If you ask U.S military personnel to take over a Russian aircraft carrier and the aircrafts, it is quite likely that the Americans will encounter major hiccups along the way. The technology is different. The way to operate the equipment is different. The pilots are not trained to fly these Russian-made planes.

Furthermore, we are dealing with military technology here which tends to be secretive. The Cardassians will be reluctant to be open about their own military technology when handing over DS9 to the Federation for security reasons.

The "hiccups" I saw on DS9 were O'Brien complaining about Cardassian technology but things continue to work. Nothing serious breaks down.

How can Starfleet take over DS9 with very few major hiccups?

  • 38
    "No major hiccups?" How about the time a Cardassian security program took over the station? Commented Dec 25, 2016 at 6:44
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    Aside from the time when the station tried to kill them, it was remarkably easy to operate. Until they needed a spare part and the station shut down.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 25, 2016 at 7:18
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    Just curious, but do you have a source on the idea that American crew would have a difficult time figuring out how to operate a Russian aircraft carrier and its planes? I'm sure there would be differences, yes, and all the labels would be in Russian, obviously, but I'm skeptical about how difficult it would really be (provided they have a translator, at least. Trek has universal translators and language barriers are rarely ever an issue in universe.)
    – Steve-O
    Commented Dec 25, 2016 at 14:32
  • 5
    @Steve-O Jan 3, 2004, a Boeing aircraft crashed, and investigators believed the key failure was that Russian artificial horizons and American devices worked differently, and in a moment of panic and confusion the captain reverted to his Soviet training and literally killed the plane trying to "fix" his flight using the wrong interpretation of the artifical horizon. source
    – Zoey Green
    Commented Dec 25, 2016 at 20:25
  • 2
    The correct answer is: "Because O'Brien's a badass."
    – Xodarap777
    Commented Dec 26, 2016 at 23:03

6 Answers 6


Things didn't "continue to work" — major systems were unresponsive, offline, plain broken, or inscrutable when Starfleet arrived

From the first episode, "Emissary":

O'BRIEN: I'd like to ask the designer what he was thinking about when they built this place. I still haven't been able to find an ODN access. That's the Prefect's office up there.

SISKO: So all others have to look up with respect. Cardassian architecture.

O'BRIEN: Yes, sir. Major Kira's been using it.

SISKO: Is it my imagination or is it unusually warm?

O'BRIEN: The environmental controls in Ops are stuck at thirty-two C. We're working on it.


JAKE: Is this the food replicator?

O'BRIEN: I'm afraid they're all offline. There's plenty of emergency rations. I could send some down.

Later, O'Brien, a veritable transporter wizard, has trouble operating the transporter!

O'BRIEN: Trying to lock on. I've never done this with a Cardassian transporter. Damn it, what's the problem??

(He kicks the thing and Odo beams in.)

Starfleet installed their own components for many systems, because the Cardassians removed "every component of value" before they left

From the same episode:

O'BRIEN: We've got all available personnel assigned to repairing primary systems, sir. The Cardassians took every component of value. We're virtually defenceless.

Finally, in getting things to work and in getting used to the Cardassian systems, we mustn't underestimate the value of:

  • universal translators
  • previous Starfleet espionage of Cardassian technology
  • investigation and reverse-engineering of Cardassian technology recovered from wreckage and/or captured ships during the Federation-Cardassian war
  • assistance from Bajoran militia officers who lived under Cardassian rule
  • 19
    +1. O'Brien also seems to have some special magic; it's shown in Honor Among Thieves (season 6, episode 15) that large numbers of technical problems crop up when O'Brien is away (and Major Kira explicitly says that this happens every time he goes on leave).
    – ruakh
    Commented Dec 26, 2016 at 0:03
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    Yes, I immediately thought about the Cardassians removing all that stuff. I got the impression that most of the remaining Cardassian infrastructure was primarily basic stuff like replicators as well as some user interface stuff/terminals. The high-tech stuff to replace all the looted stuff would have been installed under the supervision of the Federation and would presumably either be Federation-spec equipment or at least compatible with its standards. So you could imagine DS9 like a computer that has been gutted and replaced with new components. Commented Dec 26, 2016 at 0:41

The Bajorans were allied with The Federation. Bajorans had been oppressed by the Cardassians for a long time. During that time, it wouldn't be odd for the Bajorans to have been able to figure out Cardassian tech. So it's only reasonable to figure that the Bajorans had a hand in some form of maintaining the station.

Neela was a Bajoran female and a member of the Bajoran Militia during the late-24th century.

