Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

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Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Lord Revan » 2015-10-16 05:31pm

Brian Young claims on his site (with evidence) that warp strafing is a thing that's possible in trek.

However when you look at certain things it seems dispite being possible it's not really used, now mister Young said that this because most trek powers have warp capable ships that can catch up to the ship doing the strafing and therefore that tactic isn't as useful.

However Terok Nor had decently powerful defense grid certainly overkill against fleeing freighter that you might have to stop and when that station became Deep Space 9 the Federation spent resouces to repair and upgrade that defense grid to make it powerful enough to hold a fleet attacking it for a signifigant time. Since Terok Nor/Deep Space 9 is a space station it would be stationary so it wouldn't be able to go to warp to catch up to anything, in fact it's a major plot point in the pilot that DS9 cannot move on its own (while they figure out a way to move the station during the pilot it's slow sublight and not even close to warp speeds). If speed was the only obstacle for warp strafing then wouldn't it be possible for ships to basically keep strafing DS9 until they surrender or are destroyed making the defense grid pointless (either you have fleet defending in which case you don't really need the grid or there's no fleet and the grid won't hit anything).

Warp speeds are really, really fast (no really they are) and I can't remember any case where trek ships targeted and hit targets that were beyond distance of equilevant of the orbit of the Moon from Earth surface. This would mean that with warp strafing the firing window even when using computers will be really short, reducing the the effective rate of fire and accuracity signifigantly (there's simply no time to do that properly and still fire several).

So against a hard target like DS9 you'd have to do alot of runs to do effective damage and each run makes it easier for the defenders to pick up where you're gonna come from next and while they might not be able to lock on you directly Photon torps (and possibly phasers/disruptors) have proximity detonation capability the defenders can set-up a "wall" of weapons fire you'll run into basically they might not able fire at you but the defenders can fire at the space they'll think you will be at and if their guess was correct you'll get hit anyway defeating the main purpose of warp strafing.

This would explain why battles against stationary objects still happen in sublight often enough that things like defense grids of those are something worth the resources.

so comments, suggestions?
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Simon_Jester » 2015-10-16 06:51pm

Another issue might be precise targeting and navigation. To set up an effective attack run at high warp speeds you need to be able to aim at them from billions of kilometers away, because your ship travels on the order of a billion kilometers a second. Even if the target is theoretically stationary, you may not know your own location precisely enough to aim a weapon at them. Because if you aim at a fixed target you can't see clearly, and are two kilometers off about where you are, you're just as likely to miss the target as if you were wrong by two kilometers about where they are.

Furthermore, Trek ships do have sensors quite capable of spotting a ship under warp drive, from considerable distances. So one can't rule out the risk of running smack into a barrage of fire the enemy lobbed at where you were going to be.
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Tribble » 2015-10-16 11:37pm

IMO its a combination of factors:

A) As previously stated, hitting something would be very difficult at FTL speeds. It would be challenging to hit a planet, let alone a space station or starship.
B) ECM may play a significant role. All the defending party would have to do is affect the sensors enough for the shots to miss. Given the speeds and distances involved, it wouldn't be that hard to accomplish. Darth Wong theorizes that's one reason why fleet engagements tend to be walls of ships that close to within a couple of kilometers of each other - the sensor jamming generated by the fleets is intense enough that trying to target individual ships beyond the range of a couple of kilometers is futile.
C) Objects that are not at warp are generally more difficult to detect. This reduces the amount of time available to lock onto the target.
D) The turn-around time after each strafe may be too long to be worthwhile. Starships don't appear to be manoeuvrable at warp, and heading back for another pass would take time. If they are only able to make an attempt once every few minutes, they are probably not going to be that effective, especially against heavily-shielded targets like DS9.
E) According to the TNG manual some energy weapons like phasers are far less effective while at warp, presumable because of interactions with the warp field. This would limit the options that are available.
F) Star Trek sensors just generally suck when it comes to combat. We've seen things like the E-D dodge hits while wallowing about like a beached whale even though their attackers were at most a few kilometers away. Or things like DS9 failing to hit targets that were not maneuvering at all. Trying to do things like warp strafing would probably make their accuracy even worse!
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Prometheus Unbound » 2015-10-17 03:49am

Lord Revan wrote:Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?
Cos the viewers would get confused not seeing both ships on the screen at the same time.

