The A/H-536 Thunderhawk was designed to replace the aging A/H-389 Warhawk as the Imperial Navy's primary assault dropship. Put into service in late 2540's shortly before the Reconquest Wars, the Thunderhawk has become easily one of the most iconic aerospace craft in Imperial service in the century since. The design has proven so successful in numberless combat situations that the Thunderhawk is constantly upgraded and modernized, and is expected to remain in service for at least another century.
When the Sidh military command began to plan to recapture their lost realms of the old pre-Age of War Imperium, it became evident that the Navy would need a new upgraded assault dropship to fly in the first waves of planetary invasions and provide close air support to the troops on ground.
In order to gear up effectively for a massive invasion, the Navy needed to streamline it's logistics as much as possible. While the A/H-389 Warhawk, the direct ancestor of Thunderhawk, was a time-tested, robust and reliable design as an aerospace gunship and troop carrier and performed reasonably well in it's intended role, it simply lacked in versatility, requiring different models of ships for other roles. In order to simplify their logistics, the Navy hoped to design a single ship that could perform adequately in all of those roles, requiring only minor modification before each mission. This would tremendously simplify the requisition, supply and maintenance processes and expend resources much more efficiently.
Initially the Navy was considering adopting the Valkyrie dropship that was introduced around the same time by the Army, but in the end opted against it, finding the Valkyrie too specialized for a gunship role and more suited for extended endo-atmospheric operations than extended spaceflight.
Since the new ship was to serve primarily as an assault dropship, the Warhawk was selected as basis for it's design. The Navy engineers would then strip it down to bare bones and redesign it to be modular. The resulting Thunderhawk could be repurposed for dramatically different roles in a matter of hours at most simply by swapping modules.
The Thunderhawk consequently proved a resounding success when the Reconquest Wars were finally launched, serving capably not just as an assault transport and gunship, but also as a bomber and vehicle/cargo transport. The Imperial Guard too opted to adopt the Thunderhawk rather than the Valkyrie as their standard dropship upon witnessing it's success.
The Thunderhawk is a refined yet simple and robust craft, designed for maximum reliability, ease of manufacture and maintenance. Because of the Thunderhawk's great convertibility, a typical Navy task force can entirely fill the roles of assault dropships, light vehicle transports, gunships and light bombers with variously-configured Thunderhawks. The overall design is in fact so simple that most parts can even be manufactured in shipboard workshops, without requiring specialized forge ships in the fleet.
Being heavily armored and lacking in aerodynamics (being designed primarily for space rather than atmospheric flight), the Thunderhawk is a blocky and graceless ship. Weighing way too much for wings of it's size to keep it aloft in atmosphere, the Thunderhawk relies on it's gravplates to stay airborne and maneuver, the brutal driving force of it's triple fusion-powered rocket/turbojet hybrid engines propelling it forth. It can, however, survive considerably more punishment than most other craft of comparable size, making it well-suited for it's main task of delivering and supporting planetary assault forces.
Typically relying on the overwhelming firepower of it's dorsal main gun, two wing-mounted auxiliary guns and a missile barrage, a Thunderhawk usually engages enemies entering a steep strafing run. These runs are further aided by it's two front gun hardpoints, which usually mount some form of automated turrets. The frontal turrets have only limited use in defending the ship from incoming attacks, instead being meant to provide suppressing fire on the enemy while the troops inside leave the ship via the frontal ramp. If fitted with broadside guns, the ship can provide extended fire support by circling and relentlessly bombarding the target.
The baseline 536 configuration includes a frontally-opening heavily armored cargo bay capable of holding up to 36 troops and two APCs. It's armament consists of a mix of ballistic and missile armaments with some energy weapons.
The A1 configuration retains the same cargo capacity, while swapping ballistic weapons, most notably the massive trademark dorsal gun, for energy weapons. This configuration is used mainly in conditions where quick and reliable ammunition replenishment cannot be guaranteed.
These two configurations aren't set in stone, merely being factory standards, pilots and flight technicians being free to experiment with creating their own ones best suited for the mission at hand.
The T configuration is perhaps the most radical departure from the original Thunderhawk form, eschewing nearly all armament for cargo carrying capacity. The T configuration can airlift up to two fully up-armored Battlemaster tanks into battle by means of powerful external holding clamps and additional gravplates to help keep the burdened ship aloft.
The B configuration removes most of direct fire weapons in favour of additional ordnance hardpoints, replacing the cargo bay module with a specialized ordnance bay. B-variant Thunderhawks can then be outfitted with missiles and torpedoes for a variety of missions typically reserved for specialized aerospace bombers.
Various non-standard configurations exist in different battlefleets, such as a semi-official "E configuration" outfitting the ship for electronic warfare, a "Shadowhawk" stealth variant manufactured in very limited numbers and most often used by the Order of Judicators and various spec-ops units within the Army and Navy, and more.