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Sun-Devil
M808B2 Sun Devil
Production information
Manufacturer
Product line

M808 Scorpion

Model

M808B2

Class

Self-propelled air defense system

Technical specifications
Length

10.2 metres (33 feet)

Width

7.8 metres (26 feet)

Mass

62 tonnes

Engine Power

Hydrogen ICE turbine engine

Armour

Ceramic-titanium armour

Sensor Systems

Air defence radar

Targeting systems
  • UGPS-uplinked satellite targeting
  • Mark 6 targeting computer
Countermeasures
  • Smoke dispensers
  • Anti-mine countermeasures
Armament
Crew

4 (driver, gunner, sensor & electronic warfare operator, tank commander)

Minimum crew

1 (driver with neural interface)

Passengers

4 + 2 VIPs in the cramped aft cabin

Usage
Year introduced

2462

Role(s)
  • Short-range anti-aircraft deterrence
  • Anti-infantry
Counterpart(s)
Era(s)

Insurrection
Human-Covenant War

Affiliation

UNSC Logo TGW 2 United Nations Space Command
Rebel-Insurrectionist symbol United Rebel Front (Captured)

  [Source]
"Who knew blasting VTOLs out of the sky could be so fun?"
―Sergeant Eardwulf

The M808B2 Air Defence System, colloquially known as the Sun Devil, is a modification of the M808B Scorpion main battle tank adapted to function as a self-propelled air defence system. Conforming to the United Nations Space Command's mandate that all Scorpion variants must consist of turret-swaps, the Sun Devil is distinguished by its fast-tracking 40mm autocannons replacing the default M512 high-velocity cannon. Excelling at destroying both light and heavy aircraft at short range, the vehicle's heavy armour and even greater effectiveness against massed infantry assaults saw them still being trusted in open-field combat over younger, more specialised competitors.

Introduced centuries prior to the Insurrection, the Sun Devil rose to become the second-most common configuration of the venerable M808B Main Battle Tank during the Covenant War, finding use in both the UNSC Army and UNSC Marine Corps. Competing with the smaller, more manoeuvrable M9 Wolverine MAAT, the tank found itself in a niche in which it could effortlessly fend off large rebel attacks without support. Continuously improved to enhance its lethality against infantry, the M808B2 later became a test-bed for additions that would later be integrated into the later M808C Scorpion. Like every other model of the M808 line, the Sun Devil was steadily phased out after the war in favour of the M820 Scorpion.

History

Role and Tactics

As the largest vehicle within the UNSC's arsenal of counter-air units at the time of its introduction, the Sun Devil fulfils a vital set of skills which are not covered by either the M41 LAAG-armed M12 Warthog nor the M9 Wolverine. While slow when compared to both aforementioned vehicles, the Sun Devil is as well-protected as any other member of the Scorpion line of tanks. This makes it resilient in conventional warzones where anti-tank weapons such as HEAT warheads would be expected, as it can take multiple hits and still remain functional, unlike its lighter competitors. This makes it a natural escort for convoys, artillery assets, and other main battle tanks. Their ability to clear out the local airspace and low-flying space fighters drastically increases the ease in which their faction can gain total air superiority. Like all Scorpion tanks, they are fully-capable of being airlifted by D77-TC Pelicans without extra supports, making transporting them around the planet and the fleet easy.

To the UNSC's surprise, the Sun Devil has repeatedly proven to be a gamechanger when unleashed against infantry. While the smooth-bore 90mm cannon is capable of easily dispatching any single heavy soldier, its capabilities at combating a large swarm are of limited utility; meanwhile, conventional machine guns such as the M41 Vulcan are easily stopped by cover and heavy armour. The M808B2's M288 40mm autocannons provide is an intermediary step between them, combining power and a respectable rate-of-fire to crush dozens of small targets even when behind fortified barricades and structures. It can outrun most species on foot and its ceramic-titanium armour can shrug off hits from all but their heaviest explosive weapons, with some models have more turrets that fire independently, making fighting one an intimidating prospect. The raised height of the turret also works in its favour, as in some situations the Sun Devil can fire off behind cover without any risk to its crew. All this results in a capable anti-infantry asset, one that even exceeds the performance of the Scorpion variant purpose-built for this role, the M808B5 Fire Ant.

