Fictional vs. Real-life: Prototypes in actual combat

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Turn-A Binker
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Fictional vs. Real-life: Prototypes in actual combat

Post by Turn-A Binker » Wed Oct 13, 2010 2:05 pm

In the anime (and novels), Gundam prototypes and other prototype MS share a similarly: they are experimental, sure, but they can also be used for actual combat regardless. Reasons why vary, with one reasonable one being in Sentinel and Unicorn where the prototypes were cancelled but still good to be used that they were sent to combat teams like Task Force Alpha and Londo Bell.

Simple question: compared to real life and our real world history of each nation's military; has this ever happen where a prototype fighter jet, or tank, or anything saw real combat also like or exactly like what we've seen from the Gundam series?

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Re: Fictional vs. Real-life: Prototypes in actual combat

Post by Geoxile » Wed Oct 13, 2010 4:10 pm

Well roll-out models may or may not be mixed out with service models. Though they aren't exactly "prototypes" per se

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Re: Fictional vs. Real-life: Prototypes in actual combat

Post by Brave Fencer Kirby » Wed Oct 13, 2010 9:21 pm

Gundam consistently uses the word "prototype" in a different way than it's used in the real world. Whether this is a quirk of the Japanese language, an artifact of the translation into English, or a genuine mistake on the part of the creators, I couldn't tell you, but there you have it.

In Gundam, "prototype" seems to mean "technology testbed". The RX-78 was made to test the MS concept in general and the hand-held beam weapons specifically, the Mk II was made to test the movable frame concept, etc. In reality, this would typically be referred to as an "experimental" unit rather than a prototype -- and indeed, that's where the X that tend to be in their model numbers comes from. Experimental units are designed to test technologies rather than specific designs -- for example, the real-life F-15 ACTIVE was a test of thrust-vectoring technology, not the F-15.

In reality, a "prototype" is a test of a specific design. Prototypes are typically very similar (but not always identical) to the production model of the design. They're used to shake down problems with the design that aren't evident until it's physically built and tested. If there are no major changes to the final design, prototypes are frequently redesignated (removing the Y prefix that indicates a prototype unit -- eg, a YF-22 prototype is changed to simply F-22) and used in combat like any other production unit. If major changes are made to the final design, they may be retroactively applied to the prototype before it's sent out, or the prototype may be used for training, demonstration, or further testing (for example, a prototype F-15 was converted into an experimental F-15 STOL/MTD (Short Takeoff and Landing/Maneuver Technology Demonstrator), which was itself later converted into an F-15 ACTIVE).

There are also "pre-production" models, which are generally identical to production models, but they're built before the construction process is finalized, and thus were put together differently than production models even though the end result is the same.
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Re: Fictional vs. Real-life: Prototypes in actual combat

Post by reeoyuy » Wed Oct 13, 2010 9:47 pm

Is there a case in real life that a prototype/experimental is superior in almost every aspect than its Mass-Production version? In Gundam, they always use "Too expensive/complex to mass produced so the MP is dumbed down" reason. However, in real life the prototypes or experimental (that I know) are usually inferior than its production version. Mainly because the production version is "perfected" version of a prototype. Kinda like how a completed game is always better than beta release.

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Re: Fictional vs. Real-life: Prototypes in actual combat

Post by Koshernova » Wed Oct 13, 2010 10:23 pm

To my knowledge, there is one use of the word 'prototype' in its real-world sense. I mean, I'm sure there's more in the Gundam metaverse. But the most prominent one is possibly Char's Gelgoog.

Char's Gelgoog starts off as the YMS-14S, alongside 29 other S-type Gelgoogs which are being tested in the Corregidor Shoal Zone. After the Corregidor's tests prove succesful, as well as Char holding his own against the Gundam in Texas Colony, these Gelgoogs are pressed into service as MS-14S models. Of course, those are Ace models, and they DO get a dumbed-down, mass production version, the MS-14A we see in the final battles of the One Year War.