In 2369, Neela served on the space station Deep Space 9 as an engineer under Operations Chief Miles O'Brien. As part of her duties, she once helped to repair Lieutenant Jadzia Dax's science station following a malfunction. (DS9: "Duet")

  • 3
    Bajor didn't join the Federation during the course of the series, though they were allied
    – Izkata
    Commented Dec 26, 2016 at 6:40
  • 1
    You are correct. It just seemed to me they were allied so hard already it was a meaningless distinction between allied or joined. Commented Dec 26, 2016 at 7:19
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    There was more than one episode where the legal reality of Bajor not being a member of the Federation was a plot point.
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Dec 26, 2016 at 18:51
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit It's been changed. Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 16:31

The question makes an incorrect assumption:

The pilots are not trained to fly these Russian-made planes.

There are USAF pilots who are trained to fly Russian-made planes.

The USAF has a program to acquire foreign military aircraft mostly for training and tactical-analysis purposes. Even if the technology doesn't need reverse-engineering because they have their own equivalents, understanding foreign technology helps ensure that they can counter that technology, whether it's electronic warfare, radar or radar-stealthing, targeting, missile-avoidance or missile-tracking etc.

The main place that acquired aircraft end up is in an opposing-force squadron, flown by specially trained pilots who fly as the 'enemy' in US training exercises.

The acquisitions come from many sources; defecting pilots, complicated CIA plots or captured in warzones but they're often merely purchased by intermediaries from third party nations who themselves bought them from the USSR.

It's reasonable to suppose that the Federation does something similar. Where possible, they would capture, steal, buy or deep-scan/replicate Cardassian technology for the purposes of training their own pilots to fight against it.

Therefore; the crew arriving on DS9 ought to have some grounding in Cardassian technology already, knowing at least the basics that Starfleet has learnt from intelligence sources.


While the US and the Soviets had their own distinctive tech, it was still built on the basics of science. There was also no shortage of copycatting, espionage, etc. Basically, you copy the leader. They have tech that works, so why reinvent the wheel? So you wind up with an amalgam of tech, gleaned from the wild, and all of it working mostly the same way. It's not unrealistic to assume that a US pilot could fly a Russian jet (albeit not as proficiently), since all planes still have to work in the same basic way.

It stands to reason that the Cardassians (and indeed most of the Alpha quadrant) worked mostly the same way with warp drives, transporters, sensors, etc. So as long as you knew how the device was supposed to work, it stands to reason that you could make it work (provided the key components worked or were similar enough to repair). So, while Chief O'Brien didn't know how the Cardassian transporters were built, you could presume the interface would be similar enough to make an educated guess.

It also stands to reason that the Cardssians probably directly stole some of that know-how from the Federation. Seska, the Cardassian mole in Voyager, proves the Cardassians have their own infiltration system. It's not unreasonable to assume they would be looking at near-copies of their own panels, just labeled in a different language. We saw something similar in Star Trek III, where the crew has taken over a Klingon Bird of Prey


Kirk in command, Sulu and Saavik on nearby station. They are confronted by familiar tools, but baffling zymology.

KIRK Anyone here read Klingon?

No one does.

KIRK (continuing) Well, take your best shot.


Scotty hunched over the console, Chekov hunched over him...

CHEKOV If you can bypass into the module -

SCOTTY Fine, but where's the damn anti-matter inducer?

CHEKOV This.? No, this!

SCOTTY This or nothing.

Scotty makes several adjustments, presses some buttons, then, with a deep breath, moves a sliding handle for- ward. A HIGH WHINE STARTS, WAVERS, THEN GROWS ROBUST.

  • 2
    Did the script really say zymology? That seems... an odd choice of words.
    – Kevin
    Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 2:48
  • 1
    @Kevin I thought so too. Maybe a typo of symbology. Here's the source
    – Machavity
    Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 2:50

There was an entire episode (DS9 3x07 "Civil Defense") about the station's defense systems deciding that O'Brien and friends were actually a bunch of "rioting Bajoran workers" and setting off a lengthy series of booby traps. The situation got completely out of control and effectively crippled the station for the duration of the episode. I would definitely count this as a "major hiccup" to say the least. Numerous other episodes also involved some level of "the station is misbehaving and Bad Things are happening" (granted, most Star Trek shows have had some of that, but still). I'm not sure reasonable storytelling would allow for them to show much more going wrong with the station while still maintaining the audience's willing suspension of disbelief ("Why are they still trying to work in that deathtrap?").


Another meta-point: A lot of the difficulties the station personnel had in getting up-to-speed on handling Cardassian technology must have occurred and been overcome during the time between episodes that is never shown.

  • 5
    Although true, this doesn't really answer the question asked. Airily waving a hand at the screen and saying "I'm sure it happened when we weren't watching" doesn't address the point.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 26, 2016 at 22:18
  • 3
    This is a good point, but belongs in comments to the OQ, not as an answer.
    – Xodarap777
    Commented Dec 26, 2016 at 23:05
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    No, it's an answer, albeit a short one without references. Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 14:06

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