The EMA-120 Lightning was first deployed in 1509, near the end of the Archipelago War. It was very successful in its role, but at the time was one of the most expensive Mektons fielded by the EDF. The Lightning project was born out of the Elaran High Command deciding it needed a unit capable of extremely fast, surgical strikes. The EDF, who in 1506 had introduced launching Mektons from submersible mecha carriers, also wanted a unit that could be launched and take flight while the carrier was submerged (previous units had to surface before becoming airborne). The solution was one of the first successful transformable Mektons for the EDF.
The Lightning was distinctive among 100-series Mekton designs, involving a large number of leading aerofighter engineers. The result was an aerofighter form that had a silhouette reminiscent of its namesake, with a slender pointed nose, a distinction humped fuselage, and engine nacelles set below. The cockpit was further forward than most aerofighter designs, giving the impression of a shorter nose. The oversized powerplant and missile racks completely took over the torso/fuselage. Even though many of the lightweight materials used in later Mektons were not yet available, the Lightning's weight was kept down through a combination of intentionally lightweight design and a novel innovation: the arms also served as the wings. A number of internal mechanisms, combined with a series of interlocking plates that extended from the torso and legs, turned the arms into the Mekton's trademark stubby, triangular wings. In humanoid mode, the cockpit was placed in the head. This made the pilot more vulnerable, and meant that the head-mounted weaponry typical of Elaran designs was left out. When the issue of the pilot's vulnerability was brought up, one of the aerofighter engineers was quoted as saying, "They're just going to have to try hard not to get hit." The design also conspicuously lacked anti-missile defenses. Against a Deathstalker's missile barrage, if the Lightning was hit it was guaranteed to be reduced to scrap - fortunately, it was ridiculously overpowered and far more maneuverable than nearly all of the Kargan units on the battlefield.
Known as a hangar queen because of the complex transformation mechanism and unique powerplant, only 24 Lightnings were produced during the war. The Mekton was restricted to the 5th Fast Attack Wing, operating out of the submersible mechacarrier Koriel. It was only involved in a handful of engagements, all of them surgical strikes on high priority targets. The Mekton is particularly remembered for Karason Bay, where both Lightning squadrons, armed with anti-ship missiles on their wing hardpoints, carried out a surprise attack on the Kargan mechacarrier Garash and her carrier group. The Garash and all but two of the other vessels were destroyed, and the survivors heavily damaged. Only four Lightnings were lost in the pitched battle that resulted as the Kargans tried to rally a defense, and one of those was due to a malfunction. Lightnings also supported a mission to infiltrate the Kargan city of Tarkas by delivering Roadstriker-equipped special forces in custom wing-mounted pods. The Lightnings succeeded in inserting the Roadstrikers, but the mission ultimately failed. Overall, only six Lightnings were lost during the war, and one of those was due to a malfunction. After the Archipelago War the Lightnings were retired. Several were sent to various military museums, while 7 were assigned to the Stormriders demonstration squadron. By 1530 only a few remained operational because of their age, complexity and outmoded, nonstandard technology.
No variants of the Lightning were ever built. Pilot modifications were forbidden because of the Mekton's complexity and cost. Instead, the wing hardpoints were used for weapon pylons or to mount mission critical equipment. A typical fast strike loadout would include the Lightning's plasma rifle on one hardpoint and a heavy missile pod on the other. Long range missions would require the plasma rifle to be stowed and instead two fuel tanks mounted. As with many things about this Mekton, even the pylons or pods had to be specially manufactured to fit the design, as they needed to conform to the Lightning's unique transformation process. The demonstration Lightnings assigned to the Stormriders are disarmed, with specialized smoke dispensers mounted in place of the missile racks in the torso.