Caseless Torpedoes

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by Crazy Eddie, Dec 28, 2012.

  1. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    A sensor known to be capable of charting gaseous anomalies is in fact incapable of doing that unless installed inside the torpedo tube? You do realize you are making no sense...

    Sulu obviously charted those anomalies without installing his sensor in one of his torpedoes. Spock would be a complete idiot if incapable of conceptualizing and executing the same.

    Huh? Torpedoes are always blatantly visible, as fireballs several meters across. ST6 is no exception.

    The Class 1 or Class A probes are somewhat different in that their comparable fireball is distinctly around the aft part of the instrument, not all around it. But that actually makes good sense if we assume such a probe is a much larger device, with a "torpedo" grafted in its ass and glowing the normal way, but with a payload riding ahead of it.

    There's nothing wrong with the idea of the coffin thing being hidden by the glare of the glowing (propulsive?) thing. Today's missiles may look like telephone poles with a trailing flame, but that's only because the flame is not particularly bright and in fact effort is made to minimize it visually. Photon torpedoes have every excuse of featuring a brighter, more engulfing flame.

    Or Starfleet drops an outdated propulsion system of projectile weapons in favor of a more modern one, namely the one dubbed "photon torpedo".

    There are many upsides to considering the "photon" part as describing the propulsion element rather than, say, the warhead. But none require making the weapon "non-projectile" in nature.

    Two points of disagreement there: lack of evidence of any sort of intent on the part of the makers of TOS, one way or the other - and the obvious advantages of simply making TOS compatible with the bulk of the evidence, rather than vice versa.

    How is that relevant? The craft firing those fireballs couldn't have carried coffin-sized projectiles anyway; ergo, whatever the craft did carry, could fit inside the fireball.

    Obviously not, unless the glow is somehow limited to the aft sector only. There is no particular reason to think it would be limited that way; warp engines don't glow from their aft ends only, except when the designers specifically want them to (say, the Kelvin).

    You can't claim such a thing. What they gave us is physical enough: it flies through space at finite speed, reasonably often in curved patterns. It isn't an intricate shape requiring hours of motion control work; it is an affordable fireball. But that in no way makes it "aphysical", any more than a star is aphysical.

    Umm, the elongation of the bright dot would be an optical phenomenon inherent in traditional moviemaking, not a particularly convincing argument for the shape of the glow "in reality". But it's a very nice optical phenomenon... Conveniently lending itself to some smooth retconning.

    Indeed. And the sparkling continued at the point of impact, spreading over the victim. A special feature of this special weapon - but whether it's carried to the target all by itself, or riding on a physical object, we can freely speculate on.

    Perhaps that's what torpedo "launchers" always do - wrap the projectile in that (propulsive?) field... Klingon wraps would of course be more coarse than Federation ones, just like their ships are dirtier, their sliding doors noisier, etc.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  2. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Correct. Sort of like this thing, which is capable of tracking thermal anomalies, but would be incapable of doing so unless it was installed on a gunsight.

    You know where you probably WOULDN'T stick an infrared sensor? On the actual bullet.

    Yet no physical casing is ever present in front of or in the center of those fireballs. And since as far back as TOS it was shown that entirely non-physical energy bolts can be guided, there goes our last reason to believe a physical casing ever leaves the tube.

    Not even partially around it. The glow is distinctly AFT of the device and is visibly the exhaust plume of an engine mounted on the rear of the device. From visuals in TNG as it just leaves the tube, the probe is either the same size or only slightly larger than a photon torpedo casing.

    Far more importantly, 22nd century spatial torpedoes are SMALLER than photon torpedoes. In flight, spatial torpedoes look like this. You can see the missile at the front of a large exhaust plume from its engines; thus spatial torpedoes visibly work similar to probes. Contrast with photonic torpedoes, where the casing is never visible despite the fact that the photonic casing is almost twice as large as the spatial torpedo. Even more interesting is the fact that photonic torpedoes do not even use the same loading mechanisms as spatial torpedoes, and may not even fire from the same tubes, despite the fact that a physical launch tube for photonic torpedoes is never seen on NX-01's CG model. Which means either the launch tube for the photonics is too small to be seen (a couple of inches across, maybe?) or photonic torpedoes are capable of being fired from a spatial torpedo tube without being physically LOADED there.

    Sure... if the coffin thing is shrunken down to the size of a basketball, which is what would be required in the case of a photon torpedo.

    That's my point: TOS is already largely compatible with later productions even with an aphysical torpedo casing. It turns out the only real outliers are the Nicholas Myers productions that envisioned photon torpedoes as physical missile-like weapon systems. Everything else -- including Probert, actually -- has treated them like projected energy weapons with an expendable ammo supply.

    Considering Myers only added the casing in the first place because he wanted to give the cadets something interesting to load into a tube when gearing up for battle, why not take his Hornblower analogy even further and imagine that as the loading of a cannon shell and not an actual missile?

