The VEF-08A Raven is the current model of Variable Exo-Frame used by the Astralan Federation. Introduced during the Ohkan War, it served with dinstinction in that war and the others that followed it, and is considred the best Variable Frame ever to see combat duty.
Drawing on information from the previous generations of Variable Frames, the designers at Furman Technologies aimed to improve in every way on the fighters that preceded the Raven. Examining the overall performance of previous fighters, the designers found that the VEF-04A Hawk had offered the best combination of performance, weaponry and versatility.
Keeping the basic layout of the Hawk, the designers then worked to improve every aspect of the fighter's performance. The result, while inspired by the older frame, bore very little resemblance to its predecessor. The most radical change was the use of multi-adaptive wings, able to reshape and reconfigure as needed to ensure the optimum flight characteristics. The use of these wings, both in fighter and Exo-frame forms, provided for far greater performance and agility then earlier designs.
The airframe is not the only advanced aspect of the Raven; the fighter was equipped with the latest components available, from the reactor and engines to its electronics and weapons systems. The Jihaxus "Twilight" series engines offered far higher output then the previous generation of engines, giving the Raven unmatched performance (To this day, the Raven holds multiple speed, climb and altitude records).
In addition to its performance, the Raven is one of the most heavily armed Variable Frames in service, second only to heavyweights like the VEB-02A Black Knight. Realising the success of the Hawk's twin beam cannons, the designers chose to incorporate them into the Raven's frame. However, inspuired by the VEFA-06A Thunderbird, they also added a second pair of beam cannons that not only provided additional firepower in Exo mode, but fired backwards to discourage pursuit in fighter from. Finally, in addition to external ordinance, the Raven carries two internal bays of missiles. In many instances, this last feature has enabled Ravens to outlast their opponents, enabling them to complete their objectives after many other aircraft have run out of ordinance.
While both the Hawk and the Thunderbird had served the Astralan Federation admirably for years, both frames were both showing signs of age. The start of the Okhan war, as well as the revelation of the Union's HS-225 Tengu had only served to emphasize this point; not only had the Federation lost their monopoly over the Variable Frame technology, but they were faced with an aircraft that matched their own in capability, and out performed it in some respects. With the apparent alliance between the Union and the Brasnyan Federal Republic, Federation millitary leaders feared (correctly) that the Brasnyans would also soon have their own variable frame.
As a counter, a program began to develop a replacement for both frames that would serve as the Federation's new main variable fighter. Two designs were proposed, the VEF-X-8 (the Raven) and the VEF-X-7. While the Raven's design would focus on improving on existing technologies, the VEF-X-7 would be constructed around advanced concepts and new technologies. While many pundits figured that the more advanced prototype would get the go-ahead for production, several suggested that the more conventional design was more likely to succeed. The later proved to be correct; the VEF-X-8 Raven was flight-ready several months before the first prototype of its rival was finished.
Selected for production, the Raven entered service with the Federation Air Force in 3170. Initially equipping elite squadrons such as the Scarlet Knights, the combination of formidable machine and skilled pilots proved to be more then a match for the Union's Tengus. Working with their older counterparts, as well as conventional fighters, the Raven established a reputation as an excellent fighter, achieving an impressive kill ratio. The handful of battles against the Brasniyan As-35A Valkyries served to further underscore the Raven's superiority.
After the end of the Ohkan war, the Raven entered wider service, gradually phasing out the older designs still deployed in frontline squadrons. By the start of the Third Brasniyan War in 3177, the Raven accounted for the majority of craft in frontline service. Facing off with not only the Valkyrie but also the advanced Fs-55A Surmwulff, the Raven performed well, and was able to establish Astralan control of the air, as well as execute a number of daring missions behind enemy lines.
Following the war, the Raven remained in frontline service, with virtually every other design being phased out. With the winding down of the Astralan war machine, it is very unlikely that the Raven will be replaced any time soon, and is expected to remain in service for a few more decades. Ironically, its success in ending conflicts have guaranteed that the Raven has had a longer service history then any other Variable Exo-Frame to date.
- VEF-08S Raven - Advanced model, used by officers and Ace pilots
- VEF-08T Raven - Twin-seat trainer model
- EVEF-08E Raven - Electronic warfare and recon model, featuring reduced weaponry in exchange for extensive electronics