Northrop Grumman SCA-33 Predator Cargo Dropship Aerospacecraft

ROBOTECH Technical Files

by Pieter Thomassen, with Peter Walker and Rob Morgenstern

edited by Tim Wing


  • Predator reference file
  • Predator gallery

Designation: Northrop Grumman SCA-33 Predator Cargo Dropship Aerospacecraft

Names and disposition:

  • The SCA-33 Predators were never officially named, though their crews typically named their individual dropships after carnivorous animals. A total of 227 Predator-class ships were built for the UEEF on-board Space Station Equality.
  • The Predators entered service with the UEEF from 2020 on through 2030 and remained in service until 2039, when the last ones were retired.

Ship’s complement:

  • Crew (12 men),
  • Life support limits are for the crew and about 400 supernumaries (412 men total).


  • Length: 98.8 meters over all
  • Height: 17.6 meters over the hull, 6.3 meters over all.
  • Width: 43.7 m over the hull, 58.2 meters over all.
  • Mass: 2,131 metric tons (unloaded), 2,347 metric tons (loaded), maximum cargo load 150 metric tons.

Propulsion systems:

  • Main power system: RRG mk22 protoculture-fueled Reflex furnace.
  • Maneuvering thruster clusters (11): Fusion-plasma reaction thrusters with steerable nozzles. Two are mounted in each side, four are mounted in the ventral hull, and three in the dorsal hull. The ventral thrusters can be overboosted during short periods to provide VTOL capability.
  • Reaction-mass Thrusters (2): Two Westinghouse STRM-05 Fusion-plasma reaction thrusters with protoculture energizer. The engines are mounted aft in the hull.
  • Planetary Capabilities: The Predator-class is fully atmosphere capable through its aerodynamic design and reaction thrusters and requires no preparations for supersonic flight. Three landing legs can extend from the lower hull to support the ship, provided the ground surface can carry the load. If this is not so, then the hull has sufficient structural strength for the ship to make a belly landing on it. This will hinder unloading, however.

Endurance and mobility limits:

The dry stores endurance is three days maximum. After this time, the ship will have to restock its supplies. For a skeleton crew, the supplies will suffice for weeks.

The mecha consumables supplies are dependent on what is carried in the cargo holds.

The ships’ own launchers are typically exhausted after one major battle or two small skirmishes.

The Reflex furnace can function for about 20 years at normal usage levels before an energizer rebuild is necessary.

Reaction thruster endurance for the Predator class is 40 minutes at 0.8 g, 25 minutes at 1.2 g and and 8 minutes at the flank acceleration of 2.4 g. In the last case the fuel might not be completely exhausted, but the engines will have started an auto-shutdown to prevent catastrophic failure from the stresses put upon them.

Typical sustained atmospheric speed is 2140 kph, while burst speed (using overboosted engines) is 6600 kph for short periods, but the Predator is easily detectable at this speed and is advised to accelerate to orbit or decrease speed and altitude as soon as possible.

Weapon systems:

  • Mk.249 MLS system (2): a reloadable VLS installation with 8 individual launch silos. The silos can be reloaded while others in its cluster are firing. There is one magazine on the centerline. The magazines stores 32 missiles a full loadout of 48 missiles. These launchers typically fire Warhawk anti-mecha/missile weapons, though Spacehawk nuclear re-entry and general purpose weapons are among the other weapons that can be fired by the Predator. However, due to the atmospheric theatre and defensive requirements these offensive weapons were rarely carried. These systems are located on the dorsal hull mid-aft.

An armament package can be installed in the lower cargo hold. This package contains:

  • General Electric OMD-1 mass driver cannon (1): This cannon can fire a 0.5 kg projectile at speeds approaching 30 kps. The ammunition supply is 3000 projectiles. The barrel of this weapon is mounted on the underside of the weapons package and protrudes forward under the Predator’s belly. The impact energy of one projectile is 450 MJ, the rate of fire is 120 shots per minute. There are two projectiles available; the Kinetic Core Penetrating (KCP) round is a depleted-uranium dart that will impact and penetrate until its energy is spent, the Kinetic Penetrating Incendiary round is a tungsten-capped plastic composite which vaporizes into a directed plasma.
  • Oerlikon PD-2 Point Defense turret (4): The PD-2 is a double barreled laser cannon, with an on-mount multi-spectral sensor. Designed for point defense against mecha, missiles and small vessels, the PD-2 delivers 50 MJ of laser energy four times per second. Two cannons are mounted alongside the mass driver.

Air group and mecha complement:

  • Four to six Destroids can be stored in holding racks in the cargo bays, but these cannot be deployed while in flight. One Thundercracker artillery Destroid can be transported, but without any other cargo.

