Deflector shields (so called because they deflect energy and physical objects from the shield to save it from harm, not because they have anything to do with the navigational deflector) are a ships primary form of defense. They (and related types of technology, such as multi-phasic force fields) are fields of highly focused spatial distortion created by shield generators and focused with subspace field distortion amplifiers, within which the generators maintain an energetic graviton field. Shield grids on the exterior of the hull shape to conform to the ship (collectively, the shield grids are referred to as the shield matrix). When energy or physical objects impact the shield, its field energy is concentrated at the point of impact to resist the intrusion. Impacts are accompanied by a quick flash of Cerenkov radiation, which humanoids perceive as a flash of colored light (blue for Starfleet shields, sometimes different colors for other species shields).
Shields are activated or ‘raised’, whenever threats to the ship become apparent. This could be an enemy attack, potentially dangerous emissions from a nearby star, or the presence of an enormous spacefarring creature. Shield modulation frequencies shift at random to prevent an enemy from adjusting the frequency of its weapons to penetrate the shield without resistance (on the other hand, adjusting shields to match the frequency of a weapon can strengthen them against it). Raised shields interfere with sensors, so shield frequency rotation creates electromagnetic ‘windows’ to which sensors automatically recalibrate to minimize this effect.
Shields consist of four main components; Shield Generators, Shield Grids or Matrix, Subspace Distortion Amplifiers, and Recharging/Regeneration systems.
All Federation and Starfleet vessels are equipped with some type of shielding. More ‘military’ or long-range exploratory vessels are equipped with the most advanced shields available to Starfleet science. All Starfleet vessels are equipped with Multi-phasic/Multi-spectral shields, originally designed to defend against the Borg in 2366, which modulate shield frequencies at much higher EM and Spatial distortion bands than old style conventional shielding. The most advanced of Starfleet’s vessels are equipped with shielding amalgamate from Federation, Borg, Husnock and Dominion technologies. They’re referred to as ‘Omnimatrix Shielding’ and ‘Unimatrix shielding’. The distinctions are described below.
Omnimatrix Shielding allows a vessel to use any and all types of advanced shielding variants in tandem or all at once automatically without the crew or starbase personnel making special modifications to them. This type of advanced shielding can only be installed on vessels of size 6 (Intrepid class) or larger and require both a para-dynamic system and Interphase generator to use.
Unimatrix Shielding allows a vessel to use any of five types of the most advanced shield variants in tandem or all at once automatically without the crew or starbase personnel making special configurations to them. This type of shielding can only be installed on vessels of size 5 (Defiant class) or smaller, including shuttles and probes.
Multi-phasic shielding allows a vessel to only use up to three advanced shield variants with crew modifications and/or starbase enhancements, and must be reprogrammed or recalibrated back to normal after their use. They also limit the use of some advanced shield variants to three rounds per use before the crew needs to recalibrate the system.
Advanced Shield Variants
Since shields are so important to the integrity of a ship and the safety of it’s crew, much research has gone into improving them or developing new, more powerful types of shields. The following are listings of all declassified advanced shield types available for installation on Starfleet vessels. Limitations other than those stated above, are included within the descriptions.
Beta-Tachyon/Anti-proton Matrix Shielding
By remodulating the shields to emit a beta-tachyon pulse, then projecting coherent anti-proton beams into the shield matrix, this amalgam of Husnock and Borg design increases and stabilizes the shield matrix to allow metaphasic shields to work indefinitely in combat, giving the protected vessels shields a constant x3 shield boost during all combat rounds.
Designed to protect against temporal phenomenon, this shield type emits a multi-spectral tachyon shell around the vessel in low level overlapping chroniton fields to slightly move the vessel out of temporal sync with the rest of the space-time continuum, allowing it to withstand vast kinds of temporal phenomena.
Covariant shields use an advanced, tetryon-based technology. They work like normal shields but with one additional benefit; they interfere with sensors. They have the same effect as a sensor reflective hull, excluding an opponent from viewing the interior, weapons, technologies, or anything beneath the shield barrier.
Immersion shields are a special shield modification, which allow an atmospheric capable craft to travel underwater, within liquid atmospheres such as those of gaseous giants, or in intense particle density nebulae, without harm to itself. They also increase the strength of the ships SIF generators to withstand the pressures of such environments.
Initially developed in 2369 by Ferengi scientist Dr. Reyga, the metaphasic shield generates overlapping low-level subspace fields. This causes anything within those fields to partially enter subspace, which provides a high level of protection against phenomena and weapon attacks in normal space. This triples the shield strength for 3 rounds
Multi-adaptive Shields; Refractive Shielding
These two adjustments to shields make it harder for other ships to detect the shielded vessel. Multi-adaptive shielding acts as a class 6 cloak to long range sensors and in many ways mimics the way an ‘energy sheath’ does on several pirate and Breen vessels. It acts as a class 10 Cloak especially to Borg vessels, making them virtually invisible to even their short-range sensors.
Refractive shielding is slightly worse than Multi-adaptive shielding, in that it acts as a class 5 cloak to long-range sensors.
Psionic Nullification/Enhancement Shields
Based on technology acquired from the Anipax union, the ‘Psi-null’ force fields inhibit telepathic, telekinetic, and other types of ESP powers exhibited by species from penetrating the shield barrier of a vessel or force fields set up in certain sections of a ship. Though it has been able to stop one to several such psionic species, unless more power is provided to the system, it is unable to defend against thousands of psionic attacks or attacks from an extremely powerful psionic life form. Research is constantly continuing in this area. The Shielding system, if modified by the crew, can be used to ‘link’ a psionic person into the main deflector to enhance their own psionic abilities across vast distances or in short-ranges up to ten fold.
