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- “Sir, that was the most brilliant maneuver I have ever seen.”
The Keyes Loop was a famous space tactical maneuver first executed by the then-Commander Jacob Keyes at the Battle of Sigma Octanus IV. The result was one of the rare naval victories achieved by UNSC over Covenant forces and it led to Keyes' promotion to Captain by Admiral Stanforth. It also provided a badly-needed morale boost to the whole fleet.
Arriving over Sigma Octanus IV in response to a possible impending Covenant attack, UNSC Iroquois found itself outnumbered by the arrival of a Covenant battle group consisting of one Carrier, one RPV-class light destroyer, and two Frigates (medium-sized support ships). They were only expecting four frigates.
Commander Keyes resolved to attack by deciding to set Iroquois on a collision course for the destroyer at emergency acceleration while launching a nuclear warhead in what seemed the wrong direction. The two escorting Frigates proceeded to launch one Plasma Torpedo each, but Iroquois managed to evade by utilizing the emergency thruster. Having missed their target, the plasma came about and continued to track and home in on the UNSC warship.
The trailing ordinance was to prove critical to the success of Keyes' strategy. A last minute course correction allowed Iroquois to merely "graze" (scrape) the destroyer's shields rather than smash directly into the ship , resulting in the destruction of a large portion of Iroquois' armor. (Keyes tore through two meters of titanium armor, and subsequently breached every bottom deck of Iroquois.) However, the tracking Plasma Torpedoes were unable to correct themselves for the sudden maneuver of their target and, consequently, hit the Covenant destroyer instead. A heavy salvo of Archer Missiles sent the remainder of the Covenant warship to its destruction.
With the momentum built up during the first phase, Iroquois performed a slingshot maneuver around the planet. Once safely away, the nuclear warhead deployed earlier was detonated, completely draining the shields on the two Frigates. Having completed its orbit, Iroquois resumed its attack and destroyed the two Frigates with two heavy MAC rounds and hundreds of its remaining Archer Missiles. Its escorts destroyed, the Carrier disengaged and escaped out of the system. Before leaving, it dropped 34 dropships and a DAV-class light corvette to continue the ground assault. Later, the Carrier hailed the rest of the attack fleet to Sigma Octanus IV.
In the aftermath of the battle, Iroquois was damaged to the point that it almost required a complete overhaul: fifteen percent of the electronics had to be replaced due to EMP burnout from the Shiva; eight magnetic coils had to be replaced, disabling the MAC for a short time; one of the emergency thrusters had to be refilled; the engines' vents had fused together owing to extreme heat and would need a complete overhaul to get them fully operational. Even after refit aboard UNSC Cradle, only 50 percent power was available. Finally, and most dangerously, all of the bottom armor and bottom decks had been eroded and withered away by the Covenant destroyer's shields were replaced. Captain Keyes was offered by Cradle to have Iroquois repainted but he declined, so that he would never forget the ship's battle scars.