Rockwell Bell VF-4 Lightning III Fleet Defense Veritech Fighter

VF-4A 2

ROBOTECH Technical Files

by Pieter Thomassen and Peter Walker, with Rob Morgenstern

edited by Tim Wing


  • VF-4 Lightning reference file
  • VF-4 Lightning gallery

Designation: Rockwell Bell VF-4 Lightning III Fleet Defense Veritech Fighter

I. Dimensions:

Fighter Mode

  • Wingspan: 12.65 meters
  • Height: 5.31 meters
  • Length: 16.8 meters
  • Mass: empty 13.95 metric tons

II. Type

  • VF-4A, -4G: One man all weather aerospace combat mecha, three form Veritech.
  • VF-4B: Two-man all weather aerospace combat-capable trainer mecha, three form Veritech.

III. Service History

  • VF-X-3: Experimental non-variable aircraft, saw operation from 2011 until 2013.
  • VF-X-4: Experimental two-form (fighter and GERWALK) veritech fighter aircraft, saw testing from 2013 until 2014.
  • YF-4: Preproduction three-form veritech prototype. Introduced in early 2014 and immediately accepted into service as the VF-4A.
  • VF-4A: Served with the UN Spacy from 2014 until replaced by the -4G.
  • VF-4B: Served with the UN Spacy from 2014 until 2017, with the UEDF Tactical Armored Space Corps and Navy from 2018 until 2024, and with the UEEF Naval Air Arm from 2018 until 2021.
  • VF-4G: Served with the UN Spacy in 2017, with the UEDF Tactical Armored Space Corps and Navy from 2018 until 2024, and with the UEEF Naval Air Arm from 2018 until 2021.

IV. Propulsion

VF-4A, -4B

  • VF-4A 142 x Nakajima/P&W/Rolls Royce FF-2011 fusion turbines, max. unboosted output 137 kN each (boosted, 270 kN each).


  • 2 x Nakajima/P&W/Rolls Royce FF-2011+ fusion turbines, max. unboosted output 162 kN each (boosted, 318 kN each).


  • 2 x Turbo-Union ATF 350 miniaturized fusion plasma-air/reaction mass intermix ramjets. Mounted on the upper rear (fighter mode), on the arm blocks [Reserve]. Each engine is rated to 38.4 kN standard thrust, max overboost to 77.3 kN each.
  • 2 x ramjet engines, used at high altitude at speeds above Mach 3.
  • 2 x P&W HMM-1A high-maneuverability vernier thrusters are mounted on the arm blocks.
  • Powerplant: 2 x RRL-2P miniaturized protoculture-cell energizer.
  • Assorted small reaction thrusters and gyroscopes for all-environment maneuvers, attitude adjustment, and stability.

Fuel Capacity

  • 18 Standard Canisters of Protoculture,
  • 16.4 lit. D2O reactant for fusion engines.

V. Performance (VF-4G):

Fighter Mode:

  • Max level speed at sea level : Mach 1.12
  • Max level speed at 10 km: Mach 3.25
  • Max level speed at 30+ km: Mach 5.33
  • Stall speed (VTOL shift possible): 185 kph.
  • Initial climb rate: over 30000m per minute.
  • Unboosted service ceiling: 35 km.


  • Max level speed at all altitudes: 550 kph
  • Stall speed: 0 kph (hover)
  • Max loiter time: 450 seconds

VF-4A 8
Battloid Mode:

  • Max running speed: 128 kph.
  • Max flying speed at all altitudes: 240 kph.


  • Range (space): Total delta-v 5.74 kps on internal reaction mass. An additional 5.6 kps delta-v can be added by four conformal FAWT packs (see armament section).
  • Protoculture supply: 250 hours operational use.
  • G limits: -5.0/+11.5.

VI. Electronics:

Radar tracking:

  • Hughes APG-113 X-band pulse-Doppler phased array, providing spherical long-range detection and tracking of targets at all altitudes. Equipped with special ‘stealthy’ modes.

Optical tracking:

  • Phillips AllView multi-band digital camera system, for medium range spherical infra-red imaging, optical and ultra-violet band detection and tracking
  • Thomson LT-5 multi-frequency laser ranger and designator.

Tactical Electronic Warfare System (TEWS):

  • Elettronica Radar Warning Receiver (RWR)
  • OlDelft Infra-red Warning Receiver (IRWR)
  • Westinghouse ALQ-250(V) active sensor jammer
  • Chaff dispenser
  • Flares.


