“Roughing It In” Part IV “FUTURISTIC”
SECTION UNDER DEVELOPMENT / INCOMPLETE
Mike C. Baker
(Caveat: I’m not only a writer, I’m an old-school wargamer… and the following is at best a SUMMARY of the field)
Considering that the future of weapons as we can forsee / foretell relies strongly upon what we’ve already seen, much of what falls into this category consists of speculation into the possible improvements upon existing weapons OR speculation into the weaponized effects of other technologies.
MELEE WEAPONS OF THE FUTURE
What? Didn’t you expect hand-to-hand combat ranges to still be important? Foolish mortal, haven’t you seen Star Wars, Blade Runner, and Escape From New York often enough already (not to mention Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and a good many other post-Apocalyptic offerings…)
Note on Edged Weapons
For those who do not know, conventional edged weapons actually cut by means of tearing – at a microscopic level, even the sharpest steel or alloy edge has a series of notches that make up the active cutting surface. It is the combination of a weapon’s mass and the action of the edge against a target that produces a cut – and part of why a slash is typicaly more effective than a straight chopping motion for a sword or knife. (An axe or other relatively massive weapon produces a cut more on the chisel principle than that of a knife…)
Consider this, too: a saw works most efficiently when the teeth are allowed to fully remove material from the kerf (the track of the saw blade inthe material being cut). A serrated or notched blade takes advantage of essentially the same mechanics, and also the “bumpity effect”: as a series of smaller edges make their track through the target, as long as force still remains behind the blow each new mini-edge receives an impact bonus (small, perhaps, but rapidly accumulative).
Why aren’t all weapons serrated or saw-edge, then? Multiple factors apply, but two of the most important over the centuries have been the tendency of the saw-edge to snag or bind in the target AND the weakening of the blade introduced by cutting or molding notches into it. The smooth edge has greater utility in non-combat uses as well.
Improved Materials / Construction
- [*]Monomolecular Edges – The sharpest imaginable blade with permanent materials is postulated to be precisely one molecule in width. The challenge, from a material sciences standpoint, is how to make such an edge that can be actually used: how does one hold, swing, and maintain structural integrity for such a construct?
- Advanced Ceramics / Improved Plastic – What are the ideal shapes, physical properties, and other expectations for a weapon that must be able to escape “normal” detection yet remain useful / functions as well as a metallic blade? Advanced ceramics and polymers already provide some of these characteristics in the late Modern era and there is every reason to believe that even more capable versions will exist going forward.
- Vibro-blades – Ever since the first edged knife was created (or found after natural fracturing of a stone), humans have sought to improve upon the concept. One common postulated form considers what would be the impact of vibrating the cutting edge of an engineered blade at very high frequencies, producing a sawing effect at the near-molecular level – the vibrobladed knife or sword has been described as acting something like a chainsaw…without the need for a moving chain.
- Punch/Slap Enhancers – the “slug ‘gun'” postulates use of explosively released compressed gas to create more damage from a swung fist than the fist alone could produce;
- Muscular / Skeletal Enhancement – from the science fiction of the Golden Age, and the comic books, to the battlefields of the future, a vast number of speculative means have been used to enhance the physical capabilities of the individual soldier. Surgically-implanted solutions gave Marvel Comics’ Wolverine not only his signature claws but also adamantium-plated bones, while geneto-chemical enhancement provided extra muscular strength. Exoskeletal suits, with or without armor, also serve as mobile weapons platforms (cf. Avatar, Starship Troopers, Aliens, Armageddon: 2419).
Composite Materials / Construction
- Advanced Alloys
- “Stabilized” Mateials
- “Sandwiched” Materials
- Adaptive Striking Surfaces
- Electrical-discharge Stunning / Other Non-Lethal Effects
“Energy” Weapons (Very Short Range)
- Force-blades – going beyond the principles of monomolecular edges or vibroweapons, forceblades conceivably act by slicing between the atoms of a target
- Laser Swords – in perhaps their most recognizable form, the lightsabers of Star Wars fame. Highly speculative as to workable science, may be a more primitive OR a more advanced development of the forcesword
- Sonic Grenades – primarily expected as “technically” non-lethal; differs from the late-Modern flash-bang in that these do not require explosives and just may be rechargable/reusable…
- Sonic Stunner Baton – a postulated “early” development of the research that leads to longer-ranged sonic-based weapons; precision use narrows target to the individual struck (and direct contact enhances effect of the applied sonic energy via musculoskeletal transmission)
- Neuro-whips / Neutralizers – any of a broad class of weapons that deliver damage as directly as possible to the target’s nervous system (or circuitry). In the most primitive form, electroshock effects are a precursor.
