Developed by Rothana Heavy Engineering, a subsidiary of Kuat Drive Yards, the Republic gunship is designated an
LAAT/i craft (Low-Altitude Assault Transport/infantry). Despite their heavy weapons, the gunships are still swift and maneuverable enough to avoid all but the most advanced mobile artillery. Gunships excel at troop deployment and extraction, using their weaponry to clear a landing zone
(LZ) long enough for crack troops to board or disembark.
The army that invaded Geonosis on the eve of the Clone Wars proved amazingly effective. Its success was due, in large part, to its diverse array of military vehicles. While AT-TE walkers conveyed troops into the thick of the battle, a fleet of heavily armed assault gunships carried soldiers to key locations for tactical strikes.
Like many of the Republic's clone army vehicles, the LAAT/i gunship is designed to perform primary and secondary functions. The gunship's first duty is the transport of troopers: the vehicle holds 30 soldiers in the passenger compartment and four military speeder bikes in a rear hangar. The vehicle's armored hull is meant to absorb a great deal of punishment, but in the event the gunship is disabled, the vehicle's cockpit ejects as a separate escape pod.
The LAAT/i's secondary functions include reconnaissance, fire support, search-and-recovery missions, and low-altitude combat against ground units, air-speeders, and even starfighters.
The front of the gunship features hunchback-style cockpit bubbles, wherein the gunship pilot and copilot / gunner sit in single file.
Two mass-drive missile launchers can fire a variety of ordnance. Short-range homing missiles are most often used to destroy armored vehicles and installations. Though standard explosive yields are common, gunships have been fitted with corrosive antimatter shower warheads, radiation burst
missiles and EMP rockets. Four air-to-air rockets tucked under each wing target starships and
airspeeders. Three antipersonnel turrets blast any enemy soldiers and other small, fast-moving targets that approach the gunship. Finally, the craft's four ball turrets fire synchronized tributary beams with frightening precision. The ball turrets are positioned to provide tremendous field of fire, allowing them to shoot at targets above and below the gunship. With their tremendous array of firepower, gunships are often called upon to clear a deployment zone before troops are released.
The troop cabin is open to the air, allowing infantry to fire their rifles at targets, further supplementing the gunship's arsenal. The passenger section is equipped with an IM-6 battlefield medical droid and other survival gear. In the case of catastrophic damage, the entire cockpit section can eject from the rest of the craft.
Republic gunships were used on countless worlds during the Clone Wars because of their great maneuverability and atmospheric speed. Gunships can weave between large rock formations, dive into canyons and valleys, hover over a forest, and cruise between structures in sprawling urban areas-all while flying at more than 600 kilometers per hour. Only the most mobile enemy craft can keep a gunship in its sights. Even skilled pilots find it nearly impossible to avoid the craft's multiple weapons.
The LAAT/i gunship was one of several vehicles in the LAAT series. The
basic gunship design is extremely versatile, and the vehicle has been
modified to transport a wide variety of cargo. The LAAT/v is slightly larger than the standard troop transport and lacks a passenger compartment; instead, the rear hangar has been expanded to allow the vehicle to carry up to 16 speeder bikes or eight military land-speeders. At the Battle of Geonosis, the clone army deployed
LAAT/c gunships to deposit AT-TE walkers at key sites across the battlefield.