The US-82 Leadbeater is the UNN’s favored dropship and the workhorse of the fleet, serving primarily in a troop transport and utility capacity. Being designated as a spaceplane, the US-82 is capable of achieving orbit under its own power in as little as fifteen minutes using its twin hydrogen engines, as well as operating in a vacuum through the use of its arrays of thrusters. The airframe has seen a long and storied service over its forty years of operation, and has been adapted into many different variants. These include the US-82C light cargo hauler, the US-82H medevac vehicle, the US-82M spec-ops dropship, and even civilian transport shuttles.
In its primary role as a troop transport, the Leadbeater leverages a blend of high maneuverability and considerable armor to ferry troops and VIPs into contested airspace. These hot drops often involve the rapid insertion or exfiltration of Marines and auxiliaries, requiring the vessel to contend with enemy small arms fire, anti-air, and hazardous terrain.
While it lacks some of the more specialized geometry of its counterparts like the Beewolf, the dropship nonetheless employs an EM-absorbent coating that reduces the likelihood of a successful lock, which is supplemented by a defensive flare system. The armor is reinforced around the cockpit and troop bay to ensure maximum protection for the occupants, and the resilient airframe has earned a reputation as being especially hardy, able to land successfully even after sustaining considerable damage. The ceramic tiles that coat its belly serve both to protect it from the heat of reentry, and as a thermal shield to dissipate the energy of plasma weapons, making it especially resistant to Betelgeusian small arms.
Not being equipped with any offensive weaponry, the Leadbeater will rely on escort craft as the situation requires, often being paired with Beewolf fighters or Penguin gunships to provide close air support around the drop zone.
The reinforced landing gear with its thick tires and protective coverings make the Leadbeater well-suited to difficult terrain, inspired by the bush planes of old. Coupled with a VTOL system that makes use of the vessel’s thrusters, it can set down anywhere that can support its footprint, including forest clearings and rooftops.
The US-82 has the capacity to carry two Marine fireteams of six (a squad of twelve), a pack of six Borealan Shock Troopers, or a pair of Krell Linebreakers. While Valbaran Commandos commonly make use of their own specialized vehicles, the troop bay can seat twelve.
Equipped with a Sentinel upgrade package, the Leadbeater can deploy a rotary electromagnetic cannon that fires the same caliber of slug as anti-material railguns, serving as a door gun and providing support fire for troops as they dismount. This weapon is usually operated remotely by the co-pilot.
This awesome concept art comes courtesy of artist and illustrator Simon Contreras.
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