ZAFT is a military organization and the official military of the PLANT colonies. Unlike the Earth Alliance' OMNI Enforcer, ZAFT is a militia made up of civilian volunteers and thus has no formal hierarchy. Instead, the "ranks" of its members are distinguished by the colors of the uniforms, while people in leading positions are referred to as "commander" and "captain" in a respectful way. Most ZAFT forces are organized into independent teams which are named after their commanders. Since nearly all ZAFT members are Coordinators, they are able to fight the numerically superior EA forces on equal grounds, thanks to their superior physical and mental abilities. ZAFT is controlled by the PLANT Supreme Council, with its members reporting directly to the chairman of the National Defense Committee.
The headquarter of the military is the ZAFT military station, a large cylindrical space station in the PLANT homeland.
The organization which would one day become ZAFT was originally formed as the political alliance known as the Zodiac Alliance to peacefully fight for the rights and independence of Coordinators. It was created in CE 50 by Patrick Zala and Siegel Clyne but their organization was suppressed by the nations controlling PLANT at that time, forcing the group to go underground. Over the years, the ZA remained active and attracted more followers. In CE 65, the name of the organization was eventually changed into its final name "ZAFT", with its members eventually becoming the dominant force in the PLANT Supreme Council.
Three years later, following the Mandelbrot incident, ZAFT was reorganized under Zala's leadership and became a military force using mobile suits. In the next year, the ZAFT forces prove their strength when they use their MS forces to drive the military of the sponsor nations out of the PLANT homeland.
When the First Alliance-PLANT War started in February, CE 70, ZAFT was able to repel the first attack of the EA forces but one of the colonies, Junius Seven, was destroyed by a nuclear attack. Following this event, many young Coordinators joined ZAFT to fight against the EA and ZAFT was eventually able to start an invasion of Earth. Nevertheless, the war reached a stalemate at the beginning of CE 71. At this time, however, the Alliance rolled out its first own mobile suits, although most of them were stolen by ZAFT who quickly incorporated the new technology into their MS series. In the first half of CE 71, several major battles occurred which caused ZAFT to eventually withdraw from Earth. The greatest disaster for their forces were the huge losses in the Battle of JOSH-A, although ZAFT was able to destroy the Panama Spaceport, which forced the EA to first attack the neutral Orb Union and finally the Victoria Base to get their hands on a Mass Driver. During mid CE 71 Patrick Zala, who blamed all Naturals for the death of his wife in the Bloody Valentine Incident, became the leader of not only ZAFT but also of PLANT and effectively removed the moderate faction of the PLANT Supreme Council. Zala planned to wipe out all human life on Earth, eliminating, he believed, Naturals who were the cause of all warfare and establish Coordinators as the master race, a "new humanity". Following a huge space battle in the vicinity of the ZAFT asteroid fortress Jachin Due in September CE 71, the first war ended.
After the First War
Following the disastrous losses in the war, ZAFT began to create a new series of mobile suits and other technologies, to strengthen their weakened forces. Over the span of two years, ZAFT rolled out several new mobile suit series to replace their aging GINN suits, as well as new ships. Among the new MS series were the ZGMF-601R GuAIZ R and the more advanced ZAKU series. In terms of ships, the replacing of Laurasia-class vessels through Nazca-class ships was continued, while new ships like the Gondwana-class carrier and, more importantly, the LHM-BB01 Minerva were rolled out. On Earth, the more powerful Compton-class was rolled out.
Following the Junius Seven colony drop disaster, the Earth Alliance demanded that ZAFT demilitarize and its government disperse; the obvious refusal resulted in the second war between ZAFT and Earth in four years. However, since not all factions on Earth were interested in a war, ZAFT had some advantages this time. Earth support for ZAFT greatly increased after PLANT Chairman Gilbert Durandal's famous anti-Logos/Blue Cosmos speech that was broadcast throughout the PLANTs and Earth.
- Title, with which officers in charge of a particular military vessel, such as battleships, land carriers, or submarines, are addressed with.