Weaknesses and Counter-Tactics

As it was pressed into a role that it was never explicitly designed for, the Sun Devil was discovered to harbour a number of issues that had to be rectified. While many were fixed over its manufacturing life, there are many problems that were never able to be fixed due to its core design. One of the biggest issues has been its size - the Sun Devil is easily one of the UNSC's largest anti-aircraft vehicles. It is only dwarfed by some stationary turrets and mobile fortresses like the M312 Elephant. This means that as well as being slower-moving than the likes of the Wolverine in all terrains, it finds it difficult to move through narrow spaces such as suburban streets and passages through rocky terrain. Pathways may not necessarily be impossible for the Sun Devil to overcome, but it does significantly slow it down, giving fleeing infantry more time to escape. In addition, its raised height does inherit the M808's blind-spot in a narrow window along the sides and back of its chassis. This extends to their vulnerabilities, such as weak points along its tracks and cooling vanes, and to boarding. Troops which are able to get close to the Sun Devil are able to significantly damage it, either through strategic shots or affixing explosives to its hull, or getting on top of the cabin and killing the entire crew easily. To prevent this, a squad of Marines and Army Troopers are required as a permanent escort in order to help fend off opponents that are too close to the vehicle. Finally, the main autocannons on the vehicle are very short-ranged when compared to other anti-air solutions: while it can adequately shoot down missiles, aircraft can simply move out of its cone of fire in order to save themselves.

In some models, further weaknesses exist. For pre-2527 vehicles, all weapons are mounted on the turret, and destroying this renders the vehicle completely defenceless. In some early models, the autocannon assembly is restricted from firing below 5o above its axis due to the presence of a reinforcement bar, which prevents the crew from turning it against ground assets. This left only its co-axial medium machine gun able to attack ground threats, and it is not very capable at this role thanks its inaccuracy. As is a weakness with most assets that carry the M247T machine gun turret, the gunner for this is highly exposed from any area but the front. Even the few that come equipped with canopies for these turrets find that they are easy to penetrate with regular infantry weapons. As they are such attractive targets for marksmen (and have an unnervingly-high casualty rate), tanker crews call this position the "bait trap". Finally, select early Sun Devils had exposed racks for their surface-to-air missiles which if hit, could cause catastrophic damage to the upper turrets. Even those that had armoured housings were restricted by a pathetic amount of missiles, which means they must be reloaded frequently to retain the Sun Devil's sole long-range weapon.

Design Details

Armament

"A Scorpion's ninety mike mike is great when you're up against heavy armour like tanks and fortifications, maybe also against poor bastards that bunched up a little too much. But that's not the Sun Devil's area of expertise. If you need to drop a lot of tangos fast, hard, and without mercy, nothing is better then the Bee-Two's five mike-golfs."
―Anonymous Sun Devil gunner, comparing the armaments between the two Scorpion varieties.

Whereas the M808B Scorpion utilised a hard-hitting M512 smooth-bore high-velocity cannon as its main means of dishing destruction, the M808B2 Sun Devil relies on four lighter but faster-firing M288 40mm machine-linked autocannons. Linked in pairs, the M288s fire high-velocity shells of either High Explosive, AirBursting (HEAB) or armour-piercing (AP) varieties, and use fin-stabilisers in order to maximise flight time before arcing. Both munitions are designed to defeat airborne craft and perform well against infantry, but to streamline logistics most later Sun Devils were only equipped with conventional AP shells. The autocannons maintain a sustained rate of fire, launching roughly 840 rounds per minute into the sky. To help with tracking fast-moving targets, the turret base has been upgraded with improved power motors to rapidly increase turning speed. However, the M288 is still compatible with traditional turret hardpoints, as much of its design still shares parts with the M512 cannon, which makes maintenance, repairs, and even refits a trivial matter.

M79 MLRS rocket
An Argent V missile in flight.

Acting as the longer, heavier reach to the Sun Devil are two optional missile pods for up to four Argent V[A] missiles, mounted in pairs on either side of the tank's 'neck.' Larger than subsequent models fired by specialised warthogs, these are large, agile missiles that have a maximum range of forty kilometres under windless conditions - large enough to hit a space fighter flying in the middle of the stratosphere of most colony worlds. However, Sun Devils often launch them far closer than this in order to maximise their chance to hit their targets. After locking on with the target's RADAR or LIDAR signature and vector, the Argent uses a suite of electromagnetic wave-based scanners and a very basic artificial intelligence software to continue tracking its target. Upon impact, their default high explosive and concussive warhead detonates in a directed sequential manner, causing serious surface-level breaches of armour and buckling of the airframe. These are so potent that Sun Devil crews have found that they are an impressive defence against even other tanks. This can be changed to a high-explosive with fragmentary qualities based on mission requirements. While powerful, Argent V missiles are not very effective against Covenant forces, being easily stopped by energy shielding and are beaten by specific countermeasures used by their aircraft. If they need to be rearmed, the rearmost section of the pods can be opened up to accept replacement munitions.

