ST weapon accuracy and range

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ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Ted C » 2010-12-16 05:44pm

"Mike" (Mike DiCenso from starfleetjedi, I think) stopped by to nitpick the "ST weapon accuracy and range" page of the wiki today. You might look at the history for his original edits, as I've already done some formatting and content fixes.
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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Ted C » 2010-12-17 03:22pm

"Mike" is at it again, today. He's relying heavily on dialogue to establish range. Anyone feel like addressing his comments with actual images?
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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Norade » 2010-12-17 11:11pm

Destructionator XIII wrote:
Riker says they are still 55 seconds from "optimal firing range" for the Lysian Central Command, even though they appear to be practically on top of a stationary target that is both very large and very poorly defended (by Federation standards).


They were moving at full impulse power when they said 55 seconds though. If they were indeed right on top of it, they would have blown right past it; the optimal firing range is greater than the range in the visual, not less.

I wonder if what happened there is they did a quick flyby to do detailed sensor scans and targetting resolution, then continued at high speed to get back out to long range, with the data they collected in the flyby scans used to program long range weapons.


This makes a fuck of a lot more sense than "they were right on top of it but still a minute out lol", especially compared to things like "The Nth Degree" where firing photon torpedoes - the weapon they were meaning to use against the central command - at too short of a range would threaten the ship too. Then you ask why get so close, and a limited range for detailed scans would explain that reasonably well.

Indeed, a limited detailed sensor range might explain a lot of short range combat. The weapons could be fired from much farther away, but then they'd be shooting at an unspecific dot on a screen rather than the specific weapon systems or engines they usually prefer to target. It'd help concentrate fire on weak spots too.

With the central command, it was stationary and new, so detailed scans were necessary just to assess the situation too (doubly so since by then the crew were doubting the situation and wanted to be damn sure they weren't doing evil before opening fire).


Given that no matter where the shots hit the ship shakes, consoles explode, shields go down a random percentage, and some secondary system goes offline why bother with aim at all? I bet if we go through every combat and see where shots hit versus what got broken we'll find very little pattern to it.
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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Batman » 2010-12-17 11:16pm

Of course not, as the only indication you have for what equipment is located where is somebody complaining, 'Damnit, that hit disabled/destroyed/ruined it' etc in reaction to a hit :P
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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Norade » 2010-12-17 11:39pm

@ Destructionator XIII

Yet in random fight of the week it doesn't matter where the Big E gets hit because the consoles will explode if they're hit near the engines or near the main phaser banks or what have you. A typical fight scene in Trek has the ship rock, people fall over, a console might spark or explode, somebody will report that shields are down to some percentage, and depending on plot some random subsystem might break. Usually this is when they bust out ass pull of the week or somebody beams over to the ship to capture it. Now the random subsystem of the week might be evidence of aiming, but I bet if we look at the FX footage and see where hits land on the hull we'll see a pretty random display of data points.

It also seems that if they can aim so well the bridge would be the best target for an attack. We know that the command crew never take the combat bridge, and some ship classes may not even have one, so a decapitation strike should always be the first option in combat. I mean if a hit to the aft starboard nacelle causes the crew to go flying, what would a torpedo through the bridge window do?
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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Norade » 2010-12-18 12:15am

The SFX should be used as often as they show a hit to one area causing damage elsewhere, as much as it could be coincidence with the number of examples I would expect to see I doubt that it would be. I mean, it's not like it should be hard to show the shots landing where that system was located, hits to several key locations should have all been mostly stock footage anyway. Of course you do love to throw any and all visual evidence out the window when it doesn't support your preconceived ideas.

How many ships could effectively coordinate a counter response with the loss of all key command personnel except for maybe a doctor and an engineering officer? Also, how many plot issues would be unresolved if the only people with half a brain were all killed? Is random redshirt #347 going to be able to crawl through a jeffries tube to fix a key problem without managing to die?

In regular combat targeting systems should be even more important. You already know the vast majority of designs you should be fighting, so your computer should know that the bridge lies at coordinates xyz and fire on that target. It's not like any manual aiming is being done, so this doesn't take anymore time and should show an increased effectiveness. It also goes to show that Star Wars fire in fleet combat is more accurate as the shields around the Executor's bridge were battered away from distances that Trek mostly doesn't engage at.
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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Ted C » 2010-12-18 11:33pm

I wonder if the desire to target specific systems is what drives starship captains to close to just a few kilometers. The physical range of the weapons should easily be thousands of kilometers; accurate targeting is the primary limitation.

