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The Colonial Viper was the primary fighter craft used by the good guys in th original Battlestar Galactica1, flown by our pilot-heros such as Captain Apollo and Lieutenant Starbuck against the Cylon Empire's Cylon Raiders. The Viper could fly both in space and atmosphere, conveniently for the show's writers.

The Cylon Raider was supposedly technologically superior to the Viper (though not as fast), but the triumvirate of Cylon pilots were no match for the heroic, brave, resourceful human opposite numbers, unless the odds were overwhelmingly in the Cylon's favour. Natch.

Little changed from Ralph McQuarrie's concept art2, the Viper is widely thought of as one of the most attractive, elegant spaceships ever to grace either the silver or small screen. The Viper was all engine, three of them in fact, arranged like a stack of three kegs. The cockpit housed the single pilot, and sat forward of the topmost engine atop a slim fuselage. Each engine was adorned with one of the two stubby wings (each of which carried one of the Viper's twin turbolasers) or the equally stubby tailfin. Done up in gray with red accents, the Viper's lines cried out "SPEED" even without the blue light of the "Turbo" effect blasting out behind.

The three Ion engines were notionally powered by "liquid mercury fuel" stored both in internal tanks and in the wings. (Obvious potential for disaster here, especially given the Viper pilots' tendancy to come in 'hot' to the launch bay and trail one wing along the deck in a shower of sparks.) The much-used Turbo boost was notionally acheived through dumping "solonite plasma" into the ion exhaust. At Turbo speed the Viper was the fastest craft in the BG universe (ignoring the craft of the godlike light beings from the end of the series).

They launched from their "aircraft carrier" type mothership, the Battlestars. Each battlestar had a pair of long, pontoon-esque launch bays that catapaulted the Vipers into space, and allowed them to land on an enclosed runway on their return.

Fled noder kamamer wrote that the Viper:

... carried two turbolasers and three buttons on the stick. One fired the lasers. One engage thrusters. The third was labelled IM and never used.

That's where you're wrong, Wraith!3; The IM button stood for "inverse maneuver" and fired the thrusters in reverse. I'm pretty sure I remember seeing this unlikely occurence, which somehow failed to barbifry the pilot.

The only thing I remember finding less likely on the show was the time the Galactica caught fire and flames were shooting out of the top. This was before science fiction shows had science advisors, I guess.

Used some truly geeky tech info from http://www.tecr.com/galactica/fighters/viper1.htm
  1. The new Battlestar Galactica features the "Viper Mark II" -- virtually identical to the original series' craft, and the "Viper Mark VII" which looks like a Mark II mated with something from swiss surrealist H. R. Giger.
  2. http://www.richardhatch.com/images/photos/rhcom_pic16.jpg
  3. Captain America once shouted this to one of his foes. It stuck in my head for some reason.

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