torpedo vs missile.

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by Albertese, Mar 28, 2009.

  1. Albertese

    Albertese Commodore Commodore

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    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
     
  2. USS Avenger

    USS Avenger Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    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.
     
  3. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  4. JuanBolio

    JuanBolio Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  5. Unicron

    Unicron Continuity Spackle Moderator

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    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.
     
  6. Praetor

    Praetor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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...
     
  7. Myasishchev

    Myasishchev Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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?
     
  8. Albertese

    Albertese Commodore Commodore

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    Fo that matter, why should they glow at all? Real life rockets don't glow. What gives?
     
  9. Praetor

    Praetor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    That's no fun! :p

    A simpler, but perhaps equally plausible explanation.

    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':
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    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. :)
     
  10. JNG

    JNG Chief of Staff, Starfleet Command Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2009
  11. Albertese

    Albertese Commodore Commodore

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    good enough for me
     
  12. Myasishchev

    Myasishchev Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
  13. JNG

    JNG Chief of Staff, Starfleet Command Rear Admiral

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    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 :lol:

    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... :brickwall:
     
  14. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    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?

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  15. Santaman

    Santaman Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
  16. kent

    kent Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    i'm all for debate on random stuff...

    but this?

    Who cares? In space a missile and a torpedo are essentially the same thing. Generally speaking, I don't see much of a difference between the two anyway.

    LOL.
     
  17. Praetor

    Praetor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Those are good points and I'd forgotten to take each of those three into account. Perhaps then we should reverse the earlier notion that torpedoes are the 'smarter,' longer-range weapons, and apply that to missiles instead. In the Trekverse, missiles are more useful against big targets, such as planets and wormholes. :)

    Well, that I'm foggy on. Technically, to me those missiles would also both be rockets once they entered space...

    Which brings up the fact that 'rockets' do exist at least as late as TNG, and appear to be a term for outdated propelled weapons. Could there be 'modern' rockets considered usable for defense? And I wonder if there is a distinction made between where the projectiles are fired from - i.e., ship, station, ground. It would appear not.

    Why the hell not? :)

    Hence the need for discussion, and education. :)
     
  18. Santaman

    Santaman Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I think that the projectile weapons in Trek are mostly called torpedo because a lot of Trek is kinda based on naval stuff.

    Also the word "torpedo" never leaves any doubt about that its a big Kboom, missiles can be all sizes imaginable.
     
  19. Praetor

    Praetor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Santaman, you may have just dissected the crux of it - Trek (post TOS in particular) favors the naval model over the aviation model for the starships.
     
  20. Myasishchev

    Myasishchev Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Yeah, photon torpedoes follow in the bold tradition of the Harpoon torpedo, the Tomahawk torpedo, and the Exocet torpedo.:p