    Actually there's ample room for at least one, tucked into the nose section behind the circular launch tube on the physical model. Not much room for a second or a third, but if a single casing can fire multiple times it would make sense for those fighters.

    The much bigger question facing you is why the Maquis wouldn't have mounted those torpedoes EXTERNALLY on wing-mounted hardpoints. The nosecone launcher would have room for at most three torpedoes, but underwing hardpoints could store a dozen of them, especially if they were truly the self-contained fire and forget weapons you think they are.

    So is a phaser beam, but nobody's claiming that phasers are fast-moving and incredibly long metal rods that are being extended to whack their targets.

    Then why do photon torpedoes have this exact same feature?

    No, it's a thousand times more likely that the Klingon torpedo is the same basic weapon as a Starfleet photon torpedo.

    It's likely this is EXACTLY what they do. The question is whether the actual weapon is the pill-shaped casing sitting in the tube, or the propulsive field itself. If the latter, then the casing is just an expendable fuel cell and control module that can be discarded (and probably recycled) after firing.

    The fact that we have never seen torpedoes being "drop launched" like missiles is significant. But the fact that they can be fired from things that don't have proper launch tubes is also significant. The casing ITSELF is the important element here: it's not a missile, but it's not a directed energy weapon either. It's more like a recoiless rifle that fires an energy bolt instead of a bullet.
     
  3. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Except that this is exactly what you do when you want the sensor to guide the steerable bullet.

    Moving the sensor from sensing position A aboard the ship (the scientific sensor array) to sensing position B aboard the ship (the torpedo tube) is insane, and completely invalidates your idea of the ST6 torpedo casing remaining attached to the ship. There's no way around it.

    Merely not visible. As are most things in the televised world, where a light show is an affordable stand-in for something that even in the real world would be hidden by a light show. The human eye just isn't good enough to tell the difference - except when assisted by screencap-type tricks that would also mercilessly expose the fundamentally fake nature of the "starships" and "death rays".

    We have zero reason to believe it would stay in the tube to begin with. And we don't know of any steerable non-physical energy bolts from TOS.

    Nope. The model for the probe at that point has plenty of discernible detail, which wouldn't be visible at all if it were anywhere near photorp-sized. The tube of the E-D just happens to be pretty large, easily capable of spitting out something like the Scorpion fighter, thus possibly confusing the issue.

    To nitpick, the aft tube in the aft pod is CGI-inserted in the model all right.
    Retraction and shuttering are also possibilities, as the TOS phaser emitters were invisible as well but did physically exist. As for physical loading, we know that there are four fwd tubes on NX-01, but just two loading tracks at the Armory; that's no different from the ST2 ship having one loading track but two tubes for photorps. Sideways tracks past the inner hatch, for storing a number of shots, solve a great many problems, including pressing ones such as those of set dimensions.

    OTOH, the idea of the casings being stuck in the tubes solves nothing, as they would have to get into the spatial torpedo tubes somehow anyway.

    Incidentally, I adore ENT for its introduction of this new-old torpedo type, as everything we see or hear there supports the idea that the X in "X torpedo" refers to propulsion. Spatial is very different from photonic in performance and appearance; quantum is different from each in appearance, and may very well have different performance specs as well considering it is never fired at warp.

    That's just bullshit. Bright glare like that would hide anything from a coffin to a fire engine; it's not a factor of size at all. Warp flashes aren't ship-sized, either...

    For the number of pressing reasons why the torpedo must be a guided projectile, and because there are no reasons for believing otherwise.

    Such a wacky assumption would make the concept of torpedo reloading redundant. Yet from what we see in ST2 (or the TNG and VOY repeat takes of a "torpedo room"), casing reloading machinery in fact is the most prominent and sizeable part of the launch system...

    It's not facing me at all. Apart from the complete lack of external hardpoint mountings in Trek (unless one counts inseparable components of the ship itself), there is no reason to think the Maquis would have wanted to carry full-sized photon torpedoes, and no reason to think smaller projectiles (with rather pitiful destructive effects to boot) would not exist for smaller craft.

    That Hudson and pals fire few photons and prefer beam weapons speaks of a key difference between the "consumables expenditure" characteristics of the two. But if torps don't offer the advantage of being guided projectiles, why carry them at all? The wingroot beams were the most devastating ship-to-ship weapons of the Maquis, apparently, kicking parts off the runabouts.

    We'd have to claim just that if phaser beams, too, dodged and weaved after their targets according to onboard sensor input.

    Nobody is disputing that. But the extra sparkles can easily be extra; anything else would be a needless complication. Since the BoP torp has a distinct effect at the target, it has every excuse of having distinct extras onboard / sprayed on at launch / whatever. We're talking about a different warhead or penetration aid or force enhancer or whatnot, but we're probably still talking about the same propulsion system as with the Starfleet photon torpedo, as all the same characteristics are there: the tube launch, the inflight glow, the necessity of loading.

