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UNITED NATIONS SPACE COMMAND
OFFICE OF NAVAL INTELLIGENCE
ONI PROWLER CORPS//
Stealth Intelligence Gathering and Information Management Platform
-Low-Observable Intelligence Gatherer
-Spaceborne Early Warning And Control System (SWACS)
-Electronic Countermeasures Platform
-Mobile Covert Operations Command Centre
-Low Profile Insertion Platform
The Darkstar-class prowler is the latest stealth corvette operated by the UNSC, specifically the Office of Naval Intelligence Prowler Corps, who specialise in intelligence gathering and stealth tactics. Prior to the War against the Covenant, prowlers were invaluable assets against members of the Insurrection, able to seek out rebel bases and caches undetected, as well as gathering information on rebel activities, allowing the UNSC to be one step forward against the guerrilla-like Insurrectionists. Such a role made the prowlers an invaluable, if shady, aspect in the UNSC, often deemed synonymous with the shady work done by ONI operatives within the military circle.
During the Covenant war, UNSC Prowlers became the backbone of the UNSC intelligence gathering fleet. For example, Operation HYPODERMIC involved the use of nearly the entire reserve fleet of available ONI Prowlers to track and follow Covenant vessels to locate important Covenant worlds, rally points and supply caches, as well as to gather information on enemy movement, fleet strength and capabilities, which were extremely vital for the UNSC Navy, which were both outnumbered and outgunned in the war. ONI Prowlers were responsible for finding weak spots in enemy defences and operations, often leading to the UNSC Navy to exploit said advantages. Even so, most naval personnel harbour a slight mistrust with their ONI counterparts, who often hide behind a thin veil of mystery due to the sensitive operations they conduct.
The Darkstar class is the latest generation of these unique ships. As a prowler, she is well equipped with components and systems to optimize stealth and intelligence gathering abilities. Her angled hull surface is designed to reflect and absorb electromagnetic radiation directed at her, becoming near-invisible to most sensors. Radar absorbent material and Stealth Ablative coating covers the entire vessel, keeping her hidden from all known Covenant and UNSC detection systems. Much of her design aspect was to keep radiation from her engines from being detected, an Achilles heel in some older prowler models, which would cost the small vessel its best defense system, near invisibility in deep space. As such, engine baffles and large shield-like guards prevent engine exhaust from being detected and traced, giving the vessel away to enemy sensors.
Due to her primary role, the Darkstar possesses the most advanced sensor and communications suite in the UNSC Navy. A majority of her detection systems are passive, to enable her to spy on her enemies without giving away her position. Visual, thermal and radio receivers are dotted across her hull, able to pick up the faintest signature that might signify an enemy operation. These systems are so advanced, they have been known to pick up older prowlers and their Covenant counterparts, while remaining invisible to the latter. When required, the Darkstar can engage her active sensor suite, centred around a large radome on her dorsal aft, providing real-time battle information to fleet commanders during combat, as well as effective battle management from a dedicated command and control staff, relaying, receiving and interpreting orders in the chaos of a space battle. Such a role compromises the vessels stealth systems, and is used sparingly by most prowler captains and fleet commanders. In a standoff role, the Darkstar can deploy long ranged, one-shot sensor probes to gain telemetry and information from a distance, without risking the ship from enemy detection. Clarion spy-drones complement the long range probes, allowing the prowler to be able to gain information from places that it cannot reach. Ground and stellar forces can also tap into the feeds transmitted from these probes, allowing fleet commanders, ship captains and groundside marines to make tactical decisions based on information gathered by the probes. Darkstars also provide an extremely secure communications system, a line-of-sight high-fidelity laser data transmitter to allow it to communicate with allied vessels, allowing encrypted information to be sent safely. Such transmissions can only be picked up by vessels within the transmitters line of sight, allowing maximum security of the transmitted data. If the two communicating vessels are not within line-of-sight with each other, or is obstructed by another body, the Darkstar can deploy relay buoys to receive and redirect the transmission, without compromising the security of the transmission. Darkstars can also utilise a towed sensor array, stored in a specialised bay in her aft ventral section, which expands the detection range and capabilities of the ship, and is unaffected by the interference generated by the ships own systems due to its towed nature. In its fleet support role, the Darkstar can also generate a significant amount of ECM, or Electronic CounterMeasures, which jams and disrupt the enemys ability to communicate, coordinate and attack. ECM has proven quite effective in diverting Covenant Plasma torpedoes at "false" targets, buying the UNSC fleet more time to recharge and counterattack with their MAC and Shivas.
