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"Heed my words! This boat has the means to end this hideous war, in a definitive and elegant manner."
― Captain Matias Torres[2]

The Alicorn was a large nuclear submarine and the only known member of the Alicorn-class of submersible aviation cruisers. The Alicorn and its captain, Matias Torres, are the main antagonists in the additional DLC story missions for Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown.[3]

The Alicorn carried numerous weapons designed for mass destruction, including a massive railgun that could fire shells equipped with nuclear warheads.[3] Originally built by Yuktobania as the successor to the Scinfaxi class of submarines, the Alicorn featured a runway and landing strip to support squadrons of manned and unmanned fighter aircraft.[4]

The Alicorn was captained by Matias Torres, a radical member of the Erusean Navy. Torres wished to use the Alicorn to kill millions of civilians in Oured in order to horrify both sides into ending the Lighthouse War, which he believed would take ten million lives.[3]

Trigger destroyed the Alicorn during Osea's Operation Fisherman. The submarine exploded from the inside after Trigger destroyed the large railgun's internal systems, preventing the attack on Oured.[5]

Etymology

The Alicorn breaching

"Alicorn" is a Latin term originally meaning "unicorn's horn," and in modern times refers to winged unicorns.[6] The submarine's auxiliary hulls on the side are the "wings" of the submarine. The flight deck down the center of the submarine is believed to represent its "horn", however this may be due to a lack of knowledge regarding the Alicorn's large rail cannon.[6][note 1]

Real-life poet W. B. Yeats depicted winged unicorns as "creatures of ecstatic destruction" in the theatrical play The Unicorn from the Stars.[7] This aligns with the Alicorn carrying armaments equipped with nuclear warheads.

Torres calls the Alicorn a "submarine aircraft cruiser",[5] and it is designated as a "Submersible Aviation Cruiser" in the DLC mission briefings[2][5] and the cutscene before Ten Million Relief Plan.[5] Aircraft cruisers, also known as aviation cruisers, are warships that combine the offensive potential of a cruiser and the aircraft-launching features of an aircraft carrier. In particular, modern Russian aircraft carriers are often designated as aircraft cruisers. Aside from being an aircraft carrier with extreme offensive potential, the Alicorn's designation may also reference its Yuktobanian origin, since Yuktobania is heavily based on the Soviet Union.

Design

Vessel

The design schematics of the Alicorn

The propulsion specifications of the Alicorn

"The sub's force projection capabilities are equivalent to a carrier strike group."
David North[3]

The Alicorn was a much larger and more ambitious design than the Scinfaxi and Hrimfaxi before it, measuring at 495 m (1,624 ft), in contrast to the Scinfaxi-class's reported length of around 300 m (980 ft). The submarine's sail featured 16 large bays used for launching multiple types of UAVs, while a large runway tunneling through the sail itself allowed for the operation of heavily armed carrier aircraft. The Alicorn was a trimaran design - amidships, the vessel divided into three separate stern sections: the central hull and two large auxiliary hulls used for propulsion that also contained its powerful arsenal of weaponry. Underneath the airstrip, the Alicorn carried two medium-sized liquid-metal cooled nuclear reactors that powered the entire vessel.[3] The Alicorn also featured the ability to generate oxygen underwater, allowing crew members to survive when the sub was submerged, even in the case of an accident.[4] The Alicorn additionally featured a small jamming unit atop the sail used to produce electronic jamming.

The Alicorn's specifications were as follows:[3]

  • Length (submerged): 495 m (1,624 ft)
  • Beam (submerged): 116 m (381 ft)
  • Height (submerged): 54 m (177 ft)
  • Displacement
    • Submerged: 810,000 metric tons (800,000 long tons; 890,000 short tons)
    • Surfaced: 650,000 metric tons (640,000 long tons; 720,000 short tons)
  • Propulsion: Two nuclear geared turbines/turbo-electric mixed flow pump jets with conductive internal flow magnetohydrodynamics units
    • Power: 300,000 horsepower (220,000 kilowatts) per jet
    • Engine: Two liquid metal-cooled nuclear reactors
    • Propellers: Seven forward-skewed propellers (estimated)
    • Speed
      • Submerged: 42 knots (78 km/h; 48 mph)
      • Surfaced: 37 knots (69 km/h; 43 mph)
  • Crew: 270–350
    • Company: 150
    • Air wing: 120–200 (20–30 aircraft)


