Caseless Torpedoes

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

  1. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    Nothing wrong with forty times the speed of sound as such; speed would just be a function of explosive yield, even if in a somewhat complex manner. Although a nicely spherical blast wave would be preferable to the broccoli shapes of the "gasoline explosion" we lamentably once again witness...

    Perhaps these gasoline explosion things are how antimatter actually behaves in high concentrations - being at first dispersed by the initial "core" annihilation, then compressing to annihilation densities again in random directions at random distances? So we get multiple overlapping spheres and wavefronts, much as with the expanding gases of classic Hollywood fireworks.

    I wonder if the "long term effects" here would include removal or significant thinning of the atmosphere of Vagra II, considering the dialogue of "Obsession"? We've seen how "painless" something like that is in the terms of Star Trek visuals, in "Homeward".

    Considering that the danger of collateral damage was less than zero (that is, if any bystanders were killed, everybody would be very, very grateful, including said casualty!), overkill sounds preferable here.

    Kruge's torpedo doesn't seem to be all that similar to photon torpedoes, as it causes an "electric crackling" effect rather than any of the blast types traditionally witnessed. Plus Kruge fully expects it to create disabling damage rather than destruction. Possibly he's deliberately packing the ideal weapon type for a cloaked commerce raider (that is, an evil German submarine in spaaaaace!), not so ideal in a fight against proper ships of war.

    But unshielded ships being just one very light misstep away from blowing up is certainly a valid concept, reinforced by the likes of "Cause and Effect". Doesn't undermine the idea that shielded ships can shrug off multiple torps in basically all situations.

    An assassin firing his Derringer?

    Chang had customized weapons for the task of damaging the ship serving as Kronos One and making it look like a Starfleet job. That'd presuppose low yield for multiple reasons:

    a) Real Starfleet would fire low yield torps if intending to do light damage in support of boarding action.
    b) Cartwright would make sure to supply Chang with the perfect low yield torps for the job, and only the perfect low yield torps...

    That's what I always use as an excuse for Chang's melodramatic ranting. He isn't really a crazed sadist who enjoys killing his victims piecemeal even if this means risking the total collapsing of his great plans. He just plays one over the comm lines, to hide the fact that his only weapon is a peashooter capable of nothing more than piecemeal damage.

    Neither before nor after Burke's mutiny did the Equinox pursue a campaign of actually wanting to destroy the Voyager. Burke himself just wanted to escape Janeway into a nebula moments before firing those torpedoes through her shields. So, disabling shots are a distinct possibility once again.

    That's quite a mystery, but probably related to how shuttlecraft pass through air-containing forcefields.

    Have we ever seen something "passive" (like a villain?) thrown through an atmosphere containment forcefield? Or can we continue to postulate that this trick requires at least a special transponder aboard the departing object, and probably some sort of intricate shield-shield interaction, in addition to brute physical force?

    Oops, my bad.

    Timo Saloniemi
  2. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Mar 22, 2010
    Early on, I thought of photon torpedoes as rather like ball lightning. That they were drawn towards other ships without needing any guidance at all. By layering fields of different energies, you could give them different properties with no moving parts.

    Here you have a new kind of magnetism

    Here you have motion control with a laser.

    So you have a wrapped form of energy, or perhaps anti-matter. This becomes entangled like a large romulan plasma torpedo in another ships field after a safe time has elapsed.

    it is emitted from the lower dome and perhaps rides an invisible beam if need be.

    An all energy TOW missile.
  3. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    Well, it is "fired" from a "tube".

    Plus, the torpedoes being fired, or possibly the tubes involved in the firing, are numbered - 2, 4 and 6 are fired in "Journey to Babel" while 2 is selected in "The Changeling".

    If we're talking about wrapped energy, then giving numbers to the torpedoes makes little sense: they will only come to existence at the moment of firing, gaining their number no earlier than that, and so there won't be an obvious way of firing 2, 4 and 6 while leaving 1, 3 and 5 unfired. On the other hand, if these are tube numbers rather than projectile numbers (as submarine analogies would suggest, and better explaining Kirk's odd desire to skip odd numbers), then it doesn't matter whether the projectiles being fired are physical bullets or energy wraps.

    Timo Saloniemi
  4. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom
    Shockwaves do not work that way. The speed of sound in a medium is determinate; adding more energy to the wave won't increase its speed, just its amplitude and propagation distance.

    You're very glib about this, but it's incomprehensible that Picard -- especially Season 1 Picard -- would have intentionally nuked Armus with a maximum yield photon torpedo, no matter how pissed he was about Tasha.

    True, but it DID destroy the Grissom with just one shot. Indication that the ability to destroy an entire starship doesn't necessarily (or even usually) indicate explosive yield.

    It also doesn't change the fact that UNSHIELDED ones often do this as well.

    That again assumes a one-shot-kill is even possible. I don't think it is.

    Which is another EXCUSE for why torpedoes are never ever fired at their maximum yield. Why should we continue to assume they even HAVE a higher setting, when even TOS suggests that antimatter explosives would produce HUGELY larger reactions than photon torpedoes are capable of?

