The RS-18 project began approximately twenty years before the Cylon Revolt. The Caprican Ministry of Defence issued a requirement for a heavy fighter-bomber able to operate from the new range of Colonial Security Vessels then being built for the Caprican Defence Forces as well as independently from semi-prepared forward bases. CAPDEF proposed their ‘Project Rapere’ design and the Caprican MoD financed two prototypes. In testing the design proved way ahead of the other designs then submitted and thus an order for an initial 200 was placed.
The key to the Rapere’s success was its simplicity and ruggedness. The design itself was of a two man craft (pilot and ECO each seated side-by-side in the cockpit) with an internal weapons bay built into the main hull. There was nothing special about the craft’s design since much of the technologies and construction methods were based on commercial shuttle construction.
From the outset the design team planned for the craft to be maintained with the least amount of specialized equipment and training of ground teams who would most likely have been conscripts in time of war. All the major components had easy access panels and the twin engines could be stripped from the hull in the field by only five people!
In terms of power the CAPDEF team went off-world to Scorpia and the Wilkins Aerospace Company (who subsequently purchased a 12% share in the project) and their proven DCE-85-C engine. A military version was developed for the RS-18 which had a higher output and greater reliability. This was designated DCE-85-M (the ‘M’ suffix standing for ‘Military’). Wilkins Aerospace also provided the FTL drive in the form of the LS-278 which had a range of 1.3 Light Years.
The RS-18 featured a pair of short stub wings but these were never intended to generate much lift. Their main purpose was to improve maneuverability in space by extending the RCS clusters further out from the hull. They could also carry additional underwing armament but these would have to be ejected before entering an atmosphere since they had no protection from the heat that would be encountered during reentry. This arrangement was so successful that it was repeated with the design for the later Raptor.
Fixed armament consisted of two ARC-7 30mm rail guns located in the nose. The weapons bay could carry a wide variety of weapons as well as additional equipment or fuel if necessary.
Service EntryEditThe type proved popular in service with its pilots. Handling was described as ‘sublime and yet highly responsive when need be’. It quickly proved its worth but already there were signs that its life would be short since the Caprican Ministry of Defence were investigating unmanned defence systems which would eventually culminate in the U-87 project – the first Cybernetic Lifeform Node (Cylon) soldiers. The days of humans on the battlefield seemed to be coming to an end and development of improved models of the RS-18 was halted to fund Dr. Graystone’s creation. No one at that time could have ever predicted what was about to take place.
Into CombatEditThe Cylon Revolt caught the entire Twelve Colonies totally off guard. The RS-18s and their small numbers of crews (the military budget for manned warfare systems having been drastically cut) were thrown into the field against a well trained and relentless enemy. It was in the early days of this, the First Cylon war, that the RS-18 really excelled itself. Its simplicity of design meant that it could take a beating from Cylon Raiders and keep on fighting. With no immediate replacement available the Caprican government ordered production of the RS-18 to resume while a replacement was developed.
The RS-18 could hold its own against the Cylons but there were drawbacks to the design. Its technology had been allowed to fall behind that of the Cylons and thus its crews had to work under extremely unfavorable conditions. Nevertheless they prevailed and it cannot be argued that the RS-18 and its peers ensured that the Cylons were kept at bay long enough for the new Raptor and Viper Mk.I to replace them. These were far better suited to fighting the Cylons.
A handful of RS-18s survived long enough to serve the newly created Colonial Fleet and some even served (albeit briefly) aboard the first Battlestars.
Archibald Bowman was training to be a civilian shuttle pilot when the Cylons rose up against their former masters. Joining the Caprican Defence Forces he was assigned to fly the RS-18. During a mission over Caprica’s northern pole he and his ECO were shot down and surrounded by enemy forces. A Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR) crew flying the latest Raptor refused to give up on them and rescued the downed pilots under exceptionally heavy fire. Bowman was so grateful that he volunteered to join the unit and fly the new Raptor to rescue wounded soldiers from behind enemy lines. His actions would later inspire his grandson, Artimus Bowman, to join the Colonial Fleet.
- The word ‘Rapere’ is the latin word from which ‘Raptor’ is derived.
- The design incorporates a Raptor hull and wings with the nose section from a real world SU-33KUB and vertical stabilizers from an F/A-18 hornet.