Ever grow up wanting to be a defender of justice, while also fighting in a huge robotic suit fitted with space weapons, taking down other evil mech suits in an incredible battle of bravery, guns and explosions? The answer might cost you a pretty penny. Mobile Suit Gundam Wing sees five pilots take on Operation Meteor to fight the United Earth Sphere Alliance and free their space colonies from an oppressive rule.
It’s an age-old story, one which we’ve all daydreamed about, right? Boy pilots robot suit, fights dictatorship, lives happily ever after on Mars… but how much would it really cost to build the heroic Wing Gundam suit piloted by Heero Yuy? Spoiler: a lot. Especially if you’re going to build it covertly using reverse engineering techniques.
Let’s take a closer look at what it would take to DIY build one of these impressive suits — starting with the outer shell. Okay, all of the suits in the anime series are made from Gundanium (of course they are). This alloy can only be produced in zero-gravity conditions, is impossibly strong, and is more heat resistant than Titanium, which can withstand temperatures of more than 600 degrees Celsius (1112° Fahrenheit).
Sorry to disappoint, though, wannabe Mobile Suit pilots, but Gundanium doesn’t exist IRL. However, since nearly every key element of the suits is found in real-life tanks, jets and space shuttles, that’s where we’ll look for the materials, technology and expertise required to put your suit together.
The best match for armour to protect your pilot in battle is the casing of the M1A1HA Abrams tank — a highly durable, heavily equipped war machine. Since this military beast is around 7.93 meters in length, you’re going to need two of them to build the bulk of the 16-metre high Mobile Suit. With its depleted uranium mesh-reinforced armour and reactive plating designed to minimise the effect of explosive damage, the M1A1HA Abrams is ideal for reverse engineering and providing the basis for your suit.
Of course, the tanks comes packing tracks and other unnecessary machinery, so you’d need to employ a team of scientists and engineers to adapt them to craft them into a workable suit — but we’ll get to hired help later. The tanks also cost $8.91 million apiece, so that’s $17.82 million right off the bat, if you’re going down the route of reworking existing tanks. Ouch. Still, it’s worth it to not get blown away by the Zechs Merquise and his Tallgeese Suit.
Once you’ve got the armour sorted, you’re going to need to look at protecting the suit itself from environmental aggressors. Since Mobile Suits will be in and out of the atmosphere, and space, they’re going to need plenty of high-temperature resistant and low-temperature resistant protection tiles. That alone is going to set you back because, according to NASA, they cost around $1000 per tile.
Since Mobile Suits are roughly a third of the size of a 56 metre-high NASA Shuttle, which needs 12,150 heat resistant tiles and 12,150 low temperature-resistant protection tiles, we’ll scale that down to fit your suit. That’s 4050 tiles needed. Hope you’ve got a cool $4.05 million down the back of your sofa, because that’s how much it’ll cost to prevent it — and your pilot — from burning or freezing up mid-flight.
Now, in any epic battle, you’re going to need some serious firepower to give your suit an edge over the other side. The Wing Gundam suit has a ‘Buster Rifle’ which can take out three enemies at once, and can be shot three times during a fight. It also has its own power supply.
Purely because of the intimidating level of firepower it possesses, we’re going to equate this to the 105mm M102 Howitzer. It has a maximum shot distance of 15,100 metres, or 49,540 feet, and is loaded with rocket-propelled ammunition.
To give you a better idea of the range, it’s like shooting from Morden, on the outskirts of London in the UK, right across the centre of the city to High Barnet — the northernmost station on the London Underground Northern Line. Londoners will know that’s a hell of a journey. New Yorkers, that’s about the distance from Queens to Jersey City… don’t get in the way of that shot. For that power? It’s going to cost $2.5 million. Worth it.
For the twin cannons mounted on the Wing Gundam’s shoulders, we’d recommend two M134 Machine Guns. They can fire 100 rounds a second when fired up, and are mainly used onboard helicopters and armoured vehicles. Since the Wing Gundam suit is essentially a combination of the two, it’s the perfect choice. They come at the (relatively) inexpensive price of around $250,000 each — so $500,000 for a pair for our set-up.
Next, let’s look at the twin machine guns mounted on the suit’s head. We’ll go smaller — and pick the M2 Browning .50 BMG. It can effectively dish out damage up to 1800 metres — just under two kilometres. That means it’s perfect for close-quarters battles, when the enemy is bearing down on you. And, it seems like they’re going cheap online — with some sellers advertising them second-hand for around $32,000. $64,000 for two, then, unless you can get a bundle deal. Either way, it’s a bargain at twice the price.
Finally, that Beam Saber. Yes, it’s basically a Lightsaber but that doesn’t make them any easier to come by, since both have so far failed to transition to the real world, instead remaining (largely) in the world of fiction. Yep, annoyingly, we don’t have huge laser swords that can cut through anything like butter (yet) — but we do have the Arctic Spyder. Even with all the add-ons, like a flare lens and a beam expander that increases its range by ten times, the Arctic Spyder 3 comes in at an affordable $218. The Operation Meteor expenses department would love you for that one.
Rocket Pack and Fusion Reactor
One key element you still need to add onto your suit is the transforming flight mode, which is what will get it soaring. We’d suggest looking to the Lockheed Martin F35 Lightning II fighter jet for its engine — and engineering — since the suit will need all the thrust it can get. Remember, this needs to propel an entire suit of fully functioning battle armour with artillery attachments.
The F35 has 40,000 pounds of thrust and is designed for ‘ground attack and air superiority missions’ — precisely what the Mobile Suit is designed for. To put this into context, a Boeing 747-200 is powered by four engines generating a combined thrust of 219,000 lbs. Downside? An F35 costs $120 million.
But what’s going to power this monumental war machine? Well, a Fusion Reactor, naturally. This is where things get expensive. Last year, it was estimated by the U.S. Department of Energy that the Fusion Test Reactor, constructed in France, would cost $63 billion to fund. However, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor group didn’t actually stray far from their initial estimate of $22 billion, finally racking up expenditure of $25 billion. Less than anticipated — bonus (Crossrail take note) — but still pretty steep. Still, it’s the future, and this thing needs to take advantage of the latest in technological and scientific developments and be futureproof. So be prepared to put your hand in your pocket.
Pilot + Engineers
Since we’re going to need someone on Heero Yuy’s level when it comes to flying the Wing Gundam Suit, that’s going to see costs escalate even more. Just to put one pilot through basic flight training, it costs the US Department of Defense $10.17 million — although that can vary depending on the type of aircraft.
Let’s add one more monumental price hike to our budget: the staff needed to build and engineer our suit. We’ll go by some of NASA’s statistics — 2000 engineers worked on The Orbiter shuttle. Since the average aeronautical engineer’s annual salary is $76,185, it would cost a hefty $152,370,000 to employ the skilled workers needed to build the Wing Gundam suit. Ouch.
Totting up the figures, that gives you a (no expense spared) budget with which to build your very own Wing Gundam suit. Ringing in at an eye-watering $25,307,474,218. Those figures boggling your brain? We’ll write them out in full for you: twenty-five billion, three hundred and seven million, four hundred and seventy-four thousand, two hundred and eighteen dollars. That’s approximately equivalent to the Gross Domestic Product of Iceland. We hope you’ve got deep pockets.