Gunboats are a new class of vessel on the galactic scene. They were first designed shortly after the Shadow War by the Centauri Republic. As the Republic became more and more aggresive, other races started to copy them. The major races using these craft were the humans, Centauri, Minbari, and Narn. Of the League races, the Pak'Ma'Ra were never able to get the individual cooperation unique to these crafts down well enough to build them. The Abbai were too peaceful to use them, and the Vree were too concerned over the high attrition rate of the pilots to pursue such development. However, as attrition was the Gaim's entire goal (the only real way they can win a war) and they could produce these craft on their own, the Gaim deployed these craft widely. The Drazi were very fond of the size of the crews on them - smaller crews meant more honor for individual Drazi. And, the Brakiri, because of there advanced technology, did develop the craft. Deployment was very sparse, though.
Most activity, indeed the "gunboat period" was during the Psi-War. As the rebel forces has incredible Psi ratings, they were able to essentially "destroy" the personality of prisoners and brainwash them to serve the Psi forces. This made attrition units very popular with them, and the only effective way to counter it was for the "mundanes" to deploy these craft themselves.
Gunboats are very small ships, but have many similarities to fighters. First, they are targetted with the "fighter" fire control rating of a weapon. They can also be carried in the hangars of large vessels. Gunboats have a ship-wide armor rating, rather than armoring individual systems. The thrusters of the ship are not capable of being overthrusted, although additional thrust points can be purchased.
They move just before fighters do in the sequence of play.
For the most part, however, they are treated as ships. They DO NOT fly in flights, instead they operate in flotillas. The control sheets show all the ships in the flotilla on the same sheet for convenience, however, they operate as independant ships. They roll for critical hits on the ships' critical hit tables. The gunboats are capable of mounting ship-based weapons. Their turn mode and cost is handled the same way as ships. EW is handled the same way as ships, although there is obviously not as much to use. NOTE: A penalty of having such a small crew is that these vessels can ONLY TARGET TWO (2) ENEMY SHIPS OR FIGHTER FLIGHTS AT A TIME!!! Note that these ships only have one structure group.
As to carrying these vessels: if a capital ship has a land/launch rate great than or equal to 6 it is assumed the hangar is large enough to launch a gunboat. A gunboat itself takes up 6 fighter slots. They can also be attached externally on hardpoints.
Illaros Class Gunboat
This is the gunboat used by the Centauri Republic. Excellant against other gunboats and fighters. Otherwise, there is nothing terribly remarkable about this class, other than being the first.
Corsair Class Gunboat
The EA gunboat. Note that both thrusters, as they are omni- directional, can be effectively treated as one. The stats for the particle cannons are for the mark-1 variant, this is correct. The newer particle cannons required more advanced cooling and targetting systems that it was felt were too bulky and expensive for this craft.
G'Tir Class Gunboat
The Narn gunboat. Very limited deployment after the attack on Centauri Prime. Saw extensive use during the Psi-War.
Sarshin Class Gunboat
The Minbari were reluctant initially to deploy these craft. However, as more and more of the Shadow thralls started to emerge as major threats (even, in some cases, deploying old Shadow-tech) the Minbari were forced to begin production of them. Of course, once they did, they did so with the fervor Minbari traditionally dedicate to a new class of ships. Although they only carry "light" Minbari weapons, these craft were *very* well built and could take quite a beating - more, in fact, than some races police ships and frigates.