As usual useful TVTropes:

Superweapon Surprise


Comes in at least six flavors:

Break Out the Museum Piece: It doesn't matter that there hasn't been any fighting for a long time. Their weapons are safely stored away and always ready if needed.

OK, the real question is how to implement it. The situation so far:

  • tech level is similar to contemporary (except maybe slightly better semi-autonomous vehicles)
  • because of savage cost cutting... uhm... doctrine there is a tendency to give up tanks and jet aircraft (wheeled artillery, wheeled IFV or turboprop drones are fine; nevertheless there should be anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons)
  • the procurement policy is terribly un-American ;) it does not have to be top tech, but has to be cheap to be bought in high quantity
  • its a post-post-apocaliptic setting, where some survivors managed to teleport to different planets. There is no contact with other human groups, and technically speaking its only indirectly inferred that other groups survived.
  • the expected role of the army is to be able to deter, beat or at least inflict unacceptable loses to any high tech Cortes wannabe or any low tech hordes that hypothetically may one day open some dimensional gate (As budget committee explained: it even does not have to win, it would be enough if cost of conquering is clearly higher than loot)
  • because of low population the technological progress is slow
  • the main defence idea is the follow - low spending on military in each year, but concentrating money on long term investment (like stashed weapons or fortifications), so after ~50 years having actually quite impressive defence capabilities
  • the ability to be stored with no or little maintenance is a key design requirement from the start and some trade offs would be accepted to achieve that

This NOT a question "which way to store gun?". The question is only concerning main and most blatant design features that under such requirements would have to be done differently (like for example, something in line: how to address issue that modern bullet proof vest with 5 year shelf life or what to do about rubber parts in any vehicle)

CLARIFICATIONS [after reading comments]:

  • I don't assume literally being able to store weapons for infinity, "should survive a few centuries but requires new easily replaceable battery every ten years" is close enough for all practical purposes

  • storage environment - as good as realistically possible, so presumably dry, cold, stable temperature vaults. If specific storage problem can be solved by ex. keeping in oxygen free conditions or -20 C degrees that would also be achievable.

  • it does not matter how aggressive local fauna is, but one way or another, at least 90% of armament just after production would end up being stored waiting for some potential Ragnarok.

  • the question covers which most significant things would have to be redesigned in order to allow for such storage. (For example, if I understand correctly hand held guns should be more or less fine, as I've read that Americans used some WW2 ammo during Desert Storm. If that's correct - rifles are not problematic in overall picture)

For story purposes it matters how their armament would be different at first day of a conflict, because they had to sacrifice some weapon capabilities for purpose of good storage. For example: guns were be OK, but their bullet proof vest were much too bulky to be of much use.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't see how this is about the modern-age (you say yourself "post-post-apocalyptic") or about armors, so I edited the tags a bit. Feel free to edit further if you disagree (but if you do, please do clarify in the question how they apply). $\endgroup$
    – user
    Mar 9, 2019 at 10:52
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Basically, to get this to be a worthwhile manufacturing task, you'd need to have a sufficiently peaceful society that the weapons were not routinely needed, even in civilian life. That suggests to me you'd also need to have no really dangerous wildlife. (aka no grizzly bears and the like. I'm not entirely sure where that line would need to be drawn, but giant mammals known to be extra strong and extra durable and known to sometimes attack without provocation are clearly on the wrong side of it.) $\endgroup$
    – Ed Grimm
    Mar 9, 2019 at 14:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ If I understand you correctly, you're asking what design changes can be made to (all) hand-held weaponry and armor to give them an indefinite storage life? If I'm right (a) that's way too broad. List one specific weapon OR (not "and") one specific armor, (b) nothing lasts forever, specifically define "indefinite," (c) define the storage environment very specifically. In short: tell us exactly what's to be stored, how long to store it, and where it will be stored, and we'll tell you what modifications might allow that. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Mar 9, 2019 at 15:46

3 Answers 3


"the ability to be stored with no or little maintenance is a key design requirement"

Do not store weapons: store blueprints.

With blueprints, any civilization should be able to reproduce weapons from their own tech level abilities. If your post-apocalyptic society has only access to wood and string, they can make bows and arrows. If it has a contemporary level tech, then anyone have access to cheap 3d printers and can make virtually anything at this point.

The blueprints require little to no maintenance if well preserved, and a society that has managed to teleport to multiple planets surely has no problem in maintaining operating systems/books/scrolls of parchment/anything that fit your plot.

Note that with this system, not only you do not need to preserve any physical weapons, but you can escalate a cold war just by bluffing you have access to a better blueprint than your enemy. The idea of a weapon could be more powerful than an actual weapon.


I do not think you need to change the weapons that much. What you are describing is pretty much how all militaries have approached this since World War One. Nobody has been using weapons not designed to be cheap to manufacture and easy to store for military purposes in decades. Some have been designed but military forces have been conservative when actually adopting weapons precisely because of cost issues.

