Lasers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tactical_High_Energy_Laser http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-DEW-HEL-Analysis.html http://zarco-macross.wikidot.com/wiki:robotech-weapons http://thelaststarfighter.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Weapons http://zarconian.wikia.com/wiki/File:AAPartc.jpg
Space Based Laser [SBL]EditThe potential to intercept and destroy a missile over enemy territory soon after launch, rather than over friendly territory, makes the development of a boost phase intercept (BPI) capability very desirable. In concert with ground based theater missile defense (TMD) systems already under development, the U.S. continues to investigate BPI concepts for BMD systems.
The SBL program could develop the technology to provide the U.S. with an advanced BMD system for both theater and national missile defense. BMDO believes that an SBL system has the potential to make other contributions to U.S. security and world security as a whole, such as inducing potential aggressors to abandon ballistic missile programs by rendering them useless. Failing that, BMDO believes that the creation of such a universal defense system would provide the impetus for other nations to expand their security agreements with the United States, bringing them under a U. S. sponsored missile defense umbrella.An SBL platform would achieve missile interception by focusing and maintaining a high powered laser on a target until it achieves catastrophic destruction. Energy for the sustained laser burst is generated by the chemical reaction of the hydrogen fluoride (HF) molecule. The HF molecules are created in an excited state from which the subsequent optical energy is drawn by an optical resonator surrounding the gain generator. Lasers have been studied for their usefulness in air defense since 1973, when the Mid Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL) was first tested against tactical missiles and drone aircraft. Work on such systems continued through the 1980s, with the Airborne Laser Laboratory, which completed the first test laser intercepts above the earth. Initial work on laser based defense systems was overseen by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), but transferred to the newly created Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) in 1984. Work continues today under the auspices of the BMDO, the successor to the SDIO.
The SBL program builds on a broad variety of technologies developed by the SDIO in the 1980s. The work on the Large Optics Demonstration Experiment (LODE), completed in 1987, provided the means to control the beams of large, high powered lasers. The Large Advanced Mirror Program (LAMP) designed and built a 4 meter diameter space designed mirror with the required optical figure and surface quality. In 1991, the Alpha laser (2.8 mm) developed by the SDIO achieved megawatt power at the requisite operating level in a low pressure environment similar to space. Numerous Acquisition, Tracking, and Pointing/ Fire Control (ATP/ FC) experiments both completed and currently underway will provide the SBL platform with stable aimpoints. Successes in the field of ATP include advances in inertial reference, vibration isolation, and rapid retargeting/ precision pointing (R2P2). In 1995 the Space Pointing Integrated Controls Experiment offered near weapons level results during testing.
Most recently, the Alpha LAMP Integration (ALI) program has performed integrated high energy ground testing of the laser and beam expander to demonstrate the critical system elements. The next step is an integrated space vehicle ground test with a space demonstration to conclusively prove the feasibility of deploying an operational SBL system.Future plans include orbiting the SBL Readiness Demonstrator (SBLRD) in order to test all of the systems together in their intended working environment. Designs for the SBLRD satellite call for four major subsystems: the ATP system; providing acquisition, tracking, targeting, stabilization, and assessment capabilities; the laser device, providing the optical power, and beam quality, as well as maintains nozzle efficiency; the optics and beam control systems, enhancing and focus the beam, augmenting the capabilities of the laser device; and the space systems, providing a stable platform, storage of the reactants, and furnish electrical power (but do not power the laser).
The SBLRD is intended to demonstrate the capability to perform boost phase Theater Missile Defense from space. The objectives of the space demonstration include gaining performance information critical to the development of an operational SBL system, as well as gain a general understanding of operating such a system.
BMDO and the Air Force agreed to transfer the execution of the SBLRD project and the related SBL technology developments to the Air Force. BMDO retained overarching SBL architecture responsibilities.
Alpha High Energy Laser (HEL)
Megawatt class power levels were first achieved by the Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL) originally sponsored by the Navy, later by DARPA, and then by BMDO. Because the design was intended for sea level operation, the MIRACL laser does not achieve the optimum efficiency necessary for space-based operation. DARPA launched the Alpha laser program, with the goal of developing a megawatt level SBL that was scaleable to more powerful weapon levels and optimized for space operation. In this design, stacked cylindrical rings of nozzles are used for reactant mixing. The gain generation assembly achieves higher power by simply stacking more rings. In 1991, the Alpha laser demonstrated megawatt class power levels similar to MIRACL, but in a low pressure, space operation environment. Alpha demonstrates that multi-megawatt, space-compatible lasers can be built and operated.
Large Advanced Mirror Program (LAMP)
To demonstrate the ability to fabricate the large mirror required by an SBL, the Large Advanced Mirror Program (LAMP) built a lightweight, segmented 4 m diameter mirror on which testing was completed in 1989. Tests verified that the surface optical figure and quality desired were achieved, and that the mirror was controlled to the required tolerances by adaptive optics adjustments. This mirror consists of a 17 mm thick facesheet bonded to fine figure actuators that are mounted on a graphite epoxy supported reaction structure. To this day, this is the largest mirror completed for use in space. This LAMP segmented design is applicable to 10 m class mirrors, and the Large Optical Segment (LOS) program has since produced a mirror segment sized for an 11 m mirror. The large dimension of this LOS mirror segment approximates the diameter of the LAMP mirror
Beam Control- Large Optics Demonstration Experiment (LODE) and ALI
The ability to control a beam was demonstrated at low power under the Large Optics Demonstration Experiment (LODE) in 1987. The current high power beam control technology is now being integrated with the Alpha laser and the LAMP mirror in a high power ground demonstration of the entire high energy laser weapon element. This is known as the Alpha-LAMP Integration (ALI) program.
