The Nu Class Shuttle, also known as the Nu Class Attack Shuttle or Republic Attack Shuttle, was a model of shuttle used by the Republic Navy during the Clone Wars. It was the predecessor of the T-4a Lambda Class Shuttle that is currently in service within the Empire.
Designed and manufactured by Cygnus Spaceworks, the shuttle has fold-down wings similar in design to later shuttles such as the Theta, Lambda, and Sentinel classes. Its boarding hatch was at the very front of the shuttle, unlike later variants, which had the cockpit jutting over the hatch. The pilot and gunner chairs lowered into the boarding area for them to enter and exit the cockpit to provide a more familiar star fighter cockpit configuration for the combat flight crew. Sensor packages varied based on mission role, but in general a shuttle carried active close range sensors, a passive long range target/threat alert sensor package, a downward-facing landing zone density detector and sensor array, a close range atmospheric sensor package and a ground surveillance and proximity alert sensor suite. It also had a magnetic clamp that could be used to pick up escape pods as well as its rare and unique underslung cargo container with integrated turbo lift, which greatly expanded the ship's capabilities.
While a very durable, reliable and fast hyperspace-capable attack craft that was able to jump into a system, land troops and provide close air support, the rushed design — though successful in many respects — did have its drawbacks. The configuration of the cockpit coupled with the relatively small throat between the loading ramp and the main hull limited its flexibility. Unlike the LAAT, which had side loading options, the Nu-class was limited to the primary loading ramp immediately beneath a star fighter-style cockpit. Loading and unloading operations hindered access to the cockpit thus requiring additional crew to support the normal compliment of two.
In combat extraction scenarios, Nu Class shuttles often lifted off with only the pilot in the cockpit as the gunner was left below to secure the shuttle for takeoff after the extraction process was complete. These extraction situations proved to be quite common and placed enormous pressure on the pilot to both fly and provide suppressing fire in contested combat areas. The gunner, on the other hand, was left exposed to ground fire and was often injured or incapacitated in hot landing zones. In time, the Republic equipped front-line attack shuttles with the complete sensor package and R-series astromechs to overcome the design's shortcomings. The droids provided fundamental ship maintenance in the field and managed the cargo deck during combat extraction missions thus returning the gunner to the much needed close air support role.
Although growing increasingly rare with age and the onset of the Galactic Civil War, a Nu Class Shuttle can be occasionally spotted in demilitarized civilian service. The military surplus versions of the shuttles vary greatly in configuration as much of the removal of the military equipment was left to salvagers who often stretched the regulations in order to provide a more attractive used vessel for resale. As such, no two Nu-class shuttles in civilian service are alike; each tends to retain some unique combination of defensive (and at times offensive) capabilities hidden away in its systems with only the most minor changes to deactivate its military roots.
The rarest variant is a Nu Class Shuttle equipped with its custom cargo pod. Designed specifically for these shuttles on missions during the Clone Wars, most were destroyed in combat, abandoned in contested territories, dropped for refugee facilities or scrapped shortly after the Empire assumed control of the Republic's military. An early-generation pod-equipped shuttle's agility drops in atmospheric flight because of the increased drag and strain on the flight systems. Although a drawback for hot landing zones, this feature of the shuttle when applied to relatively “safe” combat missions in green zones offered field flexibility that was second to none.
During the Clone Wars, creative engineers and astromechs did fashion a wide range of battlefield drive system modifications to restore agility of container-equipped and tailless Nu Class shuttles. The modifications, however, came at the expense of energy reserves, thus shortening range and increasing fuel burn. The agility issue was rectified in later variants with the addition of an advanced vertical stabilizer. Aside from providing atmospheric stability, the vertical stabilizer includes internal dampeners and mass compensators to improve hyperspace travel efficiency when a container is attached. The tall tail of the Nu Class has become the signature of later generations of Cygnus-derived shuttles.
Today, the larger Lambda Class Shuttle has replaced the Nu Class in all aspects of Imperial service. As of 1 ABY, no Nu Class shuttles are known to be in Imperial service.