In the early 2080s the US Air Force was falling behind on developments for their fighter aircraft. The Russians had continued their rapid growth as a technological power house, since the reformation of the Soviet Union however. Through this rapid growth they had come up with a new superb aircraft that had the unmatched maneuvering capabilities provided by a forward swept wing, and the speed capabilities of the best Russian Technology could muster - Mach 3.8. This aircraft was the MiG-52. In response to this aircraft, and the commonly available Triax XM-280, the US Air Force issued requirements for a new Air Superiority Fighter, that had both VTOL capabilities, and performance that could match the newest threats head on.
In 2084, a pair of designs were accepted to enter competitive trials. The first was a beefed up prototype of an attack aircraft, outfitted for air combat produced by a Canadian firm called Northern Canada Aviation Technology, given the American test designation of XF-52. The second prototype, presented by a well known American corporation called Rockwell Collins, was a sleek, all new pure fighter design, given the American test designation of XF-53. In the early stages of trial, it became largely apparent that neither design was optimal. The XF-52 presented by the NCAT suffered structural weaknesses due to it's modular construction design feature in high negative-G maneuvers. It's optimal combat radius was much less than that of the Mig-52, it was slightly slower than the Mig-52 at Mach 3.5, AND it was lightly armed for an Air Superiority Fighter. On the other hand, the XF-53 was a solid design. It was not as maneuverable as the XF-52 but was extremely ruggedly constructed, and was capable of a speed of Mach 4.1. It seemed obvious that the XF-53 was the choice of the new fighter of the US Air Force - however there was a problem with the aircraft. It was priced at nearly double the amount of the competing XF-52.
In the early 21st century, budgets were something to be adhered to, to the letter - and as high of a cost as the XF-53 had at the time, would have been enough to force the acceptance of the NCAT XF-52, however this was not the early 21st century. The American Air Force was frightened - they needed their equipment to at least come close to matching the Russian and European design threats on equal grounds. Thus, the order went through - the US Air Force ordered a test batch of 12 Rockwell Collins YF-53s for testing, which were delivered two years after the test in 2084.
The YF-53 proved itself to be everything the poster said. Sturdy, fast, VTOL capable, but extremely expensive. It was popular among it's ground crews - and was loved by it's pilots. It seemed to be everything the Air Force needed. A scant year after these YF-53s, now dubbed the "Warhawk", entered service, the US Air Force ordered no less than 325 of the aircraft from Rockwell Collins to be delivered over a ten year period.
Once the Warhawk started entering large scale service the real problems began. Bases which were outfitted with the Warhawk were having exceptional problems with exceeding their budgets maintaining these aircraft. They were unusually troublesome for such a modern design, necessitating replacement of engines after every few hundred thousand miles - which was incredible considering that some mid century F-33s needed one or two engine changes throughout their entire career in the Air Force! Despite these problems the Warhawk did eventually go to war. In 2089 the United States seized the Baja peninsula from Mexico as payment for a dept owed to the US Government by the Mexican Government that numbered into the Trillions of credits. The Mexican Military retaliated with a surprise missile attack destroying Salt Lake City, a major technological power house city in the United States at the time. In response, the United States declared war on Mexico, and so combat ensued almost immediately. Action for the Warhawk was quite fierce in the first stages of the conflict. It met it's arch-nemesis, the Mig-52 in the skies over Mexico in 2089 - and while outmaneuvered slightly, the rugged construction and advanced electronics in use in the Warhawk won the day seeing five Mig-52s downed with a loss of only one of their own. Although it met victory, had it not been for the cataclysm, their days would have been numbered in the US Air Force. The cost of the Warhawk in operations was simply too great to bear, and an alternate aircraft, the XF-56, and later YF-56 was in development. Combat continued for the Warhawk in the Mexican theatre up until the cataclysm.
As with other high tech combat aircraft, their legacy, and past victories were lost to the sands of time. When Area 51 was finally uncovered by Bandito Arms however, all was remembered. There in the hardened, air tight hangars of Area 51 were 24 brand spanking new Rockwell Collins F-53 Warhawks! These aircraft have since entered service with the Black Market operating as high speed scout aircraft, as well as in diversionary tactics to lead protecting air cover away from a convoy that is about to be raided. When not in use in this fashion, they are used to protect Area 51. Within the first five years of operations however, half of their number were either destroyed or crash landed somewhere due to poor maintenance. (The Black Market has since learned of the shortcomings of the Warhawks and have started production of sufficient replacement parts for the aircraft to keep them maintained and in order.)
Other Warhawks MAY have survived the cataclysm in forward air bases in Mexico, that would require some restoration and refitting to return to operational conditions. It is further rumored that a handful may still be located in a hidden base somewhere the New Mexico desert, but this rumor may be referring to the location of Area 51 in Nevada.
The Warhawk's legacy did not end with those produced in the time before the RIFTS. In 113PA a man by the name of Ace Ripley, who had founded a city, and claimed himself as King - had begun a company called "S-Mart". He had at his disposal an incredible wealth of Pre-RIFTS documentation and technology as recovered in an underground complex called "Project Archive". Included in these records was the designs and production records and manuals of countless Pre-RIFTS weapons, vehicles, and devices of various natures. Among the designs he has chosen to resurrect, was indeed the ancient Rockwell Collins design - he has now dubbed the S-Mart Eagle.
Quite a number of nations are interested in this aircraft, because of it's capabilities. It's speed is greater than anything currently manufactured and sold in North America (Although, the Naruni Crescent Moon could fly circles around it...), it is VTOL, and has an impressive capacity for weaponry. Among the nations, as of February 2nd, 118PA, which use the Eagle are; The Allied Naval Fleet which has 96 such aircraft in operations and three retained as spares, on Kyoto class carriers, protecting transport vessels and the territorial waters of Kyatashiro. In this role they have served well, sinking 12 vessels for an estimated tonnage of 480 tons in total, and the downing of 31 aerial adversaries and have lost three, all due to non combat related accidents. Kyatashiro has 96 between it's Kyoto class carriers and land bases which have not seen any significant combat action during their service record, Desert Star has 40 which have been responsible for the killing of 46 Leatherwings, and 2 aircraft that entered Desert Star's Air Space with apparent hostile intent. Wa-Daisho has 24 which saw action during the Freighter War of 120PA against Water Point Preserve - but succeed only in sinking a handful of light vessels, New Hope has 8 - none of which have seen combat, Water Point Preserve has 8, and Tritonia has 4 - which are strictly used as recon/communications aircraft. (A Total of 282 aircraft have been produced thus far.)
The image displayed in reference to this aircraft is the Federated-Boeing Eagle as shown on pg. 91 of the now defunct FASA Corporation (RPG), Shadowrun's Sourcebook, The Rigger Black Book. The rights to which are now owned solely by WizKids, Inc. WizKids, Inc. has granted permission to SirTenzan's RIFTS Gallery to use the artwork but does not endorse, and is not affiliated with SirTenzan's RIFTS Gallery in any official capacity whatsoever.