During the buildup to the Pioneer Mission, the planning committee for the Robotech Expeditionary Force (REF) required logistics ships in abundance. They could not, like the Southern Cross, expect an extensive surface support structure on the planets they would visit. Thus, not only would the REF require shuttles that operated from any surface and not just a pre-prepared spacefield, but they would also need to take their own headquarters, repair depots, hospitals, rear area security installations and the like with them. Therefore, the Predator ship was a completely different design from the Pegasus Shuttle favored by the Southern Cross.
Capable of being used as a landing ship as well as fleet supply, it was more successful than its more widely known cousin the Horizon-T series Dropship.
Technology and Combat CharacteristicsEdit
With the requirements for VTOL operations, unassisted ascents to orbit, and prolonged atmospheric operations with heavy cargos, the Predator weighed in at about 2,100 metric tons. The additional atmospheric demands mandated a more aerodynamical design, and a thick flying body with a protruding hull section was chosen. The command decks were located in an aerodynamical command tower in the extreme front of the hull, behind which the large triangular wing surface began. An upper personnel and a lower cargo compartment were located in the central and outer hull sections in front of the engines. The personnel deck did not extend fully aft, leaving enough room for voluminous cargo aft. The aft-most part of the lower deck was an elevator, and two side exits were large enough to allow all but the largest mecha to walk of the ship. Even a Heavy Artillery destroid could be transported, although unloading through the lower hatch/elevator was an involved and lengthy process. The lower deck could be changed into a support station by fitting it with a specialized module. For instance, a cargo version could be transformed into a hospital by replacing the cargo binders and handlers with a hospital module. The same principle applied for repair depots, headquarters and the like. Two small wings and two small fins increased the maneuverability in an atmosphere. Two missile installations were located in the hull, between the engines.
The Predator did not mount any weapons save a missile self-defense system in its standard configuration. They could be converted into a small corvette by mounting a weapons module, but these ships were vulnerable in any arc save the ventral and were too valuable for space combat roles. In practice, therefore, this option was virtually never used.
As the REF would be capable of operating ground forces, a portable surface logistics infrastructure was required. The Predator ships were designed for this role. They were maneuverable in an atmosphere, armed sufficiently to defend themselves while they made good their escape if attacked, and capable of carrying a substantial cargo load. Landed, they could operate as repair depots, hospitals, headquarters and the like, though they were more vulnerable this way as they could not lift off on a minute's notice when finding themselves under attack. However, the missile batteries provided some area air defense, and a bodyguard complement was usually send with the ship, typically comprising a fighter squad. Naturally, other forces would also respond if a Predator found herself under attack.
Lightly armed, the Predator could be outfitted at need as a fast corvette. This option was rarely used during the Pioneer Mission, but during the 2nd Robotech War a number of them were used to bolster the United Earth Forces (UEF) fleet in its desperate gamble against the Masters. Sadly, they proved incapable of mounting effective weaponry to combat the Bioroid Assault Carriers. Almost all models outfitted as such were lost in these engagements.
With the Invid Invasion, many of the remaining Predators were shipped to Earth to serve at the various Advance Bases such as Point K. The REF would eventually turn over all of its shuttle capacity to the Horizon.
- This ship was first seen in Episode 54: Mind Games of Robotech: The Masters.