Someone left the canopy off this one
|Base Hull||Modified Mig 21-bis|
|Width||Wingspan 7.154 m|
|Drive Type||Speed: Single waved ion drive|
Acceleration: Twin Hurricane fusion torch.
|Drive Rating||Atmosphere: Max velocity Mach 2.1|
Space: Max velocity 0.18c limited
|Armament||Single 30mm Autocannon 4 underwing hardpoints capable of mounting common missiles, or underwing fuel tanks.|
|Primary Manufacturer||Hephaestus Affiliate Program|
|Purpose||Going fast on a budget|
|Primary Crew||1 (humanoid)|
An Analog girl in a Digital World. Fast. Lightweight. And not much else. That's the JF-21 in a nutshell.
By: Alessio Vittore
The Aeronaut Magazine online Blog, August 2020
"First Timers at Convention 2020, Part 3 - Asagiri JF-21"
So, for the Third part of our series on First-Timers I'll be reviewing something a little bit unusual from a new designer based out on the main belt. Asagiri should be a name that's familiar to any fan of Bubblegum Crisis, and should give you a clue as to who's behind it all. It was built, they admit, solely because at the time someone needed a personal spacecraft to carry things around between Atalante and Fides. 
It certainly explains a lot.
The demonstrator sits waiting on the Convention hangar deck, ignored by the bustle of congoers. It's polished up in bright bare aluminium, with blue accents along the fuselage highlighting elegant area-ruled curves. The Mig-21 was never an ugly looking aircraft - and as the base for a spacecraft it certainly brings its own brutal style to things. It was never that complex an aircraft either, and the JF-21 is little different.
What it consists of is an ion drive, a fuselage to house the drive, a pair of hurricane fusion torches on the wintips, and somewhere to sit. On the options list is a 30mm GSH chemical cannon, a life-support system, a basic navigation system, and a fire control system from a Zig to operate all four hardpoints.
That's all there is.
First impressions of the cockpit are - awkward. There's a strange reach to the rudder pedals and they never quite feel comfortable under booted feet. Seat material is thin and firm. The cockpit canopy closes with a rattle, rather than a thunk - which doesn't engender confidence. Bare duck-egg blue metal is everywhere, gauges and meters crammed in to an old-style instrument panel.There's something oddly refreshing about looking at a pack of old-fashioned steam-gauges and incandescent annunciators. Only a single TFT display seems out of place in what feels like a relic from the 1960's.
The main engine starts up with a harsh wail, rushing to life in seconds. The whole spaceframe starts to buzz and vibrate.
But, all told, I'm a little underwhelmed at first. This thing would've been old-fashioned ten years ago. It feels more like something from the early days of Fenspace - nearly a decade behind the time in every single way. No AI. No expert system. No multifunction glass-cockpit. It's all very Zig-like.
Taxiing through the hanger reveals other little niggles. Brakes are very, very stiff and require a lot of pedal force for not a lot of breaking. Steering is heavy. Switchgear is also heavy and requires a lot of deliberate force to operate - you get the sense that everything was designed to be operated while wearing thick gloves, rather than a light counterpressure flight suit. You think it's just outright terrible, then you get the sense that it's all been deliberately built this way. 
There's a thought to the ergonomics of the thing and it's not a conventional one. If you were someone with a poor sense of touch and a lot of excess strength, it'd be perfect. With a thick-gloved or even armoured pressure suit, all that weight would at least allow for some feedback. 
Once out in open space however, things start to make sense.
It accelerates like a scalded catgirl. Not a lot of mass means there's nothing at all holding it back when the engine goes up to full power. It screams up to .14 before you can say 'Fuck me! that was fast'. Controls that felt heavy when parked start to wake up and respond. That sheer lack of mass means nothing at all encumbers it. The lack of AI or Expert system or even a basic fly-by-wire system means that it does exactly what you tell it to do, and nothing more. Pull back and it snaps the nose up with a gut wrenching kick. A twitch of the column snaps it into a dizzyingly fast aileron roll. It feels ragged and pointy and just a little bit harsh - there's no moderation, no modulation - just your hands, a stick and the controls.
There's no safety net to keep you from pushing it too far and snapping bits off.
It demands both mastery and finesse of it's pilot - someone who knows what their doing in the cockpit. Inspite of the price-tag, this is not a beginner's machine. 
I manage to get it straight and level. And then I hit the button.
|Sidebar: Comment #27 Understatement....|
So, I bought one.
Yeah - short of cash and just wanted something fast for courier runs after I stuffed my Thunderhawk. Let me be the first to say that you get exactly what you pay for. A lot of speed and fuck-all else. If anything, the review's a completely understatement.