Acquisition, Tracking, Pointing (ATP)
The ATP technologies required (sensors, optics, processors, etc.) have been validated through a series of component and integrated testing programs over the last decade. In 1985, the Talon Gold brassboard operated sub-scale versions of all the elements needed in the operational ATP system including separate pointing and tracking apertures, an illuminator, an inertial reference gyro system, fire control mode logic, sensors and trackers. Talon Gold achieved performance levels equivalent to that needed for the SBL. In 1991, the space-borne Relay Mirror Experiment (RME), relayed a low-power laser beam from a ground site to low-earth orbit and back down to a scoring target board at another location with greater pointing accuracy and beam stability than needed by SBL. The technology to point and control the large space structures of the SBL was validated in 1993 by the Rapid Retargeting and Precision Pointing (R2P2) program that used a hardware test bed to develop and test the large and small angle spacecraft slewing control laws and algorithms. The Space Pointing Integrated Controls Experiment (SPICE) demonstrated in 1995 near weapon scale disturbance isolation of 60-80 db and a pointing jitter reduction of 75:1. In 1998, the Phillips-Laboratory-executed High Altitude Balloon Experiment, (HABE) will demonstrate autonomous end-to-end operation of the key ATP-Fire Control (FC) functions in a realistic timeline against actual thrusting ballistic missiles. HABE will use a visible low-power marker beam as a surrogate to the megawatt HF beam and measure beam pointing accuracy, jitter and drift against a fixed aimpoint on the target.
A: Plasma weapons are more rugged than their far more fragile laser weapon counterparts and would be ideal for use in heavy combat. The easiest way to explain how a plasma weapon works is as follows:
- Refined weapon grade fuel (usually hydrogen) is siphoned off from a 'magazine' or reservoir and injected into a containment vessel that is protected internally by very intense magnetic fields which will keep the hydrogen / fuel from actually coming into contact with the material surface of the containment vessel. This containment vessel is often referred to as a magnetic bottle. Later generations of plasma based weapons feature layered magnetic fields, in effect, magnetic sheathes.
- A high energy laser (or group of high energy lasers) flash boils the refined weapons grade hydrogen fuel contained in the magnetic bottle until it turns from a cool liquid to a superhot gas plasma (+4500 degrees flow wash temp). The magnetic fields of the containment bottle keep this process in check by preventing the superhot plasma from coming into contact with any material surface. A small part of the plasma production process can be siphoned off again as energy to help maintain the magnetic containment fields. Later designs of plasma weapons utilize layered magnetic fields in a sheath instead of just a single monofield application.
- One part of the containment field is weakened or lowered in the magnetic bottle, allowing the super hot ionized plasma gas to 'escape' or be handed off through a rapidly cycling sphincter type array that controls both the length and diameter of the bolt. The "escape" or hand-off of the plasma is induced mostly by the accelerator coil ladder field extending partially into the magnetic bottle to siphon off plasma. The acceleration coil ladder seamlessly merges the siphoned off plasma into a secondary acceleration sheath, a small magnetic pocket within the acceleration coil ladder assembly.
- The acceleration coil ladder then energizes each linear velocity coil in a rapid, stepped manner. Each coil along the ladder stack pulls the magnetically sheathed plasma towards it, faster than the last coil but slower than the next so that an effect of constant acceleration is produced along the length of the acceleration coil ladder through a consistent hand-off method. At the end of the acceleration coil ladder, the magnetically sheathed plasma is released toward the target.
- As soon as the plasma sheath leaves the confines of the acceleration field array, the magnetic sheath begins to rapidly decay, allowing the plasma to "bloom" or rapidly disperse in the ambient atmosphere (which reduces both its power and effect. The speed of the plasma bolt can be tailored to the decay of the magnetic sheath giving the arrival on target of the plasma bolt at being before the decay of the magnetic sheath allows for the plasma to fully bloom and dissipate. Slower velocity bolts have shorter ranges. Higher velocity bolts have longer ranges.
- By rapidly cycling the loading / ignition / release sequence, rapid fire shots akin to that of a machine gun could be simulated. Weapon heating would be handled by the design itself and partially alleviated by the containment fields.
- Range of the weapon would be determined by the rate of expansion (bloom) of the bolt. This would be controlled in turn by the velocity of the bolt. The faster the velocity, the farther the bolt will travel before it starts to lose temperature, cohesiveness, becomes unstable and finally dissipate. The bolt will lose both velocity and penetration power with an increase in range.
- The plasma bolt will suffer integrity degradation as it passes through lesser materials, eventually losing power through absorption attrition.
- The superheated plasma bolt would inflict damage from high velocity / kinetic impact of the plasma, from the high temperature thermal dynamics of the ionized gas, and if delivered in suitable quantity, it would also 'splatter', producing fragment-like damage to nearby surfaces and wounding or damaging targets surrounding the primary target.
- Superheating of standing liquid trapped in soft tissues and dermal surfaces combined with the rapid expansion of steam induced shock waves would result in massive damage to organic targets through large scale steam explosions.
- Wounds from plasma weapons would be akin to severe burns with most organic material of the primary wound site being vaporized. Fluids would flash to steam, organic material would turn to ash and most direct hit plasma wounds would be fatal in nature. Effects from the "splash" of a plasma weapon would consist of severe burns that might be capable of "burn through" of soft targets. Regardless, wounds received from plasma based weapons would take a long time to heal and require massive amounts of attention. Near misses might produce severe burns and heat trauma while fragments from large diameter bore weapons might be crippling or lethal with splash-like side effects. The explosive decoupling of large amounts of free standing matter (ground, terrain, armor plate, etc.) would also produce high speed lethal fragmentation in a large area around the point of impact.
