The effect of the joint shield matrix can be summarized as follows:
- While within range, the Communications officer can enable the shield matrix module to automatically join a nearby shield matrix when the ship’s own shields are raised. (Lowered shields cannot be part of a matrix.)
- While in the matrix, the joined ship’s current shield values are added up and re-distributed across all ships.
- Maximum shield capacity is increased overall, reaching a value of (number of joined ships) * (highest shield capacity from among joined ships).
During the simulated test, we have observed the following behaviors:
- When joining a shield matrix, a ship will observe its current shield percentage drop. This is a result of the total shield capacity increasing, while the current shield value across all ships remains the same. To achieve an overall higher shield value, the shield needs to be charged after joining.
- Shield damage taken by any ship is re-distributed across all shields. The overall amount of damage stays the same. Notably, this means that if the shields do go down, this will happen to all ships simultaneously, which could lead to precarious situations.
- While the matrix is active, the shield systems are accumulating heat at all times (even when powered nominally). This needs to be taken into consideration when using this technology. Our engineering officer noted that this would have been really nice to know in advance.
- The matrix currently has a range of 4k; ships need to be within that range to use the joint shield matrix. However, it is sufficient to be within range of one other ship of the group. Ships forming a line can still form a joint shield matrix as long as any neighboring ships stay within 4k.
- R&D has clarified that while shield capacity is shared between ships at all times, the effective damage absorption of each shield is still separate, i.e. shield damage reduction due to over-powering is still only effective locally. In practical terms, this means only the ships that are being fired upon should “brace” their shields; if other ships do it it has no effect on the shield damage taken.
- R&D has also explained that having the matrix active while docked, effectively recharging the entire group’s shield quickly, is not possible in real life. We could only do it in the test due to a simulation bug.
The following strategic considerations should be made:
- The joint shield matrix has the biggest theoretical benefit in situations where some ships are directly engaging enemies while others remain out of engagement range (e.g. Kappa).
- Even when all ships are at engagement range, the matrix can provide a benefit since, if properly charged, the total shield value across all ships is higher than it would be without the matrix.
- The heat generated by the shield matrix makes it more difficult to sustain “braced” shields. Joint shield operations should probably remain brief for that reason.
- Losing the joint shield altogether while still engaged should be avoided, since all ships would be left vulnerable at once.
- The activation of the joint shield matrix is probably a bit too complex to make it useful in emergency situations (such as protecting a tractored ship).
- Since lowering the shield removes it from the matrix, it is a good quick way to cool down the system if needed, but it comes at the cost of losing any “surplus” shield that was previously gained.
- To get the full benefit of the shield matrix, some time should be taken to fully charge the joint shield after activation.
For the next steps, we offer the following comments:
- The Fleet Captain has noted that a range of 8k (close proximity) would be much more useful for the shield matrix, since our combat formations operate in that range.
- During the simulation, the shield matrix enabled us to jointly beam down a Ximni battleship before losing shields. Officers have noted that they’d like to try this against a dreadnought.
- More data on the amount of heat generation incurred by the shield matrix and how long overpowered shields can be sustained is required for tactical considerations. Notably, for the shield matrix to be useful, it should be possible to keep the shield systems at stable heat conditions (using coolant) when they are nominally powered.
- It is still unclear whether the shield matrix provides a significant advantage over the existing Charlie/Focus Fire tactic. Further tests might be useful, including also tests with other combat formations.
- In Charlie formation, if the lead ship has tango and the other ships stay behind/out of enemy beam arcs, the lead ship could benefit from the joint shield matrix.
- In Kappa formation, all ships that focus on drone defense could lend their shields to the lead ship
- When facing enemies with strong beams and AntiTorp, the shield matrix could provide us the slight edge we need: overall shield value is increased, and we can give all the shields to the ship with the strongest beams to maximize damage output per damage taken.
In summary, more experiments should be performed to figure out if/how this technology can be effectively used. Some improvements on the technology itself would also not be amiss.