It stands to reason that hitting a target several hundred meters long is much easier than targeting a specific system that might only be a few meters across, especially if the target is engaged in some kind of evasive maneuvering. Maybe if the goal is to hit the port phaser array instead of just some random part of the ship, you need to close to within a kilometer of the target.
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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Vympel » 2010-12-19 01:05am

It does leave open an interesting question though: why are DS9 battles still generally such close range? Like I said above, if you're going for the kill, precision shooting doesn't seem to matter much, so the same reasoning doesn't really apply there. (The out of universe answer is IMO the best one - it is more visually exciting, and budget limitations also explain why shields tend to look down there too.)

In universe, the best I can figure is they wanted to close enough so they could hit the more maneuverable ships in that series. A ship would simply dodge a shot fired from long range, since they all seem capable of being quasi-fighterish in ds9 fights.


DS9 has some inexplicable short range fights too - the Klingon attack on DS9 makes no sense, since they should've simply been able to fire at it from well beyond visual range, but instead they close to within spitting distance (where DS9 has some pretty crappy accuracy, for some damn reason).

Worse however is where the Dominion takes back DS9 - you see the fleet within visual range - and then it cuts to inside the bridge of the Dominion flagship and they announce they're one minute from being in range to fire :banghead:
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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Stark » 2010-12-19 01:59am

Its possible in DS9 the emphasis was on eliminating FTL usage - they need to close to 'dogfighting' range to prevent ships jumping away at damage, getting around the line, or whatever.

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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Vympel » 2010-12-19 02:03am

Yeah, but in both instances referred to above I'm talking about their shooting at DS9 itself.
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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Purple » 2010-12-19 12:12pm

Doctrinal issues? (for the Klingons at least)

I mean, the Klingons opted for actually boarding DS9 and that presumably has a limitation in terms of range. And it's not like they known for being level headed, cool, calculating and stuff. I can expect that a Klingon captain would see battles as an opportunity to get in close and sink your teeth into the enemy in a way of saying.
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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Eternal_Freedom » 2010-12-19 12:34pm

I think with the larger fleet battles the close range was a desire for more accurate targeting. Not just for systems, to make sure as many shots as possibly hit the target, as every missed shot is a waste, expecially if it was a torpedo

This would be especially true when the Feddies always seem to be outnumbered. Every shot counts, so get in close so the enemy can't maneuvre out of the way so easily

Another thought on the "Sacrifice of Angels" fight, the Fed's objectiuve was to get through to DS9. So by getting all the ships closer, vessels "leaving the line" to break through would be under concentrated fire for a lot less time before being in the enemy line
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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Kamakazie Sith » 2010-12-19 11:55pm

Perhaps another reason for closing to knife fighting range is so you can take advantage of weaker weapon arcs. If you're attacking from 200,000km it would be harder to take advantage of those weaker arcs or to divide fire. Take the D'deridex-class which seems to be designed around a first devastating frontal strike where as its Starfleet counterpart, the Galaxy, has a more balanced weapon arc. If you were the Captain of GCS would you want to trade head on attacks with that warbird or try to close the distance?

The Klingon attack on DS9 could be because they wanted to divide the fire and make it more difficult for the station to saturate an area with fire. While the accuracy of DS9 is debatable...the lethality of the weapons DS9 employed is not. Klingon cruisers were being obliterated by a few hits from the stations weapons. The only ship that seemed to survive repeated hits was the Negh'Var.

When you consider these possibilities along with examples of extreme range weapons fire from The Wounded and some other examples in Voyager and TNG.
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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Kamakazie Sith » 2010-12-20 12:08am

Vympel wrote:Yeah, but in both instances referred to above I'm talking about their shooting at DS9 itself.


I think he means to prevent DS9 craft from escaping...
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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Ted C » 2010-12-20 07:22am

I suspect that to be effective, Star Trek ships HAVE to close the range. Targeting specific systems is apparently much more effective than just pounding away at the shields; they want specific sorts of internal damage.

It's pretty obvious that the shields fail faster if you keep hitting the same spot repeatedly. Star Trek "evasive maneuvers" seem to be intended more to keep the same spot on the shield from being hit over-and-over than to keep the ship from being hit at all. Closing the range probably makes it easier to keep pounding on the same spot, depleting the shield faster and causing more "bleed through" damage under the targeted area.
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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Kamakazie Sith » 2010-12-20 11:58am

Ted C wrote:I suspect that to be effective, Star Trek ships HAVE to close the range. Targeting specific systems is apparently much more effective than just pounding away at the shields; they want specific sorts of internal damage.

It's pretty obvious that the shields fail faster if you keep hitting the same spot repeatedly. Star Trek "evasive maneuvers" seem to be intended more to keep the same spot on the shield from being hit over-and-over than to keep the ship from being hit at all. Closing the range probably makes it easier to keep pounding on the same spot, depleting the shield faster and causing more "bleed through" damage under the targeted area.