    Either way, we know that shuttlecraft can't pass through deflector shields, though properly tuned photon torpedoes can. Incidentally, we also know that phaser beams can pass through shields (on the way out, at least) so it leads me to consider even more than photon torpedoes are largely a-physical and can be "modulated" to pass through energy fields without interacting with them.
  5. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom
    That sort of makes sense, to an extent. It explains the fireball effect at least, since the torpedo is a bolt of energy being externally guided. The "chiclet of death" sitting in the tube could, in that case, be a sort of "cable unit" that both generates and controls the photon torpedo through quantum entanglement or some such, adding or removing kinetic energy in one direction or another.

    Though I'm grappling with the possibility that the casing itself is just a battery for what is essentially a weaponized shield generator. Turn up the shields high enough and they won't just repel things that touch them, they could smash/superheat those objects while also accelerating them away from it at fantastic speeds.

    Basically, an explosion in a can. I'm just on the fence right now whether or not such a forcefield would actually require a physical object at the center of it or if that object could be left behind in the tube as an expendable (potentially rechargeable/regeneratable) cartridge. Considering that torpedo tubes more often are used like cannons than missile launchers, the latter seems more likely.
  6. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    At some point, it would cease to be a shockwave issue and would simply become an issue of an irresistible force moving matter against basically no resistance at all. I doubt it's the medium we see in motion: it's ejecta, which can freely do Mach 40, or 25% lightspeed for all we care, and the atmospheric medium (if any remains) be damned.

    How so? That would have been a good deed if there ever was one; letting Armus live would have been punishment (which Picard appeared to want to inflict on the creature, rather sadistically, when he beamed away), letting it die would have been a service (something the Picard we know and love would have come around to providing, after he got past his initial senseless anger). It's just that Picard seemed to realize that Armus had real difficulty getting itself killed, and that even a demolition-level photon torpedo might not suffice for the task. We have no indication that Armus would have been killed - but no indication that it would not have been, and no indication whatsoever that our heroes would have tried to avoid killing it.

    I'd rule out the "usually" part, because Kruge seemed so utterly confident that destruction would not be the result in either of the cases. Both when he wanted to avoid destruction but got it anyway (Grissom), and when he desperately wanted destruction but was resigned to the fact that he could not get it (Enterprise). This was an exceptional weapon, applied differently from its Starfleet counterparts.

    There is no unshielded ship that would have survived a Starfleet photon torpedo hit. That the green Klingon BoP weapons twice failed to decisively hurt the Enterprise (ST3&5) only speaks of the special qualities of that type of weapon; that the red "fake" torpedo scored a penetrating rather than devastating hit against the ultimately unshielded hero ship in ST6 can be chalked off as a case of "Derringer", but could just as well simply be a case of "dud".

    Because immobile targets are invariably destroyed. And very impressively so, in planetary bombardment situations. The very short barrage in "The Die is Cast" does rather full justice to the idea that these are true doomsday weapons, providing a single unopposed starship with the power to terminate a world.

    Which then prompts the obvious question of why such bombardment is so seldom seen. But we can't blame it on weapons technology limitations when we aren't through considering strategy or bushido rules yet.

    Sure they can, with a bit of trickery ("Preemptive Strike"). It may even be the very same trickery: even though Lieutenant Ro wasn't heavy on the technobabble, her co-insurgents (not just the gullible Kalita, but also the supposedly more combat-savvy Santos) seemed to buy her every word about sailing through shields, indicating it wasn't just pure bluff but actually based on the realities of starship combat.

    A shuttle flying through an air-holding field is a gentle application; a projectile barging through a combat shield might just call for a bit less finesse and a lot more power. Since forcefields tend to exhibit a glow, and torps glow in flight, perhaps what we're seeing is a "counterfield" in action? Could be glow from rather poorly shielded warp engines or somesuch, of course, but why deliberately shield poorly when a less brightly shining torpedo would be tactically advantageous, and when Starfleet never is suggested to be a cheapskate when it comes to expendable technologies...?

    Well, for TNG, the matter is unambiguous: after firing, the torpedo that corkscrews across space is still a physical object that you can go reel back in if you really want to ("Genesis").

    The same projectile shape behaves the same way when used as a high-warp courier capsule or a no-propulsion burial box: you spit it out, and it does its stuff without evaporating or turning into a forcefield-based pair of petunias or anything.

    Timo Saloniemi
  7. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom
    The fireball is MUCH too small for that; an ejecta plume moving at that speed wouldn't slow down or dissipate in anything less a handful of minutes and would expand to several tens of times the size we see in the episode before it ceased to be visible. The plume itself would deposit a fair amount of material in orbit and scatter the rest over tens or hundreds of kilometers; the molten crater it would leave would be at least as visible as the explosion itself.

    It's just a matter of scale. Explosions that occur with that much energy and on that large a scale DO NOT occur that quickly. It's just a lot more likely that we're seeing something that LOOKS kind of big even though it really isn't.

    And massively out of character for Picard, or for Starfleet itself for that matter. These are supposed to be the "highly evolved sensibility" humans that Gene Rodenberry had a hardon for in his latter years; these are NOT people who are going to be heard saying "We should just nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

    You are fully aware that there are more EXCEPTIONS to the rule than actual proofs, and is therefore not an applicable rule.

    Sure they can, with a bit of trickery ("Preemptive Strike").[/quote]
    A "bit of trickery" in this case is "Get the tactical officer to weaken the shields so you can get through." Doesn't count against the trend.

