|This article, M324 Self-Propelled Artillery, written by Lieutenant Davis, was voted as the Best Planetary Vehicle of 2013 in the Sixth Annual Halo Fanon Wikia Awards.|
|This article, M324 Self-Propelled Artillery, was written by Lieutenant Davis. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.|
- "The Cobra was great for the time, and lasted a long ass time. Unfortunately for it, the time we needed it to fulfil the roles that it did are over. Now we need something new, and I think the Badger fills that roles perfectly. A wonderful blend of old ideas and new technology."
- ―Army General Hans Wolfgang
The M324 Self-Propelled Artillery, known commonly as the "Badger", was an artillery piece developed by the UNSC after the Human-Covenant War, as a means to replace the , as it was currently the only vehicle that could offer the abilities of a Self-Propelled Artillery piece that was massed produced by the UNSC. After the war, in 2553, the UNSC placed the SP42 in a support role, choosing to use it only in the anti-matériel/anti-armor role it was originally designed for. This decision required the UNSC to develop a dedicated piece of Self-Propelled Artillery. It was designed and tested over the course of two years, and on August 14, 2555, two hundred were assigned and delivered to the UNSC Infinity for testing purposes. By 2556, it saw widespread usage throughout UNSC space, used in fighting resurgent Insurrectionist forces, as well as Covenant Remnant forces.
- "After we lost property of the Scorpion to Acheron Security, we were down on our luck. The Badger was our saving grace, which almost turned into a nightmare."
- ―Chalybs employee
During the Insurrection and the Human-Covenant War, the mainline SPA unit was the SP42 MBT. While in its normal form it utilized two for combating lightly armored vehicles, however, it could enter a "lock-down mode," in which it utilized the significantly larger for use against heavily armored vehicles and structures. This worked wonderfully against the small technicals used by Insurrectionist forces, and even against many Covenant vehicles, with a single specially outfitted shell being able to disable the shields of a and destroy the platform. However, when it came to fulfilling the needs of a SPA unit, it was lackluster, as it could only engage nearby structures and vehicles as its armaments had poor arching trajectories.
During the war, developing such a platform was not a major concern for the UNSC, with funding being a major roadblock. After the war, both the funds, time and necessity arose to kickstart the development of such a platform. With the SP42 being placed in a support capacity, being used strictly as an anti-matériel platform, the UNSC needed something that could fulfill the role of traditional Self-Propelled Artillery. In 2553, the UNSC turned to Chalybs Defense Solutions, manufacturer of the famed, to design and manufacture a reliable, traditional Self-Propelled Artillery unit.
With resurgent rebel forces on the rise, and remnants of the former Covenant already harassing the beleaguered UNSC forces, the UNSC needed a platform capable of neutralizing targets from many kilometers away. Using data gathered during the Insurrection and the Human-Covenant War, Chalybs designed a heavily armored chassis capable of carrying a large bore cannon. Originally designed to carry a 140 mm cannon, this was deemed to heavy for the chassis, and so it was downgraded to a 110 mm Howitzer.
Development of the M324 was fraught with setbacks. First, the original gun was deemed to heavy and expensive, so it had to be downgraded. Secondly, the engine was deemed to inefficient, as well as hazardous as it was known to leak fluids as well as combust if pushed to much. The original composite armor developed specifically for the platform was shown to be very fragile in comparison to other standard vehicle plates. The internal compartments were structurally unsound, requiring a total redesign of the inside of the vehicle. The final mishap occurred when three of the five operational prototypes were intercepted and destroyed by insurgents on the way to the official UNSC viewing. These problems nearly caused the UNSC to cut its funding and cancel the program, with the only saving grace being the final two prototypes being transported in a second convoy, allowing for them to be tested. Once they were, the UNSC was thrilled with the final results, and withing the month, the UNSC had placed orders for two hundred to be constructed to be stationed on the UNSC Infinity.
- "If we had these damn things back during the war, we'd've kicked the Covenant's ass outta so many cities. All them lives we could've saved flushin' 'em outta their entrenched positions."
- ―Marine Corps Colonel James Humphrey
After entering service in 2555, and with exemplary performance on board the Infinity, the UNSC placed orders to have the Badger massed produced. Hundreds of M324's were used during the Terceira Reclamation, where they bombarded rebel-held cities. They were also used to cover raids on insurgent supply lines, starving many holdouts from their hidden posts. The UNSC lauded it's ability to fire shells over twenty kilometers into enemy held territory.
The vehicle worked the same wonders against Covenant Remnant factions that it had against insurgent fighters, being able to crack open a Wraith with one hit, innumerable Covenant armored convoys have fallen to the Badger's 110 mm Howitzer. It has been used against many Covenant groups on worlds such as Vostok, Sønderborg, Kangwon, and Languedoc, hammering enemy positions with reactive, high-explosive shells. The effects were sudden and deadly, with buildings, both Human and Covenant, collapsing and numerous armored and infantry units destroyed.