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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Simon_Jester » 2015-10-17 01:06pm

Tribble wrote:E) According to the TNG manual some energy weapons like phasers are far less effective while at warp, presumable because of interactions with the warp field. This would limit the options that are available.
Yes. It would make warp attacks most effective as a way to deliver torpedoes using "launch and leave" tactics. Since torpedoes are self-guided weapons that also helps address the targeting issue.

The catch is that your torpedo attack has to either be powerful enough to wipe out your target entirely (or at least severely cripple it), or it won't have a useful effect because by the time you can come back and engage the target again, they've had minutes to do damage control and recharge their shields.

So torpedo attacks fired while at warp would be most useful against a stationary target you're planning to destroy. They would not be useful against a target you plan to cause only light damage to, or which you plan to capture. When the Klingons attacked Deep Space Nine, they were trying to capture the Detapa Council and may well have wanted to seize the station itself as a military base.

So even if a massed torpedo attack launched from a light-hour out while under warp drive was a practical option, the indiscriminate damage caused by such an attack might well destroy the prize the Klingons were fighting for.

Moreover, if the Klingons were not confident in their ships' ability to overcome Deep Space Nine's fortifications in direct combat at close range, they also could not be confident in their ships' torpedo attack overcoming its shields in a single barrage- which is all they'd get from a warp attack.
F) Star Trek sensors just generally suck when it comes to combat. We've seen things like the E-D dodge hits while wallowing about like a beached whale even though their attackers were at most a few kilometers away. Or things like DS9 failing to hit targets that were not maneuvering at all. Trying to do things like warp strafing would probably make their accuracy even worse!
If Trek sensors were that bad, targeting at hundred thousand kilometer ranges or launching attacks from warp wouldn't just be hard, it would be literally impossible and never actually happen.
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Lord Revan » 2015-10-17 02:39pm

the thing is that if Warp Strafing was as effective as it's implied DS9 probably wouldn't have a defense grid or UFP wouldn't had expended resources to repair and upgrade something that's obsolete. The same way modern artillery and air power has made walled forts obsolete, while the battles in DS9 (series) are questionble as terms to my argument it's why I didn't use them. However the very fact that there's more weapons then it's needed to stop an escaping freighter installed on Terok Nor/DS9 and that UFP thought it would be worth it to upgrade/repair the weapons shows that the space equilevant of a "walled fort" isn't obsolete.
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Typhonis 1 » 2015-10-17 06:22pm

Depending on how cannon it is...all combat takes place at warp speed in Star Fleet Battles. In fact the speed varies from Warp 1 to a little over warp 3.

Then again in SFB they can travel 500 parsecs a MONTH at cruising speed and usually carry 3000 parsecs worth of fuel. They can go Warp 9 BUT their navigational sensors are heavily blinded by the warp distortion at that speed and they need a strong beacon to lock onto to travel.
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Batman » 2015-10-17 06:38pm

Typhonis 1 wrote:Depending on how cannon it is...
Not at all, even if you had spelled canon correctly.
Then again in SFB they can travel 500 parsecs a MONTH at cruising speed
That's not quite 136 c. That's pitifully slow even by TNG standards.
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Lord Revan » 2015-10-17 06:47pm

Typhonis 1 wrote:Depending on how cannon it is...all combat takes place at warp speed in Star Fleet Battles. In fact the speed varies from Warp 1 to a little over warp 3.

Then again in SFB they can travel 500 parsecs a MONTH at cruising speed and usually carry 3000 parsecs worth of fuel. They can go Warp 9 BUT their navigational sensors are heavily blinded by the warp distortion at that speed and they need a strong beacon to lock onto to travel.
as Batman pointed out the ST EU material is not canon and never has been. Also there's instances where the fighting is clearly sublight like the battle in DS9 (the series that is) since they involve objects that are stationary and we can see both sides of the conflict on the same frame.
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Prometheus Unbound » 2015-10-17 06:53pm

Batman wrote:
Typhonis 1 wrote:Depending on how cannon it is...
Not at all, even if you had spelled canon correctly.
Then again in SFB they can travel 500 parsecs a MONTH at cruising speed
That's not quite 136 c. That's pitifully slow even by TNG standards.
It's 19,583 C ... That's like warp 9.99

