Translator's Note: In 1984, Kodansha published a set of three pocket books devoted to the Mobile Suit Variation series, which were released as part of the Kodansha Pocket Hyakka Series. Long out of print, these books have recently been reissued. In addition to profiles of the various MSV machines, these books also included detailed features on mobile suit development history and the progress of the war between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon.
Mobile Suit Variation 1: Zaku Edition was published in April 1984 and included the first installment of a continuing feature on the history of the "Zeon War of Independence." Although this installment is fairly brief, and based largely on the accounts in Yoshiyuki Tomino's novels, I've excerpted it here for the sake of completeness. I've also translated the sections on mobile suit development history.
|Mechanical Design:||Kunio Okawara|
The following text is copyright © 1984 Kodansha.
Translator's Note: The development history section is broken up into two parts in the original book, interspersed with a "Zaku Family All Type Catalog," and I've reproduced that structure here.
The reason why the Principality of Zeon was able to fight the Federation Forces on roughly equal terms during the recent war, despite the difference in national power, was the existence of the mobile suit itself. In particular, the mobile suits of their mobile corps brought the Zeon forces unilateral victory in the early stages of the war.
The discovery of the Minovsky particle had made it impossible to use radar and other radio systems. This fundamentally overturned the weapons systems and strategic and tactical theories that had been perfected in the latter half of the twentieth century.
Thus the Zeon forces began developing weapons for visual-range combat under Minovsky particle interference. Five years later, after countless designs, the mobile suit MS-01 was completed. Seven years after this, the MS-05 Zaku was deployed in combat (1).
In U.C. 0058, Zeon Zum Deikun declared the Republic of Side 3 and established a national defense force. Four years later Degwin Sodo Zabi, who had effectively seized power, abruptly promoted this defense force to a national military.
In May of U.C. 0076, with the first combat mobile suit, the MS-05 Zaku I, entering mass production, an experimental mobile suit corps called the Mobile Training Battalion was organized under the command of Captain Kycilia Zabi. In addition to establishing the basics of mobile suit tactics, this battalion is known for training many of the ace pilots who made their names in the war. The original roster included Char Aznable and the team of Gaia, Ortega, and Mash, who became known as the "Black Tri-Stars."
Mobile Training Battalion
Each mobile suit team is made up of three MS-05 Zaku I mobile suits equipped with 105mm machine guns.
Each anti-ship team is made up of three MS-05 Zaku I mobile suits equipped with 280mm bazookas and nuclear warheads.
The support squadron is made up of one Chivvay and two Papuas.
Each mobile suit company is made up of two mobile suit teams and one anti-ship team.
The battalion headquarters uses one Chivvay as its flagship.
By October of U.C. 0078, sharp disagreements had arisen between Rear Admiral Dozle Zabi, who saw space warships as the main force of the national military, and Captain Kycilia Zabi, who believed that the mobile suit itself should be the main weapon. The supporters of each view even proposed withdrawing from the military altogether. As a compromise, Supreme Commander Gihren Zabi split the Zeon forces into two branches. Dozle became a Vice Admiral and took command of the Space Attack Force, while Kycilia became a Rear Admiral and took charge of the Mobile Assault Force. With these promotions they were both able to put their tactical theories into practice among their respective forces. An Earth Attack Force was subsequently organized under the command of Captain Garma Zabi, but it was effectively controlled by Rear Admiral Kycilia.
Zeon Forces Organization in the Early Stages of the War
In the Space Attack Force, there would be only one mobile suit battalion but a greater number of space warships.
The medical team is made up of one Papua and three unarmed Zaku mobile suits.
The communications team uses the same organization as the medical team above.
The special operations team is made up of one Musai and three Zaku mobile suits.
The transport company is made up of three transport teams using the same organization as the medical team above.
In January of U.C. 0079, the Principality of Zeon declared a war of independence against the Earth Federation. Simultaneously with their declaration of war, the Zeon forces took control of Sides 1, 2, and 4, and launched "Operation British" by sending a colony falling to Earth. This became known as the "One Week Battle." The spirits of the Zeon forces were raised by the splendid achievement of Operation British, and one month later they commenced the greatest space fleet battle in history against the Federation Forces' Revil fleet, which was stationed at Side 5 (Loum). This conflict would later be known as the "Battle of Loum."