The Gelgoog and Gyan were also competing prototypes, showing the idea was not to use them as tech testbeds, but rather to test which design was superior. Zeon MS had already, in limited capacities, utilised beam weaponry (the first testbed for the handheld rifle was, quite likely, the MS-11 Act Zaku, and marine MS were using particle weaponry). While both G's seem to have been testbeds for beam sabers in particular, the rest of their deployment seems to be more in line with real world prototypes.

Also note: the Guncannon, at least, does follow real world prototypes too. Yes, it's quite powerful, but the Guncannon does see limited production, with later mass-production versions that are not much weaker than the original.

Finally, there's the fact that a lot of Gundam's 'super-prototypes' aren't such. They are, quite often, one-of-a-kind machines created with a specific purpose/pilot in mind, with little or no intention to make them go into mass production. The list is endless: Nu Gundam, Sazabi, Zeta Gundam, Scirocco's MS, etcetera etcetera (and in the AUs it's even more frequently the case). Some of these WERE testbeds, however, for tech to be used elsewhere (the Zeta was a tesbed for the Wave Rider system and the bio-computer), and some were, at least, attempted to be put into mass production (again, the Zeta). But their intent, for the most part, was never mass production.
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Re: Fictional vs. Real-life: Prototypes in actual combat

Post by blind_dead_mcjones » Thu Oct 14, 2010 12:56 am

reeoyuy wrote:Is there a case in real life that a prototype/experimental is superior in almost every aspect than its Mass-Production version? In Gundam, they always use "Too expensive/complex to mass produced so the MP is dumbed down" reason. However, in real life the prototypes or experimental (that I know) are usually inferior than its production version. Mainly because the production version is "perfected" version of a prototype. Kinda like how a completed game is always better than beta release.
yes and no, the idea behind the prototype is to find the limits of the design, and as such often quote performance results that production models will never attempt to approach in practical use (due to the test pilots ringing the absolute s*** out of it), as a result many prototypes are over engineered compared to their mass production counterparts

course this has its own pitfalls, namely that said protoype needs a complete overhaul after each use, and rediculously high maintenence requirements/costs, also in the case of planes at least the prototype will lack various features which the mass production version will have (hardpoints for example) and will tend to use off the shelf components for the cockpit in order to cut costs

another case of the prototype being surperior is when the prototype has a lot of money spent on it to impress potential buyers but the buld quality of the mass production model is quite shoddy (as has been the case of quite a few soviet/russian designed vehicles)

gundam (and most mecha anime by extension) tends to hugely exaggerate these differences in performance for the sake of making the lead look cool, no one in their right mind would use a prototype for actual combat unless they were really really desperate, and no one would push their machine to the absolute limit in actual combat for the same reason.
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Re: Fictional vs. Real-life: Prototypes in actual combat

Post by Tangerine » Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:50 am

Actually, since I work with Japanese company I might as well contribute.

From my perspective whenever the Japanese want to make a new product they made it or designed it as best as they could, trying to do better than what was expected. They really take pride in quality. Only after it was accepted but before the production line started the corporate “men” take part. It consists of a blend of marketing and manufacturing experts, they will judge whether one component, materials or shape are really necessary for sales purpose or whether it is simply deemed too expensive to use.

Hence in a way the prototype in Japanese company is usually a very good product, a lot better than the finished product. It is simply because the one in production line was actually a toned down version for marketing purposes.

I think even big Japanese company from Sony to Toyota did the same cycle. They wanted to make something and then designed the very best of it, then toned it down so ordinary people like you and me can buy the product at a reasonable price.

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Re: Fictional vs. Real-life: Prototypes in actual combat

Post by bluemax151 » Thu Oct 14, 2010 7:53 am

There was a series(?) on the History Channel "Weird Weapons of WWII" that is probably somewhat relevant to this topic.

Otherwise off the top of my head, "concept" cars are almost always more expensive and feature laden then the mass produced versions even if that isn't strictly a military example.
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Re: Fictional vs. Real-life: Prototypes in actual combat

Post by Turn-A Binker » Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:19 pm

So to use what you've said with the three RX-78s as examples:

The RX-78-1 would be Stage 1, a prototype design. Using the ideas from FAZZ for this; it would be a working-for-testing vehicle with the beam sabers, shield and beam rifle being dummies (maybe the same for the thrusters and even the core block too) so they could test out the overall design weight.

