In my setting there are particle shields that can be extended from a central source given enough power and particles to fuel the shield. This is a world where armor has outpaced weapons (nuclear weapons are a non factor). In essence unlike our world, getting the first shot off is not a guaranteed kill, especially for armored conflicts. Machines of war in general are durable because of shielding in this setting. Meaning that units can retreat and fall back faster compared to how we operate today. It would also mean that the actual physical armor isn't completely destroyed compared to a mission/full kill of today.

How much of an effect would this have on the durations of war (5,10,15,20 etc years),given that to knock out an enemy would require punching through the shield before the enemy retreats. This is also assuming that factions have built their doctrine on ensuring that their casualties are kept to a minimum and are swapping shielded and unshielded units back from the frontline as much as they can. For the sake of argument assume that the time it takes to recharge a shield from absolute zero can range from a couple of days, to weeks. The shielding system can be mounted on structures and much larger machines etc, an adequate amount of particles just have to be fed to it and sustain coverage over such a large area.

This is a world with ETC (electro chemical) guns, railguns, hypersonic weapons etc, basically a little more than near future. A whole slew of other defensive counter measures exist in place as well for the survival onion. The shielding is the last resort. Active defense systems, stealth, advanced camouflage, adversarial camo/camera input, better smokes etc. All designed to make it hard to get close to hitting in the first place.

TLDR: Would particle shielding increase the duration of near future modern war between peer factions on full war footing/economy, if so by how much.

Edit: There is an upper limit on how many particles one can charge at once. There's some heavy sunk cost fallacy past a certain point, for example you can't reliably shield a Nimitz Class carrier completely and expect to shrug off a barrage of anti-ship missiles. The generators themselves are heavy and is a design consideration when building things like tanks or shoving generators in buildings or shielding a PART of a ship.

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    $\begingroup$ How much damage can the shielding withstand before damage starts getting through? What is the cost in terms of payload and fuel consumption of mounting a shield generator and powering it? Can aircraft use shield generators (if so, how do they block projectiles but let air and exhaust through)? How cheap are they (can you shield all merchant shipping/trains/trucking)? Not enough information given on the technology to provide an answer as currently written. $\endgroup$ May 27, 2022 at 5:53
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 Survivability directly corelates on how many particles you can saturate and charge at the same time, particle quality also matters. Different lattice structures for individual particle placement determines effectiveness against what you're trying to defend against. You might be able to mount it on a jet, but the tradeoffs are to much at present. The particles can be lab made, but take time to "cure/bake" if that makes sense. The physical generator itself is heavy and complex. Storing it is just a simple but specialized container. Tanks can reliably take a few 2-4km/s hits. $\endgroup$
    May 27, 2022 at 6:09
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    $\begingroup$ Let's get concrete. An M1A1 Abrams opens up with its main gun against a shielded T72 that is 3 km away. Assuming the T72 can't break contact, how many shots does the Abrams needs to hit with (after penetrating all non-shield defences) in order to start dealing with the T72's physical armour? $\endgroup$ May 27, 2022 at 6:14
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    $\begingroup$ what is "km/s hit"? is it a projectile traveling at 1000 meters per second? This totally ignores the mass of the projectile and the energy a hit generates (be it kinetic, heat, chemical or all of them). $\endgroup$
    – Bartors
    May 27, 2022 at 6:23
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 Since the T-72 is turreted and lower profile, 2-3 hits. Before significant degradation to the point that ERA and composite armor can reliably stop an incoming round. After that survivability comes out to a normal T72. All in all 2-3 hits for a T72 before shells start damaging the tank to ANY degree. 3-4 hits in total to completely wear down the shielding so that only bare armor can defend. Casemate tanks are larger and can mount a larger generator w/ more particles. There is an upper limit due to sunk cost. Expect western MBTs to tank an extra round or two due to their size. $\endgroup$
    May 27, 2022 at 6:26

2 Answers 2


It would likely have no effect at all on duration

War is much too complicated to guess how a single technology would affect something as vague as duration. To paraphrase General Patton, fixed fortifications are monuments to the stupidity of man. That's because you can just go around them or cut off their supplies and let them starve. Cities (or military emplacements of any kind) can be taken in many ways other than direct bombardment.

But more to the point, your standard run-of-the-mill SciFi/Fantasy energy shield is just another form of armor. And like any other kind of armor, the technology that creates it can also be used to defeat it.

The history of armor is one of one-up man-ship. Party A invents a good bullet. Party B invents a flak jacket. Party A invents armor piercing rounds. Party B invents tanks. Party A invents tank-busting rockets.... In fact, we've seen this happening today with all the Russian tanks Ukraine has destroyed. What was once the terror of the Warsaw Pact is now a smoking pile of ruins — all because the tech that creates one (weapon or armor) is the same tech that creates the other (weapon or armor).

While it's believable that more force would need to be brought to bear against your shield, it's not believable that the shield is simply impenetrable. But even if you assume that... how long will the city (or the aircraft carrier, or the tank) last without vast farmland, forests, mining, trade.... (aka, available resources...)