- Title given to people who are in charge of one of ZAFT's teams, which are frequently formed, dissolved, and rearranged. The team is identified by the name of its leader, hence "Le Creuset-team", "Zala-team", and "Joule-team". A commander will usually be given control of one or more vessels, whether space, land, or sea-based, and/or a number of mobile suits. He or she will be responsible for developing the appropriate strategies to use those resources to carry out the tasks assigned to him or her by the chairman or high-ranked military officers.
As stated above, military achievements and ranks of individual persons are shown by the color of their uniforms.
- Worn by common soldiers, technicians, or mobile suit pilots. The jackets on the standard green uniforms stretch to just past the pelvic areal; they are shorter than the mid-thigh length of the other uniform colors. There are three known styles of standard uniform that vary in style upon stationing:
- Space Forces (Standard): This is the most commonly seen style in SEED. This style is angled at the bottom of the uniform with a thicker white band down the chest and a thick and mechanized belt that is black an color, like the shoes. The angled white cuffs on the sleeves are long, coming nearly to the elbows, like nearly all of the other uniform styles. This is a very standard style in terms of what is seen. Dearka Elsman and Meyrin Hawke can both be seen wearing this style of uniform in Destiny. It seems to sometimes be used for slightly higher-ranking officers of the Ground Forces. Women who wear the green uniform and are part of the space forces have the option to wear long or short skirt and knee-highs or tights or pants.
- Desert Forces: This uniform is only green and black and lacks any trim whatsoever, as well as the gold ZAFT insignia on the collar. The collar is black and turned down and appears to zipper straight down and ends (or remains unzippered) after the straight black belt with silver clasp. The bottom of the uniform is angled, but only angles downward and the sides of the uniform do not overlap, they are left open. The sleeves are short and do retain the angled style of the other uniforms, however they are short and black and come nearly to the shoulder badges. The boots are also different, they lack the sleek look of the Space style, however, they, like the entirety of the uniform with its 4 pockets (two on the chest, two at the waist), seem to be designed appropriately for the terrain. Short brown gloves and a round-styled hat are available. Martin DaCosta wears this style of uniform throughout SEED.
- Ground Forces: This uniform is seen almost never throughout the series and makes an appearance in episode 19 of Destiny during Meer's pseudo-Lacus concert. It has the standard white-trimmed collar of the Space forces, however, the white trim is rectangular, meeting at a 90 degree angle on the right breast. The trim itself follow straight down in a thin line to a straight-cut uniform which has the same straight black belt of the Desert Forces. The white shoulder area only comes to the stitching in the shoulders, leaving the standard ZAFT badges stitched to green cloth. The sleeves are long, however the white straight-cut cuffs only come a quarter of the way up the arm. A hat that is identical to the Desert Forces is available. No notable characters wear this uniform.
- Worn by command officers in the ground forces who are stationed in warmer climates, such as the desert. Andrew Waltfeld wore this color of uniform.
- Bright Green
- Worn by mechanics only.
- Worn by elite soldiers or mobile suit pilots, typically the top graduates from ZAFT's academy. Although they are respected, soldiers who wear red do not necessarily have higher positions than their green-clad comrades. In many respects though (such as with the Le Creuset Team's relation with Miguel Aiman, their mentor), Reds fill the same function as non-comissioned officers in a traditional military. While Shiho Hahnenfuss wears a uniform identical to male ones, there seems to be some flexibility in terms of customizing uniforms among female Reds: Lunamaria Hawke wears a very short pink miniskirt, and Riika Sheder wears a slightly longer skirt that matches the uniform. Currently no female red has been seen to wear the knee-length skirt worn by common female recruits. These red-wearing pilots are often referred to as "Red Coats". Though not shown another time, except in Destiny's special ending, these uniforms also have hats, the same as all other uniforms.
- Worn by the vast majority of officers, including most ship captains. This is also the color worn by the ZAFT's military bureaucracy. Elite pilot Dearka Elsman wears a black commanders uniform (GSD SE).
- This coat is the next step up from Red and is worn by those who hold the rank of captain (and are the highest ranking officer on the ship, like Talia Gladys) and commanders, who have their own unique gold markings on the black sections of the uniform, such as Commander Le Creuset. It's important to note that the rank badge on the chest is also different between the two ranks. Yzak most likely did not receive his white and gold commander's uniform in SEED due to lack of experience.
