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[Essay]Evaluation of the Practicality of Mecha

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Take it as you will.

EDIT: Seems as how the site I'm kind of hosting this off of has come back from the dead I'll take the one poster's advice and link with just the intro here. It is generally better to not have it suffering the effects of having to be hacked up and spotted welded to fit within required length to post. Especially when you lose half of it for the trouble.

An Evaluation of the Practicality of Mecha for Military Applications

Version 1.31I circa 4/24/05

[introduction only]

This essay attempts to compile the various worthwhile arguments surroundings mecha. It is also intended to inform the reader about various weapons systems and their advantages/disadvantages.

Table of Contents

I.) Definition

II.) Size matters

III.) Maneuverability

IV.) Locomotion

V.) Terrain

VI.) Transformation

VII.) Armor

VIII.) Weapons

IX.) Adaptability

X.) Accuracy

XI.) Target Profile

XII.) Stealth

XIII.) Control System

XIV.) Maintenance

XV.) Arms and Legs

XVI.) Cost

XVII.) Design Optimized for Terror Weapons?

XVIII.) Mini-mecha

XIX.) Power Armor

XX.) Power Loaders

XXI.) Case Examples

XXII.) List of Noteworthy Hardware

Full Version located here

For the person who was wondering about EMP

Edited by Briareos9

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Of course above all there is one thing we all need to remember.

The year is 2005 CE (Common Era, not Cosmic Era). What ever technology we see in Gundam obviously far surpasses anything we have today (Luna-Titanium, Neo-Titanium, Phase-Shift, beam weapons, etc), so of course a modern day mech wouldn't be too useful in combat. Same with Macross, we don't have an SDF-1 to reverse engineer.

Edited by Druna Skass

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Same with Macross, we don't have an SDF-1 to reverse engineer.

Maybe we do have some alien technology that's been reverse engineered. Maybe it has been kept secret all this time. Maybe that could explain the exponential speed at which technology development has increased.

Or maybe not...

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Mecha seem to usually reflect this notion that, because we lord over the beasts, there is something unique and special about our form that renders it superior to all others. This completely ignores reality.

An unfortunate flaw in many people's thinking. Also tends to result in an over-anthropomorphization of mech designs.

Chimps and apes are physically stronger then humans.

Yet share a remarkably similar design.

If there is something super agile about our form, why can we be outmaneuvered by a fly, cat, or dog a fraction of our size? Is there really justification for the notion we’re more agile then any beast, nevermind why it should hold true on a larger scale?

I don't think I've ever heard people claim to me more maneuverable than any other animals. But we CAN catch cats and dogs.

Humans are on two legs because that allows the arms/forelegs to be used to make tools/etc. Our more delicate hands allow us to manipulate things better for making tools. Humans are superior because we’re tool users with large well developed brains, which has nothing to do with some kind of super scaled humanoid war machine.

Yes it does. If we weren't tool users with large well-developed brains we couldn't design super-scaled humanoid war machines. :p

Size matters

Perhaps it would be best to simply start out addressing the problems associated with simply scaling something up. What works for something small doesn’t necessarily hold true for something big. A support member, such as bones, ability to support is basically based on its cross-sectional area. Mass is based on volume. So increasing something’s size by a given factor increases the cross-sectional area and support merely by a power of two, while the mass is cubed with volume. The problems do not however end there.

This is, of course, why I always point out that a direct control motion-capture device, while SOUNDING like a good idea, isn't really a good idea.

For all the apparent similarities, mechs are, by necessity, radically diffrent to humans, and won't move the same. Diffrent relative masses, momenteums, even centers of balance


An argument often used for mecha is their “maneuverability.” To be completely blunt something the size of a house, especially usually travelling in highly predictable ways, maneuvering in a way that would matter is seriously reaching. It kind of has this unbelievably large target profile, but that’s for later. To simply mimic human movement would require lots of _expensive_ actuators that would require maintenance to keep them sufficiently in tune and in good condition.

Like that's ever been considered an issue?

For real-world functionality, let's be honest. The government pays a thousand bucks for a wrench. Cost is not a signifigant factor.

Plus basically a computer has to be running all this with some kind of control system, but that is an issue for later.

Sort of like a fighter plane, isn't it?

Even if you did spend inordinate amounts to make a mecha that actually is articulated to the nth degree, it still will have nothing on the maneuverability of a helicopter. Consider that we do have guns completely capable of downing helicopters, and supersonic aircraft before you start babbling on about a mecha’s supposed maneuverability potential.

Ground unit VS air unit. Apples to oranges.


It would now be a good time to talk about locomotion. You have probably at some time in your life have either ridden a bike, or something similar. You may have noted you can go faster with less effort then on foot. More legs can increase efficiency, but this clearly shows the advantage in efficiency of locomotion of a wheeled system.

You may have noticed that your bike has several simple machines between your feet and the rear wheel.

These serve to massively increase the force you can exert, and sort of throw a monkey wrench in any attempt at direct comparison.

Of particular interest is the gear and chain assembly. The large gear attached to the pedals and small gear attached to the wheel greatly amplify the force applied.

And the reason ALL bikes made today have it is that when the pedals were directly attached to the wheel, they were very hard devices to use, even with a much larger wheel.

This leads to another _big_ issue, ground pressure. Basically ground pressure is the force of the weight of the vehicle over the area in contact with the ground. A tank, which are designed to have ground pressure comparable or less then a humans, have the entire large area of their tracks to spread the force over. A mecha has the area of how many feet are in contact with the ground at any given time, which for a moving biped is one. This leads to high ground pressure,

Possibly. It depends greatly on the size of the foot(a human with snowshoes can walk on things that a barefoot human can't, because of the increased surface area), as well as the actual mass of the vehicle, which are both unknowns.

which only gets worse as it is scaled up, remember squared support verse cubed mass.

Assuming all parts increase in mass linearly. Not all parts will need the same degree of mass added. Some will, in fact, make do with much the same amount of matter.

