Vertical cities need vertical vehicles. Trains and rails are fine for moving things from city to city, but inside the cargo bays of an arcology there simply isnt the amount of room needed for tending fleets of fork trucks, and other cumbersome utility vehicles. Those vehicles were also annoyingly and stubbornly specialized. It was simply a matter of square feet of floorspace versus the footprint of the vehicle being used. Trucks and lifts were in the short term cheaper, but industrial mecha were the part to the future. With a fraction of the footprint of conventional vehicles, the walking Loader mechs and material handling Load Suits, simply were better suited to the environment.
The End of an Era
The Petroleum Age was the undisputed domain of the main battle tank, and the air superiority campaign. Jets screamed overhead while tanks with jet engines roared around, their massive armor and impressive guns dominating the battlefield. The nations that had these things were the haves, and those who didn't were the have not's. But these vehicles all depended on steady and heavy supplies of fuel. As the petroleum age ended and the Resource Wars ramped up, these weapons started at the front of the battle as they had for almost two centuries. The nations that were the Haves did very well against the Have Nots, but eventually the Resource Wars did more to deplete the stockpiles of what contested resources remained, than to meaningfully extended the preeminence of any of those old Have powers.
The first mecha were the product of a confluence of technologies, special needs, and innovative thinkers.
The Johnson Juggernaut
The Johnson Juggernaut was a singular mech, some 23 meters tall, that was heavily involved in construction operations across southern California. The giant four legged machine was considered a joke by some, but it's effectiveness in moving goods with it's container crane system of lifts and rigging, as well as it's excellent mobility allowed the Juggernaut and it's owner operator G.L Johnson to complete several construction projects ahead of time. The Juggernaut is now featured on the $500 Republic of California note. The Juggernaut is still functional, but is a museum piece in the Oceania Museum of Industry and Technology.
Tetsujin Type 27
Another industrial application mech, the Tetsujin Type 27 was built in Nippon/Japan and was used as a civil emergency response vehicle. The bipedal mech was equipped with manipulator claws, hook ups for water tankers for firefighting, as well as several special tools such as scrapes, blades and other land and debris moving equipment. Several Type 27s would be retrofit with more precise hand units, and would have welding tools and other construction aids and were used as giant building assembly workers. A single man in a Type 27 could do the same work as two cranes and a full crew of trained construction workers.
Built in Italy, the Mazinganni-Zagati was as much a handful to handle as it was to pronounce. Decidedly Italian, the MZ was given major emphasis on it's appearance and ended up being much more complicated than it needed to be. Only two were built, one was destroyed in a work related accident, and the other, complete but not given it's final approval was sold as 'scrap' to German interests. The Germans would rebuild the MZ as the Riesigjaeger Mk. 1 and it would be a prototype armed mech. As a proof on concept design, it was considered a success as it deployed weapon systems, moved well, but it was never pushed beyond that level.
ElectroCorp made a small buzz when it debuted the Loader. The Loader was a full on robot, built in a humanoid form. It was intended to work as part of a team handling materials in megawarehousing and mega scale construction. The Loader droid brain was problematic, and the machines were prone to break down and signal issues were rampant.
The Industrial Mech is Born
The first serious industrial mechs were produced in Germany and were a combination of technologies gathered from around the world. The ElectroCorp Loaded had one of the best designed chassis' to date, while the computer and control systems of the Juggernaut were almost flawless, despite the ponderous nature of the mech. The Tetsujin had excellent electronics and hand manipulators as well as the most versatile system for tool use. Finally, the MZ had at it's heart a compact arc reactor that was originally designed for locomotives. The first recognizable mech was the Bagger 1.
For More reading on industrial mecha: Non-Combatant Mecha. While the tone of the writing doesn't fit the Cosmic era, the material is relevant to non-military applications of giant piloted robots.
Mecha are large and complicated machines, and one of the advantages of this is modularity. Mecha can be tailored to their specific job, or environment quite easily. While this is not something kitbashed in the field, it is easily done in the factory.
The Chassis of the mech is it's internal structure, and the components that are used for basic locomotion. This is all mechanically complicated but functionally simple. There is no hypertechnology in the myriad joints, compression and expansion systems, and flex and rotation points that let a giant machine move with the ease of an average sized person. A single chassis can be used to create dozens of variants of a supeficially similar series of mecha. Armor is typically standardized to each chassis, and seldom varies.
Core: the core of the mecha is the torso and hip section of the machine, it is the largest, and heaviest component with the largest amount of armor. The core is mostly empty space surrounded by a very strong superstructure and armor plating. The engine and other components are then fit inside.
