[A work in progress . . . partially updated January 2010]
Though there is something to be said for quick summaries, one must be very careful.
Caution is required in two ways. The first is in reference to the raw facts, since some are very unscrupulous in that regard. For instance, one quick summary of the Star Trek vs. Star Wars contest claims that the firefight in Return of the Jedi started at thousands of kilometers distance in the film, but this is clearly false. And, the same quick summary claims that Star Trek weapons ranges are measured in the handfuls of kilometers, with longer ranges only available when a target is stationary . . . but again, this is clearly false.
a too-basic comparison can ignore critical details and context.
Star Wars: A New Hope makes this plain . . . there we saw the
comparison between (1) an armed and armored battlestation, dozens of
kilometers wide, bristling with gun turrets, featuring subsidiary
vessels and fighters, and with a planet-killing superlaser, versus (2)
a handful of small one-man Rebel fighters. By all rights, the
Rebel fighters should've been ashes. But because the Death Star
battlestation was not properly outfitted against fighter attack, and
because its own fighters were not launched in sufficient quantity, and
because of its undefended fusion reactor exhaust system, the fighters
were able to cruise to point-blank range and cause the entire
battlestation to blast itself to atoms. For a real-world example,
if one wished to compare a Japanese destroyer from World War II and a
mahogany-hulled 80 foot boat, one might jump to the conclusion that the
latter was doomed. However, that ignores the fact that the latter
was a PT boat armed with ship-killing torpedoes.
So below, we'll start with a quick glance at the war between the United Federation of Planets (UFP) and the Galactic Empire (Empire). In several respects the Empire is superior, and in several respects the Federation is superior. So to guess the outcome for some scenario, it will depend on the context of the fight, e.g. "is the Empire invading?"
And each topic is a link taking you to the full comparison chart further below, which features the topics and discussion of both sides. Although that full comparison chart is perhaps not as quick a read as a "in five minutes" style comparison, it has the not-insignificant benefit of being vastly superior. Sources are given for almost every notation, and where possible specific links to other pages on this site where more information can be obtained are provided. Please click the links and judge for yourself.
|General Info:||Number of Planets||Territorial Size||Total Population|
|Conclusion:||The UFP is a rounding error compared to the Empire.|
||Strategic Weapons||Planetary Defense||Ground Combat|
|Conclusion:||The Imperial military is larger, but Federation worlds are better-defended against fleets.|
|Fleet Info:||Fleet Ship Count||Sensor Systems||Tactics and Strategy|
|Conclusion:||Imperial ships are more numerous and larger, but UFP fleets can see then coming and know what to do.|
|Starship Defense:||Shields||Armor||Cloaking & Jamming||Fighter Craft|
|Starship Offense:||Beam Weapons||Missile Weapons||Weapons Ranges|
|Conclusion:||Imperial ships cannot hope to face UFP ships one-on-one.|
|Propulsion:||Reactor Technology||Faster-than-Light||Slower-than-Light||Antigravity Technology|
|Conclusion:||The Empire may outpace the UFP at FTL, but they can't compete in normal space.|
|Other:||Special (Unique) Tech||Other Special Advantages||Other Special Disadvantages||General Observations|
|Conclusion:||Transporters and replicators provide awesome advantages.|
|United Federation of Planets||Galactic Empire|
UFP is a
Federation is composed of member worlds, "associate membership"
worlds ("Attached"[TNG7]), protectorates (ST:INS), and numerous
In "Metamorphosis"[TOS2], Kirk says that "we're on a thousand planets and spreading out". It isn't clear whether he meant just Earth and its colonies or all Federation worlds. The context strongly suggests he refers to humanity alone, however, given that he is speaking to Zephram Cochrane, Earth's inventor of warp drive, who had been lost in space and in a fountain of youth for almost 150 years. (Thought experiment: if you met Washington and wanted to give him a sense of how things have changed, would you tell him about the current United States or the current United Nations?)
