"They are no more hated now then back during the war, but the various additions made by our weaponmasters have given them some measure of respect - as distasteful as it is to make the most of these Wraggaili."
―Skymaster Brit 'Warhur
The CSX-class Banshee, classified by the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) as the Type-27 exoatmospheric multirole fighter and colloquially known as the Space Banshee, is an incredibly agile space fighter manufactured in the millions by the Covenant Hegemony. The smallest manned space-superiority fighter used by either side during the Human-Covenant War, the CSX-class Banshee is designed to adapt the hull of the basic Farrital-pattern ground support craft to be more suitable for space combat. Armed with two heavy plasma cannons and a thin hull made up of micropolymar plating, these fighters are generally regarded as inferior to nearly every other model of spacecraft utilised during the war. This saw them only instill fear when deployed in overwhelming numbers.
The CSX-class Banshee was designed in response to the dangers Yanme'e bomber craft represented during their Age of Conversion. Despite being a common sight during the war, it would see little use throughout the centuries after, as their dedicated design was only useful during times of war - a distasteful reminder for the politicians of the Covenant. Used only by money-stricken security forces and merchant groups, the space Banshee would only return to prominence during the Human-Covenant War to supplement their various models of Seraphs. They would become the primary fighter used by the Covenant military, using their speed, firepower and overwhelming numbers to achieve orbital superiority over the various human colonies. So many were constructed that they are still a common sight within ex-Covenant factions, who begrudgingly use them in their effort to exterminate each other.
The original pattern of CSX-class Banshee, the Birrmi-pattern, has its roots established within the Fourth Age of Conversion, better known as the Yanme'e-Covenant War. Beginning in 1,112 CE, the Covenant had initially experienced significant gains, glassing three major colonies and laying siege to their homeworld of Palamok within six months. Key to this advantage was the empire's advanced starships, which were able to effortlessly wipe away the Yanme'e defenders. Unfortunately, when news of suspected relics were detected on the Yanme'e homeworld, the Covenant's campaign reached a sudden roadblock. They could no longer afford to glass and batter aside the insectoid swarms, and even atmospheric support was discouraged when some hives, when pressured, would sacrifice themselves in a massive explosion to take out even a small number of Covenant soldiers.
Role and Behaviour
"For every Banshee you shoot down, a thousand more will take their place."
―Common Sangheili taunt
While there are many, many more respected and widely-seen strikecraft in the Covenant's arsenal that are stronger and more durable, none match the CSX-class Banshee's ease of manufacturing and speed. As the Covenant's most numerous space fighter, the space Banshee is used to take on the role of cannon fodder in the field. They are always sent in first to overwhelm enemy squadrons through sheer force of numbers, wiping out large numbers of enemy spacecraft before their more costly peers arrive at the scene. Indeed, their expendable presence serves in part to dilute the battlefield. They distract enemy pilots from immediately targeting troop transports, as well as making it easy to enter their blind spot on their flanks and eliminate them.
Fielded in the millions, the CSX-class' capabilities are often underestimated in part due to their high casualty rate.
Because its long-range weapons are second only to pulse lasers, and because of their incredible straight-line acceleration, space Banshee pilots are encouraged to maximise distance wherever possible. It is because of this that squadrons of these fighters take on very different flight behaviours depending when deployed in single and mixed-fighter units. When operating in mono-fighter groups, such as the very beginning of combat, CSX-class Banshees are deployed in large strafing formations. Like the tide against the rock, they fire a single coordinated barrage using all their weapons before breaking off in all directions, returning to another predetermined distance before doing it again. This is done to prevent individual fighters from being ganged up upon and singled-out, and maximises survivability. In larger fights, or when other Covenant spacecraft have joined in, space Banshees break formation and circle the the engagement area, varying their speed and heading to make them more difficult targets. They take potshots and make sudden nosedives towards what they perceive as vulnerable threats, often making extremely-close passes to maximise success and lethality.
The Sangheili and Jiralhanae both maintain a rivalry for the best pilots in the Covenant, although the UNSC's data often favours the brutes as the more intelligent combatants.