While stealth is its greatest defence, the Darkstar posses a formidable armament for a ship of its size. Offensive systems include HORNET stealth nuclear mines carried in dedicated deployment rigs in her aft dorsal section, just behind the radome. Darkstars can effectively create a minefield which is near-impossible to disarm in a short timeframe by enemy forces. The destructive nature of these mines has been shown time and time again in earlier engagements, giving the UNSC Navy the rare victories they had achieved against such a technologically superior foe. The latest generation of HORNET mines also include an EMP field generator, and upon detonation, releases and EMP pulse similar to those on Shiva Nuclear missiles, disabling nearby unshielded ships, and compromising the shields on undamaged vessels. Like most frontline vessels, Darkstars possess, in small amounts, of ready-to fire Archer and Shiva missiles in specialised silos to maintain stealth integrity. Six dedicated silos not only store an equal amount of missiles, but have a CAPTOR system installed. CAPTOR, acronym for enCAPsulated TORpedo, is basically an additional housing for the missiles inside the silo, and should it be required, the entire housing is ejected from the silo containing the missile. The CAPTOR has its own sensor and communications suite, but can also be activated by Darkstars themselves or other ships with the security clearance, and can be fired remotely, acting both as a standoff weapon, as well as maintaining the prowlers stealth, and can be deploy like a minefield if necessary as well. This ability and loadout allows Darkstars to deploy precision strikes on enemy forces with minimal retaliation to itself. Darkstars also carry the signature Pulse Lasers used solely on ONI Stealth ships. These weapons were optimized for use on prowlers, whose low energy signatures synergizes with the prowler';s role as a stealth platform, as opposed to a "loud and proud" conventional CIWS system. Pulse Lasers also become a force multiplier for prowlers, as they are much more powerful than conventional counterparts, as well as not requiring ammunition to function, much like its smaller derivative, the handheld Model 6 Grindell/Galilean NonLinear, a bonus given the prowler's small size and dedication to stealth functions, which cannot afford any ample space or mass for regular guns. Pulse lasers also allow prowlers to cut into the hulls of enemy vessels, allowing the ships to dock and deploy special forces and insertion teams when boarding action is necessary. Such weapons are one of the factors that give prowlers their extremely high cost, as the small ship can easily cost as much as a well armed destroyer. In conjunction with its special operations role, the prowler can carry stealth HEV pods for low profile insertion of elite ODST or Spartan infantry. Extraction is mostly done by more dedicated Subprowlers like the Black Cat-class, as Darkstars are not rated for atmosphere, mostly due to their heat-sensitive Stealth Ablative Coating. Specialised docking collars used in conjunction with Pulse lasers and Stealth HEVs also allow prowlers to board enemy ships, and with creative use of nuclear and EMP weapons, even shielded vessels are not safe.
Darkstar production has faced many problems, especially since the fall of the REACH military installation. Productions of Darkstars are now at a low, mostly at deep space outposts and shipyards away from the fighting. Even so, with the latest generation of Darkstars and remaining prowlers still operational, the UNSC and humanity itself would have all the help it can get in the darkest days of the war.
Crew: 60 Regular | 10 Minimum |160 Maximum
Sensor Suite: |Internal: Active and Passive systems. Classified.( Refer to ONI Subsection Delta Delta 14 for file clearance)|External: Towed Sensor Array (Active and Passive systems), Clarion Spy-Probes, Maverick Single-Burn Long-Range Stealth Sensor Probes|
Armament: |Fixed: Three Pulse Laser turrets (Energy rating classified, SS-DD14)|Disposable: Six CAPTOR-enabled Missile silos (capable of deploying Archer Block 32-S Ship to Ship or Shiva Tactical Nuclear Guided Missiles), 25 HORNET Tactical Nuclear Mines or 50 MORAY Space Mines|Passive: Stealth optimized systems, Electronic Countermeasures|
Auxiliary Craft: Sixteen Bumblebee Lifeboats (Launchers hidden underneath Stealth Ablative Coating and Hull Panels), Six Stealth Human Entry Vehicles, One Multi-Role EVA Pod (Launched from Aft Cargo Airlock)