Only real exceptions have been some jet aircraft and naval vessels that can be bit of a vanity project sometimes since you have to sell them to the politicians on national prestige arguments to get funding. Maybe missile systems, although even that was mostly a cold war thing.

Well, North Korea still does vanity missile development but it is a special case as they actually do have a political use for the things, so I am not sure if you can count them as purely military weapons.

Since you are scaling up the degree of stockpiling, you'd need to scale up the storage and logistics systems for it. You'd also need to scale up the maintenance and upkeep. I think the likely solution would be make the system for manufacturing the weapons during peace kind of dual purpose so it also does the repairs and maintenance. A unified system like this would save administrative and personnel costs which would add up in the extreme case you want. (Would not make sense in modern world, I think.)

You'd probably also stockpile automated factories and resources for scaling up production during wartime to compensate material losses due to combat. In fact since almost everything done under your scenario would be highly repetitive and predictable manufacturing, maintenance, storage management and logistics would be mostly automated.

These automated systems would have been manufactured under the same manufacture slowly during peace and stockpile the excess scheme as the actual weapons.

Vehicles would probably be a bit of a special case. Building a vehicle is a significant expense so stockpiling vehicles especially expensive ones such as aircraft or ships has a very real financial cost. The maintenance cost also tends to be higher since maintenance tasks will be more complex and varied than with a gun. Additionally stockpiling vehicles is simply less effective since training the crews to use the vehicles costs money and takes time.

My solution would be to train potential future crews using simulators with small cadres trained to rapidly get them up to speed if war breaks out. The actual vehicles would mostly be constructed as needed apart from ones needed for maintaining the cadre force and other training purposes.

So you'd stockpile only complex parts that might become a bottleneck during war such as engines or gearboxes (due to metallurgy). Or ones that store really well such as modular armor. Other than that you'd actually stockpile the production lines to rapidly produce the vehicle when needed and maintain the logistics needed to support that production. For example the state would have the ability to rapidly increase the production of strategic resources and divert them to military production.

I think the largest difference in the vehicles would be that they'd be much more modular to enable extremely rapid scaling up of assembly. This would also allow you to update the designs easily. Currently we mostly see this with Western main battle tanks which have been upgraded constantly without having the funding or actual reason to make up an entirely new design. T72 has seen a similar process. Same has happened with other military vehicles.

The difference would be that most of these vehicles were designed during the cold war with the expectation that they'd be replaced with something much better as the technology becomes available. So they were not really originally particularly designed to be easily "moddable", that is just something that happened when military budgets were cut but technology and needs kept advancing.

Actual modular vehicles have actually been bit disappointing. It generally adds costs to design, manufacturing, and upkeep and compromises the efficiency of the vehicle in any specific role. At the same time military forces have not used the modularity enough to pay back for those costs and losses.

For your people the math would work better. To put it simply they would not spend enough resources during peace time for the costs and losses to accumulate. They'd only boost spending when they actually need the vehicles at which point the modularity would give a significant one time benefit in optimizing the production to current tech and needs. The math would change if the war lasts long. But that is a separate issue.


The major issue with storage is many materials will deteriorate over time. Seals become brittle and inflexible, energetic compounds like explosives eventually destabilize and fuels oxidize or degrade int a varnish like material. Is is no good to crack open the hanger and discover your vehicles and equipment are sitting in pools of dried up lubricating fluids because the seals all deteriorated.

Some of this can be solved through aggressive design changes.Metal o ring and seals instead of rubber gaskets. Ceramic bearings which need no lubrication (or dry lubrication like graphite powder). It isn't really clear what can be done for fuel or explosives, at least not with current technologies. Even binary compounds which are mixed to activate are often energetic compounds in their own right, so you have simply transferred the problem.

Perhaps the only real way to deal with the issue is the use of advanced 3D printing. Full blueprints and chemical formulas are held in archives, and military facilities are dual purpose so the printers themselves are always in use and maintained, but stockpiles of chemicals and materials are always held ready for mixing and printing.

This assumes a rather complex process, where different printers make different parts or compounds, then the parts are quickly assembled by robots. The bottleneck is the actual speed of 3D printing, some items may take a long time to make. The advantage of this is the vehicles and equipment are literally "factory fresh" the moment the last part is placed and fastened by the robot. If equipment is designed "from the ground up" to be manufactured this way, then the process can be relatively fast and efficient. Equipment will always be made in small batches for training purposes, so no defense force will ever start from zero (which is a ridiculous assumption anyway, if no one knows how to use the equipment or how to fight, the entire exercise is pointless).

A current example of a 3D printed automobile: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/28/kevin-czinger-is-making-a-3d-printed-car-called-the-blade.html


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