By the later TNG era it was decided to make the UFP a sort of interstellar United Nations analog, and thus the number of Federation member worlds was more or less fixed in the 150 range (as per Picard in First Contact). But, we know from Enterprise, "Journey to Babel"[TOS2], "The Hunted"[TNG3], and DS9's Bajor arc that most prospective member worlds also feature a number of colony worlds of their own, though there have been occasional examples that do not (e.g. "First Contact"[TNG4]).
However, for the sake of lower limits, the only total planetary count we have for certain is 1000 as of the 2260's, giving a rough minimum of 150 member worlds and 850+ other worlds.
That said, if Kirk referred solely to Earth colonies as the context suggests, and if every other Federation member world had at least 10, the total number of Federation colonies would be about 2500, minimum. Colonization certainly didn't stop in the next hundred years . . . indeed, we know of colonies planted at the farthest reaches of Federation space in TNG ("BoBW1"), and there was apparently enough congestion and competition for habitable worlds to make terraforming desirable and economically viable, with decades-long projects in the TNG era and Starfleet ships assigned to help ("Home Soil"[TNG1], "Field of Fire"[DSN7]). As Carol Marcus said when proposing Genesis, "When we consider the cosmic problems of population and food supply, the usefulness of this process becomes clear" (ST2:TWoK). On the other hand, by volume alone, the TNG Federation should contain about 15,000 "Earth-type" planets, as per McCoy in "Balance of Terror" (more in the update here). It is no great leap to grant that a third of these might've been colonized (not to mention those which are not Earth-like and/or could be colonized by other species).
(Compare this to the planet Weytahn in the early 2100s ("Cease Fire"[ENT2]), terraformed for strategic and not congestion-based reasons.)
Still, Enterprise makes it apparent that there is certainly no indication of any future Federation species having dozens upon dozens of planets in their personal grip, and Earth certainly doesn't. This implies a TOS era -- which should involve less than 150 member worlds -- which has made significant gains in planet count over the century since ENT. It simply isn't clear what sort of increase might have occurred from the TOS era to the TNG era.
Earth is the capital world of the Federation, and central to its operation (Nemesis). Considered a paradise, Earth is now called home by members of "hundreds" of species ("Hope and Fear"[VOY4]).
Tally: ~ 1,000 total systems, minimum. ~ 2,500, estimated.
Tarkin says the Galactic
Empire has a million systems in the ANH novelisation, and one may
presume these are all inhabited, though the prequel-era Republic seems
not have controlled nearly so many populated systems.
Per the novelizations and a line in the movie (see below), the total number of planets held by both sides in the Clone War era -- 20 years prior to Luke, Han, and Leia in A New Hope -- was measured in the "tens of thousands". Count Dooku had "several thousand" solar systems under his thumb in Attack of the Clones, with another ten thousand ready to join him. It is not known exactly what percentage of the Republic member worlds the 10-20,000 seceding Separatist systems represented, but Palpatine referred to the idea as the Republic being "split in two". This implies a significant percentage, to say the least . . . presumably somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty percent, though a significant margin of error is within reason.
If we assume ~20,000 systems under the Separatists and a million worlds, we're only looking at 2% of the Republic in rebellion . . . that would be like losing one of the fifty states in the United States. Even if you picked 2% of the largest, most populous, or most prosperous of the 3,042 counties in the U.S., you still wouldn't realistically be able to say "split in two".
If it was a rough halving of the Republic, we could guess that the total number of full-membership Republic worlds was perhaps one hundred thousand, depending on how one wishes to define "several" and/or for certain liberal applications of "split in two". The other 900,000 systems could either be uninhabited territorial holdings, or (more likely) colonies populated with some lesser number of individuals.
Eyeball estimates based on a rough count of visible Senatorial pods suggests that there was only room for between 1,000 to 1,500 planetary senators (that's 30 observed levels at 36 pods per level for a total of 1080, plus room given for unobserved levels). Certain large groups were also represented with a single seat, however, such as was the case with the Trade Federation's representative. By the time of RotS, there was a petition to Palpatine signed by 2000 senators, suggesting that many more ought to exist. How they would all fit in the Senate chamber without some sort of additional representative step is anyone's guess.
