- Ark shuttlecraft sometimes function as transport for the Autobots in the Generation One continuity family.
While the Ark itself spent most of Generation One stuck in the side of a volcano, the Autobots were not stranded in Oregon by any means. The mothership was positively stuffed to the brim with smaller shuttlecraft of varying designs and functions. It is possible that not all of the shuttles on the Ark were spacefaring craft as many of them are not seen to leave Earth's atmosphere, though later models are capable of travelling interstellar distances. They are a convenient and apparently disposable way for the Autobots to get where they need to be when the
plotmission of the week demands it.
Types of Ark shuttlecraft
Several of the shuttlecraft share similar designs, and at least five types of shuttle have been seen. Presumably each of these was designed for a specific purpose, though what that might have been is open to speculation.
This class of Ark shuttle is capable of spaceflight and is compatible with transwarp technology. Among its features are a flight recorder that records the experiences of all the crewmembers aboard. Although a shuttle of this type was carried on board the Ark, the cockpit and controls are small enough for a Maximal to operate, suggesting that its use may have been limited to the smaller Autobots aboard. These shuttles are outwardly sturdy - the Omega Delta crashed through the bridge of the Nemesis without damage, but are easily damaged from the inside - the same shuttle was destroyed by a punch to the control console.
When the Ark crashed on Earth it was carrying the shuttle Omega Delta on board, along with the deactivated Autobots and Decepticons. At the end of the Beast Wars, Rhinox appropriated the Omega Delta to defeat the Nemesis. Blackarachnia noted that the history tapes never mentioned a shuttle on board the Ark. She obviously didn't read the Marvel comics.
After it had been fitted with a transwarp cell, the shuttle flew Rhinox, along with his fellow Maximals and the captive Megatron back to Cybertron. It's unknown whether the Autobots - on awaking in 1984 - asked one another: "Dude, where's our shuttle?"
"Heart of Gold"-type
Bearing a resemblance to a black repaint of the Heart of Gold starship from the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy TV series, this shuttle was used for intercontinental flight within Earth's atmosphere. It has pop-out weaponry on the front section and is combat-capable.
Optimus Prime led a small group of Autobots to England in a Heart of Gold-type shuttle to try to locate the Man of Iron's ship before the Decepticons could get hold of it. It was aboard this shuttle that he encountered Sammy Harker. When the ship was located beneath Stansham Castle and battle was joined against the Decepticons, the shuttle led the Autobot attacks and was eventually successful in driving their enemies away.
It was not seen again, though it's possible the Autobots used it the next time they travelled across the Atlantic.
Examples of this kind of Ark shuttle are few and far between. They are known to carry a control crystal, and are fitted with weaponry that can be detached and fired remotely by humans. Only one shuttle of this design has been seen, and neither of its two depictions gives a particularly clear view, but it would seem to share some design elements with Boba Fett's ship Slave I from the Star Wars universe.
The Dinobots' shuttle was salvaged by a human paleontologist who used its technology to care for sick dinosaurs. When this was discovered by the Dinobots in 1992, they used the shuttle's equipment to transfer Snarl's mind into the body of a Stegosaurus. What happened to the Stegosaurus's mind went unrecorded.
"Bird of Prey"-type
Similar in design to a Klingon Bird of Prey from the Star Trek universe, these shuttles saw common service on Earth in the early days of the Great War. The Ark carried at least four Bird of Prey-types, though most of them were destroyed in combat. They have a storage bay capable of holding and deploying a mobile Autobot repair bay, or M.A.R.B. and appropriately enough they can be fitted with cloaking devices.
Ratchet took a shuttle of this design to retrieve the Dinobots from the Savage Land. When the Dinobots went rampaging across America due to damage to their primary cybo-dendrons, the Autobots used a number of Bird of Prey-type shuttles to follow them. The first, piloted by Cliffjumper, Gears and Windcharger, was captured by the Decepticons and booby-trapped, later destroyed by Bumblebee. A second suffered heavy damage when either Grimlock or Sludge bit through the fuel tank, injuring Bluestreak and Huffer, while a third piloted by Prowl was written off when he crashed it into Grimlock. Only Prime's shuttle was undamaged.
It seems likely that these craft were not originally amongst the Ark's complement but were instead commandeered from the Steelhaven. They are capable of transporting troops from orbit to a planet's surface, as well as interstellar travel. Fulfilling a similar purpose to the Bird of Prey shuttles, ATTTs are used to transport small groups of Autobots over long distances, often between worlds. The Ark apparently had a number of these vehicles, as at least one was lost in combat.
Later, Grimlock stole an ATTT from the Ark to take the Dinobots to Hydrus Four.
Rarely seen, this type of shuttle is one of the largest. With a smooth, rounded hull, it is capable of carrying large numbers of Autobots to a planet from the Ark in orbit.
Optimus Prime led the Autobots to the New Jersey swamps in a "Dome"-type shuttle when he surrendered to Scorponok. It was presumably destroyed when Shockwave's forces attacked, as it was not seen again.