Of course, other parts will see benefits from lighter alloys that it wasn't feasable to make them out of before.

VOLUME is guaranteed to cube, but mass... that's a lot more debatable.

As such they are actually more prone to getting mired in mud then a tank would be.

Flip side... if the mud isn't firm enough to get traction, a tank may lack the ground pressure to get THROUGH the mud to the hard ground under it. Especially once it sinks enough that the underbody hits the mud, which further reduces ground pressure.

Which one is mired now?

They would not necessarily be nice to normal roads either. It would be good to remember though that a car’s weight is only supported by the small areas on the tire actually in direct contact with the ground.


One would assume that any mech used on normal roads would be designed for use on them, meaning low ground pressure.

One of the attempts to make a mecha faster that has shown up is having little tracks on the feet creating a kind of roller skate. It should be noted these do not alleviate the inherent ground pressure problems by much. Instead of only having the weight spread over one foot it’s now over two, while moving.

Half the ground pressure. :)

Personally, I see this as more useful for low-profile movement. But wheels in the "butt" and feet. Mech sits down, it's much quieter, and not near as tall.

A rather bizarre means of locomotion has to deal with mecha being in the air.

Patently ridiculous. You'll get no argument here.



The mecha advocate would take this moment to point out how humans can traverse this type of terrain, and declare by association a mecha could. They may claim that the large amount of available cover would give them a place to hide. Remember though size matters, and weight matters.

I wouldn't.

For all the apparant similarities, mech != human.

For one, a mech could be built with proper montain-climbing gear built-in. We have lousy feet for the job, for starters.

A bipedal mecha as it goes closer to the vertical is going to find that it’s going to run into problems especially if the weapons, engine, and gear are mounted in the torso, which insures the center of mass if higher. If you’ve walked up steep inclines before you know it isn’t that easy to begin with for a light weight human without a pack. Imagine how that is going to be multiplied in the support requirements to resist a constant moment from the force of gravity using the body of the mecha up to the center of mass as a lever arm.

Flawed comparison. The majority of a mech's mass should be in the LOWER part of the body, in the hips and directly above. Most of the mass on humans is in hte UPPER body.

This begs the question what’s a bigger mechanical problem resisting the moment of several tons of vehicle with multiple meters long lever arm, or resisting rolling back and increasing traction? This is before it starts having to compensate for dealing with the rough terrain or uses weapons.

Rough terrain is where the mech starts having advantages. Harder to get a leg stuck than a wheel or tread, because the very nature of legs is such that they lift over and across obstacles.

The key to not sliding and making progress as a biped going up or down a steep slope seems to involve digging in the front or back of the foot. Just imagine how much the problems of sliding are going to be magnified with a big multiton vehicle that also needs support against a rather significant moment.

Imagine how little sliding could happen if it had cleats. :p

A walker would have more feet thus making it easier for it to dig in,

Wouldn't lower ground pressure make it more difficult to dig in?

Of course, with cleats, it matters a lot less.

A bipedal mecha’s attempt to emulate a walker by crawling would be inefficient, have relatively low ground clearance,

Relative to a 4+ legged vehicle, yes. Relative to a wheeled or tracked vehicle? Likely not.

and in general just be clumsy.

Possibly. If it was properly designed as a dual-mode vehicle, no. If crawling was pinned on at the last minute, sure.

Diffrence between a human on all fours and a gorilla on all fours. One of them does it a lot better, and it ain't the human.

But both are considered humanoid.


Swamps have lots of vegetation providing plenty of hiding places for the enemy. They also have hazards like mud and bogs.

A mecha with its high ground pressure is much more prone to getting stuck in the mud then a tracked vehicle, which can cruise over it.

Maybe. I think I already addressed mud and ground pressure.

Its high profile makes it so its blind to what is going on near its feet, where the enemy may be lying in wait.

Flaw: Assumes human-style head-centric vision.

Only a fool would leave all cameras in a head module. A head isn't even a necessary feature, as Macross' destroids show.

Personally, I'd have cameras mounted at several strategic points around the body. Including the crotch. Heck, for this sort of work, I'd even have some anti-infantry weapons mounted down there, lewd jokes about the machine gun be damned.

I'd also have cameras mounted on the back of the shoulders, and in the butt. Optimally, I'd have a 360-degree sphere of visibility, with enough camera overlap for depth perception(at least in select important areas). Though getting that data fed to the pilot in a comprehensible manner may prove prohibitively difficult.

As it’s basically high enough it’s in the trees instead of passing under them it also will become entangled in the trees, making it harder to respond to an ambush. As it disturbs the trees in its movements it will also disturb the bird. The combination will make ambushing, avoiding, and calling artillery down on a mecha all too easy in this type of terrain.

I was under the impression that everything had these sorts of problems.

A mecha, which could easily get stuck in the mud or a bog,

Depending on design and equipment.

and can only carry and provide protection for one person.

Depending on design. See: VF-1D.


An M-113 is fully capable of running/climbing over barriers up to a certain point. Specially modified tracks like band tracks can make them much quieter and fuel economical. Newer versions can turn on a dime the way only a tracked vehicle can.

Mind sharing why a humanoid mech can't rotate in place?

We ARE running with over-anthropomorpized designs as standard, right?

A mecha advocate might say the vertical profile makes a mecha better able to survive attacks from above. That won’t do anything to help with someone at ground level or hiding in a building.

True. The legs are a weak link, especially for this sort of battlefield.

One may point out they can point a weapon held in the hand around a corner with a camera/sensor system attached.


I HATE hand-held weapons. Massive over-anthropomorphization.

But a small camera on the end of the arm sounds like a good idea to me.

Honestly, though... remote-piloted vehicles. Drive an RC car with a machine gun around the corner. No one cares if it takes a grenade.

Additionally the resonating footfalls will make it so the guerillas know the mecha is coming and can either withdraw, or set up an ambush if the buildings managed to mask its profile.

