesn’t offer any surprises, but what it has is rather well done. The head is a good example of that, using the unique geometry we’ve accustomed from TSFs in that it has something that resembles part of the plane. While some TSFs take elements from the cockpit dome, the Phase 3 has no real life equivalent as such, and thus it just looks like a somewhat generic future plane. The rabbit ears are surprisingly back, and despite the thin nature of the middle part of the head, it all looks rather sturdy and aerodynamic with enough slopes and surface area. The chin is inherited from previous TSFs, and while not all people like these chins poking their eyes out, it fits well in with the rest of the somewhat pointy nature of the head. TSF designs have a tendency to make a < in the heads, where the main camera cluster resides at the point of the space and it’s well and alive here. Of course, there are exceptions. The only problem is that the white top looks like a hat its wearing, and perhaps it should be slightly smaller and less bulky. The Shiranui has a round top too, but seeing the rest of the unit has more flat surfaces, it could’ve used more unison in this sense. It would not need to be as flat as F-22A’s, but something less bulkier. Now I just want to make it a small pipe to smoke and play Popeye theme song. Nevertheless, the overall shape is mainly inherited from YF-23, one of the “parents” of the Phase 3.

Oh boy, abandoned giant robots used to built something new!
Oh boy, abandoned giant robots used to built something new!

Actually, the head itself, when separated, could almost work as a Yukikaze version of Mazinger Z’s Pilder. Now I just keep imagining Yui yelling Pilder On! Shiranui Go! when she sorties. Somebody needs to make a repaint.

The shoulders, as mentioned, are where the main bulk in the upper body is located. Compared to some other TSF designs, the shoulders are actually surprisingly complex in their outlook. The shoulders are almost one to one from the YF-23, but some points have seen changes. For one, the guard that resides just before the arms is no longer sharp in shape, but a square. There is also a flat guard under the vents on the sides, which more or less limit how much the arms can move to the side. The two vertical lights close to the main body connection points have been altered slightly with an additional level, but I don’t see how this benefits any. The juxtaposition between flats and angles in YF-23 is strong in Phase 3, which can split opinions. It’s just different enough from most of the other TSFs to feel unique, and Phase 3 lifts most of the good elements from it.

The sideview also shows that the point of balance is not all too well with TSF, but despite this they are able to stand on their own, most of the time
The sideview also shows that the point of balance is not all too well with TSF, but despite this they are able to stand on their own, most of the time

However, one of the things that could have been changed are the arms. The arms and their bulk is a problem to the design, even outside the model. Because of the additional guard at the end of the shoulder units, the arms’ bulk tends to hit against the guard when in motion. TSFs’ designs have always been problematic in this sense, where elements simply come out from the body and clash against each other to the extent of Total Eclipse animation having some of units clipping through themselves. While the arms look nice, they simply don’t work with the shoulders. They also added few panels near the wrists from the YF-23, which are a nice detail on the otherwise straight surfaces.

Much like the shoulders and arms, the rest of the body is lifted from YF-23. Well, they did use the body of one, but that’s beside the point. Thus far we’ve seen Phase 3 having redesign elements from the YF-23, from the torso down the redesigns pretty much stop outside two points. Three, if you count the lightshow line colours.

One eye catching detail on the torso is the white surface on the top. It does not circulate to the back, but it does create a duality. Most of the white is close to the centre of the body and used to circulate darker regions. The upper torso and head are exceptions, but the shape the two share is triangular, aimed to create at least some level of illusion of aerodynamic shape. The torso looks like it has a raptor face on it, an eagle or falcon. It just may be my preference towards winged pets over cats and dogs, but I do like it. For whatever reason I always expect TSF torsos to be bulkier, but the 2nd and 3rd generation TSFs tend to have a very lean built, mostly serving just as a hub to connect other pieces together. Less armour, more movement.

The back of the torso is rather uninteresting, offering some panels lines and nothing more. It’s a bit sad that no TSF has an interesting back, but that can be forgiven. After all, they have the weapons rack on the shoulders taking most of the interest away and those things need to have room to swing back and forth.