    Doesn't fit; the glow is still present even when shooting at things that DON'T have shields (where there would be no need for a "counterfield." That glow is a distinctive feature of the torpedo itself and I think we should treat it as suggestive of something about how the weapon fundamentally works, not just an interesting feature tacked on because it would explain things.

    And yet in its non-weaponized use, torpedoes do not glow like fireballs.

    Tellingly, neither do science probes, which really shouldn't be the case since technically the only difference between a probe and a torpedo is (supposedly) their payload. One has a sensor, the other has a warhead. The fact that they look completely different -- more importantly, the fact that Starfleet no longer uses weapons that resemble probes -- suggests that there's some fundamental difference between photon torpedoes and any other projectile weapon in existence. They CAN'T be simply jazzed-up guided missiles, nor can we attribute the difference to the warheds alone (again, a 22nd century spatial torpedo could be photonic, in that case, just by swapping out the warhead).

    I'm leaning towards Publiusr's "ball lighting" idea, among others. Even if the casing is part of the weapon itself (it may not always be) that would mean a concentration of fantastic amounts of energy, encapsulated in a self-cohesive mass and then hurled at the enemy where it will theoretically be released on contact.
  8. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    And nothing will ever look like a gasoline explosion several degrees of latitude wide. Except in Star Trek.

    Perhaps we are seeing the events in fast motion, much like we might be seeing most of the space battles in slow motion?

    Again, how so? Our Starfleet heroes engage in mercy killings often enough, and typically without comment - except when it's Worf attempting the same, of course. And the typical TOS plotline had Kirk ultimately destroying the evil space monster, even if said monster knew how to speak English and could parse together an argument. Our heroes are killers by profession, on a mission to seek and destroy new life and civilizations unless those conform to certain narrow norms.

    No, I'm not. In fact, I'm not aware of even a single exception to the absolute rule that unshielded ships inevitably die of Starfleet torpedo impact.

    Torpedoes penetrating through weakened shields are witnessed on occasion. But AFAIK, there are exactly zero hits against actually unshielded targets, and the rule in fact is missing even the one exception that conventional wisdom requires for proof...

    This is still supposed to "look like" something else altogether, something that can plausibly take place without direct help from Worf. The Maquis swallow it hook, line, sinker, rod and boat; even our heroes appear to think it's an impressive feat achieved by Ro thanks to her new training, not just something Worf made possible with a keypress. For all we know, when Picard says "Let it through", Worf merely refrains from doing anything; Data later establishes that the vessel has "penetrated our shields", not that it was "let in through our shields".

    The two aren't really different: how the weapon fundamentally works is certainly an interesting feature that is tacked on purely for dramatic purposes.

    Which makes it sound all the more as if the glow is a fighting function, something "interesting" that is "tacked on" for a special purpose but can easily be left out as well.

    Actually, in TNG at least, the two behave completely differently from the technical viewpoint. The probes always exhibit significant acceleration after sailing out of the tube, and this involves an oddly pulsating glow resembling the blast of a cheap fireworks rocket. Never mind the payload, the propulsion system appears fundamentally different, or at least is staged very differently from that of a torpedo.

    Perhaps the prominent arching wings of the TNG probe are Vulcan-style warp engines that allow the probe to accelerate to high warp on its own once clear of the ship, explaining the many cases of long range probe study by instruments fired from a starship at standstill? And perhaps the classic torpedo has no comparable propulsion system and indeed works much like the backstage doubletalk suggests, with "handoff" fields that die out eventually and cannot be restarted.

    Why not? I don't see any reason to think otherwise. They just look a bit different from certain other guided missiles - exactly like certain UAVs today look like ancient guided missiles while their destructive counterparts have evolved into more modern shapes, with key differences in propulsion but still without any sort of fundamental change that would justify not calling them jazzed-up guided missiles.

    Or, to cut through the triple negatives, a torpedo in most incarnations of Star Trek is undeniably is a projectile that leaves the launching tube the way submarines spit out torpedoes today, and reaches the destination in projectile form after guided flight involving maneuvering. What happens at the destination is unclear, although antimatter annihilation is suggested; what happens en route looks colorful and interesting, but does not alter the basic nature of the weapon as a projectile delivered from A to B.

    Whether TOS weapons are different is anybody's guess; in theory, TOS could represent an interlude, and things like projectile-type photon torpedoes and dilithium-focus warp cores might be briefly absent. But interludes, while interesting as a concept, are not dictated by the evidence. To the contrary, we occasionally hear statements about the static nature of Treknology (impulse drives remaining the same for centuries, phasers being invented in/after the 22nd century already), perhaps indicating that mankind in fact invents very little and instead inherits ancient ideas and technologies from older cultures - along with the principle of keeping those technologies alive and backward compatible (down to details like photon torpedo caliber) for centuries.

    Timo Saloniemi
  9. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Mar 22, 2010
    We saw that in best of both worlds--but perhaps that was just an anti-transporter field, similar to the bridge field we see in ST II before the shields proper could be raised.

    Personally, when I was watching TOS, I never even thought of the photon torpedo as having anti-matter in it. I figured that would be too powerful an armament to be allowed even on the battlefield after seeing the planet's atmosphere partially blown away in "Obsession." Heck, I even--being a child of the Cold War--thought of ( I didn't know the term drones) interstellar ballistic missiles between the Klingons and UFP.

