Bad ‘Mechs – Fireball

Fireball Eldoniousrex

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

Private Ensha heard the growling tone of his Fireball’s Streak SRM launcher as it locked onto the Toad leaping from cover. Secure in the knowledge that the missile’s homing seeker would find its target no matter what the Toad did, he pulled the trigger and sent two contrails spiraling into the flying battle armor. As expected, both struck home, sending the Elemental warrior crashing back to the ground.

Only to have that same Elemental warrior almost immediately pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and raise its own SRM launcher to fire back at Ensha’s ‘Mech. 

“What the fuck!” Ensha cried, half in dismay, half disbelief. He’d been told by various veterans in the Deneb Light Cavalry that Clan Elementals were tough, but even one of those missiles would have blown a hovercar to pieces. For the Clanner to survive two direct hits and then fire back was beyond unfair. 

Especially considering he only really had that Streak SRM launcher to deal with the Toads. Experience had already taught Ensha that firing the machine gun on his Fireball’s right shoulder was about as effective as getting out of his ‘Mech and taking on those armored monsters with a squirt gun.

Ensha locked onto another Toad and fired a second pair of Streak SRMs. Again, both hit, knocking the Elemental flat on its back. Zooming in on his external camera, Ensha saw the Elemental’s cracked faceplate as black ooze seeped in to rapidly fill the gaps. And just like the other Toad, this one shook itself off and came after him like an angry hornet, firing its laser to score a few hits on Ensha’s chest plate.

Panic was starting to set in. Ensha looked around and saw the other Fireballs in his lance were having similar trouble downing targets. Command had said these new ‘Mechs were specifically designed to take on Clan battle armor, with Ensha’s lance formed as a fast-response unit to deal with Elemental incursions. It was starting to look like someone in AFFC procurement hadn’t done enough research to verify those claims. 

When he saw his sergeant’s Fireball go down after two Elementals sawed their way through its arm, Ensha broke and ran. With a top speed of well over 180 km/h, at least his Fireball could take him away from danger faster than any ‘Mech in the Deneb Light Cavalry.

Fireball Evil Egg

Aside from vastly superior ‘Mechs and weapon designs, the Clan Invasion also introduced the Inner Sphere to an entirely new threat: Elementals. Clan warriors bred with superhuman strength and clad in powered armor that both augmented the Elemental’s inbred power and protected the warrior through advanced life support and automatic combat medications. In the early days of the Clan Invasion, single Elementals were known to have brought down entire ‘Mechs, smashing through thin cockpit armor and killing the pilot therein.

In response, the AFFC and the New Avalon Institute Of Science began rapidly prototyping ‘Mech designs that could effectively combat armored infantry. The Fireball was specifically designed to rapidly reach areas beset by Elementals and eliminate them before they could wreak havoc. Although an abject failure in its intended role, the Fireball’s outstanding speed eventually allowed it to become an exceptional scout and forward reconnaissance ‘Mech. 

The Fireball‘s defining characteristic is speed. With a running velocity of 184 km/h, the Fireball is one of the fastest ‘Mechs ever to come out of the Inner Sphere. NAIS scientists and Corean Enterprises engineers settled on four tons of standard armor as sufficient protection, and armed the Fireball with a single Streak SRM-2 and a machine gun to deal with Clan infantry. 

On paper, the Fireball seemed ideal. Unfortunately, by the time NAIS received accurate reports concerning the toughness of Elementals, it was already too late to modify the design. As such, the Fireball entered production with insufficient armament to be a true threat to Elementals, let alone satisfy its mission requirement of dispatching Elementals efficiently.

Fireball Card Art

In 3053, the first production runs started delivery to the Crucis Lancers, Deneb Light Cavalry, and Ceti Hussars, all regiments guarding the Lyran side of the Federated Commonwealth from incursions by Clan Wolf and Clan Jade Falcon. All three regiments often assigned their rookie pilots to newly delivered Fireballs in order to build experience against what was perceived as easy prey. 

It soon became clear that Elementals weren’t afraid of the new design. The Fireball‘s armament was found to be woefully inadequate in its first encounters with Elementals. Reports of Elementals dismissing machine gun fire and SRMs as they charged fearlessly towards quick-response Fireball lances often resulted in their pilots learning too late just how dangerous an Elemental could be. 

Having utterly failed in its intended role, the Fireball was quickly repurposed as a scout and reconnaissance ‘Mech, a task to which its almost ludicrous speed was far better suited. The Fireball became a common sight in scout lances during the FedCom Civil War, where both Lyran Alliance and Allied forces made use of the design as its factory on New Avalon changed hands. 

