Photonic torpedo

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  • Thruster-propelled matter/antimatter warhead
  • Commonly known as "photon torpedo" (Various)
  • Fired via magnetic acceleration through launch tube
    • Thruster packs trigger within tube for immediate maneuverability, resulting in small quantities of plasma backwash exhaust during launch (VOY: "Future's End, Part II")
  • Effective range in combat limited by thruster fuel, inner energy sources
    • Linear range not truly infinite, as eventual power failure in magnetic containment inevitable over extended timescales, would result in self-destruction from matter/antimatter annihilation (TOS Novel: Errand of Vengeance: Killing Blow)
      • By 24th century, Federation photon torpedoes had effective range of approximately 300,000 kilometers (TNG: "The Wounded")
    • In the event of a misfire or missed target, torpedoes can be manually or automatically self-detonated to prevent loose interstellar munition (TNG: "Genesis")
  • Following launch, internal guidance systems direct torpedo to target locked in during launch sequence
    • Plasma thruster exhaust cause torpedoes to appear as bright flares (ENT Novel: Live by the Code)
    • If launched at warp, inner warp sustainer coils powered by small-scale consumption of warhead matter/antimatter allow torpedo to remain at FTL velocities until target is reached or torpedo goes inactive
  • Low-power shield emitters help prevent premature detonation by enemy fire or environmental conditions during combat (TNG: "Half a Life")
    • Torpedo shields can theoretically be tuned to match shield frequency of enemy vessel in order to allow for passage through shields to a moderate degree, though not full penetration (Star Trek: Generations)
      • Implied, as full penetration of Enterprise shields would have likely destroyed the Enterprise much more quickly
  • Detonation occurs on impact, generates sudden radiation burst (TNG: "New Ground")
    • Yield strength adjustable by degree of mixing of matter/antimatter at point of detonation (TNG Technical Manual; TNG: "New Ground")
      • Different warhead builds provide for different minimum and maximum detonation yields
        • Different warhead types indicated in Federation technology by varying warhead class (VOY: "Scorpion")
    • Largely effective only against unshielded objects, as deflector shields tend to guard against resulting radiation, though weakened shields can allow sufficient radiation to penetrate to result in moderate damage
      • Can still cause mild vibration via flash-vaporization of outer hull layers
    • On physical impact, high-intensity radiation burst coupled with physical impact usually results in hull weakening or breach coupled with radiation damage or disruption to nearby systems
      • One torpedo against a completely unshielded vessel, targeted properly, can be sufficient to destroy said vessel (TNG: "Unnatural Selection"; Star Trek: Generations)
    • Without shielding or with insufficient shielding, launching vessel can additionally be damaged or destroyed by close-range photon detonation (TNG: "Q Who", "The Nth Degree")

Federation History

  • 2153: First development of photonic torpedoes by Earth Starfleet, following trade agreement with Vissians for technology exchange providing manufacturing specifications, largely replacing usage of the spatial torpedo (ENT: "The Expanse"; Live by the Code annotations)
  • 2161: Federation Mark I photonic torpedo developed by combination of technologies of founding races
  • 2215: Mark II photonic torpedo developed (TNG Technical Manual)
    • Technically described as initial development of photon torpedo, but incompatible with Enterprise
  • By 2285: Mark VI photonic torpedo developed (Star Trek III: The Search For Spock)
  • By 2293: Mark VII photonic torpedo developed (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)
  • 2370: Mark XXV Type 6 photonic torpedo developed (DS9 Technical Manual; TNG: "Genesis"; VOY: "Dreadnought"; "Bliss", "Live Fast and Prosper")
    • At some point, Type classification added to Mark classification
      • Type reflects broad structure, to indicate compatibility with launch systems
      • Mark continues to reflect design revisions
    • Warhead itself divided into at least 10 classes, classified by detonation yield (VOY: "Scorpion, Part II"; "In the Flesh")
    • Associating this with torpedo upgrade described in "Genesis" due to proximity of time to Voyager