The DSS-02 shield generator was a critical part of the defensive system of Hoth's rebel base.

However, this shield generator was built outside, in the open:

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Why did the rebels built it outside? I can think of multiple drawbacks to this:

  • It stands out like a sore thumb, making it very easy for imperials to be suspicious of what's going on on this planet, since it is supposed to be uninhabited (and this is a shield generator, not a small house, making it even more suspicious)
  • It is harder to defend (as shown in the battle of Hoth) than something buried underground.
  • It is supposedly harder to maintain because of Hoth's climate. Rebels could live and work fairly effectively inside caves, which is a sign that having this generator buried would make it much easier to work on it.

Therefore, i don't understand why they would not build this generator underground (especially since it seems like Hoth contains a significant number of caves). Here are some possible reasons that I don't find that convincing:

  • It is too difficult to built such a thing underground because of its size
  • It was faster to build it overground

Out-of-universe, it obviously makes more sense to have it not underground, so that the AT-ATs have a goal that the audience can see. I am looking for in-universe reasons.

  • 1
    Why don't you find those reasons (too difficult, not fast enough) convincing? Both were the first things I thought of. For all we know they planned on burying them eventually but wanted some protection in the meantime before the project could be completed. Commented May 26, 2016 at 7:31
  • Hmmmm despite the one answer I'm wondering if it can be that shields CANT operate from underground? I mean every instance we see shield generators (aside from teh AT ATs shields) they are out in the open. Even the star destroyers are severly exposed.
    – Thomas
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 12:33

1 Answer 1


I got this Legends answer from a related question.

In the Timophy Zahn novel, Choices of One, there was this scene that took place between Grand Admiral Thrawn and Darth Vader:

Thrawn lowered the datapad. “Here’s what they took, in order of loading. Cold-weather equipment and cold-weather modification kits. Critical replacement parts for a SURO-10 power generator, a KDY DSS-02 shield generator, and some Atgar P-tower laser cannon. They probably also have at least one Golan Arms DF.9 anti-infantry cannon, along with several combat-modified T-47 airspeeders and the equipment to modify more.” He paused expectantly.

For a long moment Vader just stood there, facing Thrawn, his stance giving no clue as to what was going on inside that black armor. Car’das felt himself tensing …

“A cold world,” Vader said, his voice almost shocking in its quiet calmness. Not angry, not simmering, but merely thoughtful. “Uninhabited, or nearly so. No useful resources.”

Thrawn inclined his head. “I agree, my lord,” he said.

“Wait a minute,” Ferrouz said, sounding confused. “I understand the cold part. But how do you know it’s uninhabited.”

The SURO and DSS-02 are designed to operate in the open,” Vader said, his faceplate still turned to Thrawn. “On a cold world, with no cover available, they would quickly be spotted anywhere except on an uninhabited world. And any world with appreciable resources would hardly remain uninhabited.”

So that tells us both the power and shield generators were designed to operate in the open. Above ground. But that answer is just to make things work out in the Empire Strikes Back. It's not an explanation for why the generators are above ground.

I am not sure why the power generator can't be underground, but we can speculate it would melt the ice. As for the shield generator, maybe it can't project a shield through rock and ice.

  • I'd add that it's easy to reason out an explanation for the power generator: just like in the real world and most story universes, it generates a lot of waste heat. That heat needs to be dissipated to prevent a meltdown/overload. imo, the SURO probably has properties desirable to a rebellion - cheap and easy to maintain. That could mean that its heat dissipation systems aren't as good as a design trade-off, thus requiring the structure to be exposed to open air - something the Rebellion can accept when intending to use it on a frozen world. Don't forget that nobody likes living near one too. Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 20:15
  • As for the DSS-02, I guess similar reasons as what I suggested for the SURO would apply when compared to other possible shield generator models (like Gungan fambaas /sarcasm). However, I would add that shields appear to be maintained only for as long as the generator is able to project an unbroken beam of plasma towards the shield. Observe how the Gungan shields in Ep I fall when the fambaas died - the modern, mechanical versions use in the Clone Wars & Galactic Civil War work the same way too. Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 20:26

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