How are the various torpedoes scaled?

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by SicOne, May 9, 2014.

  1. SicOne

    SicOne Commodore Commodore

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    The Federation uses photon and quantum torpedos, briefly used transphasic torpedoes in Trek Lit, the Cardassians use plasma torpedoes, and the Klingons and Romulans use some type of photon torpedo. Even the Borg seem to use some type of torpedo system, as depicted in Voyager's "Scorpion" and "Star Trek:First Contact". But what we don't necessarily know is how powerful these systems are compared to one another.

    On a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of power, I am thinking the Cardassian plasma torpedo is about a 4, the Federation photon torpedo and Klingon and Romulan versions about a 5, the Borg torpedo a 7, and the quantum torpedo an 8.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. USS Triumphant

    USS Triumphant Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Meta Comment: They are however powerful the plot needs them to be.

    Continuity Comment: At least in TNG, we know that Starfleet's torpedoes could be given adjustable payloads more or less on the fly. So my in-continuity comment is almost the same as the meta comment, unless we specify that we're referring to these weapons with their operations manual standard payloads.

    Personally, I think I'd bring the Borg torps down to a 6 but assume that they can field more at once, the quantum torps down to a 7, and put the transphasics in at 6 (10) - the 6 to indicate that these are quantum torps that are diverting some power to run the phasing system, and the (10) to indicate their actual effectiveness as they go right through shields and hull and detonate in the middle of a target.
     
  3. Unicron

    Unicron Continuity Spackle Moderator

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    The Klingons have an interesting variant in Starfleet Command 3, the polaron torpedo. This was their answer to the quantum torpedo and I don't recall if its warhead is actually any more powerful or not, but it was designed with a device that generates randomized electronic pulses. This randomization makes it easier for a polaron torpedo to bypass shields and strike the hull directly.
     
  4. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    They got that from the Jem Hadar it sounds...
     
  5. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I cannot bring myself to imagine that this isn't, fundamentally, a gaming question.

    In which case: torpedoes.
     
  6. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

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    ^^ That was my impression, too.

    But I find the topic interesting. Now, The Making of Star Trek listed a matter-antimatter payload (I think it's just antimatter that's supposed to react with the matter of an enemy vessel's hull) for the original photon torpedoes.

    I think it stands to reason that this is the standard payload adopted by most of the major powers.

    But what, then, is a "plasma torpedo" (with the destructive Romulan "plasma energy weapon" from "Balance of Terror" being foremost on my mind)? :(

    Usually, plasma is the word for the product of a nuclear fusion or matter-antimatter annihilation reaction. In general I'd think that the product of a reaction wouldn't be nearly as energetic and volatile than the actual ingredients used in the first place.

    Bob
     
  7. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, the only way to top the energy density of antimatter would be to go at least somewhat fictional - say, to tap into the underlying energies of the universe, which some say the quantum torpedo does.

    But maximal energy density might not be the end-all criterion of warhead design. Other factors might affect destructive power, explaining why there would be things like pulse wave torpedoes, or plasma torpedoes, and possibly others.

    ...Or the flame of a candle. Plasma scales down and up rather nicely, from teeny weeny analytical torches to vast nebulae; it's just so darn difficult to find a scale that would be both destructive and practical.

    Although far from canonically confirmed, it does appear as if the various definers before the word "torpedo" would specify the warhead type. The unseen Romulan plasma torpedo from DS9 or the corresponding (?) Cardassian weapon supposedly fired by the automated orbital defense platforms thus might spit out electrically charged clouds of matter - perhaps those are good for maiming shields? The weapon used in TOS against the asteroid fortress also surprised the defenders by its ability to penetrate shielding...

    The green Klingon weapons that in ST3, ST5 and ST:GEN did significant systems damage without actually punching holes might also be "plasma" weapons, optimized for shorting out shields and electrical systems, perhaps for capturing purposes.

    Of course, calling an antimatter warhead a "photon" one is rather obscure - so a "plasma" warhead might in fact also be based on something completely unexpected, such as tiny black holes or magnetic monopoles or whatnot.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  8. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

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    Interesting, when matter and antimatter annihilate you get plenty of photons in the process, so I'd always taken that as a hint, that the effect was naming the torpedo and not its actual content (which I presume Star Wars did, where "proton torpedo" probably contains plenty of anti-protons).

    Since the Romulans use tiny black holes for propulsion I wondered myself if they could pack these into torpedo payloads.

    Bob
     
  9. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I disagree. The reaction between matter and antimatter doesn't necessarily give you a lot of raw destructive energy unless it's focused into a more destructive form. My belief is that photon torpedoes require a certain amount of dilithium in order to convert the reaction products into a form that can be useful as a weapon, hence you cannot make your torpedo more powerful by just sticking more antimatter in it, there's a big technical challenge in warhead design and reaction timing.

    That leaves some wiggle room and a certain tech level at which conventional fusion-based weapons might actually outperform photon torpedoes, being able to release a larger amount of their energy in the form of thermal radiation and fast neutrons, either of which may be much more damaging to their target than the un-regulated x-ray and neutrino flash of a photon warhead.

    Going by the novelization of Balance of Terror, it's a weapon that completely strips free electrons from metals -- even those tightly bound to their atoms -- resulting in a rapid breakdown of molecular structure and the reduction of most substances down to elemental states. Used against a metal alloy like rodinium, it would cause the metal to revert back into a powder of iron, aluminum, titanium and its assorted constituents.
     
  10. Mytran

    Mytran Commodore Commodore

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    Sounds like a disrupter beam to me! Is behaviour typical of super-hot plasma? I thought it just mainly burned stuff. If not, why is it called a plasma torpedo?
     