- Damage to inorganic materials would be limited to the ability of the plasma bolt to punch / melt through the target material. Residual heat soak would permeate most materials for some time afterwards until the affected surfaces could once again fall to ambient temperatures through natural cooling and heat loss.
- Flammable materials struck by plasma fire would instantly combust.
Further review of this idea and the evidence presented to us seems to lend some merit to the argument for shell fed plasma weapons. In the first novel, Wisher and Frakes describe the weapons of a tracked HK as being chain fed plasma guns. Here is the entry from the novel.
"Reese's charge exploded first, directly under the main pivot of the rear tread carrier, one of the few weak points in the machine's armor. The concussion drove pieces of the chassis far up into its torso, shattering one shoulder turret. Sympathetic detonations ripped through the tons of chain-fed ammo coiled within it, until finally the fuel tanks went up and the fifteen-meter-high juggernaut vanished inside an enormous fireball. Ferro's charge detonated ineffectively nearby, having bounced off the titanium carapace, but it added nicely to the inferno."
-Frakes and Wisher, "The Terminator"
And later, during the second, longer "future dream" sequence of the first movie (where Sarah falls asleep in Kyle's arms, under the bridge after they escape from the police station), we get the following information:
"John had come to this fire base the previous night to organize a raid on the nearby automated factories. It was known that SKYNET produced the chain-fed plasma cannons used in the Mark Sevens and Eights (there). A big raid, scheduled three days hence."
-Frakes and Wisher, "The Terminator"
So there you have it. The early generation big plasma guns on the heavy combat machines use individual power cells. Obviously, these power cells are volatile and can explode if damaged or exposed to nearby explosions. Think of the "chain-fed plasma cannon" as more like the Hughes 30mm chaingun found on the US Army's AH-64 Apache. It uses an electrically driven feed system to pull ammunition into the weapon for a very high rate of fire. Dud rounds or misfires are simply carried on out by the design rather than stop the weapon from operating like other weapons might when they encounter bad ammunition.
In regard to the chain-fed plasma guns on the HKs, empty rounds or duds are probably recycled back along a return feed chute and repacked in the ammunition cassette for later removal and reloading. Changing out ammunition involves either putting new ammo into the cassette (clearing out the spent, recycled rounds first) or simply loading a new cassette of fresh rounds into the vehicle. All of this is done by automated processes at forward service depots or larger installations.
Hand phaser with 16 settings. Basic controls were three main buttons: Beam Intensity (forward, left), Beam Width (forward, right) and the trigger.
All variants of the 24th-century phaser store energy in a sarium krellide cell. Sarium krellide stores a maximum of 1.3x106 megajoules per cubic centimeter. The power cell is connected in series to three control modules: the beam control assembly, the safety interlock and the subspace transceiver assembly (STA):
Energy from the power cell passes through all three modules and is then routed through shielded conduits to the prefire chamber, a sphere of gulium arkenide-reinforced LiCu 521, 1.5 cm in diameter. This energy is stored temporarily by a charge barrier, which then collapses the energy, discharging it through the LiCu (the 'emitter crystal') as a pulse of energy.
The charge barrier collapse takes an average of 0.02 picoseconds, whereupon through a 'rapid nadion' effect the LiCu emitter converts the pulse into a tuned phaser discharge. As with a ship's main phaser banks, the greater the energy in the prefire chamber, the higher the percentage of nuclear disruption. Low to moderate phaser settings are calibrated to fall short of this nuclear disruption threshold, limiting the phaser discharge to stun and thermal electromagnetic effects. Phaser Settings.
This was more like it! We know a fair bit about this model - the "Cobra Phaser" - since there's so much information in the TNG Tech Manual. Mind you, when seen again in TNG, older episodes of DS9 and first-season Voyager it now looks so bulky compared to the Voyager-era version!
One feature which has been revealed about this model, and presumably all subsequent ones, is that it can be deactivated by remote computer control, as demonstrated in TNG's "A Matter Of Time." Of course, I can't recall any other instances of this being done - once again, an example of bad continuity for dramatic reasons. .
One prop was constructed from vacu-form plastic, with a hinged door in the bottom which opened to reveal circuitry; this was used by Data in the episode "The Ensigns of Command", where he uses part of his own neural subprocessor to build a "smarter" phaser, one which will counteract the hyperonic radiation on Tau Cygna V that randomizes phaser beams, rendering them useless.
I've recently been reminded that in the TNG episode "Lessons" science officer Lt. Cdr. Nella Daren used her away team's phasers to create a forcefield to hold off firestorms on the planet Bersallis III. How this was done isn't clear, but she may have used a similar method to B'Elanna Torres with a later-model phaser.
Once again, poor aiming abounds as hapless actors try to aim a nearly-straight hand-held weapon. This image being one of the worst examples.
In TOS there were three types of phaser weapon seen. The first was a rifle which Kirk carried in the second pilot episode, 'Where No Man Has Gone Before'. Spock has this weapon beamed down to the planet that Gary Mitchell is being held prisoner on. The rifle is probably a very early version of a phaser - Pike's crew were using laser pistols less than a decade before. The weapon is of a very curious design - at the front it has a very slender-looking barrel that looks like it would break very easily. At the back is a rather uncomfortable-looking stock, and between the two is a set of three cylinders. As you can see in this image, the topmost of the cylinders is directly in line with the barrel
After Mitchell escapes, Kirk wakes up and gives a few orders to a crewman. He then picks up the rifle and does a strange thing - he grabs hold of the cylinders and rotates them, bringing a different cylinder into line with the barrel. More on potential meaning of this later.