Cores are typically broken down by their general size: small, medium, large, extra large, and giant.
Small Core: 15-30 tons, minimal internal space, cannot mount internal weapons, hardpoints on back OR shoulders. Most heavily armed small mecha rely on gun arms or hand carried weapons rather than being walking tanks.
Medium Core: 35-50 tons, moderate internal space, can house a single large or several small internal weapon systems, hardpoints on back and shoulders.
Large Core: 55-80 tons, moderate internal space, can house several internal weapon systems, and hardpoints on shoulders, back, and arms.
XL Core: 85-105 tons, large internal space, can mount 2 power generators, multiple internal weapon systems, and hardpoints on the shoulders, back, arms, and hips.
Giant Core: 110+ tons, expansive internal space. Can mount multiple power generators, turret systems
Legs: the primary locomotion system of the mech, or the machine from the hips down.
Standard Pediplant Leg Assembly: humanoid type legs
Standard Digiplant Leg Assembly: bird type legs with a pronounced 'reverse knee' and a wide stance. Digiplant legs can mount larger foot actuators and have a lower weight footprint. They are also visually associated with higher speed.
Quad Leg Assembly: four legs splay out from the center core providing stability, usually at the cost of speed. Quad legs are common on heavier mecha, fire support mecha, and rough terrain vehicles.
Wheeled Sub-Chassis: from the waist down the mech has wheel systems like wheeled combat vehicles. Wheel trains are able to sustain heavy loads, require little power compared to leg proper assemblies and can carry heavier armor.
Caterpillar Sub-Chassis: like the wheeled version, this is an even heavier sub chassis that is used only by the heaviest mecha. It is stable, carries a huge amount of armor, and can handle rough terrain at the cost of any jump ability.
Standard humanoid: these are basic arms, similar to human. The mecha has two hands, and can manipulate things, carry weapons,and engage in hand to hand combat
Gun Arms: rather than lower arms and hands, the arm below the elbow joint terminates in a weapon system, such as an autocannon, laser array and so on. Gun arms are less versatile, but cheaper to produce.
Pod Assembly: A mecha can forfeit arms entirely to use the shoulder mounting point as a pair of mounting points for weapons pods. Pods can move, target and fire at enemies like a turret on a tank.
Electronic and Control Components
The Head Unit
The Head unit of a mech is very important, for fairly obvious reasons. Less obvious reasons involve the modular nature of the control systems, and that different heads can be attached to a mech to expand its role.
Trainer: this head has an extended cockpit and seats two crewmen, the instructor and the trainee. The expensive electronic warfare systems are not present, nor are their hard wired weapon systems. There are systems that can alter the displays in the head to mimic the feedback of different machines, or simulate damage to the machine.
Standard Head: a no frills head unit that has the standard package of targeting and tracking systems, communications systems, and hard wiring to various components.
EW Head: the electronics warfare head is packed with electronics like integral ECM and ECCM sensors, enhanced sensor systems, and other delightful black boxes.
Recon Head: packed with the best sensors and scanning systems, but lightly built.
Armor Head: a larger than normal head that is heavily armored. Armor heads are typically only used on the largest mecha, or on mecha expected to encounter close quarters fighting.
Droid Head: A compact head that houses a combat LAI computer.
Fire Control Systems
The number of FCS on the market is vast
The simplest form of the mech is the Walker, also known as the Pod-Walker, Pod Mech, Iron Chicken, Stomper, Shuffler, and a variety of other less than flattering terms. The Walker has a very simple layout. The body is a centralized pod, or fuselage type structure, supported by two reverse knee style legs. This type of mech seldom has arms, and when they are present, they are typically undersized and not capable of lifting the mech if it topples. Walkers emphasize armor protection and firepower over speed, and are seen as second rate machines.
The ACPS is the primary deployer of Walker mecha. The mecha are very large and have a staggering amount of armor and an equally stunning amount of firepower. The Yu Kung Long, code named 'Stalker' is the epitome of both ACPS mecha and the Walker design. The machine towers over other mecha at 30 meters tall, tips the scales at 170 tons, and carries an arsenal of weapons that could more effectively be used by three war machines. The Kung Long has an axially mounted laser array, four cheek mounted medium laser arrays, six guided missile launchers, a twin barrel 40mm anti aircraft cannon dorsal turret, and a varying number of machine guns, grenade launchers, and mortar systems. While not fast, the 'Stalker' can walk through withering rains of enemy fire to deliver it's combat payload. The Kung Long sees regular action in suppressing Indian rebellions as well as along the Eurasian Alliance/ACPS border.
