Purpose: Air superiority stealth fighter/bomber
Full Name: Sapphire Arms SF/B-35 Raptor
First Flight: 226 ATB
Length: 19.3 meters
Wingspan: 14 meters
Height: 5.1 meters
Top Speed: Mach 2.3
Supercruise Speed: Mach 1.6
Combat Radius: 2200 kilometers
Standard Armament (Bomber Configuration): Eight Sapphire Arms 600 kg short-range DE-320 air-to-air/air-to-ground heat/radar-seeking missile/bombs; two Sapphire Arms IG-124 plasma cannons
Standard Armament (Fighter Configuration): Two Sapphire Arms 600 kg short-range DE-320 air-to-air/air-to-ground heat/radar-seeking missile/bombs; eight heat-seeking Sapphire Arms DA-170 medium-range air-to-air missiles; two Sapphire Arms IG-124 plasma cannons
The original concept for the SF/B-35 Raptor was proposed by Sapphire Arms engineers in 198 ATB, after studying numerous air battles waged in the past. It was thought that dragons, while possessing great physical strength and inherent magical and psionic abilities, nevertheless would be at a disadvantage if faced with fighter craft of superior speed and long-distance missiles.
After intensive research on fighter design and information bought from the aircraft-savvy Blade Fort, the first prototype for a stealth fighter, the Sapphire Arms SF-15, was completed in 206 ATB. While being a lethal opponent in the skies, the SF-15 suffered from a very short range and a relative lack of firepower against more heavily armored targets. To make up for these downsides, the SB-15, a bomber craft carrying heavy explosives and with a long range was built in 210 ATB. The SF-19, an improved version of the SF-15 with improved range, was built the same year.
The SF-19 and SB-15 saw plenty of combat once the Sapphire Fort signed an alliance with the Dagger Fort 211 ATB. While only being moderately successful, their performance was considered good enough to continue with fighter craft development. The fighter and bomber aspects of the two craft were to be merged into one, and in 217 ATB, the SF/B-25 saw the daylight.
The SF/B-25 employed a modular design, allowing the mechanics to change the loaded weaponry between the fighter and bomber configurations within half an hour. Unfortunately, the designers had balanced the two configurations badly, and the SF/B-25 ended up with a good share of design flaws. Even while in fighter configuration, it could often be outmatched by the older SF-19 models. The bomber configuration, on the other hand, worked otherwise well but cut the top speed and range of the craft nearly by one third. Improvements to the weapons modules made the SF/B-25 somewhat better, but could not change the flaws in the craft itself.
The Sapphire Fort fighter corps now being the subject of much scorn and ridicule from the dragon riders, the engineers worked hard to fix the SF/B-25's flaws and finally build a fighter that could outfly dragons.
The SF/B-35 Raptor was completed in 226 ATB, and unlike its predecessors, it was more than successful. With a range of 2200 km in both configurations, heavy plasma cannons, recently-developed multi-purpose missile/bombs, incredible maneuverability, and a top speed of 2.3 mach, the SF/B-35 was something that had never been seen before.
The Raptors played a small but considerable role in the First Sapphire War, being instrumental in bringing down the Justice and Sun Forts. However, there weren't enough Raptors to assist in the siege against the FFF Fort. There are strategists who believe that had some of the Raptors been diverted against the FFF, the Sapphire Fort might've won the war.
By the time of the Second Sapphire War, the production of the Raptors had been stepped up, and they played a major role, bombing many enemies to rubble as the Retribution Army advanced and escorting transport ships. A delay in the Retribution Army's approach during the mid-phase of the war has been attributed to an Allied commando mission which destroyed several labor camps manufacturing Raptors. Had this mission not been conducted, the Allied air forces would have quickly been outnumbered and outgunned.
During the last phases of the war, the new SF/B-45 Lancer was built
as the next step in the evolution of fighter craft. A single Lancer was
able of defeating two dragons, and had the Retribution Army had the time
to mass-produce it, it would have spelled certain doom on the Allied Forts.