By Tim Wing, Pieter Thomassen, with Peter Walker
- Sylphid reference file
- Sylphid gallery
Designation: Saab AB F/A-109 Sylphid (A,B,C,D,E,F) Multi-Role Fighter
- Length: 12.8 meters
- Height: 4.9 meters
- Wingspan: 12.2 meters
- Dry Weight: 11.8 metric tons.
- F/A-109A: One man all-weather multi-role fighter.
- F/A-109B: One man all-weather multi-role fighter.
- F/A-109C: Two man all-weather combat capable fighter/trainer.
- F-109D: One man all-weather fighter.
- F/A-109E: One man all-weather fighter.
- F/A-109F: Two man all-weather combat capable fighter/trainer.
III. Service History:
- F/A-109A: Served with the Swedish Air Force and other air forces of the Unified Forces from 2016 until 2017; served with the UEDF Tactical Air Force from 2018 until 2031.
- F/A-109B: Served with the UN Spacy from 2016 until 2017; served with the UEDF Tactical Air Force from 2018 until 2031.
- F/A-109C: Served with the UN Spacy, the Swedish Air Force and other air forces of the Unified Forces from 2016 until 2017; served with the UEDF Tactical Air Force from 2018 until 2031.
- F-109D: Served with the UEDF Tactical Air Force from 2020 until 2031.
- F/A-109E: Served with the UEDF Tactical Air Force from 2025 until 2031.
- F/A-109F: Served with the UEDF Tactical Air Force from 2025 until 2031.
- (A, B, C and D variants) 2 x Rolls-Royce/Volvo FF-3001 fusion turbines, max. output 131 kN each.
- (E and F variant) 2 x Rolls-Royce/Volvo FF-3031 fusion turbines, max. output 146 kN each.
- Powerplant: 2 x RRL-2P Miniaturized Protoculture-cell energizer
- 16 standard canisters of protoculture,
- 9.8 liter D20 of reactant for fusion engines.
- Maximum speed at 20000 meters: Mach 4.10
- Maximum speed at sea level: Mach 1.2
- Maximum speed in super-cruise: Mach 2.3
- Service Ceiling: 40000 meters
- Protoculture supply: 165 hours of continuous use.
(F/A-109E and F Sylphids, circa 2029)
- Westinghouse APG-145 X-band pulse-Doppler omni-directional radar.
- Phillips AllView II multi-band omni-directional digital camera system, for medium range all attitude infra-red imaging, optical and ultra-violet band detection and tracking
- Thomson LT-5 multi-frequency laser ranger and designator.
Tactical Electronic Warfare System (TEWS):
- Elettronica Radar Warning Receiver (RWR)
- OlDelft Infra-red Warning Warning Receiver (IRWR)
- Selenia Sky Warrior active/passive sensor jammers
- Numerous dispenser for expendable decoys and countermeasures such as chaff and flares.
- 2 x Oerlikon LPWS-12 pulse laser cannons. These cannons have a typical burst energy of 5 MJ. The cannons are mounted in the wing roots.
- 1 hardpoint on the dorsal centerline for a palletized gun pod. Two options were available:
- 1 x GPUL-1 gun pod with three Oerlikon E-18-1 ion pulse cannons. The ion cannons, or more accurately electrolasers, draw power from the aircraft’s main power generator. Cannons fire with 4 MJ of energy, and have the secondary effect of causing damage to the electronics of their target.
- 1 x GPU-13 three-barreled 35mm gun pod, firing 2000 rounds per minute, 300 round capacity, stored in the pod itself. Ammunition is a mix of Tungsten-coated depleted Uranium Armor Piercing Spin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot (APSSDS), High Explosive Armor Piercing (HEAP) and tracer rounds. This cannon is based on the GU-13 gun pod used by the VF/A-6 Alpha Veritech.
- 4 hardpoints are mounted on the lower hull and two under each wing. Each hardpoint can carry:
- 1 x Python missile, with a range of 75 km and a speed of Mach 3.0, with active-passive radar/home-on-jam and IIR guidance.