Walkers in the other world power blocs are relegated to defensive work and second line positions, where their durability and armor offset their relative lack of maneuverability. The South African United Republics (SAUR) also uses Walkers in their defense in depth strategy in resisting Federation expansion in Africa. Their walkers favor heavy autocannons and plasma cannons mounted in dorsal turrets. The Eurasian Alliance has almost no Walkers in it's inventory, instead favoring tanks and super heavy tanks.
The Titan and Grand Titan are the main Walkers deployed by the Atlantic Federation, a design they manufacture and sell to other powers, such as Scandinavia, PRC, and regional military powers. The machine is compact and powerful, mounting a center line rail cannon supported by a trio of light autocannons and a dorsal mounted anti-aircraft missile launcher. The Titan is no longer in service in the Federation and mounted a siege autocannon instead of a rail gun, leaving it mostly in the hands of renegades, rebel factions, and the like. An artillery version of the Titan was built, the King Titan. The King Titan redesigns the entire pod of the original titan to accommodate a naval gun turret mounting three light artillery pieces. The King Titan has a reinforced chassis and recoil compensation systems to handle the guns firing. The King Titan doesn't fire all three guns at one time, rather it follows a 2-1-2 firing pattern. The outside cannons will fire, while the center cannon fires, the outside guns reload. King Titans are present in all Federation combat theaters except suppressing rebellions and the fight against Amerikka Command. Military agreements with the PRC and treaties dealing with handling civilian and terrorist uprisings prevents the Federation from leveling their biggest weapons against the 'snakes'.
Quad mecha are rare. The main use of quad walkers are in industrial and manufacturing roles. Quads are considered to be very out of style, the design considered antique, outdated, and a rough ride. In most military circles, quads and their proponents 'quaddies' are considered backwards and unsexy.
The Paris is a four legged siege cannon. Built in France, the Paris is a 220 ton monster. It has one gun, a 800mm mortar. This mammoth gun fires a 2,400 pound projectile up to 20 miles via a linear gun (low velocity rail gun) and can fire standard high explosive, exotic high explosive, sandhog burrowing munitions, and the leClerc sub-atomic munition. The SAM detonates a 10 kiloton warhead and can be configured for airburst, or bunker buster mode.
The Eurasian Alliance employs the U-9 Logistika, a quad mech that is a tank recovery vehicle, and can service machines in the field as a walking tool shed. It can do everything from a standard rearm and reload, to pulling engines and replacing damaged turrets.
The oceans now house almost 15% of the world population, as well as large numbers of seacologies, underwater bases, and other installations and resources valuable to the world powers. In the past, the oceans were only contested by ships and submarines. Now with the presence of mecha, small craft, and power diving suits, the underwater realm has changed in aspect. The Personal Submersible was weaponized first by Nippon/Japan, and then by the Eurasian Alliance, and these small attack craft started being carried and deployed like aircraft from surface carriers. The increased durability and agility of the mech were desired in underwater operations, which made it's first debut in the Atlantic Federation Crab construction mecha.
The Crab is one of the most widely produced and sold mecha ever made.Variants of the Crab are used in everything from aquaculture tending kelp farms and fisheries to building the seacologies, to underwater mining and resource gathering. The Crab combined aquatic gear with the seemingly unpopular quad design, making for a strong and stable vehicle.
The Seabream II is a common mech in the Kingdom of Scandinavia navy. The mech is light, 35 tons, and has a magnetodyne propulsion system that allows it to move rapidly under water via water jets. The Seabream has multiple laser arrays and a multi-role missile/torpedo launchers that allow it to engage underwater, surface, and aerial targets.
Aquatic mecha tackle movement underwater via three main methods: walking, magnetodyne or caterpillar drives, or buoyancy and prop systems. The first method is the simplest, the mecha walks along the seafloor on it's legs. Most underwater bottom crawlers have quad designs for stability and handling underwater currents. These mecha also tend to be the heaviest and strongest, as they are on the bottom most of the time. The magnetodyne system uses the electroconductive properties of water to create a water jet through electric manipulation of said water. This technology was pioneered by the Eurasian Alliance and is used on all of their submarines, personal submersibles and other water vehicles. Most aquatic mecha with magnetodyne drives have the system self contained except for a power/data umbilical in a 'backpack' unit. The units that have secondary magnetodyne systems typically use a 'skimmer' design that pulls the vehicle along like a wagon, or dog sled. The least efficient design is creating a neutrally buoyant machine and then maneuvering it with a series of props and propellers. This last mode is fairly common among the Atlantic Federation sea mechs, and is one of the reasons those mechs fair poorly in combat. The prop system is easy to hit and damage, and the buoyancy of the vehicle is easy to compromise if sections are damaged.