At this point, the mobile suits of the Zeon forces consisted of the MS-05 Zaku I (A and B types) and the MS-06 Zaku II (A, C, and F types). The C type made up the main force, as the MS-05 was already becoming outdated and not many F types had been produced yet. After the One Week Battle, the Zeon forces began producing mobile suits and other weapons in the factory blocks of occupied colonies, and meanwhile the development of new mobile suits began back in the homeland.
The achievements of the Zaku in the early stages of the war were remarkable. The fact that one team of Zakus had greater fighting strength than a cruiser, and that their armament could be changed to suit the operation objectives, made it possible to devise new strategies and tactics. Their might enabled them to obtain victory in the One Week Battle, as well as against the Revil fleet in the Battle of Loum, where they achieved the great feat of taking General Revil himself prisoner.
Another distinguishing characteristic of the Zaku was its ability to do ordinary work, something that would be unthinkable with conventional weapons. The success of Operation British, the so-called "colony fall," was a testament to these working abilities. However, some of the Zakus that were occupied with the work of decelerating the colony were picked off, and this asset instead became a fatal drawback.
Due to the Battle of Loum, the fighting strength of both the Zeon forces and the Federation Forces had been reduced to the point where large-scale space battles were impossible. With the conclusion of the Antarctic Treaty on January 31, which prohibited the use of nuclear weapons, the fighting in space reached a stalemate.
On March 1 of U.C. 0079, the Zeon forces launched an Earth invasion operation in order to create a breakthrough in the war situation. This operation was carried out by an Earth Attack Force which had been organized one month earlier. The nucleus of this Earth Attack Force was the 1st Mobile Infantry Division of the Mobile Assault Force, which had been rapidly reorganized and reinforced. As an army, it was not very large in scale, and it was able to completely control only a limited land area.
Mobile suits naturally made up most of its fighting strength, and the MS-06F served as its main weapon. Although the numbers deployed were not particularly large, vehicles such as tanks and aircraft made up for this deficiency.
Principality of Zeon Earth Attack Force Organization
Each mobile suit company is made up of three mobile suit teams.
Each mobile suit battalion is made up of three mobile suit companies.
Each terrestrial mobile division is made up of five divisions (2).
The MS-06F Zaku II is a model which deserves special mention in mobile suit history. From the MS-01 to the MS-05 Zaku I, a single flow could be seen toward the objective of developing a combat mobile suit. But upon the completion of the MS-06F, a variety of directions became apparent in mobile suit development. The F type, with its excellent overall balance, was the most suitable basis for any modifications. In addition to the previous space combat types, it became possible to develop land warfare types, amphibious types, and types adapted to every situation.
Development of land warfare and amphibious types took place at the California Base in North America, while research into space combat types was conducted in the Zeon homeland. Although the details are unclear, it appears that Zaku data was also used in mobile armor development.
MS-05 Development Chart
MS-06 Development Chart
(1) This twelve-year interval is probably based on Gundam Century's claim that the Zeon forces developed Minovsky particle dispersion technology in U.C. 0065. Later publications use a much shorter time scale.
(2) The Japanese text literally says that each division contains five divisions, which is probably a typo. Perhaps the writers meant that the Earth Attack Force contains five terrestrial mobile divisions, which is confirmed elsewhere, or perhaps each division has five mobile suit battalions.
The Zaku served as the main mobile suit of the Zeon forces in the recent war. The Zaku can be separated into the MS-05 and MS-06, and technically the MS-05 is known as the Zaku I and the MS-06 as the Zaku II. However, since it was produced in larger numbers, many people refer to the 06 type as the Zaku and the 05 as the Old Type Zaku.
The MS-05 Zaku I was completed by removing unnecessary parts from the MS-04, which was created to be the first combat mobile suit. Its variations consisted of the A type early production model, and the B type later production model. With the appearance of the MS-05, interest in the mobile suit increased, and the development of new models accelerated.