- General/Member of the PLANT Supreme Council, or space navy task force commanders, or officers otherwise above black-garbed ship captains and garrison commanders. Patrick Zala wore a modified version of this uniform with enlarged, ornate epaulets.
- Custom Color Uniforms
- Anyone in the ZAFT army that proves him or herself in combat are allowed to have a custom colored flight suit. These pilots have no distinct rank, as ZAFT encourages freedom of thought and action, to an extent, in battle, but are usually better than their counter-parts. For example, Rey wore a white pilot suit, however he was not above the command of Talia and still had to follow commands like regular green uniform soldiers. Another example is Andrew "Andy" Waltfeld. He was known as the Desert Tiger, and wore a special tiger-striped orange-and-black pilot suit while fellow submarine commander Marco wore the regular green uniform. Andy was above the command of most other commanders and generals at the time. Usually, the custom uniforms also came with a custom suit. Heine had an orange colored ZAKU Phantom and GOUF Ignited to match his pilot suit, Lunamaria remained with her Red uniform and had her ZAKU repainted in the same color and hue. Andy had a special BuCUE armed with fangs and claws made to match his "Tiger" outfit and an orange colored LaGOWE, complete with Beam "Fangs" and claws. Typically, pilots who wear green or red uniforms wear the matching color of pilot suit and commanders, when piloting, still wear white.
FAITH (Fast Acting Integrate Tactical Headquarters) is an elite special forces unit of ZAFT personnel that have remarkable war records and certain character traits. They are appointed by the PLANT Supreme Council or the Supreme Chairman, only to whom they are answerable to. FAITH members operate outside the regular command structure of ZAFT and are allowed to plan operations and give orders on the battlefield as they see fit. FAITH members wear badges resembling a white wing emerging from a golden elliptical orb.
Pre-SEED Uniform Evolution
It can be assumed that the uniforms seen in years following SEED are relatively new in style, being no more than a little over a decade old, at least. Though this is not out-right said in the series, few seem to realize that in Gilbert Durandal's flashbacks of Rau Le Creuset as a "young" soldier that he's wearing a red uniform that is not of the same style as the main timeline's uniforms and resembles other uniforms in Gundam eras pre-dating SEED. The differences that can be seen between the "present" uniforms and those of the past can be seen on Rau's red uniform: the black shoulder area is shorter, the black cuffs are shorter, the uniform itself is shorter and the black tips on the boots are different. In addition. the characteristic collar with the ZAFT zee is not to be seen, the thick white mechanical belt is not there, the black trim that extended from the neck down around the bottom of the uniform is gone and only one shoulder badge is the same as the new uniforms. The old uniform also fastens straight down, rather than off to the right. The rank badge on the chest has not changed.
ZAFT has over time developed several unique and powerful technologies, which gave them advantage over the EA forces. They also have their own weapons producers, which include Martius Arsenals and Maius Military Industries, as well as Asimov Design Bureau.
ZAFT was the first military force to develop and use mobile suits, with the first mass-produced mobile suit being the ZGMF-1017 GINN. This suit gave ZAFT forces a tactical advantage over the EA forces, which used the outdated TS-MA2 Moebius mobile armors. Thanks to this fact, ZAFT was able to fight the numerical superior EA forces to a standstill, while also conquering portions of Earth, thanks to new MS developed for use in Earth's different terrains, like underwater, desert or airbased MS. While ZAFT MS were at first only equipped with shell-firing weapons and conventional missiles, they soon created beam weaponry after their forces were able to steal four prototype mobile suits developed by the Atlantic Federation. Thanks to this technology, ZAFT created advanced new mobile suits like their first series of Gundam-type suits and the ZGMF-600 GuAIZ MS.
After the First Alliance-PLANT War, ZAFT continued to create new and advanced mobile suits, which was especially shown in their creation of the Second Stage Gundams or the "New Millennium" series. They also developed the Deuterion Beam Energy Transfer System, a new type of energy distribution technology to recharge MS batteries.
ZAFT over time developed several different types of vessels to use in space and on Earth. Such vessels include Nazca-class and Laurasia-class warships in space, Lesseps-class (Replaced by the Compton-class) and Petrie-class vessels on land, and Vosgulov-class submarines at sea. ZAFT also created the large Gondwana-class carrier, the largest spaceship in the Earth Sphere as well as the advanced battleship LHM-BB01 Minerva, which was capable of fighting the EA's Archangel-class on equal terms.