Once things are completed, we move on to Stage 2: the RX-78-2, an experimental design. This time it would be actual testing of the weapons, core block and other equipment and see what works and if it does, keep it and improve on it if you need to. If not, remove them if further developments don't succeed. Ultimatlely, this would lead into the production version.

But, if there additional or later upgrades of any kind that is brought up in any way, shape or form, it would result in the RX-78-3: a final improved and upgraded design, and thus Stage 3. Pretty much the same as the RX-78-2, with the upgrades, whatever they are, being the differences being the two units.

Basically, what I've said is based on the fictional background of the RX-78s from the Gundam UC universe.

I guess, thinking about my question and the answers so far; that how the Gundam was written and the plot, even the EFF and its MS; that idea is kinda realistic and overall plausible: no MS for the EFF til the mid-late 0079, and they wanted to know how better than the Zaku they could get with the Gundam, which explains the armor and weapons and having a prototype/experimental weapon duty-ready, as well as having this thing active from its first rollout and deployment til the end of the war (or til its gone, like the RX-78-2 in the novels).

Also, another thing from a different universe to mention is Metal Gear. For example: REX is called (or declared) a experimental weapon, not a prototype (the word isn't mentioned) and that is a working machine with weapons and all. So being called experimental makes more sense than being called prototypes due to their definition, though Japan's reason also makes sense.

With you guys submitting great answers (I really mean it) I have another qeustion to add to this "Prototypes in the Gundam franchise vs. prototypes in the real world" thread: is there such a thing as a stand alone/independent vehicle? Maybe to also explain the Gundam's existence? Also, in your real and creative mind; what would be a really good reason for any military in the world to use a prototype/experimental weapon for active duty?

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Re: Fictional vs. Real-life: Prototypes in actual combat

Post by Tangerine » Fri Oct 15, 2010 12:37 am

Well normally the Gundam would be a simple prototype the end product would actually be the GM.

As for why so many prototypes being used in Gundam, well it's actually pretty odd. Probably it's because after one was made it would be a waste for it to be scrapped or just stored for further use. It makes sense to just sell it to anyone like AEUG or Karaba for them to use it as special unit. :twisted:

The big difference to concept car is they will simply put it in a museum after the owner or its CEO bored with it. Aside from being prettier, packed with more features they have few thing that really matter on the road. Meanwhile a Gundam comes with better function or new invention that can be useful on the battlefield.

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Re: Fictional vs. Real-life: Prototypes in actual combat

Post by bluemax151 » Fri Oct 15, 2010 3:17 am

Turn-A Binker wrote: is there such a thing as a stand alone/independent vehicle? Maybe to also explain the Gundam's existence?
I'm not sure I fully grasp your question but I think you mean something like the Battleship Yamato?
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Re: Fictional vs. Real-life: Prototypes in actual combat

Post by blind_dead_mcjones » Fri Oct 15, 2010 3:34 am

Turn-A Binker wrote: is there such a thing as a stand alone/independent vehicle? Maybe to also explain the Gundam's existence? Also, in your real and creative mind; what would be a really good reason for any military in the world to use a prototype/experimental weapon for active duty?
stand alone vehicles exist in a form called 'proof of concept' machines, one example being the concept cars someone mentioned earlier, which for all intents and purposes is designers and engineers showing off what they can do when money isn't a factor

case in point the holden EFIJY: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-l8tRlEn ... re=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fe83zBCw ... re=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSzf9ZI- ... re=related
http://www.seriouswheels.com/pics-2005/ ... 80x960.jpg
http://lh4.ggpht.com/_vO8me-XP8nk/Ru833 ... _com_2.jpg
http://www.seriouswheels.com/pics-2005/ ... 0x1440.jpg
http://lh3.ggpht.com/_vO8me-XP8nk/Ru834 ... _com_8.jpg

as to your second question, the only legitimate reason i can think of a prototype being used on the front lines, would be to see how the pre production model would perform in actual combat/real world situations before moving to full production
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Re: Fictional vs. Real-life: Prototypes in actual combat

