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Why did Voyager have the tricobalt torpedoes with them in the first episode of the series?

Seven of Nine brought this up in "The Voyager Conspiracy" (Season 6). Was there any truth to what Seven was saying? Was there another legitimate reason that Voyager would have had such torpedoes for their mission in the badlands? Or was it just a question that the producers never answered?

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    What are they meant to do, go chasing the Maquis with plain old bicobalt torpedos? Ugh! Mar 22, 2021 at 9:43

4 Answers 4

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From List of weapons in Star Trek - Subspace weapons - Tricobalt devices on wikipedia:

The tricobalt warhead is a subspace weapon whose high-yield detonations can tear holes in subspace. Tricobalt devices are not a standard armament of Federation vessels and yields are calculated in Tera-Cochranes, indicating that its mechanism is somewhat similar to the general reaction in a warp field.

Tricobalt warheads are essentially high-yield explosives, an analogue to modern day high-explosives, C4, or H-bombs. I assume because Voyager was expected to see some combat, the Federation loaded it up with a wider array of weapon systems so that the Voyager crew would have the tools necessary to defeat the Maquis menace or whatever. The Maquis movement was a highly motivated insurgent group, so the Federation may have felt Voyager needed more firepower.

The Wikipedia article for Voyager mentions that:

Voyager was launched in 2371. The crew's first orders were to track down a Maquis ship in the Badlands.

I think that generally the Federation does not use these weapons, not because they lack the technology but because it is more destructive than Federation doctrine would prefer.

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    How does that answer the question why Voyager would need those?
    – bitmask
    Jun 25, 2012 at 15:33
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    The 'why' is because when one knows a unit might see heavy combat, one gives them some extra weapons to even the score and ensure success. I tried to add more of this in my answer. Jun 25, 2012 at 15:42
  • Yes, that explanation works for me.
    – bitmask
    Jun 25, 2012 at 15:49
  • This answer directly conflicts with the dialog of "The Voyager Conspiracy" where Seven and Chakotay confirm tricobalt devices are not standard Federation armaments and it's unknown why Voyager was carrying them.
    – MgSam
    Mar 22, 2021 at 3:38
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Voyager's standard complement of weapons includes 42 photon torpedoes and 2 tri-cobalt devices.

The ship is initially equipped with 42 photon torpedoes with type VI warheads and two tricobalt devices, both of which are used to destroy the Caretaker's array. --"Caretaker". Star Trek: Voyager.

By the fourth episode of Voyager known as The Cloud the script reveals:

CHAKOTAY: We have a complement of thirty eight photon torpedoes at our disposal, Captain.

JANEWAY: And no way to replace them after they're gone.

Since tri-cobalt weapons are super-high yield explosives, the weapons are probably used as high-yield artillery explosives, possibly as mines against chasing starships, or for disrupting subspace preventing ships from easily accessing subspace, at least temporarily.

Such a powerful weapon would make a very fast ship like Voyager able to provide one or two passes of incredible firepower, certainly implied from its design with five torpedo tubes, two forward, two aft and one dorsal I can easily see loading one tri-cobalt weapon in each set, one firing forward, and one as it passes would make a devastating single attack, perfect for a fleet manuever designed to cover a retreat or as an opening volley in a multi-ship conflict.

Like many Federation starships of its time, Voyager was armed with phasers and photon torpedoes and protected by a deflector shield system. The vessels torpedo launchers were compatable with quantum torpedoes as well, with some modification. Additionally, Voyager carried spatial charges and tricobalt devices, the latter of which were not normally carried on Starfleet vessels at the time. (VOY: "Caretaker", "Dreadnought", "Relativity", "The Voyager Conspiracy") --Memory Alpha >Voyager

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  • This answer directly conflicts with the dialog of "The Voyager Conspiracy" where Seven and Chakotay confirm tricobalt devices are not standard Federation armaments and it's unknown why Voyager was carrying them.
    – MgSam
    Mar 22, 2021 at 3:38
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Voyager was one of the first of a new Intrepid-class starship which featured a lot of technical innovations not available to previous ships. Such enhancements included:

  • Bio-neural circuity
  • Variable geomety warp nacelles
  • EMH program

In addition to that it was equiped with 2 Tricobalt torpedoes. It is likely all the new Intrepid-class starships were given these as part of their standard weapons compliment. While it was not standard at the time for ships such as the Defiant or the Enterprise, it may have eventually become so.

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Disclaimer: This answer is pure speculation since there has never been any official answer to this question.

It seems to me that at some point the script of Caretaker must have had a reason for Voyager carrying tricobalt devices, but that the scene or dialog revealing such was just cut. There is no other reasonable explanation IMO for why Voyager would not have just used photon torpedoes to destroy the Caretaker's Array. These are all make-believe scifi weapons after all, they can be as weak or as powerful as the script needs them to be.

I think the inconsistency of not explaining where the weapons came from bugged fans enough that the writers decided to play off this 6 seasons later in The Voyager Conspiracy. However, rather than give an actual answer, they simply dangle the carrot that it was part of some bigger plot and leave it unanswered so that in viewers minds there remains a bit of doubt as to whether Seven wasn't actually correct in seeing a conspiracy all along.

In other words, the writers took what should just be a minor plot hole and turned it into something more interesting that people are still be debating on the internet 20+ years later.

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