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Trek Tech Pass me the quantum flux regulator, will you?

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Old March 28 2009, 09:45 AM   #1
Albertese
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torpedo vs missile.

So what's the difference between "torpedo" and "missile"? It seems to me that in real life, a Missile is a self propelled weapon that is essentially a warhead attached to a rocket, while a torpedo is essentially a warhead attached to a propellor. So why is a Photon torpedo a torpedo rather than a missile? are we counting a warp sustainer motor as a propellor? Or am just splitting hairs here?

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Old March 28 2009, 03:37 PM   #2
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Re: torpedo vs missile.

To me the difference between a Missile and Torp in the trekverse is a matter of size and useage. Torps are larger and more powerful. They are used as anti-ship weapons. Missiles would be smaller, more agile but less powerful weapons used against shuttles, runabouts and "fighters". Indeed, the "micro-torps" seen on runabouts may better be termed missiles. I think the only times we have seen missiles mentioned are when the Ferengi prepared to launch at the Barzan wormhole, and on Voyager the Delta Flyer was equipped with "photonic missiles". I never watched Voayger much so I could be wrong there.
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Old March 28 2009, 10:54 PM   #3
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Re: torpedo vs missile.

Albertese wrote: View Post
So what's the difference between "torpedo" and "missile"? It seems to me that in real life, a Missile is a self propelled weapon that is essentially a warhead attached to a rocket, while a torpedo is essentially a warhead attached to a propellor. So why is a Photon torpedo a torpedo rather than a missile? are we counting a warp sustainer motor as a propellor? Or am just splitting hairs here?

--Alex
In modern terminology, torpedoes go under water while missiles go through the air. in space, either term is appropriate since there's only one medium, but if I had to guess, I'd say a torpedo is anything that seeks its target under internal propulsion while a missile is merely a projectile that gets its initial boost from an onboard engine.
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Old March 28 2009, 11:49 PM   #4
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Re: torpedo vs missile.

Might have something to do with the launching mechanism. Missiles might be entirely self propelled, while torpedoes seem to gain an initial boost from their launch tubes.
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Old March 29 2009, 03:00 AM   #5
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Re: torpedo vs missile.

Star Wars seems to distinguish mainly between guidance systems; a weapon like a proton torpedo is guided and more expensive, whereas a concussion missile is not and is somewhat cheaper as a result. The game Tachyon: The Fringe uses a similar system, with missiles and torpedoes having advanced guidance systems, rockets being dumbfire but cheaper and with more ammunition, and sappers designed to hit an enemy and leech energy away from their systems.
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Old March 29 2009, 06:56 AM   #6
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Re: torpedo vs missile.

Unicron wrote: View Post
Star Wars seems to distinguish mainly between guidance systems; a weapon like a proton torpedo is guided and more expensive, whereas a concussion missile is not and is somewhat cheaper as a result. The game Tachyon: The Fringe uses a similar system, with missiles and torpedoes having advanced guidance systems, rockets being dumbfire but cheaper and with more ammunition, and sappers designed to hit an enemy and leech energy away from their systems.
I'd say this could and should apply for Trek too.

I've often thought that in the era prior to the implementation of phasers as shipboard weapons that the torpedo would be the primary weapon of choice for dealing damage and energy weapons relegated to little more than point defense. I owe this to the notion that initially neither system was particuarly refined for use in space.

I imagine photon torpedoes would probably come next, as research focused closely on increasing the payload of torpedoes. Then come phasers, redefining Trek space combat. As a more sophisticated bit of tech, phasers would in turn become the primary weapon of choice by the late 23rd century, useable for more surgical strikes, with photorps (and later quantorps) relegated primarily to use for kills.

I've also always admired the Star Wars distinction between particle and energy shields, and wondered if this might not be comparable to the combination of navigational deflectors and deflector shields/forcefields in Trek. I digress...
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Old March 29 2009, 05:58 PM   #7
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Re: torpedo vs missile.

I'm going to say there is no difference at all except terminology.

With the caveat that a torpedo may be a term for a self-shielding missile--but there's not that much evidence it can self-shield, that's only speculation and a logical inference given the apparent but unseen ability of phasers to knock unshielded pho-torps out of the sky at the stated combat ranges.

I figure someone in the 22d century, maybe a former submariner, came up with the term "torpedo" for projectile weapons and it stuck. But by any standard definition, a pho-torp is nothing but guided missile packed with a a few million microgram packets of antimatter.

Now why do some torpedoes glow red and others glow green or white or whatever?
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Old March 29 2009, 10:43 PM   #8
Albertese
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Re: torpedo vs missile.

Fo that matter, why should they glow at all? Real life rockets don't glow. What gives?
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Old March 29 2009, 11:19 PM   #9
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Re: torpedo vs missile.

Myasishchev wrote: View Post
I'm going to say there is no difference at all except terminology.
That's no fun!

With the caveat that a torpedo may be a term for a self-shielding missile--but there's not that much evidence it can self-shield, that's only speculation and a logical inference given the apparent but unseen ability of phasers to knock unshielded pho-torps out of the sky at the stated combat ranges.

I figure someone in the 22d century, maybe a former submariner, came up with the term "torpedo" for projectile weapons and it stuck. But by any standard definition, a pho-torp is nothing but guided missile packed with a a few million microgram packets of antimatter.
A simpler, but perhaps equally plausible explanation.

