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Since I have particle shields in my setting for my armored vehicles, my military forces have also decided to try and extend that technology to the larger battlefield. One of the issues plaguing my tank corps and infantry is the presence of high precision artillery and air cover.

To combat this my engineers have taken the shielding concept used in tanks but applied to a much larger level. Massive poles are erected that disperse a combination of different particles at different heights based on what an engineer chooses. It can be a couple meters above ground, or higher in the sky based on what a military force in the region desires.

This particle shield is strong enough to shrug off a high velocity artillery, railgun strikes, multi megaton warheads etc (note that nuclear weapons aren't a part of this setting due to external reasons). To sustain these fields an electrical charge/field is required to manipulate and keep these particles from flying a way. These poles double as that. The amount of charge/electrical field intensity directly correlates to how strong said particle field is. These particles spread away from the poles and can spread for miles.

There are a few downsides however, the stronger the charge, the more radio and radar interference there is. At the maximum, radio and radar communications are effective in the meters range with some bad distortion/noise. Until further advancements, the only way to put up fresh particles is to power down a tower, load it with new particles, and finally turn it back on while releasing new particles. Essentially no hot swapping. They don't stop very small particles, so things like chemical and gas warfare can pass through it. The more powerful/electrically charged the field, the darker/less light is let in through an area. They can lose effectiveness under stress and constant punishment. Getting to a point where artillery or bombs will have chunks torn apart or face a damage profile as if multiple shotguns were fired at it, but still hit the ground/target. Past that, with no available particles in the sky, things fall through like normal.

Would my particle shield be effective in limiting maneuver/combined arms warfare?

Some notes:

  1. Technology is near future. Things like railguns (on large trucks), ETC guns, drones, better armor piercing weapons that rely on chemicals or mechanical properties are all common place. Tanks have a similar shielding system, though they are far more manageable to destroy by sending some long rod penetrators or railgun rounds its ways. Infantry anti tank systems have also caught up to a point where they can harass tanks or outright kill them using newer warheads (or swarm attacking with older warheads). There is some sci fi technology in the aerial domain in regards to flying wings and airships (think Ace Combat flying airship size and technology).
  2. There are no nuclear weapons for external reasons, though nuclear power certainly exists.
  3. The particles themselves are a somewhat renewable resource of sorts. They can be mined, synthetically made or harvested from an organism/bacteria etc etc. The bottleneck is in refining these particles such that they can withstand punishment and stay in their suspended lattice field. Lower quality particles won't withstand much punishment or won't be easily controlled/modulated.
  4. The height of this particle cloud can be controlled.
  5. Anything required for human life or animal life can go through the particle cloud (air/oxygen). The most powerful setting however can make the sky look a night/dark/dusty color with some pockets of sunshine though during the day.
  6. The maximum height of the cloud that can be controlled is based on this formula: MaxParticleCloudHeight=poleHeight*3.
  7. There is no nano technology nor does any faction possess the ability to build such technology for this setting.
  8. The darker a cloud (ie more energy in the field holding the particles up), the harder it is for aerial reconnaissance or sensors to get intel from what's underneath. Radar, lidar, optical etc all suffer at the higher ends.

Edit: In terms of communications, wire-based communications are unaffected. Furthermore, relay based systems that can take in a message and send it to another wireless relay meters down or more still work. It's just that there is noise added to the signal making it harder to get a cleaner picture without some filtering out.

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    $\begingroup$ Warfare? All warefare? The quartermaster? Road maintenance crew? Airplane mechanic? A sniper? Cold war? This is another form of high concept question that's too broad, open-ended, and hypothetical. What are each and every technology available to each and every military that we can judge how such a field would affect them? Can't be Earth-today because technology doesn't work that way. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ To make it less high-concept, you could rephrase your title question so it talks more what this shield would be used against. For instance : "Are my shields a viable solution against aircraft and artillery?". Comparing other army components could be viable, too : "Would my shields impede land efforts (too much)?" $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 18:46
  • $\begingroup$ (Note : if you invalidate my answer through edits, I'm willing to change it again :) ) $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 18:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena I have edited the question and title to be more in scope. Please let me know if this less high concept and more answerable. $\endgroup$
    – FIRES_ICE
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 22:10
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH I see. In that case, if I were to specify how the particle shielding system would affect certain weapons (artillery and air support) would that make the question adequately specific? Also there might be a misunderstanding of what the shield is. It isn't placed at the vehicle or squad level. Rather it's a large structure that's static in nature. It's the equivalent of a roof to a house. Combined arms warfare is the use of different military vehicles and tactics to break through a frontline. They typically rely heavily on artillery, armored vehicles and aircraft, and lately cruise missiles $\endgroup$
    – FIRES_ICE
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 1:14

3 Answers 3

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As big, big towers? It will be sparsely used

Three things will prevent its usage :

  • Communication and detection are prevented
  • They don't move.
  • They tend to prevent counter-attacks

So why being immobile and preventing communications is bad? Well, first you need to understand that information is king in conventional modern warfare. To communicate efficiently, you usually give orders with a base command which tells you what to do, when and where. While fire teams are independent locally and can manage by themselves, they need H.Q. to structure the grand schemes of war.

