Developed as part of ZAFT's Second Stage Series, the Gaia Gundam like most of the MS in the series can transform into a mobile armor (MA) mode which is specialized for combat in a certain terrain. In the Gaia's case it is focused on ground combat, and its MA mode resembles the four-legged TMF/A-802 BuCUE for easy and nimble movements on irregular or difficult ground surfaces. Combat wise, the Gaia Gundam is mainly focused on close combat, but it is also equipped with some range weaponry to engage enemies from a distance. The suit also has high mobility due to the presence of a pair of three-linked thrusters-mounted wings, which also improve its AMBAC in space. Its armament includes a beam rifle, a shield, a pair of beam sabers, several CIWS, a pair of beam assault cannons and a pair of wing-mounted beam blades, some of which are usable only in MS or MA mode. Despite Gaia Gundam's specialization in ground combat, it is still effective in space combat. In fact, the MA mode can be used in space if there is something for the suit to step on, mainly places with many large objects like asteroid belts, large space debris and even onto other mobile suits. Like the other suits in the Second Stage Series, Gaia Gundam is also equipped with a new form of phase shift armor known as Variable Phase Shift armor and is powered by a battery that can be recharged during battle using the Deuterion Beam Energy Transfer System.
A pair of MMI-GAU25A 20mm CIWS guns are mounted in the Gaia's head, and they are mainly used to shoot down incoming missiles or for suppressive fire. They are usable only in MS mode.
MA-M941 "Vajra" Beam Saber
One of Gaia's two close combat beam weaponry, the pair of beam sabers are stored on the side armor and they are usable only in MS mode. The same model of beam saber is used by all beam saber equipped Second Stage Series MS.
MA-BAR71XE High-energy Beam Rifle
A custom beam rifle used by the Gaia. In MS mode, the beam rifle is handheld when in use and stored on the side skirt armor when not needed. In MA mode, it is mounted on the right shoulder and can be fired in that manner.
MMI-RS1 Mobile Shield
The main defensive equipment of the suit, it is anti-beam coated to protect against beam attacks. It is handheld when used in MS mode, and when in MA mode, it is mounted onto the abdominal region and protects the cockpit from attacks below.
MA-81R Beam Assault Cannon
Mounted in the backpack, the pair of beam assault cannons provide the Gaia with additional ranged beam weaponry and can be used in both MA and MS mode. The beam assault cannons are the same as that used by ZGMF-X24S Chaos Gundam's mobile weapon pods.
Four smaller caliber CIWS guns are mounted on the head of the MA mode, they are used to shoot down incoming missiles or for suppressive fire when the suit is in MA mode.
MR-Q17X "Griffon 2" Beam Blade
The Gaia's second close combat beam weaponry, and the only melee weapon available in its MA mode. A pair of beam blades are mounted on the wings and allow the suit to quickly charge at an enemy and slice through it when in MA mode.
57mm High-energy Beam Rifle
The MBF-02 Strike Rouge's (Aile Strike Rouge in the original Anime, Strike Rouge Ootori in the HD remaster) beam rifle, it was given to the Gaia that was protecting the Eternal after it had lost its own rifle.
A new technology capable of recharging a mobile suit's battery through the use of a Deuterion Beam fired from a properly equipped battleship. However since the suits was stolen by the Earth Alliance forces the system has not been used.
Like the other Second Stage Series suits the Gaia has VPS armor, this technology is more energy efficient and capable of altering its strength, as well as color in the field, although this must be programmed beforehand. The change in color when the suit is used by Andrew Waltfeld is due to a change in VPS settings.
In late CE 73, ZAFT creates a new series of advanced prototype mobile suits known as the Second Stage Series to succeed their previous generation of Gundams, which were all lost in the previous war. Gaia Gundam is one such MS and was initially tested at Armory One by Riika Sheder, a defective Coordinator who could only see with artificial assistance. However, before ZAFT could bring it into active service, Stella Loussier of the Earth Alliance's 81st Independent Mobile Battalion (better known as Phantom Pain) stole the mobile suit and escaped with it to the battleship Girty Lue, where it was given the new model number RGX-03. The Girty Lue eventually fled from the colony while being pursued by the new ZAFT battleship Minerva. When reaching the Debris Belt, a battle broke out between the two ships, during which Stella sortied in the Gaia to fight against Shinn Asuka in his ZGMF-X56S Impulse and Lunamaria Hawke in her ZGMF-1000/A1 Gunner ZAKU Warrior. Some time later, Stella took part in the battle at the falling colony Junius Seven.
The Gaia was later transferred to Earth and operated from the carrier John Paul Jones. During its time on Earth, it again battled against the Minerva two times. During the second battle, Stella fought against Heine Westenfluss and his ZGMF-X2000 GOUF Ignited, whom she is able to defeat. Stella eventually launched a solo sortie against orders at the Lodonia laboratory facility. There, the Gaia was disabled by the ZGMF-X23S Saviour and Impulse, and Stella got captured. The Gaia was then recovered by the Minerva, and shipped back to PLANT after being repaired. Later in the war, the Gaia was somehow acquired by the Clyne Faction, and its color scheme was altered to a mainly orange and yellow scheme. The recolored Gaia was piloted by Andrew Waltfeld, who used the suit only once to defend the Eternal, when it is discovered by ZAFT.
MSiA / MIA "ZGMF-X24S Gaia Gundam (Andrew Waltfeld Custom)" (2005): package front view.
Gaia Gundam (Deactive Mode) as part of MSiA / MIA "Deactive Set Phase 3G" triple set (Limited edition release; 2005): package front view.
Gaia Gundam (Deactive MA Mode; center) as part of MSiA / MIA "Deactive Set Phase 3G" triple set (Limited edition release; 2005): product samples.
Notes and Trivia
Gaia's head crest displays the text "X-88S OTTO", which means "Eight" in Italian and is a reference to the Gaia's series number.
In the serial number of Gaia Gundam, "ZGMF" means "Zero Gravity Maneuver Fighter", "X" means it is a prototype, the first 8 means it is one of the mobile units with 4 legs, the second 8 is it's series number, and the "S" represents "Second Stage".
According to the "Destiny IQ" section of the official Japanese Gundam SEED Destiny website, the Gaia that's in the hands of the Clyne Faction is indeed the original Gaia unit. Also, it was the only stolen Gundam that wasn't destroyed.
The recolored Gaia Gundam's orange-and-yellow color scheme resembles that of its pilot, Andrew Waltfeld's previous quadruped unit that he co-piloted in Gundam SEED, TMF/A-803 LaGOWE, which also uses orange and yellow as its main colors, although the orange scheme used in the Gaia Gundam is of a darker shade.