Whitley’s Guide – Valkyrie

This article originally appeared in Jump Point 7.5.

Anvil Valkyrie

DEVELOPMENT HISTORY

In early spring 2802, a delegation of engineers, theoreticians, and computer scientists working for Anvil Aerospace booked three weeks of supercomputer array time at the Levindosk Institute on Terra. By this point, Anvil had long-secured its position as the go-to aerospace corporation for both military-contracted weaponry and private combat spacecraft. Equipped with a large war chest owed to the success of the civilian F7C Hornet launch, Anvil was ready and willing to invest in more speculative products rather than adapting further government contracts for domestic use. But before that could happen, the company’s long-term planners were eager to answer a difficult question: what next? The team dispatched to Levindosk had an intriguing proposal for how to answer this question. They would conduct a large-scale wargaming simulation that would hopefully allow them to predict the United Empire of Earth’s future vehicular needs rather than wait for future contracts to be offered.

Computer wargaming is by no means a radical invention; humans have been using advanced computers to attempt to predict future trends for the entire millennia and such devices have existed with varying degrees of success across generations. Indeed, the UEE military conducts electronic wargaming continually using even more powerful technology than those available to civilian researchers. However, it is exceedingly rare that such analyses are ever declassified and, when they are, they tend to concern past events of very little value to the civilian aerospace sector. Additionally, the rarely available UEE wargaming results are largely concerned with worst case scenarios and are offered to the public as propaganda. Anvil’s executives were interested in a different approach, developing only those scenarios in which day-to-day business continues.

The Anvil team that arrived at Levindosk had been preparing for the moment for seven years, more time than it would ultimately take the engineering team to develop the resulting ship. The process involved massive data gathering and organization on a scale not previously attempted in the private sector. Decades of data that could help the supercomputers imagine the current state of the UEE had been collected and organized, ranging from simple census statistics to observed fleet movements and spectrum usage metrics. The engineering team worked tirelessly to create a statistical portrait of the UEE in 2802 to allow the supercomputers to process viable outcomes. The immediate result, which would take some thirty-eight months to properly examine, was thousands of different possible scenarios that might impact the need for armed spacecraft in five, ten, twenty, and thirty years. Next, the results were moved to an undisclosed location aboard a fleet of data runners protected by corporate-owned Hornet escort fighters. The data in hand, a second team of expert analysts settled in for the long-haul of connecting these possibilities to future market trends.

As Anvil’s analysts processed the results, they were quick to move past the obvious findings that the Vanduul conflict and future wars would require faster, more maneuverable, and more powerful frontline spacecraft. Instead, they focused on roles for support craft; what might be the next Crucible? Although most of the group’s findings remain proprietary, interviews have since made it a matter of public record that their first realization was that every future scenario involving a Vanduul defeat would require a significant advancement in landing craft. For example, should the Empire move to retake systems like Orion and Virgil, an Anvil-designed troopship solution could easily lead the way. So, both the technology behind the ships and the ability to mass produce them for future large-scale amphibious operation were certainly worth investigating.

EARLY DEVELOPMENT

Prior to the introduction of the Valkyrie, Human amphibious assault craft were divided into two types: smaller, more expensive dropships intended to deploy individual squads for specialized operations and larger, more expendable spacecraft designed to deploy entire companies or mechanized artillery units. The Valkyrie’s design team aimed to split the difference down the middle by creating a mass-produced spacecraft capable of transporting both a platoon of soldiers and an armored support vehicle. Anvil’s supercomputer predictions suggested that future war planners would need to rethink the traditional amphibious assault process for future attacks on Vanduul-held worlds. While smaller strike units backed with the threat of orbital bombardment have typically been effective in recent centuries of warfare fought against Humans, mass attacks with additional firepower would be needed for the theoretical taking of a Vanduul planet. To address this challenge, the team attempted to make up the difference between the Aegis Dynamics Redeemer used to insert special operations teams and the larger freighters/landing craft used for logistical support.

The new armored landing craft, officially designated a heavy dropship, would carry both the sophisticated defenses of a Redeemer-style vehicle while still maintaining some of the size and deployment capabilities of a starlifter. An array of twenty sophisticated g-couches would keep individual soldiers harnessed during the ride to the surface (landing injuries being another problem with more disposable landing craft) and VTOL thrusters would allow the ship to land and quickly deploy troops and equipment on rough terrain no larger than the ship’s own base (plus area to deploy a vehicle if needed). The spacecraft’s name, Valkyrie, was chosen early on as a tribute to a UEEN pilot who flew under the same callsign who had recently been killed on a reconnaissance mission that identified a Vanduul destroyer (though Anvil’s marketing team would eventually promote it as referring to the ship’s ability to carry soldiers screaming into battle like the Valkyries of myth).

The design process quickly resulted in a prototype and then a production prototype, all before the idea was ever presented to the military. Anvil opted to keep the test program completely secret, leading to a series of leaked photographs that aerospace watchers incorrectly theorized might be proof that the company was developing another deep space fighter in the style of the Vanguard. It is impossible to know whether similar UEE analyses generated an identical future prediction or if Anvil happened upon an incredibly lucky coincidence, but in 2810 a joint request of the UEE Army and Navy requested a heavy dropship capable of deploying larger combat teams quickly. Anvil was able to present the Valkyrie with its testing complete, already flying, and ready for production. A modified no-bid contract quickly followed and Anvil’s factories began turning out the first military model for active service in 2812.

CIVILIAN DEVELOPMENT

Although the Valkyrie has not yet been used for a mass invasion, the design has already repeatedly proven itself in combat in frontier regions. After-action reports specifically praise the ability to immediately deploy an armored vehicle, itself a great improvement over smaller gunships. The ship has become a favorite of UEEN ground pilots and is considered the “best way to travel” by soldiers deploying into hostile situations. Military orders from the design have increased each quarter and, if the long-term computer analysis is any indication, Anvil expects to almost double production of the Valkyrie each year for the foreseeable future. To this end, the company has made investments on no fewer than five worlds to add additional factory capacity for producing Valkyries in greater numbers. If a future massed planetary assault occurs, it will be even more of a windfall for Anvil stockholders.

In 2948, Anvil expanded the Valkyrie line with the not-unexpected addition of a civilian variant. Since the Valkyrie was not developed using government funds, the company was free to adapt it for the civilian market more quickly than previous designs like the Hornet. The civilian conversion team found the design process especially quick, with only limited fittings intended for specific UEEA equipment needing to be removed due to classification. The civilian Valkyrie is otherwise indistinguishable from the military equivalent and is even produced on the same factory floor.

Civilian Valkyries are now operated by local militia and police units on frontier worlds where deploying heavier weapons across great distances is especially important. The design has also found unexpected favor with prospectors and other explorers who have found great use of the ship’s ability to maintain and deploy a ground vehicle on rough terrain with a small footprint. Individual explorers can set down a Valkyrie at one claim site, dispatch a buggy or a small crew of workers and then jump ahead to another location. The process has greatly sped up mining surveys on some worlds by allowing a single work team to cover three to five sites at once. Anvil’s forecasters are keen to see if further uses develop in the asteroid mining or the science-support disciplines.

 

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