You can see the transparent plastic on the arms looking pretty good when the lights are right. Nevertheless, when I continue working with this model, they all will be painted
You can see the transparent plastic on the arms looking pretty good when the lights are right. Nevertheless, when I continue working with this model, they all will be painted like in the painting guide. That is, unless I make some sort of level that would shine light on it all the time from correct angles

Waist is a thing and uninteresting.

However, when we get to the pelvis, we are treated with slight design on the intake from YF-23, the last actually redesigned bit. Unlike the angled intakes in YF-23, the Phase 3 opts for far more smother surfaces. The more curved, leaner surfaces don’t really mesh together with the rest of the design and it’s a redesign that could have been done better, or dropped altogether. While TFS often have intakes or other armoured elements on top of the legs, here they simply look like somebody glued them on. Granted, the YF-23 pelvis intakes share similar problem, but they fit far more to the angular geometry of the rest of the body. The groin guard has not changed to any extent, surprisingly.

The legs have been more or less the spot where TSFs see most curved surfaces. Same applies to the Phase 3, as the main part of the legs have smooth curves, the likes I could see someone going full Ryusei on. The knee guards are small and look like it meshes well with the overall dimensions, unlike with F-22A or F-16, which have knee guards that simply extrude themselves from the main silhouette a bit too much, but for a good effect. The cut surfaces on both sides of the upper shins manage to create a nice effect. The legs would look too bulky otherwise, and the cut surfaces simply look snappy.

The feet are much like with other TSFs, black rubber feet inside shoes. This has always been somewhat clear point of Neon Genesis Evangelion inspiration, as EVAs use shoes, and TSF feet design has pretty much always followed that idea with its own twist. The two blades are clearly for kicking and knife dancing, but sadly there’s not blade at the back of the feet for similar effect that the Su-47 Berkut has. Then again, I’ve always liked Berkut in real world, so I have a strong bias towards it.

Jump units use the standard Japanese Jump unit we all have seen at least since Fubuki. I would have loved to see a redesign here or at least some sort of influence left by the YF-23, but alas it was not meant to be. Funny thing, the model comes with bits and pieces of the Takemikazuchi that you never use because of this.

Overall, the Shiranui Second Phase 3 is a nice design, but it has all the problems that YF-23 units had while adding its own to the mix. Much like most TSFs, it does look nice just standing there, but in proper motion it could look even better. One thing Total Eclipse animation did right was to give the TSFs their range of motion more than what the VN sprite animations could hope for, and the Phase 3 could look pretty sweet in motion. However, some of the elements that I criticised, like the bulk in the arms, is simply not all too well thought out and looks painfully unpractical on a machine that’s supposed to be an agile jumping machine. This applies to other TSFs too, like the Fubuki and Shiranui, but it is an element that has been there and, to an extent, a recognizable design piece. The designers can’t be faulted to repeat elements that are more or less ingrained to the design doctrine, but at some point there needs to be a slight paradigm shift in order to advance the designs step forwards.

While some will always argue that TSF designs look the same and are just copypasted from each other, these arguments become moot when we remember that TSF units are meant to represent logical evolution of one type of machine from a common source. The units are not heroes or unique beings, but rather expendable ammos thrown at the enemy. There is no good reason to suddenly design something completely different for the same of it being different if it fights against the core design elements: Otherwise it would just look completely out of place. The Phase 3 fits pretty well into the tech tree it’s supposed to fall in, despite being a collection of different branches of it.

Not a bad design, but the illustrations tend to lie and emphasize on the better qualities of the unit
Not a bad design, but the illustrations tend to lie and emphasize on the better qualities of the unit

Observable rules in TSF design

Now that we’ve established that I suck at writing jokes, or that I shouldn’t write inside jokes, let’s move a bit more on the mecha design thing we have going on. Oh and /ic/, the anon who linked this post in your thread didn’t write any of this. You should call him out on his bullshit.

