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Fighter Weapons School: Tellar Prime, Federation Space

Most of the other student crews were zoning out as the lecture in the stuffy classroom approached the top of its second hour. They had to learn the high notes for the exam, but the rest of the minor details only mattered to the two crews who had jumped out ahead of the pack and still had a chance at the "Top Gun" trophy.

Phil and Kickstart were taking notes in the middle of the room. As usual, they were seated next to Overdrive and Tick-tock, the only driver and Sizzo team who actually seemed to like them. Quiet Riot had posted themselves in their usual spot right in the center of the front row. They weren't exactly popular either, but the other students at least saw them as the more acceptable alternative to Phil who was seen as a teacher's pet. Despite the fact that Phil had never even spoken of Godfather's praise with his other classmates in the past month, someone had started the rumor that he was an insufferable brownnoser behind closed doors. He strongly suspected the culprits were both from Betazed.

"On its surface," Lieutenant Pressman, callsign "Hardtack," instructed from the front of the class, "an engagement out in open space seems like it would be much easier than an engagement within the confines of a system. A pilot doesn't have to worry about maneuvering through gravity wells or avoiding asteroids, rocks, or ice. A Sizzo doesn't have to worry about a stray comet providing a false sensor echo or stellar radiation clouding their targeting sensors.

However, in deep vacuum, it's just you, your enemies, and a few specks of cosmic dust. That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is actually what makes it the most dangerous environment of all for an aviation crew. There is absolutely nowhere to hide."

In her hands, Hardtack held two small plastic models of fighters mounted on the end of wooden dowels: one T-Bat and one Romulan Night Talon. The models were exactly the same kind of visual aids that pilots had been using to illustrate tactics for almost five centuries. Even in this age of holograms and high-definition viewscreens, there was still no better way of showing others how to dogfight without actually strapping into a spacecraft.

"The T-Bat was designed as a multi-role spaceframe: space superiority fighter, attack bomber, Starfleet marine close air support platform, and as a medium range anti-starship interceptor craft," Hardtack continued. "You will not find a warp-capable fighter platform with a better target acquisition suite, long range sensor array, or a larger and more versatile weapons load out. That being said, she has some significant flaws when it comes to sub-light maneuvering."

Hardtack took her models, put them nose to nose, and then slowly brought them together.

"The T-Bat's larger mass, flight stability, and smaller thrust to weight ratio when compared to comparable fighters makes her far less able to match the turning radius of smaller, lighter spaceframes such as the Night Talon here, the Tholian Firestar, or even the Cardassian Hidecki class. To put it bluntly, in tight-quarters, the F/A 297 flies like a brick.

The Valkyrie class currently under development is integrating a lot of the lessons learned from the war, but until it becomes fully operational, it's important that you understand what a T-Bat can do and what it can't. Sometimes, the most successful dogfight is the one you avoid."

Hardtack placed the models as far apart as her arms would reach.

"If it appears that you are about to get into shooting fight in open space, it is critical that you acquire and engage enemies at the furthest possible range. Otherwise…"

She took the models and maneuvered them so that the Night Talon moved into perfect shooting position at the T-Bat's six-o'clock.

"The enemy will no doubt use their superior turning radius to get in behind and obliterate you. Questions?"

The other students started furiously scribbling notes on their PADDs, but Phil pursed his lips, took a deep breath, and looked down at the floor. Another pilot a few rows behind named Sunspot noticed Phil's discomfort and raised his hand.

"Yes," Hardtack said pointing to him.

"Well, I'm just wondering what our most experienced student pilot, Saber, has to say about this?" he said sarcastically. The usual snickers ran through the rows. Up front, Quiet Riot simultaneously rolled their eyes. "I mean, Godfather did say we should take every opportunity to learn from his experience."

"Considering that this is the exact answer out of the manual Godfather helped write, I think Saber would say the same thing," Hardtack chuckled. Phil's mind flashed back to his last flight session with Daredevil on the Pershing's holodeck:

"Oh, you fly by the manual now?" her chastising words ran through his mind.

Just before Hardtack was about to move on, Phil's hand shot into the air.

"Actually, Ma'am," he said trying to sound confident, "I wouldn't say the same thing."

"OOOOOOOOHHHHH," echoed through the classroom like they were all back in high school.

"That's enough, you're all Starfleet officers!" Hardtack said to the group harshly before turning her gaze right at Phil. "Alright, Saber," she said, "I would LOVE for you to come up here and tell us all how a technique verified in combat for the past fifteen years is wrong…"

Phil looked back and forth.