Depends on how hard the foot hits.

A mecha’s intimidating size and presence would likely be counter productive here helping to turn public opinion away from its users.

Depends on design.

Since we're running with high-visibilty, let's go all out and make a bright, gaudily-colored monstrosity. Who can harbor ill will towards Voltron?

Also depends on individual perspective.

I'm sure you'll find no argument with the hypothesis that anime fans would be rooting for the side with mechs.


Well, except the ones that believe mechs are, by default, indestructable killing machines like certain Gundams(*cough*Wing Zero*cough*). That IS a certain segment of the fans, and that one thinks mechs shouldn't be built because they're dangerous.

A conventional vehicle would seem much less likely to inspire such feelings.

The tank is the symbol of modern military might. Not of warm fuzzies.

Driving a tank down a city street will NOT endear you to the populace.


Tanks and other AFVs are fully capable of operating at maximum capacity on flat terrain. A mecha’s large profile would allow them to be nailed even further away with weapons designed to take out tanks. In short the mecha are slaughtered.

Short: They’re massacred.

No argument here.



I'm surprised this one ever even comes up.

In order to be air-droppable a vehicle needs to be rather lightweight. A parachute’s ability to slow something down has to do with its ability to create a drag force, which is a function of among other things the velocity of the object and its cross-sectional area.
Cross-sectional area is, of course, not likely to be a mech's strong suit if dropped feet-first.
Even if the mecha is able to airdrop its only protecting and transporting one person.
One or more.

Short: A mecha doesn’t use air-drop capacity efficiently and thus would waste logistics.


*laughs again*

Humans are not very good swimmers to begin with. A big mecha will only make the problem and with all the noise it’s less then aerodynamic form generates if the enemy are listening in the mecha can count on getting torpedoed.

A mech could be designed more hydrodynamic than the usual anime depiction.

Not that that makes it any less ill-suited to the task.

Submersibles for tasks requiring things be manipulated already have a variety of manipulators including hands, so its not like you’re getting much for the trouble.

Hmmm... Alvin = Ball?

For salvaging purposes they _may_ have some potential, but that has more to do with them being able to push off the bottom.



*laughs until muscles are pulled*

The ground pressure measurement has been added to give a feel for comparative ground pressure between mecha.

The combination of the armor approximation formula and the ground pressure approximation formula should allow the reader to compare the various mecha in a quantitative fashion. Due to the large margin of error being cumulated in the mecha’s favor, and that it’s based on the mecha standing still instead of pushing off of and impacting into the ground in walking, this shouldn’t be used for comparative purposes with real life armor ground pressure. The calculation is based on a 5’6” (1.6764 meters) person having their weight spread over 1 square foot and then scaled up to the Mecha’s size. Basically you divide the mecha’s height by the reference human’s put the weight in pounds on top, and the factor you just calculated squared times 144 on bottom.

Mecha feet vary considerably from human feet.

Some flare out, granting them greater surface area than a human in tennis shoes, others have small feet that are more like a human in heels.

While a VF-1(my chosen high heels example) will perform painfully badly in ground pressure tests, a Spartan will come up much more favorably, due to the larger contact area(that is quite similar to a tennis-shoe human).

And the Zaku that you're using as your demonstration mech has somewhat flared feet, giving it superhuman surface area.

Zaku II, which is 17.5 meters tall with steel armor, and weighs 58.1 tonnes unloaded.

Assuming all the weight is armor, which would mean all that weight of the Zaku transformed into armor on another actuated frame able to carry and move with it. The point of this is the Zaku cannot really have better armor then this.

Measurement 1: 72.41mm; Measurement 2: 36.21mm;

Ground Pressure: 8.16 psi (0.474 kg/cm^2) empty, 10.30 psi fully loaded

For comparison, a 5'6" person, with an average weight of 130 lb, exerts, with the assumed 1 square foot contact area, .9 psi on the ground.

And as I want to have some fun with #s...

58.1 tons = 128, 088.6 pounds.

Now, if we assume the shod-human-sized contact area of, after scaling up from 5.5 feet to 57.41 feet... roughly 109 square feet... we do indeed get your 8.16 PSI.

BUT... assuming our roughly 1/10 scale model has TWO square feet of coverage(which, IMO is fair for Zaku feet), it's only 4.08 PSI.

If the Zaku had twice-human proportions for the feet(2x length and width), it would have human-level ground pressure. And with very little sacrifice in anthropomorphization.

Also note the Zaku, while a classic anime mech, is somewhat large. 57 feet is a... tall vehicle, to say the least.

I think the low end 6 meters/19.7 feet of your mech definition is a more reasonable size.


[Projectile throwers/Mass drivers]

It is probably best to start out with kinetic weapons or projectile throwers. Tanks, as is, recoil back significantly when they fire their main guns. The turret rings for these guns are also quite wide, in order to prevent it from having problems, like the turret ripping off. As previously mentioned there is this thing called a moment has to be countered by a support reaction. With a tank there’s such a minor distance from the ground the moment is quite minimal and it mostly needs to just deal with the linear momentum. Even with this significant recoil it can fire, keep moving, and targeting enemy units if it’s using a stabilized gun.

With mecha the entire body of the mecha up to where that weapon is mounted constitutes a lever arm, plus the mounting is usually a relatively small shoulder joint. Additionally arm positions like the usually free hanging, or shooting from the hip positions will exert a moment on the shoulder support further cutting into the weapons it can actually carry. Not to mention its distance horizontally from the center of mass will cause a moment, that will have to be compensated for, especially if the mecha is designed to be able to twist its torso. In short a mecha automatically cannot carry as big a weapon as a tank of the same weight. It simply cannot deal with the same kind of forces. If it uses something that recoils significantly it’ll be on its butt and not able to still keep moving and fighting at full capacity like a tracked vehicle, at best.