The distinction between Super Robot and Real Robots is wonky to say the least. There are mechas that are more or less clear examples of both, like Mazinger Z being a Super Robot just as the show’s opening lyrics say, and then we have Votoms that is pretty damn realistic in portraying Scopedogs on their given role and environment. The further we go in time after the 60’s, we see more and more shows that break this kind of distinction. For example, I can’t categorise Balatack into either category as its showcases both sides of the argument. That’s why some people use the Hybrid nomenclature to describe mechas that are waver between the two. Full Metal Panic is a generic and good example of this.

From design point of view these don’t really fit. The thing you’re designing is automatically something fantastic, something over there with its form and function, that it doesn’t really matter whether or not its Super or Real. What matters is how the mecha is designed in the description before its put into shape. That’s where designers start thinking how to adapt the description properly; how to approach the mecha.

Super and Real are more a product of how the mecha is seen rather than designed. The mental image of something Super most likely brings out very fantastic, very over-the-top robots that pose, have fist fights with flying punches  and other more or less unconventional weapons. Real follows more or less what a real world soldier would do in a battle situation, but with added support from the fact that it’s a damn  mechanised battle unit. Then again, many shows break these limits, so perhaps careful use of these terms is in place. However, whether or not the mecha is Super or not depends a lot on the setting its in. GaoGaiGar in this sense could be regarded as sort of realistic because of alien technology involved, but then again its a giant robot with a lion head on its chest and uses a giant toy hammer powered by black holes to turn weekly bad guys into light. I’m sure at some point technology manages to produce something that turns matter into a stream of light due to impact, but at the moment that’s a bit overdoing it. Its not what you’d call realistic. [Editor;Maybe someone was having a wet daydream.]

âge has approached the Tactical Surface Fighters in their franchise from the Utilitarian point of view. To boot Kouki & co. decided to take the existing planes and turn then into robots. There are some observable general rules in designing a TSF that I’m going to go over now, but first let’s discuss why they’re all so similar looking.

It would be too bad if somebody would chomp on these...
It would be too bad if somebody would chomp on these…
Nothing new on the western front
Nothing new on the western front

As you can see, a vast majority of these share more or less the exact same body type. The proportions and measures are shared across the board, and some units visibly share same design elements. Those who aren’t really into Muv-Luv will most likely think these are due to laziness and lack of interest to develop larger variety of units. From the design point of view, which has split opinions, is that all TSFs descent from the F-4 Phantom in the upper left corner. F-5 Freedom Fighter was developed in conjunction with F-4, so we see their elements often repeated and further developed in later models, much in real life planes they’re based on. Actually, here’s the tech tree for all TSFs I scanned a while back.

This chart is sort of outdated by now, but its still valid
This chart is sort of outdated by now, but its still valid

The advantage, and the problem, in designing a new TSF is that you have something tangible to base your design on, but on the other hand you’re tied down on using existing TSF template and basically add the plane’s elements in there so that it gives the desired design. This is perhaps one of the best way to design a TSF anyway, because it will keep the core idea intact and still allows the designer to give his own twist in there if necessary. Then again, you have units like Takemikazuchi that  are not based on any real plane, but are more a reference to pre-existing franchises.

Because of the rules and approach in TSF design we can observe some rules that the designers have followed. This does not appear in all TSFs, so we can say that different designers take more liberties than others. While these bits repeat in the designs, they are just observations.

Nose cone; TSFs often have the nose cone in the skirt armour of the plane they’re based on. The early units do not seem to have this element, thou from MiG-23 onward these groin noses are notable in amount.

Cockpit; Some of the TSFs exhibit general design lines of the planes’ cockpits in their head designs. For example, TF-14 Tomcat’s head has lines taken from the cockpit and adapted into the head. F-15 follows the idea. Even F-5 has certain sharpness similar to the real life F-5.

Intakes; Intakes in general in TSFs’ torso are more or less directly taken from the planes. That smile on F-16’s torso is unmistakeable. You can also spot intakes on atop the legs of the TSFs, and these intakes also follow the already laid out general line language.

