Phase Shift Armor
We all know that mecha series are rife with various amounts of technobabble, and Gundam Seed is no exception, so in today’s class we will be focusing on Phase Shift Armor. Whether it’s gundarium, gundanium, or something else entirely, the gundams always have something that makes them the nearly indestructible monstrosities we know and love. In the case of Gundam Seed, phase shift armor fills the role of giving the gundams their highly resilient nature. So just what is phase shift armor?
In Universe phase shift armor is described as an electrical system that, when activated dramatically increases the protective ability of the suits armor. The system activates with a hiss causing the armor to change color, and it is in this state that it has the increased defensive capabilities. The system is able to completely defend against kinetic energy weapons while active. The system is not without weaknesses as the phase shift on the Strike gundam can only take 76 physical attacks (shells and missiles) before the battery runs out. Phase shift armor is also weak to energy attacks like beam cannons, and beam sabers.
Given the lack of information given and fantastical nature of phase shift abilities, you might say that its completely impossible technobabble. Turns out that’s not entirely true.
In the real world there are three important attributes when looking at fighting vehicles; armor, mobility, and firepower. Now this usually means adding more armor, and/or bigger guns, which impairs the mobility of the tank or other fighting vehicle. In an effort to reduce the weight and improve the defensive abilities of tanks, one such technology is reactive armor. As its name implies reactive armor reacts to the incoming shell destroying it or reducing its impact.
To further explain how this system functions, one must understand how modern anti-tank weapons work. There are two ways to penetrate the armor of a tank and destroy it. One is to use an extremely dense object moving at a high velocity that can push through the thick armor of the tank.
The second method is to use something called HEAT or high explosive anti-tank. In this system a specially shaped explosive charge is used to initiate the system. After the charge is detonated, it heats and compresses a sheet of copper into a focused stream of liquid copper. This high temperature, high velocity stream of copper essentially burns through the armor destroying the tank.
As previously stated, reactive armor systems are systems that react to anti-tank weapons before they strike the main body of the tank. Originally reactive armor systems were blocks of explosives placed between two metal plates. When the round hits the block it explodes disrupting the attack. In the case of a kinetic penetrator the metal plates damage and deflect the shell reducing the impact. As for HEAT rounds the explosion disrupts the copper stream created by the round, effectively destroying it.
Electrical reactive armor
A new version of reactive armor is currently in development that uses electricity instead of explosives to disrupt anti-tank shells. The two plate system from standard reactive armor is retained but instead of explosives, the space is filled with air or an insulating material. This creates a capacitor which can store electrical energy. When a HEAT round penetrates the armor it connects the two charged plates, discharging the stored electricity. The electrical discharge disrupts the stream of liquid copper, rendering it ineffective.
As the system is still in development it, is unknown at this time just how effective this particular system is or even if it will work against a kinetic energy penetrator which would not be affected by electrical currents. It is currently being researched by the British as a way to reduce the weight of their tanks while retaining defensive capabilities.
As a result of this potential deficiency against kinetic penetrators a second system is being developed using magnetic plates. In this system when the plates are penetrated the electrical current causes the plates to become rapidly attracted to each other. This rapid compression would damage and deflect the kinetic energy penetrator. The plates would also serve to disrupt a kinetic energy penetrator.
Electro reactive paint
The final piece of the puzzle when looking at phase shift is the color change that happens when the armor is activated. Given what we know about the mobile suits in Gundam seed and reactive armor, the outermost layer of the suit is metal. Now metal doesn’t normally change color when electricity is passed through it, so how do the gundams change color? The color change must be due to a coating on the metal. There are currently electrically reactive paints that change color when an electrical current is passed through them.
The real issue would be what would be the value of painting a war machine with this kind of paint. I’m no military expert, but the only reason I can think would be to check the system for damage. If an area doesn’t change color, then it would be fairly obvious that a section of armor was not functioning properly.
A phase shift is the change in the wave form of a wave due to outside factors, such as another wave.
This type of shift is not limited to sound waves or other physical waves, and can also occur in electrical systems. Now my knowledge of electrical engineering is limited so I will keep things simple, and please correct me if I am wrong. If the resistance or voltage changes, it can cause a change in circuits using alternating current. Specifically, capacitors can cause these changes when they discharge. Thus while it might seem fanciful calling the system phase shift armor, it does make a certain bit of sense, seeing as it will cause changes in the electrical current running through the armor when used.
Despite the advances being made on the electrical reactive armor, and the ability of paint to change color in response to electrical currents, we still need to call Phase shift armor as depicted in Gundam Seed Busted.
As depicted phase shift armor does not take any damage to physical attacks while activated. This does not match with the proposed system in which the outer layer would be damaged while the inner layer would be unharmed. Additionally, the area that was damaged would lose protection so a second shot to the now unprotected area could fatally damage the vehicle. This is something that does not occur in Gundam Seed as the Strike is fired at by all angles and remains undamaged. The only damage to the phase shift protected mobile suits comes from beam weapons. There is very little information given about how the beam weapons work, and beam weapons are still in the developmental stages in the real world. Thus I am unable to speculate about how directed energy weapons would work against an electrical reactive armor system.