VII. Armament:


VF-4A, -4B

  • 2 x EP-4 single barrel particle cannons stored in the upper engine pods in Fighter mode and in the wrists in Battloid and Guardian modes. Each cannon can fire a particle beam with a yield of 9 MJ every second. This installation, reminiscent of the particle cannons on the Quaedluun-Rau Power Armor, was so successful that it was emulated on the later Beta Fighter as well, and only a lack of space kept it from the Alpha.


  • 2 x EP-13B1 three-barreled 80mm particle gun pods, firing 170 rounds per minute in full automatic mode, also capable of firing all three barrels simultaneously in semiautomatic mode at approximately one shot per second. This weapon fires 8.2 MJ pulses per barrel in each mode and was developed in 2032 by the REF. The weapons are stored in the same position as the older cannons.



VF-4A 4


  • 12 x MCHS-4 Recessed conformal missile bays on the upper (4) and lower (6) engine pods and the lower forward hull section (2) containing one semi-recessed long range missile each.


There are 2 inner-overwing and 2 outer-underwing hardpoints. The inner hardpoints can only be used if the upper FAWT-packs are not mounted. These hardpoints are generally used for specialized weapons that do not fit into the FAWT-pack missile bays or in an atmosphere. Each hardpoint can carry:

  • 1 x MER (Multiple Ejector Rack) for two Derringer missiles. These missiles have a range of 70 km (A variant) or 130 km (E/F variants) and a speed of Mach 3.0, guided by a combined optical, IIR, and active radar seeker.
  • or 1 x MER for three AGM-65R Maverick air-to-ground missiles (outer-underwing hardpoint only).
  • or 1 x RMS-2 “Angel Of Death” Nuclear Stand-off missile. A reaction warhead (200 kT) mounted on a long range (293 km) Mach 4.0 combined multi-spectrum imager and active radar homing missile and apreferred ordnance for anti-starship missions. Maximum delta-v is 5 kps.
  • or 1 x Firebird missile. A conventional warhead mounted on the frame of a RMS missile with a range of 234 km and a speed of Mach 6.5, guided by a combined IIR and active/passive radarseeker. Delta-v in space is 4.0 kps.
  • or 1 x RMS-3 “Archangel of Death” nuclear stand-off missile. A reaction warhead (500 kT) mounted on a long range (454 km) Mach 4.0 combined multi-spectrum imager and active radar homing missile. Customized for anti-starship operations. Maximum delta-v is 6 kps.
  • or 1 x CBM-200 cluster missile. A long range missile based on the RMS-3 with 200 cluster bomblets with a range of 1 km and a speed of Mach 4.0.
  • or 1 x Carapace missile container (see notes below).
  • or 1 x MER for three Mk-82 Paveway V 230kg bombs; various fuse options, laser-guided (outer-underwing hardpoint only).
  • or any other military cargo such as a recon pod, missile or cargo pod.
  • The Carapace missile container is an armored casing with three missile tubes. Each tube can be loaded with 1 x medium range (65 km) Mach 3.0 combined active radar and thermal imager guided AMM-1 Stiletto missile, or with 2 x medium range (65km) Mach 3.2 combined infra-red imager and active radar homing 260mm Diamondback missiles, or with 4 x 190x540mm short range (8.2km) combined active radar and home-on-jam/infra-red imager guided Hammerhead missiles.

FAWT packs:

  • 4 FAWT (Fuel and Weapons Tactical) space pack mounting points are located on the underwing and overwing joints between wings and engine pods. Each attachment point can carry a combination fuel tank/conformal missile bay, but the pack is not compatible with atmospheric flight regimes. The additional tankage suffices for 5.6 kps delta-v. Each missile bay can carry:
  • 2 x Derringer missiles. This missiles has a range of 70 km (A variant) or 130 km (E/F variants) and a speed of Mach 3.0, guided by a combined optical, IIR, and active radar seeker.
  • or 1 x RMS-2 “Angel Of Death” Nuclear Stand-off missile. A reaction warhead (200 kT) mounted on a long range (293 km) Mach 4.0 combined multi-spectrum imager and active radar homing missile. Maximum delta-v is 5 kps.
  • or 1 x Firebird missile. A conventional warhead mounted on the frame of a RMS missile with a range of 234 km and a speed of Mach 6.5, guided by a combined IIR and active/passive radarseeker. Delta-v in space is 4.0 kps.
  • or 1 x Carapace missile container (see notes below).