Corean Enterprises made several attempts to improve the Fireball after its disastrous initial deployment. The ALM-8D, introduced in 3054, replaced the Streak SRM-2 launcher with two medium lasers and an additional half-ton of armor. This was considered a vast improvement over the original and quickly became the new standard for regiments deployed against the Clans. The ALM-9D instead replaced the right-shoulder machine gun with a single medium laser and another half-ton of armor. This variant was more commonly given to raw recruits where the Streak SRM launcher’s targeting system would result in fewer wasted shots.

The ALM-10D, introduced in 3076, was a massive rework of the 8D variant. Adding MASC, Heavy Ferro-Fibrous armor, a targeting computer, and replacing the medium lasers with extended-range upgrades, the ALM-10D would begin production following New Avalon’s recapture from the World of Blake and remain in production into the Dark Age


There is one other variant of the Fireball worth mentioning. Leaning into the design’s exceptional agility for illegal underground ‘Mech racing, the ALM-XF strips the Fireball down to just two ER small lasers and three tons of Ferro-Fibrous armor. The freed-up tonnage is then devoted to a massive 320 XXL engine, MASC, a Supercharger, and an XL gyro, providing the ALM-XF with a cruising speed of 240 km/h and a theoretical top speed of 400 km/h.

The Fireball offers a complicated legacy. Out-performed by newer scout ‘Mechs and designs purpose-built to deftly handle armored infantry, the Fireball‘s continuing presence can largely be attributed to Corean Enterprises maintaining Fireball production lines alongside its more famous ‘Mechs like the Centurion and Valkyrie. However, one can only assume that the Fireball will be the first production line to cease operations as soon as Corean engineers come up with a more competitive light scout.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

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About Sean

Hooked on BattleTech at an early age, Sean honestly can't remember whether it was the cartoon, the serial novels or the short-lived TCG that did him in. Whatever it was, his passion for giant shooty robots never died, so now he writes about the latest and greatest in 'Mech related news.

50 thoughts on “Bad ‘Mechs – Fireball

    1. Vermonster

      The Fireball in its original form might actually be the worst cannon mech. Its basically a 20 ton protomech in terms of firepower and armour, but it is faster. But the price of an XL engine is too high for what is basically a hyperactive securitymech. Put it into battle, and it was a securitymech and it was 3M C-bills, but now it is burning hazmat and a ‘regret to inform’ letter. It can’t even run away well- yes, it ia fast, but against a PPC, LL, or clan LPL, that thin armour and bulky engine… At least is properly named, basically visual onomatopoeia.

      It does serve well as an infantry support mech, but BA fills that role more efficiently. So would a Wasp or Stinger.

      Swap the engine for something less fragile, switch to a battery of MLs, and it wouldn’t suck, but it wouldn’t be a Fireball any more. Mushroom clouds are that shape because of the vacuum under the Fireball.

      1. Kage

        64 points out of 69 is not thinly armored, at least no more than any other 20t mech.
        As for PPCs, good luck hitting it at long range, which the mech can easily reach in a single turn.
        Gunnery 3-4 + Speed 4 + Range 4 = 11-12+ TN, if an IS pilot moves they can’t hit, while if a Clanner runs they can’t. While the CLPL has shorter range than the target has movement, 15 LR vs 17 Run, so the chances are still low and really depends on initiative.

    1. Jeremy

      This is truly the most reasonable refit… Its been popular since the first player read the TRO.

      1. Benjamin Myers

        Battletech Players, making everything as boring and vanilla as possible, since 1985…… ;)

          1. Argus

            Still, he is right. Medium Lasers are so booooring and plain, plain, plain vanilla. I try to avoid them in designs, so i don´t get bored to dead.

        1. Demo

          Blame the designers of the game since they made the Medium Laser essentially op, taking 1 ton to do what the AC/5 needs ten or more.

  1. NightlyReaper

    Seeing as how the slickly aerodynamic Bugatti Veyron has to work really hard to surpass 400kph, the thought of a 400kph mech is just terrifying. Heck, just the WIND NOISE coming off it must sound like a freight train.

    1. Paul H.

      All I can here is the thud thud thud thud of a hyperactive freightrain on legs thank you very much :P

  2. SIlverCyanide

    This is a very rare “modern” bad ‘mech, where some refits actually works but are still limited by the base chassis. I wouldn’t wish piloting a Fireball on my worst enemy.

