In the last blog we discussed the use of electromagnetic fields, force fields we know are possible, in the defense of a space vessel. What about other forms of defense. Of course there are point defenses, which could be laser, particle beam, or projectile, that try to take out an enemy missile or kinetic energy weapon as it closes. We have some of these today on ships, the 20mm Gatling gun CIWS that is intended to knock down low flying cruise missiles. A space ship might have a bunch of these for close in defense, or fewer lasers with a much longer range that cycle from target to target. A good film example of close in defense was the Battlestar Galactica minseries, in which Galactica blazed away at incoming Cylon fighters and missiles and formed a literal wall of steel around the spaceship. In a space battle even the main beam armament could be used in a pinch, as it should be at least as accurate as the secondary weapons. Shot gun blasts of small particles or ball bearings could also form a screen, using the missiles’ own speed to destroy them.
Interceptor missiles should also be highly evolved, though they would still have some trouble getting through the defenses of the incoming attack missiles. They may carry their own ECM (electronic counter-measures) package. If they don’t hit the target they would probably explode at closest approach, sending a stream of projectiles from what had been the body of the missile or ones carried for the purpose. Of course, at the speeds the incoming missiles will be traveling, the best strategy might lie in numbers, and quick cycling counter missile launchers, or cells with thousands of missiles, might be necessary to defend a massively expensive ship.
What about the hull of the ship itself. I personally think that armor would be a good idea, possibly with self sealing capabilities to battle punctures of the skin. The thicker the armor the better, until it reaches the point where it impedes maneuverability due to too much mass. But the longer it takes to penetrate into the machinery and crew spaces of the ship the better. Armor would probably be better than anything we have today, denser, with greater tensile strength. And I could see a skin incorporating nanotechnology that would change its reflectivity depending on what wavelength of light is striking it. Maybe not fast enough to prevent any damage. But any reduction is a plus. And nanobots and regular bots could fight a battle of hull integrity versus weapons damage that might decide the battle in the long run. The strength of the ship’s hull under the armor is also of great importance. Unless we have some kind of force fields that hold the ship together like in Star Trek (and even if we do) it would make sense to have a robust hull that can take multiple lickings and keep on putting a hurt on the enemy.
Damage control would also be an important part of a ship’s defenses. Unless the vessels are taking each other out with one hit ship killers, which might happen sometimes but probably not often, or one side was laughably superior to the other, the ability to repair damage might be as important and giving it out. Redundant systems and the ability to take local control of engines, maneuvering engines and weapons, may make the difference between living and dying. I don’t think that rerouting all circuits to B is going to do it. We’re talking cutting things, running new wiring, maybe even running ducts from an engine to a new port, everything needed to keep in the fight.
The last part of the defense would do with the most fragile part of the ship, the crew. Crew will be absorbing radiation, working in vacuum (or having vacuum imposed upon them), and being shaken around severely. Nanotech would help, especially with the radiation repair, but it still gets me how many scifi works show a crew fighting the ship in shirt sleeves, when any second the nearest wall might blow out into space. So it would make sense for the crew to be in environmental suits of some kind no matter where they are in the ship during a battle. Add some body armor, because you also don’t want shrapnel killing them at a time when everyone is needed. And augment the suits with some strength enhancement, because they may need to pick up massive things or move in shifting gravity. And some kind of propulsion, so if they are blown out into space or into a large room in the ship they are able to get back. It doesn’t really have to be the powered armor of Heinlein, but at least something that reflects the tech of the time. David Weber portrays this in his Honor Harrington series, at least as far as environmental suits and armor is concerned. Doesn’t always protect the crew, but it does so often enough to warrant its inclusion in the protection.