Although often disproved by elite Sangheiliskymasters, the UNSC has identified a set pattern between Unggoy, Jiralhanae, and Sangheili pilots. Unggoy, obviously, lack discipline and skill. They fly less gracefully and slower than the pilots of other species, often in a stuttered fashion, making very novice mistakes such as hesitating in flight and even attempting to run with no attempt to fight back. They do not have confidence in their raids either, as even light gunfire from point-defence guns can force them to back off. Regardless, they are the most likely species to embark on kamikaze bombings against enemy warships. The Jiralhanae are the most cautious and are regarded by Air Force personnel as the most dangerous combatants. Given more training than the Unggoy yet nowhere near that afforded to the Sangheili, the pack mentality of the Jiralhanae stresses teamwork and a will to live. They are far more selective with what targets they attack, and usually they work in pairs to take them down. It appears that some brutes have enough of an attachment with these craft to adorn them with clan markings and imagery. If at risk of perishing however, they will fight with an anger that pushes their aircraft to its absolute limits. Both these two species are, if the option is available, granted the very worst or oldest space Banshees deemed worthy of combat. Sangheili, meanwhile, are far more daring. As they see their craft as little more than tools to achieve notoriety and recognition, they press their attacks stubbornly and pursue specific targets with an almost doggedly determination. Their skill at evasive turns are unmatched by the other species. While some identified pilots have the discipline to always maintain mutual support, it appears that less experienced Sangheili prefer to fight alone. This makes them easy, if challenging to hit, targets to the UNSC's longswords.
The "Contrition" role designator of the space Banshee's classification code refers to the aircraft's reliance on a fleet formation or an overarching unit in order to be effective, and recommends that these fighters are not deployed alone for any reason. This more often than not rewards expendable aircraft. The "Salvation" designator in its secondary role slot informs us that the CSX-class is built specifically for combat, with no consideration for any other applications. Because of this, historically these aircraft have been shunned by the Covenant and they have only been built during times of total war. Regardless, even these vehicles occasionally see use outside of battle. They are exclusively used in an scouting capacity during periods where better reconnaissance ships are unavailable, or where it is likely they will be destroyed. As a result, they have become a herald for the Covenant fleet; if a single one of these fighters is found at any distance from the frontlines, their mothership is never too far behind.
Weaknesses and Counter-Tactics
Propulsion and Powerplant
Unsurprisingly, the control systems on the CSX-class Banshee are a hybridisation of the standard dual manual control system seen on the Farrital-pattern Banshee and the neural-interface link seen on the Covenant's many dropships and fighters. The left yolk controls the pitch of the Banshee, with the right one controlling its roll. Both sticks have the relevant inputs to activate either the weapons or countermeasures. Three holographic displays, fed imaging from nanocamera sensor clusters on the upper aerodynamic shell, provide the pilot with frontal and peripheral vision. Only the central screen displays information onto a heads-up-display, providing targeting data, heading and the readiness of the weapons. The pilot can switch to various other angles from below, behind, and even a trailing third-person view from a near-invisible sensor module. All the input controls are linked to a basic fly-by-light surface control system, with the controlling computer sacrificing safety in favour of total high-sensitivity control for the pilot.
As on other fighters such as the Seraph, the pilot is connected up to a basic neural link which is only designed to interface with the flight harness - pilots ignoring this have been known to be killed or reduced to an unresponsive vegetable. After undergoing a brief synchronisation session which best optimises the on-board Apostle-class associated intelligence to the mind of the user, the Banshee will induce a paralysis from the neck-down, with only their head and forearms freely moving to the pilot's will. It will also share raw supplementary information on every system, no matter how minor, with the biological pilot. While some of the data influx is restricted with crude filters to avoid killing the pilot, the pain and ever-maddening chatter from the AI is enough to make many individuals go insane after their first flight. To reduce this risk, Sangheili pilots are given extensive training in battle meditation techniques to allow them to raise their pain tolerance and learn how to carefully sift through the available information. Fortunately, continued use with the same craft eventually teaches the AI the limits and quirks of its pilot. As a result, while its hostility never falters, it does change up how and when it presents certain information reports, when to automate certain systems and when to limit its interactions with the pilot. As a result, a pilot that has spent most of their career with a single fighter has often proven to be a difficult opponent to beat.
