Designed as the centerpiece of the New Millenium Project, the Minerva is equipped with several highly innovative new technologies. Because it was intended to support the prototype ZGMF-X56S Impulse Gundam and the planned mass-production mobile suit ZGMF-1000 ZAKU Warrior, the Minerva is equipped with a single dorsal catapult, mounted along its central axis, designed to support these machines; Primarily intended to deploy the autonomous Flyer units of the Impulse, it can on rare occasions be used to deploy support equipment for the ZAKU, such as Wizard Packs or Guul subflight lifters. This catapult is however too small to support full-sized mobile suits. Thus, the Minerva is equipped with a pair of standard-sized MS catapults laterally mounted to port and starboard. The Minerva has an official maximum mobile weapon carrying capacity of 12 mobile suits, including the Impulse. However, in its central catapult it housed a second YFX-M56S Core Splendor, and it can use the central catapult to deploy it and the Impulse's component Flyers instead of launching the completed unit through one of the lateral catapults. This gives it an actual maximum capacity of 14 mobile suits if the Impulse is launched through the central catapult.
A second new technology equipped to the Minerva is the Deuterion Beam Energy Transfer System, an experimental system for wireless recharging of mobile suit batteries, which is first introduced in the Impulse and the slightly later ZGMF-X23S Saviour Gundam. This enables a mobile suit to rapidly recharge its batteries of adequately equipped mobile suit without needing to return to the ship.
Because it was designed to function both as a battleship as well as a carrier, the Minerva is among the most heavily-armed vessels created, second only to the legendary Archangel-class of the previous war. It is armed with a large number of missile launchers, four torpedo tubes, as well as CIWS turrets and powerful beam and shell-firing cannons. Additionally, it is equipped with four torpedo tubes mounted at the tip of its bow, which can also be used to fire powerful anti-ship and land-attack long-range cruise missiles. Its most powerful weapon is a single bow-mounted positron blaster cannon, similar to the primary weapon of the Archangel. But the Minerva's most significant advantage beyond its weapons and heavy armor is its speed - the ship is indeed the fastest ship ever developed by ZAFT, faster even than the much smaller and more lightly-armed Eternal, making it one of the fastest ships ever developed.
Like most mobile suits and many major warships, the Minerva is equipped with an array of CIWS turrets. Though designed primarily for anti-aircraft and missile interception, their caliber and high rate of fire makes them perfectly capable of literally shredding the armor of most ordinary mobile suits at close range
M10 "Isolde" 42cm Triple Naval Cannon
Intended for use against heavier targets such as battleships, an M10 "Isolde" 42cm triple cannon is mounted on the main body in front of the Impulse catapult. This cannon is usually hidden underneath a shutter, but is deployed if needed. A second identical weapon is mounted to the ship's rear, covering its stern arcs. The frontal cannon is mounted on a swiveling base giving it a 180-degree firing arc, allowing it to cover the ship from most any frontal or lateral attack. Because of its position in the rear, the stern Isolde's firing arc is restricted to about 45 degrees immediately behind the ship. However this combined with the ship's other weapons is sufficient to ensure that the Minerva is able to counter any attack, from any direction.
4-Cell Missile Launcher x10
The most numerous weapons on the Minerva are its missile launchers, which are organized into five four-cell launchers on each side of the ship. These launchers can be loaded with a variety of different missiles. Most frequently used are the "Dispar" surface-to-air missile, primarily intended as an anti-aircraft and anti-MS weapon, though they can also be used as an anti-missile defense if needed; the much more powerful "Parsifal" long-range anti-ship missiles; and the "Neidhart" heavy missile for use in space.
QZX-1 "Tannhäuser" Positron Blaster Cannon
The most powerful weapon of the ship is its single QZX-1 "Tannhäuser" positron blaster cannon, which makes the Minerva the first ZAFT ship to be equipped with such a weapon. Mounted on the upper bow of the ship, the "Tannhäuser" is hidden underneath a heavily-armored shutter and only released when activated. It should also be noted that while the "Tannhäuser" cannon is extremely powerful, if it's attacked when it's about to fire, the cannon's destruction can cause tremendous damage to the ship. Also, because of its fixed position it can only fire on targets positioned directly in front of the ship.
60cm Torpedo Tube x4
Mounted laterally at the very tip of the Minerva's bow are two pairs of horizontal launch tubes. Normally, these are used to launch the M25 "Wolfram" torpedo, a 3700-kilogram wire-guided torpedo with a 295-kilogram warhead, easily capable of snapping the keel of most conventional naval warships. These tubes can also be used to launch powerful long-range missiles, allowing them to be used even in space.
MMI-M382 "Fafnir" standoff-range cruise missile
The second most powerful weapon in the Minerva's arsenal, this is a series of long-range, high-speed missiles fired through the Minerva's torpedo tubes and capable of causing crippling damage to even the most heavily-armored targets. A total of three variants of the Fafnir missile exist:
- MMI-M382E1 "Fafnir-E" (atmospheric-use anti-ship missile). a 4,500-kilogram sea-skimming missile with a strike range of over 200 kilometers and a cruising speed of 2,000 knots(approx. Mach 3), it carries a 450-kilogram explosive warhead capable of dealing fatal damage to even the very largest combat vessels.