The early production model of the MS-05. This machine was used to organize the Mobile Training Battalion, conduct pilot training, and research combat techniques. It also served as a test machine for weapons testing, improvements to the mobile suit itself, and the development of new models.
The later production model of the MS-05. Its exterior was unchanged from the A type, but its cockpit and armor materials were improved. This B type was used to organize the first mobile suit combat units.
The MS-06 Zaku II served as the main mobile suit of the Zeon forces during the war, both in name and in reality. A complete redesign of the MS-05 Zaku I, it was given a new model number because the completed machine was so different from the MS-05. No machine had a greater number of variations.
The first production model of the MS-06 Zaku II. It was distinguished by the rounded, spikeless armor on both its shoulders. It was not produced in very large numbers, and was succeeded by the C type.
The main mobile suit as of the outbreak of war. Its exterior established the so-called "Zaku" model.
This type was produced in the largest numbers, and the simple name "Zaku" usually refers to this version. Its exterior was identical to that of the C type. This became the basis for all later mobile suits.
An F type with four 30mm machine guns installed in its head, giving it enhanced fighting strength in close combat. The personal machine of Captain Garma Zabi was of this type.
A model in which the thrust of the F type's main propulsion rockets was increased to 130 tons, produced mainly for veteran pilots of company commander rank and above. Lieutenant Commander Char Aznable used a machine of this type.
The R type was a high mobility space combat version of the MS-06 series. Although its exterior was not very different from that of the previous Zaku II, thanks to successive improvements its internal mechanisms made it almost a whole new mobile suit. It was difficult to operate, but its fighting capabilities were improved, and it was used by many ace pilots.
A strategic reconnaissance machine created by converting C and F types. In the middle stages of the war, a further modified E-3 type equipped with a compound sensor system was also produced.
A trainer machine used in the early stages of the war, mainly converted from the C type. The only modification was the addition of an instructor's cockpit.
A land warfare Zaku created by removing space combat equipment from the F type that was unnecessary for ground combat. In the course of the Earth invasion conducted by the Earth Attack Force, J types were also produced by local engineering units.
A machine produced mainly for combat in desert and tropical regions, and known as the Desert Type. This model was deployed only on the northern African front.
Although it was planned as an air defense Zaku, problems in areas such as its mass balance could not be resolved, and it ended with the prototype. All the prototype units were introduced into combat.
A model based on the F type and redesigned for underwater combat. Because the basic design of the Zaku was intended for space combat, its development went poorly, and it ended with the test machines. Its model number was later changed to MSM-01.
A version of the J type with higher mobility. Supplemental thrusters were installed in its legs. Its armor was also reinforced, and it looked even bulkier than the MS-07 Gouf.
A worker Zaku assembled by Earth Attack Force engineering units. It had no formal model number.
A large worker tank created from a Magella Base and the upper body of a Zaku that had lost its combat capabilities. These were converted locally by Earth Attack Force engineering units.
A psycommu system test machine constructed during the development of the MSN-02 Zeong. Although it was supposedly converted from the F type, aside from its head it bore no resemblance to a Zaku.
The second MS-06Z unit, with its legs replaced by high-thrust rockets. It was used to test the psycommu system at high mobility levels. The appearance of this machine was even further removed from the Zaku than that of the Z type.
With the development of the MS-06F Zaku II, the flow of mobile suit development separated into space combat and land warfare types. The land warfare category was further split into ground combat and amphibious types (1). Meanwhile, assorted variations were produced for space combat, and even versions equipped with psycommu systems were created.
The postwar investigations conducted by the Federation Forces were unable to precisely determine the numbers of mobile suits developed. The numbers would presumably increase even further if those that ended at the planning stage were included. This demonstrates the great expectations the mobile suit raised among the Zeon forces. To understand the Zaku II, the starting point for all this, is to understand the mobile suit itself.
The majority of land warfare mobile suits were developed and produced at the California Base in North America. This includes the J, D, and K types of the Zaku II, as well as the MS-07 Gouf and MS-09 Dom, which were intended for local warfare.
