Originally conceived during the Star League era, the Land-Air BattleMech (or more commonly the Land-Air 'Mech and abbreviated LAM) is a hybrid military unit capable of transforming between BattleMech and aerospace fighter forms. This ability conveys great speed and flexibility at the cost of power and protection. LAMs are a preferred recon and raiding unit but their fragility and rarity made them uncommon in the original SLDF and increasingly so in the Succession War era. Save for a brief revival during the final years of the Word of Blake, the Land-Air 'Mech has been relegated to museums.
The origins of the Land-Air 'Mech stem from First Lord Michael Cameron's selection of Admiral David Peterson as overall commander of the SLDF. David Peterson instigated a number of sweeping changes to break interservice rivalries and push the Terran Hegemony's technological advantage, commissioning several manufacturers to develop "a series of 'Mechs that could fly as well as function as a light ground 'Mech". Allied Aerospace initially won the bid with a flawed bimodal conversion of the venerable Shadow Hawk, before LexaTech Industries delivered the fully functional LAM based on the Stinger a decade later. With LexaTech's design becoming the LAM standard, its competitors (Harvard Company, Inc. and Allied Aerospace) developed similar designs. Despite their names, these Mark I only took small design cues from their progenitor designs, making them easier to single out and target, until a painstaking redesign was undertaken to produce the Mark II version from 2701 on.
The Land-Air 'Mech is a "jack of all trades and master of none", and became relegated to small highly specific niches. The versatility of the LAM found a place in all SLDF divisions, most notably the League's Striker regiments, where they were typically used as special forces to strike behind enemy lines or disrupt supply lines. The Free Worlds League would possess the second largest number of LAMs by 2750 and created full battalions for fast strike and rapid response uses. The other Great Houses used LAMs as scouts, utilizing their mobility to enter and leave difficult-to-access locations before being spotted.
Thanks to the limitations and extra weight required for their conversion equipment, LAMs installed less equipment than a simple BattleMech or aerospace fighter of equal weight. Further LAMs were left out of the Star League's increasing march of technology as the required conversion systems prevented them from utilizing the more advanced structural components. The inability to use extralight engines or endo steel structures magnified the equipment gap.
Produced in limited numbers by only a handful of factories, the majority of LAM manufacturers were among those factories lost to the maelstrom of the early Succession Wars. Some of the most pyrrhic objective raids in the Succession War era saw whole regiments of conventional BattleMechs and aerospace fighters heavily damaged or lost to capture a few LAMs or LAM spare part stores. By the Third Succession War, the high cost and rarity of LAMs had made military commanders increasingly wary of committing these prized relics to battle and most had turned to replacing them with more plentiful conventional counterparts in their TOEs.
By 3025 only a single factory remained in the Inner Sphere that could produce LAM parts and possibly assemble whole new LAMs: LexaTech Industries on the Draconis Combine planet of Irece. It was specialized in the Stinger LAMs, however circumstantial evidence suggests many spare parts from that design could be used on the Wasp LAM as well. Irece was captured by Clan Nova Cat in 3050. The strict Clan system has no place for LAM pilots, mainly because their unique position blurs the distinction between MechWarrior and aerospace pilot, and evidence supports the common belief that the Nova Cats have dismantled or refitted that facility. Other sources claim it was razed to the ground. As a result of that action, new repair parts are no longer available for LAMs - forcing those using them to rely even more heavily upon the salvage mentality of the Succession Wars to keep them in operation.
It thus came as a shock to many when the Word of Blake introduced three brand-new LAM designs during the final days of the Blakist control of both Gibson and Terra. However not even the Word was able to overcome the same limitations as the Star League, using more compact and efficient Clan-Tech weaponry and the advantages of elite VDNI-equipped Manei Domini pilots to make them viable combatants on the modern battlefield. Produced in only limited numbers, with the destruction of the factories for these so-called Spectral LAMs during the Liberation of Terra and the Regulan sterilization of Gibson, the Land-Air 'Mech is once again destined for the museum.
Known Land-Air 'Mech types
Land-Air 'Mechs can be roughly divided into two types, Star League and Word of Blake:
Star League Era LAMs
Only three LAM designs were mass produced in the Star League era, each based on an existing highly successful BattleMech design:
- The Stinger LAM
- The Wasp LAM
- The Phoenix Hawk LAM
It should be noted that these LAMs are typically somewhat heavier than the BattleMechs they are based on (by 5 tons in the case of the Phoenix Hawk LAM, and by 10 tons otherwise). Although some components from the 'Mechs may have been used, the LAMs are entirely different machines and look distinctively different from their respective conceptual parent designs. In that respect, their names are somewhat misleading.
The progenitor for all LAMs was the Shadow Hawk LAM, a 55 ton variant that featured only two modes instead of the three that later LAMs had. Though it paved the way for later LAMs, the Shadow Hawk LAM never made it out of the prototype stage and was canceled by the SLDF. Similarly, the remains of a long-forgotten Scorpion LAM project were discovered in a bunker on Hesperus II in 3065. Here prototypes were found, but since the project was regarded as "unworkable" and abandoned it is extremely unlikely that these prototypes were functional LAMs. Another failed prototype was Bergan Industries' 65-ton Champion LAM, which, while capable in both fighter and 'Mech modes, demonstrated several dangerous flaws and poor performance that led to the project's cancelation. The last known Star League era LAM was the Screamer, built under the orders of the Usurper Stefan Amaris during his desperate attempts to resist the vengeful SLDF. Only a single prototype of the 55-ton Screamer was constructed, its pilot crashing mid-conversion in Europe during Operation LIBERATION.