For those not keeping score, this is 2 paragraphs explaining in great detail why Gundam's 120mm machine guns are absurdly ridiculous.

For penetrating armor especially, one big gun tops lots of spitball shooters.

Note, however, that the A-10 is quite effective in penetrating armor with a much smaller caliber weapon.

Though as I've stated at other times, that's because it's hitting in a more lightly armored area.

Also... shaped-charge spitballs should still be quite effective.

The Fairchild A-10’s 30mm GAU-8/A firing at 4,200 rounds per minute uses its gun to punch through a particularly weak area of a tanks armor profile, as do helicopters. It has over four tons worth of recoil. (ref) Ultimately it is the penetration capability on the individual rounds more so then the rate of fire, which allows armor penetration.

Rate of fire just gets you a lot more chances to hit.

Though multiple hits on the same spot would have a cumulative effect, this is difficult to do in the real world.

Electro-magnetically driven guns also have recoil as they are subject to Conservation of Momentum.


One of the great myths of railguns is that they have no recoil.

One possible way to counter this would be to eject plasma out the other end. Plasma however is not very dense and you’d require considerable amounts of plasma to make this work.

Or use a denser material.

At that point it’d simply be easier to just make it a recoilless rifle.

Which shoots low-grade plasma out the back, if I recall. It may be cool enough to just be gas.

With conventional guns, by directing a lot of the recoil gases to the rear they can reduce recoil. Devices like muzzle brakes are used for this. The hot exhaust gas’s enthalpy can be converted to kinetic energy thereby increasing its velocity in the opposite direction.

Note that this is a tradeoff. You lose some kinetic energy that could go to your bullet.


Of course, you'll lose most of it anways once the bullet leaves the barrel.

In space the moment will be around the object’s center of mass and if the recoil doesn’t go through the center of mass the object will start spinning.


Okay, returning to reality...

This may or may not be a signifigant effect. But personally, I'd be using recoilless weapons exclusively in space if I could.

Things like pistols, submachineguns, and assault rifles do not really carry over in that scale. The mecha needs to be carrying weapons designed to be good at killing whatever opposition it’s likely to encounter, not something that is aesthetically pleasing.

Gundam especially has a bad habit of just taking a human weapon and multiplying it's size. If the mech's 10 times larger than the human, then so is the weapon. And it's caliber.

Due to it’s inferior accuracy a sniper rifle equivalent would be inferior to just a standard stabilized gun with targeting computer.

Isn't that what a mech sniper rifle IS?

The guns a mecha could carry could be better deployed on a tracked IFV, helicopters, or things like the Fairchild A-10, which are easier to deploy, faster, and more maneuverable.

But harder to change out. At least, assuming over-anthropomorphization.

This goes for energy melee weapons as well, really. They have no effective mass to move things out of the way so they don’t have special mystic cutting powers.

Exceptions are things like the the Zaku's heat axe.

Of course, melee weaponry is just absurd on a modern battlefield. While most Gundam shows have minovsky particle interference as a plot device to make them feasable, that doesn't fly anywhere else.

For starters the kiloton is no longer based in TNT. After some debate on whose ton it was standardized at 1 trillion calories or 4.184e12 joules. There is only around ten gigatons worth of nuclear weapons on the planet, which by themselves would have a hard time covering Japan in their combined blast radiuses, let alone the world.

A single gigaton blast would. Broken into thousands of smaller blasts, it's a lot easier.

Blast wave, overpressure, EMP, especially firestorms, and other effects from interacting with an atmosphere of course will not show up if the weapon was detonated in space.

EMP isn't from atmospheric interaction, as I understand things. Could be wrong, though.


Lets transition now to accuracy. While all mecha don’t necessarily suck beyond belief in this department, like for example routinely missing a barely moving 10m tall Vulture in the Mechwarrior 4 Vengeance intro at a range of around 68 meters, they do have problems. A mecha’s weapon is usually hung on the arm and is pretty much guaranteed to have at least three degrees of freedom, though more are likely, and is mounted from above adding additional inherent instability. A tank’s main gun has two degrees of freedom, and rests solidly on the flat body of the tank, which is solidly on the ground. Stabilizing a tank’s gun is not overly difficult. To stabilize a free hanging thing like a weapon in a mecha’s arm is a different matter entirely. This will limit its accuracy.


Mounting things in the body tends to not allow the weapon to traverse like it would on a tank.

Over-antrhopomorphizing. Mech bodies could easily be set up to rotate 360 like tank turrets.

Case Example: Macross

One intial note: Macross is not Robotech.

In Macross there are basically three types of mecha: the oversized power armor of the giant aliens, the destroids, and the variable fighters. In their case a highly advanced alien space ship, which they reverse engineer and repair, crash lands on their planet. They might be forgiven for going the route of the mecha, afterall the new threat was giant humanoid aliens. It should be noted a human scaled up to 50 feet tall would basically not be able to survive (ref).

Note the Zentradi are supposed to average 30 feet, not 50. Still silly, but marginally less so.


One of the rather unique concepts that hasn’t yet been covered has to do with the Destroids in this series, which are basically bipedal, headless, mecha. On ship they actually served the function of being able to walk out onto the SDF Macross’s hull and augment firepower in necessary areas. A conventional tracked vehicle while better able to quickly traverse any particular facet but has a actual disadvantage when it comes to a ninety degree edge on the ship. Tracked vehicles can’t bend and so should have some difficulty switching between sides of the ship. Thus it would appear the mecha actually might have an advantage.


On the other hand this is on a ship in space, and spaceships have a premium on internal volume. The large passageways to allow these mecha to get around would require a considerable amount of empty space.

I feel obliged to note that the destroids all came from the Daedalus, and were not originally part of the ship's complement(as it's defensive weapons were intended to come from the 2 ARMDs it would have docked with).

Though it's also worth noting that the Macross had an overabundance of empty space, as we know from Hikaru and Minmay's time lost in the ship. It was likely twice as large as it needed to be.

