|F-103 Excalibur heavy fighter|
The F-103 Excalibur Heavy Fighter is a heavy fighter used by the Terran Confederation in the Wing Commander Universe.
The F-103 Excalibur fighter was the cutting edge in fighter-craft and the single most capable fighter on either side of the front lines. Its thin shields regenerated so quickly they were practically impenetrable, and its top speed and maneuverability were the equal of the Arrow light fighter. It could carry up to twelve missiles, and an impressive weapons array. The four hard hitting tachyon cannon, coupled with two fast firing reaper cannon made a dynamic and highly adaptable fighter. This impressive load out was further enhanced by the addition of an auto-tracking function, a computer controlled system that moved the alignment of the weapons to better track an enemy target, and could place all shots perfectly on-target if the fighter/victim was within about a fifteen-degree cone of the Excalibur's nose. It carried a jump drive; it also carried the Terran Confederation's first working, wide-scale cloaking device. In short, it was a pilot's dream come true. No less than Colonel Christopher Blair himself, then Wing Commander aboard the TCS Victory borrowed a prototype Excalibur for an unauthorized (and unanticipated) combat mission.
The Excalibur was a breakthrough design and deployed as part of Covert Operations "Temblor project". It entered its final testing phase three months prior to the end of the war with a single prototype being assigned to the TCS Victory with test pilot Jace "Flash" Dillon. While Flash was certainly a gifted pilot, he lacked real combat experience. The prototype Excalibur was later “borrowed” by Col. Blair who used it in battle. The Prototype was later transferred off of the Victory in preparation for the Temblor project.
The end-run scheme, this one devised by Brigadier General James "Paladin" Taggart of Covert Operations, involved taking a flight of F-103A Excaliburs straight through to Kilrah, the enemy homeworld. Kilrah was seismically unstable, and Paladin's people had developed an explosive, the Temblor Bomb, that, if delivered precisely, would cause the planet to disintegrate.
Refitted with the Confederations first viable cloaking system, a flight of 4 Excaliburs lead by Col. Blair performed a series of jumps into the Kilrah system and landed at a hidden supply depot. There the lead Excalibur was loaded with the Temblor bomb, a seismic weapon designed to shack the entire planet of Kilrah to pieces. Col. Blair and his pilots (Major Todd "Maniac" Marshall, Lt. Robin "Flint" Peters and Lt. Winston "Vagabond" Chang) successfully infiltrated the Kilrathi home solar system. Though his entire wing was shot down and Lt. Peters killed (Chang and Marshall successfully ejecting), Blair completed his mission, destroying the Kilrathi homeworld, killing its Emperor and Crown Prince, and obliterating a great deal of the Kilrathi fleet (which was in orbit). The Kilrathi sued for peace within the hour. Blair is now known as the Savior of the Confederation.
With the delivery of the Temblor bomb, and the destruction of Kilrah, the Excalibur entered history as the vehicle that ended the Confederation/Kilrathi war.
The Excalibur, which entered service less than three months before the Treaty of Torgo, soldiered on into peacetime. Following the end of the war, the high performance of the Excalibur started to become a liability. While the fighter was still highly agile and fast, it’s extensive weapon system proved to be difficult to maintain while the heavy missile load tended to diminish fuel economy. The F-103 was continually downgraded to contend with peace time economics.
By 2670, the missile load had been reduced to 8 missiles, and the maintenance intensive reaper cannons had been replaced by standard Ion cannons. By the 2680s, the craft had been upgraded with stronger shields.
The few Excaliburs that saw wartime service were extremely successful against the Kilrathi for which they were designed to fight; no other production fighter could match it. By the time of the Nephilim invasion, however, the Excalibur was dated. While still a powerful fighter and well-armed (in fact, somewhat more powerful than the newer F-108 Panther medium fighter) it was, by the standards of the 2680s, also somewhat fragile. In addition, the Excalibur’s high maintenance costs with the decreased military spending following the end of the Kilrathi War tended to force its relegation to space station and ground based stations where they could maintain the materials for the fighter. It is a mark of some merit that a fighter design 20 years old can still compete with the newer designs of the F-108 Panther fighter. They performed adequately during the Kilrah and Proxima campaigns, but their glory days have become little more than a footnote in the history books.
- The Excalibur design bears a strong resemblance to the Transformers microcassette character Raindance and the Northrop-Grumman YF-23 Black Widow II.