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Technical Details

  • Defensive technology used to prevent vessel impacts
    • Used in both navigational and combat applications
  • Fundamentally based in projection of a highly concentrated burst of gravitons often intermixed with photons or other exotic particles to hold in place, forming a barrier which deflects unwanted energy and matter
  • Two basic manifestations of deflector technology
    • Beams
      • Projected from emitter arrays most often along direction of travel, usually from a dish structure to minimize attenuation, in order to clear path of interstellar medium or small obstacles (Various)
        • When travelling at warp, coupled with modification of leading warp field configuration to also handle blue-shifted radiation, account for inability of deflector beam to pass beyond leading edge of field into normal space (due to FTL considerations) (TOS Novel: Ex Machina)
          • Deflector beams configured to redshift incoming light into low-energy radio wavelengths (TOS Novel: Ex Machina)
    • Shields
      • Projected from matrix of emitter array across surface of the vessel at a particular regular frequency, forming a deflector envelope (ENT: "Babel One"; VOY: "Dark Frontier", "Collective", "Body and Soul"; DS9 Novel: Mission Gamma: This Gray Spirit)
        • Timing shields at a specific frequency allows other emissions (weapons, sensors, etc.) to be transmitted through without requiring windows opened in defenses
          • Frequency can't be easily detected by outside scans due to high energy fields distorting sensor results
            • Presumptive given the fact that frequency ought to be easily determinable through inspection
        • External emissions still largely blocked if not projected at the same frequency, caught before passing through the brief gap in defense; however, able to pass through fully if tuned to the same frequency
      • Prior to 24th century developments, most often manifested as hull-tight fields
        • Less energy-intensive, but less flexibility in geometry, less applicability in non-combat scenarios
      • In 24th century, most often manifested as an elliptical bubble around the vessel
        • Requires greater energy investment (though this is compensated for to a degree by improvements in emitter efficiency), but configuration of the shield bubble can be modified to vary effective vessel geometry or extended encompass objects or other vessels (at the cost of greater attenuation)
          • Bubble-style shield envelopes can be extended to encompass other vessels, but at expense of shield strength, following an inverse-square relationship to shield radius (ENT Novel: To Brave the Storm)
      • Brief period during 2270s when former (shields) and latter (forcefields) used simultaneously (Star Trek: The Motion Picture; TOS Novel: Ex Machina)
      • Shields function as energy capacitors, cycling from emitter to projected field and back to emitter with little loss (mechanism unknown, but likely subspace-physics-related given that early Earth ships had deflectors but no shields)
        • Shields cannot be run continuously without cycling down indefinitely due to not being perfectly efficient, however; they do cause a drain on systems given enough time (TNG Novel: The Buried Age)
        • Contact with external forces consumes cycled energy to maintain the artificial barrier, often visibly, potentially overloading or burning out a given emitter over time as it attempts to compensate for the loss (SCE Short Story: "The Riddled Post")
          • Otherwise little to no damage usually inflicted from deflected attack
          • Shield generators attempt to replenish consumed energy to maintain full protection, but can also overload if strained (VAN Novel: Harbinger)
          • Energy consumed can be extremely minimal if shields are properly tuned against the threat or the threat is sufficiently weak ("no damage" or "shields holding" reports)
        • Gravitational interactions allow for reducing impact of gravimetric distortion (MA Short Story: "Things Fall Apart")
        • Deflectors even able to deflect lasers, though visible light seems to mostly pass through unaffected otherwise
          • Likely functions similarly to deflector beam capability of redshifting incoming light?
        • If not overloaded or damaged, 24th century Federation deflector emitters can recharge from drained to full strength following a 45 second recharge cycle while inactive (VOY: "Equinox")
          • Three-minute cycle as of 2270s (TOS Novel: Ex Machina)
          • Contradicts, supercedes "The Riddled Post", which states that a deactivated shield maintains its level of strength
        • Inappropriately-configured deflector shield emitters can cause distortion of other graviton beam emissions such as tractor beams through lensing effects (ENT Novel: A Choice of Futures)
      • Shield technology fundamentally similar to but distinct from forcefield technology
    • Deflector emitters extremely flexible, can be modified and/or re-engineered for a wide variety of energy or particle projections (many many times deflector dish or shields do something related to neither)
      • Starfleet vessels without devoted deflector dish system utilize specially-configured shield emitters coupled with tractor beam system to provide navigational deflection (TOS Novel: The Captain's Oath)

Related Devices

Metaphasic shields

  • Technology developed 2369 by Dr. Reyga (TNG: "Suspicions")
  • Manipulates subspace distortion while incorporating metaphasic field in order to better deflect extreme levels of radiation and energy, in exchange for lower defensive capability against traditional attacks (TNG: "Suspicions", "Descent, Part II")
    • Presumptive explanation for why it isn't engaged all the time, supported somewhat by Nog's shield program mentioned in Demons of Air and Darkness
  • After testbed demonstration on starship scale by USS Enterprise December 2369, metaphasic protocols integrated into shielding systems of all classes of Starfleet vessel capable of supporting them, including Intrepid class (TNG: "Descent, Part II"; VOY Novel: Mosaic)