Coruscant is the most highly developed world by far, a planet almost completely covered by development, except for the seas. This is apparently a unique state for a world in that era, as explained in the novelisation of TPM, p. 207. Several notable and politically important worlds are seen to be very unimpressive by comparison or even by modern Earth standards, such as Ryloth, home of the Twi'lek that are so widespread in Star Wars, and Geonosis.
Still, Coruscant and all the other worlds represent a vast infrastructure, no matter the technology level. This is shown by the ability to construct huge battlestations such as the two Death Stars.
~1,000,000 total systems
at least 8 times
Federation spans at least 8000 light-years in 2371, according to Picard
in First Contact, and is known to include Earth, some
26-27,000 light-years from the galactic core.
Based on images of the Federation seen in "Conspiracy"[TNG1] and re-used in Keiko's classroom on DS9 (reproduced here), the Federation is a roughly oval, apparently-contiguous arrangement of planets. If it is 8,000 light years in maximum width, the length (from the outer galaxy toward the core) would be around 6,000 light years. Our galaxy's depth in this region is only about 1,000 light years. A rectangular box of such dimensions would thus have a volume of 48,000,000,000 cubic light-years. (To get an idea of what our region of the galaxy looks like, take a look at this excellent page. Given the size of the Federation, there should be at least 200,000,000 stars within it.)
That said, the Federation almost certainly does not hold the entire 1000 light-year depth of its section of the galaxy. The Federation shared neutral zones with the Romulan and Klingon Empires, and both of those regimes apparently also share a border with the Cardassian Union. Given that Earth's location is said to be a few dozen light-years north of the galactic plane, it's possible that all these borders exist to the south somewhere.
Bear in mind that this constitutes only a fraction of the stars charted by the Federation, though precisely what "charted" means is unclear. However, based on "The Corbomite Maneuver"[TOS1], "The Doomsday Machine"[TOS2], and "Transfigurations"[TNG3], star-charting usually involves going into an area and gathering data while they pass through. However, it is entirely possible that they have traded for star charts from others, or "charted" via subspace telescope. This may explain why that boob Kosinski said 11% of the galaxy had been charted ("Where No One Has Gone Before"[TNG1]), whereas by the very next year Wesley used the figure of 19% ("The Dauphin"[TNG2]).
Interestingly, an 8,000 light-year wide circle going through the whole thickness of the galaxy would only account for 6% of the galaxy.
Final Tally: 8,000 x ~6,000 light-years
are an estimated 250,000
stars within a 250 light-year radius of Earth, and 300 million stars
within 5,000ly. Given the million systems of the Empire, the
size -- were we to assume it was just a million stars,
a galaxy like ours -- could be up to about 2,000 light years.
To have a million potentially habitable systems, a
likely minimum would be 12,000 light years. But, given Qui-Gon's
statement that "most" of the stars of the SW galaxy have planetary
systems, the "likely minimum" should actually be smaller.
Now, if Tarkin referred solely to populated systems, the size figure cannot be deduced by stellar population alone. But other facts contribute. More information on this is available here. There are also other canon indicators:
The ANH novelisation states that the Empire is a "tiny portion" of the galaxy, and a "tiny fraction of this section of one modest-sized galaxy". Qui-Gon suggests in TPM that not all the stars have been visited. In the Local Group of 40 galaxies, even excluding anything below 10,000 light-years across, the average galaxy size of the remaining 13 is 36,500 light years (an estimate which holds for larger galaxies within 20 million light years). Even if we assume a 73,000 light year galaxy (36,500 x 2) with low stellar density, a "tiny fraction of" a "section" of such a galaxy couldn't be that large . . . much less than 20,000ly wide, and likely lesser still.
(Note: Some argue that the use of phrases like "halfway across the galaxy" in TPM, "outer rim" in several movies, and Han's comment that he'd been from one side of the galaxy to the other implies that the Empire probably controls a huge fraction of the galaxy. However, this is highly unlikely, given what is known of the galaxy (and Han). For instance, the planet Kamino was referred to as being "beyond the outer rim", but the map in the Jedi library clearly zoomed in to an area very close to the core, meaning that "outer rim" cannot refer to the outermost rings of the galaxy.
