An Assault Transport is a spacecraft primarily intended to carry troops (usually Marines) and/or their equipment and supplies, and land them on a hostile enemy planetary surface. As such, they tend to be large, slow, poorly armed, and well stocked with devices for putting people and cargo down onto a planet despite resistance. Most also carry Mass Drivers to orbitally bombard enemy defensive installations before attempting to land troopers.
Different Assault Transports serve different functions:
- Light Transports carry as few as a single platoon of soldiers and a couple of simple methods for getting them safely onto a planetary surface, and are often used for internal-security and law enforcement purposes, as well as purely military missions.
- Medium Transports carry large numbers of troops and comprehensive suites of troop-landing systems.
- Heavy Transports carry both large numbers of troops and cargo, and have the means to get heavy equipment such as hovertanks and artillery pieces down onto a well-defended surface.
- Covert Transports emphasize stealth and speed to insert small teams of specialists on covert missions to gather information or sabotage key enemy facilities.
There are many ways to land troops and their gear on a planet. The simplest is to fly them down in Assault Pinnaces or shuttles. However, if the enemy has significant ground-to-air or ground-to-space defenses (more than orbital bombardment with your Mass Drivers can take out), this will get a lot of your shuttles shot down and a lot of your troops killed. Drop Pods are more stealthy and quick, and thus harder to shoot down, and when you lose one, you lose one soldier, not a hundred or more in an Assault Pinnace. Planetary Assault Pods are the equipment and cargo version of drop pods, basically a drop pod scaled up to the size of a cattle barn. They are a bit easier to shoot down, which is why they tend to be deployed late in any invasion plan, when more enemy weapons have been knocked out. Transit Beacons bypass ground-to-air defenses entirely, but are rarely used. This is because, being magical, their destination can be tracked by mages, and when used against Bug planets, the Bugs have a nasty tendency to be there waiting when you arrive. They are of much greater utility when fighting other species, but troops exiting a transit beacon tend to be disoriented for a few moments, so if anyone is waiting for them, it can be a death trap. Finally, some of the smaller Assault Transports can land (or at least crash-land in a somewhat survivable manner) on a planet surface, but they generally are in no shape to take off again afterwards. The larger ships can't land like that, but generally can use any of the other above methods depending on the situation at hand.
Human Transport Classes
- Gryphon-class Light Transport
- Veracruz-class Light Transport
- Aegis-class Light Transport
- Alistar Dimiye-class Covert Transport
- Otto Skorzeny-class Medium Transport
- Marathon-class Medium Transport
- Passchendaele-class Heavy Transport
- MacArthur-class Heavy Transport
- Sigourney Ridge-class Heavy Transport
Behind the Scenes
Until the Second World War, there really was no such thing as a dedicated assault landing ship. Oh, there were troop transports and freighters galore, but none had any more sophisticated means of disembarking their payload onto a defended beach than "troops row ashore in lifeboats", "troops swim ashore on their own", and "ship beaches itself and everyone clambers down." After the disastrous Allied landings at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War One, people began to think seriously about ways to avoid such a slaughter next time. The US Marines, in particular, seized upon the idea of becoming a spceialized assault-landing force, mostly as a means to justify their continued autonomy from the Army and better compete for scarce funding during the Great Depression. In World War Two, assault landings were perfected into an art, both by the US Marines in the Pacific and the US Army at Normandy Beach, with an honorable mention to the German paratroopers at Crete. Afterwards, only the US Marines really had the resources to maintain a major assault landing capability, but they had few chances to exercise it against a competent and well-equipped enemy after their spectacular success at Inchon in the Korean War. What sort of beach landings took place in the War of Gehenna has never been firmly established, but since then, the TI has invaded countless worlds, while the Bugs have also invaded many worlds, albeit mostly with the "crashland a ship on the surface and everyone pour out of the wreckage in an angry mood" methodology, being even less concerned about casualties than the TI.