"NOW PILOT," Hardtack commanded even more sharply. Phil tried to push the skeptical whispers of his classmates out of his ears as he stood up from his seat and made his way to the front. Kickstart, Overdrive, and Tick-tock were all shaking their heads. The instructor held out the two models and Phil grabbed them by the wooden dowels. He then mimicked her demonstration by putting the models at arm's length from each other.

"It is true that the T-Bat's sensor package means you can engage enemies farther out then they can engage you," Phil began, "but your pulse phasers are no good past 40,000 kilometers and your micro-torpedoes and anti-starship missiles still have a limit on their physical rate of travel. If I open fire at max range," Phil said shaking the T-Bat model, "the enemy fighters are actually so maneuverable, it actually gives enough time for the enemy's wingman," Phil said then shaking the Night Talon, "to actually open fire at hit your munitions before they reach the target. "The Cardassians at Chin'toka actually pioneered an unofficial doctrine of flying in hunter-killer quad formations mid-way through the war to defeat our manuals, Ma'am." Phil said looking over at a bemused Hardtack. "The two center birds would actually be the ones searching out enemy fighters while the outer two birds would look solely for incoming ordnance. It worked."

"Alright," Hardtack said crossing her arms. Phil had definitely caught her attention. "How would you fly this attack then?"

"You have to know what your platform can do and use its strengths just like you said, Ma'am," Phil answered. "The enemy birds are smaller and faster, but my engines are way more powerful. They also shift my center of mass further back on my spaceframe."

Suddenly, Phil pushed the two models together at a high rate of speed.

"I would go head to head at full throttle and close the distance. My forward shields can take a lot more pounding then theirs can. Just before you hit weapons range, engage your lateral RCS maneuver thrusters fore and aft. Your nose will decelerate, but the mass of your impulse engines will keep moving forward into a flat spin…"

Phil demonstrated by twisting the T-Bat model around the Night Talon's central axis.

"You'll drift straight around the bastard. Open up with your pulse phasers and cut him open like can of sardines. Even if you don't get an immediate kill, you'll move straight into perfect firing position right at the enemy six." Phil stopped the model directly aft of the Night Talon model. "He may be fast, but he's not as fast as micro-torps."

"No, no, no," Hardtack said shaking her head. "Even with inertial dampeners, your deuterium pumps can't keep up with such a dramatic shift in angular momentum. You'll suck the fuel right out of your lines and your impulse fusion reactors will shut down. You'll stall out and tumble off as helpless and blind as a newborn space whale pup popping outta 'Mama Gormagander'."

"I guess 'Big Ace' ain't as good as he is lucky!" Sunspot shouted out from the back. The class burst out laughing. Phil smiled and nodded his head.

"Normally, you'd be right," he continued. "However, if I fire my rear maneuvering thrusters at forty percent thrust right when I hit the apex of the spin…"

Hardtack's eyes opened wide.

"The moderate thrust won't be enough to alter the trajectory of your induced spin, but it will be enough to turn your RCS into ullage motors!"

"Exactly," Phil said with a grin. "The thrust will be just enough to accelerate enough deuterium into the aft well of the tank to keep the pumps flowing. My reactors won't shut down and I'll be combat ready the whole time."

The entire class fell silent.

"Have you actually done this?" Hardtack asked with genuine admiration.

"A couple of times," Phil said with a bit of English understatement. "My old wingman and I liked to play around when we were stuck on dawn patrol flying off the Pike. I'm really into ancient Earth aviation history. I came up with the idea when I read about Apollo 13 improvising how to fly their Lunar Module for deep space course correction…"

Everyone's eyes started to glaze over. Phil jumped back to the point.

"That's not important," he said shaking his head. "Anyways, Daredevil's actually the one who figured out that forty percent was the magic number. We called it, 'U-Turning.' Move came in real handy when we took down those six Firestars three years ago."

"Lieutenant," Hardtack said. "Next time we're up on a hop together, can you show me how to do that?"

"I'd be happy to, Ma'am," Phil answered with a smile.

"Thank you. You can take your seat now."

As Phil moved back to his desk, every pair of eyes in the room followed him with a mix of annoyance and envy. Quiet Riot telepathically promised each other to spend all night in the holodeck simulator until they figured out to pull off that move. For his part in all of this, Sunspot vowed never to challenge Saber's flight skills publicly again.


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