IAE WEST, PART ONE – Anvil, RSI, Origin, & Aegis: Where Are They Now?
Hello once again, folks.
Today I’m delivering this piece from the floor of the Intergalactic Aerospace Expo’s “West” location, at Teasa spaceport at the industrial hub and capitol city of Hurston Dynamics, Lorville. Things have been moving at a breakneck pace, here, and I’m sure you’ve heard all the announcements and seen plenty of the pictures by now – with that in mind, I’m putting together my observations of the Expo’s first half, from the point of view of one humble Overclocker and Aerospace enthusiast. No fancy words here, really – just a straightforward look at the shipbuilders that we’ve seen thus far, what they’ve put on offer, and what it means for the short-term future.
Anvil has to be considered the big winner at the Expo this year, if not for the year as a whole. They’ve dropped two new airframes on us in just the last few months: the Valkyrie and the brand-spanking-new Arrow, as well as our first glimpses of the upcoming Hawk and F8 Lightning. While the sheen is only now starting to wear off on the Valkyrie, as people have realized that it’s very much dedicated to its dropship role and not really suited for much else, I have to say that it’s absolutely the best we’ve seen in its particular niche role – one that has seen a lot of competition in recent years. There are quite a few silver linings to its dedication as well, but I think I’ll save those for another piece, as this one ship alone has major implications for how many teams might approach support in the Daymar Rally.
As for the Arrow, I think it’s a bit less than folks expected. I had a chance to hop into one of the demo models at IAE West and found it to be delightfully quick, joyously agile, and surprisingly punchy – but its endurance – both In combat and in flight time – are distinct weaknesses. Still, it’s nice to see Anvil putting something in the light fighter category – especially something with such potential. The fact that Anvil convinced IAE producers to allow the Arrow on the floor of -every- manufacturer, though, shows that its influence and exposure has risen as high as anyone can remember.
ROBERTS SPACE INDUSTRIES
Let’s be honest: I don’t think anyone was really expecting much out of shipbuilding’s Elder Statesman at this year’s expo. It was nice to see a Phoenix on the floor, but at this point RSI’s revamped luxury bird is old news, even if it continues to garner high praise for its impressive window views. In fact, the plethora of Auroras trotted out in front of the Constellation show-ponies only served as reminders that two of the biggest, most highly-anticipated names in the RSI fleet – Orion and Polaris – remain distinctly absent from the Expo in any form – not even a mock-up.
Speaking of mockups, let’s talk about the sleek white beauty that stole the show in the Origin pavilion this year. Our first real look at the new shape of the Origin 300 series has turned heads, and created exactly the kind of controversy the shipmaker’s designs are known for. I’ve heard it described as everything from “safe” to “glorious”, but from my perspective it looks great, but the changes -are- drastic enough that the after-market on these oldies will be shaken up quite a bit. The new engine layouts in particular will be a challenge for anyone trying to DIY an update from old to new.
Origin’s showing of the new 300 series model is promise of things to come, that’s certainly true – while it’s just one body style, it represents the face of -four- distinct ships in their lineup, and puts new faces on the rest: the 85X is still everyone’s favorite date-night runabout, and everyone’s starting to look back at the … well, let’s call it polarizing … launch of the 600i explorer with an eye towards the potential improvements in the touring model, based on the many lessons learned. Of the Origin lineup, the M50’s starting to look a bit dated and mismatched – but let’s be fair, it’s a ground-up racer that keeps Origin’s dedication to performance, while tossing away the need for luxury bells and whistles. Still, one can’t help but think it’s going to attract less attention this year than MISC’s breakout Razor.
If I were to pick a second-place contender from the folks we’ve seen so far, I think it would have to be Aegis – based simply on the floor space they have demanded. Aegis came to this year’s IAE with the intent on reminding us what a powerhouse they remain – who else would take up three whole halls? Who else would have the audacity to put a venerable behemoth like a Reclaimer in the middle of all their small military vessels, and have it work? Who else could make an understated display of the intimidating Hammerhead? Who else could attempt to steal the show with a dedicated hall just for one of the first public viewings of an iconic Idris frigate?
Let’s also not forget that Aegis has had its share of fast-pipeline weapons make showings this year – in addition to the wide availability of the Hammerhead, the Eclipse also snuck onto the stage, and we’ve even seen an “updated” Avenger, though with the growth in size, many speculate that it’s an entirely new frame, just reminiscent of the old. If there’s any problem with Aegis on the stage, it’s that when you look past most of those giants they proudly put in the center, the rest of the offerings seem like they’re fading out – Aegis may be a big dog, but it may not be the top dog for much longer.
That’s it for the first half of the IAE, as seen from Lorville. We’ve got four more spotlight days coming, including the two remaining big boys, Drake and MISC, but the rumor mill is suggesting that AopoA may be the next manufacturer to make an impression – though it may be just in the form of concept introductions, rather than a model on the floor. And there’s also a lot to talk about from a couple of underdogs, both of which are Daymar Rally favorites: Crusader Industries and Tumbril. Here’s hoping the Expo finishes with the same kind of bang it started with.
I’ll see you out there,