Although the Gouf ended up as a local warfare mobile suit, the Dom proved to be a machine with higher than anticipated performance, and was seen as a main mobile suit that could succeed the J type. The Dom was also developed into the MS-R09 Rick Dom, in which the nuclear thermal jet engines used on the ground were replaced by space verniers. The case of the Dom, which was adapted from land warfare to space use, is remarkable in the history of mobile suit development. Because both the Dom and Rick Dom were developed and produced at a late point, they were active only for a short time and were unable to fully demonstrate their capabilities.
Although the MS-14 Gelgoog produced just before the end of the war was a space combat mobile suit, it also included land warfare capabilities. It could be said that the separate development flows were reunited in the Gelgoog.
Land Warfare Mobile Suit Development Flow
The oceans that covered 70 percent of Earth's surface were a source of concern for the Zeon forces. The mobile suit was originally created for close combat in space, and had no underwater combat capabilities. A plan was devised to modify the Zaku for underwater combat to accompany the Earth invasion operation.
Thus the M type Zaku was born. This M type, which was later renamed the MSM-01, became the foundation for all amphibious mobile suits. The development of the subsequent MSM series followed a path from the MSM-03 Gogg, the first combat type, and the MSM-04 Acguy, MSM-07 Z'Gok, and MSM-10 Zock were successively introduced into combat. Because the final MSM-10 Zock was developed during a period of transition to the mobile armor concept, it could more properly be called a movable mega particle cannon turret than a mobile suit.
This MSM series also included mobile suits created exclusively for the invasion of the Federation Forces' Jaburo headquarters. These mobile suits, known as the Acg types, were created as byproducts of the development of other amphibious mobile suits. However, they had adequate fighting strength for the conditions under which they would be used, which were limited to the invasion of Jaburo.
The unusually rapid development of these amphibious mobile suits may have been due to the fact that their development was concentrated at the California Base. Aside from southeast Asia, where they were deployed alongside land warfare mobile suits in mixed units, the deployment of these amphibious mobile suits was focused on the various submarine fleets where they served as the vanguard of landing operations.
Since the outbreak of war, the MS-06F Zaku II had served as the main space mobile suit. However, as the Federation Forces steadily built up their fighting strength, the position of the F type as the main force became uncertain. At the time, the R type promised higher performance, but it was too hard for inexperienced pilots to operate.
The development of a next-generation main mobile suit for space combat picked up its pace. By the middle stages of the war, the development of the MS-06R-2 Zaku II, MS-R09 Rick Dom, and MS-11 was underway. The MS-11 was expected to offer high performance, but its development had only just begun, and the beam weapons that were to be its standard equipment were still in the basic research stage. Thus the R09 type, which surpassed the R-2 type in terms of overall performance, was deployed as an emergency stopgap to buy time until the MS-11 could be sent into combat. The MS-11 was later renamed the MS-14 Gelgoog, and deployed in large numbers during the Battle of A Baoa Qu. The melee combat mobile suit MS-15 Gyan was also in development at the same time, but it was never put into mass production and only one unit ever entered combat.
The development of space combat mobile suits also included types equipped with psycommu systems. These were intended for the Newtype pilots who had finally begun to draw attention. Their development began under the MS-16 model number two months before the end of the war. Two kinds of test machine equipped with the psycommu system were created, using the Zaku as a base, for use in the development of the MS-16 and its wire-guided beam weapons. These were the MS-06Z and the MSN-01.
For exceptional Newtype pilots, it was no longer necessary for mobile suits to have a humanoid form. Thus the MSN-03 Zeong that was planned to follow was designed to separate into seven parts, each of which could be controlled via the psycommu system and used to perform all-range attacks.
Space Combat Mobile Suit Development Flow
The mobile suit was developed as a general-purpose spacecraft, and when it was being adapted for land warfare, thought was given to the issue of local warfare. This led to the planning of support weapons that could work together with mobile suit forces, and eventually to the birth of a series of mobile armors. These mobile armors were made with an emphasis on offensive strength and, as movable support weapons, they were given far heavier armor and armament than mobile suits. This evolutionary process was unique to the Zeon forces, who were a step ahead in mobile suit research.
