The Cobra Night Raven S3P, or “Raven” as it is more commonly referred to, is regarded by many to be the most advanced, most powerful aircraft used by either G.I. Joe or Cobra during the course of conflict by both sides. Weighing 160,000 lbs., this spyplane is capable of short sprints at Mach 3.5 (2,310 mph) making it the fastest conventional aircraft in the entire world, even faster than the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, on which it is based. The dual “Viper” XF turbojet engines, based on a ramjet design, only increase in power as the jet moves faster. The Night Raven is used for covert and intelligence-gathering missions as well as high-speed pursuit attacks.
The most versatile aircraft in the Cobra Air Force. Developed by M.A.R.S. Industries in the early 80s, the Night Raven acts primarily as a:
- reconnaissance aircraft, where its excellent high-tech cameras and surveillance gear allow it to cover well over 100,000 sq. mi. per hour while flying for an operational range of 3,250 mi;
- VIP transport, where it ferries Cobra leaders and higher-ups all around the globe with unrivaled security; and
- interceptor, whose blistering Mach 3.32 (2,189 mph) speed at a service ceiling of 86,000 ft., dorsal twin-barreled direct-feed 30mm chain gun with 900 rounds, and 4 “Double Toxin” heat-seeking short-range air-to-air missiles (SRAAMs) could strike at enemy aircraft.
The Night Raven's least performed task is as a supersonic strategic bomber, carrying a pair of M.A.R.S.-developed “Raven” thermonuclear bombs on a rack in its bomb bay, it could lay waste to huge military installations in a single, high-speed pass.
The 2-man aircrew of the Raven consists of the pilot and the WSO/Reconnaissance Systems Officer (RSO) who operates the weapon systems, IFF/UHF/Data link, and reconnaissance sensors. Virtually all Strato-Vipers originated as air force pilots from different countries enticed to come to Cobra in exchange for doubled or even tripled salaries. The auto-level tandem cockpit hydraulically lowers for boarding, but the aft seat (WSO/RSO position) faces rearward.
The entire frame and skin of the Raven is made of titanium, much like the SR-71 on which it is heavily based. The armor is also corrugated and coated with a polished stealth paint which renders the aircraft even more radar-invisible than the python coating applied to the Cobra Python Patrol Division. There are no external hardpoints to create drag; even the “Double Toxin” SRAAMs are stored in 2 aerodynamic underwing rearward-firing twin-tube pods. The jet's exterior is outfitted with a forward-looking/forward control nose radome and an AEW rear radome. The lifting canards and the wings' leading edges are radar-absorbent.
The Nigh Raven is loaded with advanced equipment including: an ejector seat system, INS, TACAN, hydraulic reservoir flight system, HUD laser guidance system, and a dorsal ECM scrambler embedded in the airframe.
Moored to the Nigh Raven is a 1-man, low radar-reflection piggyback mini-jet armed with twin MK12 HOGS (High Observation Gunship System) 20mm cannons. The mini-jet is also equipped with an EOTS/fire-control display in the prone-position cockpit.
- Poor maneuverability.
- Completely unable to dogfight at subsonic speeds.
- Armament for such a large aircraft is poor and many consider the Rattler to be a more effective bomber when stealth and high speed are not required.
- Much like the Soviet-built MiG-25, the Night Raven has design flaws which results in a catastrophic engine failure if Mach 3.5 is held for more than 3 min., resulting in the aircraft accelerating out of control, causing the turbines to literally implode on themselves.
- The Night Raven is predictably expensive for Cobra to buy and almost as expensive to maintain and operate. As such, the number in service is thought to be fewer than 12.
|A Real American Hero (1986)|
- SR-71 Blackbird - Wikipedia article of the aircraft on which the Night Raven is based.