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Weapons of Star Trek

From Academic Kids

The Star Trek fictional universe contains a very large number of weapons.

(Disclaimer: the remainder of this article is treknobabble in its purest form and should not be construed in any way, shape, or form, to reflect reality in any sense. These are fictitious descriptions of fictitious weapons using fictitious science. This is even (mostly) true for descriptions of weapons like lasers and fusion devices.)

Contents

Energy weapons

Phasers

Phasers are the quintessential Star Trek beam weapon, first seen in the original series. The term is commonly held to be derived from "PHASed Energy Rectification", but this is almost positively a backronym. Phasers are particle weapons (ref. Star Trek: First Contact), albeit of non-conventional properties. From "Wink of an Eye" we know that phaser beams do not travel at the speed of light, but significantly slower. Phaser beam speed has been shown in many previous episodes as being sub-c, but this episode made it explicit. Phasers have noticeable recoil (hand phasers tend to pitch up and to the outside when fired), suggesting that the particles they fire have non-trivial mass. Furthermore, objects hit by even a stun-level phaser beam acquire impulse in the opposite direction (ref. "TNG" episode First Contact), further indicating that the phased particles have a relatively large mass.

Starship phasers

The ship-board phaser is known to have existed at least ten years before the time of the original series. The original variety of ship-mounted phaser was known as the phaser bank, which fired from a single point on a ship's exterior and required a short period to recharge between discharges. This was eventually replaced in the 24th century with the phaser array or strip, a long, shallow device imbedded within a ship's hull. This was composed of short sections, each of which contained facilities for receiving, adding to, passing on, and firing a phaser charge. The phaser strip functioned by having its two end segments each create a phaser charge; these were passed along the sections, each adding to one of the charges, until they met at the center segment, which aimed and fired the combined charge. The firing segment could be changed by instructing the sections receiving one of the charges to operate more slowly than the others. A third, less common variety, seen on such ships as the type-one Miranda class and the Defiant class, is the pulse phaser cannon. This device is a phaser bank which features a length of focusing coils, which slow the front of a beam and form the charge into a layered sphere before it leaves the cannon. A light phaser array or phaser bank, such as those seen on a Saber class starship, can be powered by a 4.2 gigawatt generator, whereas larger phaser emplacements accept correspondingly greater energy flow.

In the early starfleet period, in the mid-twenty second century, phase cannons were the standard particle beam weaponry on the NX- class of earth starship. Unlike the later phasers of the 23rd and 24th centuries, this class of weaponry was emitted from interior- contained phaser cannon ports, which when initialised extend from their dock in a vessel and have a variable targetting rotation, depending on the vessels course. These phase cannons are significantly less powerful than the phaser banks and phaser arrays of later starships, with a much smaller firing range.

Large phasers are categorized by power into numbered varieties, with higher numbers using greater power. The most common varieties of ship-mounted phaser in Starfleet in the 2360s and '70s era were type-nines and type-tens.

Shipborne phasers have been seen set to stun, just like their handheld cousins making them useful for crowd control with a minimum of physical harm to the target.

Based on how phasers were used in TOS as the main attack weapon, and on how they are arranged in large contiguous arrays in TNG, the idea behind it is as a way for a ship to channel the considerable energy of its power core into a concentrated beam attack. Dialogue in TOS implies the phasers required considerable power to charge, and could even funnel all of the ships power.

Phaser sidearms

Originally the writers intended to use lasers as the common hand weapon of the Star Trek universe, as seen in the very first episode The Cage. However, after consulting with the technical advisors, and realizing that lasers cannot be set on stun, the weapons were upgraded to more modern phasers, with more flexible properties and abilities.

Hand phasers were first seen in the episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before", from the original series. They have a variety of numbered settings, from one, a beam designed to temporarily impair humanoid central nervous systems with a slight temperature increase, to five, which causes third-degree burns in most humanoids, to seven, which does not vaporize matter but is powerful enough to be lethal to eight through ten, which vaporize matter, to eleven through sixteen, which have explosive effects. Phasers can also be configured for various intensities, controlling the angle of the beam's expansion.