    Here I would suggest that we take (at least most of the antimatter) out of the equation
    Here is a PDF that has a stunning photo you may wish to look at:

    When watching Star Wars, I often wondered why the superlaser beams came to a point and did not cross one another. I figured there was some type of lens too small for the eye to see.

    A decade or two later, they come up with a Bose Einstein Condensate.

    Now we hear of Tibanna gas, and how the blaster bolts from star wars are really not as fast as the real thing from Wicked Lasers. So my guess is that the blaser doesn't fire a laser beam--but fires a gas laser apparatus itself. A bolt of this gas wrapped somehow. The laser bean is bouncing inside a bolt of gas--then when this tibanna condensate hits, it discharges the laser bouncing back and forth directly into what it hits.

    I would submit the photon torpedo does this too, but has better field manip' and maybe the BEC has just a hair of anti-matter for some reason. This explains why the phasers and photon torpedoes come from the lower sensor dome. it is one big emitter and does the wrapping all in that lower crystal dome somehow. Heck in Starfleet prototypes, they even have the back-up phaser above the tube--just the thing to explain the TNG Darmok episode..

    For stun, you have this:
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2012
  10. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom
    No they don't.

    Off the top of my head:

    Reliant firing on Enterprise (TWOK)
    Enterprise firing on Reliant ... twice (TWOK)
    Enterprise firing on Kruge's bird of prey... twice (TSFS)
    Enterprise and Excelsior firing on Chang's bop, destroyed with FIVE torpedoes (TUC)
    Equinox firing on Voyager (Eq Pt-II)
    Voyager firing on Equinox (Eq Pt-II)
    Chang firing on Gorkon's ship actually counts too, since Qo'nos-1's failure to immediately explode after two torpedo hits didn't strike anyone as odd (Kirk, obviously, wouldn't have expected the unshielded cruiser to blow up after one or even two torpedoes).

    See above.

    That's because they're the Maquis. What do THEY know about Starfleet shields?

    In this case, it's the difference between "The guns shoot laser beams" and "The guns shoot bullets." Maybe for the purpose of scriptwriting these might as well be interchangeable, but this is Trek Tech, not the copyeditor's nitpick forum.

    The thing is, leaving it out renders the torpedo useless (or at least highly ineffective) as a weapon. That tells me that the glow ITSELF is relevant part of the weapon.

    Put another way: a broomhandle has lots of things in common with a spear, but a boomhandle doesn't become a spear unless you put something sharp and pointy at the end of it. By the same token, a probe/missile/torpedo doesn't become a PHOTON torpedo without that distinctive glow.

    Which is the main reason I believe the photon torpedo casing isn't part of the actual weapon. It seems to me the energy bolt itself is being accelerated out of the tube where it travels at a constant velocity all the way to its target. The casing, in this case, would be a bit like a shotgun cartridge that generates the initial energy bolt in the first place.

    Because jazzed-up guided missiles look like this. Or like this. Or sometimes like this.

    The glow from a photon torpedo is inconsistent with a standard exhaust plume, even from what is necessarily a torpedo-sized device. This suggests the glow is more than just "really bright light from engine." It may, in fact, be the only important thing about photon torpedoes at all.

    Spot the difference: this is a photon torpedo. This is not a photon torpedo. Even if they had identical explosive yields, even if they used the same warheads, it seems clear that they would still be two entirely different weapons.

    More importantly, look at the cap of the actual photorp. Perspective may be screwing with us here, but the circular part of the glow is too small to hide the actual casing; in fact, it's not much bigger than one of the windows on the neck of the ship. At this scale, IF the entire torpedo casing had been fired, it would be plainly visible riding in front of the fireball (it would actually be pretty hard to miss). We're not seeing it here, nor the front angle shot where the casing should be right in front of the tube and is large enough that it should actually eclipse most of the glow anyway. It's more likely that a small energy projectile has been launched FROM the casing with a small amount of guidance on the way out. This would explain why the spherical part of the torpedo has about same diameter as the casing -- just two or three feet across -- but is not be nearly as long and is otherwise completely non-physical.

    Furthermore: we only ever see the torpedo deck crew load a single tube into the launcher, and yet Enterprise fires TWICE from the same tube in considerably less time than it would take for them to lower and reload that tube. The same thing happens in TUC, where Enterprise is able to fire from BOTH tubes on Chang's bird of prey, apparently without having to reload its tubes. This leads us to wonder that perhaps a single torpedo casing can fire multiple times (if only just twice) before it is exhausted?
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2012
  11. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

    Feb 26, 2010
    A few more data points:

    In "Dark Frontier", a photon torpedo detonated inside a Borg ship (after it was beamed over) and it lacked the characteristic glow as it built up to detonation.

    Also, Voyager had differentiated their standard "Type 6" photon torpedoes from the high-yield "Type 10" photon torpedoes which were used on occasion. It might be starting in the movies that photon torpedoes went from standard large volume effect weapon to standard directed-blast weapons. Since we also know that warhead charges can be swapped out, not every photon torpedo would have antimatter as it's warhead. As Timo points out, this versatility and variability would make photon torpedoes hard to pin down... IMHO.
  12. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom
    The torpedo from Dark Frontier is an interesting case, to be sure. The lack of a glowy exterior again suggests that the glow doesn't have any direct connection to the casing at all, but is only present when the torpedo actually fires. In that case the torpedo wouldn't have built up to a detonation so much as built up to the colossal (and uncontrolled, since there's no firing tube) discharge that tore the ship apart from the inside.