- or 1 x Carapace missile container, containing three missile tubes, each of which can contain two Diamondback or Lightning missiles, or four Hammerhead missiles.
- or 1 x MER (Multiple Ejector Rack) for two Derringer missiles. These missiles have a range of 70 km (A variant) or 130 km (E/F variants) and a speed of Mach 3.0, guided by a combined optical, IIR, and active radar seeker.
- or any other military load, such as ECM pods, cargo pods or recon pods.
- Anti-shuttle attack: 4 Python missiles.
- Air superiority: 2 Carapace containers loaded with 12 Diamondbacks, 2 Carapace containers loaded with 24 Hammerheads.
- Ground support A: 2 Carapace containers loaded with 12 Lightning missiles, 1 Carapace container loaded with 6 Diamondbacks, 1 Carapace container loaded with 12 Hammerheads.
- Ground Support B: 2 Python missiles, 1 Carapace container loaded with 6 Diamondbacks, 1 Carapace container loaded with 12 Hammerheads.
The armor of the Sylphid is composed of an advanced titanium-steel alloy. The armor stops all small arms fire, provides excellent protection against heavier infantry weapons, such as a 12.7mm machinegun round, and good resistance to light mecha-mounted weaponry, such as the Zentraedi 22.3mm HE autocannon round. The resistance against heavier weapons is markedly reduced, however.
The Sylphid provides full protection from nuclear, biological, and chemical hazards, using an overpressure cockpit environment activated by radiation and hazardous chemical sensors, or manually when biological warfare conditions are anticipated. The internal consumables supplies can provide atmosphere for one day maximum.
Saab Aerospace developed the JAS 43 shortly after the First Robotech War to take advantage of the Earth’s need to both rearm its air forces, and the need to replace the many lower end fighters such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-203 Dragon II and F/A-20 Tigersharks that had survived the war. In Saab tradition, the fighter was named after a mythical creature, in this case the Sylphid. The Sylphid was designed from the outset to be available in both fusion turbine powered configuration and in conventional turbofan powered variants (named the JAS 41) for air forces with lower budgets and requirements. Though the jet fuel powered JAS 41 did sell in small numbers, the vast majority of Saab’s customers decided to go with the full-up fusion turbine powered JAS 43 Sylphid. The JAS 43A was accepted into service with the Swedish Air Force in 2016. Orders were on the books for several other air forces within the Unified Forces, but by the time most of them were delivered the United Earth Government’s militaries had unified under the Treaty of the Southern Cross into the United Earth Defense Force (UEDF). From 2018 onwards, the JAS 43A was known under the standardized designation of F/A-109A for the single seat variant and F/A-109C for the two-seater.
Before the treaty went into effect, the UN Spacy also bought a variant of the JAS 43 known as the F/A-109B. The UN Spacy variant was remarkable for its forward swept wing and canard control surface layout. This configuration, while controversial at the time, did result in a slight improvement in maneuverability, but at a cost. In a forward swept wing configuration, the aerodynamic lift produces a twisting force which rotates the wing leading edge upward. This results in a higher angle of attack, which increases lift, twisting the wing further. This aeroelastic divergence quickly lead to structural failure. Though this was known and planned for, it resulted in a service life that was roughly half of that of the more conventional F/A-109A. Because of this, only the UN Spacy purchased any F/A-109s in this configuration. After the Reconnaissance Expeditionary Force (REF) left Earth, the figurative belt was tightened significantly and this was no longer considered a worthwhile trade-off. By the Second Robotech War, only about a tenth of the F/A-109s in service were the forward swept wing F/A-109Bs.
After the unification of Earth’s militaries under the banner of the UEDF, all F/A-109’s were assigned to the newly formed Tactical Air Force (TAC). In the beginning, the TAC had a large number of legacy fighters that were carried over from the previous air forces. These included everything from F-203 Dragon IIs to ancient F-4 Phantoms, and everything in between. Saab’s Sylphid was the obvious choice for replacing these various aircraft. To fulfill the contract as quickly as possible, Saab offered both the standard multi-role F/A-109A and a lower cost F-109D. The F-109D dropped the Sylphid’s air-to-ground capabilities and was only equipped with air-to-air mission specific avionics. From 2020 to 2025, about half of the Sylphids built by Saab and under license by other manufacturers were in the less expensive D configuration.
