One of the oldest military strategies ever created is to hurl rocks at your opponent until they quit. In the thousands of years of human evolution since then, the rocks may have gotten more technologically advanced, but the strategy has remained largely the same: keep chucking rocks and encourage your foe to go bother someone else.
To that end, BattleTech has seen a number of ‘Mech designs follow the same philosophy. Except instead of hurling rocks, they hurl long range missiles, and instead of throwing just a few, they toss dozens of missiles into the air at once. Gather a bunch of them together, and you’ve got yourself a firing line worthy of an 1812 Overture.
Although some may find the term derogatory, enthusiasts of the strategy have given these particular designs the descriptive name of Missile Boats. Their ethos is simple: load up on as many LRMs as you can carry and let the lesser ‘Mechs get their hands dirty while you send long-ranged destruction at the enemy from a very safe distance.
Some Mechwarriors call Missile Boat pilots cowards, but who do they call when their position is about to be overrun by a combined arms company? The forward artillery lance, comprised almost entirely of the tried, tested, and true Missile Boat.
Here’s a few of the more famous Missile Boat ‘Mechs throughout the ages of BattleTech.
We begin with one of the smaller designs to call itself a Missile Boat, the WTH-1 Whitworth. Although capable of carrying a respectable 20 LRMs at 40 tons, the Whitworth was never a particularly popular design as it was both slower than most ‘Mechs in its weight class and unable to outfight enemy ‘Mechs that got in close, being armed only with 3 Medium Lasers for close ranged combat. This lead many House militaries to give the Whitworth the unflattering nickname of “Worthless”.
That said, the Whitworth saw combat from its inception in 2610 right up until the Jihad era of the 3070s. But by then the factories which had been producing replacement components for the Whitworth had moved on to more capable and modern designs, and now the Whitworth can only be seen amongst pirates, some of the poorer mercenary groups, and Periphery nations.
The TBT-5N Trebuchet seems to correct many of the Whitworth’s shortcomings by being nearly 15 km/h faster, and by carrying a larger contingent of 30 Long Range Missiles. It is however armed with the same 3 Medium Lasers as the Whitworth, which make it vulnerable to enemy ‘Mechs that manage to sneak inside its missile umbrella.
For this reason, the Trebuchet was designed from the outset as a ‘Mech that was supposed to operate as part of a lance rather than a single machine. Often paired with the Centurion for greater flexibility in combat, lances comprised of both machines were highly effective, able to severely damage most opponents at long range before using their lasers and autocannons to finish off their foe.
Various factories around the Inner Sphere obtained the license to produce the Trebuchet, and it would remain a popular sight amongst all House forces for centuries.
One of the most distinctive designs ever created, the CPLT-1 Catapult is what most Mechwarriors think of when they hear the term Missile Boat. The Catapult is armed with 30 LRMs, just as with the Trebuchet, and mounts 4 Medium Lasers as well as 5 additional heat sinks to deal with close in threats, making it capable of defending itself when necessary. It does, however, sacrifice some mobility over the Trebuchet, having a top speed of only 64.8 km/h.
Notable for the Catapult is how its popularity led to several retrofits that often had nothing to do with its original role as a long range missile delivery platform. The CPLT-K2 variant fielded by House Kurita swapped out the twin LRM-15s for paired PPCs as well as enough heat sinks to fire them almost continuously. The CPLT-C3 swapped the missiles for a more dedicated artillery system, the Arrow IV, giving the Catapult a true over-the-horizon weapon. Taking a different tack, the CPLT-C2 swaps out the medium lasers for paired LB 2-X Autocannons, albeit with help from Endo Steel internals and an extralight engine.
The only Clan ‘Mech to appear on this list, the Crossbow is a highly unusual design amongst the Clans. Most Clan Mechwarriors find the sort of long range combat typical of Missile Boats to be dishonorable, preferring direct fire weapons. The entirely missile-based Crossbow, with a primary configuration of 40 LRMs, is thus a rare sight amongst any Clan Touman.
It should be noted that this doesn’t mean there aren’t Missile Boat variants of other OmniMechs (the Alt-D configuration of the Stormcrow and Alt-B configuration of the Summoner come to mind), only that the Crossbow is unique among OmniMechs for having most of its configurations feature LRMs.
That said, the lack of flexibility in the design has made it unpopular with the Steel Viper Touman, to the point where it is often relegated to second-line or garrison Clusters.
