The Fireshark was originally designed for high-speed interception, giving Consortium clients a potent defence against bombers. As missile technology improved, changing the strategic balance, Firesharks were modified and redeployed as frontline fighters. Their relative simplicity makes them popular with ground crews, while new armaments and avionics have proved effective in the air.
- The Fireshark’s designers emphasized economy, reasoning many cheap interceptors could provide better air cover than a few expensive ones. High tensile steel was widely employed as an alloy substitute; the added weight was offset by a smaller, simpler airframe. One large turbojet was used in place of the two smaller ones common on contemporary fighters; a single tailfin was fitted; and the basic delta wing offered good high-speed performance while further reducing costs. External rocket boosters were used to shorten takeoff runs, conserve fuel and extend range. The cramped cockpit and simplified life support systems were best suited to short missions, and the lightweight onboard radar was ideally augmented by more powerful surveillance systems in the air or on the ground. Mass deployment helped negate the Fireshark’s disadvantages; large numbers were airborne at all times, ready to counter the nuclear bombers that lurked just outside controlled airspace.
- The Fireshark’s small size and reduced heat signature made it harder to detect than the multi-engined bombers it was initially pitted against. Its primary armament of four long-range guided missiles allowed it to bring down such opponents while remaining beyond reach of their guns. Its 23mm autocannon was more effective at short ranges, though Fireshark pilots were also expected to ram bombers as a last resort.
- Later fighter variants carry larger batteries of smaller, lighter missiles including wingtip-mounted heat seekers. The autocannon is retained for close-quarter dogfighting; though Firesharks have a poor turn rate owing to their delta wings, their impressive acceleration and rate of climb are potent assets.
- Wolf-pack tactics further increase the Fireshark’s effectiveness; initial feints are often made by one or more “hunters” with a lighter armament but enhanced surveillance system. Opponents who attempt to engage are set on by “destroyer” aircraft that work together as a team. Even when kill ratios favour more advanced machines, comparative deployment costs aid Firesharks in wars of attrition – a trait favoured less by pilots than the Consortium directors who think in cold strategic terms.