Although the Zaku itself had no place in the mobile armor development flow, there is no doubt that Zaku data played a part in terms of technology and operation.
Mobile armor development also proceeded to types equipped with psycommu systems, but this could be considered almost inevitable given the characteristics of the mobile armor. Incidentally, every mobile armor constructed, regardless of its form, was ultimately sent into combat.
The following text is copyright © 1984 Kodansha.
Translator's Note: The following account continues in Mobile Suit Variation 2: Zeon Forces MS · MA Edition and Mobile Suit Variation 3: Federation Forces Edition.
Population, resource, and energy problems had been intensifying since the latter half of the twentieth century. The numbers of humanity had already reached the limits of what Earth could sustain. With humanity unified under the single nation of the Earth Federation, a great project was organized on a national level in order to resolve the population problem through the settlement of space.
Space colonies were constructed one after another at the Lagrange points where the gravitational forces of the sun, Earth, and moon neutralized each other. Roughly forty colonies were created at each point, and each of these clusters was called a Side.
Eventually, settlement began, and the calendar was changed to the Universal Century to commemorate this.
By U.C. 0045, migration to Sides 1 and 2 was finished and Luna II had been completed. Luna II served as a relay point to supply materials to each colony, and it was also made into a Federation Forces base.
By this point, a sense of estrangement from Earth had already begun to emerge among the space settlers, but the settlement project could not be halted. The project proceeded even more rapidly than before. Settlement was completed as far as Side 6, and was expected to end with Side 7.
In U.C. 0058, a republic was declared at Side 3 by Zeon Zum Deikun. But the Earth Federation, although aware of the phenomenon of estrangement from Earth among the space settlers, did not take the issue very seriously.
Zeon Zum Deikun, who played a major role in the founding of the Zeon nation, died four years later and was succeeded by Degwin Sodo Zabi. After Degwin took power, the Republic of Zeon increased its national resources and built up its military strength with exceptional speed. Of course, the development of the mobile suit was part of this process. It was also at this time that the Minovsky particle was discovered, and advances were made in Minovsky physics.
Although Zeon's mobile suits were announced to the outside world as worker machines, the world situation was definitely on the road to war. The high officials of the Earth Federation government were nonetheless unconcerned, thinking that the Republic of Zeon, which was so far from Earth and inferior in national resources, would never start a war.
But in U.C. 0079, Side 3, which had changed from a republic to the Principality of Zeon, launched a war of independence against the Earth Federation.
For one week after the outbreak of war, from the occupation of the colonies to Operation British, the Zeon forces continued their violent offensive. Had a peace conference been held between the Principality of Zeon and the Earth Federation directly after the occupation of the colonies, the war might have ended at that point. But Operation British, in which a colony was crashed onto Earth, resulted in an indiscriminate slaughter of the Federation populace that left the Federation determined to mount an all-out resistance. This prolonged war would lead to the loss of half the human population.
Only the space fleet commanded by General Revil and stationed at Side 5 had been able to counter the attacks of the Zeon forces during the outbreak of war. Thus only Side 5 had escaped Zeon occupation.
One month after the outbreak of war, the two sides, having readied their armaments, waged history's largest space fleet battle in Side 5 airspace. This became known as the Battle of Loum. Due to this battle, both sides suffered devastating losses, and the war entered a stalemate.
During this campaign, General Revil's flagship was also attacked by the Black Tri-Stars, and the general himself taken prisoner. However, the general made a miraculous return while a conference between the two nations was under way in Antarctica.
(1) The Japanese text establishes a distinction here between rikusenyô (land warfare) and rikujôsenyô (ground combat) mobile suits, with the former term encompassing both amphibious and ground types. However, this distinction generally seems to be ignored in the rest of the text.
Mobile Suit Gundam is copyright Sotsu Agency and Sunrise. Everything else on this site, and all original text and pictures, are copyright Mark Simmons.