When you think of ‘Mechs capable of putting out a wall of long range missiles, no ‘Mech comes more immediately to mind than the Salamander. Armed with a whopping 60 LRMs, the 80 ton PPR-5S Salamander is capable of fulfilling the role of fire support all on its own without any additional Missile Boats to help it.
All that long range firepower comes at a steep price, however, as the Salamander is virtually defenseless against enemies that manage to slip into close range. Armed with a pair of Medium Lasers, and too slow to escape, the Salamander is easy prey to lighter ‘Mechs that go unnoticed by an unwary pilot.
This flaw hasn’t seemed to keep the Salamander down, as it saw service throughout most of House Davion’s conflicts, serving with distinction as the primary fire support ‘Mech in most of their regiments. The Salamander would remain a popular choice through the Jihad and into the Dark Age era of BattleTech.
Was there a Missile Boat ‘Mech that we missed that you really think should be mentioned? Let us know in the comments section below!
And as always, Mechwarriors: Stay Syrupy.
As mentioned on Twitter by bigRhino1995, the Archer & Longbow are conspicuously absent – or was this a deliberate omission due to “unseen” status?
Valkrie for Davion light units. The Apollo for house Marik. Cobra, Viking, Bombardier. Hell the Yeoman was nothing but 50 LRMs on legs. I can see how designs like the Crusader escape this naming because it has enough secondary weapons to do decent duty up close and personal but the Archer and the Longbow really are classic.
What they said. The default missile boat of BattleTech is the vaunted (and ubiquitous) Archer, followed by the less common but still pretty common by assault ‘Mech standards Longbow.
The Catapult is actually quite rare. Not being unseen has propelled this ‘Mech to fame and recognition far beyond the small role it really plays in the BT universe.
Clan Omni, Naga. Uses the Arrow IV missile artillery system.
Archer, Thorn, Apollo, Valkyrie, Griffin, Longbow.
I am a bit currious for what criteria the author selected the mechs he presented here.
The Whitworth began his life as SRM platform and was refited later on with LRMs to keep the model in production…realy not a common/widely used mech.
Sarna Article on the Whitworth: “…By the end of the Succession War era less than three hundred Whitworths were still operational, many in the hands of MechWarrior families passed down over generators, and its end appeared in sight.”
The Trenchbucket may have been a tactical fire support mech to be paired with Archer and Centurion but after the fall of the Starleague it served mainly with house Marik even if it found its way in the armys of all houses. Again…while not too rare outside the FWL not a widely used design.
Then the Catapult…of all mechs…why ???
The Catapult was nearly extinct until 3033 a single factory (Yori) started to produce them…and not the Missile variant but the K2. While Hauses Kurita and Liao retained most of the IS Catapults (most left with Uncle Kerensky) most of the remaining Catapults served in the Peripherie. Just prior to the Clan Invasion Kurita and Liao started to produce the Arrow Variant of the Catapult to be paired with the Raven scout Mech.
The Crossbow…since it is designed and concived after the Lyran/Starleague Crossbow this design (good old times, huh?) is in no way shunned by any Clan warrior. (The fact Clan LRMs do not have any minimumrange and are not used for indirect fire may contribute to that)
Most LRM Mechs like the Vulture/MadDog or the MadCat/Timberwolf aren’t seen as longrange support Mechs among the Clans.
The only reason why it is often relegated to second line duty is its ammo dependency and the fact it isn’t a true Omnimech (only its arms are modular)
Salamander…a Civilwar eara VC/House Steiner only Battlemech. Why not mentioning the widely and commonly used Awesome?
Clan Mad Dog… Surprised that isn’t included. I guess because it can carry more than just Lerms?
Stalker. Stalker. Archer. Archer. Crusader. Cobra. Apollo, Pandarus, Pendragon, the Bane B, and more.
I think clan omnis were omitted because you can basically make a missile boat out of any of them. I currently have one character that pilots a clan warhawk with 6 clan LRM 15’s and has now advanced far enough in our campaign to have picked up the sandblaster PSA… wicked dangerous at close range.
I suspect the criteria to be a true Missle Boat is to have few if any secondary weapons. Archer would seem to qualify, while Crusader is on the cusp, and Griffin excluded due to significant other weapons than just missile racks.
That said my personal philosophy is that any mostly ammo based mech needs some backup energy weapons to use for low probability shots (where you don’t want to ‘waste ammo’) and when the ammo is expended. Also for IS designs, when someone gets ‘danger close’ under your minimum LRM range. That may well exclude many of my missile-boat designs from true missile-boatness status due to still being dangerous even after the ammo runs out.
You missed the Stalker, Longbow, Vulture, and Mad Cat, which should have been obvious.