It's also worth noting here that similar reasoning is applied to Trek, as in Pike's comment to the Talosians about being from "the other end of this galaxy", the rapid transit of Star Trek V, Spock stating that his homeworld was millions of light-years away in "All Our Yesterdays", and Picard's comments in "Conspiracy" that the Enterprise had been on the outer rim.)
Final Tally: ~ 10,000-12,000 light-years diameter (rough est.)
100 to 1,
China, eat your
seemed surprised by Data's statement (in "The Last Outpost"[TNG1]) that
the T'kon Empire had a population numbering in the trillions, so one
might guess at a Federation population of less than multiple trillions
. . . though there could've been many reasons for Riker to seem
surprised. Assuming a population of 6.5 billion per member
world (Earth's population as of December 2006), the Federation would
have a population of 975 billion, not including
associates, protectorates, or colonies.
Dialogue in "Statistical Probabilities"[DS9-6] suggests that a protracted war with the Dominion could, by one estimate, result in 900 billion Federation casualties and a Federation defeat. In this projection, five generations after the defeat, a rebellion would start on Earth, and within another generation the Dominion would be conquered, and a new Federation would be born. The projection suggests that in spite of the unthinkable casualties, some if not all Alpha Quadrant races would survive quite well, even to the point of conquering the entire Dominion.
So, a population under the boot of the Dominion and facing mass-produced troops manages to not only throw off their conquerors, but conquer them. Given those conditions, requirements, and normal population growth rates, this would seem to suggest an absolute minimum Federation population in the mid-2370's on the order of two trillion, possibly more.
We've only rarely gotten any sort of population counts in Trek in regards to Federation planets. We do know per Riker in First Contact that fifty million people live on the moon as of the 2370s, with planets like Mars also being populated. And, prior to his posting at DS9, Sisko was overseeing the construction of orbital habitats in the Terran system ("Emissary"[DSN1]), suggesting that Earth and its environs were fairly heavily populated.
In the 2260s, a Federation member world 80 light-years from Earth, Merak II, had a population of at least millions, though we don't know if they were native or colonists ("The Cloudminders"[TOS3]). "Federation settlement" Marcus XII had millions as well ("And the Children Shall Lead"[TOS3]). The colony on Deneva had around one million ("Operation: Annihilate!"[TOS1]), and "dozens" of colonies beyond Deneva had "billions" more. The Malurian homeworld, possibly a Federation associate member, had a population of four billion when it was destroyed ("The Changeling"[TOS2]). Federation trade hub Ariannus had at least a billion people ("Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"[TOS3].
Final Tally: ~ 2 trillion, rough minimum estimate
~ 4 trillion persons, possible
alone could have a
population of hundreds of billions quite easily, assuming Earth-city
population density over the entire globe. Some have suggested hundreds
of trillions for Coruscant if not more, but such
figures fail to account for the huge industrial areas, as well as large
areas (such as the one seen at the end of AoTC) which are neglected
ruins. The matter was settled in the novelization to Revenge
of the Sith, wherein we learn from Palpatine that there are a
trillion beings on Coruscant.
In any case, Coruscant is the most developed world by far and amazing to all, as per the prequel novels, so its planetary population density is not standard fare.
As seen in the Ryloth trilogy of episodes from the first season of The Clone Wars, some Republic planets bear little evidence of habitation at all. The Ryloth capital was the size of a few blocks of a mid-size city's downtown, and the two other urban areas we see are mere villages with a smattering of structures.
Nevertheless, it would be safe to assume a minimum Imperial population of at least several dozen trillion. The TPM novelization indicates that there are "trillions of common folk of the Republic", whereas Palpatine indicates in the RoTS novel that there are probably uncounted quadrillions in the galaxy as a whole. Given the small portion of total galactic territory the Republic and later Empire inhabited, then dividing quadrillions by a small portion results nicely in dozens of trillions, give or take.
