In a standard operation, a Gamma-class assault shuttle would pull up near an enemy ship and take hold of it with either its tractor beam or power harpoon. It would then launch its spacetroopers to seize control of the vessel, sometimes crippling the ship beforehand with a few well-placed turbolaser shots.
These ships were composed of three sections. The first section was the command crew cockpit, where a crew of five not only controlled the shuttle, but monitored its spacetroopers as well. The second section, the main body, was where the spacetroopers were carried. There were forty holding compartments for spacetrooper armor, enough for an entire platoon.
While being stored in the assault shuttle, the spacetroopers' power armor was constantly being recharged. Each compartment was equipped with a fold-away door, allowing the shuttle to quickly launch its troopers into space.
To protect its valuable cargo of elite spacetroopers, assault shuttles were very well shielded. Unlike most combat ships, which devoted 25% of their power to shields, the shields of a Gamma-class assault shuttle took up a full 62% of its power, with over half of that directed to the ship's front arc. This allowed assault shuttles to withstand heavy damage as they pulled up near hostile ships.
Gamma-class assault shuttles were both atmosphere and space capable. They were equipped with Class 2 hyperdrives (Class 18 backup). However, their capability for hyperspace travel was limited, because their nav computers could only hold enough data for three jumps.
Most Imperial-class Star Destroyers and other large warships carried at least one Gamma-class assault shuttle as well as the corresponding spacetrooper platoon. Additional assault shuttles were given out as needed and available.
In 1 BBY, a Gamma-class assault shuttle pursued a Rebel freighter carrying stolen Imperial fuel slugs from the jungles of Oulanne to the space city Pellezara station in the Duro system. The seventeen-year-old Tarrin Datch took control of the fugitive Rebel ship, outmaneuvering the shuttle through heavy traffic until it could escape into hyperspace.
Behind the scenes
Gamma-class assault shuttles were first described in the West End Games publication Imperial Sourcebook. A similar but distinct ship, the Gamma-class ATR-6 assault transport, appeared in the X-wing series of computer games. At first, it was unclear whether the assault transport was intended to be the same thing as the assault shuttle, because the games were known to use alternate models and statistics for a number of ships. However, both the assault shuttle and assault transport appeared in Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance, proving that they were separate ships. Unlike the Gamma shuttle, the ATR-6 has not been seen in sources outside the X-wing games.
X-wing Alliance also depicts the Gamma-class shuttle using an ion cannon in a cutscene. It is not known if this is an error, or if this is a variant or retrofit.
The original Imperial Sourcebook did not give the ships any backup hyperdrives. The second edition of the Imperial Sourcebook called the weapons on the assault shuttle "KT6 heavy blaster cannons" and gave the ships Class 18 backup hyperdrives. Starships of the Galaxy redesignated their guns into "turbolasers."
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