It's not my thing. But it does the job I bought it to do. All I need to do is figure out how to make it more comfortable, upgrade the flight systems to something more in keeping with 21th century and ya - maybe get some expert systems in there to ease up on the workload. For ten minutes, it's a hoot. For two or three hours, it's tiring.
I suppose, the upside of it being so dirt simple is that it's easy to modify. And it's cheap enough to buy new that I can add the stuff I want to it when I can afford it.
But for the Bird's sake, know what you're buying before ordering.
A little red button on the throttle triggers both Hurricane thrusters. They have exactly two settings; On and Off. That's it.
The speedometer redlines at .18C. And it was passed that point when I looked at it. The white needle was pressed against the peg so hard it was flexing. The whole experience is like driving a very light car, very fast, over a very rough road. It bounces and kicks and judders and snaps and rattles, threatening to shake itself apart. It snaps left, then hard right when I try to correct it, then back again when I overcorrect and I have vivid visions of myself disintegrating in a shower of expanding aluminium foil before it all finally damps down naturally. It's past the edge of control, punched right through the top of the flight envelope and out the other side and I don't even dare trying to make it do more than even the gentlest of turns for fear of tearing it apart. I can feel the thrusters and drive field interacting, flexing the wingtips and thrusters.
It feels like they're about to snap off and I bottle it, killing the thrusters before backing off on the main engines.
I'm white-faced and shaking when I turn it back towards the Convention.
I've been out for all of ten minutes, but that's all I can take. The JF-21 too, has had enough. It's guzzled nearly half it's meagre fuel reserves in the process. It lands fast, threatening to sabre-dance on the way in, before bouncing down and I take it back to its parking stand.
It sits there looming, tick-ticking as it cools down, and I feel lucky to have survived.
Oh dear Gods almighty. It really is a one trick pony, but it performs that trick with insane single mindedness. On full throttle, it's a hair-rasing, mind-bending, pant-wetting experience. It's exhilarating and terrifying all at once - made all the more so by the fact that there's absolutely no safety net underneath it. If you get it wrong, you will crash and die. That it's.
The truth is, if you're a courier and you need a fast craft, a Thunderhawk will serve you better. If you feel you need to defend your home, a Ga-15 Fearless will do a better job of it. For cheap home defense, it's hard to beat a Zig or Tie Fighter.
If you race on a budget - or just want something a bit hairy as a second spacecraft - and you can handle something a little snappy, this might be your thing. Just don't say you weren't warned.
If this is an indication of the insanity to come, I'd say watch Asagiri closely.
- Missile with a Man in it: The JF-21 is best described as a big engine, a big booster, small wings, a pilot and not much else.
- Analog girl in a digital world: The 21 lacks any sort of computer control system for an AI to interface with, the craft's controls are mechanical... stick inputs directly activating thrusters, or hydraulics actuating the Jet's aerodynamic controls.
- Tough as Nails: Bigger than an F-EZig, with a simple but robust construction, the 21 has an astonishing ability to absorb punishment and still limp home. There's very little to actually damage.
- Blazing arrow: The two boosters give an acceleration drive boost for about ten minutes, adding on top of the 21's current speed. While the boosters are burning the 21's maneuverability is severely restricted. A skilled pilot can adjust the vector slightly, but doing so risks throwing the spacecraft into a difficult to recover spin.
- Shake, rattle and roll: When approaching it's top speed, the 21 starts to shake like it's been driven over a rough road at high speed, threatening to get out of control. Instruments vibrate and blur becoming difficult to read. Panels clatter loudly in the cockpit and non-critical nuts and bolts will come lose and drop to the floor. Not normally dangerous... provided the pilot doesn't exacerbate the effects, but can be extremely distracting.
- Screaming Demon: Sound may not travel in a vacuum... but somehow, people are still able to hear these things approaching on a flypast, passing with a sound often described as like a crack of a whip, mixed with a banshee's howl and a thunderous boom. They're even louder in an atmosphere.
Between 2020 and 2024, a grand total of 17 have been sold in Fenspace, mostly to asteroid racers looking for cheap speed
- A hybrid drive system very different from a Prius
- Priss Asagiri, the Blue Knight Saber
- And that someone was addicted to speed, and had no need for onboard life support or navigation
- Yes, life support is optional.
- It also spits its first quirk at me - the navigation computer comes up in cryllic, despite being reset.
- I later find out, it's actually designed to be flown by someone wearing a Stingray project hardsuit - which is why a lot of those primary systems are optional
- But it's cheap enough that it'll probably be bought by beginners, who'll probably end up giving it a reputation as a widowmaker when they crash it