ZAFT has consistently proven itself to be on the cutting edge of nuclear technology, producing the Neutron Jammer, the Neutron Jammer Canceller, and the Neutron Stampeder to deal with nuclear weaponry. Other nuclear technology include nuclear reactors for their mobile suits, granting them virtually unlimited operation time and the more advanced Hyper-Deuterion Engine. The most powerful nuclear technology created by ZAFT was GENESIS, a huge gamma-ray cannon, capable of annihilating a whole fleet or rendering a planet uninhabitable. Over time, three versions of this superweapon were developed. It should be noted however, that ZAFT itself never used the "classic" nuclear missiles which are used by the EA forces.
- The Carpentaria Base is the first major military base of ZAFT on Earth, built on April 2, C.E. 70. Located along the northern coast of the Oceania Union in Australia, Carpentaria serves as ZAFT's Pacific Headquarters on Earth. On August 8, C.E. 71, the Earth Alliance launched Operation: 8.8 and captured Carpentaria, but after signing the Treaty of Junius Carpentaria was returned to ZAFT.
- Gibraltar Base
- The Gibraltar Base is ZAFT's second major base on Earth (next to Carpentaria), constructed after the Gibraltar land formation was captured on May 25, C.E. 70. Using the Strait of Gibraltar, it serves as ZAFT's European and African front-line base. On July 24, C.E. 71, the Earth Alliance attacked the base, forcing ZAFT to abandoned it: however, after signing the Treaty of Junius, it was returned to ZAFT.
- Lagash Base
- The Lagash Base is ZAFT's secret underwater supply facility in the Pacific Ocean, consisting of several interconnected dome structures and docking facilities. Named after the ancient Sumerian city, the base serves primarily to resupply the Carpentaria and Gibraltar bases.
- Mahamul Base
- To combat the Earth Alliance's Suez Base, the Mahamul Base was constructed at the northern point of the Persian Gulf. Joachim Ruddle is the commandant of the base.
- Lorentz Crater
- The Lorentz Crater is the site of the only ZAFT lunar base ever established. Beginning May 3, C.E. 70, ZAFT used the base to launch attacks at the Ptolemaeus base, but was abandoned after the disastrous loss at the Endymion Crater.
- The asteroid base Jachin Due was originally a resource satellite that was converted to a military space fortress after its first battle on April 17, C.E. 70 to protect the PLANTs. The size and thickness of the asteroid was ideal as it allowed construction of several bays and docks while needing at least a massive nuclear assault to destroy the base. It was outfitted with multiple beam gun turrets and is protected by a large ZAFT fleet. Jachin Due was also the primary site for the GENESIS superweapon. The base, along with GENESIS, was destroyed on September 27, C.E. 71, at the end of its second battle.
- The asteroid base Boaz was ZAFT's second military asteroid, previously controlled by the Alliance's Republic of East Asia (who designated the base as "Nova" at the time), as a front-line base for the PLANTs. It was destroyed September 23, C.E. 71, by the Earth Alliance's nuclear missile strike after they acquired Neutron Jammer Canceller technology.
- Built after the First Alliance-PLANT War, Armory One is a PLANT-type colony located at Lagrange 4 that serves as both a military colony and ZAFT's military facility for storing arsenals and mobile weapons. Second Generation Gundams and the new battleship LHM-BB01 Minerva were also stored at this colony. However, despite its proximity to the PLANTs, on October 2, C.E. 73, Earth Alliance's Phantom Pain members infiltrated the colony and stole 3 newly-produced Gundams in the incident known as The Theft at Armory One.
- The name "ZAFT" follows in the rather curious Gundam tradition of naming the space-colony military with a 'Z' (Zeon, from early Universal Century, and the Zanscare Empire of Victory Gundam) or "Zodiac" within its acronym (such as Gundam Wing's OZ/Order of Zodiac). The use of the word here most likely originated with the fact that the PLANTs have 12 colony clusters each corresponding to the months of the Roman calendar.
- The ZAFT soldiers share a similar gesture to saluting with the SeeD members from Final Fantasy VIII.