    Discarding by firing would be hidden by the glare. Discarding by other means would not. If discarding takes place, why is Scotty counting by hand the remaining torpedoes in ST6, when a look at the discarding bin should solve the mystery immediately? You are just needlessly complicating your life with the concept of spent cartridges.

    We have seen torpedoes launched from spacecraft exterior locations that have no tube-type forward openings (i.e. from somewhere underneath a runabout in "The Search II"). Drop launch through a hatch (which this craft does have among the ventral details) is a natural deployment mode for a missile, especially one that operates autonomously in terms of both propulsion and steering. And we know that propulsion is almost completely independent of launchers, as all tube-launched torpedoes leave the tubes at a crawling pace, but can nevertheless span vast distances and operate at high warp relative to the launching ship.

    A "fireworks" weapon fired from a sometimes tube-shaped holder is conceptually possible all right, but not compatible with how photon torpedoes are operated by Starfleet and its opponents. Too many factors speak against it: the onboard sensors, the possibility of recovery after flight, the use of the casing in so many applications where casings that turn to fireballs would be a bad idea...

    Whether there ever was an intent to have torpedoes be "not-torpedoes" in the real world terms of the time is quite debatable. TMoST speaks in very vague terms and in any case doesn't really serve in a writers' bible role for the show. Any episode that would have featured a close look at torpedo operations would probably have made things accessible to the audience by featuring torpedo props, even if ST2 was the first time the funds for this existed in combination with the dramatic need. In contrast, no episode or movie attempted to contradict the classic torpedo concept or support a different concept.

    Which is a pity, really. Trek rayguns are just generic rayguns, even if some of the props are innovative. There's nothing fancy about Trek ships or shuttles or sensors or shields, either. And torpedoes are just torpedoes, in good and bad. Only the teleportation device is somewhat exotic, needing just one terminal, and it's probably no accident that it is among the most characteristic elements of Star Trek.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  4. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Well, maybe you can have it both ways. Here you have a scotchlite case that is both white and black:
    http://www.doobybrain.com/2008/12/17/wrapping-a-bike-in-scotchlite-680-reflective-vinyl/
    So I might say that, when the torpedo ignites, it is a super scotchilte raytheon type model effect.

    Or maybe a better example would be the nuclear lightbulb.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_lightbulb

    Maybe this sucker is just an antimatter lightbulb., with TOS being quanta of photons in a globule that has a strange type of magnetism to let it seek a ground like ball lightning.

    http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/...d-batteries-could-be-the-perfect-power-source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ball_lightning

    Then too, there is the Q-ball:
    "Loosely speaking, the Q-ball is a finite-sized "blob" containing a large number of particles."
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q-ball
     
  5. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    Speaking off glowing objects... in TOS, high power output ships like the Orion ship was glowing hot. Also Mudd's ship too was glowing when he pushed it too far. It would seem reasonable then a photon torpedo in flight has such a high power output that it could glow so bright to obscure the casing (since it is the source of the glow).
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2013
  6. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    No, because the sensor stops working as soon as you fire it. It's hard to mount a sensor to a projectile that is subject to a huge amount of energy at launch. Likewise, a propulsion system powerful enough to envelop an entire photon torpedo and completely mask its physical presence from all observers probably wouldn't be very good for an onboard sensor either.

    Your opinion has been noted.


    That wouldn't explain the same effect post-TOS, though, especially in the movie era where FX capabilities have expanded significantly.

    Still of considerable interest to me is why photon torpedoes do not usually look like this. It seems instead to be a special case of a torpedo that has been modified to propel itself out of the tube in a slow controlled burn instead of discharging all its energy into a destructive bolt. At least in this case, what we're seeing is explicitly suggestive of a rocket-propelled projectile, while normal depictions of photon torpedoes are less so.
     
  7. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    Have you read about the steerable bullet with the optical sensor mounted on the nose?

    Also, since the the Orion ship from "Journey to Babel" was completely enveloped by glowing energy as it zipped by (original FX) and it was able to maneuver and attack the Enterprise it would seem that glowing field doesn't prohibit sensor operations.

    I don't understand what you mean here.

    I had thought that the difference was the flight and payload. A fully-fueled, explosive photon torpedo would have the characteristic powered super glow field while the "Spock's casket" version probably only had enough fuel to get it near the Genesis planet. Spock's torpedo casket did do a short initial glow before it glided into the Genesis atmosphere.

    The "Dark Frontier" torpedo would be an armed, but not fueled, photon torpedo which lacked the glow but still could explode.
     
