This page is copyright 2001, 2002, 2004-2007, 2009 by Tim Rassbach.

Iron Man and all associated characters are the property of Marvel Comics.

What, Where, and Why

on the War Machine Armor

Constructed by Tony Stark just before "death" to take care of business quickly, and to leave for his Iron Man replacement: Jim Rhodes.

First seen at the end of #281, the Variable Threat Response Battle Suit, Model XVI, Mark I, is designed unapologetically for total and complete warfare, hence the nickname, War Machine. In fact, Tony Stark himself has said that he is "delighted at its compactness and horrified at its concentration of deadliness."

A larger more serious design then its predecessor (the Modular Armor), War Machine is colored in stark black and silvery-white, telling the world that this armor is ready to rock. A heavy-duty combat armor, it’s made from an improved steel mesh composite, covered with a polycarbon coating as an extra layer of protection to blunt energy weapons. It has the on-board arsenal of destruction—one never seen in a Stark armor before—to back it up. As a result, the technical improvements are outshined by the suit's destructive capabilities, but they are no less amazing. Other design features changes of note include sharp studs on the knuckles of the gauntlets (for close-quarters sparing) and the lack of a chestbeam (an Iron Man first).

Helmet modifications include a more aggressive-sounding voice modulator and improved neck actuators. Stronger, they spin quicker than previous models to allow for quicker responses (especially helpful when operating laser-guided weapons). The facemask lifts up as with previous helmets, but this one lifts away at the jaw. The helmet also houses an enhanced Battle tactics computer.

The on-board computer (and armor) is controlled via the now standard Heads-Up Display (HUD), and interface that allows Iron Man to control every aspect of the armor mentally/visually. The computer can interface with all manner of external computers, including the holochamber.

The ultrasound scan combines with the thermal imaging to project realistic visual images on the HUD of Iron Man’s surrounding environments and/or enemies. When combined with Infrared sensors in aggressive scan mode, IM can fight in total darkness. The sensors also allow him to see invisible foes like the Masters of Silence. Other sensors include motion and thermograph sensors. The mask opticals have improved low-light vision. All this makes for one heckuva tactical matrix.

Stark can program the battle computer, which is hardwired to the sensor array, to scan for and display targets, including hidden ones. He can then set the armor on auto-assault mode, with the tactical matrix even selecting the appropriate weapons.

Armaments: The suit is prepared for total war, but was designed under the idea of "response in kind." Stark wanted a flexible armor that contained various levels of response, a host of offensive possibilities available depending on the threat level.

War Machine represents Iron Man’s first real use of smart weapons (i.e., laser-guided munitions). The battle computer, processing a plethora of tactical info from the sensors, can find and track several targets at once with help of a 20-watt Infrared helmet-mounted laser sight (with advances in miniaturization the sight is no bigger than a tube of lipstick). This laser targeter can illuminate targets Iron Man isn’t even looking at, enabling him to maneuver and fire on the fly. (It fires out the front and the back—so even as he flies away from an object, he can strike it.) The laser sight allows for pinpoint accuracy.

Model XVI features a deployable Missile Box with an eight missile cache, stored in “silos” with one-shot frangible weather seals capable of launching a payload of different missiles according to mission: Anti-Tank, Anti-Ship, Spent Uranium Core Armor-Piercing, Flame Bomb, Fire Suppressant, Smoke, Tear Gas, Radio Repeater and a Sub-Nuke (equivalent to 1.8 kilotons of TNT). The box is a removable module, used when needed. It attaches to the shoulder via magnetic clamping. When in the stowed position, it’s in standby mode, resting on the back like a backpack. When deployed, it quickly drives up a high-speed positioning rail and locks in place.

Each missile has a forward-looking sensors tuned to the blink-rate of the laser sight. Stark can target several targets at once, “painting” them with his high-speed scan and different blink rates. He can fire all eight missiles at once—all at different targets. And although only the size of road flares, the missiles hit Mach 2 in just 5 seconds.

