The single-most widely used missile in naval combat, the M58 Archer is the smallest and most flexible of the product line, and is the long-range weapon-of-choice for most human shipwrights. It achieves this not just because of its cost-effectiveness, size, or agility, although all three are good arguments for its inclusion. Instead, it is due to its modular warhead and sophisticated targeting computer that allows the missile to take down a wide range of threats both within and out of atmosphere, such as capital ships, space fighters, and ground troops.
The M58 is roughly a third of the size of the older M42 missile, with an overall length of 16.5 metres, a tip-to-tip wingspan of 2.32 metres, and a fuselage diameter of 1.5 metres. The Archer has a rated maximum weight of 6,650 kilograms, with the warhead itself given a payload of 1,650 kilograms. Most of the length and mass comes from the triamino hydrazine rocket booster, which can accelerate the weapon up to a velocity exceeding dozens of kilometres per second. The same fuel is also fed through course-correction thrusters built into the fins. These are reinforced well enough to act as stabilisers when flying through an atmosphere. In the event that there is fuel left over on impact, there are small opened channels that are designed to guide the ignited liquid towards the front of the body, where it would augment the destructive potential of the warhead. It uses a lightweight aluminium steel construction that is paired with a thin application of ceramics, which can protect it from high-speed debris it may hit on its path. Unfortunately, it does little to protect it from air defence fire, and the Archer must rely on its high speed to avoid harm. Only its nose is well-reinforced, and the overlapping graphene sheets helps the structure retain its shape even when punching through solid armour.
In flight, the M58 is preprogramed with a networked AI system that increased in complexity the more missiles that are launched, with information being shared through an AN/DBK-56 computing array. The AI optimises the flight formation of all nearby Archers for maximum power and survivability, with each missile being guided to their targets via the RADAR and LIDAR optics built on their nose.
The M58 Archer missile is compatible with a wide range of payloads, each of which are suited for a specific role:
M58A high-explosive vacuum-enhanced (HE-VE): The default warhead fitted onto these missiles, the M58A features an explosive substance that is surrounded by a reaction mass to vastly improve range and damage potential. Although designed for use in space, it is even more effective when it is released into a surrounding mass such as armour.
M58B electronic warfare (EW): The M58B releases a high-energy electromagnetic pulse to disrupt nearby circuitry and unprotected computer networks, such as vehicles, guided munitions, and occasionally other spacecraft.
M58C ionic: Engineered specifically for use against energy shielding, the M58C is equipped with excited hydrogen ions that are vaporised into plasma upon impact. These then react with the bonds essential for good defensive barriers, which depletes the energy stored in the nearby shield generator.
M58D multiple independently targeted vehicle (MITV): Less of a warhead and more of a munition-carrying capsule, the M58D MITV is made up of seven high-speed missiles that are specifically built for air defence roles. Although primarily offered as a space fighter countermeasure, the M29 has seen some use as a deterrent against incoming rockets and smart rounds.
M58E decoy: The M58E decoy is bereft of a conventional payload, and it instead houses a sophisticated radiation emitter that is supposed to draw fire towards itself. It typically releases a high-energy infrared and radio signature that is very easily detected by most scanning systems, which is useful in allowing more powerful nuclear weapons to pass through their defences.