The AFQ-01X Shadow Drone was a mass produced transformable veritech drone used by the Robotech Expeditionary Force (REF), and was featured in Robotech: The New Generation. It was an upgraded, uparmored version of the AFQ-01 Vandal Drone, and was specially outfitted with Shadow Technology, thereby rendering it invisible to Invid Protoculture sensors. The design saw extensive use during the final battle on Reflex Point during the Third Robotech War.
The Shadow drone was a piloted via a semi-autonomous control system that required a remote control station. The piloting hardware was an even more improved variant of the Mark 3 Heuristic expert system first used on the AFQ-01 Vandal Drone, but tactical management of multiple fighters was controlled by a ground-based emplacement which communicated with the fighters via Low Probability of Intercept (LPI) radio transmission.
Investigation of battle encounters with the Invid suggested they had a unique sensor device that managed to pick up Terran battle formations at strategically significant distances in situations that would inhibit normal sensors. In other words, Invid hives, troopships, and their relatively uncommon capital vessels could detect capital vessels or mecha attack groups at extreme ranges, and could locate and track the largest of them through small celestial bodies, or at significant distances below the horizon. The combination of this mixed long- and medium-range sensor capability made tactical misdirection and surprise completely impossible, and strategic approach extremely difficult.
The Robotech Research Groups in deep space immediately went to work on sorting out this sensor's operating principles and devise, if possible, a counter to it. The tight link of the Invid with protoculture gave a probable pointer to the nature of the Invid's device, and quite soon after that the RRG groups discovered that active protoculture-powered devices gave off a detectable radiation. For nearly two decades, methods to counter or mask this radiation were explored, with much frustration and little success. The first notable approach involved the Wide Dispersal Bio-Emulator, often referred to merely as a 'protoculture flare', a mine-sized device that used a single protoculture cell at maximum yield to emulate the characteristic protoculture radition of a much larger mecha. In large numbers, the protoculture emulators could act as a decoy against the Invid hive sensors. Variants of this device were also occasionally issued to Special Forces units.
Eventually, at about the time plans were being made to dispatch a fleet to Earth to investigate its long silence, the RRG groups developed a so-called 'shadow' generator, which effectively red-shifted the spectral emissions of the protoculture radiation beyond the Invid's sensor acuity.
However, because of the sharpness of the peak in the protoculture's emission spectrum, the 'shadow' generator needed only slight modifications to be made to be effective against the more sensitive protoculture sensors of the Regess' armies. As soon as the working prototypes were developed in early 2043, the Robotech Expeditionary Force (REF) decided incorporate this stealth feature into their next generation of combat mecha; a newer fighter, the AFC-01X Shadow Fighter, and the Shadow Drone.
Furthermore, the REF wanted to equip their new front-line mecha with more technological innovations, including the force-field disrupting Destabilizer particle beam and a virtual cockpit. The first designs for this cockpit called for a non-transparent canopy, but this led to protests from the pilots, who wanted to retain some visibility. However, it turned out to be possible to project the virtual world on the inside of a thinly gold-layered canopy, which also left some outward visibility, and prevented the cockpit from becoming a radar-reflecting cavity.
The culmination of these efforts was the AFC-01X Shadow Fighter. In addition to the inclusion of the stealth features, and the addition of the semi-virtual cockpit, the Shadow Fighter saw minor redesigns on the intakes and shoulders, as well as the deletion of some of the secondary and redundant sensor suites on the legs. In addition, the hands were replaced with three-fingered claws.
The armor on the Vandal series fighters was a new development in low-mass composite-materials Chobham plating that became the standard for all Terran mecha. Aside from the respectable protection provided against projectiles, missiles, and other kinetic weapons, this armor was also resistant to plasma globes (annihilation discs), lasers, and to a lesser extent, particle guns, owing to the fact that the armor could flake off and evaporate in layers under fire from such high-energy weapons, taking much of the weapon's energy and converting it into the latent heat of sublimation in the armor. The armor stopped all small arms and heavy infantry weapons fire, provides good to excellent resistance to light mecha-mounted weaponry, such as the Zentraedi 22.3mm HE autocannon round, and poor to good resistance to medium mecha-mounted weaponry, such as the Valkyrie's 55mm APFSDS round.
The armor on the Vandal was marginally inferior to that mounted on the later AFQ models, like the Shadow Drone.
==History Both Shadow Fighters and Shadow Drones were used in the Mars and Saturn Base final attack on Reflex Point, with most AFQ-01X drones remaining 'upstairs' with the fleet. The Shadow Fighters performed very well against the Invid, and only the Invid's immense numerical advantage caused the near defeat of the armada.