Weaponry

The Alicorn's two railguns in the deployed position

The Alicorn carried heavy anti-air armaments along its bow and stern, including CIWS, Anti-air guns, and RAM anti-aircraft missile launchers that were deployed from hatches within the hull.[8] Upon submerging, these weapons retracted into the hull, followed by the hatch closing up.

24 Vertical Launch System missile launchers were placed within both auxiliary hulls, for a total of 48 missile launchers. These VLS launchers supported various short-range anti-air and anti-ship missiles[3], along with long-range submarine-launched ballistic missiles.[1] At one point, it was reported by the public media that the Alicorn carried dozens of VLS launchers that could fire up to 256 SLBMs carrying 200 kt nuclear warheads,[4] but this was proven to be false reporting.[5][6]

The Alicorn also carried two large conventional naval rifles, one on each auxiliary hull, placed in front of the VLS launchers. During its refit by GR Marine and Ships, the naval rifles were swapped out for two large railgun turrets. Each railgun could fire up to 80 rounds per minute. The sabot in each railgun was 200 mm with a barrel length of 6.5 mm (33 caliber) and the capacity to support 155 mm projectiles, guided by GPS/INS. The projectiles ranged from Armor-Piercing Composite Rigid (APCR) shells to High-Explosive Anti-Ship (HEAS) shells.

The rail cannon aboard the Alicorn

In addition to the two large railguns, the Alicorn was also fitted with a far more powerful 600mm/128 caliber rail cannon hidden underneath the carrier deck. This weapon was used for long-range bombardment of both land and air targets. When the gun fired at minimum-energy trajectory, its effective range was over 3,000 kilometers (1,900 mi), possibly up to 5,000 kilometers (3,100 mi), though its total range remains unknown. The cannon's projectiles could change their flight paths using terminal guidance provided by an unmanned aerial vehicle. However, should the UAV be destroyed, a fail-safe forced the projectiles to immediately self-destruct.[1] Additionally, the terminal guidance could be jammed using ECM, making the cannon less accurate.[5] It could load discarding sabots armed with armor piercing anti-structure shells, high-explosive polynitrous anti-air rounds, and most devastatingly, enhanced-radiation nuclear shells. These 1 kiloton-yield projectiles were capable of killing anyone within a 400 meters (1,300 ft) radius around the impact site instantaneously, while dealing minimal structural damage to surrounding areas.[3]


Aircraft

The runway on the Alicorn with two jet blast deflectors raised

The Alicorn's aircraft operation model was a combination of the Scinfaxi's manned aircraft and the Hrimfaxi's UAV operations.[6] Unlike the Scinfaxi, which featured a small vertical takeoff platform at the stern of the vessel[9], the Alicorn featured a large carrier deck that allowed for full carrier aircraft integration. Additionally, 8 large bays on each side of the sail housed launch ports for SLUAVs[6] and barrier drones, which could be used underwater.[5]

The Alicorn could carry between 20 and 30 manned aircraft, depending on the type of aircraft and the number of crew required to maintain them. It supported at least four distinct aircraft configurations:[2]

History

Development

Following the completion of its first two Scinfaxi-class submersible carriers, Yuktobania initiated "Projekt Alicorn" in 1998 to create a third, larger submarine, dubbed by the Osean Intelligence Agency as a "Super Scinfaxi-class" submarine, one that combined the capabilities of the Scinfaxi and Hrimfaxi. The OIA's Advanced Weapons Analysis division observed sand carriers actively excavating underneath Okchabursk in 1999. The underground facility beneath the city already housed two 400-meter (1,300 ft) docks to repair and maintain the Scinfaxi and Hrimfaxi, but the sand carriers were still excavating an estimated 1,000 cubic meters of sand every day.[3]