This is the only time we ever saw this weapon used. During the rest of TOS we saw only two phaser weapons :
The above weapon was dubbed 'Phaser One'. It was 107.2 mm long (Source : Star Fleet Technical Manual by F. Joseph).
This weapon was called 'Phaser Two'. It was long assumed in Trek fandom that a Phaser Two was a Phaser One clipped into some kind of holder, with a handgrip beneath. It was also thought that there was no canonical proof of this, but in fact we actually get to see Sulu clipping a Phaser One into the pistol grip in order to heat some rocks in the TOS episode "The Enemy Within". The pistol weapon was 221 mm long (Source : Star Fleet Technical Manual by F. Joseph). The episode 'The Devil in the Dark' establishes the terms Phaser one and Phaser Two canonically, and establishes through dialogue that Phaser One is 'far less powerful' than Phaser Two, so the handgrip does not serve simply as a more ergonomic way to hold the weapon - rather it appears to take the output of the small unit and boost it to a higher power rating.
These descriptions were slightly modified for The Next Generation. In this series the phasers are very similar to those above :
The above is what the TNG Technical Manual calls the 'Type I Phaser'. I have seen one of the actual props used on the show for this weapon - I couldn't measure it, but it was about 70 mm long. The book 'The Art of Star Trek' describes it as 'less than three inches long' on page 104. This is so small that it's actually quite hard to see the weapon when it is used onscreen, and as a result the Type I is rarely seen in TNG. Yar uses one in 'Symbiosis' and Riker uses one in "Hide and Q", though.
This is one of several different versions of the Type II phaser seen through TNG, DS9 and Voyager. Roddenberry apparently wanted the TNG phasers to look less like weapons and more like tools. As a result the weapon is not terribly ergonomic, and actors often have difficulty aiming it properly. More on that later. Unlike the TOS Phaser One/Phaser Two combination, this is apparently a completely separate weapon from the Type I.
This is the Type III phaser rifle, seen in several TNG episodes and also on DS9. The front section closely resembles one of the later versions of the Type II, and it seems possible that the TNG rifle is an enlarged version of the Type II in much the same way that TOS Phaser Two was associated with Phaser One.
In the TNG episode 'The Outcast' the Enterprise-D crew fitted some Type IV phasers to a Federation shuttle craft. The TNG Technical Manual also claims that the phaser arrays of the Galaxy Class are Type X, and that starbases are fitted with 'Type X+' weapons. The DS9 Technical Manual claims that Type VII, VIII and IX weapons are in use on various Federation starship types. Although care must obviously be taken with non-canon sources, there is no real controversy about these numbers.
One slightly more controversial data point is for the Sovereign class Starship. A poster showing a cutaway drawing of the Sovereign labeled its phasers as 'Type XII'. This is the only source which makes this claim, and a poster really should be regarded as a pretty shaky foundation to rest such a claim on. Nevertheless, like the numbers in the DS9 TM there is really nothing as yet to contradict the number, and it is a figure I have used for the Sovereign entry on this site. Indeed, my assumption is that the 'Type X+' weapon mentioned in the TNG TM is in fact the Type XI, and that this was then redesigned for use aboard ship as the Type XII.
The real question here is what exactly does a Type number mean? There are several possibilities. For instance, the term could refer only to the form of weapon used. Much as any computer that sits on a desk is called a 'desktop' and smaller versions are called 'laptops' and now even 'palmtops', maybe Type I is short for 'palm weapon', etc. :
|Type I||Palm held weapon.|
|Type IV||Large infantry / small vehicle weapon.|
|Type VII||Starship weapon.|
|Type VIII||Heavier Starship weapon.|
|Type IX||Even heavier Starship weapon.|
|Type X||Heavy phaser used on large ships.|
|Type XI||Possible real designation of 'Type X+'|
|Type XII||Really heavy weapon. Possible ship borne version of 'Type X+'|
|Type X+||Starbase / planetary defence phaser|
Although this system works well at the low end, things rapidly start to become a bit silly at the top. For instance, under this system the phaser Type number does not relate at all to the power of the weapon. But if this is so, then what is the point of using the term 'Type X+'? Simply calling it a Type XI or XII or XV or whatever would tell the enemy nothing if the Type number just meant 'Starbase defence weapon'. Additionally, if the GCS's Type X means something like 'Weapon used on big ships', then why does the Sovereign array need to be called a Type XII? Even if it is bigger and more powerful than a Type X as used on a Galaxy, isn't it still a 'weapon used on big ships'? Think of the computer names analogy I used earlier - no matter how much faster or more powerful new computers get, a desktop PC is still a desktop, not a 'Desktop plus'.
The implication seems to be that the Type number is somehow related to the power output of the weapon. Now in the following example I am going to list some phaser power figures. I know that the output of a phaser array is a hotly debated topic in some areas, so let me say that these figures are examples only, intended to illustrate the system. Remember that - THESE NUMBERS ARE MADE UP EXAMPLES ONLY.
|Type I||10 kilowatt output|
|Type II||100 kilowatt output|
|Type III||1 Megawatt output|
|Type IV||10 Megawatt output|
|Type V||100 Megawatt output|
|Type VI||1 Gigawatt output|
|Type VII||10 Gigawatt output|
|Type VIII||100 Gigawatt output|
|Type IX||1 Terawatt output|
|Type X||10 Terawatt output|
|Type XI||100 Terawatt output|
|Type XII||1000 Terawatt output|
So, under this type of system we remove some of the previous nits. Now it makes sense that the Type X+ has a classified Type number, because revealing that number would reveal the precise power output of the weapon to enemies. And as ships get more advanced and their weapons more powerful, it would make more sense that they would have higher Type numbers.
