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The only two notable times we see a tractor beam used in fights are The Enterprise D using it against a mind controlled Picard/Ferengi Stargazer to stop the Picard maneuver, and the Borg in TNG and maybe Voyager.

Why isn't it used more? Obviously the D had no damage or problem using it against the Stargazer, and in single ship fights, freezing the enemy in place would allow easier targeting and continuous firing at a single side or section. Is there any technical in universe reason or word of god reason?

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    tractor beams seem to only work if your ship far outclasses the other ships tech, or the other ship is already disabled. as for most ships it seems fairly easy to remove the tractor beam, as we see in enterprise its used against the enterprise effectively because there tech is so far behind. – user36770 Jul 3 '15 at 17:58
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    It's a good question, nonetheless. – Praxis Jul 4 '15 at 7:19
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Using tractor technology as a weapon is a matter of scale and power output. The Borg use them as support weapons, just fine. We have also seen, if a species does not have superior material design or structural integrity fields, their vessels will crumble under the stress of tractor effects (TOS: "Tomorrow Is Yesterday"). The use of tractor beams as a weapon is challenging to most Alpha Quadrant species and avoided because of the difficulties involved in targeting and locking enemy vessels.

The Borg favored the use of a considerably more advanced tractor beam when engaging in combat. The Borg beam was capable of rapidly draining a vessel's shields while holding the vessel in place, rendering it virtually helpless against the cutting beam that it was often used in conjunction with. Furthermore, the sheer size of the Borg cube permitted the tractor beam to be used with considerable effectiveness against even ships as large as the USS Enterprise-D. They also had the ability to utilize tractor beams at warp velocities. (TNG: "Q Who"; DS9: "Emissary"; VOY: "Scorpion")

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Then the question begs to be asked, why don't the Alpha Quadrant species do the same?

The tractor beam mechanism is an energy effect designed to grab and hold objects whose mass doesn't exceed a certain set of parameters: ships with shields cannot be grabbed, tractors are a speed of light phenomenon, which means they cannot easily be used at warp, and a ship with propulsion capacity is generally able to escape.

  • A tractor beam was an attenuated linear graviton beam used by starships and space stations to control the movement of external objects. The tractor beam placed spatial stresses on the object in specific areas, allowing it to hold the "tractored" object in a fixed location or alter its position and/or trajectory.

  • Tractor beams were generally only used at sub-warp velocities. To safely tow a vessel at warp speed, the target vessel's engines had to be deactivated to avoid shearing forces against towing vessel. A tractor beam could be used at warp speed only if both vessels' speeds were exactly matched.

  • Deflectors don't work well against shielded ships, the energy shields push away the attractive force used in the beam, preventing successful lock-on and tractor effects.

  • The Borg get away with using tractors on shielded ships by bypassing the shield frequency modulation until they can get a lock-on. They also have sufficient power supplies (redundant energy sources in fact) and can easily spare the energy required for offensive tractor use.

  • While tractor beams were normally used to pull objects towards the beam source – usually to tow objects – conversely, they could also be set to repel objects. They were most often employed to tow a disabled or vulnerable ship to safety, or sometimes, used by an enemy ship to control the movement of the target vessel.
  • For most Alpha Quadrant weapons, the biggest reason you don't see tractor beams as weapons is simple. Tractor beams are unable to be used by ships with active shields. If your shields are up, you cannot tractor anything outside of your shield radius. You can pull small ships that can fit inside your shield but nothing past the shield area.

  • In the case of the Borg, their ships are generally unshielded, counting on their overwhelming offensive might to render their opponents ineffective. When that doesn't work, their redundancy of systems protects vital resources until they can adapt to the enemy defenses.

  • Another fine reason to avoid using tractors too often is they can be used to carry electromagnetic phenomenon TO the tractor-using vessel.

  • The same year, Deep Space 9's tractor beam was holding the Federation freighter Norkova after it was hijacked by Rao Vantika, Durg, and two Bajoran mercenaries. Later, Lieutenant Dax sent an electromagnetic pulse via the tractor beam to free Doctor Julian Bashir from the consciousness of Vantika. (DS9: "The Passenger")
  • There has been some success in using tractor beams as a defensive-augmenting system.
  • A carefully modulated tractor beam could be used to affect ship-to-ship weaponry. In 2372, Lieutenant Commander Worf of the USS Defiant suggested using such a beam against a Vor'cha-class attack cruiser. When put into practice, his plan was successful, deflecting some of the vessel's disruptor fire and reducing its effectiveness by fifty percent. (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior")
  • The existence of tractor beam technology may be the limiting agent on why there are few species in the Alpha quadrant which use fighter-sized space craft. A tractor beam could be strong enough to crush such small ships if they lack structural integrity technology. For fighters to be effective they would have to have excellent targeting countermeasure technology to prevent such tractor beam lock-ons.

See Also: Why did the tractor beam of the Enterprise crush the fighter jet of 20th century?

  • Tractor beams are unable to be used by ships with active shields. Source? I don't recall this ever being stated in tng. – user16696 Jul 3 '15 at 19:23
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    You can use them INSIDE the Shield bubble. That's how they use them to tow ships. Outside the shield, your tractor can't work because the shields are designed to prevent anything from locking onto your ship. This also prevents you from using them to lock on to anything outside your shield bubble, unless it has been modulated to work with your shields. Such technology did exist. See: Modulated Tractor Beam. – Thaddeus Howze Jul 3 '15 at 20:57
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    I mean, episode where which has been established – user16696 Jul 4 '15 at 7:40
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Tractor beams are used for offense and defense in the Star Trek universe although it is usually used simply for towing purposes.

http://en.memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Tractor_beam

They were most often employed to tow a disabled or vulnerable ship to safety, or sometimes, used by an enemy ship to control the movement of the target vessel.

(TOS: "Who Mourns for Adonais?"; TNG: "The Naked Now", "The Battle", "The Masterpiece Society"; TNG: "Cause and Effect"; VOY: "Scorpion")

The Borg were the ones who used the tractor beams for purposes other than towing though.

The Borg favored the use of a considerably more advanced tractor beam when engaging in combat. The Borg beam was capable of rapidly draining a vessel's shields while holding the vessel in place, rendering it virtually helpless against the cutting beam that it was often used in conjunction with. Furthermore, the sheer size of the Borg cube permitted the tractor beam to be used with considerable effectiveness against even ships as large as the USS Enterprise-D. They also had the ability to utilize tractor beams at warp velocities.

(TNG: "Q Who"; DS9: "Emissary"; VOY: "Scorpion")

Also according to the website it states that Worf was able to modify a tractor beam to affect ship weaponry

A carefully modulated tractor beam could be used to affect ship-to-ship weaponry. In 2372, Lieutenant Commander Worf of the USS Defiant suggested using such a beam against a Vor'cha-class attack cruiser. When put into practice, his plan was successful, deflecting some of the vessel's disruptor fire and reducing its effectiveness by fifty percent.

(DS9: "The Way of the Warrior")

Overall there is an abundance of evidence to show that tractor beams are used for more than just towing ships.

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