- MMI-M382G2 "Fafnir-G" (land-attack variant). Somewhat longer, this subsonic (560 knots/0.85 Mach) missile carries a 600kg warhead and a longer range of 350 kilometers;
- MMI-M382S "Fafnir-S" (space-use heavy missile): The same size and range as the E1, this variant of the Fafnir is designed for use against spaceships as well as fortified targets, and is equipped with a version of the Fafnir-G's 600kg warhead and has a cruising speed of 800 knots.
XM47 "Tristan" 230cm Dual Beam Cannon x3
Though the Minerva has a significant number of conventional weapon, its only major beam weapon other than the Tannhäuser is the XM47 "Tristan" dual beam cannon. A long-range weapon comparable to the Gottfrieds of Orb and Alliance spaceships, it is equally effective against ships and mobile suits or aircraft. One of these weapons is mounted above one of the ship's port and starbord catapults, and the third is mounted on the main body just above the central launch bay. Each of these cannons is mounted on a swiveling base allowing it to cover a 180-degree arc, which combined with the two shell-firing Isolde cannons gives the ship a full 360 degrees of artillery coverage.
Like the Earth Alliance's Archangel-class, the Minerva is protected by laminated armor, which grants it a high degree of protection against beam weaponry by dissipating the heat of beam weapon attacks across the whole hull. Additionally, the Laminate Armor used by the Minerva has ablative capabilities enabling it to re-enter the atmosphere without the need for the ablative gel used by the Archangel. As a transatmospheric battleship, the Minerva can, like its predecessor, operate within Earth's atmosphere, either by flying or by traveling in the water.
Deuterion Beam Energy Transfer System
Designed specifically to carry ZAFT's new Second Stage-series Gundams, the Minerva is the first (and so far only) ship to be equipped with the Deuterion Beam Energy Transfer System. This allows the ship to recharge the battery of a nearby mobile suit by firing a deuterion beam from a specialized emitter to a receiver on the suit.
The Minerva is also equipped with a special catapult to launch the modules of the ZGMF-X56S Impulse Gundam. It also carries a large number of spare modules and Silhouettes to replace damaged or destroyed ones. This catapult can also theoretically be used to deploy Wizard Packs for the ZGMF-1000 ZAKU Warrior, though as Wizard Packs lack the self-propelled Silhouette Flyer this can only be done across very short distances or in space. It can also be used to launch Guul subflight lifters for non air-capable mobile suits.
The ship can also optionally be equipped with a space booster, allowing it to break through Earth's atmosphere on its own.
In CE 74, ZAFT began development of new prototype Gundams as part of the general restructuring of its forces under the New Millenium Project, the intent of which was to reorganize ZAFT into a fighting force capable of effectively countering any eventual conflict while remaining within the strict limits set down by the Junius Seven Treaty of 72. Since the Treaty banned the military use of the Neutron Jammer Cancellers, these new Gundams used conventional battery power instead, however, with the technological improvements over the years since the war's end, output and efficiency of battery power had tremendously improved. As part of the project, several new technologies were developed to adapt to the Treaty's restrictions, and installed in mobile suits such as the prototype ZGMF-X56S Impulse and ZGMF-X23S Saviour Gundams, and the pre-production ZGMF-1000 ZAKU Warrior.
In addition to mobile suits, the New Millenium Project began development of a new carrier, designed to serve as a mothership to the ZAKU and the new Gundams as well as to serve as the flagship of the ZAFT fleet. Developed based on the FFMH-Y101 Eternal, the new ship was intended to function as an assault carrier, combining the high speed of the Eternal with the heavy firepower and trans-atmospheric combat capabilities of such ships as the Alliance's Archangel-class.
The result of this development and the pinnacle of the New Millenium Project, the new vessel was completed in January of CE 75, and christened LHM-BB01 Minerva. The first new-model battleship created by ZAFT, it combined a top speed that was somewhat higher than that of the Archangel with a balanced set of armaments for anti-air, anti-ship, and land-attack combat, its firepower rivaling that of even the most powerful Alliance ships, arguably second only to the Archangel itself. Aesthetically meant to resemble Evidence-01, the "space whale" fossil famously brought to Earth by George Glenn when the First Coordinator returned from his journey to Jupiter. It also visually resembles a combination of the Archangel and Eternal due to its design lineage and general weapons configuration.