The OIA suspected that, within a year, Yuktobania completed construction of a new 600–700-meter dock for this "Super Scinfaxi-class" submarine. The OIA observed the steel and weapons being delivered to Okchabursk to estimate the Alicorn's capabilities. The Advanced Weapons Analysis division completed its report on the new submarine on March 27, 2000.[3] At one point, the Alicorn and its long-range armaments were reported as a potential violation of the START2 treaty.[4]

The Alicorn's actual construction period is unknown, nor is it confirmed if Yuktobania ever fully finished it. It did not take part in the 2010 Circum-Pacific War due to a myriad of problems involving its steam-powered catapult valves, and at no point in the conflict did Osean forces approach Okchabursk to threaten it. By 2012, Yuktobania had completed most of the ship's hull.[3]

FRONTLINE's issue on the Alicorn

Following the Circum-Pacific War, the Alicorn was sold for scrapping by Yuktobania to the Usean conglomerate General Resource Limited, as a symbol of strategic disarmament post-war. GR towed the submarine to Port Edwards, but instead of scrapping it, the Alicorn was refurbished into the world's largest nuclear submarine. Its problems with the catapults were fixed by an update to the ship's design by introducing integrated electric propulsion (IEP), and its large naval rifles were removed and swapped out for railguns. Its SLBM launch ports were additionally retrofitted to be used for anti-air and anti-ship tactical weapons.

On April 4, 2012, military magazine FRONT LINE published an issue on the Alicorn, detailing the ship's history and potential future, stating that Leasath, Estovakia and Erusea were all likely candidates for purchasing the submarine. The author stated that despite Leasath's desire to develop its naval capabilities, Estovakia was most likely to purchase the ship, citing the Eastern Faction's stagnating development on its "Aerial Fleet Initiative", and Osea's increased restriction of Belkan weapon sales.[6] On December 20, GAZE reported that the Kingdom of Erusea ultimately purchased the Alicorn via a subsidiary of General Resource, GR Trading.[2]and noted that the submarine was seen two days earlier being towed.[3]

Launches and grounding

Erusea did not officially launch the Alicorn until January 1, 2015. Matias Torres was eventually assigned as the submarine's captain; on December 2, 2015, he was assigned as the head of the submarine's pre-commissioning crew.[3] Sometime after, the ship underwent outfitting.

The Alicorn sailed out for a sea trial on October 9, 2016. It accidentally ran aground underwater one month later on November 10.[3] Several days later, on November 17, following accusations from Osean media outlets, officials from the Erusean Royal Navy revealed that the submarine had indeed gone missing, insisting that they, "have found no evidence of an explosion, have not determined the submarine to be sunk," and that, "no radioactive materials [were] released in the Spring Sea" and "maritime traffic safety [was not] compromised".[4] The next day, GAZE reported that the submarine had gone missing in the Spring Sea, 1,300 km (810 mi) south-southeast from the Twinkle Islands, citing the official Erusean report. Due to the high complexity of the underwater terrain, the submarine was not discovered until two years later, on October 9, 2018.[3] It had remained on the seafloor for 698 days in total. Some 330 of the 356 crewmembers survived, due in large part to the submarine's ability to generate oxygen.[2]

Lighthouse War

Following its discovery and the rescue of the crew, the Alicorn was transferred to the Erusean Navy's reserve fleet on November 3, 2018;[4] the same day, Torres was again reassigned as the head of the pre-commissioning crew.[3] The boat was investigated to find the cause of the accident, but never entered service. Thirty of the Alicorn's crew members left the crew roster following the accident, but they continued to operate as agents for the Alicorn and its captain by sabotaging both Osean and Erusean military forces.