Unfortunately we introduce brand new nits, this time at the bottom end of the scale. If a Type I phaser has a certain output power (and let's just say one more time for the record that the above figures are made up examples to illustrate the point), then this would mean that the TOS Type I and II would be exactly the same power level as the TNG Type I and II. This isn't terribly realistic; once the scale is set up, we should really expect that the size of a weapon of a given power would shrink as technology advanced. So that the weapon that is classified as a Type I in the TNG era would count as a Type II or III in the TOS era, and so on.
So it seems that either example comes with penalties. I would suggest a compromise system - make each type represent not a single power figure but a band of possible outputs, like this :
|Type I||1 - 10 kilowatt output|
|Type II||10 - 100 kilowatt output|
|Type III||100 - 1000 kilowatt output|
|Type IV||1 - 10 Megawatt output|
|Type V||10 - 100 Megawatt output|
|Type VI||100 - 1000 Megawatt output|
|Type VII||1 - 10 Gigawatt output|
|Type VIII||10 - 100 Gigawatt output|
|Type IX||100 - 1000 Gigawatt output|
|Type X||1 - 10 Terawatt output|
|Type XI||10 - 100 Terawatt output|
|Type XII||100 - 1000 Terawatt output|
Do I need to say it again? Yes, these numbers are only made up to illustrate the system. Even the idea that the bands go up in multiples of ten is purely speculation.
Now the great thing about this idea is that it solves all the above problems. A TNG Type I can now be more powerful than a TOS Type I, but it still makes sense for them to have the same designation. Meanwhile at the top end we would expect the weapons carried by small ships to be of a lower type than those carried by the big ones, which matches what the DS9 TM claims. We would also expect the more advanced ships to have higher Type numbers than the less advanced ones, which fits with the idea that the Sovereign has Type XII arrays compared to the Galaxy Type X. Finally, it makes sense that the Type X+'s true number is classified, to keep the enemy guessing as to how powerful they are.
The latest Star Trek series, 'Enterprise', is set in 2151, about 100 years before Kirk's adventures in the original series. It features the crew of the first Human starship capable of reaching warp 5 and so exploring space beyond a few light years from Earth. The crew of this "NX" class Enterprise carry weapons called "phase pistols" and the ship is fitted with "phase cannon" which are, on the face of it, identical to the phasers used in TOS and beyond. The weapons fire a glowing beam much like the phaser, they can be set to stun or kill like a phaser.
Unfortunately, this causes a contradiction with the TNG episode 'A Matter of Time'. In this episode a man named Rasmussen visits the Enterprise-D, claiming to be a time traveler from the future. At one point he chats with Riker, Crusher and Worf about how different people view history in different ways and to illustrate the point asks what they think the most significant invention of the last hundred years was. Worf replies that it was phasers; 'There were no phasers in the 22nd century', he states.
There are numerous possible explanations. It's conceivable that Worf said this as some sort of test of Rasmussen. The time traveler turned out to be a 22nd century con man who had stolen a time machine from a real time traveler and gone to the future to steal advanced technology. If Worf suspected this, he might have lied to see if Rasmussen spotted it. But this is unlikely because Rasmussen continues to fool the crew for some time until he is revealed as a fake at the end of the episode. Worf could have got his dates wrong, but again this is unlikely - Worf is very into both history and weaponry, and it seems improbable that he would make such a mistake. It's possible that Worf was being not quite literal - maybe he thought of 22nd century phase pistols as being so primitive that they were not true phasers. Again, though, this seems a bit unlikely.
Taking the canon strictly at face value, Worf's statement would mean that the phase weapons of Enterprise are not actually phasers at all. Perhaps they are some primitive forerunner of the modern phaser, much as the flintlock was a forerunner to the modern machine gun. This would be my personal preference - I generally tend toward ideas that take canon statements at face value to the maximum sensible degree (and yes, that is a subjective judgment). Or we could just say that this was a writer's mistake, that the Enterprise writers messed up again either accidentally or deliberately, shrug our shoulders and pretend that Worf really said 21st century instead of 22nd. How acceptable you find that is also a subjective matter.
Whatever the rights and wrongs, Worf's quote does mean that we should be careful in including phase pistols and cannon in any discussion of phaser effects or capabilities.
Somewhat strangely, phasers are capable of doing various different things. For the next part of the article I'm going to list and discuss each of the observed properties of phasers.
Phasers can be set to stun a person - the phrase "phasers on stun" is a well known one, and has been used countless times in the series. Here's an example from TOS :
Star BlazersFBSMasterWeapon ChartEnergy WeaponsCode TypePointsALIGHT PULSE LASER6A*LIGHT PULSE LASER-GATLANTIS10BMEDIUM PULSE LASER9B*MEDIUM PULSE LASER-GATLANTIS12CHEAVY PULSE LASER10DIMPROVED HEAVY PULSE LASER12ELIGHT SHOCK CANNON7FMEDIUM SHOCK CANNON10GHEAVY SHOCK CANNON12HIMPROVED HEAVY SHOCK CANNON14H2IMPROVED HEAVY SHOCK CANNON18ILIGHT ENERGY CANNON7JMEDIUM ENERGY CANNON10KHEAVY ENERGY CANNON12LIMPROVED HEAVY ENERGY CANNON14MLIGHT BETA CANNON7NMEDIUM BETA CANNON10OIMPROVED MEDIUM BETA CANNON12PHEAVY BETA CANNON14QIMPROVED HEAVY BETA CANNON20RSUPER-HEAVY BETA CANNON28P1LIGHT PLASMA CANNON10P2MEDIUM PLASMA CANNON14P3HEAVY PLASMA CANNON18P4ULTRA HEAVY PLASMA CANNON36
Plasma Weapons - 2001 A.D. to 2029 A.D. - an overview of technology
Energy weapons, often the realm of science fiction, became science fact in the 1970's and were well on their way towards being issued to individual soldiers on the battlefields of the early 21st century. Lasers would prove too fragile and temperamental for mobile battlefield use but they provided excellent aerospace defense systems when adequately protected in hardened and defended emplaced positions. The same could be said for particle accelerator weapon systems. Plasma weapons offered an efficiency of design not available to other types of weapons, especially to the more common, lower technology based projectile weapons. Energy weapons had advantages over the more archaic projectile weapons in that their lethality could be provided with smaller amounts of raw materials.