In the original series, the basic hand phaser (Type I) was a small rectangular box that fits into the palm of the hand. These can be clipped into a pistol-like unit (the Type II) for increased power and battery life. In the mid-late 24th century, the Type I was a flat, small unit cupped in the hand. The Type II is a larger, more powerful weapon that featured a handle at an obtuse angle with the firing axis (the series' producers called it the 'Dustbuster'). The 24th century Types I and II were separate devices and could not be combined. Neither weapon was particularly well-designed for firing and the former was very difficult to see on television (when fired it looked like the phaser beam was coming out of the firer's hand). The Type III designation is and has been used for phaser rifles: the largest, most powerful handheld weapons available for personnel use.

As of 2379, at least three Type III variants exist: among them, the pulse phaser assault rifle introduced in Star Trek: First Contact is a major ergonomic improvement over all previously seen 24th century phaser rifle designs (indeed, over all previously seen 24th century phaser designs in general). One theory is that the increased need for manpower during the Dominion War brought about the need for a rifle that could be handled safely and shot accurately by a green recruit training for a matter of weeks, instead of an officer educated at a four-year academy.

Phase weapons

Phase weapons were first introduced in Enterprise. They come in two varieties, starship-based cannon and small pistol-like sidearms. They are most likely some sort of electric charge weapon.

As the events of Enterprise take place some time before the events of the other Star Trek series, it seems plausible that phase weapons are some kind of ancestor of the phaser.

Disruptors

Disruptors are employed by the Cardassian Empire, Romulan Star Empire, Klingon Empire, Borg, Breen and Orions in their personal and military firearms as well as being mounted as cannon, emitters, turrets, and banks. Military disruptors are virtually identical in operation to phasers, trading lesser energy efficiency for more compact hardware. Disruptors, unlike phasers, cannot be linked into arrays, so disruptor users prefer to build larger weapons to compensate for this deficiency. A disruptor is always more powerful than a phaser for the size of the hardware installation, but a phaser is always more powerful than a disruptor per unit of input power.

Note: The original Klingon sidearm in TOS "Errand of Mercy" was a sonic weapon, and this has traditionally been dubbed a "disruptor" as well.

One type of disruptor, the Varon-T Disruptor, is outlawed in the Federation because it causes a painful, lingering death; threatening a humanoid with one was used to force Commander Data to obey orders while captured by a collector, Kivas Fajo, in the third season Next Generation episode, "The Most Toys". Only a few were made, and those in Fajo's collection were presumably destroyed after Fajo's arrest.

Plasma beam cannon

These are usually mounted only on vessels and use similar technology to a transporter's annular confinement beam to contain a beam of highly concentrated, high-powered, and mildly unstable energetic plasma. This weapon was developed by the Romulans and was highly effective against Federation shields. The Romulans ceased use of the weapon due to its instability.

Few other races but the Ferengi, who still employ it on their Marauders, use this weapon.

Phased polaron cannon

These are weapons that were first encountered when contact with the Dominion was made. The cannon emits a particle beam of polarons, the antimatter counterpart of the muon. The beam is extremely powerful and has an immensely devastating effect against Federation shielding. Starships require immensely compressed shields to prevent these high-speed sub-atomic particles from slipping through the shielding.

Lasers

Lasers were seen used as hand weapons in "The Cage", the first pilot episode of the original series. In "The Outrageous Okona", when the USS Enterprise was confronted by enemies in small (roughly Space Shuttle sized) starships using them as weapons, they remarked that those weapons (mounted as they were on ships that small) would not even penetrate their navigational deflector shields. As a primary weapon system, lasers are usually used by early starfaring civilizations — most starfarers eventually develop either phaser or disruptor technology, as phasers and disruptors deliver more energy output per unit of energy input. The Borg use lasers as a primary weapon, as lasers' lack of nuclear disruption force (a fictional type of energy which allows phasers and similar weapons to disintegrate their targets) makes them a more precise weapon for the slicing attacks preferred by the Borg collective.

Blasters

These mainstays of traditional science fiction literature of the 1930s and 1940s were resurrected when, in Star Trek: Voyager, Ensign Tom Paris created The Adventures of Captain Proton, a holodeck novel series wherein he was the hero. There were references to the holodeck adventures of the hard-living blaster-toting Captain Proton in several Voyager episodes. An entire episode, "Bride of Chaotica", was built around these holodeck adventures, and Captain Proton, and his trusty sidekick Buster Kincaid, blasted away at the bad guys from start to finish.

