Why the lack of personal protection?

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by flamewolf393, Aug 27, 2012.

  1. flamewolf393

    flamewolf393 Cadet Newbie

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    I have seen nearly every episode (other than enterprise and some ds9), and except in very rare cases (such as the borg) there has never been any kind of personal protection, either personal shields or even body armor. Given the number of wounds and deaths we see in any kind of ground battle, it seems strange that everyone runs around in flimsy cloth uniforms. Why has this never been an issue?

    In fact, when I think about it there is really very little personnel scale tech at all.
     
  2. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    I think body armor can only do so much against certain kinds of weapons (such as disruptors at their highest setting--which can probably vaporize both you and your armor). It could also be that there are limits to personal forcefields (they may interfere with transporters perhaps). In such instances, it could be that the technology is probably there, but hasn't been perfected yet for general usage. Maybe in the 25th-Century...

    But that isn't to say that Starfleet security/combat personnel shouldn't be wearing some sort of protective gear, though (like they did in TMP). If nothing else, Starfleet crews still frequently encounter civilizations using bladed weapons or even old-fashioned "slugthrowers" at times, and body armor would be definitely handy in those instances, IMO.
     
  3. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    We know that the types of protection we have witnessed worn all have serious shortcomings.

    Personal forcefields simply don't appear to be technologically feasible. TAS has the belt-projected "life support fields", but those are incapable of stopping a phaser at stun ("Slaver Weapon"), and offer little protection even at fisticuffs ("Pirates of Orion"). TNG shows Worf rigging a comparable field that can barely stop a few low-speed bullets before frizzing out. And when the Borg Drones appear, their phaser-proof fields impress the heck out of our heroes.

    Body armor as worn by Klingons has been shown to be vulnerable to disruptors and phasers (a single shot always takes out the warrior), but also to knives and swords (again, a single stab easily penetrates, with fatal results). The same is true of TNG spacesuits (ST:FC), and supposedly of their predecessors as well. It doesn't seem as if these things could stop bullets, either - simulated Klingons fell to simulated WWII bullets in VOY "Killing Game".

    Now, it does seem as if 23rd or 24th century technology ought to be able to come up with armor or forcefields that can stop a dagger or a sword. I mean, even medieval chainmail achieved that much on occasion! Stopping of bullets might be physically impossible with mere armor, though (or we'd have done it today already), and perhaps not worth doing with forcefields (because the enemy would just whip out the disruptors if the slugthrowers failed).

    But what is that Klingon armor good for? It doesn't stop beam weapons, it doesn't stop edged weapons, it doesn't stop bullets. Heck, there are episodes of DS9 where a fist driven in an armored stomach makes a Klingon fold in two! Are those thickly padded vests intended to be flotation devices? And if so, what about the comparable TMP Starfleet "armor"?

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  4. Unicron

    Unicron Continuity Spackle Moderator

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    They watched Star Wars and saw how effective stormtrooper armor is. ;)
     
  5. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Uh, we have done it today. Ever hear of Kevlar vests? Okay, they don't deflect or disintegrate bullets, but they'll stop a bullet from penetrating the body.
     
  6. flamewolf393

    flamewolf393 Cadet Newbie

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    It seems to me that if nothing else they could always have a plated or metal threaded outfit/armor that they could polarize like they did in enterprise before the invention of shields. That would provide at least some dispersion effect and increase the chances of survival. It might only last for one or two hits, or have a vulnerable battery pack but still a lot better than nothing.
     
  7. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    ^^^
    It could be that polarized clothing could be very difficult to move around in.
     
  8. SchwEnt

    SchwEnt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Well, as mentioned, security officers got body armor and helmets in TMP and they were seen wearing it later on in TWOK and TSFS. I've read some opinions that it looked silly or maybe folks just didn't like it. What can you do? Can't please all the people all of the time.

    Incidentally, the movies brought about many such changes. Security uniforms included armor and helmets, engineering uniforms included rad suits and protection, landing parties got jackets, and so on.

    Once TNG era started, it went back to one type of uniform for all crewmembers, no matter the duty station or posting.

    I know, movie versus TV budget and all that. But still.
     
  9. Deks

    Deks Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Worf created a makeshift personal forcefield with 2 commbadges.
    The only reason it lasted a few seconds was the power supply.