Thing is, you won't be using static towers for moving troops or if H.Q. moves around (like when they're command trucks). If on the other side, H.Q. doesn't move -like the main base of operation-, you can't use towers because they'll prevent these essential communications and detection tools, especially when you need it the clearest and most accurate (e.g. : the main base is under fire ^^). To sum up, not moving makes it ill-suited for anything but the main base, and the main base can't use it because it needs to exchange swiftly with on-field teams.

Then, these shields make it so you can't counter-attack very efficiently. Indeed, defending is good, but if the enemy stops attacking, it's better! However, such immense shields are likely to be saturated in minutes by artillery and airstrikes which just need raw firepower now. You'll need to max out the shield's power quickly, leading to the above communication problem. Conversely, to make a counter-offensive you'll need to have firepower and good coordination. However :

  • Artillery will heavily suffer from signal disruption and reduced fire angle (when you set shields very low or they stand under the other side of the shield1).
  • I believe airplanes can't lift off through the shield, either. You'll have to raise it, which makes you vulnerable to enemy ships .
  • As soon as tanks, vehicles and infantry venture out of the base, they'll lose their protection. It's sad because it's when they'll slow down to engage that they're the most exposed :/.

And of course, all of them will not be able to switfly get orders from the base, so there's no knowing where reinforcements are (friendly fire risks) or where to focus efforts on. So in overall it mitigates a good chunk of its usefulness. If the war gets bogged down low-to-medium powered pylons might be useful to mitigate constant attempts at artillery strikes though at the cost of a massive, high-tech destroyable2 pylon.

From the comments : You could also circumvent communication problems by creating a web of hardwired comlinks with shields. This setup is expensive, but it allows long-range communication as long as a single shield is not under attack. A good solution if you need a structure protected at all costs.

Why not as a jammer?

Today there are already solutions developped to prevent combat drones, or other devices to scout. They are relatively small, selective (e.g. Jammers can block certain frequencies), and can be put further from the frontline. Camouflage is also a great countermeasure, since on top of preventing from seeing what's going on inside, they make it very hard to know whether something's there in the first place, even from satellites 🛰️. A stadium-sized, light-blocking roof doesn't actually hide, nor is small and cost-efficient. In fact, since the tower is massive and/or costly, it makes a target of interest without knowing what's underneath!

Thinking differently, when small and facing forward...

They're holy bread for infantry! This is the future version of sandbags and bunkers : You need at most 70cm poles to be fully and comfortably covered (2.10m) and they can be placed in a split second, on top of being -supposedly- more durable. A single jeep could contain a dozen of these with ease.

But the novelty it brings to the battle is that it could be disabled electronically from afar. If a position is lost you can prevent the enemy from using the remaining of your own defences for the next push. Moreover, a correctly-tuned shield can allow to see through it while being protected, heavily reducing the suppressive fire effects3.

Since they're small, communication should be less of an issue; You're communicating with backlines so the shield shouldn't directly be between you and H.Q., and worst case a few select soldiers can step back a few meters to use their radios.

So to sum up, as large-scale, anti-air/anti-artillery towers I don't think those shields will do well. However with transportable sizes it is a real breakthrough in setting up defenses.


1 : Note : helicopters and airplanes move often very, very low in order to stay litterally under radar. This means there's little space to allow lift-off and prevent air assaults.
2 : Even more destroyable if they're already under pressure!
3 : Suppressive fire goals are to prevent counterfire and allow a safer coverage of the field. Being able to easily see where people are moving greatly helps in knowing where and when you should relocate.

