The large empty area between the nacelles and beneath the main hull of the ship was designed to accommodate an HLV or other landing craft, and the engine nacelle design was chosen with an emphasis on damage control should either reactor suffer battle damage.
Additionally, the bow section of the ship was also equipped with a ‘Komusai’ atmospheric rentry capsule which could also hold two Mobile Suits.
The main weapons of this class consisted of three mega particle cannon turrets mounted on the central hull, with sub-armament consisting of large and small missile launchers. In terms of this ship’s biggest contribution to the making of a new Epoch in Universal Century, however, the most significant contribution is the realization of a warship designed to deploy Mobile Suits to the battlefield.
The class is described as being able to accommodate 4 Mobile suits, with an additional two Mobile Suits inside the Komusai capsule (with these being believed to be reserve units, from an operational standpoint), with the facilities required to smoothly deploy and maintain these units. In actuality, the class proved to be one of the Zeon Force’s most capable ships for deploying Mobile Suits, and large numbers were produced, which served as the main combat strength of the Zeon fleet during the war, serving many roles for the fleet.
Though this class would record a great number of war exploits and proved its worth on many occasions, at the same time it can be said to be a greatly imperfect design in many aspects. One of the largest problems was decidedly the rear-facing Mobile Suit catapult deck. In large fleet actions such as the Battle of Loum, where ships would exchange fire on a level plane, this was not seen as a particular problem, but in other situations such as fortress assaults and other common fleet battles of this era where the action did not necessarily take place in front of the ship, the rearward facing launch was seen as a problem, and there were thought to be many cases where the Mobile Suits would have to launch in a direction completely different from the direction that the enemy forces were located.
This meant that Mobile Suits would need to use their own fuel to change their approach direction, which decreased their sortie time, and severely detracted from this class’ ability to efficiently deploy Mobile Suits in combat. This may have also given rise to occasions where the ship itself was forced to turn in order to be able to more efficiently deploy its complement of Mobile Suits in the correct direction.
In actuality, some late-war variants of the Musai-class were able to launch Mobile Suits to the fore of the ship as well, though the overall short length of these catapults left much to be desired in terms how much acceleration could actually be imparted on the Mobile Suits. Mobile Suit Carrier designs of later era would feature long catapult decks extending out of the front of the ship, lending support to this theory. At the time of the Musai’s design, not much was known regarding the Mobile Suit’s future role in combat, and this aspect of the design was likely not viewed as a priority. When the Mobile Suit debuted, it was not envisioned in a role other than that of making decisive and sudden surprise assaults, and thus that the warship itself was still viewed as the most important weapon in combat. This is supported by the fact that all of the Musai’s weaponry is concentrated forward.
When Earth’s first dedicated Mobile Suit Carrier appeared, it caused the Musai design, now thoroughly evaluated from an actual combat perspective, to be a poor, incomplete effort at creating an MS carrier.
The large number of variations, then, can be seen as a desperate attempt to meet the demands placed on the class coming in from its performance in combat situations.
In January U.C. 0075, the first light cruiser was commissioned. Armed with three Mega Particle Cannon Turrets and other weapons, it enjoyed greater relative firepower than its close rival, the Federation Forces’ Salamis-class.
Total Length: 234m
Displacement: 13000 tons
Propulsion Systems: Thermonuclear rocket engine x2
Main Armament: Twin mega particle cannons, Large missile launcher x2, small missile launcher x10
MS Capacity: 6
This subtype of Musai-class reduced the number of cannon turrets to two, though often seen as a cost-saving measure, the output of the existing mega particle cannons was already more than adequate, and the removal of one turret freed up additional space inside the hull, which allows for increased MS transport ability and possibly even increased acceleration.
This ship is known as the personal flagship of the commander of Zeon’s Space Attack Corps, Lt. General Dozle Zabi, and would later be passed to Major Char Aznable. Though the difference in construction of the bridge area were the largest difference from the standard type, there is also the possibility that additional equipment to enhance its abilities as a flagship were also installed.
Though essentially of the same type as a normal Musai, small added details can be seen on the engine nacelle pylons, and bridge area. As warships in general tend to have many small differences even among the same class of ship, which can also be explained as different ships having slightly different assigned duties.
Musai-class (Final production type)
This type was sighted just prior to the end of the war, with a very different external appearance, this was said to have been a final production test type for the class. With only two cannon turrets, the design approach of this model seems to be drastically different design approach, which is very peculiar. It is possible that this model was intended to be the final evolution of the Musai-class that Zeon was desperately attempting to find.
This type, designed to have greatly increased firepower and MS deployment capabilities appeared in the late war period, with added cannon turrets on the ventral and aft areas of the ship providing some of the increased firepower. Two bow-facing catapults have also been added, eliminating one of the main faults in this class’ MS deployment capabilities.
This type was known to appear during the Delaz Fleet conflict much more prominently than during the One Year War.
The Republic of Zeon utilized this Musai-class during the Grypps conflict. Due to increased reactor output, additional heat dissipation systems have been added, but it has been said that very little other changes were made to this ‘improved type’, which provides a great contrast with the heavy changes made to the improved Salamis-class ships.
A Neo Zeon ship, said to be the successor class to the Musai based on its general construction, actually incorporated most of the standard equipment of 0080s era warships, including integral catapults.
Source: Great Mechanics DX4 (Futabasha)