Team Rocket has a long history of using giant robots to battle and steal Pokémon. They’ll often use these mechas in the place of their own Pokémon because they’re simply that much more powerful. Of course, that doesn’t stop them from being trashed by a Pokémon whose strength they didn’t account for. With that said, there was at least one mecha that gave absolutely everybody a hard time.
The Arbotank was by far the most powerful and most expensive mecha that Team Rocket ever deployed. Not only was it too much for Ash and Co. to handle alone, but most of their efforts to stop its rampage were futile. Additionally, the one who was actually driving the Arbotank made the whole situation even more chaotic. The whole situation surrounding the machine ensured that it wasn’t just unstoppable, but highly destructive.
The Arbotank appeared for one glorious Episode 133 of the original series, “Tanks a Lot!” Team Rocket was certain that for the amount of money they had sunk into it, they’d manage to finally come out victorious. Only an unfortunate set of circumstances prevented this possibility from being realized.
As the trio was making their plan of attack to ambush the twerps, Misty’s Togepi and a wild Sentret found their way into the Arbotank. They began playing with the controls and set the mecha in motion. With this, the Arbotank had everything it needed to prove what a force it was to be reckoned with.
Part of what made the Arbotank so unstoppable in this scenario was the fact that Togepi was inside of it. Even if one of Ash’s Pokémon was strong enough to destroy the mecha, it would do so at the risk of hurting the baby Pokémon. While Togepie isn’t technically a part of the Arbotank, its presence in the driver’s seat was a major contributing factor to its rampage.
The other thing that made the Arbotank so unstoppable was the fact that nothing could prevent it from moving forward. Even when confronted with a natural rocky landscape, all it had to do was use drills and boxing glove attachments to demolish obstacles. Even without these contraptions, the tank was powerful enough to drive straight through boulders and anything else in its way. If Ash and co, wanted to stop the Arbotank, they would have to do it with their own hands.
The first thing they tried was creating a pool of mud to trap the Arbotank. The tank fell into the mud, but it was able to stand itself back upright and keep moving thanks to its powerful treads. To add insult to injury, it also fired a missile that blew a path straight out of the mud. One can only imagine what that missile would have done to one of Ash’s Pokémon.
Even Team Rocket’s classic pitfall trap couldn’t hold the Arbotank. While they were able to dig a hole just big enough to trap it, the tank simply used the spring mechanism on its underside to bounce out of it. This failure of both Ash and Team Rocket prompted the two groups to form a rare alliance to finally beat the Arbotank.
Technically, the Arbotank as it was also had the capability to go straight through a mountainside. Team Rocket was convinced that the mecha would be destroyed by crashing into the massive formation, but it was able to tunnel through it instead. Team Rocket believed it to be the Arbotank’s rock drill that allowed for this, but it’s heavily implied to be the work of Togepi’s Metronome. Again, Togepi being in the machine could be considered a big part of what made it so hard to stop.
In addition to all of this, the Arbotank was host to a whole slew of miscellaneous tools and weapons. It had shears protruding from either side of its head, a Pidgey cuckoo clock coming out of its chest, and fireworks coming out of its back. How any of this was supposed to help catch Pokémon remains a mystery.
The Arbotank was finally stopped by the combined efforts of Charizard, Onix, Pikachu, and another Sentret. Charizard and the other Sentret were able to stop the tank from going any further; Onix held it in place from behind. Meanwhile, Pikachu used its electric attacks to destroy the tank from the inside out. They were also able to get Togepi and Sentret out before the tank finally exploded. With this, Team Rocket’s greatest weapon ever was no more.
While the Arbotank was reduced to scrap metal like every other Team Rocket mecha, its capabilities cannot be understated. It took an entire episode to beat this machine whereas other mechas would be downed in less than half that time. While it was active, it wreaked all sorts of uninterrupted havoc and destruction; if Ash and co. hadn’t stopped it where they did, it would have done the same thing to a nearby town. This is to say nothing about what having Togepi driving the tank did to make it more challenging to bring down. As far as Team Rocket mechas go, the Arbotank was an utter juggernaut.