The photon torpedoes entry on Memory Alpha states that photon torpedoes are warp-capable. Under the technical specs it says that photon torpedoes launched from a vehicle traveling at warp will remain at warp, but will not accelerate to warp if launched from a sub-light vehicle.

In "The Best of Both Worlds Part 2" when it appears to ^Captain Riker that they would not be able to stop the cube he orders Acting Ensign Crusher to set a collision course with the cube at warp 9.

This is the only time I can think of a ship using their warp technology in an obviously offensive way. To me it seems like throwing objects at faster than light speeds at targets would be incredibly devastating.

Are there any other examples or weapons when someone uses warp technology as a weapon?

^ At this time he had a field commission rank of captain.

  • You are right that an object going at FTL speeds would produce devastating results if it were to hit something; its hard to shrug off all that kinetic engery. The problem probably comes down to being able to reliably hit a moving target when traveling at that speed. In most cases it would likely only be possible to hit planets and star bases, which would being a little self defeating because you'd probably destroy said body and thus render it non-usable to yourself (unless your policy is already one of scorched earth tactics). – Xantec Aug 24 '11 at 2:28
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    @Xantec: Warp drives move the space enclosed in the warp field: the objects in the field don't gain any real-space velocity from the warp drive. So as soon as it falls out of the warp field its back at its pre-warp velocity. – Zan Lynx Aug 24 '11 at 5:40
  • Not star-trek related, but there were some stories set in Fred Saberhagen's Berserker universe in which FTL drives were used as part of weapon systems. – dmckee Dec 21 '11 at 18:12
  • Warp weapons would use their explosive (hydrogen and anti hydrogen) as fuel, sustaining their warp travel. Basically when the weapon arrives at its target, there would be no fuel left to detonate. So for long range weapons it is unreliable and not really practical. – anoxm May 22 '14 at 23:58
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    Wouldn't actual warp weapons would use up precious dilithium, which is one of the few finite things in Star Trek? – Fhnuzoag Mar 3 '15 at 2:21
up vote 5 down vote accepted

There are two examples of warp capable weapons that I can think of in Star Trek, both from Voyager. The first was the Cardassian ATR-4107 weapons platform featured in the episode Dreadnought. The second were the intelligent weapons shown in the episode Warhead.

However, I do not believe either of these weapons use their FTL kinetic energies as a weapon. Instead I am pretty sure they rely upon the detonation of one or more energy sources in a sub-light impact to cause their damage. Also, related to my comment above, both were also used to target large stationary or slow moving bodies (moons, planets and ship yards).

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    Both of these weapons use "conventional" explosions at sub-light speed to cause their damage; the use of warp is merely to travel long distances to get to their target. – KeithS Sep 17 '11 at 0:20

Warp engines are BIG and notoriously hard to manage. When they go up, they go WAY up.

Big warp drive = big shell to hold it. Big shell = smaller carrying capacity. Given the targetting systems used, misses are fairly common. You need a LOT of them on any significantly long mission, or if you expect heavy combat.

Warp engines are also fickle - they require antimatter fuel, and you don't want to mess with a lot of antimatter in your ship. Do you store the antimatter in the missiles at the start, or do you 'fuel' them before firing? How do you keep the matter/antimatter reaction stable without the presence of engineers monitoring the feed? Or does each one come complete with a trained engineer on a suicide mission?

Finally, once you've built a missile the size of a small shuttle...how do you fire it? What happens when your enemy sees the big thing headed his way, and shoots it? What happens in combat when your missile battery is hit? You have all your undetonated missiles going up!

Warp-drive capable weapons in Star Trek, outside of the limited capability photon torps have to maintain a tiny bubble, is basically like asking the crew to commit suicide.

  • If I remember right photon torpedoes (or some types) use anti-matter as part of the warhead. But the point about size I would say is the biggest part of not seeing warp-weapons. – Vaughn Aug 24 '11 at 2:18
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    Photon torpedos use a warp sustainer engine: "The propulsion system of the torpedoes is a warp sustainer engine. The engine coils of the torpedo grab and hold a hand-off field from the launcher tube's sequential field induction coils. A miniature matter/antimatter fuel cell adds power to the hand-off field. When launched in warp flight, torpedo will continue to travel at warp, when launched at sublight, torpedo will travel at a high sublight speed, but will not cross the warp threshold. (pg. 129)" – Xantec Aug 24 '11 at 2:35
  • @Xantec: True. That engine, however, does not allow the entering of warp by the torps, which is the functionality requested by the question. – Jeff Aug 24 '11 at 2:40
  • @Vaughn: If they do, they likely only use a tiny amount of it, nowhere near as much as a warp engine would need. That said, even a tiny amount would be suicide on a Trek ship, so I expect you're wrong...or the writers must be worse at plots than I thought. – Jeff Aug 24 '11 at 2:41
  • @Jeff I know, I just wanted to clarify the means by which torpedos travel at warp speed. – Xantec Aug 24 '11 at 2:42