The most common payloads for these mecha are:

  • Space strike: 4 FAWT packs loaded with 4 x RMS-2 missiles and 2 x RMS-2 missiles on the outer hardpoints and the standard internal load-out.
  • Space superiority: 4 FAWT packs loaded with 4 x Firebird missiles and 2 x Carapace missile containers (one loaded with Diamondback missiles and one loaded with Hammerhead missiles) on the outer wing hardpoints and the standard internal load-out.
  • Atmosphere strike: 8 x Derringer missiles or 6 x AGM-65R Maverick missiles on MER’s mounted on the hardpoints (underwing hardpoint only for Maverick missiles) and the standard internal load-out.
  • Air superiority: The standard internal load-out, occasionally increased with Carapace missile containers (see notes above) loaded onto the hardpoints with the appropriate missiles for the mission.

VF-4A 7VIII. Armor:

The armor of the Lightning is composed of an advanced titanium-steel alloy. The armor stops all small arms and heavy infantry weapons fire, provides good resistance to light mecha-mounted weaponry, such as the Zentraedi 22.3mm HE autocannon round, and poor resistance to medium mecha-mounted weaponry, such as the Valkyrie’s 55mm APFSDS round.

The Lightning provides full protection from nuclear, biological, and chemical hazards, using an overpressure cockpit environment activated by radiation and hazardous chemical sensors, or manually when biological warfare conditions are anticipated. The internal consumables supplies can provide atmosphere for one day maximum.

IX. Development:

The Lightning III design project was started when the first veritech fighter, the VF-1 Valkyrie, was in its prototype stage. The technological advancement of that time took place at such a speed that the impressive Valkyrie could already be improved upon. Combat experience gathered by the SDF-1 Macross during the return voyage from the outer edge of the solar system highlighted faults in the conceptualization of the VF-1. The initial encounters with heretofore unknown Zentraedi mecha such as the Gnerl fighter and later the Quaedluun-rau Power Armor showed that the multi-purpose VF-1 Valkyrie was less than ideal when used as a space superiority fighter or as an interceptor. In the latter case, the very fast Valkyrie could still not develop enough speed to keep up with the Zentraedi Gnerl, and neither did it have enough missiles to offset the higher enemy numbers. Compared to the Quaedluun-Rau, the VF-1 lacked the missile firepower that made the alien design so deadly; in addition, the energy beam armament of the Zentraedi mecha was more effective in space than the cannon armament of the Earth fighters.

It was then decided that the VF-1 was not to be complemented but completely replaced by a new veritech, one with a larger number of long range missiles than the VF-1, and with an energy cannon armament as well. In addition, the new fighter would have to be faster than the Valkyrie, capable of at least keeping up with the Gnerl.

In 2011, the first post war prototype for what was to eventually be the VF-4 was built. Designated the VF-X-3, and constructed primarily from VF-1 components, it was a non-transformable technology demonstrator. Though it excelled at what it was designed to do, there was no pressing need for a replacement for the Valkyrie, nor any surplus industrial capacity when it emerged from the factory. After about two years, in 2013, conditions changed with the beginning of the Malcontent Uprisings and a rebuilt production base. The UN Spacy once again took up its arms, and the Valkyrie successor project suddenly received a high priority once more. The VF-X-3 received a redesign, this time with very few components carried over from the VF-1. This prototype was not a full variable fighter. VF-X-4 1Rather than have a battloid mode, the VF-X-4 was limited to just fighter and GERWALK modes. It was decided by the design team at Rockwell International that the battloid mode did not add enough in the way of combat capability to justify the added weight and complexity. This was not the direction that the UN Spacy wanted to go however, and they demanded yet another redesign.

The Lightning III’s final form came to fruition with the YF-4. This prototype was a full three-form veritech fighter with fighter, GERWALK and battloid modes. Though pretty, the YF-4 had a horribly complex transformation sequence. It was this complexity that ended up being the fighter’s Achilles’ heel. The transformation sequence had a failure rate of over
50%. The most common fault was the fuselage failing to transition from its fighter/GERWALK position to battloid position. This fault led to three crashes, one of which resulted in the death of test pilot Jose Orona Reyes, during the test and evaluation phase. Prior to its redesign, the Rockwell International and Textron team had produced what was VF-4A 26a very promising space supremacy fighter. The addition of the third form caused the fighter to balloon in size, complexity and cost. Even though the YF-4 had serious problems, the UN Spacy ordered the fighter into production before the testing phase was even complete.

