The Howlrunner was constructed around an aerodynamic fixed-wing structure. Two fins jutted out of the sides of the craft, meant to function as rudimentary maneuvering flaps. Though this design was rather simple it gave the Howlrunner superior performance to the TIE/LN starfighter in both space and atmosphere. Around 10 ABY, they cost 165,000 credits.
The controls had a small learning curve, ensuring that nearly any pilot with basic skills could control the craft—although only the most experienced could discover the true power of this starfighter. While the Howlrunner was faster than the Rebel T-65 X-wing starfighter or BTL Y-wing starfighter, it was unable to match the speed of newer fighters such as the E-wing escort starfighter.
The Howlrunner had a distinct advantage over the Empire's TIE Series in that it possessed on onboard deflector shield generator. This protection, coupled with the starfighter's tiny profile and low mass, made the Howlrunner a hard ship to destroy. However, the craft was not meant for long space battles or pitched one-on-one combat.
The Howlrunner's twin laser cannons were relatively weak, and while they were quite accurate, this was hindered by the fighter's rudimentary targeting system. In order to offset these weaknesses, the Empire sent multiple Howlrunners at an enemy all at once, hoping that the sheer volume of fire would be too much for their targets. As this was similar to the tactical doctrine used for TIE fighters, little adjustment was required to integrate the Howlrunner into Imperial squadrons.
The I-7 Howlrunner was originally conceived of and designed by starfighter engineer Jo Ewsli. After receiving an epiphany during a viewing of a pack of howlrunners, dangerous omnivores from the planet Kamar, Ewsli set out to create a spacecraft that emulated their unique predatory instincts. The creatures attacked in tight packs and were unyielding in their pursuit of prey, two abilities that Ewsli thought could be incorporated into a squadron with the right ships. In this vein, Ewsli unveiled a starfighter that, like its beastly namesake, had superb agility and speed.
The Howlrunner was the first starfighter designed and mass produced by Incom Corporation after the X-wing defection fiasco. The main point of building the Howlrunner in the first place was an attempt to divert attention from the company's failure to stop the defection of the X-wing design team and the theft of the fighter's schematics.
However, the defection of the X-wing designers left Incom very unpopular among the Imperial ranks, and Howlrunners were mainly assigned to older starships and remote bases. It was a rare sight indeed to find Howlrunners in the hangar of an Imperial-class Star Destroyer, though it was not unusual for Victory-class Star Destroyers to carry them. Though the Imperial Navy was unimpressed by it, there were rumors that some of Emperor Palpatine's advisers purchased their own Howlrunners for "personal business". This may have included Kam Solusar during his time as a member of the Dark Side Elite, as he brought a two-seat variant of the Howlrunner with him when he defected to Luke Skywalker's nascent Jedi Order.
Although it was not an exceptional fighter, the Howlrunner was often seen at remote Imperial bases where its speed allowed for rapid reconnaissance when necessary. These bases welcomed the Howlrunner, as they usually had no other modern starfighters, having to make due with early TIE/LN fighters. While the Empire lost most of its TIEs during the Galactic Civil War, as well as losing access to Sienar's production facilities, the Howlrunner line escaped destruction and found itself becoming one of the prime starfighters in the fleets of the Imperial Remnant.
These craft continued to be used even after the Empire fractured and split into many warring factions. The Howlrunner was also used by the pilots of Saba Sebatyne's Wild Knights squadron, during the invasion by the extragalactic Yuuzhan Vong.
In the Second Galactic Civil War, a number of them were in the Corellian Defense Force.