A shielding design based directly off Borg technology, this type of advanced shielding works directly in conjunction with a ships computer library systems and allows it to ‘adapt’ to weapon attacks from enemy vessels by whatever means necessary, similar in the way that the Borg Collective consciousness uses it’s vast resources to adapt to enemy attacks. Though, not as efficient or vast as the Borg equivalent, Trans-adaptive shielding allows a vessel greater defensive ability to species of equal or lesser technological levels than the Federation.
Using multiple and transient spectrums of energy, this allows for a greater protection and greater recharge rate when damaged or fully collapsed. They also allow for greater spectrums of modulation, to protect against weapon penetration and the ability of Borg tractor pulses to lock on a drain shields when used.
Regenerative Shields/Force Fields
One of Starfleet’s latest advances in the field of defense technology is the regenerative force field, also know as regenerative shielding. Its name derives from the fact that it has the ability to ‘repair’ itself when damaged. A regenerative force field siphons off some of the incoming energy of an attack into a field storage chamber, then uses that energy to recharge and strengthen itself, making it very difficult to ever completely collapse it.
Sirillium is a type of gas found in some nebulae. A Ship can use it to enhance shield efficiency. If a supply of sirillium is available, a ship can collect it and inject it into its shield generators. This provides a +50 protection for 6 rounds, but the power can only be used for shields. Several specialized injectors have been designed for small craft, such as Fighters, Shuttles, ‘Runabouts’, to be installed and used to enhance shields during high combat situations, and can be resupplied when the vessel redocks with it’s mother ship or star port facilitiy. Starships though require a much larger supply of sirillium to operate in the same fashion, and no type of starship grade injector has been designed to date.
Deflector Shield Grid
In addition to standard shield grids, most Starfleet and other species vessels (most are geared specifically for combat or other tasks that require an above average shield grid) can take advantage of specialized components that allow the shield grid to run directly off the warp engines, using the warp transfer pathways to make the shields extremely strong. These components can only be equipped to vessels size 4 or larger, and require 30 power per round to maintain the feed. They double the standard protection of the ships shield generators. They cannot be used for cumulative effect with an exsisting shield grid component.
|Shield Generator||Structural Units||Protection|
|Class 1||1 x size||10-200|
|Class 2||2 x size||210-400|
|Class 3||3 x size||410-600|
|Class 4||4 x size||610-800|
|Class 5||5 x size||810-1000|
|Class 6||6 x size||1010-1200|
|Class 7||7 x size||1210-1400|
|Class 8||8 x size||1410-1600|
|Shield Grid||Structural Units||Increase|
|Type A||.5 x size||25%|
|Type B||1 x size||33%|
|Type C||1.5 x size||50%|
|Type D||2 x size||66%|
|Type E||2.5 x size||75%|
|Direct Warp Power Feed (DWP-F)||2 x size||100%|
|Metaphasic Frequency Harmonic Ehancments||N/A||200%|
A ship's deflector shields are its prime means of defense against attack. Although shields can be overcome with sufficiently powerful force, enemies may choose to rely on clever tactics to penetrate an enemy's deflector shields, especially if they lack weapons sufficiently powerful to penetrate them otherwise.
One tactic for penetrating deflector shields is to learn the exact modulation, frequency, and nutation of the shield. With this information and a Routine (3) Shipboard Systems (Tactical or Weapons Systems) Test, it is possible to adjust an energy-based weapon, such as a phaser, disruptor, or photon torpedo, to penetrate the shields as if there weren't even there. Such an adjusted weapon ignores the effects of the target's shields altogether. Given the power of most starship weapons in the 24th century, such an attack can be devastating.
The key to pulling it off is getting the exact shield data, which cannot be obtained by sensor scans, it must come directly from the opposing ship's computer system in order to be effective. This means the attacker must either infiltrate the other ship's computer to obtain the data (see Computer Systems, above) or they must have an agent on board the opposing ship able to transmit the data to them. Klingon renegades Lursa and B'Etor used this tactic against the Enterprise-D, resulting in the destruction of the ship's stardrive section (and the deaths of the Klingon sisters, as well).
This tactic is best used as a sneak-attack. Once the target realizes what is happening, all they need to do is rotate the shield's modulation, frequency, and nutation to block the enhanced weapons. The attacker needs to obtain the modulation data again and re-tune their weapons to the new settings.
Infiltration of the enemy ship's computer system can allow an attacker to override and shut down the enemy's shields. This is usually quite difficult under normal circumstances, but it's possible if the attacker has the enemy ship's prefix code, giving them easy access to the computer and command systems. Using the prefix code to shut down the other ship's shields is standard Starfleet procedure when confronting a Starfleet vessel that's been hijacked or is otherwise under unauthorized control.
Characters can use plain and simple trickery to get an opponent to lower their shields voluntarily. The most common tactic relies on the fact that shields inhibit transporter function. By choosing to "play dead," a ship can wait until an enemy closes to transporter range, then lowers their shield to beam over boarding parties. At that moment, the enemy ship is vulnerable to attack.
The difficult part of this tactic is it requires an enemy likely to board the ship rather than simply destroy it, such a raiders, or an opposing military force. It also requires the ship to lower its own shields and shut down enough systems to appear helpless.
Under normal circumstances, deflector shields block the operation of transporters, neutralizing any tactical advantage they might offer. However, a character may be able to find a weakness in the shields and transport through them. For example, the shields have to cycle in order to allow the ship's sensors to pick up information. The "window" created by the cycle is extremely small, only a fraction of a second, but enough for a skilled operator to take advantage of it.