  11. Unicron

    Unicron Continuity Spackle Moderator

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    IIRC, energy at the plasma level is more unstable than that in a confined beam like a phaser or a disruptor pulse. This allows for more raw destructive power, as Crazy Eddie mentions, but it's also considerably less stable and the Romulans seem to be one of the few powers to use it.
     
  12. SicOne

    SicOne Commodore Commodore

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    I'm not sure if the cloaked Bird-of-Prey in ST6 was firing full-strength photon torpedoes, or if they just didn't work as advertised. The one from underneath that penetrated the Enterprise saucer should have erupted it out like the scuttling charges in ST3. Instead, it acted like more of a kinetic penetrator with some minor pyrotechnics as it blew through both sides of the hull. Perhaps if Chang was toying with Enterprise and Excelsior, confident that his cloak was inpenetrable, he may have ordered kinetic torpedoes at that point rather than continuing to use full-power ones, though the one that first hit Excelsior as she arrived looked like full-power.
     
  13. Unicron

    Unicron Continuity Spackle Moderator

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    I agree. It could be that Chang thought that if he heavily damaged the Enterprise but was able to capture it intact, it would be a major political coup to go with the conspiracy's "invincible" weapon.
     
  14. anh165

    anh165 Commander Red Shirt

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    The torpedoes from Chang's ship was comparable to the Reliant's torpedoes striking the Enterprise in TWoK.


    I just think it was easier to fire torpedoes whilst cloaked compared in pure power consumption reasons and that compared to using disruptors which would not look right on screen.
     
  15. USS Triumphant

    USS Triumphant Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Plus, torps have their own drives and can be fired in a slightly wrong direction and then course correct to try to disguise their point of origin.
     
  16. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    The one criterion for Chang's torps was that they need to look exactly like Starfleet torpedoes in action. And not any generic Starfleet torpedoes, but Starfleet torpedoes set to a yield that will knock out gravity aboard Kronos 1 without destroying the Klingon ship outright.

    It appears that Chang knew that Cartwright was in on the conspiracy and vice versa (and Cartwright's cohorts seemed to know about the Romulans, too, although we don't know if Chang's did). Clearly, the two sides thought that they could and should cooperate in a plot that would launch a war in which they could then gain the upper hand from their opponent. So it makes sense that Cartwright would sell Chang the genuine-looking Starfleet weapons, while making sure they were no better than they absolutely needed to be, ie. the low yield setting only...

    Basically, then, Chang was an assassin armed with a Derringer, and needed to use the only weapon in his disposal in order to bring down the assault rifle -toting, flak jacket -donning Kirk. Obviously, it would be slow work.

    ...But if Kirk realized that, he'd gain the upper hand pretty quickly. So Chang cleverly put on a madman act, pretending to go for a slow kill because he "was a sadist"!

    But Khan was firing to wound, not to kill. So his torps would be low yield, too. Except in the nebula, but there he failed to score any hits.

    I don't know about looks, and the "disguising the launch point" thing was dependent on Kirk's reaction time which was so slow that it should have allowed for disruptor use, too.

    But I can buy the energy requirements argument; a loaded torp might require and emit fairly little energy, whereas active disruptors let alone active shields would glow through the cloak all too easily, making the firing cycle agonizingly slow: decloak, turn on guns, wait for guns to heat up, fire guns, cloak again, as opposed to the decloak, fire torp, cloak again that we saw happen (in practice, that is; firing the torp resulted in a light show that was as good as brief decloaking). The alternative would be to have ineffective cloaking all the time, due to the hot and shining dirsuptor coils.


    Timo Saloniemi
     
  17. Unicron

    Unicron Continuity Spackle Moderator

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    Are there a lot of established differences between Fed and Klingon torpedoes? My impression is that in terms of the basic photon torpedo, many sources seem to assume they're similar or practically identical. The TUC novelization suggests that the Enterprise torpedo system generates a neutrino surge when it's active, implying that when Gorkon's ship was attacked the conspirators might have been able to access it.
     
  18. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    Not that I know of prior to TUC. The neutron radiation surge in the movie was so big "it could be only produced by another ship" but there wasn't any implication that it was related to torpedo firing. (They talked about whether it came from Gorkon's battlecruiser but at that time they were too far away and their torpedo system wasn't powered up to fire.)

    The only things shown in TOS and the TOS Movies was that Klingon and Enterprise torpedoes in S1/S2 were fairly weak against a shielded Enterprise (360 Enterprise torpedoes to bring down her shields according to "The Changeling" and the Klingon torpedoes in "Errand of Mercy" hit the ship multiple times but the shields were not a concern.) On the other hand, in S3 "Elaan of Troyius", half a dozen Enterprise torpedoes heavily damaged a shielded Klingon battlecruiser. And by TUC, a dozen torpedoes from Chang's BOP brought the Enterprise's shields down.

    So back to the OP's question, the relative strengths depend on what timeframe since weapon and shield tech progresses could change how effective they were against each other. Against unshielded objects you could probably assume all the torpedoes were capable of doing demolition work. IMHO :)
     
  19. USS Triumphant

    USS Triumphant Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Right. And transphasics should be even slightly worse than that, because they float right through shield and hull to detonate somewhere in the middle of the ship. So the shields of the target ship might even act to hold in and concentrate the destructive force released by a transphasic torpedo. At least, until the shield emitters and the equipment they draw power from get plowed by said force. ;)
     
  20. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    The first time the NX-01 crew heard "photon torpedo" it was on board a Klingon Raptor-class ship in "Sleeping Dogs". Come season 3, the Enterprise is armed with them. Me thinks they ripped them off from the Klingons.