    Alternatively, personal forcefields were mentioned in Ds9 (just never used/conveniently forgotten).

    Trek writers effectively dumbed down Trek itself to the levels where it became late 20th century/early 21st century in space.
    They also retained A LOT of things we have today and moved away from a lot of which Roddenberry established in order to make the show 'relate-able' (which was utterly idiotic and unrealistic for Trek, not to mention real life itself).

    Another example of personal forcefields was in TNG where the away team used wrist bands to protect themselves from effects of the frozen time on Enterprise-D.
    Voyager also used similar devices to push subspace fractures, and later on Seska used one to create a personal field to protect her from the radiation as she retrieved the console which exploded onboard a Kazon ship.
     
  10. Herkimer Jitty

    Herkimer Jitty Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Let's remember, body protection isn't around just to protect against gunshots. Helmets on a modern battlefield are useful at protecting your head from shrapnel. On a more basic level, you can fall down, hit your head on a rock, and not crack your own skull open. Similarly, this would be a great argument for away teams to wear knee and elbow padding. Protective eyewear would be a must as well, seeing as lotsa UV can be very un-bueno for the ol' mk 1 eyeball. If I were in Starfleet, I'd probably vouch for better footwear as well. What they've got is ok for a day at the office, but its got an awful tread, and you'd get all kinds of soil, foreign stuff, and moisture over the top cause they're so short.

    It's not just fights. Starfleet's really not so well equipped for a long-term stay in any environment that isn't SoCal Temperate. If I don't slip on a rock and give myself a concussion, I'm going to trudge through mud for a few hours and get trenchfoot. Joy of joys.

    Effectiveness of armored vests/body pieces against phasers and disruptors is debatable... made complicated by the fact that we really haven't seen such armor in use by Starfleet. But the Federation has encountered people who are resistant to small arms, either through biology, cybernetic augmentation, or external gear. (The Hunter guys from DS9, the Borg, there's more, but I don't quite recall). I'll bet that the Federation can reverse-engineer that kind of stuff, eventually.

    However, even if body armor is infeasible at the moment, I can't see Starfleet not wanting to protect its people in a fight. Maybe little deployable theater shields or something?
     
  11. shivkala

    shivkala Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I remember an early issue of the 1989 Star Trek comic book from DC, written by Peter David. Ensign Fouton was working on a phaser-proof body armor. He was successful, after a fashion, when during a test, it did withstand a phaser on disintegrate. Unfortunately, the mannequin wearing the armor was disintegrated, though.

    That's one of the reasons I loved the field jacket from Star Trek II so much. In addition to having pockets to hold gear, they also looked rather warm. It made sense for an away team to have such heavy and functional jackets.
     
  12. SchwEnt

    SchwEnt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    We can also speculate about the security armor. It needn't be strictly our-world equivalent of Kevlar protection against blunt force impacts or projectile damage.

    Star Fleet armor may have some energy dissipation effect, providing protection against directed-energy weapons. It may have forcefield properties as well. Who knows what else?

    I don't know sometimes. People complain about the crew flying all over the bridge. Then we see lap restraints built into the seats to address the problem. And then we don't see the lap restraints again.

    People complain about the redshirt deaths. Then we see armor and helmets to help alleviate the rampant redshirt bloodshed. And then we don't see the armor again.
     
  13. Herkimer Jitty

    Herkimer Jitty Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Budget cuts. Had to get rid of lapbelts and body armor to keep affording your bonuses and the yearly Christmas Party.
     
  14. Silversmok3

    Silversmok3 Commander Red Shirt

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    The problem with body armor is that it exacts a toll on the user. The more effective the armor, the harder it is for the wearer to adapt. Kevlar body armor weighs a lot and is far from breathable, so spending 8 hours wearing a 20lb vest can get quite tiring. Body armor capable of stopping rifle fire is oppressively heavy to wear, and a careful shooter can still exact a lethal injury by aiming for the head , groin,or armpit.

    In the Trek verse of things, the situation is compounded because of the power requirements of an energy field. Making a nifty Stargate-type Goa'ould personal energy field means building a power source small enough to be portable, which would be tantamount to running around with a small power plant attached to your belt. I'd hate to be that guy if the power cell is damaged in battle -or if it overloads and goes boom!
     
  15. Herkimer Jitty

    Herkimer Jitty Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    No worse than the power source you'd need to fire a phaser beam, I'd wager.
     
