Mark Simmons - Here's something for you mobile suit historians. Of all the classic One Year War suits, perhaps none has a genealogy as tangled and mysterious as the RGM-79 GM. The expanded background info presented in the Master Grade kit manuals hasn't done much to help matters, since their account tends to change with every new release. But the manual for the new RGM-79C space type is a real goldmine; not only does it address the burning question of GM production numbers and (at last!) explain the RGM-79(E) seen in The 08th MS Team, but you also get a juicy conspiracy theory regarding episode 4 of the original Mobile Suit Gundam TV series. With no further ado, here's a (slightly condensed) transcript...
TYPE C' INTRODUCTION
However, as mobile suit development and production were a matter of highest urgency for the Federation Forces, they nonetheless continued to produce specialized models for use in space and on land. This tendency was particularly strong when it came to ground forces, and many of the earliest units lacked this conversion-friendly central block feature.
Jaburo's first RGM-79 production run consisted of 42 ground combat units, which were used to form early combat teams. Then, after some minor design changes, a second production run began; the six or so production sites (including, as of December, the recaptured California Base) produced 288 of these machines by the end of the war. Allowing for factors like the loss of data caused by the Principality of Zeon's assault on Jaburo, the disappearance of mobile suit teams when their motherships were destroyed, accidents, and so forth, the prevailing theory is that these production numbers don't include pre-production and custom types. Moreover, by the last stage of the war there were several different development and production sites - including Luna II, Madras, Augusta, and the recaptured California Base - so it could safely be said that the "total production run" of the GM series was in fact substantially higher. One of these other types, the versatile and high-performance space version independently developed at Luna II, is said to have been the model for the later GM Kai.
The development of the RGM-79C GM Kai began by using the other "GM series" machines as a design reference, applying numerous improvements and incorporating the latest new technologies. As of October, prototype units had already been deployed in Earth orbit and perhaps at facilities in the vicinity of Luna II, but this information was cloaked in total secrecy. At this point, the existence of any mobile suit other than the Gundam stationed aboard the White Base was a top military secret. The reason why the commandant of the Luna II garrison didn't - or couldn't - offer sanctuary to the White Base, was that he had to conceal the fact that Luna II already had its own mobile suit development facilities (even from Captain Paolo!). And as long as Zeon's special forces were chasing the "Trojan Horse" and its "White Mobile Suit," they wouldn't be interfering with the potential mass production of mobile suits at Luna II. However, the Luna II garrison detained the White Base crew long enough to secretly collect operating data from the Gundam, and thus obtained this data at a very early stage. Luna II's "space type" GM, unlike the so-called "generic" RGM-79 which was based on earlier data, was therefore able to retain the modular central block. The layout of the Luna II factory, with its zero-gravity drydocks, also proved helpful for production.
The RGM-79C GM Kai was based on Luna II's "space type" GM and, like other custom types, it was primarily assigned to ace pilots and to teams with relatively high survival rates. Four of these units were supplied to the "Immortal 4th Team" commanded by Lieutenant (JG) South Burning.
Assorted Notes: The diagram on page 3 notes that these machines are pre-production units, rolled out at Luna II just before the end of the One Year War. The first prototype of this model was created in October, U.C.0079, and by early December it had been officially classified as the RGM-79C. Also, the units used by the "Immortal 4th" bear a marking on their left shoulders which reads "MS Education & Training Command."
Madras is cited as the headquarters of the Federation's Far Eastern Forces in the 08th MS Team novels, and it's started showing up as a Federation stronghold in video games like Gihren's Greed, but this is the first time I'd seen it cited as an MS production site. I guess we now know five of the six sites...
The Wakkein thing does make a lot more sense. No matter how arrogant and by-the-book, a Federation commander shouldn't let his army's One Last Hope wander off into hostile territory unless it was to protect something even more important. And this is consistent with the original series's running theme of the White Base as decoy.
Lastly, about that first production run of 42 units. From the text, it sounds like these first units were produced in October and lacked the modular central block - that would be why they're described as "ground combat versions," since they can't be converted for space use. Presumably these were used by teams like White Dingo and Blue Destiny's 11th Mechanized Corps. The second batch of 288 units - the RGM-79B, if you like - were presumably produced after Jaburo had obtained the Gundam data, and thus featured the central block system.
At any rate,
I guess these 42 ground types would not be the same as the RGM-79(G) seen
in 08th MS Team. For one thing, they were produced in October, at which
point The 08th MS Team's story is already underway; for another, the previous
RGM-79(G) kit manual put its production run at roughly 50 units, not the
aforementioned 42. In this case, the Federation would have some hundred
mobile suits deployed around the Earth by November, when the "RGM-79A"
versions are deployed.
While Luna II is testing its prototype, mass production of the standard GM begins at Jaburo, which produces 42 units of this "early" or "first" type. This version is designated as the generic RGM-79. Later, after the Gundam data reaches Jaburo, it's refined into a slightly modified "latter" version - also designated just plain RGM-79.
If we want
to differentiate the two versions of the standard RGM-79, I'd suggest
calling them "A type" and "B type," since they were
produced before the RGM-79C. It's not really helpful to call Jaburo's
first production version the "E type," since this creates confusion
with the prototype of the RGM-79C.
Mark Simmon Gundam Guru