Assigned to First Junius War veteran Yzak Joule, the Minerva was to be officially launched on February 16th, CE 75. However, it was forced to deploy early and with an incomplete complement of mobile suits consisting of the Impulse, three ZAKU Warriors, and two GuAIZ-Rs. when it became apparent that the remains of Junius Seven were falling from orbit, and was tasked, along with ships from the Hahnenfuss and Hawkins Teams, to retrieve the memorial delegation on its way to Junius Seven for the customary anniversary of the attack and destroy the remains before they could fall to Earth. The Minerva was able to retrieve the memorial delegation but it and the other ships only partly succeeded in destroying Junius Seven, halting the fall of roughly half the colony and shattering the remains into smaller pieces. The worst was averted, however the damage remained significant. During the operation, the Minerva was engaged by the Phantom Pain stealth battleshipNana Buluku, battling against three new prototype machines as well as several Daggers.
After descending down to Earth, the ship entered the territory of Orb, where it was repaired and resupplied by Morgenröte. When the Second Junius War broke out, the Minerva left the country and headed for the Carpentaria Base, although it was forced to battle the Earth Alliance forces ouside Orb's territory. In Carpentaria, its complement was reinforced by the addition of the Saviour Gundam. The ship left Carpentaria for Gibraltar under a two-ship escort of Vosgolov-class submarines, one of which was destroyed by the same Phantom Pain team they had previously faced, this time launching from the carrier John Paul Jones. On its way across Eurasia, the Minerva and the Impulse Gundam proved instrumental in liberating the town of Gulnahan, where the Alliance had established an outpost and were oppressing the local populace. The Minerva later gained additional mobile suits, in the form of two ZGMF-2000 GOUF Ignitednew-model aerial combat mobile suits as well as six UMF/S-6 ASSHamphibious units. Subsequently the Minerva was engaged by the Jones as well as an Orb fleet. Additionally, they were forced to engage against the Archangel and the ZGMF-X10A Freedom , which had left Orb and sought, by intervening in the battle, to force the Orb fleet to leave. The ship suffered severe damage, and the encounter resulted in the destruction of one of the GOUF Igniteds, injuring its pilot Heine Westenfluss, as well as the loss of one of its ZAKU Warriors and its pilot, Rey Za Burrel, who was killed in battle against the Freedom.
Subsequently, the Minerva discovered the Lodonia Laboratory, a facility used by the Alliance to manufacture its "Extended Humans", and captured one of them - Stella Loussier, along with her mobile suit, the GAT-X388 Gaia Gundam.
During its repairs following the battle in the Dardanelles, the Minerva is also equipped with a new weapon: the MMI-M382 "Fafnir" standoff-range cruise missile, a long-range, high-speed missile designed to be fired from its 60cm torpedo tubes. This new weapon would be used to devastating effect in a second engagement against the Orb/Alliance fleet, decimating its numbers before the Orb ships finally withdraw, forcing the Alliance ships to retreat as well.
The Minerva would next play a major role in the battle of Hamburg, once again proving the effectiveness of the "Fafnir" missile by obliterating the Atlantic Federation land battleship Bonaparte, which had served as the mother ship of the giant mobile armor GFAS-X1 Destroy in its rampage across western Eurasia.
After the battle, the Minerva would receive orders to participate in Operation Angel Down, an attack on the rogue warship Archangel. The ships would engage in battle while Shinn in the Impulse took on the Freedom. The operation would succeed, as moments before the Archangel, already badly damaged by a missile strike from the Minerva, escapes to the sea, it suffers catastrophic damage when hit by a shot from the Minerva's positron cannon, and the Impulse succeeds in destroying the Freedom. After this operation, the ship is ordered to return to Gibraltar.
The Minerva's next operation is the attack on Heaven's Base, during which it fields new mobile suits received at Gibraltar: The ZGMF-YX29R Knight Saviour Gundam piloted by Athrun, and Shinn's ZGMF-X42R Destiny Gundam, along with new pre-production YMF-3000 DOM Troopers, one of which is piloted by Yzak. For the first time, the Minerva also fields two Impulse Gundams in combat, piloted by Lunamaria Hawke and defector Stella Loussier. The battle ends with the base captured along with most members of Logos, but their leader, Blue Cosmos leader Jibril, escapes and flees to Orb. The Minerva would then lead a ZAFT fleet in an attack on Orb, despite initial attempts by Athrun to find a diplomatic solution to the situation. After Jibril once again escapes, Yzak orders the ZAFT fleet to withdraw.
After Jibril makes his way to Daedalus Base and destroys several PLANTs with the superweapon Requiem, the Minerva returns to space and Yzak reforms the Joule Team, adding the Voltaire and Rousseau to the Minerva. The Joule Team, along with additional ZAFT forces and Alliance forces led by the Niranjan-class Alakhshya, would then participate in the First Battle of Daedalus, which ends with Jibril's death and the capture of the base.
Subsequently the Joule Team returns to the PLANT homeland. Their last deployment would be in the final battle of the war, after Durendal, revealed as the architect of the War itself, is deposed and disavowed by the PLANTs. A massive fleet of ZAFT, Orb, and Alliance vessels, led by the Minerva, Alakhshya, and Kusanagi, would launch for the Second Battle of Daedalus, which would result in the destruction of the base and its cannon and Durendal's death, thereby ending the conflict.