the definition of a Plot device is “anything that moves the plot forward”. In this case, “plot element” might be a better expression, it’s something I gave a lot of thought to. As you know, I am the author of the recent Armored Warfare campaign storyline. Obviously, other people were involved in the process as well – what happened was that I wrote the story text (fun fact: all three texts were written overnight due to killer deadlines), then two of my American colleagues did proofread it and then it was given to the Obsidian story superviser (not sure she’d be happy if I uttered her name openly, so let’s leave it at that).
But that’s just an explanation. As I said, I wouldn’t talk about Armored Warfare here. Instead, let’s have a look at a generic piece of storytelling.
One of the earlier drafts involves a character escaping from a besieged facility using a device called Breacher suit. There is no such thing in real life of course (yet), but it might very well be. You see, Breacher suit is a power armor. Obviously not the type in Fallout (actually, I didn’t even think of Fallout when I was writing about that), it’s something else entirely.
Power armor in movies is usually extremely mobile, super-protective (invariably with plate armor), can be operated for long periods of time and effectively turns soldiers into superhumans. That’s unrealistic bullshit of course – there is no power source or technology that would make such a thing possible. What is even worse – such suits would be really, really heavy. Think about it – you have a bipedal power suit that roughly copies the human anatomy and weighs at least 300kg (but probably more). This weight is then transferred to its legs, the soles of which that are – let’s say – 50 percent larger (when it comes to surface) have to bear 3 times the weight of an average human. This alone brings surface pressure and mobility issues. There are other problems with it which I don’t want to get into too much.
So, how would a realistic 2030 power armored suit look?
For starters, take an exoskeleton and add the best armor it could wear. Not some plating of course – but something like this:
Yup, that’s the MW Juggeraut suit alright. Just think away the stuff like grenades hanging outside, the gas bottles (what the hell are those for, it’s not like you can make such a suit pressurized anyway) and such.
Basically, an evolution of the extra armor with powered exoskeleton for arms and legs. Me and a few friends ran some calculations and it’s actually possible – the suit would weigh roughly 300 kilograms to make it extremely resistant to small arms fire. There are two problems with this:
- the operating time would be very short. Even with “sci-fi” batteries, I’m thinking 1-2 hours
- the problem with ground pressure
- the suit would be really slow, walking pace at maximum
These three disadvantages are… actually perfect. Ideal for this plot device. You see, the problem with powered armor from story POV is that it’s so cool it might make armored vehicles obsolete. What we have here is a suit that’s too slow to be used outside, resistant only to small arms fire (I’ll get to grenades and RPG’s later) so anything larger than a 7.62mm would destroy it. And most importantly, it’s extremely expensive (such a thing wouldn’t come cheap even at best of times).
Why is it expensive in 2030? Obviously the technology for such suits would be (if they use technology such as electroactive polymers for muscle fibres – thanks, Daigensui), but they would also be:
- used for very specific environments (I’ll get to that later)
- high-maintenance (even if you get one, you’ll spend fortune on running it because the electroactive polymers have to be replaced quite often)
Both of these conditions would make it attractive for a very narrow range of customers and limited production items are always extremely expensive. This is something a military would probably develop for taxpayer’s money.
Anyway, I mentioned specific environment.
Think about it. Too slow, high maintenance, limited operational time, resistant to small arms, poor ground pressure. Yup. These are siege weapons, the only environment they would be really useful for would be assaults on buildings and enclosed areas (that can support their weight) – bunkers and such. In close quarters (with proper armament), they would be absolutely murderous.
Á propos. Armament.
Close quarters, short range… I am thinking a rapid-fire (remember, powered arms and 300kg of weight) shotgun. But that’s not all. Such a suit would be really vulnerable to RPG’s and grenades. That’s why it would have to have two pieces of future tech – specifically two mini-APS on each shoulder, each on rotating extendable mount, angle of fire cca 270 degrees (not to fire into the head of the soldier), capable of reaching even behind the suit (so noone can hide behind it). Is that realistic? Yeah… there are such systems small enough even now. Not man-portable, but still. For extra rule of cool, the suits could carry (exoskeleton) a massive ballistic shield.
Anyway, what do you think? Realistic narrow profile power armor – yay or nay?