It was later an important addition to the Imperial Navy; although 350 meters long, the small combat cruisers were heavily armed and had a top speed that matched X-wing starfighters.
The Carrack-class was made as a cheap replacement for expensive capital ships and was not designed to operate as ships of the line, despite being capable of trading fire with larger adversaries.
Two weapon configurations were known for this class: one with ten heavy turbolasers, twenty laser cannons designed to defend against starfighters and missiles, and five tractor beam projectors, and an alternative version which replaced the flak lasers with ion cannons. In either version, the Carrack was very heavily armed for its size, a feature which it coupled with impressive speed and maneuverability made it a highly versatile warship. A group of Carracks could defeat one ship ten times bigger than an individual Carrack.
In addition, the survivability of the design was enhanced by safety devices built into the hull to strengthen the spaceframe and provided extra protection for the crew. Reinforced bulkheads and a compartmentalized design made Carracks tough for their size, and these were combined with independent life-support systems in different sections of the hull to lessen the dangers of hull breaches. Even when Carracks were reduced to drifting hulks, it was by no means uncommon for salvage teams to find survivors unharmed inside the wreckage.
However, the small size of the ship, especially when combined with the additional reinforcement and safety equipment, meant that there was no room available for an internal hangar bay. The Imperial Navy countered this weakness by adding an exterior rack that held up to five TIE Series starfighters for use on short-range reconnaissance, escort, or courier duties.
The ship's controls were also simple and automated enough so that two people could operate the vessel, although in normal circumstances, they carried a crew of 1,092 and a small army contingent of 142 soldiers.
During the Clone Wars, they served as fast-attack escorts for larger ships like Dreadnaught-class heavy cruisers. A group of Carracks Lorth Needa commanded along with other Republic vessels, helped bring down the Confederate flagship Invisible Hand at the Battle of Coruscant.
Over time, the rise of Star Destroyers as the dominant starship of the Imperial Navy saw a strategic realignment of the Carrack-class. Pairs of the light cruisers were assigned as system patrol vessels in quieter areas of Imperial space, where their lack of starfighters was less important. While not a match for most large warships, a Carrack in open space could outrun most threats that it could not fend off, and it was also fast and tough enough to break through a blockade fleet. Some were even assigned as personal transports to important Imperial dignitaries.
Other ships of this class were put to more esoteric uses. In 5 BBY, during a campaign to exterminate the Oswaft, the Empire blockaded the entrance to the sack-shaped ThonBoka with five hundred capital ships (mostly Carrack cruisers modified to contaminate the "interstellar plankton" drifting into the nebula), intending to starve the entire Oswaft race into extinction. Luckily for the Oswaft, the Imperial plot was thwarted with the arrival of Lando Calrissian and Vuffi Raa.
Perhaps one of the best examples of the Carrack-class' capabilities came with the Invasion of Bakura in 4 ABY. As the sole cruiser in the Bakuran system, the Imperial starship Dominant was the primary target of the invading Ssi-Ruuvi fleet, who heavily damaged the vessel. In a display of the class's toughness, the vessel remained nominally operational despite major damage, and became the cornerstone of the new Bakuran Defense Fleet soon afterwards.
In the years after the Battle of Endor, Imperial commanders like Zsinj, Thrawn and Josef Grunger deployed them in skirmish lines ahead of their primary screening forces of Strike-class cruisers at battles like Tralus and Sluis Van.