On board the UNSC Infinity, they were used to support the vessel's large Marine and Spartan contingents. They saw some of their most glorious moments during the two Battles of Requiem, where the were used to support the ship innumerable times. During the ship's first tour to the Forerunner installation, many of the ship's two hundred Badgers were deployed to keep Covenant armor away from the disabled vessel, however many were destroyed by the more advanced Forerunner weaponry wielded by the autonomous Promethean soldiers. The second trip to Requiem proved much more fortuitous for the Badger, with many Covenant assets lost during the first battle, along with more coordinated missions being run by infantry units.
- "The Cobra was lightly armored, which it made up for with speed, but speed isn't a priority with this. It isn't meant to get close enough for the enemy to shoot back. If they do manage that however, this thing can take one hell of a beating before it gives in."
- ―UNSC serviceman
Unlike the SP42 Main Battle Tank, the M324 SPA utilizes the more traditional tread system, utilizing two main treads, with two assistant treads centered on the vehicle at the front and rear of the chassis. The main cannon is housed in at dome structure towards the read of the vehicle, with the ammunition store held underneath the cannon. Like another Chalybs design, the M808 MBT, the two coaxial M247 Machine Guns are located by in front of the turret, however they are also encased in two soundproof domes to protect the gunners from the deafening sound of the main gun firing.
- "Rail guns are great and all, but there was no arch. You couldn't hit anything behind a building unless you punched through it. That and no secondary defenses mean that you had to rely on infantry to protect you. This thing's got all the stuff the Cobra didn't, and a bigger cannon to boot."
- ―Anonymous UNSC serviceman
Unlike the SP42 Cobra, which utilized rail guns for it's armament, the M324 SPA utilizes a large bore M142 110 mm Howitzer that fires a special reactive explosive shell that can be set to air burst, and rounds meant to bury itself in a target, then detonate. This allows far greater arching trajectory and range, something that while the Cobra was supposedly capable of, performed poorly at. While the Cobra's rail guns allowed much greater penetration with sheer kinetic force, the Badger uses a variety of different ammunition types to fulfill a multitude of situations.
For personal defense, the M324 makes use of two M247T Medium Machine Guns, manned by two separate gunners, both sealed inside soundproofed domes. The guns are attached to a coaxial system that allows an almost three hundred sixty degrees, granting an very large field of fire. The guns can be lowered and the domes retracted in case one is disabled, avoiding blocking the shots of the other turret.
- "If you've ever been inside an M9 Wolverine, you'd know it's very cramped inside; hard to maneuver. That's not a problem with the Porcupine. Usually."
- ―UNSC servicewoman
Designed in 2556, the M643 Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun was meant as a replacement for the aging , which was still serving on the front lines despite doing so for almost fifty years. Replacing the M142 110 mm Howitzer with an M534 Multi-Rack Missile Launcher System (MRMLS), the M643 can launch over a dozen heat-seeking missiles at a time, all of which can be designated to individual targets.
It also opts out of using the M247T for two. This allows for the platform to engage enemy vehicles both on ground, and too close or low to hit with the main weapon system. The grenade launchers can be swapped out for the traditional M247T's to more effectively engage infantry. A popular configuration being to have one M247T and one M460, allowing for both the engagement of infantry and ground vehicles.
Entering service in 2557, the M643 SPAAG, commonly known as the Porcupine, due to the missile racks having the appearance of a Porcupine's quills, first saw deployment against Covenant Remnant forces during the Sønderborg campaign, where several units shot down multiple Covenant dropships and fighters, allowing UNSC forces to land on the planet and began to repel the Covenant invasion. Soon after one hundred were assigned to the UNSC Infinity, where they participated during both battles of Requiem, working in tangent with UNSC forces, including M324 SPA units, to neutralize Covenant forces approaching the disabled vessel.
During the second venture to the world, many M643 SPAAGs assisted in halting numerous Covenant assaults from the air. The most successful operation was the elimination of several, preparing to assault an poorly protected science base. The Porcupines managed to hold off Covenant air power off long enough for UNSC Marines to arrive and mop up the remnants of the assault.
- "When we designed the original chassis, we had no clue it would become this popular. We were surprised enough when we found out that the UNSC wanted an anti-aircraft version based upon it, so imagine our shock when we were told they wanted a Bridge Layer too. This has made up for the loss of the Scorpion so much."
- ―Chalybs employee
Designed due to a lack of Combat Engineering Vehicles (CEV), Chaylbs was commissions to adapt the Badger chassis to be able to fill the role of a Bridge Layer. What resulted was the M372 Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge, commonly referred to as the Platypus. To fulfill this role, the chassis was expanded, with the main turret housing removed completely, and replaced with incredibly strong supports to hold the weight of a large prefabricated bridge. The suspension system also had to be upgraded to compensate for the weight of the bridge.
While the design wasn't completely defenseless, the two M247T Medium Machine Guns were replaced with the smaller M247 General Purpose Machine Guns, with the protective soundproof domes being removed in an attempt to reduce weight. The Fire Control systems were also removed, allowing more room inside the vehicle while reducing weight and power consumption. Previous countermeasures also had to be adjusted, relocated or otherwise removed from the chassis.