  8. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    No, that's trivial. Even vacuum tube electronics were routinely installed aboard high muzzle velocity anti-aircraft ammunition almost a century ago; today, a Copperhead-type round mounts the very type of sensor you specify while subjecting it to immense accelerations. And of course, Trek instrumentation would be immune to acceleration anyway, as Starfleet has mastered inertia control.

    The ST6 torpedo corkscrewed through space under guidance from an onboard sensor. Proving the opposite requires something way heftier than what you have to offer so far.

    That's merely a matter of spectral windows. Also, if a cloaked vessel can see but not be seen, problems of this sort pale in comparison.

    Amusingly, infrared sensors would appear a poor idea for a weapon that is subjected to a lot of air friction, but have been among the most reliable sensors for such weapons for about as long as the weapons have existed.

    One wonders if the glow, with its atypical tail, wasn't purely for show...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  9. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Perhaps something like the decorative smoke that trails behind a fighter plane during a airshow. The red glow was ceremonial and deliberate. It was the same general color as the officer's uniform jacket.

    Traditionally employed during funerals.

    :mallory:
     
  10. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The part where Spock's burial tube "must have soft-landed" due to "gravitational fields [..] in flux" surprises everybody. Is it because

    a) Spock's coffin was expected to burn up in atmospheric entry?
    b) Spock's coffin was not originally aimed at the planet at all?
    c) Spock's coffin would in normal circumstances have been buried deep in bedrock, even if still intact?

    The first option would indicate that the coffin, despite being an explicit Mk IV photon torpedo casing, would be of feeble construct. Bad news for Kirk and friends in ST5, then, as terminal guidance by physical means wouldn't have been possible with the torpedo that hit God and gave the heroes time to escape. But in that scene, and in many others, torpedoes and comparable devices indeed accurately hit planetside targets, typically exhibiting the classic glow while doing so:

    http://tng.trekcore.com/gallery/albums/s2/2x15/penpals245.jpg

    So, guided balls of energy after all, leaving the feeble cartridge in the launcher? Not necessarily even in option a). After all, the very glow (from the drive or whatnot) may affect survival in atmospheric entry, and the glow from Spock's coffin wasn't of the classic torpedo type and in any case appeared to dim down before the torp hit the horizon (or the atmosphere) and the lightshow was taken over by the sunrise.

    That the casing would be so easily combustible (whether in flight or at launcher) is not my favorite interpretation anyway. But the durability by which they enter bedrock or the outer layers of a star may be due to shielding alone. FWIW, shielding is quoted as the explicit means of survival in "Half a Life".

    In any case, a photon torpedo is a valid means of physically delivering a payload to a destination in dozens of episodes using the terminology and doing the VFX. That's a trick energy bolts would have great difficulty pulling off. (Greater, perhaps, than phasers, which for their part use terminology curiously similar to that of transporters, and may indeed be weaponized transporters of some sort.)

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  11. Darkwing

    Darkwing Commodore Commodore

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    This dry land thing is too wierd!
    IIRC, in the Vonda McIntyre novelization, Saavik deliberately ignores the order to program for a reentry that would burn up the casket, and instead programs for a soft landing. Whether that was based on omitted script info, or the writer simply trying to generate a plausible hook for a retcon, I don't know, but it would explain the surprise.
     
  12. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I have. DARPA's been working on this since about 2005. The major technical hurdle is trying to figure out how to get the bullet's guidance system to still function properly after a 2000G acceleration at the moment of firing.

    Never heard of this new company, though. If they've solved that problem, it might actually work, but along with the sudden jump in temperature as well as acceleration, it's a pretty big problem to solve.

    Simply put, we never see a ship that looks like this ever again after TOS. And the remastered version all but implies that we probably SHOULDN'T have seen something like that in the first place.
     
  13. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    Well the remastered version makes enough changes to put the two as alternate universe variations. As to post-TOS effects, I'm not aware of any ship quite like the Orion's overloaded super powerful ship. Even the Defiant doesn't qualify since the Orion ship was fast and retained full power for attack.
     
  14. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    FWIW, every Starfleet ship in TNG glows to an equal, physicality-obscuring degree when she enters warp.

    Perhaps the glow of warp entry is the sign of straining engines, and there is a special degree of strain involved in the rapid accelerations to warp seen in TNG (much more rapid than any of the TOS movement), but not in the gentler accelerations that follow the initial jump from STL to FTL.

    Only uncrewed equipment and madmen would engage in constant strain, of course. This would explain not only the onscreen glow of photon torpedoes (a tradeoff between safety and speed, going fully in favor of the latter), but also the onscreen mysteries of tiny or ancient probes that seem to outperform the best starships of the corresponding era (things like Friendship 1 must be glowing like mad to cross quadrants, but this always happens offscreen)!

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  15. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I think the Orion ship was a spherical design--the non-remastered version. I would explain it as a manned torpedo of huge size just trying to ram a ship but it bounced off.