- Electro-stunners – Taser and “stun ‘gun'” have become important elements of the non-lethal personal defense arsenal here in the late-Modern era
IMPROVED BALLISTIC WEAPONS
Weapons that act against a target by the delivery of a projectile are going to be with us for a long time to come for a variety of reasons: the sheer numbers already in existence, their underlying simplicity, their economies of production, etc. For the human race, their immediate sense of destructive potential can make their display something of a deterrent where an equivalent energy weapon might ony be seen as a threat after it had been witnessed in use. (A missile sitting in the launcher still can convey a sense of threat through size and sense of mass if one has ever witnessed a gun fired or even a small fireworks rocket launched.)
- Improved Targetting Systems – automated target recognition, enhanced optics
- Improved Active Terminal Guidance / Target Homing – target recognition by multiple means (optical, sonic, radio-frequency, chemicl signatures);
- Improved Survivability / Resistance to Counter-measures
- Enhanced Warheads
- Miniaturization / Scalability of warhead effects
- Mass Driver – the “new” railgun model, with vehicular application in the Magnetic Levitation (MagLev) principles being developed in the late-Modern era for high-speed rail transportation
- Other non-explosive propellants – pressurized gases, simple orbital mechanics (cf. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress for a combined-effect example of mass drivers and falling rocks)
(IMPROVED) “ENERGY” WEAPONS
In general, energy weapons discharge their effects as Pulse, Stream, Bolt, Beam,or Field (Area / Volume)
- Lasers / Masers – Masers are in essence Lasers operating in the microwave energy ranges
- Particle Beams – Proton, Neutron, Electron, Ion: Beam weapons in this category emit some amount of physical material in addition to the direct energies they are being used to transmit to the target.
- Disruptors – postulated to function by temporary suppression of one of more of the basic forces in the universe: strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force, gravitation, or electromagnetic
- Phased-Energy – Star Trek Phaser: functions by tuning to and then destabilizing the vibratory phase of a target. With a little skill, can be used for multiple non-lethal purposes (stunning effects, generating heat from otherwise inert materials, etc.)
- Sonics – unfocused, focused; containing/directing the emitted sound without also affecting the weapon’s user is a common concern. Primitive/early examples with unfocused emitters are speculated to need some form of “sonic armor” / sound-reduction equipment for the gunner
- Plasma – another hybrid form, where the confined energy stream creates a highly energized gas-plasma either from a carried source of material or from the available atmosphere
- Fusion – postulated enhancement of the Plasma weapons where the constriction of the energy field at the surface of the target generates a microminiature fusion reaction (visualize bringing the surface of a star into contact with the target for a picosecond or slightly longer…)
- Graviton Beams / Gravitic Manipulation – if it isn’t enough to inflict the results of gravity upon a target by means of a kinetically-accelerated ballistic object, consider the application of gravity directly to a target (and/or the contents thereof). Now start shaking the beam up and down. Nasty!
- Disintegrators – nastier still, disintegration effects may be seen in several of the other energy weapons noted above (phasers in particular, but at higher frequencies of pulsation gravition beams should do the job as well). In some early “science fantasy” / “scientific romances”, the speculation was for disintegration effects that could be tuned in some manner (e.g. Armageddon: 2419, the original Buck Rogers novel, where “r-rays” disintegrated only flesh but “t-rays” disintegrated everything not specifically proof against them)
- “Packeted” – the “pulse-popper” in stories by Alan Dean Foster is one example where the primary weapon damage is energy-based, but the effects when in use are somewhat similar to those produced by a grenade launcher firing HE rounds
WEAPONIZATION OF OTHER TECHNOLOGIES
- Medical Advances – non-lethal effects (tranquilizers, temporary physical enhancements, other drug-induced bioreactions), varying Poison effects
- Maglev – see Mass Drivers, above; also of import in considering logistics trail and ad hoc / unintended uses (deliberately derailing a train moving in excess of 100mph will create a LOT of damage)
- General-purpose Gravitics –
- Energy Screens / Force Fields – a plane-restricted energy field makes one fine blade for slicing between atoms…
- Weapon Effects of Star-drives