    Why use a photon torpedo instead of, say, a tricobalt device or a demolition bomb? Could be just for convenience (they had plenty of torpedoes), but more likely because Seven of Nine had identified a critical component somewhere in the probe that couldn't be attacked from the outside and Voyager beamed a torpedo into the ship with its business end pointing directly at it.

    Swapping warhead charges, though, is something to think about: to what extent is a matter/antimatter reaction even useful as an anti-ship weapon? Shields and hull plating seem perfectly well suited for dissipating x-ray flashes, so the warhead would probably be in the form of something harder to repel; something similar to a phaser blast, but considerably more powerful.
  13. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    The idea that the torpedo is caseless "in-universe" can IMHO be safely dropped at this point, except as speculation on Starfleet briefly flirting with a different technology during TOS and then returning to physical projectiles by the time of the TOS movies. But it is certainly possible that a photon torpedo would be a weapon type capable of carrying all sorts of warheads, the "photon" part being unrelated to the warhead - and that the warheads in TOS perhaps never were of the antimatter type.

    Semantically, that would basically mean that a quantum torpedo is also a weapon type capable of carrying all sorts of warheads, and indeed such a torpedo does carry tricobolt warheads in "For the Uniform", even if only as "boosters".

    But the ability of a "torpedo" to carry a physical payload from A to B is explicit in the quantum case, and implicit in the TNG photon case where the casing is known to be traveling in space after launch in a variety of applications, and something physical and recoverable is known to be traveling in space after a standard photon torpedo launch. Even the TOS movie era has more or less explicit physicality-after-launch in that a novel guidance system is physically installed inside the casing in ST6:TUC.

    In light of this, I'd loathe to separate the names "photon torpedo" and "quantum torpedo" from the warhead/payload type completely, especially when we also hear of things like "merculite rockets" or "pulse wave torpedoes" where the semantic connection is clearly intended (although we can of course dispute it). Of course, we also are supposed to believe in microtorpedoes, where the first part of the name refers to the properties of the delivery system, but that isn't exactly onscreen dialogue. In contrast, ENT dialogue on photon(ic) torpedo antimatter warheads is onscreen and explicit - but again we can argue it's but one (even if overwhelmingly the most common, and perhaps the only one in the 2150s) of the available warhead types.

    In the end, "Dark Frontier" and the like considered, the glow still appears to be a propulsive thing. It's not the same exact type of propulsion as in the probes the E-D usually fires, or as in the starships and shuttles, but it might well be closely related anyway. Despite Trek being a visual thing first and foremost, looks aren't particularly relevant in this respect, because we already have several different established looks for a Starfleet piece of technology traveling at impulse or warp speeds. Does the exact same type of propulsive hardware move the casing at high warp in "The Emissary" without the trademark glow? Or is it different hardware? Or is it the same hardware, but on a coasting mode, having "burned out" long ago but still maintaining the projectile at warp?

    The undisputable part of it all (feel free to dispute case by case!) seems to be this:

    -Torpedo features at least two physically stored components: casing (all shows but TOS) and a separate warhead (DS9 "Tribunal") or several
    -Torpedo is typically physically launched from a tube or a rack of some sort, even though we don't know why this would be necessary and whether the launcher plays a role in initial or subsequent propulsion
    -Torpedo glows in flight, and cannot be made dark during powered flight or else stealthy firings would definitely take place (say, in ST6)
    -Torpedo stops glowing after powered flight, becoming a difficult-to-locate physical object that can e.g. be studied for postflight establishing of flight parameters ("Genesis")
    -Torpedo can detonate without being launched or made to glow
    -Torpedo can maneuver in flight, and has an onboard tracking system at least as an option
    -Torpedo can hit targets at both sublight and warp, although the speed at which it leaves the launcher does not appear to vary
    -Torpedo tactical range is markedly shorter than the propulsive (or warp-coasting?) range of a torpedo-type casing, even if we don't know the exact specs of either
    -Torpedo warhead can probably be removed, can explicitly be accompanied by add-on warheads, and yet is not explicitly known to be utilized without the casing part (although we can always speculate on any random demolition device being a torpedo warhead at heart)

    Timo Saloniemi
  14. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom
    I don't, and here's why:

    The VFX from Genesis shows, for the first time in TNG, a photon torpedo that leaves a visible exhaust plume trailing behind it. Data says these are "the new photon torpedoes" and they're being fired as part of a weapons test; when one of them veers off course, Picard orders Worf to destroy it with phasers, which is ANOTHER first in the history of Star Trek. Significantly, we never do see whatever it was Picard and Data recovered, so we don't know if they recovered the entire casing or a football-sized booster pod that -- in the experimental design -- rides in the middle of the photon bolt to increase its accuracy and yield.

    This mirrors "For the Uniform" where Sisko asks Worf to arrange a "cargo pod" with "two hundred kilograms of trilithium" (not tricobalt) as payload. Worf says this will make the torpedoes less effective, implying that the extra pod would make the torpedoes less accurate for some reason; this undoubtedly reflects Worf's experience with similar modifications in "Genesis".

    The premise, once again, is that the casing is a device that generates the torpedo bolt but otherwise never leaves the tube (at least, not until it burns itself out and has to be replaced). It would contain both the initial charge and payload for the bolt (physical or otherwise) and the guidance system that provides steering instructions for the bolt itself.

