As the technology used to wage warfare has advanced, all new weapons and tactics have risen to use them. In the process, previous methods become far less prominent, and often eventually disappear altogether. Most modern navies have all but abandoned battleships, and the only blades today's soldiers carry are knives.
But in the future... what if technology takes a sudden and (un?)expected turn? The advent of military-grade lasers and fire-control systems that are decidedly not Point Defenseless
makes missiles useless and taking aircraft into battle suicidal. All those modern aircraft carriers and missile cruisers suddenly become obsolete, and the battleship is king of the seas once more. What if personal-scale Deflector Shields
make swords and spears viable weapons again?
This occurs a lot in Speculative Fiction
, where some discovery or advance in science or technology has the net effect of rendering the last 20 to 200 years of military tactical development moot, forcing a return to the methods of an earlier time of warfare, often still with high-tech spins on the old gear. For example, if large close-combat weapons become viable again, they may develop Laser Blades
, Hot Blades
, or Vibroweapons
. This overlaps with Retro Upgrade
See also Break Out the Museum Piece
, when this happens in a more immediate sense.
Anime & Manga
- In Attack on Titan, the military is primarily trained in double swords and hand-to-hand combat because the unique biology of Titans makes projectile weapons nearly useless, though cannons still get used in Titan defense to slow them down and rifles are kept around to enforce the law and to deal with possible civil wars or uprisings.
- Mobile Suit Gundam introduced the Minovsky Particle, which when scattered across an area did a number on detection and guidance equipment, forcing both land and space combat back into visual ranges. It should be noted that the arming of the Zaku II with a Heat Hawk was something of a predictive move, with Zeonic designers figuring that the Federation would develop their own mobile suits sooner or later, and added the weapon just in case.
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED has "Neutron Jammers", which prohibit fission reactions and jams radios. The result: no nukes, everything runs on batteries, and, you guessed it, close-range combat.
- Doctor Who: "Genesis of The Daleks" shows Skaro, the home planet of the dread pepperpots, was undergoing this because of just how long the Forever War on that planet had been going. Both sides had started out with nukes and chemical weapons, and by the time the Doctor and crew arrive, the soldiers are fighting with guns or even bayonets, because they're running low on bullets by that point. The Doctor speculates that if they go any further, both sides will be forced down to bows and arrows.
- Mutant Chronicles: When the Dark Symmetry (a cosmic horror force) is released, advanced computers become evil and electronics become unreliable. As a result, warfare (and pretty much everything else) regresses to The '70s.
- In Warhammer 40,000, though modern weaponry has not been replaced, melee combat is back again as regular fare on the battlefields with exclusively melee-range weapons being commonly deployed, but there is no single specific reason for this having happened (aside from the expected Rule of Cool of course) - the rulebook words it implying close-combat likely renders troops unable to shoot their guns despite Pistol-Whipping being perfectly usable to give yourself an opening to fire in a melee. However, many assault troops employ Sword and Gun to get something of a best of both worlds in close-combat, though there is certainly individual troops who use only melee weapons for arming themselves.
- The old Manhunter universe had swordsmen who specialized in fighting aboard spacecraft, where guns are impractical because of the tendency of stray bullets to punch holes in the hull and/or destroy necessary equipment.
- In BattleTech, warfare is dominated by Battlemechs and lasers are commonly used weapons. However the first two Succession Wars have knocked back most Inner Sphere's technological progress resulting in most fights limited to close range combat. The Clans however possess more advanced technology than the IS but they intentionally made most of their fighting limited to honor duels, to hone their skills and limit their losses.
- Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars has GDI revert back to using tanks, since it was just more cost-effective. It turns out Mecha and hover tanks are too expensive to maintain. Similarly, Nod ends up abandoning subterranean burrowing vehicles due to environmental changes.
- Averted in the Dune II and Emperor: Battle for Dune games. Unlike the books (shield technology makes many projectile weapons obsolete), the various factions operate tanks, artillery, and machine guns just fine. Dune II has benefit of being set on Arrakis, where Shields are avoided to prevent the major local wildlife from going berserk. But in Emperor, all units are still usable even not on Dune, and House Ordos still uses some shielded units on Arrakis.
- In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance CNT armour makes cyborg infantry nearly Immune to Bullets, so melee Vibroweapons have come back into fashion.
- Autonomous air defense systems have rendered things like drones and ICBMs useless in the future of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. As such the demand for capable foot soldiers is once again on the rise and cybernetic augmentation is there to make them all the more effective, albeit at a possible price.
- Devil's Third is premised on the "Kessler Syndrome" theory: that is when man-made satellites in Earth orbit collide, the debris will begin a chain reaction that will destroy other satellites in sequence. In their world this has indeed happened, which forced the end of technologies such as GPS and satellite imagery and wars are fought without these advantages.
- In Armored Core, the advent of powerful mecha - particularly the NEXTs in the 4/For Answer continuity, have rendered close combat using Laser Blades an extremely effective strategy, since such mecha are both very fast and extremely resistant to gunfire. Thus, a Sword Fight between thirty-foot-high mecha moving at more than the speed of sound is not an uncommon sight on future battlefields, as a single strike from some of the more powerful Laser Blades can be a One-Hit Kill.
- In the Big Head Press comic Phoebus Krumm, "S-fields" enable FTL travel but disable all electronics within the field, making space warfare essentially age of sail naval combat.
- In the future of S.S.D.D advances in anti-air defense had made air and missile strikes nearly impossible, and fullerene armor made ordinary guns obsolete. Which meant most battles were fought on the ground, by men in suits armor hitting one another with hammers. "Oh, how far we have come." One of the major story arcs involves a war that ends when one side uses a Kill Sat to knock out their opponent's AA and launching a bunch of museum piece ICBMs.
- The aircraft carrier example given in the description is speculated by some military theorists to be on its way to becoming Truth in Television sometime in the 21st century, due to the increasing efficacy of anti-ship missiles. Given that these same missiles can also sink other large boats, the consequence of this would be that the future of naval warfare in this environment would resemble a mix of the mid-late 19th century (before the dreadnought race), with every surface vessel larger than a cruiser (the smallest warship that can operate independently in the open ocean) rendered obsolete, and the early 20th century, specifically the submarine warfare employed by Germany in the two World Wars. Such predictions take on an especially ominous tone for the United States, whose unmatched navy is built entirely around the power of its carrier task forces; the other boats in the fleet are all there to protect the carriers.
- Albert Einstein — 'I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.'