So it's my opinion that your proposed shields wouldn't affect the general duration of a war at all. Those shields may affect individual battles, but not the entire war. Once resources (like the energy to run that shield) are drained, cities/carriers/tanks collapse.

So, if I want to increase duration, what do I need?

Resources. You need access to energy, agriculture, mining and harvesting, water, and food (and, of course, people!). Your war will last until the first one of those on either side runs out. What technology is used to keep the war going until that happens is just window dressing. Using some historical wars I'm familiar with as examples...

  • Historian Shelby Foote once remarked that the South during the U.S. Civil War could never have won. The North had greater resources, much of which was never brought to bear. He compared it to fighting with one hand behind its back, and if the North ever felt threatened, it would have simply brought out the other hand.

  • Nazi Germany didn't fail for a lack of technology. In fact it generally had superior almost-everything with one exception — while it had better planes, it didn't have enough of them, and once the factories and resource centers had been destroyed, all that tech was good for nothing.

Granted, this analysis is simplistic, but you're not asking a specific question (really, you aren't). It's my considered belief that your shields would make war more violent — but alone can't justify making it longer. And, to leave you with a thought...

In 1906, Alfred Henry Lewis stated, “There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy.” Since then, his observation has been echoed by people as disparate as Robert Heinlein and Leon Trotsky.

The key here is that, unlike all other commodities, food is the one essential that cannot be postponed. If there were a shortage of, say, shoes, we could make do for months or even years. A shortage of gasoline would be worse, but we could survive it, through mass transport or even walking, if necessary.

But food is different. If there were an interruption in the supply of food, fear would set in immediately. And, if the resumption of the food supply were uncertain, the fear would become pronounced. (Source)

Generalizing: resources prolong wars. Not technology.

Now that I think about it, a pretty good morality story could be written about the years a military required to bombard a well-shielded city, only to finally breach the shield and discover that everyone was long-since dead, having resorted to cannibalizing everything from energy sources to themselves to keep the shield alive. In the end, the long war was nothing more than a waste of resources.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jun 2, 2022 at 15:02

Tactics will change, but battles won't take noticably longer

Interestingly enough, I've recently played a videogame that very much resembles this sort of warfare where units will fight until "wounded", then run home to heal while fresher units stay and fight, and then come back to the frontline fully healed. It is very common in this game for a head-to-head battle between two equal-ish armies to drag on almost indefinitely.

However, that does not mean that battles last indefinitely. What it means is that a wide range of tactics have been developed completely around how to turn wounded enemies into dead ones. The basic tactics include:

  1. Concentration of Force: In normal warfare, this is important, but in the kind of warfare you are describing it goes from advantageous to 100% necessary. If it takes 20 shots to kill a shield tank in your setting, and you have two battalions of shield tanks engage each other. Each side will do everything they can to focus a minimum of 20 simultaneous shots into a single enemy target at a time, while also trying to maneuver in such a way that no one of your tanks can be focused on by too many enemy shots. As long as you can make sure none of your tanks are taking that final fatal shot, they can fall back, recharge, and come back to the battle fresh as they started. Likewise, as long as you can make sure to hit an enemy with enough shots that he can't fall back, you are makein progress towards a victory. While CoF is already an important part of warfare today, it is secondary to making sure you don't get shot. In this setting, achieving a decisive CoF advantage will often be more of a question of How Much, not If you will get shot. The extra risks it takes to get a kill mean that you could see units dying just as quickly in this setting as in real life.

  2. Cutting off the Line of Retreat: Depleted shield tanks need to fall back to some sort of base to refuel. While your forward battle line is of course, a dense concentration of fresh, battle ready units, your line of retreat will be more of a trickle of mostly depleted units. It only takes a small gorilla force to intercept the line of retreat and inflict massive casualties. While the front line may have forces of hundreds of shield tanks, 5-10 tanks moving through your back lines could quickly score many more kill shots than all of your frontline units combined.

  3. Securing your own Line of Retreat: You always want to fight in places where the way back to your base can be defended by a minimal force. If your line of retreat is too long, or too segmented, then you need to forfeit more of your fighting force on securing those back lines. Mobile bases or temporary siege forts will be common tactics for pushing forward your advance.

  4. Storming the enemy Base: Just like you don't want your line of retreat too long, you also don't want it too short. The ultimate checkmate maneuver is to infiltrate all the way into the enemy base where they refuel and rearm. Once the fighting works its way into the resupply centers, they can no longer stop to recover thier shields. Blow the base, cut its power, or just bring the fighting inside of its walls, etc. and your victory just becomes a matter of time.

What all of this means is that individual battles will have the potential to last much longer, but once they hit thier pivotal tipping point where one side gets the upper hand, the entire rest of the battle could be determined very quickly compared to modern warfare. Overall, I do not think this technology will make wars last a whole lot longer, it probably wont even make individual battles take much longer, it just significantly changes the sort of tactics required to win.


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