We Will Wear Armor in the Future
aka: We Will Wear Armour In The Future
In many science-fiction works most if not all soldiers and or police (especially Space Marines
) wear roughly as much plating as a medieval knight, though often Powered Armor
or made of composite materials. Oftentimes this armor is portrayed as being completely useless
, though sometimes it's stated
that the armor is completely bulletproof, it's just that they're using lasers
- or the other way around
Might be justified in that (though most militaries prefer mobility over protection) the armour provides very
reliable protection against the weapons the soldiers are up against (like plate armor at its advent in the medieval times, with the armour making its wearer very hard to injure; once more ways to bypass it arose, to be fully armored fell out of fashion). Or if the armor is supposed to double as a space suit (which are already bulky and cumbersome).
As an aside, personal armor technology has improved dramatically in the last fifty years, whilst the average infantry rifle has actually become less
powerful (cartridge sizes have decreased for the sake of accuracy, ergonomics, ammo capacity, and automatic fire
capability). For this reason, this trope is increasingly looking like Truth in Television
open/close all folders
- Lampshaded in Red Fire, Red Planet. Norigom, the IKS mupwi's Nausicaan operations officer, is described as "clanking" his way onto the bridge, and his captain, Brokosh, has no idea why he goes everywhere in corroded durasteel armor.
- Star Wars - The infamous stormtroopers and their predecessors the clone troopers, which may well have been the Trope Codifier, if not Maker. Also the Mandalorians (i.e. Boba and Jango Fett).
- Stormtrooper armor blocks radiation, chemical and biological weapons, stun bolts, and most (non-energy) melee attacks, as well as providing general life support and environmental protection. Too bad (for the stormtroopers) that the rebels just use simple blasters. But, other sources say that while it might be penetrated by a direct blaster bolt, it would at least significantly reduce damage from the absorbed bolt, so the constantly close-ranges of combat in the movies is why the armour seems useless.
- This is illustrated in the first battle scene in the entire series. Armored stormtroopers vs. unarmored rebel bodyguards—if a blaster bolt hits anywhere near one of the rebels, they go down, while only direct hits to storm troopers do any damage. Also, you see some stormtroopers helping up their wounded after—while none of the rebel troops seem to be even moving.
- Additionally, Mandalorian armour appears to be far tougher than the Stormtroopers' standard-issue panoply, given the number of blast-marks that Boba Fett's suit bears (including one on the codpiece). This is, perhaps, only fitting, as the design that would go on to become Fett was initially intended to represent a type of elite Stormtrooper, rather than the individualised Bounty Hunter it would come to be.
- Starship Troopers - Making the fact that they left out the book's power armor even more obvious. The armor props were sold to a lot of other productions, like Power Rangers Lost Galaxy and Firefly.
- The colonial marines in Aliens have fairly realistic armour. Hicks even survives being sprayed with an alien's acidic blood thanks to his armor. Given the damage his breastplate sustained, he'd have died in pretty short order if he were unprotected.
- The Fifth Element: The cops wear so much armor that they look like mobile metal bon-bons with the word "Police" stenciled on them. Ditto for the Mondoshawan, assuming the mechanical-looking structures that covered them actually were armor, and not just environmental suits or their actual bodies.
- The Lensman universe goes in very heavily for space battle armour, and it frequently incorporates a defence shield. The effect this has on combat is to force a reversion to axes, because first-class battle armour protects against hand-held beam and projectile weapons, although not against heavier semi-portable and fixed-mount systems. When you have to go up against those, the armour is powered because it's acknowledged to be too heavy for the wearers to move unassisted.
- This appears in several sci-fi novels and series written by David Weber including:
- Honor Harrington, with various characters employing Powered Armor, "claim shell" style conventional armor, and an armored variant of the standard skin-tight sci-fi Latex Space Suits, designed to provide some protection in the hazards of space combat.
- The Starfire novels (co-written with Steve White).
- The March series features Powered Armor, but beyond that there's little armor used by the troops, as the deadliness of personnel weaponry makes the weight penalty of non-powered armor too costly.
- The Empire from the Ashes series.
