A massive alien spaceship, 1210 meters (3/4 mile) long, crashed onto an unsuspecting Earth in the year 1999, on an island in the Pacific Ocean. In Macross, the island is called South Ataria Island, and is located at the extreme end of the Ogasawara Island chain. In the Robotech Universe the island is known as Macross Island and is located in an unspecified area in the South Pacific. Inspection of the wreckage showed that the spaceship was manned by giant aliens several times larger than humans and that their technology was centuries and probably millennia beyond Earth's.
As a result of the spaceship's arrival, humanity realizes that it is not alone in the universe and that there exists a potential threat beyond the Earth. Some believe an international government should be established to unite the Earth against any aliens, and this move to unify the world under one government leads to the U.N. Wars, where hold-out nations fight and ultimately lose the battle for independence.
The crashed ship is rebuilt and a city, called Macross City grows up around it. During the reconstruction, the huge ship is given the hull number SDF-1 for "first ship of the Super Dimension Fortress type" and the name "Macross". Like most military designations in Macross, the ship's hull number formatting is based on that used by the United States Navy. In 2009, manned by a completely human crew (the bridge crew consisted of a male captain surrounded by an all female bridge crew), the ship was prepared for its maiden voyage to seek out alien cultures and seek peace - its goal being never to start a fight.
Giant humanoids called the Zentradi arrive in the solar system with a force of several hundred ships at this time, looking for this spacecraft. The SDF-1 turns out to be "booby trapped" (preprogrammed to fire its main gun at its enemies when they find the ship). The human crew of the ship are unable to stop it from firing at the Zentradi, forcing the humans to commit to a war with aliens.
After a failed attempt to take off using its alien gravity control systems, which tore through the ship's hull, the renovated alien spaceship takes off using earth-made rocket thrusters. During battle with the Zentradi, the SDF-1 attempts to draw the enemy away from the island and the civilian population using its space fold capability to travel to the far side of the moon so it can rendezvous with the human space fleet.
However, considering the system had never been actually used before by humans and the fold was performed deep inside a planet's gravitational field, the space fold calculations were off, and the ship overshot its destination and ended up near Pluto's orbit. At the same time, the spacecraft was close enough to Macross City that the entire island, surrounding ocean, and two UN seagoing ships, the landing vessel Daedalus and the aircraft carrier Prometheus, were caught in the space-fold bubble and transported to Pluto's orbit also. The citizens of the island survive in shelters they fled to before the fold, and they are brought into the SDF-1. Much of the city is recovered and rebuilt in the belly of the Macross, and the two ships are attached to the SDF-1 as they pose military assets. The civilians from Macross City begin to lead normal lives (for living in a space ship).
After the space-fold, the ship's fold drives mysteriously vanished and only a strange energy field remained in their place, forcing the ship to use conventional thrusters to return to Earth. The ship eventually makes its way from Pluto back to Earth, taking most of a year to do so, and is pursued by the Zentradi the whole way.
Since the fold engines no longer exist, the power conduits attached to them that also fire the main cannon no longer connect. In order to fire the main cannon and stave off the Zentradi attackers, the ship must undergo a modular transformation that will close the gap in the power conduits. This transformation transforms the shape of the Macross from a "traditional" cruiser form to a humanoid form, with the Daedalus and Prometheus forming the arms. It allows the main cannon to fire, but greatly disrupts the city of Macross, and in this humanoid form, the SDF-1 cannot travel through space as quickly.
Outnumbered and far from home with few resources, these desperate circumstances force the crew to innovate and improve their technology. Small energy shields, named the pinpoint barrier system are created from energy remaining from the fold drive to protect the ship from enemy attacks while in humanoid form. A tactic is developed that uses the pinpoint barrier to protect the Daedalus ship while "punching" through the hulls of enemy ships and unleashing an array of missiles from the hidden mecha inside, totally destroying the enemy ship. This comes to be known as the Daedalus maneuver.
After a series of battles and travails, the Macross finally reached Earth and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, the crew of the SDF-1 finds it is not welcome on Earth, as the Zentradi seem only interested in the ship, not Earth, and the Earth government wants to lure the alien forces away from Earth as it is not able to defend itself from the greater alien force that has now swelled to over 1,000 ships. Worse, the civilian population in the Macross is not allowed to disembark as the Earth government reported all the Macross Island inhabitants dead and does not want news of the Macross's disappearance and the presence of alien forces known to the public.