This does lead to an interesting issue. If there were 6.5 billion people per each of Tarkin's "million systems", this would give a figure of 6,500,000,000,000,000 (six point five quadrillion). Thus, it is clear that the million systems cannot be fully inhabited with Earth-like populations, as speculated elsewhere. If, on the other hand, there are only around 100,000 major member systems (a rough figure estimating two times ten thousand plus "several thousand" from AoTC) with 6.5 billion persons per planet, the figure drops to 650 trillion. If we count only the number of Galactic Senate seats as the count of major member worlds, then using 1,500 seats times 6.5 billion persons gives us a figure of 9.75 trillion . . . that's 9,750,000,000,000,000.
In any case, the Empire probably has, at ridiculous minimum, at least a dozen times the population of the Federation, and probably more like 200 times the Federation population. Assuming 500 trillion as a nice round number in the high end of the correct neighborhood (and certainly quite satisfactory in regards to "trillions of common folk"), though, means that per the million systems the average population is just 500 million, or around half-again the population of the United States. If we assume that the main 100,000 worlds have 50 percent of that total population count, then each planet would be home to just 2.5 billion people, while among the other 900,000 worlds the population would be only about 280 million, or less than the population of the United States. If we assumed 200 trillion persons to hit the midrange, then by the same technique we'd be looking at a billion beings per major world, and just over 110 million per lesser world.
Final Tally: ~ 200
trillion persons, rough minimum estimate
probably 4-to-1 during Imperial era
|We've never gotten
a precise count of Starfleet
numbers. Late in the Dominion War, Captain Sisko referred to
millions on the front lines ("The Dogs of War"[DS9-7]), and in "The
Changing Face of Evil"[DS9-7] Legate Damar pointed out that seven
million Cardassian soldiers had been killed in two years of war . . . a
war which the Dominion was generally winning. A similar
number of Federation military casualties seems likely, suggesting
fighting forces per regime on the order of tens of millions at
minimum. (The Dominion, of course, can grow its Jem'Hadar
soldiers from infant to combat-capable teenager in a matter of two days
("The Abandoned"[DS9-3]), so determining the number of Jem'Hadar is
haphazard at best.)
This follows, for the most part. Wolf 359 cost the Federation some 11,000 lives and forty starships, suggesting an average crew count of 275. If we take the ~10,000 starships of the Federation and assume an average crew count of 250, then we'd have 2.5 million people just aboard starships. Such figures do not count the many bases and other facilities. (For instance, "Field of Fire"[DS9-7] gives a Starfleet population of 900 on the station.)
As a general note on military forces, one must always remember logistics. A military of 100 men might only get 10 armed fighters on the battlefield depending on basic logistical concerns (e.g. food, ammo transport, et cetera), vehicle or fighting vehicle upkeep requirements, number of fortified positions versus mobile forces, other strategic and tactical considerations, and so on.
Final Tally: ~ 10 - 50 million (est., 2370s)
the Republic had few genuine soldiers. At the
start of the Clone Wars, just 200,000 clonetroopers were available as
Army of the Republic, with a million more "well on the way" through the
ten year growth cycle. The clones were, as of "Ambush"[TCW1],
outnumbered 100 to 1 by the Separatists, meaning the droid army was
composed of 200 million to 1.2 billion battle droids of various
A Republic Navy was discussed at one point prior to the Clone Wars, though we have little to no indication of its size or its roles beyond Jedi taxi service. During the Clone Wars, however, very few non-clone personnel are observed.
A couple of decades later, the Empire had apparently amassed a larger force. Not only did they have to have enough personnel to run the Death Star, but in addition they were clearly accepting volunteers from all over the galaxy . . . Biggs had joined from Tatooine, and Luke had planned on doing so (ANH novelization).
Assuming a crew density similar to that of Federation starships, an ISD could easily have 10,000 crew aboard. If they were packed in like on modern aircraft carriers, the figure would rise to hundreds of thousands. With 25,000 vessels of ISD-level tactical equivalence, there could thus easily be 250,000,000 personnel in the Imperial navy, not counting those on stations and bases. However, as seen in The Clone Wars series, even those massive Venators seem to be rather lightly crewed and full of empty space. This suggests we could drive down our estimates by a factor of ten or more.
