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- This article is about the spacecraft class that preceded the DropShips. For the K-1 "DropShuttle" small craft, see K-1.
In BattleTech, the term DropShuttle is applied to the class of ships that were the predecessors of the modern-day DropShips. The defining difference is that DropShuttles had to be carried internally in DropShuttle Bays, while DropShips make use of the vastly more efficient hardpoint/docking collar coupling.
DropShuttles are often inaccurately described as (primitive) DropShips, and under BattleTech construction rules they also follow the design rules for primitive DropShips. Many early DropShip classes were derived from existing DropShuttle designs, and it is implied many individual DropShuttles were upgraded with a K-F Boom to become DropShips. Generally, any "DropShip" prior to ca. 2468, when the first standard JumpShip class went into mass production, would have been a DropShuttle instead.
It has officially been clarified that the DropShuttle and DropShip technologies are incompatible: Even small DropShips of no more than 5,000 tons in size must dock to a hardpoint, and cannot be carried through a jump in a DropShuttle Bay.
Prior to the invention of the Kearny-Fuchida Boom technology in 2458 that spawned the hardpoint/docking collar coupling and would rapidly make DropShuttles obsolete after around 2470, jump-capable starships that were typically incapable of landing on planets had to rely on small craft or DropShuttles for transferring cargo or personnel, or for planetary operations. Because of Kearny-Fuchida physics their "DropShuttles" were carried in internal DropShuttle bays and could mass no more than 5,000 tons on the outside. The DropShuttle bays themselves were massive, severely limiting the early JumpShips' ability to carry cargo.
- In this rules clarification answer by Joel "Welshman" Bancroft-Connors on the official BattleTech Forum:
(Welshman) "As per the rules for Pressurized Bays, you need a Docking Collar to have DropShip carried even when inside a Jump capable craft. Otherwise the JumpShip will jump, leaving behind a mangled DropShip and likely misjumsp in the process. [...] Once you add a KF boom you are changing the interaction of the DS to the JS. If it doesn't connect to a Docking Collar it will have very bad things happen to it."
(Follow-up question) "So, [...] a Primitive JumpShip or a WarShip with DropShuttle Bays can carry DropShuttles that lack KF Booms but are utterly incapable of carrying more modern DropShips that possess KF Booms?"
(Welshman) "Correct. If you have a KF Boom, you have to use a Collar."