One of the first new vehicles designed during the Human-Covenant War, the Sparrowhawk was heavily influenced by combat data from the preceding AV-14 Hornet, which had taken heavy casualties from Covenant aircraft such as Type-29 Vampires and Type-26 Banshees. After a prolonged trial period testing its experimental laser emplacement, it would first see action during the final months of the Harvest campaign. Accumulating a respectable amount of kills in spite of heavy losses, the Hawk would be approved for mass-production and fight in most battlefields of the Outer Colonies. Unfortunately, its overtaxed propulsion system, extensive use of advanced materials, and low ammunition carrying abilities would see the UNSC ordering fewer and fewer Hawks. By 2550, only a handful of squadrons were authorised to receive replacement gunships. Regardless, they still took part in multiple battles, including the Siege of Meridian, the Fall of Reach and the Battle for Earth. After the war came to its conclusion, the Sparrowhawk was slowly supplemented and sold off in favour of next-generation VTOLs.
Unlike most VTOLs in the UNSC's vehicle inventory, the Sparrowhawk is built in with a hinge tail design that can dynamically adjust itself in flight. It is built over a heavily reinforced Titanium-A1 airframe that utilises interlocked, angular beams to increase strength. The upper half has been hollowed out to allow it to carry the majority of the aerodyne's countermeasure systems, although it can be replaced with fuel, ammunition, and specialised mission equipment when needed. The lower half instead contains a wide variety of microscopic air control surfaces, including miniaturised thrust-vectoring assemblies. This augments its intended use as an airbrake to rapidly transition from its maximum speed to combat movement, and then bolster the other propulsion systems to manoeuvre and stabilise the aircraft while firing. Uniquely, it can be redirected to force the Sparrowhawk into large but controlled swings to allow it to rapidly turn to face pursuers or make it difficult for ground-based anti-aircraft systems to hit it through sheer displacement of mass. Because these control surfaces are entirely supplemental in purpose, in theory an AV-22 should still be able to fly and fight effectively even if the entire tail section is blown clean off.
The smallest vehicle ever to mount it, the AV-22's heaviest weapon is its solitary nose-mounted M6 Grindell/Galilean Nonlinear Cannon, one of the few directed energy weapons available to defence contractors. Utilising many of the same principles as the Spartan Laser but on a larger scale, the nonlinear cannon is, contrary to some assumptions, more closely related to pulse lasers already in service aboard the UNSC's prowlers. As it travels at the speed of light, it can remain a viable threat to opponents hundreds, if not thousands of metres away. The targeting software ensures that it can hit them with pinpoint accuracy. It has three different energy settings: low-power (red low-frequency beam that runs for 30 milliseconds), sustained low-power (red low-frequency beam that can run for a maximum of seven seconds), and high-performance (blue high-frequency beam that runs for 25ms). At its highest setting, it can over-penetrate two unshielded Wraith tanks and still have enough energy to cause harm to a third vehicle. Although highly effective against armour, the nonlinear cannon is most effectively used against targets that are energy shielded due to physics that are not currently well-understood. Although they can be powered from the Sparrowhawk's reactor, as it must be when on long deployments, they are typically powered by massive high-capacity batteries that cannot be recharged in the field.
Weaknesses and Counter-Tactics
AV-22B Storm Hawk
AV-22C Night Hawk
Deployed, manned, and maintained exclusively by the 105th Shock Troops Division, the AV-22C Night Hawk is a high-endurance stealth variant. Visually distinctive because of its dark-grey plating, it is designed to conduct lightning-fast air strikes on enemy land-based logistics and isolated Covenant armour and infantry. Very few of these aircraft survived the battles they were apart of, but those that did maintained a necessary niche within the Division's fighting force even after the Great War came to an end.
The Night Hawk's airframe has been tweaked to defeat RADAR and optical detection systems. The outer armour has been coated with black carbon nanotube paint which has proven effective at scattering if not absorbing incoming radio waves, while nanoengineered structures focus other waves of the spectrum in a very different direction to the sender. This gives the Night Hawk a very angular, sharp appearance. Because the original nonlinear cannon requires frequent maintenance, it has two smaller-scale lasers under its chin. These have far lower destructive capabilities, but they give it partial redundancy in the field while having the much of the same range and precision. Finally, to increase its versatility, Misriah have seen fit to equip it with a small electromagnetic dock to carry supplies and at most a single mongoose.
A squadron of Sparrowhawks assisting a UNSC offensive.
A flight of Sparrowhawks patrolling across a desert.
Another squadron flying low.
An example of a landed Sparrowhawk, flown by a SPARTAN-II.