During the period following the liberation of Desert Star mining became extremely important, due to the increased level of industry in the Kingdom. Mineral surveys of the region revealed that some of the most readily accessible mining locations around the capital city were located within close proximity of the Great Salt Lake. As a result of these surveys S-Mart proposed production of the archaic pre-cataclysm M40 cargo hovercraft to fulfill the needs of miners. S-Mart felt that the M40 would be so well suited to the task of hauling raw ore, miners, and mining equipment for a number of reasons. The Great Salt Lake, though a large body of water, it is comparatively shallow. Conventional ore hauling vessels seldom have a draft shallow enough to operate in the Great Salt Lake, even those that do are relatively small and still run the risk of beaching in shallow areas of the lake closer to shore. The M40 design was powerful enough to hover above the water on a cushion of air, thus how deep or shallow the water below it is, is quite irrelevant. Conventional ore hauling vessels are ponderously slow - even the small types that potentially could operate on the Great Salt Lake. This makes for infrequent trips from the mines to the smelting plant. The M40 was designed with fast beach incursions carrying military hardware and personnel at high rates of speed in mind. Although she can only carry a payload of 25 tons - the number of trips possible far outweigh the benefits of the smaller vessels. The performance of the M40 is all thanks to it's mode of propulsion. It is a large air-cushion hovercraft, with a pair of fans in the back, two turbines in the hull, and a large skirt around the base of the hovercraft.
As a result of these comparisons King Ripley gave the go-ahead to produce the M40. When asked what name he wished to produce it under, in a rather annoyed tone, he blurted out, "Firecracker!" (In later years it was revealed that the reason he named it Firecracker was in reference to the pre-cataclysm noisemaker known as the M-80. Being a student of pre-cataclysm lore every time prior that he had heard the name M40 - that is what he had thought of.) After production began, the N.O.M.A.D. Military procured a half dozen of these vehicles for waterfront support duties. S-Mart procured a full dozen Firecrackers for their own use shipping ore directly from the mines to waterfront smelting plants along the southern shore of the Great Salt Lake. A handful were purchased by Tolkeen in 116PA and saw action along the Mississippi in the first year or so of the war before they were sunk by CS air action. Thus far a dozen more have been purchased by various parties for use as free trade vessels, transportation, military duties, and so on. Most of those who have invested in them were planning to operate them West of the Mississippi, however. S-Mart still has perhaps a dozen more of these sitting around in various lots in Desert Star, Wa-Daisho, and Kyatashiro waiting for sale to interested parties. The Firecracker was not one of S-Mart's most successful vehicle types, and so S-Mart does not plan to reopen production lines for any less than 25 fresh and guaranteed orders.
The N.O.M.A.D. Military has found a few advantages to this vehicle type over conventional types. They have come to realize that the Firecracker is a useful over-the-salt-flats transport, capable of quite decent speed. They have also found that it's ability to carry a great deal of cargo is quite useful in the field. Even heavy pieces of armor can be moved about - most anything shy of an MBT that is. Another advantage is the type's invulnerability to land mines. The air cushion is not heavy enough to detonate any form of land mines - not even anti-personnel types. The air cushion will also not set off any form of water borne mines, even those that detect magnetic structures in the waters will not be detonated as the rubbery skirting is a composite material that does not include metal! Aside from these points going for the type, the Firecracker is of an outdated and outmoded design. Vectored thrust hovercraft are faster, more maneuverable, and have a wider performance envelope. As a result the N.O.M.A.D. Firecrackers are seldom used unless needed for heavy transportation or to land large pieces of equipment along the waterfront.
Class: Military Air-Cushion Transport Hovercraft.
Crew: 4; A pilot, copilot and two gunners. The pilot and copilot sit side by side behind the windscreen. The gunner's seats are situated behind the pilots. One of the gunners seconds as the communications officer when not in combat. The second gunner functions as an observer and cargomaster, situating himself in an elevated seat with his head in the overhead observation blister. During combat both gunners exit the pilot's compartment from the rear of the cabin and man the two pintle mounted RFFC-17s.
M.D.C. by Location:
*Aft Facing Fans (2) - 240 each.
**Rudders (4) - 50 each.
*Pivoting Thrust Ducts (2) - 125 each.
***Skirting (24 sections) - 35 each.
Reinforced Pilot's Compartment - 150.
Rear Gates/Ramps (2) - 150 each.