From page 129 of Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual

The propulsion system of the torpedoes is a warp sustainer engine. The engine coils of the torpedo grab and hold a hand-off field from the launcher tube's sequential field induction coils. A miniature matter/antimatter fuel cell adds power to the hand-off field. When launched in warp flight, torpedo will continue to travel at warp, when launched at sublight, torpedo will travel at a high sublight speed, but will not cross the warp threshold.

So while technically not warp capable (and at some point this changes, because Star Trek is anything but consistent), a photon torpedo launched at warp stays at warp.

I guess they make them sublight just so we can actually see the thing. Otherwise, it would be a huge plot hole, a faster-than-light weapon that can be seen...

Source: http://memory-alpha.org/wiki/Photon_torpedo

I belive that Soliton wave was probably most destructive use of warp related technology in Star Trek, as they said it keept accelerating till it was capable of destroying most of the planet it was heading to. That being said it was not a weapon, or at least it wasnt presented in that episode as possible weapon.

Because it would upset the balance of the system, so no one dared to pursue this further? ;-)

In fact, there are a lot of reasons why warp-bombs would make sense:

  • They can be pretty small (think of the size of a shuttle without the cabin - shuttles are capable of long-distance warp drives)

  • If they blow up, they release a lot of energy (enough to blow up the whole ship while other weapons only punch holes into it).

    If they don't blow up hard enough, then we can stuff the cabin of our bomb-shuttle to the brim with explosives (say 5-6 photon torpedo heads without the engine) to pack more punch.

  • They have a chance to reach the enemy before the target can do anything to defend themselves.

But there are a couple of things which might get in the way:

  • In the movies/TV series and books, there is no mention how long it really takes to start the warp drive. On TV, it's obviously instantaneous because we don't want to bore the viewers (and we don't need that many commercial breaks, either) but that's not necessarily the case. If you need 15 minutes to start a warp jump, that would be a killer for any kind of warp bomb because the fight isn't going to last that long.

  • If you can attack with a warp-bomb, so can you evade. So what we would see is a lot of small jumps where the warp bomb tries to follow the target which evades with little warp jumps. If starting warp always takes the same amount of time, no matter the size of the ship, then attacking with one would quickly end in a game of tag.

  • How far can sensors detect an incoming warp bomb? If they can see far, the ship could warp away before the bomb arrives. So warp bombs would become close-distance weapons and other weapons might fare better (for example higher fire rate, better chance to hit, cheaper, etc).

  • How fine is your control to stop the warp jump? If your error margin is, say, 1000 miles, then this makes a warp-bomb useless.

  • What does flying under warp impede? For example if you can't fly at warp speeds close to a planet, then that ships in close orbit would be safe from warp bombs which would severely limit their usefulness.

While non-canon, the novel Federation has a subplot where a despot tries to build a "warp bomb".

When Zefram Cochrane was experimenting with a warp drive prototype, he accidentally caused an anti-matter explosion that caused in everything within an 18 meter radius to disappear without any radioactive fallout. In the years leading up to World War III, Colonel Adrik Thorsen tried to force Cochrane to build him a "warp bomb" on a much larger scale able to make entire armies, cities, or even regions disappear without any long term consequences.

It turns out that creating a "warp bomb" on such a scale is impossible because the laws of physics prevent its blast radius from being much larger than the 18 meter radius that Cochrane's lab experiment accidentally came across. While a bomb of that size could potentially be useful for surgical strikes, it was implied that it wasn't really a practical weapon (I'm guessing because there were much more cost-effective ways to obliterate a target of that size that did not leave the area radioactive).

So according to the novel Federation, warp weapons do not exist because the laws of physics limit their effectiveness.

Why are you so that a faster than light vessel - photon torpedo or star-ship alike has kinetic energy at warp? Albert Einstein said "nothing can go faster than light" and Gene Roddenberry tried specifically to listen to him.

Since nothing can go faster than light, the ships go faster than light drive works by bending space itself. The ship, as far as it is concerned, is actually stationary inside of the warp bubble. As physicists currently think - and thus the physics the star trek writers had - a warpship has no classical kinetic energy as in k=(1/2)mv^2.

