The R3-series astromech droid was an astromech model developed and sold by the droidmaker Industrial Automaton (IA). The R3 came at the heels of IA's blockbuster launch of the R2-series astromech droid as the company rushed to capitalize on their new dominance of the maintenance and repair droid market. The R3's designers copied the R2's general aesthetic, including the bright, contrasting color trim on a white metal chassis. The obvious difference in the factory unit was its head: the R2's opaque dome was swapped for a clear dome of plastex or transparisteel. The transparency gave the droid's internal sensor package greater range and showcased the R3's other major distinction, its newly updated Intellex V computer brain. Over time, however, some units' original domes were replaced with opaque ones or painted over carelessly.
Unlike its predecessor, the R3 was designed specifically for use by militaries and high-tech government agencies—IA developed another product, the R4-series agromech droid, to appeal to a broader clientele. The R3's Intellex V was capable of housing an immense amount of data; those units bought by the Galactic Republic had a database of detailed specifications on every vessel in the Republic Navy. Armed with this information, the R3 worked in cooperation with gunnery crews, security troopers, and naval chiefs of operation aboard capital-scale warships and at battlestations. Though its primary function was as a capital ship astromech, it could still operate as a plug-in droid for starfighters, holding up to five hyperspace jump coordinates in its astrogation buffer. The R3 had a genial and chummy personality, which allowed it to coordinate easily with large crews of organic sentients.
Due to the sensitive nature of the R3's programming, the rather expensive model was sold only to recognized government militaries. The Galactic Republic purchased 125 million of the droids during IA's initial production run, and later the Galactic Empire used R3s aboard its Star Destroyers and Death Star battlestations. Following the fall of the Empire, in an effort to maintain friendly relations with the New Republic, Industrial Automaton's policy restricted it from knowingly selling to the Imperial Remnant or known Imperial factions. Nevertheless, R3 units found their way into the hands of pirates, private spacers, the Rebel Alliance, and other groups through various black market channels.
The R3-series astromech droid featured much of the same hardware as its predecessor, the R2 unit, lacking only the earlier droid's extendible video sensor. The R3's chassis was largely cylindrical, appearing as an upright tube with a short, truncated cone at its base. Keeping the droid upright were two narrow legs, each of which terminated in a treaded foot shaped like trapezoidal prisms; a third leg was housed within the droid body and could be extended when necessary to afford greater stability. Capping the unit's design was a hardy, rotating, plastex or transparisteel dome—although some owners modified their R3s to use an older, opaque R2-unit dome instead. The astromech was sealed to allow for functionality in the vacuum of space. An R3 unit typically followed a color scheme with the main body white and the trim a bright color. Because the unit had the same shell as its predecessor, the R2, R3-series astromech droids could be slotted into standard astromech sockets used on most starfighters.
A wide variety of lights, sensors, and tools adorned the R3's surface or were housed within its body. A sophisticated sensor package, augmented by the droid's transparent dome, allowed the droids to see 360 degrees at all times. A cylindrical protrusion jutting up from high on the backside of the dome served as the droid's electromagnetic field sensor unit. The droid's large, red radar eye peered from the center of the dome, surrounded by a trapezoidal auditory sensor colored to match the astromech's trim. Directly below this was the horizontal datacard input slot, and below this and toward the droid's right was a rectangular collection of function indicators. Above this were another set of lights in a rectangular arrangement, which served as the infrared receptor, lending the R3 infrared vision and functionality even in complete darkness. Both the function indicators and infrared sensor were housed in a rectangular piece painted to match the droid's trim color. Near the center of the base of the dome's front was another red, circular light, which served as the droid's processor state indicator; this too was set into a rectangular field colored to match the unit's trim. A holographic projector shaped like a series to two nested cylinders protruded from its placement next to the droid's processor state indicator. The R3 featured a video display screen. Within the dome could be seen the astromech's Intellex V computer and heuristic processor. Cosmetic stripes along the base of the dome rounded out the clear hemisphere's decoration.
The top, front edge of the R3 unit's chassis featured a horizontal stripe that served as the droid's spacecraft linkage data slot. Below this were two horizontal stripes, painted to match the rest of the trim, which housed the droid's capital ship linkage arms. Running vertically along the sides of the R3's chassis were two compartments: the one on the droid's left housing the retractable grasping arm, and the one on the right the computer interface and lubricant arms. Below these and on the droid's right, front side was a rectangular compartment that contained the charge arm. Below this lay the interface pulse stabilizers, a vertical band of six small rectangles set one atop the other. An upright rectangle in the center of the main droid body housed both the unit's loudspeaker—also known as the acoustic signaller—and system ventilation. Directly below this was the recharge coupling or high-power coupling, a circular socket set off by a square piece of trim used to recharge the droid. To the droid's right, beside this socket was another horizontal rectangle, which served as the R3's polarity sink. Other hardware housed within the chassis included a small electric arc welder with a range of 0.3 meters, a miniature circular saw, a fire extinguisher, an electroshock probe, an internal comlink, and internal storage space with a capacity of two kilograms. Like other R-series astromech droids, the R3's design made it easily modified to a nearly endless variety of specifications.
