The Sparrowhawk is best remembered as the Gudersnipe Foundation's first long-production fighter. Began in A.Y. 1501, the Sparrowhawk was a fighter-interceptor with a maximum speed of 50PSL. It had low manuverability, this armor, and an almost none-existant ordnance payload, but in an era where capitol ships could barely reach 30PSL and the very best fighters were limited to barely 40, it had a distinct advantage.
The Sparrowhawk was born out of a need to keep enemy fighters at bay. At the time of it's original development, the Gudersnipe Foundation was still building it's space fleet, and many captured warships were still in operation. Most capitol ships had weak or incomplete hull armor, and the dangers possed by even small starfighters was considerable.
The roll of the Interceptor was very simply to race out ahead of the battle ground and destroy enemy bomber escorts, or at the very least force them to break off.
The Sparrowhawk was the first fighter to employ dual Ion vacuum drives as primary propulsion. Having been produced before the invention of the Bussard Ramjet, it was designed at a time when 50PSL was believed to be the maximum possible output velocity of the Ion Vacuum drive. Thus, two engines were required to give the ship the neccessary acceleration.
This feature was initially criticized as both engines were carried inboard. It was believed the craft would require twice as much servicing and twice as many maintenance personnel to keep it flying.
However, the design team also created several improvements to the drive system which allowed it to achieve greater acceleration and more service hours, improvements that were still in use by the Sixth Age. By the time it reached production, the Sparrowhawk would require less maintenance and log more flight hours than its contemporaries.
The sparrowhawk's capabilities were unique for the time. It had a maximum speed of 50 PSL, which set the Production Sub-Light Speed Record. But it was the acceleration curve that trully set the Sparrowhawk apart. This was before the advent of magnetic catapults. It could reach it's top speed in a very short time, the ship's delta-v was unmatched for it's entire production lifespan.
Payload and Armament
The Sparrowhawk was sparcely armed with only two missiles and a gattling gun. It also carried a large compliment of flares and other countermeasures.
The Sparrowhawk saw production from A.Y. 1501 to A.Y. 21, a period of 499 years. It reached it's highest production peeks during the Ninety-nine-years war at the end of the Golden Age. This was after the fighter had already been in production for nearly 400 years.
By A.Y. 1950, Superiority-type fighters were reaching comperable speeds(though with a less significant acceleration curve) and the decision was made to move away from dedicated interceptors and begin production of hypbrid Superiorirty/Interceptors and dedicated Superiority fighters with Interceptor payloads.
The Sparrowhawk officially left production in A.Y. 21, and the remaining fighters relegated to use as trainers. Easy to fly, they remained quite popular in that roll for the next century. Even when no longer useful as a trainer, Sparrowhawks continued to see use in niche rolls as late as A.Y. 2150. The fighter was particularly popular in home-guard deployments where it's acceleration curve allowed it to reach orbit quickly.
Though officially decomissioned in A.Y. 21 when production stopped, the last Sparrowhawk left service in A.Y. 2152, having been produced in A.Y. 1997, it flew for 154 years, proving that with proper maintenance fighters could see very long service lives.