[Monster: 40 cm cannons]

The largest Destroid is equipped with four 40cm guns, and heavy rocket packs for arms. Despite sharing the caliber with sixteen inch battleship guns, the lack of the massive fireball, super loud boom, or it being shoved back considerably when it fires indicates these are low velocity guns.

You wouldn't get a boom in space.

Regardless of velocity, we do have them spec'ed as having a 160 km range.

[Tomahawk: MBR-Guns and More Guns]

The Tomahawk Destroid is only humanoid in the sense that it’s bipedal and has a similar general shape. Its arms both house a particle beam gun, and there are two 50 caliber machineguns in the head. Additionally there is a laser gun, 25mm autocannon, and flamethrower package built around a 180mm “grenade launcher” on either side of the chest. If that wasn’t enough there are also twelve tube guided rocket launchers on either side of the torso. Mass is listed at all of 31,300 kilograms.

I think you're drifitng a bit. Tomahawk is as headless as every other destroid.

[The Macross herself]

This vessel was modified to carry carriers as “arms.”

Note that this was a jury-rigged attempt to add resources to a vessel that was stranded on the edge of the solar system behind enemy lines, not a planned design feature.

Heck, the entire transformation was a jury-rig.


I SWEAR these tags are all properly opened and closed.

Edited by JB0

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nice paper but its deserves a C+ at best. I won't go what you did wrong with it but I will say you need to cite sources atleast.

Edited by Zentrandude

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Welcome to MW B9 and hope you enjoy your stay. Please read the FAQ when you have the chance.

The original post is way too long and I'm going to treat this like a fan fiction(read the FAQ). Start another thread about this. Host the essay file on another site, put a link to it and a brief preview here OR edit the first post down to the first few paragraphs and add a link to your essay file, which is hosted on another site.

Thank you.

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I SWEAR these tags are all properly opened and closed.


Error at :

Thus it would appear the mecha actually might have an advantage.


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I've read through the article and it's not bad, but I've seen far more damning discussions of mecha. It's a good start and I enjoyed the fact that you decided to cover so many of the practical considerations.

However, I'd like to note that you make the classic mistake made by almost every person writing mecha critiques; you work from a mindset that patently disproves the reality of mecha as seen in anime, based on our current level of scientific understanding.

Which is a pedantic way of saying, Gundams and Valkyries are totally unbeleivable using what we know.

This is a fair and totally valid position. Almost the whole of science fiction fails the test of realistic practicality. Thus, engaging in such a exercise to prove fictional mecha are impracticaly, however detailed and thorough, is really pointless because we all know science fiction is just that.

Quantifying the validity of a mecha must start from the suspension of disbelief that these would be fully functional machines in real life. Rather than state "That won't work!" we instead ask "How would it be explained if it were real?"

We accept all the crazy things the mecha do, all their astounding capabilities, and the near magical nature of the very concept...then we work backwards.

This is how science works. A scientist doesn't look at a black hole and say "Black Holes defy every scientific convention, therefore we are seeing something other than black holes and thus they do not exist". Rather, the scientist says "Black Holes can be detected and they exist, but in what way can I understand how they function?"

Once you do that, they you can begin to prove why a tank or fighter would be better than a mecha, or vice versa.

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However, I'd like to note that you make the classic mistake made by almost every person writing mecha critiques; you work from a mindset that patently disproves the reality of mecha as seen in anime, based on our current level of scientific understanding.

Which is a pedantic way of saying, Gundams and Valkyries are totally unbeleivable using what we know.

This is a fair and totally valid position. Almost the whole of science fiction fails the test of realistic practicality. Thus, engaging in such a exercise to prove fictional mecha are impracticaly, however detailed and thorough, is really pointless because we all know science fiction is just that.

Quantifying the validity of a mecha must start from the suspension of disbelief that these would be fully functional machines in real life. Rather than state "That won't work!" we instead ask "How would it be explained if it were real?"

We accept all the crazy things the mecha do, all their astounding capabilities, and the near magical nature of the very concept...then we work backwards.

Makes you wonder how many times scholars said machines won't fly back hundreds of years ago.

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If you are going to talk about mecha I would use the more broad term:


Mecha are generally war machines, sometimes mass-produced, and are seen as a component of a whole military body and do not act alone in their conflicts, although it is common that only mecha fight mecha, much in the same way tanks and fighter planes do, even in large scale battles.

I'll assume the topic refers to the practicality of any warmachine that does not act alone. (That includes classic human piloted stuff, plain robots like ed209, drones, humanoid cyborgs etc)

I think soldiers who have lost limbs in war might suddenly get the chance to be real cyborgs once technology gets good enough. If we can allow the prosthetic limbs to increase strength and eye cameras that provide nightvision etc that would be a bonus. (notice how in a lot of anime the scientists and techs often seem to have "goggle eye" cyborg implants to increase thier sight?)

I think there might even be competition between companies for the best solution and we might see a mech vs cyborg thing like in the movie robocop.

Remember how impractical the ed209 mech was because it was not suited to small spaces and indoors? It was designed for outdoors. (even fired rockets! now what criminal is going to be so heavily armed that it would need this?) Much more heavily armed then robocop and probably stronger but size and strength are not everything.

Then look at how easy it was to kill one with that big gun that blows things up in a single shot?

Compared to a normal person's brain controlling robot limbs and feeding off organic food, the ed209 just wasn't as useful in as many situations as the cyborg robocop.

I think that cyborgs or humanoid robots that ride in giant or normal sized robot vehicles with wheels to drop them off, will be the solution. A mech doesn't have to be humanoid but it will be suited to more uses (indoors, guarding small areas with limited space etc) than if it was treated like a clumsy vehicle. As robots can communicate to each other wirlessly, I can see even running dogs being useful to complement any deficiencies in the humanoid or wheeled bots. They could bounce information back to each other much faster than a human team could and know where things are instantly. (I liked the way the Terminatrix in the terminator 3 movie was able to wirelessly control cars - that's the kind of thing I envision a team of different robot types behaving - A small wheeled one might be a scout, the heavy one would provide covering fire and long distance, and the humanoids would be able to go inside buildings up stairs in elevators ect where the environment was built up by humans for humans to live/work around in. ie could ED209 even press buttons on a keyboard or fit in an elevator to get the badguy/terrorist/criminal?)