    Debatably, we got to see what the actual TOS torpedo system looked like in "STXI" when we got a look at the Enteprise' torpedo room. The 2250s photon torpedoes were the size of howitzer shells and loaded into a revolver-like assembly, which implies that each cylinder could only be discharged a single time. These would seem to be absurdly small weapons for a ship with such a large torpedo launcher, unless the size (and power) of the torpedo bolt has nothing at all to do with the size of the casing. This may also explain the odd weapons composition of the Kelvin 30 years earlier; script for the movie calls the blue energy bolts "photons", and if photon torpedoes or similar weaponry are energy-based projectiles instead of physical ones, they could be exactly that.

    You pretty much have to, actually, since otherwise a photon torpedo could be made full quantum just by swapping out the warhead, which we already know should be possible for physically-cased weapons. Even more importantly, your point about "merculite rockets" and other projectile weapons that AREN'T photon torpedoes cannot be overlooked either; if you can stick a matter/antimatter warhead on a photon torpedo, you could stick it on a conventional rocket too.

    This reflects modern conventions for guided missiles, guns and even directed energy weapons. The descriptors for these things usually describe the delivery system, not the warhead itself; thus a cruise missile is still called a cruise missile whether it's carrying a nuclear warhead or a gift from Santa Claus (or both). Same for machineguns; armor piercing and incendiary rounds are described for what they do, regardless of their caliber or the weapon that fires them.

    No. Because the casing in "The Emissary" is called a "Class-8 probe", not a photon torpedo.

    Significantly: if an object the size of a torpedo casing can travel at warp 9 WITHOUT glowing like a fireball, then why do photon torpedoes do this?

    Still bigger is the question of why Starfleet doesn't have a weaponized version of the Class-8 probe, like a warp-powered interplanetary cruise missile with a photon torpedo warhead on it. We already know such a device DOES have tactical viability in some contexts (The gigantic Cardassian Dreadnaught, the putative missiles used by the Maquis, even the long-range missiles from "Warhead"). There's all kinds of uses for physically-cased weapons, but photon torpedoes do not resemble any of them and aren't used that way.

    Which is as far as we need to go. As far as we can tell, photon torpedo warheads come in MANY varieties of both varrying lethality and -- possibly -- even physicality. I would imagine some warheads are designed to "dissolve" on launch in order to deliver their effect against the target (say, a tungsten slug that is heated up to 9,000 kelvins and contained in the torpedo bolt until it is released into the target).

    Actually, we've seen them do something similar to this on Voyager, modifying hand phasers to fire nanoprobes at their targets. Since phasers ordinarily don't seem to require a physical ammo source, the presence of a physical projectile -- if even a microscopic one -- implies that Starfleet tech has grown BEYOND the need for mundane projectile weapons; in that case, photon torpedoes would be a controlled-energy weapon, a type of directed energy that can be controlled from a distance.

    Wanna bet that the "quantum" in "quantum torpedo" actually stands for "quantum entanglement"?:evil:
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2013
  15. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    ...A perfectly normal torpedo launch, with the usual sparkling - just followed by a rare, long-awaited close-up from a unique angle.

    ...Worf says this, and proceeds to tell the explosive yield has been increased by 11%. This indicates there existed an eariler, "old" torpedo with the lower yield, and thus nothing much is necessarily new about these things, save of course for the two things Worf carefully specifies. That is, the improved-yield warhead and the enhanced targeting system, neither of which is worded as being all-new hardware.

    This is extremely implausible, as the sensor in the torpedo is the element capable of sniffing out Chang's ship. If a device sitting aboard the starship were the element telling where the torpedo should strike, then there would be no point at all in installing it inside the torpedo casing.

    The torpedo is a fire-and-forget missile weapon there, or perhaps fire-and-pray. Whether the torpedo is always that, we don't know: just like there might be different warheads, there might be different onboard sensors and different modes of guidance (possibly selected with that MODE SELECT button so prominent on the TOS movie ships' appropriate bridge consoles?).

    We don't have any evidence that a quantum torpedo would be anything but a photon torpedo re-warheaded, as no q-torps are ever shown. So there's no need to separate the terminology: one and the same casing just changes name when the warhead changes.

    But we could alternately assume that neither "photon" nor "quantum" is a term relating to the warhead. It might relate to propulsion instead, or to guidance, or to some special shield-piercing trick the torpedo performs before the warhead fires. Or whatever.

    We do know that things called "photon grenades" also exist, though. What might be common between them and the torpedoes if not the warhead? Or is the naming just a coincidence?

    And indeed there exists such a thing as a "photonic missile", in VOY...

    But we see that physically it is the same casing.

    We don't see the contents, but we already agreed that those are swappable and external to the argument. We know nothing about the propulsion machinery yet, which means we know nothing that would prevent the Type 8 probe and the photon torpedo from sharing same. Assuming that the glow-less cruise mode is something a photon torpedo would also eventually be capable of, once it stops accelerating and maneuvering and whatnot.

    Different stages of flight would suffice as an explanation with verisimilitude; many missiles of today also operate by boosting and coasting.

    Why dissolve at launch? Better leave it to the last second when you have done all the accelerating and maneuvering and target-sniffing you need, and are known to be capable of.

    But the point of ST6:TUC is that the torpedo is not controlled from a distance: it controls itself, and does the job of the heroes for them.

