- "Master, General Grievous's ship is directly ahead, the one crawling with vulture droids."
- ―Anakin Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi, referring to the Invisible Hand during the Battle of Coruscant
The Variable Geometry Self-Propelled Battle Droid, Mark I, also known as the Vulture-class droid starfighter, or more simply as the vulture droid, was an unmanned model of droid starfighter manufactured by Haor Chall Engineering Corporation and utilized by the Trade Federation and later the Confederacy of Independent Systems. The fighter relied on overwhelming numbers during combat. Usually, these droids were constructed in the cathedral factories of Xi Char, where precision manufacturing was considered an act of religious worship. They were present at many engagements during the Clone Wars.
- "Their creators assumed a given fighter would not survive long, and so programmed them to be swarming weapons."
"So burning through their resources as fast as possible? Without any long term considerations? Are you sure?"
"Look at the curve of the combat pods. The shape of the stripes. The position of the blaster barrels. Weapons such as this not only are functional, but also incorporate the artistry of their creators. The beings who created and built these fighters believe in short quick answers to questions and problems."
- ―Thrawn and Eli Vanto discuss vulture droids
With the effectiveness of droid starfighters debated in strategic circles for generations, vulture droids were as such capable of extreme maneuvers that could crush even the sturdiest organic pilot, but lacked the resourcefulness and cunning that living pilots brought into combat. Nonetheless, a lack of life-support systems allowed more room for armaments and fuel, and the lack of an organic pilot removed, for some, any moral responsibility for its destruction.
Like the ground forces made up of battle droids, vulture droids were remote controlled by a control ship, but as time passed later generations of the fighter were able to operate with limited independence due to the installation of artificial intelligence. They were also known to be able to communicate with each other by chattering. While not in flight, vulture droids could transform into walking mode to patrol the surface or provide support during battles, and was specifically designed to fill both space and ground-based roles. A typical Trade Federation battleship could carry 1,500 vulture droids.
A variant of the vulture droid featured an ion weapon. One droid of this variant battled Ahsoka Tano and Padmé Amidala while they were flying N-1 starfighters during starfighter practice. The unit was destroyed.
The design of the vulture droid formed the basis for producing the Hyena-class Droid Bomber, another type of automated droid starfighter used by the Separatist Alliance. Vulture droids were not considered as smart as tri-fighters and hyena bombers, and relied on speed and overwhelming numbers in combat scenarios.
Invasion of Naboo
In 32 BBY, vulture droids were deployed with the rest of the droid forces by the Trade Federation military to seize Naboo. Even though vulture droids had seen prior uses, including in skirmishes in the Elrood sector, skirmishes on the planet Lok, and a skirmish in the Kellux system, the Battle of Naboo became the first major deployment of vulture fighters.
During the space battle over the planet, vulture droids were controlled by a Droid Control Ship, made out of a modified Lucrehulk-class LH-3210 cargo freighter, and engaged Bravo Flight's N-1 starfighters. All of the droid starfighters were deactivated when Anakin Skywalker destroyed their control ship, the Vuutun Palaa.
Starfighters of the Separatist Alliance
During the Clone Wars, vulture droids were painted with the blue and white hexagonal markings that symbolized the Separatist Alliance. Vulture droids were also quickly upgraded to function independently from a Droid Control Ship. They would fight in numerous battles against the Galactic Republic during the war, and vultures became a larger threat to their adversaries as the war continued.
Vulture droids were the most common aerial unit in the Confederacy military. In addition to being launched from capital ships, vulture droids were also deployed from automated vulture droid deployment stations to defend areas from potentially hostile approaching vessels. Munificent-class star frigates, which were one of the most common ships in the CIS fleet, could carry up to forty-two vulture droids. DFS-311 was one of the many vulture droids that served the Separatists during the war.
Christophsis and Teth
In 22 BBY, vulture droids participated in the Battle of Christophsis where they engaged various V-19 Torrent starfighters in space, which ended in defeat for the Confederacy of Independent Systems. Anakin Skywalker, now a General of the Republic Army and Knight of the Jedi Order, destroyed Admiral Trench's flagship Invincible with the IPV-2C Stealth Corvette, ending the Separatist blockade of the system. Jedi General Obi-Wan Kenobi captured Separatist General Whorm Loathsom, ending the Confederate occupation and forcing the Separatist navy once more to retreat.
Shortly afterward, vulture droids participated in the Battle of Teth, where many of them were deployed from C-9979 landing craft carrying a second wave of reinforcements led by Asajj Ventress. The droid fighters began strafing Anakin Skywalker, his newly assigned Padawan Ahsoka Tano, and the Torrent Company of the 501st Legion led by Rex. Anakin, Ahsoka, and the rest of the Clones evaded heavy laser fire from the vultures, just as one of the vultures destroyed a Delta-7B Aethersprite-class light interceptor piloted by R2-D2, who was delivering a holotransmission to Obi-Wan Kenobi about the plan of the Hutt Clan to join the Separatists. Despite fierce Confederate resistance, including hundreds of vulture droids being deployed against Kenobi and Clone Flight Squad Seven, Skywalker rescued Rotta the Hutt and delivered him to Jabba's palace on Tatooine.