Though Clans as a whole despised the LAM concept, at least Clan Jade Falcon ran a program where dual-cockpit LAMs were being developed, among them a Phoenix Hawk LAM, though Star Captain Horse later issued a report to Khan Marthe Pryde, recommending the closing of the installation, and canceling its LAM program.
Word of Blake LAMs
Called the Spectral LAM for their visual similarities to the Word's Spectral series of OmniFighters
LAMs are unduly susceptible to damage. Hits to their delicate structure can easily block the transformation mechanism and lock the LAM in whatever mode it was in upon taking damage. This usually cripples the LAM as it takes away its greatest asset: versatility. As with regular aerospace fighters, they can easily be downed by lucky hits in aerospace mode leading to a typically fatal crash.
Available information also suggests that LAMs require an enormous maintenance effort to remain operable, an aspect which offsets their limited tactical advantages.
LAMs cannot exceed a total mass of 55 tons and thanks to the complexity of their conversion equipment cannot be constructed using Endo Steel, ferro-fibrous, any form of advanced engine technology such as XL engines, nor can they built to use OmniMech or OmniFighter technology.
Land-Air 'Mech Pilots require proficiency in both the MechWarrior and aerospace pilot training programs. The difficulty in mastering both, as well as the complex AirMech mode, is generally such that LAM pilots prove to be mediocre MechWarriors or aerospace pilots if forced to pilot standard 'Mech or fighters.
Thanks to their transforming ability, LAMs combine some features of aerospace fighters and BattleMechs, as well as a hybrid mode called AirMech mode. While highly versatile, LAMs are jacks of all trades and masters of none. While able to serve double-duty as both an aerospace fighter and as a BattleMech, the required conversion equipment means that a LAM in either mode has less combat capacity ton-for-ton than a fighter or 'Mech of equivalent weight. Even in the Star League era, the heaviest LAM to see action on the battlefield was 50 tons. This significantly limits their effectiveness against heavy and assault weight aerospace fighters and 'Mechs.
LAMs are essentially BattleMechs and they operate like other 'Mechs when in this mode. Their extra conversion equipment is integrated in the design and does not occupy critical slots. Arm and leg actuators, hips and gyroscopes, are all treated as part of the LAM transformation mechanism and hits to these components will impair or prohibit transformation.
Aerospace fighter mode
In this mode a LAM, operates much like an ordinary aerospace fighter. Most importantly, it can operate from fighter bays on DropShips and can make its own way to a target from orbit; whereas a BattleMech in a Drop Pod is a vulnerable and relatively slow moving target.
In this mode, they have only modest fuel reserves (30 points under BattleTech Compendium rules) and cannot carry bombs.
As well as aerospace fighter and BattleMech modes, most LAMs have a hybrid interim mode between the other two, referred to as AirMech mode. This resembles an aerospace fighter with arms and legs. In this mode, the LAM can move as per a Wing in Ground Effect vehicle. (In this mode, BattleMech skills are used.)
Like many of the early BattleMechs later referred to as the Unseen, the original concept and art of the three common LAMs types was based upon the transformable Valkyrie/Veritech fighters of Macross/Robotech, which saw LAMs fall out of favor with FASA staff even before the lawsuit with Harmony Gold. The LAMs became optional Level 3 rules with the BattleTech Tactical Handbook in 1994, and the designs themselves were among those dropped from Technical Readout: 3025 due to the lawsuit. Updated rules were provided in Interstellar Operations, and later Interstellar Operations: Alternate Eras.
While the 'Mech counterparts of the LAM designs, and in fact all other Unseen designs, were later provided new art in Technical Readout: Project Phoenix, Reseen art for the LAM versions appeared in Technical Readout: 3085.
- ↑ Interstellar Operation: Alternate Eras, pp. 100-109: "Land-Air BattleMechs (Multiple Eras)"
- ↑ Era Report: 2750, p. 104
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Technical Readout: 3085, pp. 286–288: "LAMs"
- ↑ Jihad: Final Reckoning, p. 139: "Legacies of the Word - Spectral LAMs"
- ↑ Technical Readout: 3085, p. 290
- ↑ Experimental Technical Readout: Boondoggles, p. 6: "CPN-1X1 Champion LAM profile"
- ↑ Experimental Technical Readout: Gunslingers, p. 5: "SCR-1X-LAM Screamer LAM"
- ↑ Freebirth, ch. 15–18
- ↑ Freebirth, ch. 20–37
- ↑ MechWarrior, First Edition
- ↑ MechWarrior, Second Edition
- ↑ Era Report: 2750
- ↑ Herb Beas's comment (19:10:28, 19Feb2010, reply #20) (dead link)
- ↑ New, Exciting Products Coming Soon For BattleTech, 15Jun2010