The Cylon Raider is a large flying wing fighter that remains a powerful, nimble and sophisticated combat platform utilised exclusively by the Cylons. An oval shaped starfighter with two powerful engines, the Raider is designed to perform multiple roles but is typically employed as a strike fighter.
It is armed with two large forward firing cannons and has internal bays for bombs along with underwing hardpoints, that allow it to carry a huge amount of firepower. It can also be configured to hold Centurions as an assault ship. The Raider features a command deck from which its crew of three pilot the ship. Two centurions sit up front at the controls to fly the ship, while the third centurion sits on a raised chair behind the others to command and coordinate. An uneasy design to fly, the Raider requires constant micro-management of its thrusters and reaction control system to manage the heavy but incredibly manouevrable spacecraft and have it perform at its best.
Originally developed by the Caprican Government, the Raider was competitively evaluated against the Viper Mark I to see which would be adopted by the CAF as its primary attack craft and fighter before the Cylon rebellion. While both had comparable performance the Raider was considered more versatile, easier to produce by Cylon equipped industry and capable of being piloted by Centurions, then being introduced into the Caprican Military. Though not easily launched from a Battlestar, a different command ship design was being concurrently developed at Scorpia, that could handle larger spacecraft, and so this was not seen as a particular shortcoming. Caprica opted to adopt the Raider on the eve of the Cylon War; though the Viper Mark One was put into production also, due to interest by the Government of Leonis who presented with a sizeable pre-order payment.
The earliest Cylon rebellions on Caprica were met with concern by other Colonies though the gravity of the situation wasn't realised until Military Centurions rebelled and stormed the factory where the Raiders were being made; destroyed it and made off with all assembled examples. A simultaneous attack on Caprican Government computer networks and surgical strikes against Raider component factories crippled the Colonial ability to manufacture the design, while also stealing copies then destroying Caprican held plans. Centurions were able to hold and utilise, or destroy and deny, the Capricans own munitions factories and Centurion production lines because of their immediate use of Raiders.
Independent Cylon production of the Raider began quickly at 'shadow factories' set beyond the Cyrannus System; with much of the early war effort by the Centurions directed at keeping humanity's military assets on the defensive rather than actively seeking out Cylon means of production.
Raider squadrons would typically roam the Twelve Colonies independently, supported by a Cylon Tanker (which would re-fuel and re-arm combat fighters) engaging targets of opportunity and gathering data on enemy traffic. They would form up into larger 'big wings' that would then launch serious strikes against a particular 'prize target'. This required humanity to dedicate significant resources to space patrols, escort missions and sweeps against these 'wolfpacks'.