The SDF-1 captain, skirting his orders, broadcasts to the cities of the Earth that he has civilian refugees that need a home. When the autonomous Ontario region agrees to take the civilians, the SDF-1 travels to Canada to unload its civilian populace, but an untimely attack by Zentradi capital ships results in an overload of the barrier system that causes a major explosion, destroying most of the Zentradi attack fleet and many of the Earth citizenry in the Canadian region. As a result, the region will no longer accept the refugees and the ship and all the civilians on board are ordered back into space with the mission of leading the alien forces away from Earth.
It is during this time that Zentradi deserters, affected by culture shock from humanity, begin refusing to attack the SDF-1, taking asylum on board the spacecraft, and the first Zentradi-human wedding takes place. The Zentradi main command, seeing Zentradi forces involved with the SDF-1 infected with culture and seeing disarray growing in the fleet around Earth, deems Earth dangerous and orders the main Zentradi fleet, consisting of over four million ships, to fold to Earth to destroy both Earth and the infected local fleet.
The local commanders of the Zentradi fleet realize that they will be exterminated with the SDF-1 and side with the SDF-1 against their own kind, who have come to destroy them. The main fleet defolds in Earth space and promptly bombards the planet with energy weapons, destroying almost all life on Earth. After the bombardment of the Earth by the Zentradi fleet, The Earth government retaliates with the one weapon it has left, the Grand Cannon, a huge underground cannon that wipes out a large portion of the Zentradi main fleet.
In the resulting confusion, the SDF-1 and just over 1,000 Zentradi ships attack the remains of the main Zentradi fleet, with the Macross playing a key role in winning the war with the Zentradi by burrowing into the Zentradi mothership, about the size of a small moon, and firing all cannons from inside, destroying the flagship and the Zentradi command structure. The destruction of the flagship destroys most of the surviving ships, and the SDF-1, protected by its barrier system, survives but is badly damaged. The spacecraft lands on Earth once more, close to the ruins of Alaska Base, too damaged to rise again. Macross City is then rebuilt outside, surrounding the battered spaceship, and, nearly wiped out, what's left of humanity stakes its first steps toward rebuilding on the obliterated planet.
Humanity recovers over the next couple years, but all is not well. The SDF-1 is more a monument than a spaceworthy ship, and the Human space force is all but nonexistent. The commander of the SDF-1 resolves to spread humanity across as many worlds as possible to ensure its survival, yet struggles with humanity on Earth. A significant number of Zentradi, once wanting to join the Earth, are no longer awed by the culture of the Human race, long for war and become violent, causing a great deal of unrest and damage to fledgling cities. This unrest culminates in Zentradi rebels making a final attack on the grounded SDF-1 as a psychological assault. Although greatly damaged and decrepit, the SDF-1 lifts off one last time to fire its main cannon at an oncoming Zentradi capital ship. The SDF-1 succeeds in downing the alien ship, but the ship crashes into the SDF-1, downing it forever.
In Macross, the ship was originally a gun destroyer that belonged to a group of aliens called the Supervision Army. After being damaged in a battle against their longtime enemies, the Zentradi, the Supervision Army abandoned the gun destroyer. It wandered through space for some time before reaching Earth. So the motivation for the Zentradi to track the ship to Earth and attack it lies in the fact that the ship belonged to one of their enemies. When the gun destroyer automatically fired upon the Zentradi, Captain Global, in both Macross and Robotech, immediately catches on to the "booby trap". But only in the Macross version does he compare this tactic to WW2, when the Germans would plant bombs in ships they were forced to abandon.
In Robotech, the spacecraft was originally the flagship of an alien scientist named Zor, who was killed as he sent the spacecraft to Earth. A race of aliens called the "Robotech Masters" wanted Zor's battlefortress because it held the Protoculture generator (a fuel source Zor cultivated from the Invid flower that led to further development of the Robotech Masters and Zentraedi technologies that were fundamental to interstellar domination which, in order to maintain them, all depended on the Protoculture fuel source). The Robotech Masters then sent the Zentraedi, their army of cloned warriors, to find Zor's ship.
Though the term "Protoculture" does exist in the Macross version, it actually refers to something completely different from the Robotech "protoculture" and had very little to do with the Supervision Army gun destroyer other than the fact that the Zentradi believed that the humans aboard were the last remnants of an ancient interstellar civilization called "Protoculture."
In the Macross series, Earth originally named the spaceship ASS-1, which stands for Alien Star Ship 1. In the novel rendition of the Robotech storyline by Jack McKinney, Earth originally named the spaceship The Visitor.
