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Technically a Transport

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Transports. We all know them. Slow. Weaponless. Altogether quite vulnerable. But what if you could fix that little issue? In comes this thing; A humble battlefield bus turned into a substitute front-line tank. Or gunship. And it can still drop off its passengers and cargo most of the time. But who'd want to?


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Mobile Suit Gundam examples:
    • The Columbus-class, the Federation's main carrier, started out as an unarmed troop/cargo transport, before the Federation refitted it into a fighter (later mobile suit) carrier and added point defense weapons.
    • According to Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Zeon's ubiquitous Musai-class cruiser originated as the Arcana-class liner. In a twist, it's implied that it was intended for this trope from the start, as the ship bow is designed from the start to deviate and absorb beam weapon shots, with Zeon building the liners to create a vast fleet under the Federation's nose and being able to have a powerful battlefleet in less than a year once they converted them.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In the Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake, the survivors turn a tour bus into an armoured zombie killing death machine (complete with slots that let them use chainsaws to get rid of undead hitchers) in order to make a break towards the pier.
  • The movie The Pentagon Wars is about a Real Life development project that went this way: the Bradley Fighting Vehicle started out as a pure troop transport vehicle, but as development continued it acquired more and more features of a tank.
  • Star Wars has a surprising amount of these:
    • Corellian Engineering Corporation is well known in-universe for making highly customizable transports that could be turned into capable warships, sometimes with modification kits made directly by CEC. Among them we have the YT-series of light freighters (in their stock models they carry a single light gun... And provisions for more numerous and much heavier ones, plus the ability to mount incredibly fast engines and powerful shields. The Millennium Falcon is a YT-1300f, and the weapon array includes two capital ship point defense quad-guns, a pop-up light blaster cannons, and concussion missiles), the HWK-290 light freighter (as a stock model, it's completely unarmed-and moves closer to a starfighter than a freighter. Kyle Katarn's first ship was a modified HWK-290), the Gozanti-class cruiser (a largish merchant ship, if a well armed and armored one and intentionally made slow to prevent pirate use. Both Rebels and Empire are known to modify it into a light assault carrier, and CEC itself has made their own militarized version), the CR90 corvette (an armed transport, with available assault corvette and troop transport configurations among many, with the stock model being already more than capable of fending off pirates), the CR70 corvette (an unarmed transport in its standard configuration. Once the Vanguard c20 retrofit suite is applied it basically turns into a CR90), the Consular-class space cruiser (a completely unarmed vessel, that both the Republic's Judicial Forces and the various local militias were known to arm for anti-pirate duties. Then for the Clone Wars CEC came up with the Charger c70 retrofit, turning it into a very capable light frigate and giving the Republic a military fleet almost overnight), and the Sphyrna-class corvette (another armed transport, even if inspired by an ancient warship model, armed with three laser cannons. The Rebellion would modify the ships with torpedo launchers or additional engines for hit-and-run attacks. In Rogue One one with an additional engine was able to push a disabled Star Destroyer into a fully active Star Destroyer and a hostile space station, destroying all three at once).
    • The Trade Federation's Lucrehulk warships were originally unarmed merchant ships, if incredibly massive, supposed to deal with pirate attacks simply by ignoring them thanks to powerful deflector shields and their sheer size. Then the Trade Federation turned them into troop transports and strapped some guns on them for the invasion of Naboo, as a planetary government, even a pacifist one, had access to better weapons than pirates (such as the proton torpedoes that eventually took out the droid control ship), and ten years later, having had time for a more complete refit, they sport stronger shields and more (and better placed) guns, turning them into formidable warships. A more detailed description can can be found here.
    • Courier ships are usually small one or two-men ships built for speed and light transport. Darth Maul's Scimitar was a Star Courier (as in, the model was actually called that) made by Republic Sienar System and customized by Raith Sienar himself and Darth Tenebrous to have guns that just bypass shields, an experimental ion drive array that would later be refined in the twin ion engine array of the TIE series, and a cloaking device (something the Scimitar is supposed to be too small to be able to mount).