  16. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    But when those go critical, they can immediately toss the phaser like a grenade.
     
  17. SchwEnt

    SchwEnt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    We don't know how cumbersome Star Fleet security armor is. We don't know if it is weight equivalent to modern day Kevlar. And with super treknology, we might even assume it's much lighter and much more effective than any kind of real-world body armor.

    I also agree that if this super security armor had power requirements, it wouldn't be more than a phaser power pack, which is to say quite small.

    If the security armor was designed to be effective against Trekverse weaponry (disruptors/phasers) then the pinpoint lethal injury possibility seems diminished.

    ST phaser-type weaponry seems to be broadly targeted against personnel, man-sized targets. I assume it's possible, but we didn't see pinpoint phasers targeting headshots or shooting legs out. Maybe it was solely the visual effects, but phaser beams seemed much broader attacking effect versus our millimeter-sized projectiles.
     
  18. Wingsley

    Wingsley Commodore Commodore

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    In Sondra Marshak and Myrna Colbreath's 1983 novel Triangle, the authors incorporated a plot wherein Kirk and a landing party beamed down to a jungle planet wearing some kind of gear that gave them the itchies if a hostile being/animal tried to sneak up on them. In essence, it gave the landing party eyes in the backs of their heads. I thought it was a great idea, far better than seeing Enterprise crew wear some silly armor or try to scan with a tricorder while brandishing a phaser. Of course, this kind of technology would be difficult to illustrate in live-action drama like a TV series or a movie, but if someone showed some imagination and came up with some innovative way to illustrate this kind of defense tech in operation, it could prove very useful for these kinds of stories and would cleverly compliment the Federation defense philosophy. A shame TNG never explored this.
     
  19. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Regarding the value of "partial protection", the TAS belts would seem to offer just that: protection from weather only. They seem to be the ultimate in that, really: they're likely to deflect anything from dust storms to heavy rain to poison clouds to scorching sun. Plus they serve as spacesuits in benign environments! No doubt this is something the user is willing to pay for, the price apparently only being the weight of the belt (or the even more compact buckle thing we see in TMP - easily thrown away if the power source starts to misbehave, BTW!) plus the annoying glow that reduces combat value by preempting all attempts at stealth.

    It's difficult to see why such a thing would be ditched after TMP. Although arguably all the necessary hardware could have been stored in one of those big pockets of the later TOS movie parkas, or even sewn in.

    In combat terms, though, there seems to be something horridly wrong with future technologies or materials, and not just in terms of "full protection". The extensive and cumbersome Klingon armor does nothing to stop even the feeblest "partial threats"; the Cardassian whole-body armor sucks as well, its darkest hour probably being "Indiscretion" where it fails to protect Dukat's bottom from a sharp stone!

    In contrast, the innocuous-looking coveralls worn by Starfleet ground troopers seem to hide a trick or two, as we see from the layered charring on Lieutenant Burke in "Nor the Battle". He nearly survived a disruptor blast right in the chest! I'd be willing to believe those coveralls have all sorts of "partial protection" abilities as well, being good against cold, heat, rain, knives etc. (since in contrast with the Klingon and Cardassian costumes, the coveralls have not yet demonstrated shortcomings in an episode or a movie). Alas, there's no associated headgear.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  20. Deks

    Deks Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Except that we have viable synthetic materials in real life that are much lighter and could serve as a substitute to 'heavy' Kevlar suits.
    Furthermore, a piece of clothing doesn't have to be 'thick' in order to be warm.
    Various metamaterials in real life and others can be used to create clothing that changes/adapts to the user body and 'breathes' but also provides ample protection against the elements.
    The only reason we don't mass produce them is because of fictional notions of 'costs' (which have 0 to do with the actual resources or technical capability in doing something).
    Since Humans in Trek have discarded money (and 'cost'), they simply create the uniform out of the best synthetic materials at their disposal with highest efficiency in mind (or at least, that's how they SHOULD be doing it - budget problems prevent this kind of thing actually being shown).

    Granted, SF uniforms in that case would have been made to dissipate directed energy weapons (mostly) - but I would surmise that Trek writers (as dumb as they were) wanted to keep things simple (and as a result, completely shot Trek's technological credibility - not to mention social evolution - out of the airlock).