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BattleMechs (often abbreviated 'Mechs) are large walking war machines that feature prominently in the fictional universe of BattleTech. 'Mechs, which are generally either bipedal or quadrupedal in configuration, are controlled by human pilots and can thus be classified as mecha.
BattleMechs debuted in FASA Corporation's BattleTech, a board game of futuristic armored combat played with dice, counters and paper record sheets on a map of hexagonal territories. The game's first edition in 1984 was titled BattleDroids and featured mecha based closely on those in the Japanese animated television series Macross, but legal impediments forced both the name of the game and the design of the 'Mechs to change in the second edition.
'Mechs in BattleTech vary from one another in many ways, including mass, speed, chassis configuration, armor and armament, resulting in a practically limitless array of legal 'Mech designs. FASA and successors WizKids and FanPro created hundreds of official BattleMechs to complement the game, the majority published in a long-running series of "technical readouts". The game's detailed construction rules, which allow players to create legal custom units of their own, has also resulted in untold thousands of additional designs, some published in magazines, on websites, and in various other fan media.
As the BattleTech franchise has grown, BattleMechs have increasingly appeared beyond the confines of the board game. A line of figurines, a collectible card game and numerous computer simulation titles feature the machines; 'Mechs also feature centrally in a prolific series of novels set in the fictional BattleTech universe, as well as an animated spin-off television series.
In the BattleTech universe, the first BattleMech ever developed was the Mackie, described as a 100 ton box with legs. It was developed in 2439 by the Terran Hegemony, first deployed in 2443, and produced throughout the rest of the Inner Sphere after its construction plans were stolen in 2455. Significant development and refinement of the technology followed through subsequent centuries.
'Mech advancement in the Inner Sphere crested during the reign of the Star League, but slowly degraded during the protracted conflicts of the Succession Wars. Much of the infrastructure and expertise necessary to produce the most advanced models was lost, with the result that, by the early 31st century, most Great Houses were fielding models decades or even centuries old.
Star League-era BattleMech technology was preserved during this period of decline by a military faction later known as the Clans. Absent from the Inner Sphere for centuries, they returned in 3050 fielding 'Mechs of considerable sophistication and power. The first confirmed sighting of a Clan 'Mech by an Inner Sphere observer was that of a Timber Wolf (aka Mad Cat) by the legendary Phelan Kell of the Kell Hounds. Many Clan 'Mechs go by two official names -- one given by the Clans and one assigned by Inner Sphere observers.
The Clan invasion triggered a resurgence of BattleMech-related research and development, both in the Inner Sphere and among the Clans, leading to many new models being introduced during the 3050s and '60s. However, the collapse of the hyperpulse generator network in the early 32nd century disrupted 'Mech advancement.
Clan 'Mechs often have dual names associated with them - their 'proper name' as designated by the Clans, and their 'nicknames' given by Inner Sphere Mechwarriors who have encountered them in battle. For instance, the Timber Wolf is a 75 ton Clan omnimech, but it is known as the Mad Cat among Inner Sphere circles. This is much like the Official and NATO code names for Russian aircraft during the Cold War.
BattleMechs range in height from 7 to 17 meters (23 to 56 feet) and mass from 20 to 100 tonnes (22 to 110 short tons), with some capable of ground speeds in excess of 150 km/h (90 mph). Their power is drawn from fusion reactors and are best suited for ground combat, although they are also capable of limited performance underwater and in outer space.
This category includes the majority of the types of BattleMechs. Bipedal 'Mechs come in two types: humanoid and reverse-joint (chicken walker). Humanoid-type BattleMechs are the most commonly encountered model of BattleMech. Iconic 'Mechs of this class include the Atlas and Summoner (Thor). Reverse Joint 'Mechs are slightly less common on the field of battle, but comprise such famous 'Mechs as the Marauder, Catapult and Timber Wolf (Mad Cat).
