The M.E.A.N. or 'Multi Environment Armor Number' series of vehicles were first introduced in the early Second Age. Prior to the production of "meanies", as they came to be called, the Foundation operated a wide assortment of land vehicles.
Development of the MEAN
The dozens of different air, sea, and land vehicles in operation, servicing requirements were enormous. Keeping the fleet of vehicles running in peace-time required an army of clerics to supply the spare parts. As part of the "Grand Standardization" process underway within the Foundation and Crimson Blade, a series of multi-role vehicles were called for.
Working within the tenets of Grand Standardization, Foundation engineers began development on a program of vehicles that would use mostly inter-changeable parts. Any time a component could be re-used or re-cycled, it was considered important to do so. In this way, a single chair, a single wheel, a single door latch, could be produced en-masse and used in the highest possible number of vehicles. This shrank the spare-parts pool significantly and reduced the complexity of the supply-chain.
Due to the complexity and increased requirements of air travel and combat, the MEAN program did not find its way into aircraft. Although "Grand Standardization" was followed, it was not as strict. Ground vehicles, however, saw the full benefits of the system.
The M.E.A.N. 1 was the first ever active service vehicle introduced in the MEAN program, and, somewhat excitingly, the first effective "hover tank".
With amphibious assaults and coastal landings being of prime importance, the demand for an amphibious tank was quite high throughout the Blade. The Landing Ship, Tank or L.S.T.(affectionately called the Large Slow Target) had been the preferred means of bringing armored vehicles ashore since the Mage Wars, and was essentially never considered an ideal solution.
Tanks, however, do not take well to being made amphibious. Boats typically float primarily by being somewhat light, a feature tanks are not known for. Hovercraft, on the other hand, are able to rely slightly less on not being heavy. The first iteration of the MEAN was essentially a standard tank outfitted with a hover-skirt and the ability to trap a cushion of air beneath it. What the MEAN1 was, in effect, more vulnerable to attack than the LSTs, its dramatically increased speed over water gave it significant advantages.
The skirts were essentially considered disposable and used only for moving from ship to shore. Later improvements, however, would render them obsolete.
The MEAN16 Main Battle Tank was the first tank to see a major evolution in design. The MEAN10 started the revolution by replacing consumable liquid fuels like gasoline with an onboard generator. Given the surplus of power, designers set out to equip the 16 with a small energy shield.
Starting with the 16, tanks would function much like starships, in that a generator would feed power into a buffer, which could then be used to operate various systems. In the case of the 16, it was originally slated to power a small shield. Mass-produceable metal armor had reached the extent of its capabilities for shielding a vehicle, and armor-piercing weapons were now simply too good. The energy shield was the ideal answer. Starting even before the MEAN1, all GS tanks had been equipped with ECM generators, which work in-atmosphere to refract the beams of energy weapons, effectively rendering them useless. The same concept as starships, but since bubble shields do not stop projectiles, neither do ECMs.
Thus, the MEAN16 would be required to use a projection-type shield, which could only protect certain parts of it, and only be powered for short intervals. One intrepid engineer noticed that with a few modifications, the shield could take the place of the hover skirt. Being an energy shield, it was much more durable, making it less of a way to get from ship-to-shore and more an effective means to traverse rough terrain.
Using the shield-skirt, the MEAN16 was capable of reaching speeds up to 110MPH for short bursts and crossing 4-foot obstacles. It could not fire the main gun while in hover-mode, but the advantages of an extremely fast, agile tank were very obvious.
With the MEAN51 came the addition of ion-thrusters for manuevering, making the tank even more formidable. the MEAN51 also introduced the ability to actually "fly" in short hops, reaching altituded of 75 feet and traveling up to 200 yards.
Further improvements would continue, the MEAN887 would become the standard tank of the Kamian Succession Wars.
The M.E.A.N. 2 armored personnel carrier shared many attributes with the MEAN1 and was essentially the same vehicle, with the gun turret replaced by a transport area. It had room for 8 soldiers and two drivers, and was still equipped with a wide array of armaments. Similarities between the transports and tanks would become a permenant feature of the MEAN series.