Now why do some torpedoes glow red and others glow green or white or whatever?
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Fo that matter, why should they glow at all? Real life rockets don't glow. What gives?
We've discussed this a few times - from do the torpedoes themselves glow, to is it the engine exhaust, to is it the forcefield shielding of the torpedo that allows it to travel at warp.

I'm not sure of the complete history of the real-world invention of the torpedo on TOS. Initially phasers could fire 'proximity bursts' that resembled photon torpedoes. According to 'The Making of Star Trek' TOS photon torpedoes were initially intended to be nothing more than forcefield suspension of matter and antimatter (the 'photon' referring to the forcefield) but the movies changed that, and given the appearance of 'casing' torpedoes on 'Enterprise' they presumably 'actually' had physical casings all along. Or not.

At least two torpedo casings have been shown to 'actually' glow: one a Dominion torpedo which actually appears to have a translucent casing (in 'Starship Down' I believe) and the other a Krenim chroniton torpedo with glowing elements in 'Year of Hell':



We might argue that all torpedo casings turn 'translucent' due to the contained energy becoming active and irradiating the casing material after launch.

I'd personally rather think that the glow we see from Starfleet and the majority of other torpedoes is the engine exhaust glow being refracted through the forcefield around the physical casing. YMMV, of course.
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Old March 29 2009, 11:20 PM   #10
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Re: torpedo vs missile.

Albertese wrote: View Post
Fo that matter, why should they glow at all? Real life rockets don't glow. What gives?
Well, the exhaust can shed light.

But anyway, real-life rockets don't require a force field around them (to match and thus pass through the shields of the launching ship, and for more obvious purposes), nor are they picking up a handoff warp field from the launching vessel the way a photon torpedo does. The torpedo might also be redirecting its own thrust through exotic fields somehow in order to maneuver, which could lend further glowiness.

For production reasons, we may note that a black photon torpedo casing against the blackness of space might not be very entertaining to watch on television. However, I do feel the glow is plausible considering the above.

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Old March 30 2009, 04:11 AM   #11
Albertese
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Re: torpedo vs missile.

good enough for me
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Old March 30 2009, 06:24 AM   #12
Myasishchev
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Re: torpedo vs missile.

JNG wrote: View Post
For production reasons, we may note that a black photon torpedo casing against the blackness of space might not be very entertaining to watch on television. However, I do feel the glow is plausible considering the above.
I do think that's very true.

Now, this is a general trope of science fiction, but it makes you wonder why phasers, lasers, pho-torps, q-torps, particle beams, atomic napalm neutralizers and ray guns in general always have to be glowy, with fire and/or flight durations that extend into human perception.

Bullets aren't--and they seem to work pretty well for dramatic purposes in more "realistic" genres.
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Old March 30 2009, 08:11 AM   #13
JNG
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Re: torpedo vs missile.

Myasishchev wrote: View Post
JNG wrote: View Post
For production reasons, we may note that a black photon torpedo casing against the blackness of space might not be very entertaining to watch on television. However, I do feel the glow is plausible considering the above.
I do think that's very true.

Now, this is a general trope of science fiction, but it makes you wonder why phasers, lasers, pho-torps, q-torps, particle beams, atomic napalm neutralizers and ray guns in general always have to be glowy, with fire and/or flight durations that extend into human perception.

Bullets aren't--and they seem to work pretty well for dramatic purposes in more "realistic" genres.
That is a good point. However, Hollywood does struggle with this in ways that are so common that they aren't especially noticeable as such any more. They do things like:

-slow-mo gunfights, sometimes accompanied by CGI depictions of actual bullets in flight

-shots that include or even focus on ejected brass casings falling so there is some motion in the shot

-use of squibs to provide unrealistic explosions of sparks or blood, visible even at entrance wounds

-having people get thrown backwards through the air when shot, even with handguns

They should have all gotten together and agreed that in the universe of movies and TV, people just happen to always shoot tracer rounds. By now, we'd all be used to it

What are you gonna do? It's all a subset of goofy gun depictions in Hollywood. They have actors always keep their fingers right on the trigger, or dub in hammer clicks for DAO guns...
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Old March 30 2009, 11:32 AM   #14
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Re: torpedo vs missile.

Judging by the observed usage, it might be a matter of size, or of intended target. We have:

1) The Ferengi missile aimed at destroying the Barzan wormhole ("The Price")
2) The Cardassian missile fired at a Maquis planet ("Dreadnought")
3) The nonexistent Maquis missiles fired cloaked against planetary targets ("Blaze of Glory")

What else is there? All of the above could be argued to have been large, essentially small-ship-sized or at least modern ICBM-sized guided weapons, setting them apart from known torpedoes by sheer size. All could also be argued to be overkill for ship-to-ship fighting, or perhaps useless because they can't fly and track fast enough in that type of combat.

Of course, modern missiles are considered missiles in 24th century parlance as well (ST:FC). Was Soran's sunkiller deployed by a missile in ST:GEN?

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Old March 30 2009, 01:28 PM   #15
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Re: torpedo vs missile.

There were merculite rockets mounted on Talarian ships in TNG, they're deemed obsolete but effective enough to destroy a Klingon Cruiser, I think that the cruiser had its shields down though since it was lured to the ship by Klingon fugitives that had stolen/commandeered the Talarian ship.

I have no idea how they compare to photorps.
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