Developed by the Arachnid Hegemony during ISW-4 , the gunboat is a deadly warp-capable small craft larger than any Fighter but smaller than any warship. While capable of extended flight and even warp point transits, they are generally carried on modified external ordinance racks when it is necessary for them to operate far from friendly planets or bases.
Gunboats use a new engine system more powerful than any fighter's, giving them an energy signature so powerful that unlike fighters, anti-starship weapons can lock onto them, albeit at reduced accuracy. They mount an internal fighter weapon (usually a laser) with a 270 degree fire arc, along with four external ordinance racks. These can either carry one standard missile (or anti-fighter missile) each, or each can carry four FRs or fighter missiles. Gunboats have the ability to "ripple-fire" three FRs or FMs per rack, giving a gunboat the ability to fire up to twelve FRs or FMs at once. They also mount point defense, and datalink in four-ship squadrons.
Gunboats changed the face of interstellar combat, as along with SBMHAWKS they rendered close-in defense of a warp point almost useless. Their high speed, though slower than fighters without external ordinance, tremendous close-range firepower and point defense made them a deadly threat to starships as well and made a well-maneuved screen of escorts more necessary than ever before.
The drawback of carrying gunboats into battle on XO racks was revealed when Admiral Antonov deduced that a gunboat's missile armament could only be replenished by docking them to a warship and then deactivating the mothership's drive field. This made gunboats more of a "one-shot" weapon than fighters, but the Arachnid habit of ramming warships with gunboats somewhat reduced this issue. Up to ten were capable of being carried by an Arachnid Battlecruiser.