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Global Defense Initiative
Firehawk Multirole Fighter
The Firehawk can be said to be the Initiative's "best kept secret" before the coming of the Third Tiberium War. A high-speed, advanced fighter whose capabilities are still classified to this day. Nevertheless, it's prevalent use across all GDI units and subfactions has gained popularity from both the military and the general public alike, inevitably becoming the symbol of GDI's airpower.
The Firehawk started as part of Project Phoenix, a top-secret and highly classified project, initially unknown to all but the highest-ranking GDI commanders. GDI's experimental weapons and tactics division, codenamed, the Steel Talons, were given the task of bringing GDI's air-force to the next level, learning and improving from the past mistakes of the Second Tiberium War. It was found that GDI's air-fleet during the Second Tiberium War, however versatile, required a substantial amount of resources to deploy and maintained, due to the specialized role of each GDI aircraft deployed during the said war. At the time, Orca Fighters performed intercept, air-supreority and anti-armour roles, while Orca Bombers were used to deal with Nod bases and surface targets. An even more serious flaw in GDI's airfleet was discovered, speed. Orca Fighters and Bombers were designed as close air support craft, and operated relatively close to the ground at subsonic speeds. This made the said craft easy pickings for Nod anti-aircraft, and even their Harpy-class helicopters, resulting in many GDI aircraft casualties. Slow lumbering Orca Aircraft also became threathened on their way back to base to refuel and rearm, and many incidents of such shootdowns occured during this vulnerable phase of an air sortie.
The Steel Talons concluded that the next generation of GDI aircraft should be a quick and deadly multirole attacker, capable of switching from a nimble air-supreority interceptor and a hard-hitting air-to-surface bomber. Project Phoenix eventually developed these concepts into what we know now as the GDI Firehawk. News of the existence of such an aircraft quickly spread among field commanders, and rumours circulated within personnel and the public. But the true capabilities of the Firehawk were yet to be revealed to the world, that is, until the coming of the Third Tiberium War.
While the development of the Orca Gunship continued, becoming GDI's premier frontline airborne anti-armour and close air support craft, the Firehawk undertook two new roles in GDI's airpower gap. As an air-supreority fighter, the Firehawk was armed with the new Rattlesnake air-to-air missiles, allowing the Firehawk to unleash deadly radar-guided fury against airborne threats. These missiles improved upon the older Sidewinder, having larger warheads and much longer range than it's predecessors, allowing the near-instant destruction of any airborne foes. An improved radar-guided tracking system makes such missiles all but impossible to avoid, making the Firehawk unbeatable in any air engagement. Such a technological improvement, however minor, was possibly the most important one during the war, with the arrival of the alien Scrin. While GDI ground troops succumbed under the alien's seemingly-invincible space fleet, it was the actions of many brave Firehawk pilots and their heavy-hitting air-to-air missiles that gave GDI the edge over the alien aggresors, a flight of which could even take down the mighty Scrin Planetary Assault Carriers and Motherships. The Firehawk's role did not end there. As a ground attacker, it could be armed with two Hellcat Incendiary bombs, perfect for it's role in razing any Brotherhood or Scrin base it was tasked to bomb. These sattelite-guided munitions could bomb structures with pinpoint accuracy, although their very nature makes them unsuitable for use against moving targets, unless a good Firehawk pilot and his WSO could manually predict and lead the bomb to it's target. The pinnacle of the Firehawk's abilities would be it's highly-classified Stratofighter Boosters. The boosters are so top-secret, battlefield commanders have to manually bring in the upgrades from GDI High Command whenever they deploy Firehawks in the field, to prevent such technology from falling into enemy hands. Stratofighter Boosters allow the Firehawk to take a shortcut into the upper atmosphere, far beyond the reach of the longest-range SAM battery both GDI and Nod currently employ. Even acceleration from known Scrin craf were unable to catch up with Stratofighter Booster-upgraded Firehawks. Using these boosters, Firehawks can literally appear out of nowhere, diving in from beyond the highest clouds without any prior notice, and bombing or shooting down anything it encountered along the way. With these boosters, Firehawks have truly earned their place in GDI's growing airfleet.
As the war began to heat up, GDI upgraded the Firehawk's already superefficient engines, allowing them to carry extra payloads. These payloads were stored in hardpointed pods on the fighter's canard foreplanes, to increase aerodynamic effieciency and improve the craft's stealth characteristics. The very design of the Firehawk prevents it from having an internal weapons bay. these hardpoints allowed an extra Hellcat bomb to be carried, with the central main pod carrying only one bomb compared to the original two, and the other two bombs on the hardpointed pods, to prevent metal stresses that caused the main weapons pod to be regularly maintained in the earlier Firehawks. The pods could also store one extra Rattlesnake missile each, effectively nearly-doubling the Firehawk's already formidable Firehawk air-to-air firepower, allowing quicker and more effective destruction of Nod and Scrin aircraft. Firehawks employed by ZOCOM deploy their trademark Ceramic Armour, due to the nature of their operations in harsh Red-Zone envrionments, for similar reasons with their Orca Gunships, adding an extra layer of protection against Tiberium growth and the occasional Ion storm. Ceramic armour also proved useful during combat operations, protecting the fragile airframe from enemy surface-to-air or air-to-air ordanance. Due to the extra weight and aerodynamic penalty from the Ceramic armour plates, ZOCOM Firehawks do not carry extra hardpoint pods for increased munitions, preferring the extra protection rather than firepower.
Firehawks will continue to serve the GDI airforce for the foreseeable future, as it continues to be an effective airborne asset to the GDI, even after the end of hostilities. Many great Firehawk pilots, including the heroic Captain Hunter, who, after expending all his Firehawk's ammunition, continued to support and fend off Nod aircraft during GDI's retaking of the Pentagon, eventually succumbing to heavy fire from the tail-gun of a Nod Stealth Bomber. Captain Hunter was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions, becoming one of the best decorated fighter pilots of GDI for his sacrifice during the war. With the Firehawk's versatility, and it's newfound role in the GDI Navy as a carrierborne fighter, the Firehawk will continue to be GDI's frontline fighter for decades to come.