That's an interesting observation. Though I will remind you that during examples of extreme range engagements their weapons were still quite lethal.
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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Ted C » 2010-12-20 12:40pm

Kamakazie Sith wrote:
Ted C wrote:I suspect that to be effective, Star Trek ships HAVE to close the range. Targeting specific systems is apparently much more effective than just pounding away at the shields; they want specific sorts of internal damage.


That's an interesting observation. Though I will remind you that during examples of extreme range engagements their weapons were still quite lethal.


But those extreme range engagements are pretty rare, and often hard to verify. The engagement in "The Wounded" for example, is said to occur at 300,000 km, but that's hard to verify. For starters, the ship's are travelling at warp speed, so 300,000 km can evaporate in a small fraction of a second. For another, Data's description of the battle is inconsistent with the screen readouts: he says that the Phoenix pulls out of range of the Cardassian ship, but the screen shows that the Cardassian ship actually has greater weapon range than the Phoenix.

The simple fact is that in every TNG battle we see, the ships consistently move to very close range (a couple of kilometers or less) before firing. Dialogue is all over the place (from 500 meters to 300,000 km), but the visuals are very consistent.

TOS dialogue often describes combat at ranges of tens of thousands of kilometers, and that's not inconsistent with the visuals, which almost never show two ships in the same shot. That raises the question of why ships in TNG (with the benefits of a century of technological progress) are shooting from much shorter ranges. The main difference is that TNG ships try to target specific systems, while TOS ships don't (and possibly can't).
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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Kamakazie Sith » 2010-12-20 02:44pm

Ted C wrote:But those extreme range engagements are pretty rare, and often hard to verify. The engagement in "The Wounded" for example, is said to occur at 300,000 km, but that's hard to verify. For starters, the ship's are travelling at warp speed, so 300,000 km can evaporate in a small fraction of a second. For another, Data's description of the battle is inconsistent with the screen readouts: he says that the Phoenix pulls out of range of the Cardassian ship, but the screen shows that the Cardassian ship actually has greater weapon range than the Phoenix.

The simple fact is that in every TNG battle we see, the ships consistently move to very close range (a couple of kilometers or less) before firing. Dialogue is all over the place (from 500 meters to 300,000 km), but the visuals are very consistent.

TOS dialogue often describes combat at ranges of tens of thousands of kilometers, and that's not inconsistent with the visuals, which almost never show two ships in the same shot. That raises the question of why ships in TNG (with the benefits of a century of technological progress) are shooting from much shorter ranges. The main difference is that TNG ships try to target specific systems, while TOS ships don't (and possibly can't).


Yes, I agree that they are hard to verify. My point was that combat at extreme ranges does happen with effective results. Your reason explains why they choose not to and I think my reason gives another explanation for why they would close the distance.

In "The Wounded" while the range is difficult to precisely measure it is pretty clear that the Phoenix and the warship were never closer than 100,000Km, and that is a generous figure given the range layout displayed on screen. The weapons fire from the Phoenix was quite effective. Of course, this is against a lesser enemy.
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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Stofsk » 2010-12-20 02:51pm

Ted C wrote:TOS dialogue often describes combat at ranges of tens of thousands of kilometers, and that's not inconsistent with the visuals, which almost never show two ships in the same shot. That raises the question of why ships in TNG (with the benefits of a century of technological progress) are shooting from much shorter ranges. The main difference is that TNG ships try to target specific systems, while TOS ships don't (and possibly can't).

In 'The Changeling' the Enterprise shoots a photon torpedo to hit a target 90,000km away and is about a 1.5m long. I think it's safe to say they had some crazy accuracy even back then.

I think you can go mad trying to account for the differences between TOS and TNG in terms of technological progress. Especially if you have a strict, canon-literalist point of view. We can just go the Warsie route and chalk it all up to unseen 'jamming' which throws off long-range targeting, forcing close knife-fight ranges. This isn't too much of a stretch especially when you take into account cloaking devices are already like this. It might be that the Federation has some pretty good ECM for mid-to-long range fights. But that's just conjecture. There isn't a good answer to this that's provided by the shows.
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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Connor MacLeod » 2010-12-20 03:27pm

Time for me to belabour a pet point again!

This time I have to wonder: Why are weapons ranges being treated as absolutes? EG why is it Trek (or Star Wars for that matter) always has to have either FUCKOFF HUGE RANGES as completely true or "SUCKOFF SMALL SHORT RANGES" as true? Is it assumed that the two really are mutually exclusive, or is this jsut more of the "vs debate" mentality fucking up actual analysis?

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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Stark » 2010-12-20 03:31pm

I think the difference between light-second ranges and 1000m ranges is worth discussing. Well, not really, because ST is so inconsistent, but strawmanning a discussion to identification of absolutes (when half a dozen people are actually discussing factors influencing effective range) is lame.