As a general note on military forces, one must always remember logistics. A military of 100 men might only get 10 armed fighters on the battlefield depending on basic logistical concerns (e.g. food, ammo transport, et cetera), vehicle or fighting vehicle upkeep requirements, number of fortified positions versus mobile forces, other strategic and tactical considerations, and so on.
Final Tally: ~ 100 million+ (est.)
|Missiles and mines and such.|
The Federation rarely employs mines. However, they did mine the Bajoran Wormhole ("A Call to Arms"[DS9-6]). Discussed at the time were "pulse mines", but instead the DS9 team decided on and constructed numerous mines of dizzying capability. No more than a meter across, they were mobile, set to swarm against enemy ships in groups of 20-30, and if the enemy tried to poke holes in the minefield, the mines could make use of on-board replicators to re-create fallen comrades. Last but not least, they each carried a cloaking device so that, when activated, the field was invisible.
Cloaked minefields were nothing new, of course. The Romulans were employing them as early as the 2150's, and the Klingons were working on wrapping the entire Bajor system with extremely powerful cloaked mines, deployed from cloaked ships, during hostilities with the Federation ("Sons of Mogh"[DS9-4]). Even at a destruct range of ten kilometers, an accidental detonation tore open a Vor'Cha Class Klingon attack cruiser, leaving a gaping hole in the ship.
Bombs, in the classical sense, have never been seen in use by Federation vehicles.
double-hulled TIEs have
been observed dropping/launching some sort of bomb on asteroids (when
trying to flush out the Millennium Falcon in TESB). These
weapons made a fighter-sized blue flash, but were curiously ineffective
at doing any observable damage to the asteroid.|
Larger bombs may be in the Imperial arsenal . . . in the TESB novelization, the TIE bomber scene occurs at another time, the bombers being replaced by Star Destroyers dropping bombs. The description of the bomb's effect on the asteroid's surface and the Falcon below is much more violent, though still relatively tame.
In AoTC, we get to see seismic charges. These are ~1m peculiar tumbling devices which emit a bright flash, followed by a two-dimensional destructive shockwave. The script calls them "sonic charges", as does the novelization half of the time. The operational theory behind these devices is not clear -- sound does not commonly propagate in two dimensions, or in the vacuum of space. In any case, the weapons had an impressive effect against the rocks along the two-dimensional shockwave, producing a great deal of fracturing with traces of molten material at the shockwave-touched fracture lines. Careful scrutiny also shows some dust kicked up off of nearby rocks before the shockwave appears . . . this dust seems to get sucked toward the epicenter before being blown away from it.
The effect of the seismic charges against a vessel (especially shielded) are not known, but the dust-off effect did not seem to affect Obi-Wan's fighter. In open space, simply avoiding the plane of the shockwave would seem to ensure safety.
Weapons of this type or comparable yield have never been seen in use by Republic or Imperial forces.
defense systems are referred to (TMP, "Homefront"[DS9-4]), but their
nature is not delved into. Orbital defense outposts and drone
ships (BoBW) are present in small numbers, though fleets also protect
endangered planets ("Homefront" and "In the Pale Moonlight"[DS9-6]). A small research outpost has phasers "and
possibly photon torpedoes", which one would expect to be common for
planetary defense. (The small Cestus III outpost was armed
phasers in the 2260s.)
Planetary shields have been seen to exist ("Dagger of the Mind"[TOS1], "Whom Gods Destroy"[TOS3]), with at least one example being capable of holding off a Constitution Class starship of the 2260's. Planetary shields remain a known quantity when it comes to protecting planets: Chakotay, in "Year of Hell, Pt. II"[VOY4], states that even less-sophisticated races ought to have planetary shields which could be reconfigured to stop the temporal weapon-ship of the episode, just as Voyager's shields had been.
The aforementioned research outpost in "Gambit"[TNG7] may have had planetary-scale shields, but this is uncertain. Unquestionably it was an archeological research outpost that had theater-level shields covering the outpost and ruins on the planet. Ajilon Prime, a small Federation colony world near the Klingon Empire, had small shield emitters around its settlements used during a short-lived Klingon offensive ("Nor the Battle to the Strong"[DSN5]). This may imply that the Federation colonies near the Klingon border were not as carefully defended thanks to the Khitomer Accords. For instance, note that the newer colonies and outposts in the Boradis system and surrounding sector, founded circa 2331, were near the Klingon Empire but also thought to be incapable of defending themselves against a Klingon warship launched in 2290 on a 75-year sleeper mission. Thus, it seems unlikely that these young colony worlds had planetary shields such as those from "Whom Gods Destroy"[TOS3].