The advent of plasma gun technology was not new when SKYNET blazed its thermonuclear vengeance across the surface of the planet. Indeed, plans for several different designs of both man portable as well as semi-portable plasma guns had been held by the R&D teams at both General Dynamics as well as Westinghouse years before SKYNET went rampant and these plans (as well as some prototype weapon systems) were present in SKYNET's Order of Battle and Manufacturing (OBAM) protocols. In the Far East, Japan was known to be experimenting with limited applications of directed plasma as a weapon system with their homeland based JDF forces while both China and Russia were expressing increasing interest in high powered energy weapons. Early intelligence reports of long barrel prototypes from Kalishnikov and Dragunov proved that while the Russians were several years behind the Western allies in both energy weapon technology and sophistication, it was a gap that was rapidly being closed by the Soviets.
The first generation plasma weapons, for all of their destructive power, were bulky, heavy, somewhat temperamental and had a very slow rate of fire. Each new generation improved range, performance, rate of fire, power/fuel storage capacity and became lighter and easier to wield. Phased plasma weapons, which utilized a Phased Stacking Array (PSA) to hold the plasma longer (in order to produce near fusion temperatures), appeared during the fourth generation. SKYNET started to produce first generation plasma based weapons shortly into the 21st century. Several advances marked clearly recognizable epochs in the development of the high energy plasma weapons. Rapid Pulse Modulators (RPM) (3rd Gen), Variable Duration Apertures (VDA) (4th Gen), and Phased Stacked Arrays (PSA) (4th Gen) were just three of the many evolutionary steps that increased the effectiveness and lethality of the various generations and series of high energy plasma weapons throughout the War. Improved gain plasma weapons appeared during the 2nd and 3rd Generation, increasing the ratio of output (plasma) to the amount of energy input (fuel, power) by twenty-four percent. Fourth generation and all later generations of plasma weapons were considered to be high gain weapons where the ratio of input to output increased by thirty-five percent. The Phased Stacking Array was introduced into regular production runs during the early part of the fourth generation weapon families with this one improvement, when paired with a high gain weapon design, adding over forty-three percent improved effectiveness compared to a non-high gain, non-phased plasma designed weapon system. Improvements to the containment bottle systems as well as the accelerator coil fields in third and later generations of plasma weapons allowed for hotter, tighter bolts to be discharged with significantly improved range and performance over earlier models and families of weapon systems.
By the end of the War, SKYNET was mass producing and equipping its main line combat units with variable duration aperture (VDA) advanced sixth generation phased plasma weapons and rapid pulse, VDA fifth generation phased plasma weapons. After the War, researchers and scientists sorting through the technological databases of SKYNET discovered that the computer-god had working prototypes of several fusion based directed energy weapons (whereby the plasma bolt would be held and charged longer so that the plasma would begin actively fusing). SKYNET was ready to put several seventh generation phased plasma weapons into late developmental testing at a variety of automated facilities and was prepared to start production on four new series of VDA rapid pulse sixth generation phased plasma weapons systems.
In contrast, by the end of the War, the Resistance was regularly fielding fifth generation and fourth generation VDA rapid pulse phased plasma weapons with a few sixth generation VDA phased plasma weapons entering operational status (these newer energy weapons being mostly obtained from hot zone salvage ops or production site theft and with the resulting outcome usually being that these heavier weapons were mounted on mobile assets for quick deployment to and from as well as all around the combat zone).
Hypervelocity electromagnetic linear acceleration reduces time to target impact
Unlike a projectile weapon, the velocity of a plasma bolt was much higher than that of a bullet, often traveling at hypersonic speeds (6kps to 12kps) via magnetic induced linear acceleration. The acceleration coil ladder of a plasma weapon accepted the magnetic field sheathed bolt from the containment bottle via a shared merged field handoff coupling. As the plasma bolt was "siphoned" off from the ready plasma in the containment bottle, it was compressed into a long, thin bolt, encapsulated and completely isolated in a strong magnetic field "sheath" which would start to rapidly decay the instant that the plasma bolt left the last acceleration coil. Plasma bolt cohesion over distance was achieved through the aspect of velocity, higher velocities gave less time for the magnetic sheath to decay thus increasing the range of the weapon. Slower velocities reduced the range of the plasma bolt by allowing more time for the magnetic sheath to decay over a shorter distance traveled. Variable velocity settings were tried in some weapons, thus allowing for the future introduction of variable duration apertures.
The time on target for a plasma bolt, from the instant it left the barrel of the weapon to the instant of impact, was much, much lower for an energy weapon than for a projectile weapon, even at maximum range. Due to the low flight time and rapid on target impact of the plasma bolt, energy weapons were far less affected by environmental conditions like wind direction and wind speed. Energy weapons also enjoyed an almost completely flat trajectory in their operation, an aspect that greatly added to their accuracy, especially with automatic fire control systems.