After the failure of the VF-4 Lightning III to deliver an advanced Veritech fighter to replace the rapidly aging VF-1 Valkyrie fleet, the UEDF found itself in a bad position. Though still a capable fighter, the entirety of the VF-1 inventory were at the end of their service lives. Unlike a conventional fighter aircraft which could expect a service life of around 6,000 flight hours, Veritechs were would last about half of that. Because of the transformable nature of the Veritech, flight stress was played out across a much larger number of failure points. Additionally, a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) was out of the question for a Veritech. Because of the complex nature of the VF-1 Valkyrie (or any Veritech for that matter), any SLEP would cost nearly as much as a new build aircraft. In the case of the Lightning IIIs, these problems were even worse. Not only was the VF-4 twice as expensive as the VF-1 to purchase, it was twice as expensive to operate and required three times as many man hours to keep in the air. And even after the introduction of the VF-4G, the Lightning III continued to be plagued with problems with its transformation sequence that caused continued groundings of the entire fleet. To make matters worse, all VF/A-6 Thunderbolt III (Alpha) Vertiechs were scheduled to be transferred to the REF no later than 2025. The Tactical Air Force and the Navy needed a replacement badly. The Navy of course went with the VF/A-8N Logan naval variant. The TAC decided to pursue an upgraded version of the F/A-109.
The F/A-109E (single seat) and F/A-109F (two-seat) Sylphids entered service with the Tactical Air Force in 2025, and remained in service until the Invid invasion. The Sylphid became the primary tactical fighter of the Southern Cross’ Tactical Air Force. The E/F variants introduced more powerful FF-3031 fusion turbine engines in place of the original FF-3001s and improved avionics, with most older models being refitted to the new standard by the beginning of the Second Robotech War. The two engine variants can be distinguished by the fact that the FF-3001 fit had three sub-nozzles per engine, and the FF-3031 had four. The E/F variant also introduced an enlarged cockpit to accommodate the TAC’s flight armor that became standard for all pilots in the mid-twenties. The F/A-109 was slated for replacement by a true Veritech fighter sometime in the mid-thirties, had the Second Robotech War not interfered with the development of the X-34 project. Development was stopped during the war both to concentrate on the rapid production of the existing Veritechs, and to later evaluate all combat lessons learned and incorporate them into the new design. However, the Invid Invasion in 2031 ended this project in its infancy.
The Sylphid was shown to be less than successful against the Robotech Masters, partly because its bases kept getting shot up, but mainly because as a fighter it was completely out-classed by the Assault Carrier, against which it could not mount heavy enough weapons to be fully effective. Against the Invid, the remaining Sylphids were moderately effective during the initial invasion, but soon all support bases had been destroyed and keeping the remaining Sylphids active proved to be almost impossible.
Robotech (R) is the property of Harmony Gold. Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross (R) is the property of Big West Advertising, Tatsunoko Studio and Ammonite studio. This document is in no way intended to infringe upon their rights.
Original artwork by: Kogawa Tomonori, Hiroyuki Kitazume, Miyo Sonoda, Hiroshi Ogawa, Hirotoshi Ohkura and Takashi Ono
Acknowledgement is extended to Peter Walker, Pieter Thomassen and Robert Morgenstern of the unofficial Robotech Reference Guide. Peter Walker, Pieter Thomassen and Robert Morgenstern are given credit for all quotes and paraphrasing of the unofficial Robotech Reference Guide that has been utilized in this publication.
Images from – Unspecified Super Dimensional Cavalry Southern Cross OSM, Robotech RPG (1st Edition) Southern Cross Sourcebook and Robotech RPG (2nd Edition) Southern Cross Sourcebook.
Content by Tim Wing, Pieter Thomassen and Peter Walker
Copyright © 2003, 1997, 1995 Robert Morgenstern, Pieter Thomassen, Peter Walker; 2015 Tim Wing