An Electric Mini-Gun that can rest on the shoulder is deployed from the back using the same technology as the missile box. With its own laser sight guidance system, the Mini-Gun can tilt and swivel to acquire and strike targets. Similar to those found on military aircraft, the spiral-packed magazine carries 1,800 caseless, electrically primed, 3.9 mm regular or spent-uranium-core armor-piercing rounds. It can be set to fire 1 or 1,000 rounds per second. (Extra ammo packs are stored on a utility-like belt.)

Located on the right arm is a retractable Chain Gun, a.k.a. Gauntlet Mini-Cannon. The variably configured gun contains eight kinds of specialty 3.9 mm ammo: Spent-Uranium-Core Armor-Piercing, High Explosive, Concussion Type, High Temperature Thermite, Tear Gas, Tracer, Flare and Smoke. The cannon is capable of firing any of them at a moments notice.

Other Armaments: Gauntlet-mounted Flamethrower, Laser Sword (a.k.a. light saber on left gauntlet); 30mm Palm Repulsors.

The Model XVI has a full communications setup, including visual two-way communications.

Defensively, the armor sports an improved force field. The suit also incorporates improved heat-dissipation technology, requiring less output from cooling regulators.

War Machine, Model XVI, Mark II-A

A later model seen in issue 284, Model XVI, Mark II-A, was built specifically for Jim Rhodes by Tony Stark just prior to his ‘death” and deep freeze. It includes small changes in the design to fine-tune the armor to match Rhodes' much more physical style of fighting. As he always does, Stark upgraded the tech, upgraded the firepower, and refined the overall design—cosmetically and mechanically.


Model II-A, Stark tweaked the chestplate, adding an Enhanced Tri-Beam—with a laser beam and spotlight setting—a feature missing on his own War Machine armor.


Another difference between Mark I and II-A is that the Mark I War Machine had an ammunition shunt/power cord from the shoulder to the left gauntlet (Model II-A lacks this). Rhodey’s version has different boots as well.


The last feature that separates Rhodey's armor from the previous model is the multi-purpose weapons backpack, from which Rhodes deploys his pulse cannon, and such as needed. The streamlined weapons pod allowed Rhodes to fight without the inconvenience of having weapons mounted on his shoulders all the time.


Armaments: Everything the Mark I has—plus a plasma cannon attachment (for left shoulder).

Improved tactical computer has an upgraded automatic targeting system—it now makes threat assessment recommendations. Other computer upgrades include an automatic pilot along with refined system and utilities checks. A better radiation sensor was also added.

The II-A marked the first time Stark upgraded his armor’s standard waste elimination system (it handles solids, liquids, and gases as needed).

Although still vulnerable to electromagnetic pulses (EMPs), Stark realized the tactical advantage of them, adding an offensive EMP projector. (When struck by its own or an outside EMP, it takes the armor six minutes to reboot—until then, the suit is a couple of hundred pounds of dead weight.

In issue #289, in an effort to defeat the Living Laser, Rhodes coated the armor with a silver Prismapolymer Refractive Coating that could resist even the most concentrated laser. The coating was later removed.

The War Machine Model II-A is configured for underwater combat/use.

During the “Hands of Mandarin” saga, the War Machine armor was pretty thrashed up. Stark repaired it.

Model XVI, Mark II-B

In #313, Tony gave Rhodey the tech specs for a revamped War Machine, the Mark II-B, in case Rhodes ever needed to make repairs or alterations.

Mark II-B included an auto-destruct.

Biography of James Rhodes a.k.a. War Machine


Evil War Machine

Rhodes lost the armor in the Time War (War Machine #17). A short time later (IM Vol. 3, #11), it supposedly returned in the hands of Rhodey’s one-time mercenary buddy, Parnell Jacobs. In reality, although Jacobs wanted to sow some seeds of disagreement with the ruse, it was revealed not to be a Stark-built suit when Tony’s negator pack had no effect on it (IM Vol. 3, #12). (Now why Tony or Rhodey didn’t notice that it resembled the original Model I armor—note the missing chestbeam—and not Rhodey’s later suit, we can’t tell you.) In any case, this WM suit, which Parnell used to attack Astrodyne, was built by Stuart Clarke via Sunset Bain.

Iron Man, Vol. 3, #’s 18–20 features the return of the Parnell War Machine, complete with a bigger, badder, more evil WM exo-suit.