    • The Rebels' Mon Calamari-made ships were originally liners, cityships, and traders that, as per Mon Cala building practices, were completely unarmed but sported surprisingly strong shields... And hardpoints for weapons, that were put to use once the Mon Cala rose against the Empire.
    • The Dauntless-class cruisers were originally luxury liners manufactured by SoroSuub, the shipwright company of the planet Sullust, with powerful shields and thick hulls to deal with the endemic piracy in the Outer Rim. When the Sullustans rose and joined the Rebellion, SoroSuub took the ships and added stronger shields, sophisticated countermeasures, and an insane amount of weapons, turning them into one of the few ships capable of taking on an Imperial Star Destroyer and win.
    • The T-47 airspeeder was originally built as an industrial cargo handler, using its magnetic harpoon and tow cable to control repursorlift cargo modules. They're better known as the Rebel Snowspeeder, as the Rebels, strapped for resources as usual, armed them with light laser cannons and used them as recon and light attack crafts. They used it almost everywhere they had a base, but the use on the icy world of Hoth is the most famous instance due how how they put the tow cables to good use.
    • The GR-75 medium transport was made by Gallofree Yards as a cargo ship, capable of transporting 19,000 tonnes of cargo. After its manufacturer went bankrupt, the Rebel Alliance acquired so many of them it started becoming known as the "Rebel transport"... And, being perpetually strapped for ships, they adapted a number of them into light corvettes and troop transports, and would sometime load them with explosives and throw them at Star Destroyers (one of the reasons they had them at Endor being kamikaze attacks, the other being apparently draw fire away from the actual warships).
    • The V-4X-D was originally made for asteroid slalom racing. When the sport shut down due an entire group of racers getting eaten by stone mites, the Rebels acquired some of the speeders and, due their high performance, equipped them with laser cannons for use as land-based high-speed assault vehicles.
    • As hinted above, the Rebel Alliance was very prone to arm any transport they could due them having very little numbers of actual warships, and generally of smaller size, compared to the Empire.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Car Wars. Big rig trucks are often armed with extensive weaponry in case they're attacked by bandits or have to engage in autodueling.
  • Star Fleet Battles. Many interstellar civilizations used armed transports and Q-ships to defend convoys from Orion pirates and other raiders.
  • Warhammer 40,000. The Land Raider and the Wave Serpent are both transport vehicles that function at least as well as battle tanks.
    • The vast majority of battle tanks for all sides are modified versions of that faction's main transport vehicle, swapping out their troop carrying capacity for bigger guns.
    • The Chimera is technically purchased as a transport vehicle for Imperial Guard squads, but it's really an Infantry Fighting Vehicle and players tend to use it as a light tank more often than a transport.
  • There's a few in BattleTech. Where most troop carriers tend towards carrying small missile weapons, machine guns, or the odd light laser/flamethrower, there's a few designs that substitute easily as tanks. The Tyr is a tough, fast Hover Tank that has the benefit of carrying a squad of Power Armor troopers in the back. The Hasek carries heavy armor and a PPC in its turret, making it the equivalent of a light tank. The kicker, however, is the Indra, which carries an infantry team in one end and a fearsome Clan-built ER PPC in the other, providing enough firepower to blow away light 'Mechs and potentially decapitating any 'Mech in a single shot.

    Video Games 
  • Battlefield 2142: With the Air Transports filled with various members of a squad. Most commonly being Engineers, a Medic/Soldier, and Supports.
  • Supreme Commander: A T1 or T2 Dropship loaded with T1 Light Assault Bots. The Cybrans can stick a T2 Mobile Stealth Field Generator with the LAB's to make it impossible to shoot down early without Omni-Sensors. In Forged Alliance,the UEF gets a T3 Dropship with a self-projected shield to jack survivability. The in-house term is "Ghetto Gunship"
  • Twisted Metal: Just look at half the vehicles, you'll see it.