In the Macross version, the arrival of ASS-1 provoked the "U.N. Wars", since the alien spaceship motivated a movement to unite Earth under a U.N. controlled military government. This war was bloody and lasted throughout most of the first decade of the new millennium. In the course of that decade, ASS-1 was rebuilt on the island where it crashed and renamed SDF-1 Macross (a term coined from Macro to imply its massive size). (Note: English-speaking fans have extrapolated that the "-ss" suffix stands for space ship, but this is not an official explanation from the Japanese creators. The "-ss" originated from "-su" in the Japanese pronunciation (makurosu), which in turn was derived from the Japanese pronunciation of Macbeth ("makubesu"), a pre-production name that one of the show's producers, an admirer of Shakespeare, initially suggested. "Macross" was settled upon as a compromise.).
In the Robotech version, there was already a massive bloody "global civil war" going on throughout the 1990s when "the visitor" first arrived in 1999. "The Visitor" motivated several of the warring factions to put their differences aside to create the "United Earth Defense Council", which served as the head of a global military government. After the creation of the UEDC, there were a few minor skirmishes with dissenting nations, but it was not on the scale of the "global civil war" that came before it, nor was it on the scale of the U.N. Wars in the Macross version. After dealing with those minor skirmishes, work proceeded to rebuild "the visitor" which was eventually renamed not Macross but simply SDF-1. In Robotech, Macross was the name of the island in the South Pacific that the spaceship crashed on, not the name of the ship. In the Macross version, the island was called South Ataria Island. Hence, in Robotech, Macross city was named after the island it was founded on, while in the Macross version, it was named after the ship it grew up around.
The SDF design inspired a second battleship, entirely human designed and built. The SDF-2 Megaroad or Megalord was under construction since November 2003 at the Apollo Base on the Moon until work stopped with the outbreak of Space War I in 2009. After the war, the unfinished ship underwent a massive redesign and became the colony ship SDF-2 Megaroad-01, the flagship of the first long-distance colonization fleet. It was launched on September 2012, under the command of Captain Misa Hayase (Ichijyo) and hosting the famous Skull Squadron.
(The launch of the Megaroad was originally planned to be seen in the final episode of the original Japanese Macross television series, and mecha designer Kazutaka Miyatake even created an early SDF-2 design for the event. However, the creators decided not to animate this event in the final episode. Though this SDF-2 design was not used, some of the aesthetics of the updated Super Dimension Fortress design turned up in the 1984 theatrical film Do You Remember Love? The 1987 OVA music video special Macross: Flash Back 2012 presented the drastically updated design of the new SDF-2 Megaroad which is now clearly a colony vessel that has evolved from its military origins.)
The continuing story in Macross Plus, Macross 7, Macross Frontier and their spin-off productions establishes that the SDF-2 Megaroad vanished without a trace as it explored near the center of the galaxy. The latest addition to the fleet comprises the New Macross class, composed of a "Battle" section somewhat resembling the SDF-1 Macross and a much larger residential civilian ship. Since the end of Space War I, these new Macross fleets started to traverse the galaxy in order to expand the Human/Zentraedi civilization.
In 2040, the virtual idol AI Sharon Apple attained sentience, and during festivities marking the 30th anniversary the treaty between Earth and the Zentradi that ended Space War I, hacked into the systems of the entire Earth defense network, which included Macross. During this incident, Sharon Apple caused Macross to briefly launch from the artificial lake that it had rested in since 2010. Furthermore, Sharon Apple used its abilities and Macross' communications facilities to attempt to control the minds of nearly everybody on Earth. However, UN Spacy pilots Isamu Alva Dyson and Guld Goa Bowman and civilian Myung Fang Lone were able to defuse the incident destroying Sharon Apple in the process.
In 2059 (Macross Frontier), during a flight across the skies of Galia 4 Alto Saotome and Ranka Lee make an emergency landing and they discover the wreckage of a first-generation Macross class ship called SDF-4 "Global" that belonged to the 117th Large Scale Research Fleet. This ship completely resembles the Macross as it appears in 2040 Macross Plus. This suggests the original Macross design was put into production at least 20 years previous of Macross Frontier Fleet's launch (this was seen in episode 13, "Memory of Global"). Also, the Global apears to have a pair of ARMD class carriers "docked" to its arms like the original DYRL Macross. In the final episode of Macross Frontier, a glimpse of Earth's Macross City appears, showing that the wreckage of original SDF-1 still sits in its center.
In the non-canonical Macross II OAV series, the Macross briefly rose from the lagoon to fight the Mardook forces, which have called it "the ship of Alus." However, a Mardook particle beam blast obliterated the battle fortress, except the bridge section, which Hibiki Kanzaki, Ishtar, and Silvie Gena used as an escape module.
The storyline of Robotech remained pretty consistent with Macross up to this point, with the exception of points already highlighted here and other details. But from here on, Robotech branches on its own separate way, using existing and some new anime footage from other Japanese series to introduce the SDF-3 and later the SDF-4 Izumo in the Robotech universe.