Ammunition - weapon applied input power and refined fuel storage / injection
'Ammunition storage for energy weapons was very compact (even for the first crude plasma weapons which SKYNET began its extermination crusade against the human race with) and the storage capacity for energy weapons only increased, sometimes exponentially, over the years and decades that followed. ' From a practical standpoint, plasma guns were both an evolutionary as well as revolutionary element to 21st century warfare.
Early low gain plasma guns shared some basic operating features with the projectile weapons that they largely replaced in quick order. Both types of weapons relied on kinetic impact of high speed projectiles to penetrate armor and cause damage. In the case of a projectile weapon, the power source and ammunition were self contained in a single application; the cartridge or bullet. Each bullet housed enough power and fuel (in the form of cap ignited propellant) to accelerate a piece of shaped metal to very high velocity over a dropping trajectory flight path to the target. The early designs of low gain plasma guns mimicked this simple mechanical loading operation in that first generation low gain energy weapons used a box style spring loaded magazine to carry and store individual power cells. Spring loaded plasma cartridge magazines, operating nearly identical to those found on clip-fed assault rifles, provided an easy transition for the soldier during training and plasma weapon deployment. Each power cell was roughly the size of a 7.62mm NATO standard rifle cartridge and contained enough fuel (encapsulated refined hydrogen) and power (in the form of a rapid discharge capacitor to produce a single fixed length and duration plasma bolt. Each power cell was disposable with some of the cell casing being consumed and used to form mass for the plasma bolt. Ejected spent power cells retained enough residual thermal energy to cause light burns but generally not enough to be a source of combustion if they should come in contact with flammable materials (like straw or dry grass).
The first generation of plasma weapons were plagued with overheating problems. Prototypes sometimes retained enough residual thermal energy to "cook off" the next round resulting in a catastrophic destruction of the weapon. Protocols of weapon operation and mechanical safe guards almost always guaranteed that such cook offs couldn't happen in actual combat (with the emphasis being on the word "almost"). Standard firing protocol for early high energy weapons dictated one shot every three seconds in order to allow for proper loading of the power cell, bolt generation, bolt launch, power cell extraction and weapon cooling. Rapid fire of early low gain high energy weapons produced some disturbing results. Residual thermal signatures within the main action of the weapons would become so great under stepped fire that some parts of the weapon would tend to glow red (with the exit port often moving through the visual thermal range from red hot to white hot). Some weapons became uncomfortable to hold while others had to be released for extended periods of time in order for them to cool down before their onboard diagnostics would allow further operation. Early weapons were also plagued with temperamental ejection systems based on regular production projectile weapons. High operating temperatures and rapid fire (greater than 45 bolts per minute) could (and often did) result in a curious operational anomaly associated only with the first generation low gain high energy weapon systems. Under high operating temperatures and with a high rate of sustained fire, the mechanical ejection system would sometimes mis-synchronize with the onboard operating system, extracting a still too-hot spent power cell from the ignition chamber. The resultant spray of molten metal would be enough to cause second or third degree burns to the right hand and forearm of the user as well as spread molten metal across the loading port of the weapon, effectively welding it shut until the user could get out their combat knife and chip away at the splattered metal to free the loading action hardware, a task that was made even more difficult when the weapon itself might be almost too hot to hold. Second generation low gain high energy weapons employed an improved closed loop liquid nitrogen cooling system which eliminated the deformation of extracted power cells, even under heavy sustained rapid fire operations.
First generation based heavier, rapid fire plasma support weapons used chain fed electrical loading mechanisms drawing from dedicated ammunition hoppers or modular cassettes. A dedicated electric motor would spin the ammunition through the receiver array at high speed, thus generating very high rates of fire. The cooling systems were much larger on the crew served weapons thus heavy rapid fire was not as much of a problem or danger as it was with the smaller energy weapons. However, so much volatile ammunition on board a vehicle could prove disastrous if enemy fire struck the ammunition storage area. Drawing from then-modern main battle tanks (MBTs) designs built to minimize vehicle / crew damage in the event of a critical hit to the ammunition storage capacity of that vehicle, early SKYNET combat designs carried the plasma ammunition in a reinforced bulkhead with a blow out hatch. The blow out hatch was specially designed to protect the machine in the event of a catastrophic ammunition hit or failure. The bulkhead was reinforced in the floor and walls but not in the ceiling so that a plasma charge cell explosion would be directed up and out, away from the carrying machine. All of the ammunition in the bulkhead would be lost but the machine would remain fully functional. Simple maintenance at an automated depot could repair the machine while powered reloaders could replenish the ammunition cassettes in a matter of minutes.
Power fuel cells / charge slides
'All of SKYNET's third generation (and later) energy weapons ' disposed of the cumbersome and inefficient individual power cells with their spring loaded magazines in favor of a much more efficient power fuel cell which combined both weapon input power and refined fuel in one integrated containment cassette. The newly designed power fuel cell looked like a magazine, to a certain extent, but the operation of the power fuel cell was certainly different. Like the magazine design before it, the power fuel cell was nothing more than a container for power and fuel used by the plasma weapon. However, instead of storing power and fuel in a series of disposable cartridges, the power fuel cell stored energy and fuel as two separate commodities within the same container. Upon activation of the weapon, input power was siphoned off from a dedicated, rechargeable high density capacitor within the power fuel cell housing. This initial pull charge powered the weapon, energized pre-containment fields, ran diagnostics and energized the fuel injector(s) to draw a charge of refined fuel from a high pressure storage tank within the housing of the power fuel cell. and inject that refined fuel, under pressure, into the containment fields at the introduction point of the magnetic bottle. A quick discharge from the high density capacitor provided the power required to activate the high energy laser ignition system and flash-boil the refined fuel to a plasma state. After that, a small bit of the energy produced by the active plasma in the magnetic bottle was drawn off through field induction to both maintain the ready state of the plasma in the containment area as well as to replenish the charge siphoned off from the power fuel cell. A plasma weapon could be carried in a "hot" state for a long period of time, that is, an active plasma bolt could be carried in the containment bottle, using the thermal heat energy of the bolt to power the containment field. This was not standard practice though as the plasma bolt was, in essence, eating itself to maintain the field containment units, drawing power and energy from the bolt itself in order to sustain the magnetic containment fields which held it in check. Adjusting the duration of active containment would result in a direct correlation between the strength of the bolt, an application of design that would play a critical role in later, heavier plasma based energy weapon systems.