With the exception of the Lodam-pattern interceptor, the CCX-class Banshee has little in the way of life-support systems. There are no air-recycling intakes, no nutrition and water drips to keep the pilot fed and hydrated, and only minimal thermal protection to keep the cockpit from reaching below-freezing. Indeed, its reactor only has enough fuel for three days of use. Only its gravitic gyroscope helps to keep the user healthy by mimicking the gravitational pull of a 2G environment, preventing muscle and bone atrophy. However, since it is also partially built into the wings to vary the gravitation pull in an effort to speed up the Banshee's roll speed, it is clear this is not installed for biological health. The only thing it replaces these systems is an adrenaline-rich dream shaper stimulant which not only reduces the pilot's reaction times during combat operations but allows them to remain awake during extended deployments.
Despite their small size, the CSX-class Banshee is still armed with frighteningly lethal weapon systems that have claimed the lives of millions of pilots. These armaments are specialised towards dogfighting, and for the most part, can do little against anything thicker than a dozen centimetres of armour plating.
The Banshee's main weapons are two heavy plasma cannons, much more powerful than those on a similar-sized atmospheric craft. Identified by their long magnetic shaping vanes, these are far more lethal than those of their atmospheric counterparts. The plasma bursts discharged by these weapons have a muzzle velocity of sixteen kilometres per second and have a maximum range of up to one hundred kilometres before dissipating away - by comparison, most planetside plasma beams can only remain intact within five kilometres. However, because of the unique qualities of plasma, lethality declines the further away the target is from the user. Because of this, most pilots do not use these weapons until they come within a dozen kilometres of their prey, with overzealous personnel flying waiting until they enter less than a kilometre away to deliver maximum damage. At this range, only four shots are needed to inflict enough damage on a Longsword's engines to cripple it.
Because it is likely to tangle with superior fighters and even light warships on occasion, the CSX-class comes with a Hrraus-pattern projectile cannon. Roughly comparable in payload to the UNSC's Argent V missile, the projectile cannon fires a fast-moving reactionless fuel rod that is rapidly accelerated from a launcher beneath the Banshee. It is capable of both homing and dumbfire settings, the former requiring a brief targeting time as the Banshee records their scanned sensor signature into the munition. Once it acquires this, the target's only defence is high-speed manoeuvring, as the fuel rod cannot be fooled by wide-spectrum flares and burns through ferric dust and incoming point-defence slugs. Missiles have proven to be effective at stopping them, though the UNSC has been slow to adopt them. If the fuel rod's target has been destroyed, it will utilise the remainder of its imparted energy to travel in a straight line before exploding in mid-air. Depending on where it hits, it can create a hole through a Titanium-A slab about ten centimetres thick and has an explosive radius of six metres. This is enough to defeat the armour of most spacefighters and medium vehicles. In addition, the residue left behind not only further burns unprotected soldiers and the area of impact, but it also exposes them to high levels of radiation that will kill them if they do not seek immediate medical attention. There have been cases where minutes after being hit, aircraft suddenly lose control of their engines and crash into the ground.
Armour and Defensive Systems
While CSX-class Banshees are renowned for their firepower and agility, their largest fault lies in durability. While many modern exo- and even sub-atmospheric aircraft enjoyed by Covenant pilots feature energy shields and resilient defence systems, space Banshees have no such luxury. This has only exaggerated its disposable nature among both the strategic elite and the men who fly them, and those who demonstrate skill in these craft are offered the chance to operate more capable or specialised fighters, such as SX-class seraphs.
