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Originally designated as the YSS-1000 Sabre during the prototyping phase,[Note 1] this fighter was designed to offer the UNSC a swift, versatile, and lethal defense interceptor that could engage Covenant forces in deep space and low orbit, preventing them from establishing a dominant position before ground engagements. It can be launched vertically from a ground-based launch platforms using a system of seven-stage detachable rockets to propel itself out of a planet's atmosphere into low orbit without the use of asynchronous linear-induction, nuclear technology, or other traditional means of surface-to-orbit transit. The Sabre also possesses powerful energy shielding technology, which covers all areas of the craft and quickly recharges when depleted.
The Sabre is designed for the dual purposes of peak acceleration and maneuverability in orbital combat, due in large part to a powerful afterburner system. This emphasis on speed and responsiveness enables the Sabre to perform feats that other human single ships cannot accomplish, and even allows the craft to compete favorably with the Covenant's more technologically advanced Type-31 Seraph fighter. The Sabre is capable of performing complex aileron rolls, Split S maneuvers, and Immelmann turns. The starfighter's engines are maintained and repaired by engine service modules in Sabre engineering facilities inside orbital refit stations. The MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor/Aviator helmet is recommended for use by Sabre crew members, and the Mariner helmet is optimised for Sabre flight systems alongside those of the Nandao and Baselard fighters.
The Sabre's armament includes twin M1024 30mm autocannons as well as twin-linked ST/Medusa missile pods; these missiles are capable of maintaining a lock on even fast-moving and highly evasive craft which could likely "shake" most projectiles. The Sabre's targeting computer can identify enemy contacts from a long distance, as well as show the distance to a target. The craft is intended for lethal encounters, not for simply disrupting or disabling targeted craft.
The Sabre (then-known as the YSS-1000 Prototype Anti-Ship Spaceplane)[Note 1] was developed by the Sabre Program in 2547, a top-secret project in which SPARTAN-B312 was a pilot at some point. However, the fighter proved too expensive to enter full production given the loss of critical Inner Colony manufacturing hubs to the Covenant and the shortage of skilled pilots, though most of these issues had been resolved by 2552. The craft's existence has been denied by three separate administrations and the program has remained secret throughout its existence.
The earliest known use of the Sabre was during a counter-insurgency operation on Mamore on May 10, 2552. SPARTAN-B312 demonstrated great skill in piloting the Sabre, thus gaining the approval of Colonel Urban Holland and resulting in the Spartan's assignment to NOBLE Team.
Multiple Sabres were stored in launch facilities across the surface of the planet Reach, including the newest facility near Farkas Lake. In addition, the orbital platform Anchor 9 had several Sabres stored in its launch bays, and Gamma Station was equipped with repair facilities to service Sabre fighters. When the Covenant arrived in the Epsilon Eridani system in the summer of 2552, the UNSC replaced select F-41 Broadsword squadrons with Sabres to combat the Covenant. During the Fall of Reach, SPARTAN-B312 and Jorge-052 of NOBLE Team used a Sabre during Operation: UPPER CUT, in which multiple Sabres were used to board the Covenant corvette Ardent Prayer in order to use it to deliver a makeshift slipspace bomb to the Covenant supercarrier Long Night of Solace. Before assaulting the corvette, the Sabres were used to defend Anchor 9 against several Banshee interceptors, Seraph starfighters, and R'shwupa-pattern Phantoms. SPARTAN-B312 and the other pilots were able to land on the corvette after disabling its engines and destroying its fighter escorts in order to use it and the slipspace drive to destroy the supercarrier. The mission succeeded but the Sabres were destroyed, as the strike team was unable to return to them due to damage to the corvette and was thus forced to abandon them.
Sabre production continued after the Fall of Reach, with only a few hundred craft total being built during the Human-Covenant War. In spite of this, the operational squadrons were able to rack up an impressive kill count. Had Reach not fallen to the Covenant, the UNSC planned to attach all Sabres to the UNSC Navy's remaining carriers and then deploy the fighters to lead ships in the most experienced squadrons and battle groups—organized in the specialist Orthrus Battle Group formation. Although the fighter never saw mass production due to its experimental nature, it remained in service at Office of Naval Intelligence facilities in the Sol system and other confidential locations following the Covenant War. However, upgrade packages inspired by the Sabre have been fitted to GA-TL1 Longswords and Broadswords, notably including the energy shielding system applied to the latter.
Following the end of the Human-Covenant War but before the Created conflict, the Sabre was secretively put into limited production as the FSS-1000 Sabre, and then deployed to important UNSC sites.
The origins of the Sabre lie in the development of Halo 2, with several early pieces of concept art depicting a strike fighter with very similar visual aesthetics to the Sabre. This design similarity later carried over into the Jumpships in Bungie's later Destiny franchise. Isaac Hannaford concepted the Sabre design and came up with a number of visual explorations, the first of which was mocked-up in 3D and ultimately redesigned as it didn't provide much parallax from a player camera angle. The final vehicle was the first vehicle designed by Hannaford using 3D software. One idea for the Sabre later on was to involve the ship having a flaps that could open to reveal hardpoints, which would allow the slipspace drive to be mounted on - though this was ultimately instead relegated to a Pelican in the final game. Hannaford initially concepted the missile launch bay as below and to the sides of the cockpit, though they were later moved to the top of the ship for player visibility reasons.
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