Crew

The M808B2 Sun Devil is ideally operated by a maximum of four individuals, three in some earlier models that predated the Human-Covenant War, similar to the base M808B Scorpion. However, because of the automated requirements of its role, it does not have a dedicated gunner for its autocannon turret. Instead, it replaces this position with a sensor and electronic warfare specialist, with driver and tank commander both taking their traditional seats. All permanent servicemen with the exception of the machine gunner are fully certified in necessary engineering qualifications, allowing them to conduct maintenance in the field if necessary.

Sitting in the main cabin directly beneath the main canopy is the driver, who retains a shiftstick on his left armrest, independent track control pedals, a touchscreen with a basic heads-up display, and a supplemental joystick on his right. The touchscreen is composed of a series of windows that provide an array of information, from systems diagnostics and efficiency charts, to scanning systems such as optical sensors. It can also provides access to the main turret controls, an uplink to the UNSC battle network, and any other information and commands available for the other stations. This allows the driver to operate the vehicle single-handedly - a valuable resource to insurrectionist tankers. To reduce the chance of hijacking, behind the pilot's seat is a wireless connection port for transferring data to a level 2 neural interface. It is responsible for slaving turret adjustment to their head movement and increasing the situational awareness of the driver, allowing a single driver to operate all of the Sun Devil's systems. Unknown to all but the tank commander, it continuously checks authentication codes in the user's interface. If a check fails, it will lock certain system behind a security lock that can only be lifted by the tank commander's personal code within a certain time frame. If both of these fail, it releases a viral worm that catastrophically damages the Sun Devil's software, leaving everything but its mobility systems completely non-functional.

Subsequent models

Thanks to the hugely-successful adoption of the Sun Devil, the UNSC supplied a number of contracts for Chalybs' Defence Systems to design similar models for the other tanks in service. Later known as under the umbrella term of "Sun Devil counter-infantry/aircraft upgrade kits" or simply "Sun Devil Kit", it spawned three new variants, one for each of the company's Main Battle Tanks. While all were similar, subtle quirks in their performance had them fulfil slightly different roles within the UNSC's armoured divisions.

M850B2 Birdeater

M808C2 Sun Devil

M820B2 Wolf Spider

C084D602-A15A-48CD-9EFF-EE6612397400
The M820A Scorpion, whose base chassis is also used on the Wolf Spider ADS.

The successor to all Sun Devil anti-aircraft vehicles, the M820B2 Wolf Spider ADS was introduced as part of Chalybs' efforts to bolster and eventually phase out the venerable M808 Scorpion line from the UNSC's armies. Built off the improved chassis of the new M820A Scorpion Main Battle Tank, the Wolf Spider is almost half the mass of the Sun Devil, giving it a higher top speed and allowing it to operate for longer periods of time without refueling. Despite this, it retains almost the same level of armour protection. It is far less vulnerable to close targets, as it is fitted with both a pintle-mounted M247H2 Heavy Machine Gun, a remote-controlled PALADIN Weapon Station, and an entire suite of electronic warfare systems that ensure that most targets will not so much as scrape its armour.

The Wolf Spider's actual anti-aircraft systems have also received an overhaul. Its main armament has a maximum firerate of 2,000RPM across its four M309 40mm Automatic Cannons to take down both ground and air targets. It can fire almost continuously and accurately, as powerful recoil compensators and the doppler cooling system keeps the barrels level and cool even under continuous use. Its missile complement has more than doubled, and now uses powerful MIM-44 Slamdunk surface to air missiles in traversing launchers. They have a standard range of fifteen kilometres using its standard RADAR tracking systems, which like its predecessor can be expanded by pairing it with the sensor suite from the Wolf Spider. Finally, unlike the ad-hoc nature of the Sun Devil, as a purpose-built air defence system the Wolf Spider can link together all local anti-air assets to create a highly coordinated shield for friendly assets.

Gallery

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