Edge of Darkness
Superiority of Steel
Superiority of Steel – Nimbus Cloud Wing
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Image Credit: The player of SV-3R. It’s awesome having players with artistic talent. He did the deck plans too. :)
The Nimbus Cloud Wing was a project born out of failure. Kuat Systems Engineering was one of the principal starfighter manufacturers for the Republic during the Clone Wars, which swiftly changed after the government restructured into the First Galactic Empire. The contracts for starfighter and small craft production were transferred to Seinar Fleet Systems, while capital ship construction remained in the hands of KSE’s parent company, Kuat Drive Yards. This proved to be a significant blow to KSE, as prior attempts at diversifying from military projects were wrought with problems. The cheap and common CloakShape fighter was technically a success, but the profit margins on the design were never high. The expensive to develop Firespray patrol craft had its entire prototype run destroyed in a prison break, resulting in billions of credits lost and the project being shelved for years. And the Wayfarer medium freighter, although a dependable craft and well-liked by its owners, never saw success. This was primarily due to the fact that despite being billed as a modular transport, it was only compatible with its own proprietary cargo modules. This made the bulky modular attachment hardware useless, and killed much of the market interest in the ship.
With this string of commercial project failures followed by the loss of its military contracts, Kuat Systems Engineering made one last ditch effort to appeal to the civilian market by resurrecting the Wayfarer concept. Although the Wayfarer itself was not successful, there was a lot of expressed interest in a modular cargo ship. So KSE attempted a smaller followup vessel aimed at the private trader, specifically designed to accommodate ANY standard cargo container. Taking design cues from the shelved Firespray, as well as knowledge from its Clone Wars-era military designs, KSE produced a flexible and efficient light freighter / courier vessel dubbed the E-7 “Nimbus” Cloud Wing. This name was chosen due to the fact that Kuat Drive Yards still held the “Nimbus” trademark from the Nimbus-class V-Wing starfighter. The fighter’s production was cancelled after the Clone Wars and schematics were handed over to Seinar Fleet Systems for use in designing what would later become the TIE series. Not wanting to lose the trademark to Seinar as well, a civilian craft using the name was hastily approved for development so that Kuat could claim ongoing production rights and legally prevent a transfer of related corporate assets.
The Cloud Wing itself was an asymmetrical wing shaped vessel (hence the other half of the name) that utilized a number of space-saving tricks from the abandoned Firespray design. It had a standard crew compliment of four: a pilot, copilot, cargo operator, and engineer, though it could accommodate up to four additional crew for cargo loading duties. To address the modular cargo requirement, the ship mounted a large industrial cargo arm on the port side of the vessel. This arm could grip any standard shipping container, up to and including a standard XTS Class-A cargo container. It could hold the container securely during transit via magnetic clamps, or attach the container to the docking ring on the side of the vessel. The ship was designed for ease of loading, and combining the cargo arm with internal loading ramps meant that it was entirely possible to load large containers by hand if loading facilities weren’t available. This made the Nimbus immediately appealing to smaller or more desolate spaceports such as mining stations or out of the way Rimward worlds that lacked proper loading cranes.
For the internal layout, Kuat Systems Engineering drew on their extensive military expertise to produce a compact and efficient design. In addition to the loading equipment the port side of the vessel held an internal cargo bay and access to an empty flexible workroom, while the starboard side held the crew quarters. The central span of the ship housed not just the cockpit and command center for the ship, but access to various subsystems, escape pods, and the engine room to the rear of the craft. The elongated wing on the starboard side held a number of internal systems such as radiators, fuel, water, and life support tanks, and served as a counterbalance to heavy cargo loads. It also possessed several modular mounts which could fit most starship weapons. While civilian sales limited these to light blasters and tractor beams, it was not uncommon to see larger weapons swapped out. For landing the wing could fold back along the side of the ship meaning it could fit in most small docking bays, however this did restrict the firing angles of any mounted weapons.
The large engines, necessary for hauling heavy loads, also meant that when the vessel was under-loaded (by not mounting a cargo pod), it became quite fast and maneuverable for its size. This tended to be true of most empty freighters, but since KSE’s competitor the Corellian Engineering Corporation made efforts to explicitly point this out in it’s Y-series advertisements, KSE did so as well. This maneuverability was combined with near-military grade armoring and redundant systems which made the craft incredibly durable, and proved quite popular with Outer Rim traders who could go for extended periods without maintenance.
In the end, though, the Nimbus Cloud Wing was just too little, too late. The Nimbus sold decently, but never enough to recoup the inflated R&D costs which were necessary from having to cover previous project failures. CEC’s hold on the civilian freighter market was just too extensive for Kuat Systems Engineering to make a significant dent, and after a few short years of sporadic sales clearing out remaining stock the KSE name folded back under Kuat Drive Yards as an aftermarket starship upgrade brand. Despite this, however, the Nimbus would live on through many Outer Rim traders and haulers whose livelihoods relied on the quick and hardy craft.