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The RB-79 Ball is a fictional weapon from the anime series Mobile Suit Gundam.
Technology & Combat Characteristics
The Federation refitted about 1200 of the civilian-model worker space pods, known as SP-W03 Space Pods. The Federation reinforced it with heavier armor and mounted a 180mm recoilless cannon on top. The Ball mobile pod also had vernier thrusters mounted all along the body.
A standard EFSF combat team would consist of 3 RGM-79 GMs and 2 Balls to counter Zeon's 3-MS tactical units, though other formations have been seen; Ball-only teams of 1 RB-79K and 2 RB-79 launched from a Salamis-class cruiser, and various large formations launched from Columbus-class ships.
The directional thrusters mounted on all Ball units were "directed" solid fuel explosives, the detonation giving an impulse through the thrusters to change the direction of the Ball. This configuration gave the Ball unit good reaction speed and reasonable maneuverability on each thrust but very limited use of the system compared to the liquid fueled directional thrusters on mobile suits.
The Ball units had an advantage when it came to refueling on board the Columbus-class support vessel due to the lack of beam weapons and low number of liquid fuel thrusters, making the refueling/rearming time extremely short compared to any Mobile Suit that runs on thermo-nuclear power. In fact, the thrusters and weapons were designed to be modular, allowing depleted thruster banks and empty gun magazines to literally be removed by the servicing crew to be reloaded at a later time, and fully-loaded ones to be quickly installed in their place.
At first, the Ball was seen as ill-suited for combat. It had limited ammo, relatively thin (though emplaced in a ballistically-sound manner and moderately sloped to assist projectile deflection) armors, and lacked the AMBAC system or any sort of close-in weapon other than its manipulator claws. The most famous battle involving Balls was Operation Star-One, an operation undertaken to further pressure Zeon into retreating from Earth after the Federation took the upper hand following Odessa. Since the GM was not yet ready, over 1000 Balls were committed along with Salamis-class and Magellan-class warships. Their numbers overwhelmed the Zeon fleets and drove them away, but countless RB-79s were destroyed during what turned out to be one of the most brutal battles for the Federation. Soon after, the Ball earned the nickname "Mobile Coffin" among EFSF pilots. It is sometimes joked that (in Gundam 0079) the only time a Ball ever hit anything was when one is kicked into a GM by a Zaku II.
However, some statistics on the unit counters this view of the Ball unit being weak - in fact, it had a specification superior to many of their opponents. The Ball was smaller than the average mobile suits, which not only made it a more difficult target to hit than a GM but also made it lighter as well as gave it a higher acceleration rate than most contemporary mobile suits. All of the supposedly very powerful mobile armors, save for a few Newtype units, had lower mass-thrust ratios (i.e. acceleration) than the Ball unit. All the earlier model space-combat mobile suits, specifically the Zakus and Rick Dom, had inferior acceleration and less sensor range. This gave the Ball unit a very good advantage in hit-and-run tactics even when not supporting GMs. The Ball's real advantage came from both numbers and cost. The Ball cost about 1/4 of a RGM-79 (next to nothing to the EFSF) and was heavily mass-produced, becoming a support unit for warships and RGM-79 GM's during the One Year War. The RB-79(G) was intended as a close-range escort for teams of the longer-ranged artillery units - the (G) variant is seen fielded in a 1/2 ratio with the standard Ball in MS Igloo.
- 180mm Recoilless Cannon
The concept for a combat mobile pod was initially devised as early as U.C. 0076 under the RX-76 project. However, development was put on hold until February 13, U.C. 0079, where the project was revived with renewed interest. The first RB-79 Ball was rolled-out in June of U.C. 0079. During the outbreak of the One Year War between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon, the Federation lacked any sort of the mass-produced humanoid mecha, known as Mobile Suits. The Zeonic forces laid waste to the Federation with their mobile suits, the MS-05B Zaku I and the later MS-06F Zaku II.
To counteract this, the Federation scrambled to make some sort of mobile weapon that could counter the Zeon attack. However, their new prototype mobile suit, the RX-78-2 Gundam was too costly to mass-produce and their first mass-production mobile suit, the RGM-79 GM, just wasn't being fielded fast enough.
Thus, the RB-79 Ball Mobile Pod, was born. Easier to build and mass-produce, the RB-79 was soon on the front lines fighting the MS-06 Zaku II's and other Zeon Mobile Suits. Although lighter armed than its larger brothers, it was able to provide fire support and hold the line against the Zaku until the GM's, Guntank, Guncannon, and Gundam came into the War.
Other appearances and references
- A joke of the Ball unit is that if it is painted red and a horn is attached to it, it will become one of Char Aznable custom units and became 3 times more powerful than an ordinary unit. This gag has at least appeared in two Doujin manga, one Super robot wars doujin manga was actually published by a branch of Bandai showing a Ball unit painted red, with a horn and stripped with ammo. Char Aznable seems to actually like it but was shot down in less than 3 panels. Another model manga(a comic with model pictures instead of drawings) was published in a modeling magazine Dengeki Hobby, where titled as Why Char assassinated Kycilia showing in place of where in the story should be MSN-02 Zeong, Kycilia actually provided Char with a red ball, with two horns like Zeong, labeled Horns next to them; an enlarged bottom thruster, labeled 3 times next to it; the cannon was replaced by the hand of Zeong, labeled Psycommu next to it, referencing the traits of Char's Custom units.
- Another appearance is in the SD Musha Gundam series(a SD Gundam series featuring sengoku period like world where residents are super deformed Gundam world mechas), the ball was called Template:Lang (Bakuru) and is the primary foot soldiers siding with the Gundam Warriors and Generals.
- One of the mechanical designers of Bandai, Katoki Hajime, stated in the MG model instruction manual, that the Ball unit is actually an attempt of the Earth Federation Forces trying to reproduce the Mobile Armors and is in fact quite powerful. This is also not the first time such a positive review was seen on the unit; Gundam Officials (a Japanese magazine put out by Bandai) has made similar statements on the unit. The Ball, in those Gundam video games that feature it, can be a fearsome weapon - in the SD Gundam series of Tactical RPGs, the Ball's large movement range, low cost, and very powerful long-range main gun make it a devastating second-line unit, although lackluster in close combat. In the Versus series of arcade games, the Ball is similarly dangerous.
- This is reinforced in Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation vs Zeon where in the Ball is counted as a Mobile Armor in the results screen.
- The Ball appears in the third episode of Gundam Build Fighters, piloted by Reiji who had chosen the weakest Gunpla to pit against the veteran Gunpla players. It is given a moniker, "Spherical Coffin". In episode 13, the Star Build Strike is forced to fight in a baseball-themed battle against the Abigorbine, using a glove and three baseballs, which are patterned to look like the Ball.