An attack of unspecified nature on Earth during the Dominion War managed to cause only light damage to San Francisco, compared to a nuclear blast for instance. It is not clear if this attack was from starship weapons, shuttle/fighter weapons, or even ground troops, however the latter is presumed. A fleet assault on Betazed, stated to have old and out-of-date planetary defenses, did capture that world.
The Husnock attack on Federation colony Delta Rana IV featured an orbiting warship attacking and destroying the colony, followed by laying waste to the entire surface of the world. Reports from the lone survivor mentioned that the rest of the 11,000 colonists went to fight the vessel, but at the same time the colony is explicitly-stated to have no interstellar spacecraft, and no mention is made of orbit-capable vehicles. The nature of their attempt is thus unclear, unless like the Tau Cygna V crash survivor colony (unshielded and with no spacecraft) they hoped to fight on the ground.
One would surmise that planetary shields are common for member worlds and larger colonies, most advanced associates and protectorates, and so on, especially in riskier areas. Smaller theater shields probably protect all but the smallest colonies, especially in riskier areas. These shielding systems may be basic in some cases, though . . . Betazed was not all that risky until the Dominion took over the Cardassian Union. In any case, given that Betazed's defenses were not upgraded as soon as the Federation took to a war footing, it's likely that planetary shielding and defense systems do constitute a significant investment for the Federation. Thus I would imagine that a number of worlds that we might expect to have planetary shields are protected only by theater shields, and some worlds that need theater shields may not have all they need.
defense forces are a known
quantity, and even peaceful planets like Naboo had at least a small
fighter force in the Republic era. Imperial planets are
probably also protected by what Han Solo called local bulk-cruisers
(seemingly some sort of coast-guard-esque vessel).
At least some planets are also protected by a "surface-defense umbrella" composed of "banks of turbolasers on the surface-defense towers", such as Coruscant's that was overwhelmed when trying to handle falling debris at the Battle of Coruscant (RotS novelization). Per a ship captain's phrasing, this was "the" surface-defense system, though interception fighters were also mentioned.
As seen at Hoth, turbolasers were not the only possibility for defense. Huge ion cannons were capable of disabling even an Imperial Star Destroyer in a shot or two, even when the vessel anticipated confrontation.
Small theater- and battlefield shields are also a known quantity. The Gungans of Naboo had a linkable type of battlefield shield which protected from blaster fire but could be walked through. Separatists were also seen to use this or a similar technology during the Clone Wars (e.g. the SW:TCW movie). We also saw the Rebellion employ a very powerful theater shield over the Hoth base in TESB, one said to be capable of deflecting any bombardment, though its size is unknown. But either it could also be walked through, or else the theater shield did not extend all the way to the ground.
We are told that Alderaan has defenses that are the match of any other planet in the Empire, despite Leia's claims (ANH novel). This would presumably include a thorough surface-defense umbrella composed of turbolasers and ion cannons, fighter interceptors, and presumably the "Alderaanian gunships" mentioned in the RoTJ novelization. Given that Alderaan was the haven of many Rebellion leaders (RoTJ novel) and, according to Tarkin, was their main source of munitions (ANH novel), it is little wonder that the planet would be well-protected.
As for how widespread these defense systems are, there's really no way to know. A naughty world like Alderaan was quite beefed up, but we don't know if a world perfectly toeing the Imperial line would trouble itself to have modern, large-scale defenses. With the exception of the small fleet and resistance cells of the rebel "Alliance to Restore the Republic", there is no indication of any threat to Imperial planets (other than the Empire itself). However, given that whole planets came under attack during the Clone Wars, one would expect that many worlds would have significant, if aged, defenses.