Vulture droids later participated in the Battle of the Kaliida Nebula where they were deployed from the Malevolence, a Subjugator-class heavy cruiser owned by Grievous where they engaged the newly built BTL-B Y-wing starfighters used by Shadow Squadron and Anakin Skywalker, with Ahsoka acting as his gunner along with Plo Koon who was acting as the bombers fighter escort. Grievous had the ship's ion cannon fire at the bombers, not caring that the vulture droids were destroyed by it. The Y-wing's were able to evade the cannon, but at the cost of Shadow Six, Seven, and Ten, who were caught in the ion ray along with the remaining droid fighters that were disabled by it. Vulture droids then accompanied Grievous, who was on his Soulless One fighter as they began to chase the Twilight, which was piloted by Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, who have just rescued Padmé Amidala from being held captive by Grievous. In the ensuing chase, the vulture droids opened fire on the Twilight, though Padmé was able to use the freighter's cannons to take each of them out while Grievous escaped.[source?]
Vulture droids participated in the rescue on the Tranquility, where they escorted Droch-class boarding ships transporting super battle droids and Asajj Ventress, who were on a mission to free Separatist leader Nute Gunray from Republic captivity while en route to Coruscant for trial. The vulture droids evaded heavy fire from the Tranquility as they cleared way for the boarding ships to infiltrate the cruiser.[source?]
Liberation of Ryloth
Vulture droids participated in the Battle of Ryloth, a protracted campaign in which the Separatists resisted the Republic's attempt to liberate the Twi'lek homeworld. When Skywalker's fleet arrived in the Ryloth system to combat the CIS blockade, a swarm of vultures almost completely eliminated the V-19 Torrent starfighters of Blue Squadron and rammed the bridge of the Resolute. Later in the engagement, however, General Skywalker destroyed Captain Mar Tuuk's Lucrehulk-class Battleship, and Commander Ahsoka Tano outmaneuvered the remaining Munificent-class star frigates with a Marg Sabl, allowing the Republic invasion fleet to arrive without incident, which led to the planet's successful liberation.
The droids continued to see action throughout the rest of the conflict. From large scale battles such as at Umbara, to smaller skirmishes such as over Felucia after the destruction of Felucia Medical Station HCTFF2. During the Battle of Horain, Clone Captain "Rex" attempted to contact his commanding officer, General Skywalker, for help, but General Kenobi instead came to aid the clone trooper, explaining that Skywalker was dealing with vulture droids.
The droids were involved in the Battle of Coruscant, which proved to be the last gasp of the Confederacy, and at the Battle of Utapau. During the former of these two battles, Count Dooku was beheaded by Anakin Skywalker, and days later General Grievous was killed at Utapau. After the deaths of the Separatist Council, all Confederate droids were shut down, including the vulture droids.
- "I have studied vulture droids, ensign. They do not normally fight this effectively."
- ―Thrawn, to Eli Vanto during the Battle over Umbara
During the Imperial Era, vulture droids fell into the hands of various rebel groups including Cham Syndulla's Free Ryloth Movement, Berch Teller's rebel cell, and the smuggler–turned–insurgent leader Nevil Cygni, known as "Nightswan." In 14 BBY, hundreds of vulture droids were used by the Free Ryloth movement to attack the Imperial Star Destroyer Perilous during an assassination attempt against Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader.
Later, Berch Teller's rebel cell obtained vulture droids and other former Separatist equipment and material from Vice Admiral Dodd Rancit, who was conspiring against his rival Moff Wilhuff Tarkin. The Chiss Imperial Navy officer Thrawn collected various Clone War artifacts including vulture droid parts. The insurgent leader Nevil Cygni, also known as "Nightswan," also procured four hundred vulture droids during the Umbaran uprising.
By the time of the Cold War, vulture droids were used as private security forces by the houses of Cato Neimoidia. The X-wing drones used for First Order TIE Fighter Pilots had similar visual elements to vulture droids.
Notes and references
- Rise of the Separatists
- Ultimate Star Wars
- Star Wars Helmet Collection 69 (Databank A-Z: Vulptex–Wampas)
- Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know
- Star Wars Complete Vehicles, New Edition
- Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace
- Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith
- Lords of the Sith
- Poe Dameron 22
- Star Wars: Forces of Destiny – "The Starfighter Stunt"
- Star Wars: Galactic Atlas
- Star Wars: Build the Millennium Falcon 45 (Starship Fact File: Vulture-class Starfighter)
- Darth Maul (2017) 1
- Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary, New Edition
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Bounty Hunters"
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Cat and Mouse"
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars film
- Star Wars Helmet Collection 45 (Helmets: Clone Commander Odd Ball; Weapons & Uniforms: Odd Ball's Pilots in Action; Highlights of the Saga: The Battle of Teth)
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Storm Over Ryloth"
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Liberty on Ryloth"
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Plan of Dissent"
- "Roger Roger"—Star Wars Adventures (2017) 19
- Star Wars: On the Front Lines