Land-Air 'Mech (LAM)
The LAM had the ability to transform into a conventional aircraft and revert to BattleMech mode, enabling it to quickly traverse great distances in a short time. However its weight limit, and real life legal conflicts with Harmony Gold (The LAMs, as well as several other 'Mechs, were based heavily off of 'Mecha designs from The Super Dimension Fortress Macross and other anime series) would end its official existence within the universe. The Wasp, Stinger and Phoenix Hawk were famous LAMs. These Land Air 'Mechs can be found in the original edition of Technical Readout: 3025, along with the other "lost" or "unseen" BattleMechs such as the Marauder, Crusader, Warhammer, and the non-LAM versions of the Stinger, Wasp, and Phoenix Hawk. The rules for the LAM system are excluded from the recently published Total Warfare core rulebook, prohibiting it from Tournament play; however, they are still referred to as optional rules in several supplements. One such reference is the Maximum Tech: Revised Edition.
The quad 'Mech, though much maligned, has experienced a bit of a renaissance in the years after 3060. With the rediscovery of more efficient weapons, internal structure, and armor, the quad 'Mech's stability and ability to carry heavy weapons has much improved. However, the stigma associated with the general design still lingers, leaving the normal dual-legged BattleMech the vastly more common 'Mech. Notable quad designs include the 55 ton Scorpion, 80 ton Goliath, 70 ton Barghest, 95 ton Sirocco, and 85 ton Thunder Stallion.
Light 'Mechs are those that weigh between 20 and 35 tons. These 'Mechs are generally used as scout 'Mechs, fire-support 'Mechs, and anti-personnel units. These units are generally quite fast, and mount light weapon payloads. They also can mount significant amounts of electronics to help them as scout 'Mechs. One such design is the Raven. It comes with an ECM suite that both reduces enemy unit range (ECM, or electronic counter-measures) and advanced sensors (the Beagle-Active Probe, or BAP), but due to these electronics, it has a lighter weapons payload.
Not all light 'Mechs are lightly armed, though. Some, such as the Puma, Cougar, and Solitaire, can be strong enough to crack the armor of many larger units. The Puma's dual PPCs (and targeting computer) are a sizeable threat to 'Mechs of any size.
Iconic Light 'Mechs include the Raven, Cougar, Commando, Wolfhound, and Panther.
Medium 'Mechs weigh between 40 and 55 tons, and are very versatile. Some, such as the Hellspawn, have significant electronics payloads and are used as scout 'Mechs. As they are medium mechs they still can carry heavy weapons like the Hunchback, which carries an LBX Cannon on the right part of its torso. In the BattleTech universe, the medium 'Mech is the workhorse 'Mech of most armies.
Other medium 'Mechs are used as fire-support units. One that fills this role well is the Rabid-Coyote. It has a pair of ATM (Advance Tactical Missile) racks, which allows it to change missiles during a battle from Extended, Normal, or High Explosive(HE).
Still, other medium 'Mechs have heavy weapon payloads and can be used as front-line units. Some are the Uziel, which mounts a pair of PPCs that have significant range and damage output. Among the Clans, medium 'Mechs such as the Stormcrow (Ryoken) and Shadow Cat designs also make use of weapons that can deal serious damage to lighter units.
Some notable medium 'Mechs include the Centurion, Wolverine, Shadow Cat, Hunchback, and Griffin.
Heavy 'Mechs weigh in between 60 and 75 tons. They are versatile like medium 'Mechs, but generally have much heavier weapon payloads. These 'Mechs are large enough to mount weapons like Gauss Rifles and AC/20 autocannons, but are still light enough to have good maneuverability, as they range from 60 to 90 km/h.
Many famous and well-known designs are heavy 'Mechs, the most well-known of which is the Timber Wolf (Mad Cat). It has a very heavy damage output, mounting a pair of LRM-20s, a pair of ER Large Lasers, and an assortment of smaller weapons including a medium pulse laser and machine guns.
Other heavy 'Mechs are well known for their maneuverability. One such 'Mech is the Thanatos, which has both a significant weapon payload while retaining high mobility and ECM capabilities.