  • The Batman: Arkham Knight version of the Batmobile has a pair of fold-away harness chairs in an armored compartment, used to get civilians, injured cops and the like to safety.
  • PlanetSide 2 has the Sunderer, a Big Badass Rig Base on Wheels. Normally outfitted only with a pair of mediocre 20mm guns and poor armor but the ability to deploy into a spawn point and carry 12 people, it can be outfitted with automatic grenade launchers, heavy armor, and an engine that lets it outrun the game's Cool Bike, all without affecting its spawning ability or carrying capacity. This "Battle Bus" is a terrifying enemy, being a Lightning Bruiser with the capacity to vomit out a dozen people in MAX Powered Armor. The original game also had the Deliverer armored truck and its empire-specific derivatives, which carried less armor but was more agile and amphibious.
  • In Ground Control II: Operation Exodus, when properly upgraded, your dropship can be your most powerful weapon on the battlefield thanks to its mobility, firepower, and survivability. Its primary bane is dedicated anti-air units. It also only shows up for a short time before leaving and requires you to actually order some reinforcements to appear. This is in contrast to the first game's dropships, which are purely unarmed transports.
  • Empire Earth II: In the first 5 eras, the Galley/Trireme/Decareme is the only naval combat unit and transport (the other two being a fishing ship and a merchant ship). It has surprisingly good range, allowing it to clear out fortifications and units before landing its troops. After that, combat ships undergo Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors specialization, and Defenseless Transports becomes the norm.
  • The Aftermath expansion for Command & Conquer: Red Alert features the campaign-only Phase Transport, a modification of the APC (a heavily armoured transport armed with a small machine gun). The Phase Transport exchanges most of the transport capability of the APC (it has room for a single infantry unit instead of five) for high-powered rocket launchers and cloaking capability.
  • In Homeworld: Cataclysm, your ship the Kuun-Lan is essentially a large mining ship equipped with some decent but not exceptional mass driver cannons, relying on its embarked fighter complement and the dedicated combat ships it can build for defense against anything larger than fighters. As the game proceeds, however, the Kuun-Lan receives upgrades that include better armor (twice), replacing the original guns with more powerful energy cannons, and mounting the Siege Cannon, making it the single most formidable ship in the game.

    Real Life 
  • The AC-130 gunship. It's simply a Hercules cargo plane with guns and ammo rolled on board, pointing out the port side. The AC-47 and AC-119 having a similar history.
  • The Merkava main battle tank has space for 6 passengers in addition to the 4 man crew.
  • Maybe not "a near unstoppable force of destruction", but a technical is a pickup truck fitted with guns (Also seen in Command & Conquer: Generals/Zero Hour, they upgrade increasing their strength through wreckage.) They're pretty cheap—regions vulnerable to the kinds of spontaneous and low-tech armed conflict that technicals show up in tend to have lots of reason (open terrain, farming) to have pickup trucks—and can pack a punch with the right armament, and not to mention can be armored with whatever scrap metal you can find. Disadvantage: The guy in the back actually manning the gun is pretty exposed.
    • In the right conditions they can be surprisingly effective, to the point that the final phase of the Chadian-Libyan Conflict is named "The Great Toyota War" after the large number of Toyota Hilux and Toyota Land Cruiser pick-ups that France provided to Chad and, equipped with modern anti-tank missiles, inflicted the Libyan tank-equipped forces a series of devastating and embarrassing defeats that brought Gaddafi to the negotiation's table.
  • During The American Civil War, the Confederacy salvaged the USS Merrimack and outfitted her with iron plating, renaming her the CSS Virginia. To be fair, though, the Merrimack had been a frigate before that, so not really an example of this trope.
  • Many wheeled Armoured Personnel Carriers, awesome or otherwise, start out this way: The chassis of a light truck or large 4x4 with an armoured body-shell and a roof hatch with a ring mount for a machine gun.
