Shortly after the repatriation of Desert Star, King Ace Ripley announced the groundwork that would later become the semi-state owned corporation of S-Mart. While King Ripley had high ambitions for this company's start, it would be slowed and hampered by the general unavailability of heavy transport aircraft capable of moving heavy industrial or mining equipment from mainstream manufacturers located in the East. As a result, among the first proposals made for the budding industry that would become S-Mart, was to develop and produce a limited number of heavy lift aircraft that could rectify this shortcoming to increase the rate at which the industry could grow. To accomplish this feat he selected a handful of his most trusted Capos Industries executives that survived the occupation of Desert Star, and revealed to them a dozen designs for transport aircraft from the century before the cataclysm.
While questions were raised as to where King Ripley had acquired these detailed industrial schematics an implied threat and imposition of less than covert surveillance, quickly quelled any further questions. After carefully scrutinizing the designs, each of the six executives were scheduled to be interviewed by the newly posted security chief of Desert Star, Carone Majeer. Four members were interviewed on the first day, a month after the designs had been proposed, during which they insisted emphatically that all of the designs were beyond the limitations of available industrial capabilities in Desert Star. During the individual interviews, which included a psychic presence, it was discovered that a portion of their decision had been made as a result of the draconian tactics now being employed by King Ripley, and that more than one of them planned to leave Desert Star the moment they got the chance. That night all four of the interviewees mysteriously disappeared, according to the press, as a result of long term contact with a Coalition agent who offered them a place in CS Weapons Development. A bounty of 100,000 credits was announced for each of the four, their homes and assets were siezed, and their families were detained for long term questioning and later exile as being a party to a CS Sympathizer. Two days after the public scandal, the remaining two executives were interviewed. These two knew fully well that those executives that 'jumped town' were anything but CS sympathizers, and so realized that their situations were precarious. As a result they assertained that one of the dozen designs would fit the requirements of both the new industry and a niche with national transportation as well. This aircraft was a 42 ton cargo capacity STOL capable aircraft proposed but never having entered production, known as the Boeing XC-60 Universe.
With having chosen a design under considerable stress however, development would be difficult. Capos Industries had never manufactured anything larger than grain harvesting combines and had absolutely no experience with the production of aircraft. As the weeks and months ticked by, it became clear to all involved with the project that it was indeed beyond the technical capabilities of the technicians and engineers assigned to the project, requiring them all to learn as they worked. A year after the initial founding of S-Mart, in April of 114PA, the first prototype for the Hermes was sent to Desert Star's new airport for final assembly of the major components. Problems arose during the assembly process that required work to be haulted for a time, due to stress issues concerning the composites selected for much of the heavy spar work in the aircraft. Ground tests revealed serious flaws in the hydraulic systems that frequently resulted in erupted hydraulic lines and dangerous hydraulic spills. In July of 115PA, a fire caused by a faulty break in addition to leaking hydraulic fluid, nearly destroyed the aircraft. An assessment conducted in the weeks following the fire resulted in all of the hydraulic systems being redesigned to use triple redundant electronic control systems, using existing technology from robotics technology already being developed by S-Mart. In May of 116PA, the prototype was completed under S-Mart supervision, and took to the air two months later in its maiden test flights. It's performance was less than impressive. It's maximum speed was a ponderous 285 mph and its cruising speed was dangerously close to its stall speed, and it was anything but STOL capable due to being severely underpowered. Stability issues arose as a result of dangerous vibrations in the airframe in conjunction with its serious power shortage. The vibration problems were localized to flaws in the Capos Industries produced aileron and elevator assemblies and were quickly corrected by introducing S-Mart components that were merely scaled up models from their lighter cargo craft already in production. Test flights revealed that the vibration issue had indeed been corrected, but the underpowered aircraft would still be considered extremely dangerous in any kind of winds. To correct this problem S-Mart designed and introduced more powerful turbines and several reinforcements were implimented over the entire airframe, before test flights were resumed. The changes made to the aircraft changed everything. It now had the power its design called for, the stability issues were corrected, and with no major flaws now presenting themselves to designers the type was considered ready for production as of September 6th, 117PA.
Despite the successes of the design teams and their long development period for this monsterous aircraft, it was largely a hollow victory. In May of 114PA the Colorado Baronies Iron Horse Lines had included a twice daily route to the city of Desert Star, allowing heavy industrial equipment to be carried all the way from the Central Powers Region right to Desert Star, without the need for a heavy lift aircraft. Thus the purpose for the aircraft being designed was severely diminished. Still, S-Mart opted to keep the prototype for rapid delivery purposes, and offered to produce the type commercially to any interested parties.
Currently the Hermes is used by S-Mart to carry wares and raw materials between Kyatashiro, Lazlo, Desert Star, and Wa-Daisho on rush orders. Typically these flights are made with an escort of 4-8 Stiletto fighters, but occasionally this escort may be accompanied by or substituted with fighters from the nation the delivery is being made to or from.
To date, with S-Mart factories being largely consumed with producing war materials for the Tolkeen War, no commercial orders have been submitted or filled. In January 118PA the NOMAD Air Force began consideration for purchasing a pair of S-Mart Hermes for their own heavy lift requirements, but as of February 2nd, 118PA have not yet made a decision. Meanwhile they have optioned to lease the S-Mart Hermes prototype for evaluational purposes. Current discussions regarding the use of the Hermes is its use in transporting large quantities of equipment or heavy equipment to forward deployment positions, dropping paratroopers, dropping relief aid, and potentially even dropping oversized ordinance on poorly defended but significant targets. One radical concept even discussed turning a Hermes into a Gunship similar to the C-130s of the 20th and 21st centuries. In other commercial ventures, as of February 118PA representatives from a mining company in Wyoming began entering talks with S-Mart to procure a half dozen of these aircraft for their own purposes. (Unbeknownst to the S-Mart sales executives involved in the talks, these representatives they are speaking with are procurement agents from the Manistique Imperium interested in attaining heavy lift aircraft capable of transporting their wares over long distances to foreign markets or to deliver heavy equipment purchased at home!)Model Type: Boeing XC-20 Universe, Capos Ind. Hermes, & S-Mart Hermes-A.