The R3 unit's legs were elongated rectangles that attached to the main body via rounded swivel joints. These extended to the trapezoidal feet, which were magnetic and housed the motorized treads upon which the droid rolled about. Alternatively, R3s could walk using only the two main legs. Two wires connected each tread to a power cell, one placed directly inside each foot. As an option, purchasers of R3 units could add side-mounted rocket boosters to the droid's legs, which entailed the installation of a propellant rocket system. The legs typically followed the same color scheme as the droid's body, with white as the main color and another used for various insets and trim. An R3-series astromech stood between 0.96 and 1.00 meters in height.
Like other astromechs, the R3-series was a second-degree droid, designed for such tasks as general starship maintenance, computer repair, and data retrieval. However, unlike its predecessor, the R2, the R3 was intended primarily for service aboard large-scale capital ships, warships, and battlestations rather than small-scale starfighters. Its most basic difference from the R2 unit was that rather than servicing starfighter-scale craft, the R3 unit used its standard diagnostic package to perform routine maintenance and repairs on capital-ship computers, engineering and weapons systems, and external components. The unit's cognitive modules exceeded those of the R2 in both speed and power, and its Intellex V computer had the capacity to store intricate schematic diagrams of entire fleets of starships in memory simultaneously. For instance, an R3 working for the Galactic Republic could hold the blueprints for every ship in the Republic Navy.
This level of detail allowed the R3 to interface with and assist hundreds of separate operational groups on capital ships, simultaneously aiding teams of gunners, naval chiefs, security troops, and literally hundreds of others. R3 units were often placed into service alongside military support personnel, such as astrogators, gunners, maintenance crews, and security teams. Program modules were available to allow the astromech to perform other duties. For instance, teams of R3s could work in tandem with a capital vessel's nav computers to speed their computational capabilities and to better organize information. Others processed data for various ship stations, such as communications, engineering, sensors, and tactics. Some ships included specialized astromech slots in key areas, into which R3s could be fitted to carry out their duties, leaving only their domes visible. Despite its commonness in military bases and aboard military starships, the R3 unit avoided combat. Should its position come under attack, the R3's preferred response was to move into a safe location, plug into a nearby terminal, and either report the altercation, call for backup, or provide other support.
Although its design was tailored toward large-scale vessels and battle stations, the R3-series astromech maintained the starfighter plug-in functionality of other astromech droids, allowing the unit to serve as a capable starfighter pilot counterpart and maintenance unit. The R3 could store up to five sets of hyperspace jump coordinates in its random access memory. Although this was half the astrogation capacity of its predecessor, the R2, overall, the R3 was a more capable astrogator than any previous R-series astromech produced by Industrial Automaton. The R3 unit could become a capable copilot, coordinating advanced trajectories and ship coordinates even in the thick of a dogfight. The R3-D was a variant specifically intended for starfighter use. The droid assisted target acquisition and management on such small-scale craft, allowing the pilot to concentrate on flying. The original design of the Delta-7 starfighter called for an R3-D astromech.
Meanwhile, R3 units employed by government agencies performed more humdrum duties. In such locations, R3s worked alongside various officials, ranging from municipal functionaries and local magistrates to Imperial moffs and assistants to the Supreme Chancellor and Emperor.
Due to the R3's frequent interaction with organic beings, Industrial Automaton programmed the unit to be socially adaptable and at home as part of a large crew. The R3 was thus congenial by nature, happiest when surrounded by the bustle of a crowd. As a result, some crewmembers who interacted with the droids compared their personalities to those of most protocol droid models. The R3 unit's heuristic processor lent it problem-solving ability and curiosity. R3 units that had somehow lost their owners often teamed up with organic beings for the sense of camaraderie they provided and to keep themselves occupied.
Although the astromech was capable of understanding Basic and two other languages of the owner's choice, R3-series droids themselves communicated via droidspeak, a machine language of high-density chirps and squeals. When several R3s worked together at a single station, their constant chatter filled the air, sometimes confusing incoming organic crew members unfamiliar with the twittering language. The R3's use of droidspeak made the unit a natural counterpart to Cybot Galactica's 3PO-series protocol droid.