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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Batman » 2015-10-17 07:08pm

Yeah, I think I dived by 12 rather than multiplying. My bad.
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Simon_Jester » 2015-10-17 11:30pm

Lord Revan wrote:the thing is that if Warp Strafing was as effective as it's implied DS9 probably wouldn't have a defense grid or UFP wouldn't had expended resources to repair and upgrade something that's obsolete.
Implied by who, exactly?
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Lord Revan » 2015-10-18 06:16am

Simon_Jester wrote:
Lord Revan wrote:the thing is that if Warp Strafing was as effective as it's implied DS9 probably wouldn't have a defense grid or UFP wouldn't had expended resources to repair and upgrade something that's obsolete.
Implied by who, exactly?
Brian Young in his vids in this case as he at least reasonble enough about it, like saying it's not an "I win" button but a tactic with limits we just disagree on what those limits are and thus how effective the tactic is in a "realistic" scenario.

since we have evidence that a sublight ship will have a hard time locking on to ship strafing it in warp speeds (the TOS episode that introduced the Andorians and Spock's family), logically it would follow that an object that permanently in sublight (say for example DS9) would have that as well (it was a matter of the computer not being able to predict the position of the orion ship fast enough that was the problem IIRC, though I'll admit it's been a while since I last saw that episode) so a defense grid would pointless as warp capable ships (read:pretty much anything you'd need a defense grid against) could just zip by and bombard you until you surrendered, were destroyed or a fleet of warp capable ships came to your rescue.

What I'm trying to argue here is that there's limits that make Warp Strafing be rather inefficient tactic even when used against a sublight target that's strong enough and that's why we don't see it in trek outside of handful of examples.
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Simon_Jester » 2015-10-18 10:14am

My perception is that there can be limitations on warp strafing as a tactic that make it usually unwise or ineffective, without saying "Star Trek equipment is so comically shitty that they can't hit the broad side of a stationary asteroid at a thousand kilometers" or something like that. Basically, by positing that firing from warp causes difficulties for sensors or computers on issues we today would struggle with, not things that we today could do with pathetic ease.

So I prefer arguments like "warp navigation is not so precise that you always know your exact position in time and space to the level of nanosecond timescales and hundred-meter distances required for fire control targeting" to "Star Trek ships routinely miss at ranges that look like people are moving around foot-long ship models in a dark room making pew pew noises at each other because that's how the battles are choreographed."

We know Star Trek ships are supposed to, and on a number of canonical occasions do, engage at distances much longer than "I could stand on the hull with a hand phaser and hit them from here" range. Therefore if we just blindly dismiss their ability to do so because "that's not how the special effects look, har har har!" we are deliberately ignoring important evidence and drawing an inconsistent, unrealistic picture of the Star Trek universe.
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Lord Revan » 2015-10-18 12:39pm

Simon_Jester wrote:My perception is that there can be limitations on warp strafing as a tactic that make it usually unwise or ineffective, without saying "Star Trek equipment is so comically shitty that they can't hit the broad side of a stationary asteroid at a thousand kilometers" or something like that. Basically, by positing that firing from warp causes difficulties for sensors or computers on issues we today would struggle with, not things that we today could do with pathetic ease.

So I prefer arguments like "warp navigation is not so precise that you always know your exact position in time and space to the level of nanosecond timescales and hundred-meter distances required for fire control targeting" to "Star Trek ships routinely miss at ranges that look like people are moving around foot-long ship models in a dark room making pew pew noises at each other because that's how the battles are choreographed."

We know Star Trek ships are supposed to, and on a number of canonical occasions do, engage at distances much longer than "I could stand on the hull with a hand phaser and hit them from here" range. Therefore if we just blindly dismiss their ability to do so because "that's not how the special effects look, har har har!" we are deliberately ignoring important evidence and drawing an inconsistent, unrealistic picture of the Star Trek universe.
no arguments from here for that.