Some of the best pilots in the armies of the Successor States or Clans pilot heavy mechs. One notable MechWarrior is Morgan Kell founder of the Kell Hounds, who piloted an Archer fire-support 'Mech during the Battle of Luthien. Another well-known MechWarrior is Natasha Kerensky, leader of the Black Widow Company of Wolf's Dragoons, who pilots a 70-ton Warhammer.
Assault 'Mechs are the heaviest class of BattleMechs, weighing in between 80 and 100 tons. Some of these huge 'Mechs can mount up to 50 tons of weapons as well as very thick armor protection. The trade-off is in speed and maneuverability, as assault 'Mechs are generally very slow.
These 'Mechs are often used as command units, heavy assault platforms, and in fire-support roles. Some common Inner Sphere command 'Mechs are the BattleMaster and Cyclops, which both have above average electronics while maintaining heavy weapon payloads.
Iconic Assault 'Mechs include the Dire Wolf (Daishi), Atlas/prometheus, Marauder II, Jupiter, BattleMaster and the Blood Asp/Star Adder.
The Colossal class battlemechs are new and experimental. There are only four "Ares" Colossal mechs in existence, varying in primary weapons. Manned by a crew of three, Pilot, Gunner, and Engineer, these mechs top the scales at 135 tons. The variants are "Hades", "Hera", "Zeus", and "Poseidon".(This class only exists in MW: Dark Age, though it also appears once in the last mission of MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf.)
WorkMechs, also known as Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) Mechs, though far less glamorous than their war-faring counterparts, are very important in the everyday life of the BattleTech universe. There are ForestryMechs, MiningMechs, AgroMechs and many other types for many different industries. Many of these mechs use an internal combustion engine, usually diesel, due to the high cost of fusion reactors. WorkMechs have been modified for war when normal 'mechs are out of reach, most often in the Mechwarrior: Dark Age saga; the general consensus is that a modified WorkMech is less capable than a BattleMech of the same tonnage, though some field-modified WorkMechs using ballistic weaponry can compare favorably with older melee-weapon-equipped battlemechs such as the Hatchetman.
BattleMechs are initially made up of a series of internal structure "bones" which are connected together to form a skeleton of the 'Mech. An Electroactive polymer called myomer - which contracts in the presence of an electrical current - is then wrapped around these bones. This powerful myomer transmission system is what gives BattleMechs their speed and agility in even the roughest terrain.
The necessary electrical current for the myomers is provided by a fusion reactor mounted in the torso. This artificial skeleton and musculature, combined with a powerful gyroscope provide stability for the BattleMech. The entire system is controlled by a pilot wearing a neurohelmet that effectively links the 'Mech's central computer to the pilot's sense of balance and nervous system. The movement of a 'Mech is controlled by a combination throttle, joystick, and dual pedal system.
Each of the bones features a series of different size and capacity rated hardpoints for the attachment of critical systems such as life support and cooling equipment. In addition, weapons and armor plating is also attached to these points to give the 'Mech its offensive and defensive capability.
Primary characters in BattleTech stories often use customized 'Mechs. For example, Kai Allard-Liao and other members of his family have piloted a unique Centurion called "Yen-Lo-Wang" (highly modified in later books) which features a different weapon configuration from a standard Centurion. This 'Mech was originally modified in 3027 by his father, Justin Xiang Allard, for use on the gladiatorial gaming world of Solaris VII.
Prince Victor Steiner-Davion uses a custom Dire Wolf/Daishi assault 'Mech named "Prometheus" with a large array of high-caliber weapons, in a more effective configuration than the standard Dire Wolf.
Jade Falcon hero Aidan Pryde piloted a custom jump-capable Timber Wolf as his temporary 'Mech during the Battle of Tukayyid. But was a renowned Summoner pilot.
Archer Christifori pilots a modified Penetrator that wields 2 Clan Extended Range Large Lasers instead of the 2 normal large lasers.
Gray Noton piloted a customized Rifleman (normally a fire support and anti-aircraft 'Mech) dubbed "Legend Killer". The normally outclassed design was used by Noton during his reign as Champion of the Solaris VII Games.