Part of the R-series of droids from Industrial Automaton, the R3 was Industrial Automaton's followup to the smash success of the R2-series astromech droid, a model whose popularity and sales had exceeded all expectations and catapulted IA to the top-tier of droid development companies occupied by the likes of Arakyd, Cybot Galactica, and Rebeton Kl'ian. For their next entry in the series, IA's management tasked its engineers with one goal: take the R2 and improve on it.
IA's droid designers decided to make the new model the capital warship's and battle station's answer to the starfighter-based R2 unit. The new droid received programming in gunnery repair and security protocols. The engineers paid particular attention to the model's Intellex computer, upgrading it from the R2's Intellex IV to the more sophisticated Intellex V. Although the designers kept much of the R2's basic body design to cut costs, they realized that the Intellex V would be a key selling point, replacing the R2's solid dome with one of clear plastex as a marketing ploy to showcase the new hardware and boost the scope and sensitivity of its sensors. The new droid otherwise followed the R2's bright-trim-on-white-metal color scheme. The new model, dubbed the R3-series astromech droid, entered production.
IA priced the droid much higher than its predecessor and produced it in only limited quantities to establish it as an elite addition to their catalog. At one point, the R3 sold for a whopping 10,000 credits, although prices fluctuated to as low as 4,500 credits. Due to its potential military applications, the R3 was considered sensitive technology, and the company accordingly restricted sales of the unit to legitimate governments and militaries.
The strategy worked: the R3 sold briskly, earning IA great profits and never falling behind the company's sales goals. In their initial order alone, the Galactic Republic bought 125 million R3s from IA's first production run. R3 units soon joined the crews of all capital ships of the Republic Navy and the Republic Judicial Department. By 22 BBY, the model had proved a wide success well received by its purchasers and new crew mates. During the latter years of the Galactic Republic, IA introduced add-ons for the droid, such as side-mounted rocket boosters. They also developed the R3-D series astromech as an R3 variant intended, like the R2, for starfighter-based use.
During the Clone Wars, IA's factory on the planet Nubia manufactured R3s for both the Galactic Republic and the Jedi Order. Republic demand for the droids was so strong that IA shipped some units with salvaged R2-unit domes rather than the R3's characteristic clear head. The Republic's reliance on the droids inspired a plot by the Confederacy of Independent Systems; agents of the Confederate General Grievous stole the unit designated R3-S6—one of the droids so fitted with an opaque dome—from the Nubian factory and reprogrammed it to be a spy for the Confederacy. R3-S6 came into possession of the Jedi Order, who assigned the droid to Anakin Skywalker, whose previous astromech, R2-D2, had gone missing. Nicknamed "Goldie" by Skywalker's Padawan, Ahsoka Tano, the R3 unit was tasked with helping Skywalker find R2-D2 and on a mission to destroy a Separatist base at Skytop Station. Nevertheless, the droid's programming made it difficult to follow Skywalker's orders, since its true master was Grievous. Thus the droid instead attempted to sabotage Skywalker's efforts. Skywalker recovered R2-D2, but R3-S6's subterfuge was discovered in the process. In a confrontation, R2-D2 knocked the R3 droid from a catwalk, causing the unit to plummet to his destruction.
Nevertheless, the R3's limited availability and high price tag somewhat counteracted the reputation IA had earned for its more widely available and affordable R2 series droid. To reaffirm their image as a supplier of droids to the common sentient, IA had its engineers develop the R4-series agromech droid, a much more affordable model tailored toward use in the Outer Rim Territories.
Despite the transition from Galactic Republic to Galactic Empire, R3 sales remained strong. The Empire honored Republic contracts with the droid's maker to buy a steady supply of R3 units for use throughout the Empire. R3 astromechs thus joined the crews of not only Imperial Star Destroyers but also the first and second Death Stars. With the outbreak of the Galactic Civil War, the Alliance to Restore the Republic gained access to R3-series astromechs by stealing them from the Empire. Pirate and privateer groups, too, were quick to adopt the R3 for use on their ships after taking the droids as booty or buying them on the black market. In 1 ABY Alliance Procurement and Supply purchased a shipment of R3 droids from one of their "procurement specialists". These R3 droids were then assigned to heavy cruisers and frigates of the Alliance Fleet, freeing up many R2 units for use by local rebel cells and Starfighter Command. With the defeat of Galactic Emperor Palpatine and the rise of the New Republic, IA struck deals with the new government to supply them with R3s, nullifying contracts and sales to the remnants of the Empire to placate this new customer. Nevertheless, IA also widened its target customer base by selling to planetary governments and privately owned fleets as well.
Behind the scenes
According to "The History of R-Series Astromech Droids", R3 units lack the internal cargo space of the R2 unit. However, other sources indicate that they do indeed have this feature. The Arms & Equipment Guide suggests that R3s could be used as starfighter plug-in droids only after tweaks to their programming. Other sources, however, suggest that they have this functionality without any such tweaks.