Post by fusion » Fri Oct 15, 2010 12:14 pm

Any new form to war, from electronic, to class of ships, to materials used, that are untested in a battlefield ( active fight ) is a prototype.
Examples .... During the time of pre WW2, the battleship was thought to remain supreme, no one really knew how effective aircraft carriers were going to be, and the amount of power projection they could provide. Hence, Pre ww2, aircraft carriers would be a "prototype" and if they had failed, a very expensive gambit.
The concept of wolf pack and U boats. Submarines worked... But germany really pushed the concept. Since it was new, and untried, no real counters to Uboats untill the middle part of ww2 really surfaced. Britian almost starved as a result. The fact it worked, actually caused the US to adopt similiar idea, to disrupt japanease shipping, untill the naval yards, could replace the loss of warships.
The Stuka aircraft used by the germans to support the "blitz" style of war. No one had ever encountered a army, that merged both close air support, with rapid movement of armor. Most aircraft used by germans were supposedly civilian aircraft. the fact they did the little war of 1939, to field test their gear... ensured their prototypes, were no longer prototypes, but battle tested gear.
little bit more recent..... wire guided portable missles. When given to the israelis by the US, that was a unproven system. They battle tested it for us. And they discovered faults along with it.... the israelis might be wary of TOW, but the system the US used, was pretty decent. And as for the newest of the new, Javelin, always tested great in war games and simulations..... but untill it was used for a first time in war, theres was always gonna be a doubt. Lucky for the US, all that pre testing, panned out, and it's a great system.
And if you need a direct comparison, for prototype and war.... look at the development of helicopter gunships in vietnam. The UH1C was simply a modified UH1, where they strapped on weapons, and use grease pen marks, as the aiming point reference. It was ad hoc, thought right there, and then, and done. It was a temp. aircraft untill the purpose built AH1 cobra could be finished, and put into play. But the first AH1 were more a response due to war time need, to help add supporting fire, to the UH1. But the first AH1's. would be little more then prototypes when first flown. And look at where that concept/prototype has gone. It helped form, and create the modern ideal of Attack helicopters, and defined what a attack helicopter role was.
Hoped some of these examples help give a broader picture of prtotypes, and relation to war.
And if not... go look at DARPA site then, and see what cutting edge is. And most of DARPA is high risk/High Gain ideals, hoped to give a edge in the battlefield in a span of 3-10 years.
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Re: Fictional vs. Real-life: Prototypes in actual combat

Post by JEFFPIATT » Fri Oct 15, 2010 4:55 pm

Well the first Gundam was built as a prototype unit and refined three times as a basic unit and the rest were refitted in to specialized research units.The RX-81 is an actual prototype to enhance the GM line the gundams post 0083 are built as hi-spec ms or as symbolic units in honor of the rx-78. OF the first UC gundams the RX-78 and rx-178 are actually general text models the zeta series are hi-spec models that AE kept trying to market as a replacement for the RX-78 /RGM-79 derived MS. The NU was closer to the mk 2 but incorporated new tech and some of it's research actually made it in to mp units in the form of the beam sheld.

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Re: Fictional vs. Real-life: Prototypes in actual combat

Post by Dark Duel » Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:42 pm

*raised eyebrow*
Nu Gundam did not have a beam shield - those don't come around until 20-30 years later with the F-90 and F-91.
Nu had an I-field barrier, which is an exclusively NT weapon, and thus unsuitable for mass-production given the apparent scarcity of Newtypes by the end of the first century UC.
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Re: Fictional vs. Real-life: Prototypes in actual combat

Post by Dendrobium Stamen » Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:58 pm

To be fair, I'd say you're both right and wrong.

