phasers - why only short bursts?

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by Rÿcher, Aug 24, 2008.

  1. Rÿcher

    Rÿcher Fleet Captain

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    You'd think that a longer sustained burst would be much more effective against an attacking enemy than a couple of short bursts.

    Watching Nemesis last night I got thinking; the Enterprise-E was outclassed big time by the Scimitar by I dunno, 500 percent (ex.) and the Enterprise was only firing really short phaser bursts.
     
  2. Plecostomus

    Plecostomus Commodore

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    Heat buildup. Even with magic-tech it takes time to disperse heat and you don't want to be caught with an overheated phaser array just when the enemy provides you with a clear shot.
     
  3. Timelord Victorious

    Timelord Victorious Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Answer: constant low-yield phaser beam sweeping the sky until it hits, keep it then locked on target and switch to high yield, enemy ka-boom.
     
  4. JNG

    JNG Chief of Staff, Starfleet Command

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    The "leading edge," so to speak, of the beam is most efficient in a lot of cases. Hence the development of a pulsed phaser cannon, as used in Defiant. It's almost nothing but.

    The TNG Technical Manual also suggests that rapid firing at different sections of an enemy shield bubble can weaken it, so sometimes they are trying to erode the protection overall instead of poke through it one beam at a time, if you follow me.

    In other cases, continuous dwell time on the target is the most effective approach. The choice is presumably made by the Chief Tactical Officer and depends on the type of target and the goal of firing phasers at it, and it is one of many choices that must be made about the phasers, including power level, frequency and nutation.

    The Tech Manual suggests the continuous firing time of those arrays is measured in minutes, so the heat issue isn't likely to come up too often, but the issues of power consumption and of intentionally limiting damage to certain targets are more prominent.
     
  5. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Vice Admiral Admiral

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    And it's also hard to maintain a prolonged phaser beam contact on a moving vessel that's also firing at you too...
     
  6. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Indeed, it's difficult to see how our heroes could have maintained phaser contact with the Scimitar, which was cloaked for the most part, maneuvered quite a lot, and was firing back so hard that the heroes had to maneuver, too. Most of the shots fired by the E-E were "ranging shots" anyway, attempts at establishing where the invisible enemy was, and any sustaining there would have meant wasted energy.

    Apart from that, though, the standard mode of phasers in TNG/DS9/VOY era ship-to-ship combat does seem to be to dwell the beam at the target for as long as possible. It's just that in TNG, our heroes usually are so superior in firepower that they don't need a long duration beam to defeat their puny opponents - especially when "defeat" is defined as silencing the enemy guns while minimizing death and destruction. In DS9, a beam is often sustained until it starts coming out the other side of the target ship...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  7. AlxxlA

    AlxxlA Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Maybe it's because they want to be able to see what happens to the target. When you fire short bursts, you can assess the damage each time. Imagine the following two scenarios, set on the Ent-D:

    Scenario 1:

    Worf: The Romulan vessel is closing! Recommend immediate action.
    Riker: Shields up! Lock phasers.
    Worf: Phasers locked.
    Riker: FIRE!
    (The phasers fire, and continue for about 30 seconds)
    Data: Sir, sensors show a spike in the Romulan vessel's power distribution systems. The power core is destabilizing.
    (The Romulan ship explodes, and everything in the area is sucked into the now-unstable singularity.)


    Scenario 2:

    Worf: The Romulan vessel is closing! Recommend immediate action.
    Riker: Shields up! Lock phasers.
    Worf: Phasers locked.
    Riker: FIRE!
    (The phasers fire for one or two seconds)
    Data: Sir, the Romulan vessel is heavily damaged an is proceeding across the neutral zone at impulse speed.
     
  8. SicOne

    SicOne Commodore Commodore

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    Alxxla, your Scenario 1 demonstrates why it would be an exceptionally good idea to engage Romulan warships BEFORE they enter orbit of any planet you would like to see exist after the engagement!
     