- In Fury Born
- As mentioned above, the book version of Starship Troopers features not just 1, but 3 different variants of its powered armor, built for scouting, fighting, and being in charge.
- Babylon 5: Averted; Earth security forces wear flexible, sleeveless flak-vests designed to deflect energy and plasma-based weapons. There are a few variants of this, including the goofy-looking and never-seen-again full jacket style from the pilot.
- Farscape: The Peacekeepers use an also-space-suit variant.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation, in the first episode when Picard is put on trial by Q for the crimes of humanity there were some 21st century soldiers in heavy, solid body armor.
- Given that World War III was generally acknowledged to be partly nuclear in nature, these may be radiation suits of sorts. They definitely included built-in drug-dispensors (to keep the soldier angry, trigger happy, and following orders instead of thinking for himself or showing mercy)
- In the times periods the show are actually set, however, no one ever wears more armor than a shirt. Well, humans don't; Cardassian uniforms include rigid plates and some Klingon outfits have armor on them, fitting given their preference for melee combat.
- Not an actual example, but probably why the guys in The Big Bang Theory wear an excessive amount of plastic while playing paintball. That and getting hit with a paintball hurts.
- On Firefly, the "Purple-Bellies" (as Alliance soldiers are called) get their name from the black and purple armor they wear (which seems to minimize the damage done by projectile weapons at least), while the "Brown Coats" had to make due with leather dusters and the occasional metal helmet. Guess who won the war?
- Zoe often wears a bulletproof vest under her shirt.
- The Jaffa in Stargate SG-1 wear suits of chainmail that are basically useless against any common weapons in the series, plus a slightly more resistant breastplate. The SGC tends to wear flak vests that don't work any better against energy weapons. In fact, one episode shows us the effects of staff weapons on and armored vest... the armor actually amplifies the heat, and it took them years to develop staff blast resistant armor inserts.
- Most of the Warhammer 40,000 armies give their troops some sort of armor, though the Imperial Guard's flak armor is commonly nicknamed "cardboard vests" or "t-shirts" due to its ineffectiveness.
- The Imperial Guard's uniforms make seem they're just wearing armour over top clothing like normal modern soldiers, but actually, their entire uniforms are flak armour as well.
- Or in the case of the Catachan Jungle Fighters, just t-shirts over massive muscles. Which function just as well as the armour worn by other guard troops.
- The Deathcorps of Krieg also makes it a point to not wear any more armour than some shoulder pads and a not unintentionally german looking helmet. And they are Shock Troopers. In all fairness, their coats are heavy duty chemical suits, they wear a gasmask all the time and drink water filled with super-steroids, so who needs armour.
- "Carapace armour" is a significantly more effective form of armour worn by many of the Imperial Guard's elite troops, such as Stormtroopers.
- Bonus points for the Space Marines (who are in such extensively large and closed armor such that many inexperienced with the franchise may mistake them for robots) actually referring to their Power Armor as plate mail.
- The Eldar run about in form-fitting mesh armor, sometimes with the addition of molded composite plating, the Tau generally have pretty heavy battle armor, and the Tyranids have a variety of exoskeletal structures. Dark Eldar wear lightweight armour with Spikes of Villainy, except Wyches, who wear as little armour as possible as a point of pride, and rely instead on their athleticism to avoid being hit. Tau Ethereals are also known for going into battles with ceremonial robes, although the ones who make up Aun'va's bodyguard wear some light armour.
- In GURPS the trend away from armor that started in TL 4 (1450 to 1730) starts to reverse in TL 7 (1940 to 1980) with the discovery of lightweight, bullet-resistant synthetics such as kevlar. In some TL 10+ (2075 and beyond) campaigns armor is vital, while in others weapons are so devastating that dodging or shooting first is far more important. For example, disintegrator technology makes armor irrelevant because they do enormous damage and bypass most armor completely while FTL laser technology makes it so that soldiers always need to be in armor because shots can hit with deadly accuracy from tremendous range.
- Due to the general lethality of combat in Traveller armour is all but required to survive more than a couple shots. Besides Battle Dress available armours range from practically useless leather to Combat armour that requires a laser or gauss rifle to really penetrate, there's also reflec that only defends against lasers and can be added to other types of armour. However most armour tend to be a higher tech level and much more expensive than the weapons that can pierce it.