Despite the outbreak of the Lighthouse War the following May, the Alicorn remained dormant in an unknown location since it was not part of Erusea's battle doctrine.[4] In the meantime, the submarine's agents stole railgun-compatible nuclear shells for the Alicorn, to be used in Captain Torres's plan to take a million lives.[1]

Erusea lost the Njord Fleet on August 10, 2019 during Osea's Operation Siren's Song.[10] The next day, Erusea formally commissioned the Alicorn into active duty to plug the deficit in its navy.[3]

Escaping Port

The Alicorn firing anti-ship missiles at an incoming Osean Maritime Defense Force landing force

SACS launching from the runway aboard the Alicorn as it leaves Artiglio Port

On September 4, the Alicorn was docked in Artiglio Port, the area surrounding which was under Osean control at the time.[11] OIA analyst David North contacted the Long Range Strategic Strike Group (LRSSG) to explain the situation. Operating under Brigadier General Clemens' false intelligence (given to him by Alicorn agent Edgar Saxon), Osea launched Operation Sighthound and sent the LRSSG's Strider Squadron, other OADF aircraft, and a detachment of OMDF ships to capture the Alicorn. The Erusean Air Force sent wave after wave of fighters, strike aircraft, and even EW aircraft to defend the sub, but the Oseans broke through their defenses. As the battle reached its climax, Erusea's high ranking officials ordered Captain Torres to scuttle the sub to prevent it from falling into Osean hands, but Torres refused the order.

Declared by its captain to no longer be under the jurisdiction of the Erusean military, the Alicorn left port and opened fire on the OMDF fleet with its railguns, sinking the landing ship OFS Puffin and several other ships that had taken defensive positions, and destroying the rest of the fleet with its missiles. A detachment of the sub's air wing took off from the sub with a cruise missile in tow, attempting to flee the airspace as a decoy to allow the Alicorn to submerge. Trigger shot down all aircraft, but by then, the Alicorn had submerged and fled the area, already underway to meet with its agents in Anchorhead.[2]

Obtaining nuclear shells

On September 10, the Alicorn attempted to cause chaos over Anchorhead Bay with its rail cannon's anti-air shells from a few hundred kilometers north of Tyler Island, operating concurrently with Strider Squadron's raid on the port. The first attack managed to damage Húxiān's aircraft, forcing her to retreat. The attacks continued even when Trigger was engaging Mimic Squadron, but did not severely harm Trigger or any other units. The bombardment, coupled with Strider's devastating assault, was successful in chasing away the Erusean forces. Five hours later, after Strider Squadron left the airspace, the Alicorn entered the bay without having to face any resistance. The submarine met with its agents in Anchorhead to resupply and load the nuclear shells before leaving, all in less than 10 minutes. The OIA confirmed Edgar Saxon as Brigadier General Clemens' source of intelligence and arrested Clemens on charges of treason.[1]

Last Stand

By September 14th, the Alicorn arrived in the Spring Sea near the Azalea Seamount. The plan was to fire on Oured on September 19th, the 14 year anniversary of the end of the Usean Continental War, in order to maximize casualties. The sub began heading for the Peony Trench, an abyss where it could feasibly reach its max operating depth of 600m, far too deep for any attack to reach it. However, before it could reach the trench, Osea initiated Operation Fisherman to destroy the sub once and for all.[5]

The sub's air group engaged Strider Squadron and the Osean ASW aircraft but were unable to stop them from dropping sonobuoys around the area. A small Osean Navy task force of three destroyers and one cruiser located the Alicorn underwater with the help of the sonobuoys and a Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) mounted on Trigger's aircraft, with each ship launching a VL-ASROC anti-submarine missile at the sub. This attack damaged its ballast tanks and forced it to surface. Since the attack had impaired its ability to dive, the Alicorn was forced to engage Strider and Cyclops Squadrons. The sub used every available armament, to its drones and railguns, to defend itself. Despite this, the Oseans continued to fight, critically damaging the Alicorn's ballast tanks, completely removing its ability to dive.[5]

Realizing the severity of the situation, Torres faked a call to surrender, causing the Oseans to disengage. Despite the LRSSG's protests, AWACS Long Caster forbid the Osean forces from attacking due to attacking a surrendering enemy being a breach of international law. David North contacted Torres to tell him that his terminal guidance was now useless and that all shots would miss. Torres responded by deploying the Alicorn's rail cannon. Disobeying orders from Long Caster, Trigger wove through a swarm of barrier drones and fired on the cannon, the impact altering its elevation ever so slightly and causing the shell to miss its mark.