Note, however, that the true existence of such a weapon within the Star Trek universe was not necessarily indicated by this; it is generally considered more likely that the blaster in Paris' story was a reference to 20th century fiction and not to an actual device.

Ballistic weaponry

Handheld projectile weapons

By the 24th century, projectile and ballistic weapons are rarely used in combat. Despite this, Starfleet Security developed the TR-116 projectile rifle, a prototype designed to operate in energy dampening fields and radiogenic environments. The TR-116 fired a chemically-propelled tritanium bullet but was never mass-produced as Starfleet Command preferred regenerative phasers. This rifle could be equipped with a micro-transporter and a special targeting sensor to transport the tritanium bullet through corridors and bulkheads. In 2375, Lieutenant Chu'lak, a Vulcan science officer, killed three Starfleet officers on space station Deep Space Nine with a replicated TR-116 before being shot with another TR-116 by Lieutenant Ezri Dax.

Fusion missiles

These, also known as spatial torpedoes, are the original weapons carried by the first Starfleet vessels in the 22nd century. They involve the primitive use of heavy hydrogen and a high-speed particle accelerator. The heavy hydrogen is accelerated and fired into a store liquid supply of heavy hydrogen by the particle accelerator. The heavy hydrogen atoms collide at high speed, inducing a nuclear fusion reaction which releases energy and converts the hydrogen into helium. This weapon became obsolete when shield technology had advanced to the point where it could repel most forms of EM radiation.

Photonic torpedoes

These missiles were the precursor to the photon torpedo. Photonic warhead payloads were most likely comprised of matter/antimatter. They were variable yield devices, controllable by the amount of matter and antimatter placed in the warhead. Since matter and antimatter annihilate each other upon contact, thereby releasing all energy contained within them (E=mc˛), an equal mass of matter and antimatter would be used.

Photon torpedoes

Photon torpedoes are a missile weapon commonly seen on Starfleet vessels and also used by many races. They were first seen in the original series, and have not yet been introduced into Enterprise. They employ deuterium and antideuterium as their explosive agents. They are variable yield, adjusted by changing the amount of matter/antimatter loaded before launch. They have navigation and both sublight and warp propulsion abilities of their own, and can thus track an enemy ship. Torpedoes can also be left at or sent to a location and placed on a proximity setting.

Photon torpedo cases have been adapted for burials in space and onto planets. At the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the torpedo containing Captain Spock's body was launched onto the Genesis planet's surface; presumably it still had some guidance and propulsion systems. In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Spock and McCoy installed additional sensors into a photon torpedo: "Doctor, would you care to assist me in performing surgery on a torpedo?" The modified torpedo then successfully targeted the cloaked Klingon bird-of-prey by tracking its plasma exhaust. (Also, in "The Emissary" TNG episode, a diplomat traveled in a tight-fitting casing at warp 9, necessitated during a crisis because no starships were available; however, it was not a photon torpedo, as some fans believe, but a Class 8 probe stripped of its sensors and transmitters, then outfitted with life-support equipment.)

Over the years, we've seen torpedoes with many different "MARKs" written on the side, suggesting this technology has undergone continual refinement. At maximum yield, a Mark VI photon torpedo (the standard Starfleet photon torpedo in the late 24th century) carries a 1.5 kilogram antimatter charge, for a theoretical maximum explosive yield of 18.5 isotons. However, efficiency and geometry reduce energy-to-target a significant amount even under ideal conditions.

Note: The idea for a lozenge-shaped torpedo casing was developed for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but what the Enterprise had during TOS may have been considerably different. The idea of the photon torpedo was not introduced into TOS until the second season of the show, until which time the ship's phasers were the do-all weapon, even able to do proximity blasts as in Balance of Terror.

Quantum torpedoes

Quantum torpedoes were first seen in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode, "The Search", fitted to the USS Defiant. They pack a considerably harder punch than photon torpedoes. Their high payload of 21.8 isotons is produced by harnessing zero-point energy.

In practice, quantum torpedoes are just as inconsistent as their photon predecessors in television and movie footage, causing more than one Star Trek fan to sarcastically comment that they are nothing more than photon torpedoes set to "Blue".

