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The Raider is the standard starfighter employed by the Cylons in the 1978 science fiction television series and movie Battlestar Galactica along with its re-imagining in the 2003 miniseries and 2004 television series.
The Raider in the original 1978 series is a roughly saucer-shaped, twin-engine craft seen employed by the Cylon Empire and used in a fighter-bomber role. They were frequently depicted attacking the titular Battlestar, the rag-tag fleet it protects, their Viper fighters, and humans and targets on the surface of planets. Raiders were often shown flying in three-ship formations, strafing large ships and occasionally making kamikaze-style suicide attacks, notably striking Battlestar fighter launch and landing bays. They were used in an interceptor role against enemy craft approaching a Basestar.
Raiders feature large cockpits with three seats, two forward ones and one to the rear for the commander, whether that be a Cylon Centurion or the human traitor Baltar. In the episodes "The Living Legend" and "War of the Gods" Baltar utilizes a Raider to act as his personal transport. Albeit the Cylons are depicted as robots, their ship interiors were frequently depicted as containing a human-breathable atmosphere.
The original series' Raider made an appearance in the reimagined series vignette Battlestar Galactica: Razor, though slightly altered in appearance, and piloted by centurions very reminiscent of the originals.
Galactica 1980 series
In addition to the typical Raiders, a larger 'Super' Raider was depicted in the sequel series Galactica 1980. It was called the "AB Raider".
Battlestar Galactica (2003, 2004–2009)
Cylon Raiders from The Plan
|First appearance||Mini Series, Part 1|
Kinetic Energy Weapons|
This fighter is very different from the previous, piloted Raider used during the Cylon War (the Raider from the 1978 series). The new Raiders are cybernetic in nature: the ship is actually a living creature, with a complex system of organs, veins and biological fluids inside the main body. Just like the humanoid Cylons, the Raiders are also capable of being "reborn" into new Raiders after having been destroyed. This is done so that new, replacement Raiders do not have to be trained, meaning that experienced combat "pilots" that have been killed are quickly available for duty again. This provides the Cylons with a distinct tactical advantage in the amount of battle-seasoning a Raider will have over a replacement Viper pilot; in essence, every time a Raider is destroyed, it is reborn slightly improved having "learned" through each Death/Downloading/Rebirth life-cycle it undergoes. Raiders can also perform riskier, but more devastating attacks on the Colonials, including kamikaze-style attacks.
The Raiders have many weapons, including conventional and nuclear missiles as well as kinetic energy weapons. They can transmit a computer virus to a Colonial vessel using the Command Navigation Program (CNP), rendering the Colonial vessel inoperable. When transmitting the virus, its red eye activates and oscillates to the left and right repeatedly.
The Cylon Raider is also capable of making FTL jumps. After a Heavy Raider was captured by the Battlestar Galactica, its FTL drive system was discovered to be more efficient than those on the Colonial vessels. It could travel the distance of Kobol to Caprica in less than 10 jumps (compared to the estimated 120 jumps the Colonial fleet would take). It is capable of atmospheric flight, as was its predecessor, and is far more maneuverable in spaceflight than the previous Raider, likely due to upgraded thrust-vectoring systems.
The re-imagined series also presents a new class of raider, dubbed the 'Heavy Raider'. First debuting in the Season 2 premiere Scattered, Heavy Raiders serve as troop transports, boarding ships, and fire support roles. Unlike normal Cylon Raiders, Heavy Raiders are not autonomous beings, and require at least one pilot. Humanoid Cylons, Centurions, and later Humans are shown to pilot Heavy Raiders. Heavy Raiders are used heavily in Season 4, particularly by the Rebel Cylons after the bulk of their Raider complement is destroyed during the Cylon Civil War
While maintaining the sleek design of Cylon craft, Heavy Raiders are noticeably bulkier in appearance. Wings similar to those of a Cylon Raider appear towards the sides of the craft, with the front tips giving the appearance of 'tusks'. The Heavy Raider also retains the face-plate of a Cylon Raider, including the rotating eye. Unlike other Cylon craft, the Heavy Raider is not symmetrical; rather than having the face-plate in the center of the craft, the Heavy Raider's face-plate is located on the starboard side, with the weapon systems (see below) mounted in the center. As with other Cylon craft, the Heavy Raider possesses an FTL-drive that is more efficient than its Colonial counterpart.
