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The Drop Pod, in the wider sense, is a piece of technology that enables a BattleMech to be dropped from orbit to the surface of a planet, including drops into a hot combat zone.
While this overall delivery technology is oftentimes summarily referred to as "Drop Pod", the actual Drop Pod is just one of several components of the systems; others include the ablative Drop Cocoon (which is often used synonymously with "Drop Pod" in the wider sense), and externally-mounted braking thrusters and/or parachute systems for 'Mechs that do not possess integral jump jets. All of these systems are shed by the 'Mech during or immediately after a drop.
Following the costly 2449 BattleMech assault on the planet Kentares, a method was sought to deliver these new combat assets to the surface without exposing expensive converted transports (such as the Manatee class DropShip) to the perils of defensive fire. Smaller, armored delivery vehicles were considered, but the ability to only transport one BattleMech at a time was deemed too resource-demanding and limited the size of the assault force. In 2453, specialized detachable jump packs were designed for BattleMechs that lacked jump jets, allowing them to exit a stationary (but airborne) DropShip and control their descent to the ground. In roughly the same period, a cocoon of ceramic and metal was developed to encapsulate the 'Mech prior to ejection from an orbiting DropShip. The jump packs (if required) are installed prior to encasing the 'Mech within the cocoon, which itself takes about 10 minutes.
The Drop Pod itself consists of an ablative ceramic shell (the 'pod') that allows the unit to enter the atmosphere intact. The entire system consists of the pod, jets, parachutes, and flight computers (that enable the unit to land relatively close to the drop zone) and a cocoon of spun foam and a ceramic structure. At a pre-timed position, the pod explodes into five sections (with the possible benefit of distracting ground-based sensors), freeing the unit. The cocoon then melts away in the remaining heat. Once free of the effects of the Drop Pod, the BattleMech relies on jump jets, a jump pack, and/or specialized parachutes to land safely on the ground.
Systems allowing the deployment of drop pods are assumed to be included in the standard DropShip 'Mech bay, though in 3025, only the Leopard, Union and Overlord class DropShips were reported (by ComStar) to be so equipped. The Drop Pod kits themselves cost 30,000 c-bills.
Standard Inner Sphere tactical doctrine calls for command elements to be the last pods to be deployed from the DropShip in order to make coordination efforts easier. Clan doctrine reverses this thinking, deploying first in order to allow the best warriors to engage the enemy first.
Rules can be found for the following rulebooks:
- Attacks Against Cocoons: Strategic Operations, p. 23
- Space/Atmosphere Interface: Strategic Operations, pp. 23-24
- BattleForce: Dropping Troops: Strategic Operations, p. 314, "Space Drop for Orbital Insertion"
- Dropping 'Mechs (Simplified): BattleMech Manual, pp. 79-80
Additionally, the use of Drop Pods during planetary assaults is referenced within an essay in Strategic Operations, p. 207, "D-Day".
- Originally, in DropShips and JumpShips, the 'pod' was considered the external portion of the drop device, with the 'cocoon' melting away following ejection of the unit from the pod. However, later materials combine the two concepts into one fully ablative device and referred to as either a 'Drop Pod' or a 'Drop Cocoon'. While the former aspect ('pod' and 'cocoon') is presented here, the intent is to understand the device concept ('Drop Pod') as a complete entity operating in multiple stages.
- DropShips and JumpShips provides three different values for aspects of the Drop Pods. On p. 43 (p. 127 PDF) of DropShips and JumpShips: Operations Manual, the replacement parts price list provides the value of a cocoon at 10,000 c-bills, while the cost list on p. 60 (p. 144 PDF) indicates the reentry kit cost is 30,000 c-bills and the refurbishing of a reentry kit costs 5,000 c-bills. The article's decision to go with the kit price is predicated on the fact that the replacement parts price list details values for common parts of DropShips and JumpShips and may mean the cocoon refers to something altogether different and the reentry kit description does not indicate how a one-use item like the Drop Pod may be refurbished.
- An example of Marik Drop Pods in action can be seen on the cover of Operation: Stiletto (and a cropped version is on the cover of Experimental Technical Readout: Corporations). The displayed pods apparently do not explode into five sections but release the enclosed BattleMech via a nose cone that thrusts away from the pod shell.
- DropShips and JumpShips: ComStar Intelligence Summary, p. 14 (p. 16, PDF), "'Mech Deployment Techniques"
- DropShips and JumpShips: Operations Manual, p. 24 (p. 108, PDF), "'Mech Drop"
- DropShips and JumpShips: Operations Manual, p. 24 (p. 108, PDF), "Drop Time Table"
- DropShips and JumpShips: Operations Manual, p. 25 (p. 109, PDF), "Ship Operations"
- DropShips and JumpShips: Operations Manual, p. 59 (p. 143, PDF), "Reentry Kit"
- DropShips and JumpShips: Operations Manual, p. 60 (p. 144, PDF), "Cost List"
- D.R.T., Ch. 21