The HWR-02 Thundercracker, commonly referred to simply as the Thundercracker, was a mass-produced, ground combat destroid. It was developed shortly after the First Robotech War, but only saw mass deployment following the Malcontent Uprisings. It was heavily in use during the early years of the Pioneer Expedition.
The HWR-03 Thundercracker, or as it is more commonly called, the 'Little Monster', is without any doubt the ugliest Terran mecha designed to date, and the common wisdom places only the Invid Inorganics lower on the aesthetic scale. The Little Monster has an unremarkable boxy body, two overlarge bird- jointed legs, a low mounted missile pod and two large detachable cargo pods which give the impression of a thick cheeks and a quivering chin when the mecha is in motion, and finally nine particle beam cannons sticking out into assorted directions.
The HWR-03 was designed in 2024 on Tirol, after the first REF encounter with the force-shield surrounding Invid Hives. The REF Army had found it almost impossible to breach this defense, causing numerous calls for orbital fire support and even nuclear launches. Committed to a more effective offense in likely future Hive assaults, the REF Army designed the HWR-03 to breach these Invid force fields. The only known method to do this at that time was by a sustained high-energetic salvo, or by numerous nuclear hits directly on the shield. Consequently, the HWR-03 could mount six nuclear Derringer missiles in its chin pod, and had a high generator capacity and cannons designed for sustained high output. The typical deployment would be to advance four or more Little Monsters to within firing distance of the Hive, covered by smaller mecha, and then to open fire with the particle cannons until the Hive shield was locally overloaded. After this assaults directly into the Hive itself could be made to close down the shield completely, and, of course, to defeat the Invid. In case this was not possible, for instance due to time presures or if the Little Monsters could not close with the Hive, the nuclear missiles would be launched at the top of the force field, where the resulting fireballs would not reach the surface (ie. airbursts) and little radio-active fallout would result. This would usually cause the shield to collapse.
The HWR-03 was produced from 2024 through 2031 in small numbers, due to its specialized nature and because research into particle beam systems promised a more elegant solution to the force shield problem (this research eventually resulted into the 'Destabilizer' weapons from the mid to late thirties). The total number of mecha produced is 146, which were typically deployed at the Army Corps level, with 8 to 12 Thundercrackers per Corps. From 2036 on the Destabilizer weapons came in use, and the Little Monsters were slowly withdrawn from service, with the final Tirolian Reserve platoon decommissioning its mecha in 2040. At present, only 9 Little Monsters remain in existence, all in musea or (though disarmed) in the nostalgist Confederated Terran Armed Forces.
The armor on the Thundercracker was a new development in low-mass Chobham plating. Aside from the considerable protection provided against projectiles, missiles, and other kinetic weapons, this armor was also resistant to plasma globes (annihilation discs), lasers, and to a lesser extent, particle guns, owing to the fact that the armor could flake off and evaporate in layers under fire from such high-energy weapons, taking much of the weapon's energy and converting it into the latent heat of sublimation in the armor. The total protection was formidable, and more than on par with the Southern Cross' contemporary Veritech Hover Tank. The armor stopped all small arms fire, and had more than excellent resistance to all weapons commonly mounted on combat mecha.