Design notes:

The UEEF could not, like the Southern Cross, expect an extensive surface support structure on the planets they would visit. Thus, not only would the UEEF require shuttles that operated from any surface and not just a pre-prepared spacefield, but they would also need to take their own headquarters, repair depots, hospitals, rear area security installations and the like with them. Therefore, the Predator ship was a completely different design from the Pegasus shuttle favored by the Southern Cross.

With the requirements for VTOL operations, unassisted ascents to orbit, and prolonged atmospheric operations with heavy cargos, the Predator weighed in at 2,600 metric tons. The additional atmospheric demands mandated a more aerodynamical design, and a thick flying body with a protruding hull section was chosen. The command decks were located in an aerodynamical command tower in the extreme front of the hull, behind which the large triangular wing surface began. An upper personnel and a lower cargo compartment were located in the central and outer hull sections in front of the engines. The personnel deck did not extend fully aft, leaving enough room for voluminous cargo aft. The aft-most part of the lower deck was an elevator, and two side exits were large enough to allow all but the largest mecha to walk of the ship. Even a Thundercracker Destroid could be transported, although unloading through the lower hatch/elevator was an involved and lengthy process. The lower deck could be changed into a support station by fitting it with a specialized module. For instance, a cargo version could be transformed into a hospital by replacing the cargo binders and handlers with a hospital module. The same principle applied for repair depots, headquarters and the like. Two small wings and two small fins increased the maneuverability in an atmosphere. Two missile installations were located in the hull, between the engines.

The Predator did not mount any weapons save a missile self-defense system in its standard configuration. They could be converted into a small corvette by mounting a weapons module, but these ships were vulnerable in any arc save the ventral and were too valuable for space combat roles. In practice, therefore, this option was virtually never used.


As the UEEF would be capable of operating ground forces, a portable surface logistics infrastructure was required. The Predator ships were designed for this role. They were maneuverable in an atmosphere, armed sufficiently to defend themselves while they made good their escape if attacked, and capable of carrying a substantial cargo load. Landed, they could operate as repair depots, hospitals, headquarters and the like, though they were more vulnerable this way as they could not lift off on a minute’s notice when finding themselves under attack. However, the missile batteries provided some area air defense, and a bodyguard complement was usually send with the ship, typically comprising a fighter squad. Naturally, other forces would also respond if a Predator found herself under attack.

The Predator was also equipped with the wiring to receive a powerful armament package in the central bay, turning this landing shuttle into a small corvette. With a very powerful rail gun and an anti-ship missile load in the existing launchers the Predator could make a reasonable showing of herself in this role offensively. Defensively, the Predator’s firing arcs were so restricted that this option was considered a waste of a perfectly good shuttle. The need for cargo ships and bases in the UEEF was always higher than the need for anti-ship warcraft anyway, as the UEEF spent almost all its time on the offensive. Indeed, the only recorded uses of the weapons package were during Second Robotech War, when the returning Predators were used against the Tirolian Assault Carriers, with predictable and unfortunate results for the Predators.

Of the 227 Predators used by the UEEF, only 23 were destroyed in action between 2022 and 2030; another 24 returned with the emergency fleets and were mostly lost against the Masters, and 32 more were send with the final wave against the Robotech Masters, but arrived too late to take part in the battles and were either destroyed in the following Invid Invasion (21) or escaped to the moon and served as general-purpose craft from there until they were mothballed in 2038. The remaining Predators in deep space were retired as the Horizonts, which could set up bases and unload cargo without landing or staying in the landing zone, entered service. These ships are now mothballed on the moon as well.



Robotech (R) is the property of Harmony Gold. Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross (R) is the property of Big West Advertising, Tatsunoko Studio and Ammonite studio. This document is in no way intended to infringe upon their rights.

Original artwork by: Kogawa Tomonori, Hiroyuki Kitazume, Miyo Sonoda, Hiroshi Ogawa, Hirotoshi Ohkura and Takashi Ono

Acknowledgement is extended to Peter Walker, Pieter Thomassen and Robert Morgenstern of the unofficial Robotech Reference Guide. Peter Walker, Pieter Thomassen and Robert Morgenstern are given credit for all quotes and paraphrasing of the unofficial Robotech Reference Guide that has been utilized in this publication. 

Images from – N/A

Content by Pieter Thomassen, with Peter Walker and Rob Morgenstern, edited by Tim Wing

Copyright © 1998, 1997, 1995 Robert Morgenstern, Pieter Thomassen, Peter Walker; 2016 Tim Wing