I guess my point is this: there is nothing stopping different types of mechs being used and having different sizes and purposes. Some mechs might be suited as wheeled, some might be humanoid, and some might be fourlegged. (like a dog or maybe a spidermech that isn't allowed to crush its own environment) There's nothing stopping different types being used together: example a cyborg, or humanoid robot, riding inside a drone vehicle which itself has limbs that could be mechanical for rough unsteady environments where there is no flat plain or surface to work in. Mechs using other mechs could be a solution to carrying out work in some far off planet where humans who are living in colonies with limits to thier bodies are too valuable to lose or risk thier lives for.

The problem with a lot of thinking is that we expect a humanoid robot to be the "one man army" role which does absolutely everything. I say we make robots speak thier own robot language standard so that they can help each other do tasks we humans do in real life. (like my fingers - a type of robot - are typing on this keyboard now because the computer in my head - another type of robot - is controlling nerves that phyiscally respond to what the brain is saying. My computer monitor - yet another type of robot - is giving my eyes (another robot) the information it needs to process the data onscreen to determine what response I need to make. In the real world the humanoid mech who is breaking into enemy hq could control the mech outside because if it can see whats going on outside, while doing tasks inside, it is more powerful than if two seperate humans did it.

The mech outside could then tell a wheeled or flying vehicle (controlled by the guy in the humnoid robot in the building) to come and pick up the outdoor mech and the humanoid in the building to make pickup. By working together you eliminate the need for the "Do-everything/one-man-army" robots and the robots mimmick human behaviour and become exponentially more useful. In the real world, we could build rockets to go to the moon because of how we all worked together. We could advance civilisation because we as humans became "specialised" into particular areas and worked together rather than all of us as hunter-gatherers. There shouldn't be a limit on what role the machines are allowed to do, it's just a matter of building specialised machines for different tasks,(bomb disposal, hacking, riot control, transport with vehicular speed etc) different environments (suits that are worn to explore underwater or in space that enhance strength?) and general purpose use. (humanoid robots with hands that can load ammunition into a gun or just serve you in a resturant?)

Seeing that humans will always be needed, it makes more sense to have machines with options to be controlled by us manually (just like in the sci fi anime) or by a learning computer. (there are robots now that have learnt - not been hard-coded or programmed with a set of rules - to walk by themselves)

It is also not well suited, by any means, for operating underwater which some of its advocates might cite.

Actually there are robots(remote-piloted but still piloted nonetheless, and in "virtual reality" style) that have been used underwater(I think they used one for the titanic movie: http://www.whoi.edu/home/about/currents10_no1_jason.html). Robots may fare better than humans in certain environments if designed to withstand them.

Advantages: no need to keep an oxygen supply - ability for everyone to see in realtime what the bot is looking at/surveying without having to be in danger, and also having access to a strong body versus a tired human body whose performance drops after hours. eg a robot fire-fighter, a construction suit for building, a delivery robot that can carry and hold heavy weapons and ammo by itself like that DARPA dog design shown a while ago. Mechs don't have to replace our current stuff, just complement them and make existing tasks even easier, (like how we have robots in iraq helping) but everything has a financial risk which no one is willing to take - maybe money and a lack of a pioneering spirit is what's holding them back?

Edited by 1/1 LowViz Lurker

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Which is a pedantic way of saying, Gundams and Valkyries are totally unbeleivable using what we know.

Exactly, we don't have the technology to create practical useage mechs. So essays like this are about as useful as essays on helicopters before the internal combustion engine was developed. Interesting concept but no way we're pulling it off right now.

Not to say it's a bad essay, I just don't see the point in writing it. It's pretty much just a hella long way of saying what everyone already knows anyway. We don't have the level of technology to implement this idea on a practical basis. There no way to tell if sometime in the future when we're more technologicaly advanced, we can develop mechs that can dance around tanks the way the TAs in Gasaraki did.

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Guest Bromgrev

Seems to me the main problem with mecha is mass. Assume SDF1 alien materials technology = magic to us man-monkeys, and ground pressure and all those pesky actuators and supporting structures become less important. Alien anti-detector paint. Alien gravity control to stop those tall, featherlight valks blowing over in the wind. Etcetera.

Interesting essay, if a bit long for a thread post. I just try not to let the real world intrude too much into anime, or I might start wondering how those kids' mouths open so wide without their heads falling off ... :D

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So there is a slim chance we'll see mecha in combat one day? :p

Probably not in our life time. ='(

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Well if it helps: we do see vehicles with mechanical limbs at least. :D

Every week the garbage collector comes to my house to collect the garbage by using a robot arm on the side of the truck to grab the garbage bin and tip the bin's contents into the truck so the garbo doesn't have to keep coming out of the truck by themselves to do this manually, which probably saves time an effort allowing more houses to be done in shorter time. It's not a mecha used for combat but an example of making tools to benefit us while not necessarily replacing something else that is already effective by itself. In space imagine a space junk collector, instead of sending a human to go and collect something, in a bulky spacesuit, you have limbs to manipulate the objects from within the craft to save time. One thing we are forgetting here is that a vehicle can be BOTH a vehicle and a robot at the same time. The lines are blurred because a vehicle could be controlled by a pilot (whether inside the cockpit or outside the machine) or by a learning computer which allows it to follow simple commands fully-automated. A machine that is both of these things is a an example.

