The RB-79 Ball was a refitted civilian mobile pod to serve the Earth Federation as combat support for the RGM-79 GM in the One Year War. Several variants were developed including the Type C, Type F, Work Type, Type K, and Type M.
Despite having inferior fire-power the Federation was able to produce the Ball in greater numbers and at a lower cost. However, the Ball was slowly phased out as more variants of the GM were developed.
The concept for a combat mobile pod was formulated by the Earth Federation as early as UC 0076 under the RX-76 project. However, development was put on hold until February 13, UC 0079, when the project was revived with renewed interest. The first RB-79 Ball was launched in June UC 0079.
At the beginning of the One Year War with the Principality of Zeon, the Federation lacked any sort of mobile suits. The Zeon forces held the upper hand in the war with their mobile suits, the MS-05B Zaku I and the MS-06F Zaku II.
The Federation scrambled to develop mobile weapons to counter the Zeon supremacy. They produced a prototype mobile suit, the RX-78-2 Gundam, but it was too costly to be mass produced. Their first mass-production mobile suit, the RGM-79 GM, was not produced fast enough to be deployed at all battle fronts. Thus, the Federation revived their cancelled Project V RX-76 Prototype Ball and refitted around 1,200 civilian-use SP-W03 Space Pods to be deployed in combat.
As an improvised conversion, the Ball was initially seen as ill-suited for combat. It earned the unfavourable nickname “Mobile Coffin” among Earth Federation Space Force pilots. However, it was smaller, more manoeuvrable, and more stealthy than a mobile suit. The Federation stuck to it for its low production cost and availability in large numbers.
The fast Salamis-class cruisers and their attached Ball squads harassed Zeon supply fleets with hit-and-run attacks, resulting in Zeon deploying additional forces to escort their vulnerable Papua-class and Pazock-class transport ships.
The most famous battle involving Balls was Operation Star One, an offensive to further pressure Zeon into retreating from Earth after the Federation took the upper hand following Operation Odessa. Being the only viable attack option, over 1,000 Balls were committed along with Salamis-class and Magellan-class warships. Their numbers overwhelmed the Zeon fleets and drove them away, but countless Balls were destroyed during what turned out to be one of the most brutal battles for the Federation.
The RB-79 Ball had its armour reinforced and a 180 mm recoilless cannon was mounted on each unit. Vernier thrusters were added to increase manoeuvrability. These used solid-fuel explosives rather than more conventional liquid propellants.
The Ball was considered ill-suited for combat for many reasons. It had limited ammunition, less heavily armoured compared to its counterparts, and it had poor manoeuvrability. The mobile pod also had no close-range weapons aside from its manipulator claws. Being smaller than the average mobile suits made the Ball harder to hit. It was also lighter and had a better acceleration than most mobile suits, especially the early generation units.
- RB-79C Ball Type C
- RB-79F Ball Type F
- RB-79G Ball Work Type
- RB-79K Ball Type K
- RB-79M Ball Type M
- RB-79N Fisheye
- RB-133 Type 133 Ball
Behind the scenes
Hajime Katoki, one of the mechanical designers of Bandai, stated in the MG gunpla instruction manual that the Ball unit was actually an attempt by Earth Federation Forces to reproduce the mobile armours and that it was actually quite powerful.
Gundam Officials, a Japanese magazine by Bandai, has made similar positive statements on the unit. 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 lacklustre in close combat. In the Versus series of arcade games, the Ball is similarly dangerous.
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