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Why Doesn’t Starfleet Use Armour?


Watching and re-watching Trek as I have, it’s
hard to ignore one large seeming oversight from Starfleet. Something that Enterprise,
the early films and even Discovery sort of addressed in part and that is why doesn’t
Starfleet use armour? There are many species encountered by Starfleet
that wear suits of armour to protect themselves. Klingons, Cardassians, Xindi Reptilian, and
arguably some of the most impressive, is that donned by the Hirogen. It affords their soldiers
a degree of protection and does in fact make them look a little more intimidating so why
does the Federation seem to resist wide spread implementation of protective gear for combat
purposes? This is mostly speculation here, but I’d
have to say as Starfleet is not primarily a military organisation. They have ranks,
weapons and a structure that strongly resembled a military but the organisation is supposedly
on of peaceful exploration that places combat engagement at a the bottom of its list when
encountering a new species, even a potentially dangerous one.
Wearing armour as part of the standard uniform works for the Klingons whose culture is focused
on the idea of combat, or the Cardassians who for the longest time subjugated other
species and needed to look imposing to quell any dissent. But for the Federation? It sends
the wrong message if an away team arrives decked out in full armour. I mean at least
you cannot see the large starship in geostationary orbit above your capital city.
Another reason is that where possible, Starfleet tries not to operate in ground engagements.
Starfleet Academy training includes phaser training and squad based movements but overall,
Starfleet operates in, you know… space. Ship to ship combat is something far more
in the Federation’s ballpark so it could be that armour was just something of low priority
for the organisation. Yet they do have ground missions and away teams for reasons other
than diplomacy and even during the height of the Dominion War, Starfleet never equipped
any of its soldiers on the front with protective gear.
They redesigned the uniforms, making them of tougher material and a darker colour scheme
to better resist wear and they also reduced the bright division colours to make it harder
to spot their forces, but still no actual armour.
So this leads me to theory two, …or three? Perhaps armour just doesn’t help. We’ve
seen many Klingons stunned and Jem’Hadar downed by Federation phaser weaponry in numerous
conflicts and these guys were wearing suits that were much tougher than the replicated
Xenylon of Starfleet uniforms. Equally let’s take the standard disruptor of any flavour.
A disruptor on its highest settings disrupts the atomic bonds of molecules causing the
struck matter to disintegrate rapidly. Whatever is hit by it falls apart, often explosively
or painfully. It’s quite possible that there’s just no preventing this kind of damaging effect
without energy shielding and personalised shields is a whole ‘nother set of issues
(Mostly power related). Some materials, such as Neutronium are resistant
to many energy weapons, however it is exceedingly rare and considering it is forged in the cores
of neutron stars or similar pressures, unbelievably dense and probably far too heavy to wear.
Polarizing the hull of a starship has proven to be a viable way of diffracting energies
to prevent damage somewhat but again, outfitting a person in armour and then running a sci-fi
current through it doesn’t sound safe and this was only partially effective anyway.
The Hazard suits seen in the game Star Trek: Elite Force was created by the crew of the
USS Voyager and included nanites that could repair and replenish a layer of ceramic ablative
armour but that required a power source and was from a pretty cool game, but nonetheless
an extra-canonical source. So who knows if the Federation has the resources to widely
make something like this? So in the shows, what is it that we’ve seen
Starfleet use? Well to begin with, before Starfleet operating in any military capacity
and before the formation of the Federation, the United Earth had the Military Assault
Command Operations and these guys wore a sturdier protective uniform that at most may have had
armour pockets like a flak jacket but even these guys didn’t bother with any full on
protective gear. In Star Trek Discovery, we frequently see
these vests worn by the crew on away missions into dangerous territory with the idea that
these would provide some form of added protection against the Klingons, however, within the
first two episodes this happens. So clearly, this armour was superfluous to the uniform
and probably why Starfleet eventually dropped the idea. Moving on to the motion picture,
we actually see some background security officers wearing protective gear included a fetching
helmet. Despite being the very panicle of fashion, *coughs in sarcasm, these uniforms
were dropped by Picard’s era. These were reserved exclusively for security teams and
worn from the early 2270s to 2290s, possibly later before being phased out. Again there
has to be a reason for it so I’m going to assume that although they likely would provide
protection against shrapnel, blades or maybe a glancing blow, a full powered disruptor
shot is going to be more than enough to atomize the suit and its wearer.
In all likelihood, because Star Trek uses energy weapons, it’s likely that only energy
defences will ever provide adequate protection from them and until Starfleet develops power
source small enough to power a portable shield generator than can resist a fully charged
disruptor, polaron beam, phaser (or whatever colour directed energy weapon) then Starfleet
officers just won’t bother donning any gear that would slow them down.
Instead they prefer to stay mobile, comfortable and just try to avoid being seen or hit in
the first place, relying on dampening fields and deflector shields over a slab of ceramic
that isn’t going to halt 2.99 gigajoules of energy being poured into a less than a
centimetre squared of redshirt. So that’s my theory as to why Starfleet
lacks in armour statistic. There may be specialised suits out there in books but we never see
much on screen from Starfleet. I honestly cannot think of another lore reason why they
wouldn’t invest in at least some limited protection when I’m sure they have the technology
to whip up something. Until the next video, thanks for watching, I’m Ric and I’ll
see you next time, goodbye!

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