This isn't too far from those little rubbish-collecting robots in DYRL. We are now in the digital wireless age and once people's houses are wired with automated functions all sorts of gadgets can be made to do things by themselves without you needing to be there. In the future you can expect to have moiniturised gadgets like mobile phones inside your clothes, call up your houses computer, and tell the microwave to cook your food. Physically there is nothing mechanical but the information to activate various tools networked together makes your life easier and more conveniant.

We shouldn't expect giant versions of things (hulking biped mecha) when we barely have an interest in making small scale robots and finding uses for them in everday life. But when money can be made from it then you will see advances.

To me practical uses for things come from people's own willingness to create machines for themselves (robots to save time) not just because they see something "cool" in a science-fiction movie and say "this is my reason for doing it". (for eg how fans of anime decide one day to build fake mechs in thier garage as thier hobby)

In Ghost in the Shell we have a character called the puppet master who is able to wirelessly hack (and defeat thier firewall) into a cyborg's computer brain and control thier bodies and nervous system to act as a kind of humanoid mecha (my own terminolgy). Just because there is no cockpit does not change the nature of the idea of controlling/piloting mechanical things to gain an advantage. This is why I think there will be practical uses for something if it means you can save time, resources, lower risks etc and the population are willing to pay for them on a mass scale.

Humans haven't any interest in what goes on out in space so I doubt in our lifetime we could ever reach a point where the global government (like the UNG in macross) makes efforts to find materials on other planets (alien materials?) that would allow for any big advances that we are all used to seeing in sci fi movies. Nope we are stuck on earth bogged down by existing industries that are at least proven and tested to make big $ with no risks and no loss of jobs, because in the end money is what makes the world go round and controlling it is the most important thing on people's mind.

If there is no one willing to pay for the time to research something that will bring a definate return on what they invested, then why bother? This is why I'm glad that not all sci-fiction stay so bogged down in current technology and isn't too detailed into explaining how the stuff works. (the antigrav generator? and where are our 3d holographic images?) The sciences we specialise in on earth may be completely different to whatever an older more-advanced alien race's own mastered sciences are, even though there may be similarities.

Heck the aliens in a sci-fi may not even be carbon-based lifeforms, (the movie 'Contact' is a good example, it's more like the aliens were from another dimension altogether) but it's just more popular to have them that way. A sci-fi show doesn't need to predict that this is where we will be in x amount of years, they can just explain things away by saying that the people in that world went down a different path, or encountered a more advanced race of people. When you can give a good enough reason for why such and such can do what it does in a fictional story that is good enough for me. If for example we did go down the path to a global war as seen in the beggining of SDF:macross with images of people using hand-carried laser guns, whose to say that all our tax dollars and efforts into making our weapons the most advanced won't suddenly result in fast technological progression that brings us closer to what you see in sci-fi? When there is lots of money pumped behind research into such weapons on a global scale (a world war) because people's very survival rests on it, and so long as the concept can prove itself that it can work, anything is possible.

The thing that I'm most interested in is how humans can become connected to machines directly through thier own mind (put a transmitter and reciever in the body, and similarly in machines to control them through thoughts) and how this could parrallel with what we see in macross zero (operating weapons with hands-free controls) or even the matrix. If this is truly possible in a very advanced form, then I can imagine people can be wired to 'feel' what the machine is doing and intuitively control that machine as if it were thier own body through enough training and if the information is fed into them properly. (the famous 'jacking the wire into the back of the neck' scenario. This is why I think a humanoid machine is advantageous because it can 'feel' what it is doing through sensors connected to the person, over something clunky and unintuitive with external controls. So unless a real world example exists comparisons are pointless.)

The concept of the robocop may be seen as far far into the future, but the idea to give people cyborg implants (or wear them at least, if not put them into thier body) isn't. (those who are looking for prosthetic limbs) If the incentive to want convenience and the willingness to save money and time is big enough, people will adopt this as natural and when enough money is made in this industry, advances follow and more research is carried to improve the technology. But that requires big risk, and money, and the people making it have to believe in it themselves, not just because they want to make a profit, but also to make something really work that brings a practical purpose for its existance and enough convenience that somebody would actually want to buy it because they feel it is useful to them.


Here's a good discusion of mecha use in the fictional world:


this snippet highlights the point of different vehicles and robots used in combination as opposed to "one-mech-does-all" idea:


All of the more realistic(and even some non-realistic ones) mehca universes use other weapons in addition to Mecha. The mecha only take up the main force. A good example is the first volume of the Gundam 0079 manga(available in your nearby comic or anime store), where the White Base and the Unholy Trio are assaulted by everything from Mobile Suits(mechs), to Tanks, Aircraft, Infantry, and Artillery. Battletech includes Tanks, APCs, VTOLs, Artillery, and Infantry, even anti-battlemech Infantry. If the majority of BT players, when given the option of using vehicles, fails to utilize them, it's their fault.

All technology and commanders being equal, an army including mechs would most likely defeat an army without them. While the sheer numbers and variety would overwhelm Mechs alone, with the help of a sensibly-organized army, they dominate.

In other words, which would you rather face?

Tanks, Jeeps, Infantry, and Aircraft.


Tanks, Jeeps, Infantry, Aircraft, and massive 30-foot-plus-tall walking War Machines?


tanks>mechs>infantry & light vehicles>tanks

Combined arms, people :)

Mustn't forgot planes<AAA+infantry<artillery<planes. :D
Edited by 1/1 LowViz Lurker

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OMG!!... someone's finally made a post longer than LV Lurker's!

I skimmed it and it looks interesting...

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Guest Bromgrev
OMG!!... someone's finally made a post longer than LV Lurker's!

Is this a record? Someone should check. Someone with a lower level of attention deficit than I. :D

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Regarding the aerodynamic practicality of Kawamori's mecha designs (in fighter mode ;) of course)... something interesting is happening:

a guy is planning to make a radio-controlled, electric-powered YF-19 (that's maybe not for tomorrow since he's already doing a B-1B right now and isn't finished with it and won't be fore some time :rolleyes: ):

"Fantasy scale" thread on RCgroups

For this purpose he has been sent a 3D model of the YF-19 from a MW member :)

Interesting, isn't it?

