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So right now I am thinking about a shielding system that would be added to a 20 minutes into the future scenario on naval ships. This shielding system would allow objects moving slower than 400 km/h relative through, while stopping all projectiles moving at speeds higher than that. Charged particles and intense electromagnetic radiation would be stopped regardless.

As the shield stops incoming projectiles, the shield would harden like a non-newtonian fluid and shatter the incoming projectile, partially absorbing some of the kinetic energy. Significant pieces of large, heavy projectiles may remain and continue to strike whatever is behind the shield, and almost all of directed energy weapon impacts will be absorbed. Shield efficiency decreases as the shield absorb energy and approach a saturation point, before the shield finally goes down as it overloads. Shields can be "vented" by releasing pent-up energy as easily detectable electromagnetic radiation into the surrounding environment.

What impacts would this have on navies armed with early 21st-century weapons? How do you think weapons will evolve to counter this shielding technology, without handwaving in a special counter-shield device?

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    $\begingroup$ I remembered watching a documentary on a battleship with powerful and superior guns that can respond quickly and shoot projectiles very rapidly but was sunk by slow and outdated planes, ironically the shoot seems too fast for the antiques. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Apr 11 '15 at 9:55
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    $\begingroup$ user6760, I believe that you were talking about the Bismarck, who failed to hit the attacking Fairey Swordfish bombers because they were too slow for her AA guns to track. $\endgroup$ – Zhehao Chen Apr 11 '15 at 11:38
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    $\begingroup$ The Bismarck is just one example how battleships did not do too well against planes. Same goes for the Tirpitz, the Yamato, the HMS Repulse and the HMS Prince of Wales, to name just a few. Air power and therefore carrier groups became superior in naval warfare in WWII. But then again this is not really helping this question. $\endgroup$ – Ghanima Apr 12 '15 at 20:14
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I am a former submariner in the American fleet, and I can safely say that a cruise missile can easily glide right through this shield, as is. So can a great many pieces of freefalling ordinance.

But it did accomplish one thing for sure - it made current anti missile systems onboard Navy ships virtually 100 percent effective, as missiles fast enough to defeat missile detection are no longer a significant threat.

From these assumptions, it follows that missiles will fall out of favor in ship to ship or air to ship combat, at least in the classical sense. Aerosol dispersion weapons using toxins and bio agents would still be able to get through, but wouldn't find much use against ships as they already have effective countermeasures for those.

Torpedoes having already been mentioned; I will counter that modern warships of significant size have water tight comparments, and they have escorts when on mission. Carrier groups are very large for the specific reason of providing more targets and anti submarine capabilities than the carrier has on its own - this tactic will continue to be used.

Assuming that the current day stance on nuclear warfare prevails then the remaining option is to further advance the production of viable mass drivers (coil guns) and rail guns. A working rail gun could apply such a devastating amount of kinetic force to a single point that it would be infeasible for the shield system to not have to shut down.

In order to power and carry these technologies and platforms, it is likely that a new class of battleship would have to be commissioned. The existence of these ships alone would be enough to cause world war 3, unless they have enough other mission hardware to be multipurpose - regardless, if the international community was not involved in its creation, and associated technology shared, tensions would reach a new all time high.

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    $\begingroup$ Several of the new US Navy R&D programs (lasers & railguns) favor being placed on large ships with excess electrical capacity. The only thing that matches this description right now are the carriers. You may be right, this might bring a dedicated surface combatant back into the picture. $\endgroup$ – Jim2B Apr 12 '15 at 1:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Jim2B, what it comes down to is that one day someone is going to invalidate naval missile combat - at least, as far as STS and ATS combat is concerned. The anti missile stuff surface ships have is already mind bogglingly effective. One day soon, someone is going to have to build a better can opener - and from what little I know of shipbuilding, it's not going to work well as a refit. What that platform will be exactly is anyone's guess, but the thing that brings it about will be a multimode anti sub, anti air, anti missile system that doesn't miss. $\endgroup$ – Sean Boddy Apr 12 '15 at 1:39
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    $\begingroup$ As it is, prepared surface vessels shouldn't be too worried about missile onsies / twosies. To take down major combatants, it takes volley fire to saturate the defenses. Lasers provide the potential to tip it over the edge of practicality. $\endgroup$ – Jim2B Apr 12 '15 at 1:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Jim2B, I believe that also. 2 million dollars a missile is something nobody will field if they believe it's simply going to fall apart in mid air. $\endgroup$ – Sean Boddy Apr 12 '15 at 2:55
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In Dune, which you didn't mention so maybe you don't know that what you described has been done in some detail, they used knives in hand-to-hand combat pushed slowly against the enemy while they grappled shield-to-shield.