The bisected Alicorn sinks beneath the waves

With the ruse up, Torres engaged all remaining defenses and prepared to fire his only remaining shell. With the Alicorn's fire control systems damaged, the barrel of the rail cannon could not be elevated any higher than its current angle, so Torres ordered the flooding of the aft trim tanks to elevate the barrel to the angle necessary to make the shell successfully hit Oured. Before it could fire, however, Trigger destroyed the vulnerable base of the cannon, causing a huge explosive chain reaction to rip through the submarine. As large explosions went off throughout the magazines of the onboard weapons, the Alicorn's midship section was suddenly obliterated with a massive explosion at the base of the rail cannon. The submarine sank with all hands lost, before detonating underwater in a second massive explosion.[5]

Spies

After the Alicorn was recovered from the bottom of the sea, 30 members of its crew left the submarine and began to work as agents for Captain Torres. They worked to sabotage both the Erusean and Osean militaries to further the Alicorn's plot. These 30 crew members are as follows:[1]

  • Lieutenant Colonel Alexandra Randall
  • Major Volfango Zaccarini
  • Captain Jean-Paul Bellecourt
  • First Lieutenant Nikolai Smirnov
  • First Lieutenant Friedrich Rudel
  • Second Lieutenant Roland Lindbergh
  • Second Lieutenant Janssen Willems
  • Second Lieutenant Falco Zaccarini
  • Second Lieutenant Edgar Saxon
  • Midshipman Harry Talbot
  • Midshipman Hermut Schmidt
  • Midshipman Heinrich Altmann
  • Midshipman Matteo Ferrari
  • Warrant Officer Lorenzo Bruno
  • Warrant Officer Sean Higgins
  • Warrant Officer Claude du Pont
  • Warrant Officer Badavi Ismayilov
  • Warrant Officer Jose Beltran
  • Chief Petty Officer Mor Haddad
  • Chief Petty Officer Nguyen Tan Vinh
  • Petty Officer First Class Gustav Raiffeisen
  • Petty Officer First Class Bradley Robinson
  • Petty Officer Second Class Aziz Jalal
  • Petty Officer Second Class Theodore Winchester
  • Petty Officer Second Class Allan Ken Onizuka
  • Petty Officer Third Class Georgy Borodin
  • Petty Officer Third Class Carlos Vázquez
  • Marine Rodrigo Marques
  • Marine Mika Vatanen
  • Marine Jan Olsen

Gallery

Trivia

  • There is a conflict of sources regarding the Alicorn's initial armament. In the cutscene prior to Anchorhead Raid, the OIA report on the submarine, written in March 2000, indicates that the Alicorn, "carries railguns as its main guns." However, in the FRONT LINE article written about the Alicorn in April 2012, says that, "from the shape and position of the atypical-looking bays in front of the SLBM launch tubes, they're likely naval guns... The guns it is currently equipped with are probably conventional artillery weapons... they'll likely change it out for railguns," indicating that the Alicorn initially had conventional naval rifles before being refitted with railguns by GR Marine and Ships.
  • The Alicorn's last-resort tactic of flooding the aft-trim tanks in order to gain more elevation for the submarine's main gun was possibly inspired by the real-life USS Texas (BB-35) during the 1944 Normandy landings, where her starboard torpedo blister was flooded with water to provide a controlled list of two degrees in order to give the main guns more elevation.
  • The Alicron's ability to launch SLUAVs underwater is actually not too far from fiction - the SLUAV is based on the real-life Lockheed Martin Cormorant, a UAV that was designed to be launched underwater from submarine missile tubes as a way to provide stealthy reconnaissance and air strike capabilities.
    • The fact that the Alicorn may not be found at the point of an SLUAV launch during Ten Million Relief Plan is also fairly true to life, as the Cormorant was designed to float to the surface before launching when used underwater, as a way to provide time for the submarine to slip away without giving away its position.[12]

References

Footnotes

  1. The article uses the language "presumed" and notes that only a portion of a design blueprint was released to the public, implying that the rail cannon may not have been in this blueprint, leading experts to conclude that the flight deck represents the submarine's "horn". This remains unclear.
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