The M372 AVLB came into service in mid 2557, and was sent to assist reconstruction efforts in colonies ravaged during both the Reclamation and defenses against Covenant Remnant forces. On planets such as Kangwon, where there are many canyons and deep valleys, bridges are an essential piece of infrastructure, many of which was damaged during conflict, or fell into a horrendous state of disrepair. The Platypus was vital in the UNSC/UEG's attempts to help rebuild their ravaged colonies.
- "During the last big war, I was used to sitting in the back of a Troop Transport 'Hog, which was okay, but hella exposed. One of my squad mates got nicked ridding in back because there's no protection. The Possum has more armor and more troop capacity than the Troop 'Hog."
- ―Sergeant Marcus Hawkens
Designed in 2556 as a way to provide troops with a safer form of ground side transportation, the M263 Infantry Fighting Vehicle, known as the Possum, offers both superb protection against both ballistics and limited plasma strikes, it can also safely carry up to ten fully armed UNSC Marines or Soldiers. With this, it's able to hold more infantry than the standard , a variant of the famed .
The chassis was enlarged to give embarked troops comfortable sitting room. It's has the added benefit of having a 30 mm autocannon on the roof to engage hostile infantry and light vehicles. To compliment this, there is a port in the front of the vehicle for an M247 GPMG to be mounted on. The treads have also been entirely replaced with a more traditional wheel formation. To give even more protection to crew and troops inside, an additional six centimeters was added to the vehicle's original fourteen. This mean anything less than a plasma mortar, or several rockets will not penetrate the armor. The 30 mm autocannon can also be swapped out for a roof-mounted, that has been modified to be controlled by a gunner inside. It's internals have also been modified to allow more room, removing the comparatively large Fire Control System (FCS) of previous models, with a smaller control system for the autocannon/roof-mounted machine gun. In it's default configuration, the M623 IFV can hold ten Soldiers or Marines with full combat gear, however; if further modified, it can hold an additional six people at a time.
The M263 IFV entered service the same time as the M372 AVLB, and was used to transport military cargo and troops to battlefields, and civilians away from it, when aircraft are unavailable or their use deemed too risky. It's seen use on worlds like Languedoc, Bithynia VI, and Formosa IV, where they carried invaluable supplies to beleaguered soldiers fighting on the front. During the aforementioned battles, they were used as impromptu ambulances, which would later prompt the development of a separate variant designated as an ambulance.
The M263's most famous action was during the Battle of Bithynia VI, where five M263s speed through six kilometers of Covenant territory to deliver reinforcements to the embattled 23rd Marine Regiment, where they not only successfully did so, but also evacuated a large number of the unit's wounded who couldn't be transported through airborne MEDEVAC or CASEVAC. This led to Sergeant Julian Harvey to receive theand being recruited into the .
M974 Military Emergency Vehicle
- "With an Artillery piece, an Anti-aircraft weapon, a bridge layer, an IFV, and now an Ambulance, the Badger's got everything. It's easily one of the most well used platforms developed post war."
- ―UNSC Servicewoman
The inspiration for the M974 Military Emergency Vehicle, commonly known as the Anteater, came during the aforementioned Battle of Bithynia VI, where a group of M623 Possums broke through Covenant lines to deliver reinforcements to a pinned Marine unit, and to recover those who could not be evacuated through the air. Engineers at Chalybs were inspired by this and immediately went to work designing a version more suited to medical extraction. The design was finalized soon, and the first production models rolled on on January 12, 2558.
Using the chassis of the M263 Possum, the Anteater is the most "stripped-down" of all the variants of the M324 SPA, with little to no weapons or the electronics associated with their function. While it retains the heavy armor of the Possum, it has an entirely different interior, with wall mounted, along with biofoam injectors. This version is able to carry eight stretchers, along with sufficient medical supplies. While traditional military used medical vehicles had no armaments at all, the M974 MEV retains the M263's front M247 GPMG for defense against insurgents or Covenant.
- "I remember how entrenched those Covie bastards were on Vostok, they butchered every attempt to drive them out of the capital, that is, until we brought out the Badgers. They lobbed so many shells, I wondered what we would run out of first: Ammo, Covenant, or buildings."
- ―Anonymous Orbital Drop Shock Trooper
- "The first time on Reqiuem was an... experience. When Infinty went down, Captain Del Rio had all of us take positions around the crash site to keep Covenant armor and aircraft away. We were doing good until those damn robot things showed up. We lost twenty vehicles to those "Incineration Cannons.""
- ―UNSC servicewoman
- "I was there when we had to protect a small, almost unprotected science base from the Covies. A little over twenty of Phantom dropships came in, we took down seventeen of them, and damaged the rest. We saved a lot of lives that day."
- ―Sergeant Hikeo Koshijima
- "A lot of people don't understand what the UNSC Corps of Engineers go through, or how hard our job can be. We have to work on both military and civilian infrastructure. If a bridge goes out, it can clog up roads for kilometers, and if that road happens to lead to an evacuation site during an alien invasion, you will want that bridge back up fast. The Platypus does just that."
- ―Corporal Dominic Hernandez