Edited by Skypoet

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So there is a slim chance we'll see mecha in combat one day? :p

There also happens to be a small but finite chance all the matter making up your present body's probability fields will decide to simulataneously jump to the sun any time now. :p Sure they could be in combat, but that doesn't mean they'll be worthwhile as combat units.


Bringing up the utility robotics and cybernetics in a discussion about mecha only emphasizes that some people don't get such technology in not limited to anthropomorphic implementation. Modern AA guns are robotic devices for example.

As for combined arms, yes I'd rather not have the mecha and have had that money used to make something that wouldn't get me and its operator killed for no good reason. It's the basic economics concept of opportunity cost, if I waste mucho dolores on junk that money isn't going to buy the stuff that's actually needed. You don't need a mecha to kill a mecha anymore then you need to strip down and use a sharpened stick to fight Zulu warriors instead of modern equipment. I doubt the comments people would give for pulling that kind of stunt instead of using rifles, machineguns, and tanks wouldn't be high for your intelligence. Just about all components in a modern force have a given role, and it's not just to kill their counterpart in the enemy's forces.

A M-72 LAW or RPG-7 right through their cockpit should be quite sufficient for most of them. The question is what do they do well and can they add something or are they a lame-duck?

So far going through theoretical roles and with the long list of inherent design problems I've found I'm leaning way towards they're just a lame duck. Even their maneuverability isn't really there as they are going to have a harder time accelerating, getting up to speed, and once they do stopping or changing direction suddenly will be a not so minor problem. The high center of mass means attempts at big changes in momentum cause a significant moment, which isn't a problem on cenventional drive systems or walkers. Additionally walkers do the low speed direction changing maneuvers better as they, for instance, don't necessarily need to turn around.

This isn't a eval like that which said they couldn't go to the moon. Those type of evals are based on knowns to determine what you can and can't do. This is an eval that says "okay you have this machine" now let's look at it's operational parameters, design requirements, and what it could actually be useful for in relation to other machines based on basic physics and actual warfare principles/roles. I acknowledge they're might be stuff my paradigm isn't letting me pick up on which is why I've screened this on various boards and made greater attempts with each upgrade to be as thorough as possible.

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Ill wait till japan starts world war 3 by invading china using giant robots that shoot there hands out then whats left of china will build cheap walmart mecha to combat the honda-bots then the US will jump in with overpriced intel bots made in the phillipeans with canadian built ati eye cameras with bodies made by the french. then russia decides to get in the party with one legged robots since they can't afford the 2nd leg and immediatly get taken over by the british with there robots in bright red paint and giant hats.

Edited by Zentrandude

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Realistically speaking, if mecha were to be produced, they're only going to compliment

the existing equipment. the main battle group will still likely be composed of tanks, infantry, artillery, aircraft & choppers.

to assume that a whole mechanized unit will consist primarilly of mecha is... silly.

also, if the military were to consider mecha, they wouldn't build 'em 40 feet tall. something about 10 feet tall would be what they'd want to build.

if they were going to build something 40 feet tall, I'd assume that would be the 'new' artillery, and you'd never see one in a close-up firefight.

and... with all these new drones being developed, i'd factor out a piloted mecha. they're more likely going to be small (think the size of a mini) drones with legs. remotely operated a thousand miles away.

so... with what we have today, I'd say tanks will still definitely beat out mecha, and definitely no arguments about the 'RPG vs anyhting' , 'cuz 'RPG beats anything'


you can't ignore the potential usefulness of mecha.

them's my 2 cents :ph34r:

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sorry about that :ph34r:

phillipeans is also correct. Im part flip

Edited by Zentrandude

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I think we are actually seeing the evolution of 'Mecha" right now, at least the way it will really happen. Over in the Science Mega thread there is a link to an article about the recent power assist suits that have been made in japan to assist the handicapped and production workers. They are essentially limited bionic exo-skeleton frames.

I think like lots of people speculating, these sorts of suits will get modified for military use, body armor plating with limited muscle enhancing for front line / urban warfare troops/ Battlefield mini-robots used for mine and bombsquad duty are being fitted with cameras and machine guns and used to snuff out enemies in urban settings.

Unmanned flying drone with bombs, these are your modern day "Mecha". With time and innovation these devices will be improved upon. It isn't likely that we will be seeing 50 foot tall robots fighting our wars anytime soon, but remote pilotted bradley tanks, human sized track/wheeled breach and clear robots designed to break into hostile held buildings and kill occupants, those things are just around the corner.

Conjecture, speculation, feasibility studies or just plane old mocking of science fiction creations is a little pointless since when you are talking about creations that are works of fiction based upon future technological advances. We still have a long ways to go in terms of understanding bugs, plastics, bio-engineering and physics before we can start writing things as completely impossible.

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But you're forgetting that the exo-suits are about human sized, and are relatively small to begin with. 50ft mechs, or even 20ft mechs, no matter what kind of technology is crammed in, would be packing a HUGE amount of mass. It just isn't physically probable. An ant can crawl on a ceiling just fine because of its size, but if you increased it to the size of a human, it wouldn't be able to; things begin to lose mobility as mass increases. Likewise, if you shrunk down to the size of an ant, you'd be able to walk on the ceiling just fine. Exo-suits would be fine. 15-18ft slow construction and all terrain warfare mechs would be fine. But 20-24+ft mechs would just be way too cumbersome and massive to be effective anywhere.

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phillipeans is also correct. Im part flip


I would've believed that if I wasn't LIVING there !!!!!

man... that post made my day :lol::lol::lol::lol::lol::lol::lol::lol:

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Just google it up others call it that too. just an alternate spelling.

if your in the olongapo area let me know. maybe we can get together sometime, im recently looking at buying mangos at barrio barritto .

Edited by Zentrandude

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We call it cheap in Singapore...

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