Larger semi-portable, crew served and mounted third generation plasma guns were fed by support hardware that carried an integral high density power storage array and a separate fuel tank of refined weapon grade fuel. Third generation and later Machine mounted heavy weapons drew startup power from the power core of the machine itself, using the dedicated power storage array only as a feed conditioner buffer or if the main power core was taken offline. SKYNET's standardized designs called for centralized refined weapon fuel storage that was linked to all plasma weapons installed on the chassis. Each weapon would draw operational power and fuel supply from the central power core and the central weapons grade fuel storage cell. If the central power core or central weapons grade fuel cell were to be damaged or destroyed, the weapons could still fire for some time using the backup, integrated power fuel cells located at or near the installation point of the weapon in the chassis.
Notable advances in plasma weapon technology
VDA Variable Duration Aperture Assembly
Initial first generation weapon designs used half meter to full meter long plasma bolts fired at low cyclic rates (approximately 45rpm to 60rpm). The discharge was both wasteful of available weapon fuel and overkill when it came to anti-personnel applications. As plasma weapon technology quickly improved over the years, SKYNET managed to be able to coax more performance, effectiveness and damage from its plasma weapons by reducing the length and diameter of the plasma bolt, adjusting the velocity of the bolt and increasing the cyclic rate at which the plasma bolts were discharged. A more thorough understanding of electromagnetic science led to hotter and higher velocity plasma bolts produced with less fuel and less input energy (which led to the subsequent development of the improved gain and later high gain plasma weapons). The VDA Variable Duration Aperture was introduced by SKYNET in 2014 A.D. as an answer to making the plasma gun not only more effective but also to opening a wider range of combat operations to the plasma gun.
'The VDA' allowed individual plasma guns to fire a variety of different sized (variable length / diameter) bolts, from long duration, low frequency bolts intended for maximum impact against immobile or slow moving targets / groups of targets to short duration, high frequency bolts intended for fast moving or agile targets. By 2015 A.D., the battlefield was lit by all shapes and sizes of plasma bolts, most of which could be found as having originated from a single class of energy weapon system. Plasma guns became tunable to target parameters and combat environmental conditions, able to adjust their discharge based on whether a target was static or dynamic in range of motion.
RPM Rapid Pulse Modulators
Third generation plasma based weapons benefited not only from a standard variable duration aperture assembly but also from the introduction of a rapid pulse modulator to the overall design. The rapid pulse modulators appeared during the third generation series of weapons and were standard on each generation and series of weapons afterwards. The rapid pulse modulator allowed each design of plasma weapon to cycle its VDA very rapidly thus providing select fire to each series of plasma weapon. Increased cooling systems were required for the RPM to be effective and these cooling systems were not available until the third generation of weapons began to be developed. Along with increased cooling systems, there came the need for quick load / quick siphon systems which necessitated a redesign of the second generation magnetic bottle array. Rapid cooling combined with rapid pulse and select fire gave the plasma based weapon systems true rapid fire capacity. Combined with the VDA, a plasma gun began to become a truly configurable weapon system able to respond, engage and eliminate a variety of threats.
PSA Phased Stacked Arrays
SKYNET's research into plasma weapons quickly improved the containment bottle design and the laser ignition system until the point where the core plasma reaction could be held slightly longer, really only a matter of fractions of a second but just long enough that the improved laser ignition system could heat the core plasma charge hot enough that a quasi-fusion reaction began to take place. This "phasing" of the plasma bolt from one thermal range to a higher thermal range improved bolt effectiveness in all areas of its performance by 40%, a noticeable improvement. The PSA itself wasn't a complex modification to the basic system, being an evolution of the core system rather than a revolution in technology. The PSA consisted of reinforced sheathed leaf containment field generator, three boost phase input field generators and a multi-stage fast cycling laser ignition system that was far "hotter" than non-PSA based weapons.
The first phased stacked arrays tended to be slower in output than non-PSA equipped weapons due to the increased time required to raise or "phase" the bolt and the time it took to (safely) cycle the entire plasma production and emission process. By the advent of the sixth generation plasma weapons, SKYNET's PSA engineering was at a point where PSA enhanced weapons had rates of fire equivalent to previous genreation non-PSA weapons. This improvement was brought about with the introduction of a fast cycling high energy laser ignition system and a variable stutter field modulator incorporated into the sheathed leaf containment field generator.
Generation Plasma Gun
Produced: 2004 to 2008 A.D.'
Output: Cyclic, mechanical
Generation Plasma Gun
'Produced: 2006 to 2010 A.D.
Generation Plasma Gun
Produced: 2008 to 2012 A.D.'
Output: 'Select, electrical
Generation Plasma Gun Produced: 2010 to 2020 A.D.' Output: 'Select, electrical Yield: High gain
Generation Plasma Gun
Produced: 2015 to 2029 A.D.'
Output: Select, electrical
Generation Plasma Gun
Produced: 2025 to 2029 A.D.'
Output: Select, electrical
Generation Plasma Gun
Produced: Research complete