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  • $\begingroup$ Based on the description the shield can simply be aimed upwards and doesnt need to be a wall. You could have a tower on standby so communications and radar arent impacted, then when something is detected the shield can be turned on. This makes for perfect interception of all projectiles without the need to perfectly calculate their trajectory. Then once nothing is detected anymore (by an outside source) you can turn the shield off and reload the tower while another tower is already ready for activation. Have directional towers to limit coms disruption for maximum effect. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Demigan Hmm... Perhaps; The thing that made me think it's vertical only is the need to be a pole, and all the talk about height, rather than surface. Regardless, you don't want to cut down communications when your main base is under fire; Indeed, while I'm pro-shield/defenses, you need to detect the source and call for a strong counterfire as quickly as possible or else they'll continue firing ad nauseam et eternam ^^'. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 14:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena Demigan is correct, the shield is vertical facing which is why poles are used, and why the formula for their height was added. The lateral domain is unobstructed. As for communications issues, that only happens on the higher/more intense ends. Light usage causes no issues. Medium usage causes some radio noise to be added with some radar scattering. Mid to higher end disrupts longer range wireless communications, and the higher ends significantly impact radio and radar as listed in the op. Assummingly, it would make sense to have shielding less intense or off for day to day stuff. $\endgroup$
    – FIRES_ICE
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ @FIRES_ICE And... Refocused to roofy-shields! In my opinion, this format is a bit more tactically interesting, but under certain conditions and with low-enough prices. Big techno-towers aren't necessarily cheap, after all ^^. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 17:28
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    $\begingroup$ Partially, yes. However between (several) uplinks outside of your main shield range being bombed by precision strikes or your main HQ being bombed by precision strikes my guess is that the comm links would be easier to replace and harder to hit, especially if they have seperate shields when an attack in their direction is detected (assuming you dont just jank them back into your shield and stick them out afterwards, just an extendable antennae would work). Also from what I gather its not necessarily a spherical shield, you can protect in the attacked direction and have comms around the shield. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 9:56
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It's all game theory -- moves and countermoves.

Compare to the strategic implications of missile defense systems. At first glance, there's nothing wrong with simply defending yourself. However, it will embolden leaders on your side to launch more aggressive attacks against more enemies. And even if they don't, potential adversaries will expect they will. They'll panic and rush into a furious arms race, where ultimately the world may face much more danger.

Whoever doesn't have the shield techology will do the following:

  1. Use whatever diplomatic/economic power they may have to coerce you into dismantling it;
  2. Get equivalent technology themselves; and
  3. Revert to asymmetric warfare tactics (at least in planning if not in actuality): infiltration, sabotage, etc. -- the kind of tactics where it's not obvious who or where the enemy actually is, and by the time you get your shield in place, they might already be inside it.

Once multiple sides have this technology, I expect the focus -- when it comes to actual warfare -- will continue to be on infiltration and sabotage. Cyber warfare (hacking) would be especially important, as (I assume) the shield technology will depend on quite a lot of infrastructure.

Basically, whoever can take out the other's shields first will win. It sounds like this would be significantly easier for a team of hackers and/or saboteurs on the inside than by smashing things into it from the outside.

There may actually be some (brutal) advantage in forcing your enemy to keep their shields on, say by firing sporadic missiles. Extended periods of relative darkness (and particularly lack of blue light) will have a psychological effect on anyone living underneath, and may harm food/biofuel production (except hydroponics).

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  • $\begingroup$ What you also have to consider is that the shields are also a downside: you limit your own ability to communicate and fire off your own artillery. Your idea of sporadic fire would force your enemy to keep up shields and limit themselves. You then have the option to concentrate artillery against a single position more easily $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 12:01
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It would severely reduce the accuracy at range and the average range things are fired at.

First of all to fire a projectile accurately over a long range or altitude you need a weapon system that is accurate and can adjust the projectile in flight. But what is just as important is knowing where that target is. If the interference is large enough than things like radar cant pick up targets accurately and people nearby have difficulty sending accurate location information to someone else its going to be hard to accurately hit something. In which case dumb bombs and artillery might take more center stage again.

Smart usage of the towers would place multiple close to one another. Some are pre-loaded and others are active to allow for some hotswapping.

Since the shields also interfere with your own troops you would likely use a bunch of smaller towers and/or a bunch of smaller shields. Their shields dont have enough force to detonate a projectile hitting it but enough force to make it deviate off target. All your troops have the position, angle, thickness and size of each of these shields so they know how much their shots will deviate when they shoot through while the opposition will have a much larger inaccuracy no matter what they do unless they can get a hold of that day's shield configuration.

You can have a big tower standing by with a strong shield to absorb a big attack or warhead. If your towers can monitor their shield strength then you can detect when a big attack is passing through the small shields and intercept the shots.

Its likely only important area's have such shields. Bases, supply depots, airfields, command stations, the frontline where possible. However beyond those area's few shields would be available, so hitting troops and supplies in transit would be key. That means you first have to try and punch through a defensive position with overwhelming force (if you can project a shield up in the air you can likely project it along the ground).

Essentially you end up with a type of trench warfare again.

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