Shoulders; The shoulders of the TSFs in general follow either the back or the overall fusalage of the plane, with addition of wings (SU-47) or the engine nozzles (F-14EX). As such, the shoulder often are portrayed in a manner that compensates the selected element, making them either rather bulky or somewhat sleek.

Jump Units; the Jump Units on the TSFs are most often just the real life plane condensed and remodelled. It’s a further nod to the real life plane, to the extent that Berkut’s Jump Unit has those forward swept wings and tailbooms of uneven length.

The rest of the TSF in general follows the policy laid out by the plane and the overall visage of the line its put in. Arms and legs usually seem to be designed to compensate the rest of the units, whereas the torso mainly takes the basic shape of the place and then does its own thing. Russian TSFs are very clear on this, as the torso is designed to convey their fast & fury nature, finally realized in the Su-47 Berkut and its knife dance.

The overall evolution of the Tactical Surface Fighters in this way mirrors the real life planes, where we go from flying steel coffins into sleeker and more dynamic looking units. Now, all of these are apparent observations, and for further study we need the TSF and the plane it’s based on side by side. That way we can see what lines from the plane have been put into use for the TSF.

One problem with TSFs is that they’re really multipurpose machines outside few exceptions, namely A-10 Thunderbolt II and A-6 Intruder. They can be outfitted various weapon settings according to their role, but the overall role of the TSF in-universe is BETA clean-up. Generally speaking, the artillery first bombards the battlefield with their cannons and covers it with a heavy metal cloud. Then, the TSFs set in with guns blazing, swords drawn in order to slay all the Laser- and Heavy-Laser class BETA. Then the airforce flies in and bombs the ever[-]living shit out of them. That is unless BETA have managed a way to combine Fort-Class with an upgraded Laser-Class…

I need more whiskey
I need more whiskey

On another hand, I don’t know how many of the planes used in TSFs are multirole. That’s something I need to read and make some research on. Nevertheless, it’s debatable if the role of the TSFs reflects or equals the role of the fighter planes. I’m not sure it’s underhanded from me if I say that the comparison can’t be made directly because of the difference in paradigm TSFs and planes work under. TSFs main role is to fight BETA, but it’s recognized that F-22A is more suited on TSF vs TSF dogfighting, which just tells that even in Alt-verse, humans are dicks.

One distinction needs to be made; Hive infiltration. This is perhaps the main role TSFs will play in-universe, and it’s a damn big role.

I admit again that because of my lack of knowledge on real life fighters, the discussion on TSFs and their inherent roles in-universe is lacking. I have an intention to read on a selection of fighters, which would be used in future posts where I would compare and contrast the design elements of real life fighters and their TSF counterparts. This discussion would still be more adhered to the the looks, the outward design, of the TSFs than on anything else, but the research would me to further understand why such certain decisions in the design has been made. For example, the uneven tailbooms on the Berkut’s Jump Units. There’s a lot of little details like this that might have a rational reasoning behind them.

Now if you have a favourite TSF you’d like to see discussed, do drop a comment.

I understand why some claim that all TSFs look the same, because that’s kind of the point of them. Then again, the same goes for the planes. Not all people know fighter jets inside out either, and those fighters tend to look the same unless they have a lot of gap in the technology. It’s up to everybody’s opinion whether or not they like the philosophy behind the TSFs. I admit that I didn’t really give a damn about TSFs themselves, but after seeing them in action and further learning on their intricacies and details made me appreciate them. Hell, the first time I saw Takemikazuchi in the VN during Unlimited I got a bit giddy. Before you see one in action, you see how some of the less advanced units work and perform. Then, you see F-22A Raptor and Type-00R Takemikazuchi in action and things just get awesome.

Nevertheless, overall the core idea of TSF design has managed to produce some more or less unique designs. Whatever the opinion you may have on them, it can be disputed that the designers have managed design the mechas as intended. I’m sure that all the upcoming TSFs will adhere to the same rules as their predecessors, unless âge decides to revamp the core model TSF for some reason.