The Space Banshee is coated with thirty millimetres or less of treated micropolymar plating, a material that has similar properties to the armour used on Klorria-pattern Wraiths with some very slight differences. Believed to be manufactured on the nano-scale with artificial atomic bonds, this armour is rigid and smooth beyond compare, which makes it perfect at richeting small high-velocity rounds with almost-no penetration visible. This allows it to weather fast-moving micrometeorites even when travelling at high speeds. Strangely, it can also supplement the fighter's reactor. When stressed by a kinetic or gravitational potential force, or dosed in electromagnetic radiation, the entire armour plate generates a weak electromotive force used to power some of the fighter's lower-priority systems. The plating is less resilient to damage than other examples of Covenant polymars, and crucially, it is found to be self-destructive. High-energy electromagnetic waves such as gamma and cosmic rays destroy the bonds between the atoms, which means that a banshee must be scrapped once the plating begins to peel or glow. This is why that micropolymar plating is rarely used on spacecraft.
The Narvarl-pattern fighter is the standard model of Space Banshee utilised during the Human-Covenant War, and is a shameless kit-bash of the various fighters that were available at the time of its introduction. Copying the airframe Farrital-pattern Banshee that acts as its atmospheric counterpart, and the wings of preceding CSX-class aircraft, the only original parts of its schematics laid within its new engines and weapon systems. However, its popularity spurred the Covenant's weaponsmiths to refine it over the decades, increasing stability in flight while making it ever faster. Its most immediate disadvantage over previous space Banshees is its thin hull, although the increase in speed, responsiveness, and reduction in materials more than made up for its fragility.
Although originally designed for a Sangheili occupant, later revisions would allow for the Narvarl-pattern's cockpit to be easily adapted in its assembly forge to allow for any of the Covenant's many species to comfortably fly it. As a result, while this model would not be built after the war it was designed for came to an end, it would become a common sight during the Great Schism and for many years afterwards.
In the aftermath of the Human-Covenant War, many factories and shipyards were finally freed from the draconian hold the Hierarchs held over their innovation. Driven by the freedom and desperation from the various Covenant successor-states, engineers within the Lodam Armoury were able to revise many traditional designs that were formally considered sufficient for the Covenant's needs. Their tinkering resulted in their indigenous Lodam-pattern interceptor, a significant deviation from the basic Navarl-pattern fighter that would quickly find itself in the hands of dozens of Covenant successor-states, with a deliberate exception to those dominated by the Jiralhanae.
Unlike most modern craft, the Lodam-pattern interceptor did not forgo the original aesthetics of its predecessor in favour of traditional Sangheili themes, though it is more notably streamlined. Rather, most of the differences lie beneath the hood. Slower and less manoeuvrable than Covenant-built Banshees, these aircraft are poor dogfighters. This is in spite of two energy shield arrays fitted onto the wings in place of the secondary boosted gravity drives. Rather, these strikecraft are equipped with light pulse lasers to allow them to eliminate superior aircraft such as Seraphs several dozen kilometres away. These are so accurate that the Banshee can act as mobile point-defence platforms to shield their fleets against human missiles - an important consideration during the period after the Great War. From this viewpoint, it becomes reasonable that the light shields are there only to keep the aircraft from breaking apart in-atmosphere, rather than offering any real protection. To further increase the Banshee's usefulness, the edges of the wings are lined with highly-attuned Hyperscanner detectors, which can identify, assess and break down incoming silhouettes faster than any other model of aircraft. This allows the Banshee to act as a basic detection measure when more specialised stealth corvettes are unavailable. Somewhat surprisingly, these interceptors do not have stealth systems, though their small size does make it difficult for most sensors to detect them before they strike.
Other minor improvements enhance its usefulness to Sangheili at the cost of other species. For instance, the interior of the base model is specifically engineered with accommodating a Sangheili in mind, using controls and padding perfectly suited to their shape. This prevents stolen Banshees from being flown by Jiralhanae, and even species allied to the Sangheili are rarely permitted a version built for their physiology.
The Xyrk-interceptor is a model of space fighter that is manufactured by Alakav Forges exclusively for the Forsaken. Little is known about this particular pattern, other than the fact it is autonomously controlled by its own associated intelligence in order to bolster their fighter divisions.