The 3025 siege Stalker with the two LRM 20s is a hellacious support design. It even works well in Dark Age battles, though reactive and anti-ballistic armor lessen its effectiveness, and it could really use CASE. So is the the dual LRM 10 variant of the Hunchback. Marik loves missiles. Or what about the dual LRM 15 version of the Axman.?
While there have been Omnis in the clan ranks that can do missle boat duty as required, there are standard clan mechs as well that fill the role.
The lightest of these would be the 20-ton Howler. While mounting only 3 LRM-5s it had more than enough ammo for any engagement and speed to keep distance with most mechs. The Howler 2 redesign gave it a slightly slower standard top speed and less battlefield endurance with only 2 tons of ammo, but the swap to 4 ATM-3s gave greater flexibility, accuracy, and close combat ability also adding a MASC for surprising burst of speeds.
Next lightest would be the 30-ton Mandrill. While mounting impressive firepower for a light, 2 LRM-20s specifically, its mobility is identical to a Panther, but it rarely overheats and has better armor.
Finally, a new favorite since my last con, the controversial, for the Diamond Sharks anyway, 65-ton Ha Otoko mounting an LRM-20 in each torso and an LRM-10 in each arm, giving it significant firepower. While only capable of 64 kph with its standard engine, the flaw of the design was the mere 13 single heatsinks that could not compete with the generated heat of the launchers.
If you will indulge a story the reason I like it at all is that in a recent FFA battletech game where everyone got a random mech and came out at random locations, I got stuck at the same exit point as a King Crab (KGC-007 variant). I tried to keep my distance (which was about 5 or 6 hexes), kept my back from facing it, and braced for my inevitable demise with an Alpha Strike. Fortunately, luck was with me in 50 of my missles hit and that I got a crit right in the ammo bin, and did enough damage to the pilot where she was only 1 cockpit hit from death at the end of the round and I only received the damage and heat from a plasma rifle in return. Granted I was roasting so bad I couldn’t really fire the next round, but I figured making it to the next round against that beast was a win. In the end I was one of the last three standing with only my right torso LRM-20 and my right arm to punch with (the LRM-10 went bye-bye shortly after my left side did) when somebody rolled in with a fresh Jupiter 2 and ended my longevity in the match.
One aspect of MBs this article misses, but which is hinted-at in comments: Most MBs are Really Bad At Heat Dispersion, here defined as “if it fires its LRM, and moves, for two turns in a row, it’s into the part of the Heat Scale where it’s losing mobility, or risking killing the pilot, or blowing the ammo”. The _Crusader_ and _Archer_ were the worst of the bunch; the “replacement basics” aren’t quite so bad (tho’ the _Whitworth_ has another problem: It doesn’t carry near-enough ammo to perform fire-support effectively), but still not brilliant.
It says something that in my files, I have a _Rifleman_ mod which replaces the LLs and ACs with LRM15s and additional Heat Sinks, while the MBs have mostly been converted to close-assault units….
Also missed the Viking VKG-2F. 90 tons and 70 LRM missile fury, all with Artemis, but can only last 12 rounds of firing. It also carries 2 small lasers in the torso and 4 machine guns in the legs, so there’s not much in-close defense unless you’re infantry. Moves 3/5, 89% armor, standard engine, standard armor, endo steel structure. So it’s going to be standing on the battlefield a while.
Leaving out the Viking and Yeoman was a travesty, but leaving out the Archer?…that was a crime!
I made a lrm-70 mad dog, worked pretty well even with all that stripped armor….but for laughs I stripped even more armor an made its a lrm 100 ( this was in mwo )
Only the Inner Sphere really has Missile Boats. Clan LongRangeMissiles lack the close range deadzone and due to the vast difference in weight its easy for clan mechs to to carry backup weapons.
SHown above in this article are examples of the overspecialization Missile Boats mechs have. They lack speed, mobility, close range combat ability, and just plain battlefield longevity. Almost every Inner Sphere mech should carry Medium Lasers for one reason or another, and Missile Boats are no exception, Indeed their are the most most in need of Medium Lasers to cover the deadzone of their LRMs.
Clan Omnimechs can have heavy LRM compliments though most default CLan Mechs lack the ammunition to really exploit any of their LRMs. You could have a Vulture/Thor/Timber wolf with 4 LRM-20s if you wanted.
Worth mentioning that “missile-boating” isn’t a community term. It actually appeared in at least one of the Battletech novels, Exodus Road, when a Bombardier was literally described as a missile-boat.