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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Connor MacLeod » 2010-12-20 03:37pm

oops you're right, that was lame of me. Point withdrawn :oops:

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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Connor MacLeod » 2010-12-20 04:13pm

Vympel wrote:DS9 has some inexplicable short range fights too - the Klingon attack on DS9 makes no sense, since they should've simply been able to fire at it from well beyond visual range, but instead they close to within spitting distance (where DS9 has some pretty crappy accuracy, for some damn reason). Worse however is where the Dominion takes back DS9 - you see the fleet within visual range - and then it cuts to inside the bridge of the Dominion flagship and they announce they're one minute from being in range to fire :banghead:



DS9 also had an insanely huge, rapid firing, and numerous offensive package, given the sheer number of vessels it could murder. It does stand to reason that the longer the range they engaged at, the less effective weapons attacks would be (beams can diffuse of course, but nothing says they neccesarily have "absurdly high acceleration" torpedoes in all cases. Maybe the situation forced them to use slower moving torperdoes that are more vulnerable to interception or just have crappy targeting.)

Ted's idea also holds water here. They wanted to take the station intact, I believe, so that requires precision/disabling shots, and that means getting in closer, even against a stationary target (unless they don't care how much they blasted the fuck out of it.)

Another possibility for short ranges may be that longer ranges rely on higher weapons velocities. Phasers are always a beam, but being a beam does not mean that they always move at the same velocity at every range. A faster phaser "beam" could be longer ranged (and probably more destrsuctive) but it requires greater power output (posisbly with other tradeofss in cooling and/or refire rate) and probably generates greater recoil. Or maybe longer ranges require tighter focus (phasers could diffuse just like any beam weapon, and it isn't impossible to think it affects the ability to penetrate or damage armor.) Long range torpedo fire may vary according to target - some targets may require bigger engines or more sohpisticated guidance to achieve long range, but that could come at the cost of other capabilities (Eg payload).

One thing I believe I remember seeing in many battles is that "long range' engagements often seem to involve little manuvering (like the one Voyager episode where Kim's prototype runabout was chased, or the Wounded, where the Phoenix doesnt begin manuvers until after hit.) but short range engagmeents often resemble dogfights (again most notably DS9). Since (IIRC) ST ships still have the magical mass lightening tech to boost mobility, it may be that when active, the ML allows them to perform extreme manuvers. The tradeoff will be, of course, that the ship is more sensitive to forces or momentum exerted on the ship, such as recoil. And thus mass lightening in combat could force certain performance limitations onto weapons (reduced velocity for lower recoil, for example.) Hell, recoil will affect the ability of shots to track and target too, so lower recoil might allow for the faster tracking shorter ranges require.

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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Connor MacLeod » 2010-12-20 04:16pm

Ted C wrote:But those extreme range engagements are pretty rare, and often hard to verify. The engagement in "The Wounded" for example, is said to occur at 300,000 km, but that's hard to verify. For starters, the ship's are travelling at warp speed, so 300,000 km can evaporate in a small fraction of a second. For another, Data's description of the battle is inconsistent with the screen readouts: he says that the Phoenix pulls out of range of the Cardassian ship, but the screen shows that the Cardassian ship actually has greater weapon range than the Phoenix.


It's been awhile since I saw that episode. What indication was there that they were at warp?

The simple fact is that in every TNG battle we see, the ships consistently move to very close range (a couple of kilometers or less) before firing. Dialogue is all over the place (from 500 meters to 300,000 km), but the visuals are very consistent.

TOS dialogue often describes combat at ranges of tens of thousands of kilometers, and that's not inconsistent with the visuals, which almost never show two ships in the same shot. That raises the question of why ships in TNG (with the benefits of a century of technological progress) are shooting from much shorter ranges. The main difference is that TNG ships try to target specific systems, while TOS ships don't (and possibly can't).


Perhaps ships in the TOS just had more primitive sensor systems and couldn't precisely observe/track at a distance. in TNG, sensors arguably could be better (or perhaps TNG era ships generate more power and just are more detectable in space) which allows enemies to approach much closer before engaging.

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Re: ST weapon accuracy and range

Postby Ted C » 2010-12-21 07:19am

Connor MacLeod wrote:It's been awhile since I saw that episode. What indication was there that they were at warp?


The Phoenix had been pursuing a Cardassian supply ship, which I assume would be travelling at warp speed.

Perhaps ships in the TOS just had more primitive sensor systems and couldn't precisely observe/track at a distance. in TNG, sensors arguably could be better (or perhaps TNG era ships generate more power and just are more detectable in space) which allows enemies to approach much closer before engaging.


I'm not sure what point you're trying to make here; your statements are a little contradictory.
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