- Armor is almost literally an art form in Rifts, with all sorts of styles in nearly every book. Given that your average laser pistol can core a modern Main Battle Tank in less than half a clip, this is necessary.
- Averted for the most part in BattleTech. Infantry generally wears fatigues with flak jackets and (somewhat bulky) helmets. Space Marines wear Latex Space Suits to give them added agility in zero-g operations. On the other hand, full suits of BattleArmor are more commonly used in place of infantry, because even the emplaced weaponry used by infantry can do little against BattleMech or combat vehicle armor.
- Starting with Tiberian Sun soldiers in Command & Conquer, particularly GDI, have worn plating and helmets, culminating in GDI's infantry all wearing powered armor by Tiberium Twilight. Given that they're living in an increasingly-Crapsack World that is getting more and more toxic to humans, the armor is justified, given that it also contains life support systems, and protection from tiberium exposure.
- The Galactic Federation troopers in Metroid wear powered armor, though it is less advanced than the suit worn by Samus herself.
- The UNSC Marines and Army Troopers in the Halo series tend to wear more plating than their modern counterparts, especially the ODSTs. But it is not powered like the Spartans' MJOLNIR armor. The trope has gotten more pronounced as the series progressed: in the first game the crew was evacuating from the Fall of Reach, so many marines are wearing simple fatigues, and even the armored ones wear a relatively modest set of helmet, breastplate, and greaves. The armor set gets noticeably bulkier in Halo 3 and Halo: Reach.
- Lots of armor in Mass Effect, which also functions as a spacesuit when necessary. This is probably because mass accelerator technology has made small arms even more lethal without armour. Not so much in Mass Effect 2, however, where most of your teammates do not, in fact, wear armour.note Interestingly, several of the villains do.
- In the Fallout series, being set in a Schizo Tech Alternate Universe, armour was very popular both before and after the war, amongst individuals, companies, armies and police forces alike. Its effectiveness greatly depends on how improvised it is—you may not even feel a difference shooting the fellow in the boiled leather and shooting his unarmored buddy, but a good suit of power armor (which only the best equipped factions have access to) can make one near immune or at least highly resistant to most every day wasteland threats, including radiation.
- The Gears wear armour so ridiculously bulky it's a wonder they can move their arms, but they're still just too badass to wear helmets. Well, the protagonists don't. And the Carmines. It is revealed in the third game that most of that bulk wasn't armor, they are just that large and muscular (Marcus's biceps are two third's the width of Anya's torso).
- The armor worn by Terran Marines in StarCraft is likewise bulky, but does come with a helmet. Hilariously, the armor provides no in-game benefit as Marines have no armor value until you research upgrades. However, the armor does give marines 55 health compared to the 10 health of an unarmored human.
- Averted in the Killzone series, while massive suits of powered armour do exist (their users referred to as heavies) said armour is bulky, interferes with peripheral vision and slows the wearer down considerably, as a result they aren't seen in use much, everyone makes do with rather contemporary looking body armour
- Half-Life 2 is an aversion of this trope, as the Combine soldiers are equipped with kevlar-like soft armor that resembles modern riot gear, in contrast to the standard Sci-Fi plate armor with Shoulders of Doom that most FPS soldier enemies tend to wear. Played straight, however, with Gordon Freeman's iconic HEV Suit (which appears to incorporate maille into its construction, interestingly enough).
- The marines in Doom 3 and Quake IV wear a cuirass of hard armor plates.
- Section 8 takes this to the extreme, with every single soldier down to the lowest Mook being equipped with a SPARTAN-II-level suit of Powered Armor that'a designed for dropping onto a planet from orbit, is built to withstand full-auto gauss rifle rounds, runs as fast as a speeding car, and (later on) is equipped with a jetpack.
- The enemy soldiers in Time Shift wear close to a full suit of composite plates, and even the lower-ranking cop enemies wear a single big metal plate strapped to their chest.
- The Korean Army soldiers in the alternate history game Homefront all wear bulky armor that wouldn't look out of place on a bomb suit. Amusingly, they still can't take as many bullets as the crazed t-shirt wearing survivalists fought later in the game.