Like the standard Cylon Raider, the Heavy Raider is armed with missiles and machine guns. However, Heavy Raiders carry 4 guns as opposed to the standard Raiders' 2. This allows them to sustain a higher volume of fire that can be used to ward off attackers. Heavy Raiders are also significantly more durable than the standard Raider. This is evident in their debut episode, where a Heavy Raider manages to successfully crash-land on Galactica with its crew intact, despite taking continuous damage from pursuing Vipers and Galactica's defensive weapons.
Sharon Valerii has stated that the Cylon Raiders are very much like trained animals with basic thought and survival instincts. They also feel pain and trauma in the experience of death.
During battle in the episode "He That Believeth in Me", a Raider scans a Viper piloted by Samuel T. Anders. The Raider, possibly believing Anders to be one of the Final Five Cylons withdraws, along with the other Raiders who refuse to fight. This act leads the Twos, the Sixes, and the Eights to believe the Raiders have developed free will. The other models believe the Raiders have exceeded their original programming and vote, along with a single Number Eight, Boomer, to have the Raiders reconfigured back to their basic mode. The Twos, Sixes and other Eights protest vehemently and in retribution remove inhibitor modules from the Centurions, effectively giving them independent thought. The Centurions become angered by what the other models have considered the lobotomy of the Raiders and seek retribution on the models who voted for it.
Kara Thrace's Cylon Raider
In the episode "Act of Contrition", Kara "Starbuck" Thrace shot down a Cylon Raider, but her Viper was damaged in the process and she was forced to eject, landing on a nearby moon. In the course of the following episode, she located the downed Raider and discovered its biotechnological nature. Experimenting with the various systems, she eventually managed to fly it back to Galactica, having previously written her callsign on the wings using adhesive tape, so that Galactica's fighter patrols wouldn't try to shoot her down - a tactic that was not entirely successful, as a brief dogfight ensued with Lee "Apollo" Adama before he got close enough to read it. The Raider was brought back to Galactica to be studied by Chief Tyrol and his team.
In the first-season finale, "Kobol's Last Gleaming," Thrace was ordered to use the Raider to transport a nuclear bomb on a mission to destroy a Cylon Basestar in the orbit of Kobol. However, President Roslin asked her to use the Raider's FTL capabilities to return to Caprica to retrieve the Arrow of Apollo instead. Disheartened by the fact that Commander Adama had lied to her and the rest of the crew about Earth, she pretended to embark on a final test mission, but jumped away to Caprica.
On Cylon-occupied Caprica, Kara fought and killed a copy of Number Six in the Delphi museum. Kara successfully retrieved the Arrow and met up with the stranded Galactica crewmember Karl "Helo" Agathon and a copy of her crewmate Sharon "Boomer" Valerii, revealing her to be a Cylon. Sharon (a Number Eight) fled in Kara's Raider. Sharon later returned minus the Raider (its fate is never shown or explained), but later stole a Heavy Raider, using it in an attack on several Centurions, and then transported all three back to Galactica.
Appearing in the episode of the same name, Scar was a particularly vicious and elusive raider identified by a gash on the side of its "face". Using highly effective hit-and-run, ambush and divide-and-conquer tactics, Scar repeatedly ambushed and destroyed Colonial viper patrols during mining operations in an asteroid field.
Sharon Agathon pointed out that given the (previously unknown) ability of Cylon raiders to "resurrect" like their humanoid counterparts, Scar's remarkable combat skill was likely due to having fought (and/or being destroyed by) Colonial pilots and learning from these previous encounters. Agathon also suggested that due to the lack of a nearby Cylon Resurrection ship, Scar would be more difficult to beat, given its newly added fear of death.
Eventually the raider was hunted down by Starbuck and Louanne 'Kat' Katraine. Kat destroyed Scar after Starbuck lured the raider into her sights. Kat managed to destroy one of Scar's wings, causing it to crash into an asteroid which destroyed it completely. As the resurrection ship had previously been destroyed, its death was permanent this time.
As a final note, Agathon implied that Scar was Kara Thrace's Raider (see above). This could lead to the notion that Scar had a vendetta against the Colonial pilot. However, the truth of this claim has not been addressed in canon thus far.
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- Real-Life Cylon Raiders Closer Than We Think - Filmcritic.com Feature