      1. Kage

        “Easier”, can still easily get up to a 12+ TN given its speed, only thing keeping it from being another unkillable mosquito is its canonical short range.

  3. Flashfreeze

    While in no way a solution to the problem for the Fireball, I have always found it entertaining to swap the MG and its ammo for another Streak-2 launcher.

    For those of you who may not have tried Alpha Strike, the ALM-XF may change your mind. The specific ramming rules in that game technically allow for survivable ramming rules. To quote off the Classic BattleTech forums:

    Liam’s Ghost: “Ugg. Why is it when you get a really fast machine someone has to insist on smashing it against something?”

    Scotty: “Probably has something to do with the six damage charge, which is on par with the firepower of high end Clan Heavies. Plus, unless the r target is size three or larger, you take no damage in a charge. Basically the XF is a guided anti-light Mech missile.”

    There is a certain perverse joy in steering this homicidal little egg-on-legs towards a terrified Jenner and smashing through it only to come out the other side of the fireball unharmed, like some sort of weird, tiny Juggernaut.

    1. Kage

      First solution that pops to mind is a SRM6 with Infernos, reliably cooks toads if you can hit. But 4 MLs also works, especially if you spring for some DHS. Either case shouldn’t really need to get close enough for them to use their SL let alone swarm.

  4. Z3r0_

    I think the Fireball could’ve done its job better with a change of armament. I’d replace the Streak SRM-2 and machine gun (and their associated ammo) with either an SRM-6 and one ton of ammo or four medium lasers, or just ditch the machine gun for a second Streak SRM-2.

  5. Madness Divine

    The first time I saw one, I thought ”Yep, that’s what it’ll make when it’s hit”.

  6. JPArbiter

    iLClan era I would investigate a shoulder turret mounted light PPC or re engineered lasers to make this beast the ultimate hit and run machine. Also a super charger so if it blows you do not risk a dead pilot by slowing the mech

  7. CF

    And it’s not even that great a recon unit — it is decidedly ground-bound (unlike its intended prey), which is a problem in anything besides flatlands. An 8/12/6 move, and four Medium Lasers, is far more effective at Elemental-shredding.

  8. Adam

    Just something to add: the Fireball makes a lot more sense in an era when only the SRM-2 and Streak SRM-2 could use infernos. Once they changed the rules and allowed only standard SRMs to use inferno ammunition, suddenly the Fireball wasn’t that great against battle armor.

    1. Bret

      I was thinking the same thing. Back when Infernos could only be used in SRM2’s and SSRM2’s, which is when this mech came out, covering toads in precision-guided napalm was pretty darn effective. When they not only got added to the larger SRM’s, but also got removed from Streaks it hurt this mech quite a bit. The MG was pretty much always trash against Elementals though!

  9. Mainbrace

    Avoiding any changes to the structure, engine or armor and keeping with the theme of anti infantry / elemental I would downgrade the Streak SRM-2 launcher to a standard SRM-2 and load it with Inferno missiles. Remove the machine gun and install 4 small lasers.

    With the inferno missiles the name Fireball now has some meaning, both in the armament and what will happen when the ammo gets hit, of course you could drop a small laser to add CASE, but where is the fun in that.

  10. Steel Shanks

    Another great choice for “Bad Mech”… Geez… These Eggs is terrible. It’s fast… that’s about it. People trying to find a use for it is hilarious. Just get a Mech that works people lol. There are tons of GOOD Light Mechs out there, ye don’t have to try and make the Fire Ball work. It is a bad Mech… Use a Javelin 10F, or a Javelin 11F, even a Flea will kill Elementals better than the Fire Ball Failure…

    1. Kdogprime

      Agreed. It’s good to see a truly bad Mech make this list instead of just a meh or kinda weird Mech.

    2. Owl

      IMO this was supposed to be used with Inferno rounds. Splashing burning napalm on Toads was supposed to kill them off very efficiently in the past and any infantry squad in a burning hex or vs MGs tend to fare badly.

  11. Max

    As always enjoyed the write up and the comments but this is the strongest case of it’s just bad. Imho. Sure doing X and even some of the variants are better. Most other featured mechs can be used for a secondary purpose.

    This has a spot in lore (personally I like it’s lore) it’s defeat X goal and finding ok so it cant do that feels much like many different things in military history. Glad to see that doesn’t stop in 1000 years lol.