Nu does have a beam shield, in the form of the beam barrier its funnels can generate: Evolve 5 demonstrates it rather nicely. However, as noted, the barrier is generated between its fin funnels, which are Newtype weapons, and with the apparent scarcity of Newtypes in the post-Unicorn era there's little sense developing bit/funnel weapons.

In short, we could say the basic concept of a beam-based defensive screen originated with the RX-93, but its specific method of generating one wasn't adopted for mass-production. Simples! :)
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Re: Fictional vs. Real-life: Prototypes in actual combat

Post by JEFFPIATT » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:51 pm

that fact is brought up in the F90V profile
http://www.mahq.net/mecha/gundam/f90/f90v.htm
One of many Gundam F90 optional armament variations developed by the Earth Federation Forces' SNRI during the early UC 0120s, the F90V Gundam F90 VSBR Type (or "V-Type", for short) was designed to serve as a testbed for next-generation advanced weapons technologies. One of these new technologies was the "beam shield", a defensive device somewhat loosely derived from the beam barrier created by the RX-93 n Gundam's fin funnels. This device, typically mounted on a mobile suit's forearm, generated a beam barrier approximately the same size as a standard, hand-carried shield. In order to keep from accidentally doing damage to one's own mobile suit, a computer control system automatically activated and deactivated segments of the beam shield as needed. The beam shield concept allowed a mobile suit to wield a sort of self-sufficient defensive screen, thus making solid material shields with limited damage-absorption potential virtually obsolete.
The RGM-89R Jegan A-Type ends up being the closest we get to a mass produced Zeta Gundam. The rx-93 got at least an attempted mass production run the only component that was saved was what became the beam shield. surprisingly the jegan never got any upgrades involving nu gundam parts like an backpack upgrade.

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Re: Fictional vs. Real-life: Prototypes in actual combat

Post by Ork_dreadnought » Tue Oct 26, 2010 5:40 am

First post in aggggesssss, hi everyone.

Been giving some thought this issue recently, and I find this thread rather interesting. So, is the consenus at the moment that the whole prototype issue is one of linguistic ambiguity? As various similar but seperate terms are being interchanged inappropiately? That makes sense, but I think the use of the term in Gundam (and other animes for that matter) is more a narrative device than anything else. Its a very easy handwave for a teenage boy surviving in a giant robot he just fell into, and to make any named character special. If its a one off machine or prototype, its special, if its not, you are a red shirt. A lot of mecha designs in gundam start to make more sense when considered along those lines.
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Re: Fictional vs. Real-life: Prototypes in actual combat

Post by Auto-Fox » Fri Nov 05, 2010 10:54 am

There HAVE been instances of "prototypes" being fielded in actual combat, in the past, though never as dramatically as the RX-78-2 Gundam or most of its ilk.
In 1936-37, Nazi Germany sent a limited number of pre-production Messerschmitt Bf 109s to its Condor Legion for use in the Spanish Civil War. At the time, these machines were radically advanced, and pretty much destroyed anything the came up against.
However, compared to the Bf 109 variants Germany fielded during the Second World War, they were downright primitive. Hell, the prop only had two blades. However, most of the machines the Bf 109 went up against during the Spanish Civil War were only a few steps removed from the fighter planes of World War One.
This might explain the Gundam. Compared to the Zaku II, it's a quantum leap, akin to a jet fighter facing down prop planes (the difference being Beam weapons vs Kinetic weapons).
It doesn't explain everything, though. The GMs, while arguably superior to the Zaku, and even the Rick Dom, are still much less advanced than the Gundam. Compared to the Spanish Civil War Bf 109s, and the variants that replaced them, which were technologically superior.
Even if the Gundam WAS intended as a technology demonstration only, it doesn't make sense. Such machines, while having impressive specs and often good performance under controlled conditions, often have buggy hardware (and/or software) and would be utterly useless in a serious fight.
I just don't know... I'm at a loss to explain it, technologically.
I imagine that the Gundam, actually, is not nearly as good a Mobile Suit as the GM, but this is made up for in the series by Amuro's Newtype abilities. It's conceivable that, to keep up appearances, subsequent technology demonstrators were designed to be combat ready.
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