Though blocking electromagnetic radiation, your marriners would be blind inside their shieldsed ships.

So pound the ship with something to engage the shields and keep them bottled up inside it while you approach with a hydrolic pike. The pike pushes through and pierces the shield, then emits poison gas like a hypodermic needle.

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  • $\begingroup$ Only electromagnetic radiation above a certain threshold level is absorbed. Sunlight and radar pass through just fine. $\endgroup$ – Zhehao Chen Apr 11 '15 at 7:52
  • $\begingroup$ By threshold you mean frequency? Microwave ovens use tye same frequency band as radar, so just crank up the intensity and choose the precice frequency that is efficiently absorbed by water. Even if they can see out, they can't fire out. The longer knife or better shield wins. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Apr 11 '15 at 16:49
  • $\begingroup$ Whoops. By threshold I mean power per square centimeter of the shield. $\endgroup$ – Zhehao Chen Apr 11 '15 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ That doesn't seem realistic. Each photon is independent, and the shield can't count them and then decide to go opaque. It makes sense if high-energy photons are blocked. Or, the shield would need to be at least slightly opaque, stopping 1 in N photons and thus being able to change state based on how many it detects. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Apr 11 '15 at 17:48
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  1. MORTAR

I would imagine that this would lead to the use of slow moving projectiles (duh). High angle guns and mortars would become the best way of ignoring the shielding entirely.

  1. MACHINE GUN

It might sound silly, but if the shield absorbs impacts regardless of whether they could damage the ship or not, a barrage of very long range automatic weapons fire (designed for this very purpose), could overwhelm the shields. Then the moment you detect the signature vent radiation, you fire the proper guns.

  1. TORPEDO

The fastest moving torpedo currently moves just over 370 km/h. Use one of the many, many types of torpedo currently available to us to render your shields ineffective.

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  • $\begingroup$ Although I doubt mortar bombs capable of hitting at any significant range travel slower than 400 km/h. Most small mortars have a muzzle velocity of 600-ish km/h, which is probably higher for larger, longer-ranged mortars. Machine guns would have a similar problem, because bullets and small shells don't travel far. Torpedoes, though, I think is a great idea. $\endgroup$ – Zhehao Chen Apr 11 '15 at 7:51
  • $\begingroup$ @ZhehaoChen Impact velocity is significantly slower than muzzle velocity. $\endgroup$ – Taemyr Apr 13 '15 at 11:38
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I don't see how this system would protect against mines and many torpedoes. These work not by damage from the shock wave or shrapnel itself per se, but by lifting the ship out of the water and breaking its keel on the decent. This is much more effective than blowing a hole in a bulkhead, which would likely be compartmentalized and easily sealed off.

Your shield would have to give the hull additional structural integrity to protect against this type of keel damage but I don't see a non-Newtonian fluid acting that way.

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To me that suggests separate weapons to take out the shield with a second wave to take out the ship. I'd guess a dual use missile that works differently depending on whether it hits a ship or a shield. Or simply detects whether it is penetrating what it hits or not. With penetration, explode right after penetration (inside ship). Without, explode instantly and generate very high velocity fragments that hit the shield before they have time to lose energy. I think anti-ship missiles would have relatively large warheads anyway, so missile hits should take the shield down relatively fast. Possibly too fast to "vent the energy".

But it would require lots of missiles arriving simultaneously, so I guess number of launchers would go up. Either more launchers per ship or more hulls. If ships should be relatively large to carry shields, maybe large ships with heavy missile batteries.

Or you could use armored ballistic warheads similar to WW2 bunker busters. They'd be a pain to launch or even drop due to the mass, but they should penetrate the shield, any other missile defenses, and any ship armor easy enough. And with modern materials like tungsten carbide and depleted uranium, the penetrators could be even better than the 1940's version. Be pretty expensive with double digit tons of metal and a missile that can propel it, though.

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