    Mentioned as a scout unless you have a niche job almost any light (and almost any scout period) should have jump jets. So I agree it’s not grand at that even.

    Hope to see this series keep rolling along.

    1. Kdogprime

      The World Wars were full of that kind of wacky experimentation. Some of the tank, ship, and submarine designs used in World War II makes you shake your head and wonder just what the hell the designers were thinking.

  12. Bangar

    If the rules from Unbound are used Tandem Charge ammo means the Mech makes sense, disable one firing missile if you hit 1 point of armour damage, 1 to internal structure ie end one elemental and 50 rounds. Obviously the ammunition changed and no one updated the Fireball team.

  13. The Wobbly Guy

    Put handholds on it, some BA with operators who are immune to motion sickness, and it becomes a very fast BA carrier almost on par with the FireMoth(Dasher), and arguably better since it doesn’t rely on the iffy MASC.

  14. Blaster

    I really love these bad and subpar mechs. It just adds tons of character to the Battletech Universe. It’s so much fun to have the players in a RPG Campaign find Mechs as the Charger or the Urbanmech and let them find ways to make them useful. They are also really good as Opfor.

    It also adds realism to the game as there have alsways been tanks or planes which just weren’t that good or even utter failures but even then some people would sometimes be able to find them a useful niche.
    There was e.g. the Henschel Hs 123 Biplane which was used to great effect by the Luftwaffe on the eastern front despite it being a lameass biplane or the Skyraider during the Vietnam War which was a piston engine WW2 era plane which was still used very succesfully during the jet and helicopter age. Another example wold be the original Ontos tank. Read it up in Wikipedia guys

  15. Blaster

    Hope there will be an article for the Hussar someday and if you ever run out of bad mechs you could easily switch to bad variants like the Shadowhawk 2D or the Vindicator Avenging Angel or the AC2 Dragon and after that theres also bad 3050 refits like the Panther or the Withworth. :-D

  16. Eric Karau

    When the 3055 designs came out, I thought there are good designs(Falconer, Rakshasa, Grand Titan, etc.)
    great designs(1st. generation Inner Sphere OmniMechs, etc.) and so-so-mediocre designs(Hollander, Battle Hawk, Snake, Dart, etc.)but the Fireball doesn’t even have enough punch to even take out even a SINGLE Toad? How did this Mech even get deployed, let alone BUILT???

    1. SilverCyanide

      The word you are searching for is “bribes”, “military procurement” and “kickbacks”.

      1. Owl

        I think more “rules change”. In the past, you could use SSRM-2s with Inferno rounds which would have made this an incredible battlearmor killer, but then the rules changed. Hitting a BA with an Inferno used to be an insta-kill and if the hex is on fire, they had to roll 7+ on 2D6 or the whole squad wipes. With that rule, you can see how the Fireball would be an insane BA killer on the battlefield.

        Then the rules changed. RIP Fireball. You’re now a Furball.

  17. DaveP

    Swap the Streak out for a TAG system and an active probe and use it as an artillery spotter. You’ll finally be using it for a job where it’s speed is an advantage and it’s light armor and pitiful weapons would be minimized, and using the Fireball for the task frees up a more capable unit to do something else.
    It’s amazing that, in canon, this isn’t a standard mod already.

  18. Everlast

    I think cooking Toads ist the answer.
    Switch the Streak for a normal one, reduce the Machine Gun ammo to a half ton, put a second SRM-2 into the Fireball. Put Infernos into the Lauchners, then rush in and start go cooking some mutated Toads…
    Seems more namefittung…. cruel also, but no one asked the clans to come….

    Just pray to never meet Salamander Battlearmor…

  19. Owen

    I made a version as a cannonball, impact resistant armour with the xxl engine. Sucessfully took down a 70 ton mech. Did lose an arm, and the first few turns were nail-biting, but was a great design for that.

  20. Eric Karau

    To be honest, the classic LCT-1E Locust from 3025 is more of a threat to Mechs(And Toads)then the 3055 Fireball! That Locust variant is armed with 2 medium lasers and 2 small lasers, a hell of a punch for a 20-tonner! It’s one of my favorite light Mechs, the LCT-1E!

  21. Chris

    I really hope to see the JagerMech featured in this series. For the life of me I will never understand why it is so darn popular.

  22. Eric Karau

    Maybe it is because it is NOT an unseen Rifleman/Macross design, but an ORIGINAL Battletech design! And it does pretty much the same stuff as a Rifleman and NOT violate any copyrights!


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