****Main Body - 675.
* Destroying an item marked in this fashion means that the vehicle has lost part of it's means of propulsion and maneuverability. If an aft facing fan is destroyed reduce speed by 30% and maneuverability by inflicting a maneuvering penalty of -20% on pilot hovercraft. If a pivoting thrust duct has been lost reduce speed by 20% and maneuverability by inflicting a maneuvering penalty of -30%.
** Destroying a rudder constitutes a maneuvering penalty of -10% upon the pilot of the hovercraft. (Note that if the engine the rudder is mounted upon is destroyed, that -20% is the amount factored from the rudder loss.)
*** If more than 4 skirting sections are destroyed, the belly of the hovercraft will begin to drag, inflicting serious damage upon the structure within 1D4 miles of travel. If over water while this is happening the vehicle will begin to flood and bog down - the engines eventually getting choked with water within 1D4 miles of travel. While the hull of the vehicle will float for 1D4 hours before sinking completely from sight - it is not designed as a seagoing watercraft.
**** Depleting the M.D.C. of the main body indicates that the hull of the vehicle is in tatters and all systems have essentially been destroyed or severely damaged - so much so as to have undergone a complete shut down.
Maximum Speed: 180 mph.
Maximum Altitude: As high as the skirt will extend, which is approximately 10'.
Maximum Effective Range: Effectively unlimited, thanks to the nuclear power supply.
A Note Towards Range: All vehicles need some degree of maintenance, and an air cushion hovercraft is no exception. The skirt along the bottom of the Firecracker will tear and wear down from the constant friction of it's contact against the various surfaces it comes in contact with. Generally, they absolutely must be replaced or patched every two or three thousand miles, but it is recommended that the skirt be completely replaced every 50,000 miles.
Weight: 50 tons.
Cargo Capacity: 25 tons. The rear cargo area is 48 3/4 feet long and 26 1/2 feet wide.
Power System: Nuclear; Average energy life of 20 years.
Market Cost: 30.5 million credits. Repair sections for the mega-damage capacity skirt cost 750 credits per section, bringing the M.D.C. back up to the full 35. Patches only cost 75 credits, but these are S.D.C. patches capable of being blasted away with even S.D.C. firearms. A complete replacement S.D.C. skirt may be purchased for the Firecracker in place of the mega-damage capacity version, and these typically cost only 1,800 credits - but are only good for about 10,000 miles. A complete replacement M.D.C. skirt costs 18,000 credits.
1. S-Mart RFFC-17 Rapid Fire Field Cannons (2): These pintle mounted weapons are intended to provide a measure of protection to the Firecracker while underway, as well as a means to saturate a hostile beach with cannon fire prior to landing or during a landing.
Primary Purpose: Defense.
Secondary Purpose: Assault.
Mega-Damage: 2D4x10 M.D. per dual shell burst.
Maximum Effective Range: 2,000'
Rate of Fire: Equal to the users combined hand to hand attacks.
Payload: 100 shells are carried; allowing 50 dual shell bursts.
2. Systems of Note:
1. Environmental Crew Compartment: Complete environmental control, temperature control, and radiation sheilding provided to the four man crew.
2. Fire Extinguishers: Several fire extinguishers are scattered around the vehicle for use by the crew, in the event that a fire were to break out.
3. Military Radio & Scrambler: This radio allows for a 50 mile broadcast range and up to a 500 mile directional range using atmospheric bounce.
4. Laser Rangefinder: This integral system automatically feeds the pilot and copilot with accurate readings up to the thousandth of an inch in regards to distance. This is often used in navigating into difficult loading docks.
5. Navigation Computer: This is a specialized laser inertial navigation computer that determines exactly how far the Firecracker has traveled in specifically what directions. Using programmed maps of the region this would allow the pilot/copilot team to determine where they are down to the nearest centimeter. For pilots/copilots who have computer operations and navigation, consider all navigation rolls made with a bonus of +20% while using this system.
The description and picture above is based loosely on the Navy M-40 GEV as shown on pg. 33 of R. Talsorian Games (RPG), Cyberpunk 2020's Sourcebook, Maximum Metal - a now out of production game supplement. The inclusion of this picture and description is by no means an attempt to steal the hard work of R. Talsorian Games, but is instead an attempt to convert a great vehicle design for use in the Palladium Books RPG, RIFTS.