    Sure, if you agree to bet against it. :devil:

    Too bad this will never be solved at the rate Star Trek is going. But the above certainly makes as much sense as anything else.

    Timo Saloniemi
  16. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom
    Except it obviously IS new hardware, hence he calls them "the new torpedoes." What we don't know is what part of the hardware has to be recovered, and whether or not the hardware attachment is normal for torpedoes. It probably isn't, since we have never seen photon(ic) torpedoes accidentally go off course before. It actually appears that the physically-present guidance system (which fails) is a new technology, as is the self-destruct mechanism (which also fails) neither of which are common technology. And for good reason, evidently; in all the years of Star Trek we have never before or since seen a "dud" photon torpedo, which is bound to be a consequence if Starfleet starts using physical casings in all of its weapon systems.

    And this is Starfleet we're talking about; leaving unexploded ordinance lying around has got to be a MASSIVE no-no for them.

    The element sitting on the ship would be the guidance system itself, like the launch tube for a TOW missile with the cable trailing behind it. In this case, a computer-guided tow missile, taking its instructions from the sensors in the launcher (modern heavy torpedoes do exactly this, although they're linked to the SHIP'S sensors until they enter their terminal phase).

    Actually we see a quantum torpedo casing in "The Valiant" and it looks more or less exactly like a photon torpedo. Significantly, quantum torpedoes are VISUALLY distinct from photon torpedoes and are fired from distinct launch tubes as well, implying an entirely different type of delivery system regardless of the warhead used.

    There's the fact that photon grenades do not appear to EXPLODE as such, but emit a very bright flash that stuns/incapacitates things around them (I may be misremembering, but I can recall one case where a photon grenade is tossed into a room, detonated, and then picked up by a MACO who promptly sticks it back in his pocket).

    Photon torpedoes would work on a similar principle, except instead of simply emitting the energy pulse in all directions, the pulse is condensed in the launch tube and then hurled at a distant target to deliver its effects downrange. The guidance system for such an energy pulse would be difficult to conceptualize; OTOH, we already know from Nomad and V'ger that such systems are not unheard of, or even that unusual.

    It's the same SIZE AND SHAPE, yes. But the Class 8 probe does not use the same casing as its 24th century counterparts. They are, in fact, two completely different systems despite their similarities.

    That's a common occurrence, though. Some rocket-assisted cannon shells bear an uncanny resemblance to ordinary rockets.

    Photon torpedoes -- as far as we can tell from 27 seasons of television and 11 feature films -- don't.

    Because then you won't have to use any energy from the bolt to heat up the payload. Since the average torpedo flight time under combat conditions is three to six seconds, there isn't enough time for a molten mass to cool down in flight, even if the torpedo itself doesn't contain the heat anyway.

    And yet, the casing hardly needs to be IN SPACE to do that. And much like TWOK, it doesn't APPEAR to be there anyway. As usual for the TOS movies, the glowing core of the torpedo is smaller than the actual casing would be and isn't large enough to hide a two-meter projectile. It could hide something much SMALLER, possibly, but not the entire casing, not by a longshot.
  17. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    That would be like saying "the new torpedoes for our submarine have arrived. They have 11% more Torpex, and I have personally tuned the passive sonar. Oh, and they now work by hanging from hot air balloons pushed by wind, but I will not mention that at all because it is not particularly relevant."

    If the "Genesis" torps indeed are rocket-propelled guided missiles while the older ones were abstract light shows emerging from a fixed cartridge, the above example would be belittling the absurdity of the situation.

    Which of course is the reason they all have the scuttling system installed as standard, despite your no-proof pretense to the contrary.

    So you can come up with no explanation whatsoever as to why Spock and McCoy would install the sensor in the torpedo, as opposed to leaving it where it originally was?

    Epic fail. ST6:TUC is sufficient proof for the missile nature of the weapon, and any postulated adventures away from that obvious standard configuration must be exceptionally solidly argued for, or they are not worth even a brief laugh.

    Nog works on a torpedo of unknown type, in order to give it unique special qualities that will supposedly give victory. Thereafter, the torpedo is fired.

    However, neither during the working nor during the firing is anything said to indicate that "quantum" torpedoes would be involved - and Aaron Eisenberg stands right in front of the part of the casing that might read "quantum"! As far as we can tell, quantums were abandoned as a weapon when our heroes and guests decided that the special warhead would be the way to go.

    Incidentally, this would mean that the cheek launchers of this class of starship can indeed fire ordnance other than the type called "quantum torpedo", nicely staining an otherwise clean record. And that all colors are okay for all types of torp, too. Which is already established for anybody watching the TOS movies anyway.

    Of course, I have no strong desire to believe in such things. But I can't accept something like this as solid proof either way.

    The issue is somewhat confused. The MACO in ENT use flash-bangs that are called "stun grenades"; "photon grenades" are unseen things from TNG "Legacy" and DS9 "Homefront"; and the impressively exploding mortar ammo from TOS "Arena" goes unnamed.

    So we still don't know whether the Starfleet photon grenade is like or unlike a miniature photon torpedo. (We do see alien photon grenades in action in two VOY episodes, though, and these do seem to behave much like propulsion-less mini-torps.

    Why should this matter? Your side of the argument is completely based on the absence of evidence against your wilder claims, too.