In other words, a warp-speed collision would look nothing like a car wreck. However, due to the great speed and strength with which the ship deforms at the start of Warp, Riker could hope that the warp bubble of the exploding enterprise would tear the borg ship apart.

Your real question is why no ship from the Battle of Wolf 349 tried this.

See Alcubierre Drive.

  • This is what I was thinking, but it doesn't explain how Riker thought he could destroy the Borg cube by hitting it at warp 9. Maybe because he's not an engineer? – colmde Apr 7 '17 at 14:43
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    Maybe he just wanted to get to it so fast it couldn't dodge. Plain old realspace velocity when the ship drops out of warp could have still hurt the cube. – John Meacham Jan 4 at 21:09

I think the answer would be different for TOS shows compared to post-TNG shows, as Star Trek: The Motion Picture changed what warp travel was like. In introducing the technology to movie audiences, they made a big deal about warp speed, as if it were a potentially dangerous mode of travel mainly used to travel long distances, while most action in that film and the following films tended to take place using sub-light impulse power.

This also kind of has better continuity because travel faster than light speed wouldn't give much time to react to any maneuvers unless the weapon ranges were really long (far too long for dramatic battle scenes offering lovely views of both ships at once), or somehow time perception were altered. So the reason post-TOS may be that not only would it be a lot of effort to make a warp-speed weapon, but it also might not be very practical for reasons of range, speed, and reaction times.

Even so, photon torpedoes are described in post-TOS as having a warp sustainer device which allows the torpedo to travel at warp speed if launched while the ship is at warp speed.

In TOS however, quite a few engagements do take place at warp speeds, and there are warp-speed seeking weapons, such as the Romulan plasma torpedo seen in "Balance of Terror":

(The Romulan ship has become visible)

KIRK: Full astern! Emergency warp speed!

(A red plasma blast is heading towards them)

KIRK: Do we have emergency warp?

SULU: Full power, sir. It's still overtaking us.

Also in "The Changeling", Nomad carries a warp 15 weapon with the energy of ninety photon torpedoes:

KIRK: Mister Spock, speed of those bolts.

SPOCK: Approximately warp fifteen, Captain.

The TOS "Elaan of Troyius" is a particularly good example, because it shows the enemy anticipates that Enterprise will use the warp drive to fight, and so a spy sabotages the warp drive before engaging. There is also a discussion of how important warp maneuvers are to combat effectiveness:

UHURA: Captain, message from the Klingon ship. They're ordering us to stand by for boarding or be destroyed.

SPOCK: They demand an immediate reply.

KIRK: They're trying to force a fight. Scotty, what's our energy status?

SCOTT: Ninety three percent of impulse power, sir.

SPOCK: We can still manoeuvre.

SCOTT [OC]: Manoeuvre? Aye. We can wallow like a garbage scow against a warp-driven starship.

The Klingon ship attacks Enterprise at faster than warp 7, firing disruptors. The bridge dialog makes it clear that a ship on impulse power can't turn fast enough to keep its stronger shields facing the warp-speed attacker. while using warp speed and firing photon torpedoes.

Later, when they regain warp capability, Kirk has the ship go to warp speed and then fire photon torpedoes.

I think it's pretty clear that in TOS, not only are photon torpedoes used while the ship is at warp speed, but the torpedoes must also be able to move at high warp speeds themselves, or else they'd almost never be able to hit targets moving at warp speed. I.e. I think it is a post-TOS retcon that photons aren't warp-speed weapons. With TOS battles taking place at warp speeds, no sublight weapon would be very effective except as a mine or transporter bomb, because it would rarely if ever be able to hit a maneuvering warp-speed target. So for TOS the answer would be that practically all ship weapons are warp-speed weapons.

Warp engines are BIG and notoriously hard to manage. When they go up, they go ?WAY up.

Big warp drive = big shell to hold it. Big shell = smaller carrying capacity. Given the targetting systems used, misses are fairly common. You need a LOT of them on any significantly long mission, or if you expect heavy combat.

Warp engines are also fickle - they require antimatter fuel, and you don't want to mess with a lot of antimatter in your ship. Do you store the antimatter in the missiles at the start, or do you 'fuel' them before firing? How do you keep the matter/antimatter reaction stable without the presence of engineers monitoring the feed? Or does each one come complete with a trained engineer on a suicide mission?