Tri-Cobalt Devices

These, also known as tricobalt devices, were first seen in the Star Trek episode "A Taste of Armageddon" and later seen in the pilot for Voyager, "Caretaker". In 2371, tricobalt weapons were used to demolish the Caretaker's array. Little is known about them. Some fans have suggested that they are extremely advanced and classified munitions; another theory is that they are for demolition and would not be used in combat.

Chroniton torpedoes

These are temporally phased torpedoes which shuffle backward and forward in time or even shift right outside the experienced space-time continuum. This allows them to slip straight through unmodified shielding no matter how powerful. These torpedoes are highly specific in temporal variation as not to be lost or erased from space and time. To counteract temporal weaponry a ship requires temporal shielding where the shield projection matrices are flooded a chroniton variance flow. This blocks against temporal incursion and thus can prevent chronoton torpedoes from skipping through the shields. The only problem with that is with the temporal factor removed from the equation it leaves a fight between superior shields and heavy weapons fire. One very valuable factor of the temporal shield is that a starship or a starbase can be temporally shielded and thus unsusceptible to timeline alterations. If, for instance, the asteroid that theoretically wiped out the dinosaurs was deflected or destroyed and dinosaurs continued to live, all of the timeline after that point would be erased and the only thing left of the previous timeline would be that of the temporally shielded facilities and vessels.

Perhaps is this part of the equation was removed, for example, if the torpedo used time to penetrate the shielding, then revert to the normal time, this type of weapon would be among the most deadly concieved, giving the transphasic torpedo stiff competition.

Transphasic torpedoes

Little is known of this class of torpedo due to the relatively small amount of time that this technology has been in existence. The transphasic torpedo came to Starfleet's attention with the return of the USS Voyager, which had on board a number of the weapons, given to the vessel by a time-travelling Starfleet officer from twenty six years in their future. This torpedo is extremely powerful; the logs of the USS Voyager record the destruction of two Borg Cubes with just three torpedoes. Intense study of the torpedo is no doubt underway, but classified due to the nature of the threat of the weaponry. If other alpha quadrant powers were to become aware of the torpedo, the Federation might be viewed as an immense threat, leading to further disruptions in the quadrant — a course of events Starfleet cannot condone. With this in mind it is most likely the weapons will be stored under maximum security but not used unless in extreme circumstances, until the future time period they originate from comes to pass. It is possible that TPTs are irreplicable with the technology available at the time of Voyager's return from the Delta Quadrant, being built on a technology base two decades more advanced. It is also possible that the weapon is a dedicated anti-Borg weapon and not actually significantly more powerful than photon/quantum torpedoes.

Microtorpedoes

These are 13.3 cm long missiles carried by Danube class runabouts. They are self-propelled by a small fusion reactor and can be loaded with a variety of chemical explosives or biological agents.

The weapons of Star Trek were the basis for the board game Star Fleet Battles.

Other weapons

Bladed weapons

In the 24th century, bladed weapons similar to the Ka-bar knife remain in weapons lockers aboard Starfleet vessels to serve as a last-ditch weapon should a phaser rifle or sidearm fail. In the Voyager episode "Macrocosm", Captain Janeway stabbed and killed an attacking alien macrovirus with her knife.

Other species use bladed weapons more frequently; perhaps the most notable of these is the Klingon bat'leth, a meter-long crescent-shaped blade gripped with two hands on the dull edge.

Self-Replicating Mines

During the Dominion story arc of DS9 the Federation employed a number of mines to block the entrance to the Bajoran wormhole (ref. Call To Arms). In order to enable the mine field to continue to function even when the area was under the Dominion control, these mines were equipped with cloaking devices, and made to be self-replicating. For this purpose the mines were equipped with replicators, and multiple mines cooperated to replicate a new one. In order to be able to destroy ships that enter the minefield, individual mines were designed to swarm the target and detonate in a group.

See also: Physics and Star Trek, Science fiction weapon


Nanoprobe Warheads

Such weaponry was utilised by Captain Kathryn Janeway during an interdimensional conflict between the Borg and a Species known only as 8472. Such Nanoprobe warheads were capable of denaturing the biologically based 8472 ships and the crewmen within.

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