I think it's better to ask "why do most trek battles happen at close range and sublight even though they have access to greater range and/or speed?" then to go "hur, hur trek sucks don't you see they can't even hit ship right next to them". We shouldn't totally dismiss the onscreen evidence though, most battles onscreen happen at close ranges so the question should be "why this happens?". That said we should dismiss outlayers like Riker's performance in the episode "Code of Honor"

for example we know that Trek ships can target ground targets from standard orbit and have fair change of hitting them so phaser targeting isn't unable to target objects beyond 500 m, sadly I can't remember if it was ever said how far from the surface the standard orbit is.
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Prometheus Unbound » 2015-10-18 02:41pm

OOU it's because people want to see on screen what's happening. See Battle of Endor. Or any Star Wars stuff on screen. Or B5. Or SG1. Any of them. They're all within a few km when they don't need to be, purely because it's a visual medium.
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Batman » 2015-10-18 09:20pm

Lord Revan wrote: for example we know that Trek ships can target ground targets from standard orbit and have fair change of hitting them so phaser targeting isn't unable to target objects beyond 500 m, sadly I can't remember if it was ever said how far from the surface the standard orbit is.
Well we know it can't be more than 40,000 km above the surface because they can routinely and reliably beam down from that. The visuals whenever they're in 'standard orbit' to me look far closer but someone more qualified than me at scaling will have to judge that.
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Prometheus Unbound » 2015-10-19 01:31am

Batman wrote:
Lord Revan wrote: for example we know that Trek ships can target ground targets from standard orbit and have fair change of hitting them so phaser targeting isn't unable to target objects beyond 500 m, sadly I can't remember if it was ever said how far from the surface the standard orbit is.
Well we know it can't be more than 40,000 km above the surface because they can routinely and reliably beam down from that. The visuals whenever they're in 'standard orbit' to me look far closer but someone more qualified than me at scaling will have to judge that.
Janeway asked for a "high orbit" over Earth in Future's End. That was apparently 20,000km high, if that's any use.

I guess it depends on the size of the planet and its gravity. But definitely I've never thought oh that must be 100kkm away or anything. I've always thought it was a few thousand km up.
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Lord Revan » 2015-10-19 09:58am

That said the exact number isn't that important, my point being that we have evidence that trek ships can target and hit targets outside of range so low that you physically punch the opponent if you stepped on the hull of your ship.
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Ted C » 2015-10-19 10:54am

I wrote about warp-strafing in the article for the wiki, identifying what I consider to be the major problem with it.

If you are flying by a target at light-speed, and you have weapons with a range of one light-second, you have all of two seconds to acquire the target and discharge your weapons, assuming that they can track the target for the entire pass. It's less if you can only fire while approaching, for example.

Of course, Federation starships can travel at thousands of times the speed of light, so your actual time to put a beam onto a target is probably a millisecond or less. That means that during a warp-speed fly-by, you can only use a small fraction of your firepower against the target. Against a target with defenses in any way comparable to those of a Federation starship, I can't see how that would be the least bit effective.

I've always gone with the idea that "warp-strafing" involves moving into range at warp-speed, briefly dropping to sublight while your weapons fire, then warping away again before the target can shoot back. You have to have a speed advantage to make it work, and your opponent's ability to track your approach has to be limited (which is already implied to be the case with subspace sensors).

Regardless of the details, this kind of "hit and run" strategy obviously works in Star Trek. "Journey to Babel" and "Elaan of Troyius" both show that it works.

"The Ultimate Computer" even seems to demonstrate why it works. The Enterprise and the other Constitution-class ships in the exercise have exactly the same capabilities, but the M5 is able to maneuver into range, fire, and maneuver away without taking return fire because there is no delay from taking orders and then keying them into consoles: whatever actions it chooses are implemented immediately. When ships can move into and out of range so quickly, this makes a huge difference.
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Prometheus Unbound » 2015-10-19 11:46am

Lord Revan wrote:That said the exact number isn't that important, my point being that we have evidence that trek ships can target and hit targets outside of range so low that you physically punch the opponent if you stepped on the hull of your ship.
ST5 - fired onto the surface of the planet. Visually shown.
TNG: The Wounded - Fired at ~300,000km (shown on screen, said in dialogue also).
VOY: Human Error - Fired (torp) at about 8 million km whilst at warp to another ship in warp (Dialogue only - you see the torps fire but not hit. obviously, because it was 8m km away heh)
DS9: The Die is Cast - Not arguing about the EFFECT of the weapons used against the Founder's planet but that was a high orbit bombardment of phasers, disruptors and plasma torpedoes. Visually shown.
TOS: Balance of Terror - phasers and plasma torps launched whilst light seconds away that take between 5 and 45 seconds to hit - Enterprise was trying to escape at maximum warp and it was still over-taking them. Visually shown.
ENT: part 3 of the augments - Enterprise fires I think two photonic torpedoes at another torpedo which apparently went around Qo'Nos (was it Qo'Nos?) from one side of the planet and then some - must have flown about 20-40,000km.