Though troubled, the VF-4 Lightning III showed some serious potential. The new fighter showed no spectacular improvement over the Valkyrie on paper, but the actual combat capability of the mecha increased several hundred percent over its predecessor. The armament now comprised two heavy particle beam cannons in the wrists in battloid mode and on the upper engine nacelles in Fighter mode, effectively tripling the cannon firepower in space. The missile armament was doubled over that of the Valkyrie, but more important was that the new standard load-out was carried on conformal, low drag hardpoints. The result was an effective combat speed more than doubled over that of the Valkyrie, for this mecha carried its missiles on hardpoints under the wings. The VF-1 thus suffered from a sub-Mach 2 speed restriction when carrying missile racks, requiring them to be jettisoned or fired prior to acceleration above this speed. Naturally this made for a major combat restriction. The Lightning, with its semi-internal storage, could reach its maximum speed while still carrying its standard missile load. Should heavier weapons be required, then the Lightning could mount these on four hardpoints. Doing so imposed a same loaded combat speed limit as the Valkyrie had, but this was required only for such missions as bombing runs or stand-off missile launches, which didn’t require quite such high speeds. The new fighter was also designed to use conformal fuel and weapons packs in space if needed, much like the Super Valkyrie. In space, the VF-4 really came into its own. With 40% more reaction mass than the VF-1, the Lightning III enjoyed a significantly expanded combat envelope. An increase in Vernier and maneuvering thrusters made the VF-4 more agile in space as well. The only performance measure that the Lightning III was inferior to the Valkyrie in was atmospheric low speed maneuverability. This was significant, as most aerial combat took place at sub-sonic speeds. Still, the VF-4 was not designed with close range air to air combat as a priority. It was primarily a space fighter and high-speed, high-altitude interceptor, both of which were roles that it excelled in.

The YF-4 entered production in 2014 as the VF-4A. VF-4s were initially produced for UN Spacy naval and space forces, where they replaced the Falcon and older Valkyries. A two seat combat capable training version known as the VF-4B was also procured. Its transition to production model did not solve any of its problems with the transformation sequence. After several high-profile crashes, the entire VF-4 fleet was temporarily grounded. When they were finally cleared for flight again, they were limited to fighter mode only!

In 2017, the revised VF-4G entered production. Though it solved most of the safety issues with the transformation sequence, the three yearlong redesign nearly doubled the unit cost of each mecha. Furthermore, the transformation sequence was not made fully reliable. Conversion time from fighter to battloid mode was now much slower, and still trouble prone with a 5% failure rate. This lead to the grounding of the fleet several more times during its short service life. The VF-4G also introduced an upgraded version of the FF-2011 fusion turbine and improved particle beam cannons, those these improvements were little consolation in light of the type’s faults.

VF-4A 22At the time of the United Earth Expeditionary Force’s main force fold-jump in 2022, only 800 some Lightning IIIs had been built, of which almost all were left on Earth. Most VF-4s served on for a short time with the UEDF Tactical Armored Space Corps and Navy until they were withdrawn from service in 2024. The remaining aircraft were placed in reserve at the Sea of Tranquility mecha depot.

When assigning blame for the failure of the VF-4, it’s easy to point the finger at the UN Spacy for insisting that the VF-X-4 be turned into a three form veritech. To be fair, however, it was Rockwell International that insisted that the type could be turned into a battloid mode capable veritech, and they again who later insisted that the transformation problems could be resolved by time the fighter went into production. Both of the assurances turned out to be false. The failure of the VF-4 was one of the primary contributors to the United Earth Forces deciding to transition to primarily conventional fighter in the early twenties. Indeed, the VF-4 nearly caused the death of the veritech fighter. Had it not been for the unsolicited design proposal of the VF/A-6 Alpha by a then unknown aerospace startup by the name of Maxwell Dynamics, the veritech fighter may very well have become a foot-note in the annuals of military history.

VF-4A 9



Robotech (R) is the property of Harmony Gold. The Super Dimension Fortress Macross (R) is the properties of Big West Advertising and Studio Nue. This document is in no way intended to infringe upon their rights.

Original artwork by: Shoji Kawamori, Miyatake Kazutaka, Haruhiko Mikimoto and Hidetaka Tenjin

Acknowledgement is extended to the work of Egan Loo and the Macross Compendium. Egan Loo is given all credit for all quotes and paraphrasing of the Macross Compendium that has been utilized in this publication.

Images Courtesy of Chad Wilson (Marchly) and the Macross Mecha Manual. Chad Wilson is given all credit for all images from the Macross Mecha Manual that have been utilized in this publication.

Acknowledgement is extended to Peter Walker, Pieter Thomassen and Robert Morgenstern of the unofficial Robotech Reference Guide. Peter Walker, Pieter Thomassen and Robert Morgenstern are given credit for all quotes and paraphrasing of the unofficial Robotech Reference Guide that has been utilized in this publication.

Content by Pieter Thomassen, Peter Walker and Robert Morgenstern, edited by Tim Wing

Copyright © 2001, 1999 Robert Morgenstern, Pieter Thomassen, Peter Walker; 2015 Tim Wing