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These cruisers were quick, tough, hard-hitting ships which were intended to patrol remote systems without the immediate fear of destruction. The Guardian-class was quite capable of handling common freight and smuggler traffic, however, it was not well equipped for boarding actions as it lacked space for a boarding party.
Guardian cruisers were totally outclassed when deployed against capital ships. These ships could be outfitted with external docking racks to carry TIE Fighters; however, this modification reduced the Guardian-class's maneuverability.
The Guardian-class became one of the three main ship classes employed by Imperial Customs, and was thus a common Imperial system patrol craft.
Guardians, which were in service from before the Battle of Nar Shaddaa, were a common sight in lightly populated, isolated systems where the Galactic Empire needed to maintain a presence without underwriting the expense of assigning a larger vessel to patrol duty. Also, these light cruisers often patrolled with corvette or frigate support.
These ships also saw use outside the Imperial military. The privately owned station known as "The Wheel", a gambling haven located in the Besh Gorgon System employed ten of these cruisers for traffic control duty in its security forces. Political entities such as the House Pelagia in the Tapani sector maintained these ships as well. One such ship was the Reprise.
A variant of the Guardian was the ISB Operations Ship, which was essentially the same ship modified to contain holding cells, as well as light and sensor stealth coatings.
The Guardian 344-class was later made by Sienar Fleet Systems to succeed the Guardian-class. It addressed the previous cruiser's lack of space for a boarding party.
Pirates such as Shanto Dhil acquired Guardian-class cruisers as well. Dhil's Guardian light cruiser, The Avatar's Needle liked to pose as an Imperial vessel in order to get close enough to bacta transports to steal their cargo.