  • Most Infantry Fighting Vehicles qualify, with the general definition being an armored vehicle that can transport a squad of infantry and is also armed with a 20mm or larger cannon.
  • "Gun trucks" used by the US military in both the Vietnam War and Iraq. Basically a standard military truck fitted with armour plating and automatic weapons, they started being used in both conflicts as an efficient way of protecting supply convoys from attack by insurgents armed only with small arms.
  • Armed merchant cruisers are quite literally merchant ships with guns and sometimes torpedo launchers bolted onto the decks. Though usually no match for a proper cruiser (emphasis on usually; just ask HMAS Sydney), they're much cheaper and are just as capable of threatening unarmed merchant ships.
  • Quite a few merchant ships during the Age of Sail were armed. Some, most notably the East Indiamen, had firepower comparable to actual warships, and in fact served as actual warships on occasion.
  • Most naval transports since WWI carry at least some self-defense armament, usually of the anti-air variety, though most defense is still delegated to the escorts assigned to them.
  • Amphibious assault ships are probably the best Real Life example to date. The Wasp and America classes can, on top of a heavy battalion of Marines, carry enough fighters to qualify as small aircraft carriers, and the preceding Tarawa class even had a couple of 5" guns for fire support.
    • WWII also saw numerous landing craft equipped with weapons themselves to help support the landings, mostly rockets, surplus naval guns, or in the case of some Japanese landing craft, tank turrets.
    • When the carriers USS Lexington and USS Saratoga were constructed the Navy was not yet convinced of the efficacy of aircraft as weapons. As such both were equipped with a battery of eight 8" guns in four double turrets as well as a number of dual purpose 5" guns, armament about on par with a heavy cruiser of the time.
  • Helicopter gunships are a distinct category compared to attack helicopters; the former carry passengers in addition to their armament, while attack helicopters do not.
  • The galleass derived from the large merchant galleys that had been used as merchant ships in the Mediterranean through the Middle Ages-and indeed, the first batch of six were merchant ships that Venice decided to stuff with 36 heavy guns (18 per side) and many smaller ones for the Battle of Lepanto (with the commander of the League fleet, John of Austria, replacing many swordfighters of the crews with musketeers to increase their firepower). Compared to the galley warships normally used in the Mediterranean they were slow and unwieldy... And formidably armed, as a galley had a single heavy gun fore and one aft plus some lighter ones. The Ottomans thought the original six were cargo ships that had found themselves in the wrong place and tried to board them, losing 70 ships and suffering damage and personnel loss to many others before they decided to just sail around them. Lepanto ended with the annihilation of the Ottoman fleet for the loss of just 17 galleys, with the League losses in terms of personnel more than replaced by the slaves freed in the battle and the Ottoman naval power being crippled for centuries due the loss of so many experienced sailors.
  • During World War I, the Royal Italian Navy came up with the MAS (initially meaning Motoscafo Armato SVAN, Armed Motorboat SVAN, with SVAN being the initial manufacturer, later meaning Motoscafo Armato Silurante, Torpedo Armed Motorboat): literally civilian offshore motorboats massing from 20 to 30 tonnes depending on the model and manufactured out of wood (as metal models resulted slower), carrying a machine gun or a small autocannon, depth bombs, and two torpedoes-the latter of which sunk multiple Austo-Hungarian battleships, including the flagship. Their small size was however detrimental when operating outside the calm waters of the Adriatic Sea, limiting their usefulness during World War II.
  • In the 1950s, French paratroops needed anti-tank firepower that could be both launched with the soldiers and still keep up with them on land. The need was filled by the Vespa 150 TAP: a civilian Vespa 150 scooter made by Piaggio and then reinforced and fitted with a 75mm recoiless rifle, with the weapon being supposed to be mounted on a tripod before firing but still able to be fired from the moving scooter if needed.
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