    A torpedo at long ranges would have a fair excuse for coasting without a glow, as torpedoes are never seen (or mentioned used) at long ranges. In contrast, if a Class 8 Probe can fly at warp without glow, what excuse does a photon torpedo have for not doing the same? It's speculation against speculation on all aspects of this.

    What does that mean? If "the bolt" is your supposed abstract ball of destructive light, what is "the payload"?

    If you mean that sending a physical projectile close to the enemy for the dissolving act somehow ties down more heat in the projectile than doing the dissolving act in the "launch" tube, then you are making no sense. Surely the heat would be tied down in the "cartridge" equally regardless of whether the cartridge sat in the launch tube or was almost touching the target.

    Obviously it does. The casing is the only way to send the sensor to space. And the sensor obviously needs to be in space, or else Spock and McCoy would never have unbolted it from its rack in the laboratory where it had successfully charter gaseous anomalies until then.

    As for the visuals, they are always large enough to hide a runabout, especially in the picture you linked to.

    Timo Saloniemi
  18. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom
    Actually it would be a bit like the first live-fire tests of an ERGM shell. New guidance system, booster stage in the shell. Neither of which really rates mention since the entire crew would have been briefed on them hours before the test.

    Doubtful they're even that. Probably just a standard photon torpedo with a more complicated payload wrapped up in the bolt to increase accuracy and yield. Didn't seem to work all that well.

    Already did. The guidance system for the torpedo is in the casing, which has the physical connection to the energy bolt.

    As for "leaving it where it was," I doubt the sensor would have done much good if they left it in a storage locker somewhere.

    Except... where's the torpedo, then? Invisible?

    Which fire with the distinct and non-twinkly blue-white glow associated with quantum torpedoes.

    Because physical projectile weapons -- rockets, missiles, spatial torpedoes, etc -- appear to have much longer flight times up to and including long-range interplanetary cruise modes. Photon torpedoes are a distinct type of weapon used at considerably shorter range, typically in either ship to ship or ship to surface modes; they do not cruise any distance and move at much higher speeds, despite the fact that they do not accelerate noticeably after leaving the tube. They are, IOW, more similar to bullets than missiles.

    After the 22nd century, photon torpedoes continue to evolve, becoming (arguably) more accurate, more sophisticated, more powerful. Spatial torpedoes, however, fall out of use, despite the apparent portability of photon warheads, despite the improved propulsion technologies (indeed, a 24th century spatial torpedo would be essentially a Class-8 probe with a tricobalt device in the warhead). So for whatever reason, Starfleet does not appear to carry straight projectile weapons anymore.

    When you consider the famous Voyager Torpedo problem, it's easy to understand why. Photon torpedo casings may be expendable with the intention of being recycled and properly disposed of after firing (like shell casings on a modern naval gun), but if you really need to and had a lot of time on your hands you could probably regenerate those casings and use them again later.

    The fact that the glow IS the torpedo; it's the thing that makes it a torpedo in the first place. If it wasn't glowing, it wouldn't be a photon torpedo (at least, we've never SEEN one that didn't).

    I'm not even questioning the viability of missile weapons in Star Trek. I'm drawing both on backstage evidence that photon torpedoes were not originally meant to BE missile-type weapons, but a totally distinct technology similar but with slightly different properties as phasers. Physical casings made their debut in TWOK and appeared again in TUC; both times can be made consistent with the original TOS conception, and that would explain a lot of OTHER things that don't make sense about photons.

    The payload can be whatever you want it to be, including nothing (in which case it would be just as deadly, depending on the yield). Like a naval gun round that can be loaded with high explosives, submunitions, smoke canisters, napalm, or nothing at all, and still fired to hit a target.

    The WHOLE SHIP is in space, as is the launch tube where the torpedo comes from. It makes no difference.

    Incorrect, demonstrably so from "Maquis ptII" where photon torpedoes flying past a runabout have a glowing core visibly smaller than the runabout's bussard collector.

    The bright red core of the torpedo isn't much larger than a torpedo deck window -- one of these, in other words -- and is therefore about the size of a beachball. Even the torpedo from TMP has a bright central core and an outer plume that would barely conceal a travel pod. The torpedo casing should be plainly visible in front of it from at least the forward angle, if it's intended to be there at all. Even the VFX artists don't seem to believe there's any PHYSICALITY to the weapon in flight; it's effectively a phaser blast rolled into a shiruken and accelerated towards the target by a sophisticated (and forward-fixed) cannon and some rudimentary physical guidance mechanism.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2013
  19. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

    Feb 26, 2010
    The bright rectangle torpedo from TMP looks to be about the size of a photon torpedo casing. If you rotate it vertically, it's about the height of the circular docking port on the side of the torpedo bay.

    Could the torpedo casing glow in flight and thus no visible "dark" casing would be in front of the glow? Essentially the casing when in flight generates it's own super flowing field (and shielding) ?
  20. RyanKCR

    RyanKCR Vice Admiral Admiral

    Mar 26, 2001
    RyanKCR is living here in Allentown
    When I was around 8 or 9 and saw the torpedos in TMP with the long rays of light I was fascinated. My little brain conceived of them being balls of pure engergy being drug along by filiments of energy in space. In TSFS when the Bird of Prey was arming the torpedos the torpedo tube was glowing with static-like charges, which looked like it was building up an energy ball. So I always thought they were caseless and highly advanced engergy slingsots.