- PlanetSide 2's New Conglomerate troopers wear large amounts of heavy-duty, box-shaped composite armor on top of civilian clothes (tan jeans and a sweatshirt). Terran Republic Heavy Assaults wear a huge breastplate, large pauldrons, and heavy boots on top of military fatigues, though their other classes wear lightweight armor and shoulder/knee pads. Averted by the Vanu Sovereignty, who rely on Future Spandex augmented with relatively small pieces of armor. Ironically, the New Conglomerate MAX armor is the most unarmored, with the suit obviously being a re-purposed mining exoskeleton, standing stark contrast to the purpose-built MAXes used by the other factions; the very intimidating Terran Republic MAX and elegant Vanu Sovereignty MAX.
- In S.S.D.D it's stated that buckminster fullerene armor made conventional firearms obsolete. However, the various weapons designed to counter it all have their own disadvantages (slow firing, cumbersome, expensive, tends to explode, etc).
- In Schlock Mercenary the Toughs begin using armor fairly early on. The low-profile powered suits they eventually settle on look a lot like cloth uniforms, but definitely function as armor. And Armor Is Useless is usually averted (when it's not, bloody dismemberment usually ensues.) They first realize they need armor after facing a squad of commandos wearing armor good against small arms, so they buy bulky powered armor that is destroyed a couple missions later. Since that armor restricted movement so much (their martial arts instructor said he'd rather fight naked) they exchanged it for low-profile suits that look exactly like regular uniforms (and are used as such), but are still powered and can stop a tank round. Now they also have heavier suits for use in boarding actions. The low profile armor, along with the obvious benefits of protection, also have neat features like being able to sustain the wearer in space for short time periods, and inertic flight.
- The Future Badass episode of Gargoyles, "Future Tense", has all the heroes pimped out in varying degrees of future armor.
- Dark Warrior Duck wears something like this on his patrols in a Bad Future ('Time and Punishment'). He also designed a set for Gosalyn. The tradeoff between protection and mobility is highlighted by her response to going out on patrol in it: "Dad, I can't move."
- This trope already happened with World War I. For the previous centuries armies had been using less and less Armor as gunpowder warfare made it hilariously obsolete, especially in line warfare of most European battles. After WW1 had devolved into trench warfare, the number of soldiers suffering from head wounds, especially from high explosive or shrapnel artillery rounds, increased dramatically. Light weight steel helmets were developed as a response and were quickly adopted by all combatants with the industrial capacity to manufacture them.
- Additional attempts at armor were attempted, many resembling medieval predecessors, but the power of infantry weapons rendered most of these experiments of limited value or of such weight as to be impractical.
- The unlucky soldiers assigned to try and cut a hole in barbed wire were equipped with bulky plate armours to offer some protection against machine gun fire (the most notable being the American Brewster Body Shield, the old cuirass that gave the name to the cuirassiers armoured cavalry, and a French suit commissioned by general Adrian,◊ designer of the French helmet). Between the distance between the machine gun and the barbed wire and the fact the plates were thick they did offer decent protection (as seen here◊ with the cuirass), but they protected only face and torso, and machine gun crews learned quickly to just shoot the legs.
- The trope was also largely subverted in WW2 with the exception of specialized Soviet urban warfare units that were equipped with "light" steel cuirasses designed to protect against lower power pistol rounds and grenade fragments.
- The trope became Truth in Television when "futuristic" materials that had a chance of stopping high velocity projectiles were developed in the post war period. These materials included high strength aluminum, ballistic nylon, fiberglass composites (aka Duron), Kevlar and boron carbide ceramics. Widely deployed starting in the Korean war, the new materials were light enough to be worn as a matter of course, but also strong enough to protect against a wide variety of threats. Korean and Vietnam era armour could stop pistol caliber rounds and shell fragments at point black range. Today military grade armour can allow soldiers to shrug off hits from assault rifles. Further advances in material science will make soldier-armour even more effective and therefore, more widely deployed.
- Bomb Disposal units wear full body suits that protects them should the bomb their dealing with explode unexpectedly.