That's one example from each series and the movies. It's fairly consistent across the franchise that they CAN, they just don't. Why? Fuck knows. OOU it's because it's not as exciting, apparently.

Enterprise D has also fired phasers at planets to drill stuff in one or two episodes, from orbit.
Ent-nil also fired on planets - a piece of the action had it firing stun setting on a city block.

I might also note ST:FC - the Enterprise E fires a few QTs at the phoenix - whilst they're both in frame, it's actually... come to think of it... the longest range weapons shown whilst both parties were close - they had to be 50-60km apart? Am I remembering that right?

What else... oh on the subject of first contact, the Borg Sphere fires on the surface from a few thousand km up.
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Simon_Jester » 2015-10-19 06:22pm

Ted C wrote:I wrote about warp-strafing in the article for the wiki, identifying what I consider to be the major problem with it.

If you are flying by a target at light-speed, and you have weapons with a range of one light-second, you have all of two seconds to acquire the target and discharge your weapons, assuming that they can track the target for the entire pass. It's less if you can only fire while approaching, for example.

Of course, Federation starships can travel at thousands of times the speed of light, so your actual time to put a beam onto a target is probably a millisecond or less. That means that during a warp-speed fly-by, you can only use a small fraction of your firepower against the target. Against a target with defenses in any way comparable to those of a Federation starship, I can't see how that would be the least bit effective.
This is true of beams but less true of torpedoes, which lend themselves to high burst firepower even if they don't have the warp sustainers sometimes alluded to (in which case they could also be fired from much longer ranges while at warp than phasers)
I've always gone with the idea that "warp-strafing" involves moving into range at warp-speed, briefly dropping to sublight while your weapons fire, then warping away again before the target can shoot back. You have to have a speed advantage to make it work, and your opponent's ability to track your approach has to be limited (which is already implied to be the case with subspace sensors).
This would be in keeping with the Picard maneuver, and come to think of it IS the Picard maneuver, just with the extra step of warping away, which the Stargazer was in poor shape to do.
Regardless of the details, this kind of "hit and run" strategy obviously works in Star Trek. "Journey to Babel" and "Elaan of Troyius" both show that it works.

"The Ultimate Computer" even seems to demonstrate why it works. The Enterprise and the other Constitution-class ships in the exercise have exactly the same capabilities, but the M5 is able to maneuver into range, fire, and maneuver away without taking return fire because there is no delay from taking orders and then keying them into consoles: whatever actions it chooses are implemented immediately. When ships can move into and out of range so quickly, this makes a huge difference.
Oooh... that too. GOOD coherent point.
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Batman » 2015-10-19 06:58pm

That's not 'Warp Strafing' though, that's 'touch-and go Downwarping' attacks, and I don't think anybody ever disputed that works. 'Warp strafing' is generally taken to mean strafing while at Warp-which entails all the problems brought up in this thread.
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Simon_Jester » 2015-10-19 07:47pm

Again, it would be most likely to actually work as a torpedo attack tactic; that's the threat we should be thinking in terms of. Also note that the attack might be launched at relatively low warp factors- this reduces the targeting problem.
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Re: Warp strafing, why isn't it used more?

Post by Batman » 2015-10-19 07:55pm

On both sides.
'Next time I let Superman take charge, just hit me. Real hard.'
'You're a princess from a society of immortal warriors. I'm a rich kid with issues. Lots of issues.'
'No. No dating for the Batman. It might cut into your brooding time.'
'Tactically we have multiple objectives. So we need to split into teams.'-'Dibs on the Amazon!'
'Hey, we both have a Martian's phone number on our speed dial. I think I deserve the benefit of the doubt.'
'You know, for a guy with like 50 different kinds of vision, you sure are blind.'

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