Finally, once you've built a missile the size of a small shuttle...how do you fire it? What happens when your enemy sees the big thing headed his way, and shoots it? What happens in combat when your missile battery is hit? You have all your undetonated missiles going up!

Warp-drive capable weapons in Star Trek, outside of the limited capability photon torps have to maintain a tiny bubble, is basically like asking the crew to commit suicide.

Warp engines don't really need to be as big as the shuttle's It morely depends on energy usage, warp strength and the size of the object. so there for, it can fit within/on a torpedo. Exmp: get rid of the shuttles cabin and pylon parts.... the engines would be morely centered and miniaturized. Unless alternatively you want the cabin for a massive explosive payload loadout or certain objects. Which I would rather have least of, because of size and rare situational uses. As far for ftl communications systems, torpedo accuracy would depend on system errors/flaws or the target itself. So missing would be rare. And, also monitoring the matter and antimatter by remote is fairly easy.... or just have the torpedo do it automaticly by script. Also, why would they ask for someone to go on suicide a mission just for monitoring the feed when they could use the simplistic way possible?... (unless they have no other options by current situations)

So while technically not warp capable (and at some point this changes, because Star Trek is anything but consistent), a photon torpedo launched at warp stays at warp.

I guess they make them sublight just so we can actually see the thing. Otherwise, it would be a huge plot hole, a faster-than-light weapon that can be seen...

First... "anything but consistent" really?... wow. Second... consider the possibilities the reasons they use warp sustainers

  1. Better usage than local coventional engines and fuel cap for the torps which by comparison sustainers allow smaller torp size, nimble turning/straffing and faster sub-light speeds.

  2. Local torp warp engines would be costly by rare resources needed.

  3. Some of those resources would take quite some time to fabricate.

  4. Ftl warp speeds might limit certain maneuvers what now a days photon torps can perform. Exmp: your torp launcher is only on one side of your ship which isn't facing your target... Using the normal photon torps, it would quickly travel around your ship and hit your target with least distance traveled but at high sub-light speeds. Using a warp 1.00 torp would cause it to travel far off while trying to turn towards its target at the same time.(if the torp's warp turning is slow) Which might take even longer for it to hit your target or for some reason you need not accidently hit something else while firing... To defeat the current torp turning problems, best to have it fire at sublight before causing it to travel at ftl warp speed.

  5. Reasons why the torps travel at high sub-light speeds rather than warp 1 or higher, is because perhaps even while its sustainig the given warp bubble,... its not powerful enough to travel at warp 1 or torps have no warp engine to uphold it while it withers away. Perhaps they yet do not have the warp sustainer technology to uphold ftl warp speeds.

  6. Mybe having such weapons might allow someone to some how take over the ship to cause quick large scale destruction. Perhaps even the ship itself. Basically the reason why the federation's law don't allow crazy powerful weapons on every ship unless its highly guarded and kept away like a modern nuclear silo.

Because it would upset the balance of the system, so no one dared to pursue this further? ;-)

In fact, there are a lot of reasons why warp-bombs would make sense:

•They can be pretty small (think of the size of a shuttle without the cabin - shuttles are capable of long-distance warp drives)

•If they blow up, they release a lot of energy (enough to blow up the whole ship while other weapons only punch holes into it).

If they don't blow up hard enough, then we can stuff the cabin of our bomb-shuttle to the brim with explosives (say 5-6 photon torpedo heads without the engine) to pack more punch.

•They have a chance to reach the enemy before the target can do anything to defend themselves.

But there are a couple of things which might get in the way:

•In the movies/TV series and books, there is no mention how long it really takes to start the warp drive. On TV, it's obviously instantaneous because we don't want to bore the viewers (and we don't need that many commercial breaks, either) but that's not necessarily the case. If you need 15 minutes to start a warp jump, that would be a killer for any kind of warp bomb because the fight isn't going to last that long.

•If you can attack with a warp-bomb, so can you evade. So what we would see is a lot of small jumps where the warp bomb tries to follow the target which evades with little warp jumps. If starting warp always takes the same amount of time, no matter the size of the ship, then attacking with one would quickly end in a game of tag.

•How far can sensors detect an incoming warp bomb? If they can see far, the ship could warp away before the bomb arrives. So warp bombs would become close-distance weapons and other weapons might fare better (for example higher fire rate, better chance to hit, cheaper, etc).

•How fine is your control to stop the warp jump? If your error margin is, say, 1000 miles, then this makes a warp-bomb useless.

•What does flying under warp impede? For example if you can't fly at warp speeds close to a planet, then that ships in close orbit would be safe from warp bombs which would severely limit their usefulness.