  9. Strider

    Strider Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Ok, so if they were trying to establish where the Scimitar was, why didn't they fire phasers at 1 percent or less of total yield for a second at a time? They could fire a whole lot more often, and when they made a hit the computer would note the location and possibly even calculate the velocity and direction of travel of the Scimitar and calculate where it was likely to be in the next few seconds. You could then follow up with torpedos and full power phaser strikes. I know the Scimitar maneuvered a lot, but assuming it doesn't maneuver like a fighter you'd think the computer would be able to track reasonably well.
     
  10. Search4

    Search4 Commander Red Shirt

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    One of my greatest issues with Nemesis is exactly this point. Scimitar is pretty large, and can't maneuver past a certain, albeit respectable, envelope. Once "hit", though, it should have been relatively easy to project course and keep hitting it - each additional hit provides new course information. And setting torpedoes on more of a "proximity" setting (e.g. blow up when you get -here-) would at least guarantee some damage.

    Oh well, its all in the writing, we needed a cool crash scene.
     
  11. darkwing_duck1

    darkwing_duck1 Vice Admiral

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    You're forgetting the role of evasive action on the part of the Scimitar. Even cloaked, the helmsman would be making evasives to prevent exactly the scenario you propose...
     
  12. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    And the ship did pull respectable turns every time she went back under her cloak...

    As regards the failure to use "tickling" phasers to smoke out the enemy, and then switch to lethal power levels, there are two possible opposing arguments.

    1) Perhaps they did exactly that?

    2) We have no evidence that it is possible to retune a phaser from "tickling" to lethal in a short period of time. Quite possibly the enemy would have slipped away long before the phasers ramped back up to lethal levels. Although in that case, Picard would do wisely to leave a certain percentage of the phaser strips at full power and on standby during the ranging.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  13. USS KG5

    USS KG5 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Also it is quite possible that Picard wanted to make that one random hit he seemed to occasionally get had some whack to it.

    After all - artillery fires explosive shells when ranging - not just when firing for effect.
     
  14. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    ...But sometimes only because it has to - because the logistics chain cannot be expected to provide the artillery with a supply of ballistically genuine blanks.

    In any case, what reason do we have to think that it would be a bad idea to fire full power shots into empty space? We have never really heard that this would result in a "shortage of ammo" as such. We do hear that phasers can be "depleted", but there is no evidence that this would be as the result of firing high-power shots.

    Supposedy phasers get their energy from the general power grid of the ship, and can be fired with as little as what's in the batteries, not even requiring auxiliary let alone primary power. Thus, when phasers are said to be at as low as 4% at the end of the ST:NEM battle, but the ship still retains enough energy for impulse maneuvering, it is difficult to believe that this phaser "depletion" would be as the result of energy wasted through high power shots. Energy should still be there aplenty for a thousand or ten thousand additional high power shots - something else must be depleting the phasers.

    Okay, so perhaps the depletion does come from high power shots: perhaps they cause such stress to the phaser emitters that these degrade and cannot easily be restored. But low power shots might have the same effect. And ramping between low and high power might be the worst possible thing to emitter lifetime.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  15. USS KG5

    USS KG5 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Agreed - one of the supposed plus points of energy weapons is the need for just energy - no ammo stores.

    Well we know from DS9 that there are phaser consumables on the Defiant - presumably the Ent-E has a similar device in each of its arrays, and that these devices are not "hot swappable" in combat.

    It is with many other things of course.
     
  16. Deks

    Deks Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I think it was established that if it's necessary/doable, our heroes can and do initiate longer duration phaser bursts against their enemies.

    In most situations, the targets they faced were quite mobile, and even with FTL weapons, it would be problematic to compensate for sudden changes in trajectory.

    Against enemies such as the Borg though and races that are able to induce feedback pulses quickly through sustained beams ... it's also possible SF is using shorter bursts to prevent such a scenario.
     
  17. Search4

    Search4 Commander Red Shirt

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    Back to my argument: the Scimitar still pretty big and it can't change course that fast (example: can't get out of the way of the "E" during the collision) and phasers, even if not lightspeed, are much faster. Its position and most course information is revealed when launching any weapon, so its not like you don't have data.

    I'm also surprised that after with all of the "fight a cloaked ship" scenarios Starfleet could have planned for, there's no setting on the torpedoes to follow an enemy's impulse plasma (sorry, wrong movie), or better yet get informed by a phaser "tag" and change course. This latter capability we could do with a drone today with little difficulty.

    I know, i know, they wanted a cool crash scene.
     
  18. USS KG5

    USS KG5 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Ahhh... but then the Scimitar had come to a full stop hadn't it? The thrust needed to combat the inertia of something as big as the Scimitar must be pretty massive and in fact it was probably moving relatively quick before it got hit. It is just so damn big that it did not make enough difference.

    Heck - if you wish to rationalise some more it is possible it is actually something that takes a few seconds to start the engines and have them get to full power.

    This is as opposed to an adjustment in trajectory in combat sufficient to avoid getting hit by a beam fired from several kilometres away (or realistically a lot more) by someone who only has an educated guess at your course anyway.

    Well all your first point means is a correctly targetted phaser beam at launch is guaranteed to hit something a few kilometres away, if the combat was taking place over distances of a few light seconds you could easily miss.

    As for the second point - a single shot tells you precisely nothing about an enemies course, just the point where it was when the shot was fired. You would need a minimum of three and probably at least a dozen shots to correctly track a curving course which was kept constant. With manoevering in the equation as well it becomes almost impossible.

    Well presumably the Scimitar had a method of avoiding this deficiency. Its only sensible if you assume that 24th century "impulse" engines rely solely on Newtonian physics anyway, which always struck me as unlikely.

    Well maybe torpedoes can change course in flight because of slaving to the mother ship like some AAMs can. This would still imply you need accurate information to get a hit though.

    Well for all the faults of Nemesis, the crash scene was pretty cool.
     
  19. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Didn't Picard explicitly tell Worf to pool resources between all three ships to the purpose of getting meaningful triangulation from the ranging shots, and then automatically targeting by that? One would assume all of Worf's torpedoes were targeted and fired on the basis of this pooling of combat automation systems.

    Whether they were also midcourse-guided by the pool of systems is unknown, as they always missed by the slightest of margins after a virtually straight flightpath. If a straight path was almost good enough for a hit, then we cannot readily argue that the lack of curvature in the path proves that the torps didn't maneuver. They probably just didn't need to maneuver much even when they could; high-gee corkscrewing would not have improved the results, and thus its absence doesn't establish that midcourse steering was absent.

    As for tracking of impulse exhaust, it's clearly something that a starship's own sensors cannot consistently do even in ST6. That is, the cloaked ship doesn't leave a simple trail of exhaust that could be sensed and plotted - at most, it burps out a whiff of plasma here, another there, and a suitably configured torpedo has a small but finite chance of locking onto such a whiff at just the right time and place. Mostly, such a torpedo would spend time spinning in confused circles, as happened in ST6.

    Not to mention that the technique might not work at all within an exotic nebula that has already been polluted by the engines and weapon fire of four vessels.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  20. JNG

    JNG Chief of Staff, Starfleet Command

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    Absolutely--"hiding" there was probably much easier than it would have been somewhere else.

    I just want to point out that when we use terms like "hit" and "miss" for torpedoes, we must remember that they are area-effect weapons that detonate as close to the intended target as they can--after making some complicated determinations about whether or not the usage of reactants from missing the target on that pass, turning around, and maneuvering for a closer pass would be likely to result in a greater or lesser force delivered to the target. The cloak on Scimitar, the effect of the rift on torpedo guidance systems, and maybe some other factors meant a lot of these torpedoes were blowing themselves up at "best guess" moments that probably didn't end up representing very good guesses at all. (I must admit to being a bit awed when Data reported the ship had used up all of its torpedoes; I didn't care for the design or name of Scimitar or the conclusion of the battle, but that little data point and the "Kirk-Epsilon" business were pretty neat.)

    Also possibly relevant: the Technical Manual and Encyclopedia suggest that the effective range of phasers is typically limited to one light-second. If this is the case, I imagine many, if not most, torpedo launch scenarios (taking place at much greater ranges) would not be able to make effective use of phaser "tagging" for torpedo guidance as was mentioned above.
     

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