  1. Warp charge are almost instantaneous.
  2. Would the torp just turn towards its target? Plus sensor deflecting warp torps would be likely for long distance. (much like a stealth bomber).
  3. why stop the warp jump?... why not have it continuesly warp at the target?... photon torps can do that.
  4. There are warp tec that allows inter-planetary jumps depending on gravity interference (atmosphere interference depends on the components), such as fed ships are allowed... Mybe morely unstable than warping in gravity free space, but doable.

While non-canon, the novel Federation has a subplot where a despot tries to build a "warp bomb".

When Zefram Cochrane was experimenting with a warp drive prototype, he accidentally caused an anti-matter explosion that caused in everything within an 18 meter radius to disappear without any radioactive fallout. In the years leading up to World War III, Colonel Adrik Thorsen tried to force Cochrane to build him a "warp bomb" on a much larger scale able to make entire armies, cities, or even regions disappear without any long term consequences.

It turns out that creating a "warp bomb" on such a scale is impossible because the laws of physics prevent its blast radius from being much larger than the 18 meter radius that Cochrane's lab experiment accidentally came across. While a bomb of that size could potentially be useful for surgical strikes, it was implied that it wasn't really a practical weapon (I'm guessing because there were much more cost-effective ways to obliterate a target of that size that did not leave the area radioactive).

So according to the novel Federation, warp weapons do not exist because the laws of physics limit their effectiveness.

Its unlikely to say its impossible to create warp bombs... because, no matter the size and or tec... its limited to just 18 meters... Just because of that ACCENDENTAL antimatter and matter reaction explosion that was 18 meters...

Other wise I don't get what you actually ment.

This is what I was thinking, but it doesn't explain how Riker thought he could destroy the Borg cube by hitting it at warp 9. Maybe because he's not an engineer?

A galaxy class ship travelling at warp 9, breaking off from the tractor beam, to crash into the borg ship causing mass destruction as a last ditching effort to take it down with him... Before the borg could burn the galaxy's reactor... Even if Riker thought he could or not, it would probably work. Why wouldnt he?

Why are you so that a faster than light vessel - photon torpedo or star-ship alike has kinetic energy at warp? Albert Einstein said "nothing can go faster than light" and Gene Roddenberry tried specifically to listen to him.

Since nothing can go faster than light, the ships go faster than light drive works by bending space itself. The ship, as far as it is concerned, is actually stationary inside of the warp bubble. As physicists currently think - and thus the physics the star trek writers had - a warpship has no classical kinetic energy as in k=(1/2)mv^2.

In other words, a warp-speed collision would look nothing like a car wreck. However, due to the great speed and strength with which the ship deforms at the start of Warp, Riker could hope that the warp bubble of the exploding enterprise would tear the borg ship apart.

Your real question is why no ship from the Battle of Wolf 349 tried this.

(This might not sound understandable) Its probable that the ships do not travel at ftl speed within their local warp space. But relative to anything unwarped you cant ignore the fact its travelling faster than unwarped light. It depends if the warp energy warps just normal matter such as electricity, protons, certain anomalies etc... or actual space and everything,.... as space is either entirely existing or nothing but a null void. So if void space,.... then everything affected by the warp bubble is travelling at ftl speed relative to anything unwarped and space. So if existing space (like water) everything affected by the warp bubble including space itself, is travelling at ftl speed relative to anything (including space) unwarped. What happens when a torp's warp bubble affects the wall of the ship's target?... Now what happens when the high travelling torp collides with the partially warped wall? What damage will there be?

Think about it...

Mybe the ships of wolf did'nt have enough time or never even decided for a warp crash knowingly its very suicidal. Mybe they wasn't within required direction before their ship was destroyed, mybe someone did, but not towards centered mass... and the borg ship regened after it. I can come up with many different possibilities and combinations for this. Who knows the actual official reasons... I never have seen that battle. (if it was a battle x-file music)

  • I'll be honest, I don't really want to read all that to find the answer. Which bit answers the question and which bit supports your answer? – amflare Dec 31 '17 at 3:50
  • Fellow reader... I recommend reading all of the post on your free time. I know my grammar isn't the greatest... but its understandable. Every part of it is required for my full explanation. – NBCptSpark Dec 31 '17 at 15:53
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    Most of this answer is commentary on the other answers provided with large quotes from their answers. – Jack B Nimble Dec 31 '17 at 16:17
  • Is it unacceptable? – NBCptSpark Dec 31 '17 at 16:21

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