In any case, it is both likely and apparent from what we know that the majority of Imperial planets have limited defensive capability compared to worlds like Alderaan.
Although some vigorously proclaim planetary shields for Star Wars, they are merely an invention of the non-canon. There is nothing in the canon to support their existence.
what we've seen, ground combat is not favored as much as air/space
superiority. We have not observed Federation tanks or armored
personnel carriers, though opposing forces are said to have them so
their existence is implied. A ridiculous dune buggy with a large
but weak phaser pulse launcher was observed in Nemesis.|
We have seen shuttles used for troop transport (ST5) and ground support activities (e.g. "Detained"[ENT]), and have heard of Federation "hoppers", apparently flying troop transports and landers for ground soldiers (e.g. "Nor the Battle to the Strong"[DSN5]). Ground-based field transporters are also used for mobility.
Ground combat involves the use of hand phasers, phaser rifles, and powerful photon grenades, with launchers ("Arena"[TOS1]), though a surprisingly wide variety of hand weapons are in the arsenal of Federation ships (First Contact, Insurrection). Stun grenades and remotely detonated charges were used in the 2150's, and the latter have also been seen on Voyager. Personal forcefields have been mentioned ("Homefront"[DS9-4]), but not observed in use except in a cobbled-together form.
No water-based equipment has been observed in use by Starfleet.
See a lot more on the topic here.
Empire has a great deal of
dedicated ground war equipment, from the huge 20 meter tall All-Terrain
Armored Transport (AT-AT) walkers to smaller AT-ST (and perhaps older
AT-TE) walkers, with landing craft that can deploy them. AT-ATs
are large, slow
targets, only capable of 60 km/hr according to some sources (a few
km/hr slower than a modern tank), and how they disembark whatever they
are transporting is a mystery . . . we've only seen a side door on the
main body, which of course is dozens of feet off the ground. Imperial
walkers are armored to varying degrees, but not shielded.|
Presumably, the Empire should also possess modernized versions or replacements for the various ground war equipment seen in The Clone Wars and during that era. This would include a wide array of walkers, including single-seat open-cockpit run-capable AT-STs, huge beam weapon platform walkers (as seen in AoTC bringing down a Trade Federation battleship's landing core), and so on.
The Clone Wars era also featured extensive use of 'gunships', Republic vessels similar in function and appearance to Soviet-era Hind helicopters. Capable of transporting troops or, in the case of a Sikorsky-esque variant, tanks, the gunships were capable of space launch and descent to a planet's surface. Various weapons loads were available, including large beam weapon turrets on the sides and a limited missile load.
Use of air support seems frequently lacking in the time of the Empire, despite the existence of TIE bombers.
More on the AT-ST can be found here.
Empire could have had way more, if they had bothered to build them
ridiculous-minimum of 1000, based on dialog from Deep Space
Nine. These are split into numbered Fleets, the highest known
being the Tenth Fleet. At one point, the Seventh Fleet numbered 112
ships ("A Time To Stand"[DS9-6]). But, mere elements of the Second and
Fifth combined into a 600 ship fleet to retake DS9, suggesting that
some if not all fleets had many more than 112 ships.
"Tacking Into The Wind"[DS9-7] claims that the Dominion War enemy forces (Dominion in the AQ, Cardassia, and the Breen) had 30,000 ships, based on the fact that the 1,500 Klingon warships which could be modified to resist a new Breen weapon would be outnumbered 20 to 1. One would hope the Federation/Klingon/Romulan Alliance had at least half that many warships, suggesting a more likely bare minimum of some 5,000 per regime. The 30,000 figure correlates well with reaction to the Dominion loss of 2,800+ ships in "Sacrifice of Angels"[DS9-6], which might've constituted a loss of as much as half the Dominion fleet in the Alpha Quadrant at that point.
A fair estimate would thus fall somewhere above 1000, but below 20,000. Based on starship registries, lifespans, and construction rates discussed elsewhere, along with dialog from Deep Space Nine, a likely value for the Federation fleet is in the 8-12,000 range.
The precise number of combat-capable starships compared to lesser vessels is unknown. We know the Federation has a large number of Oberth class science ships and several emasculated Miranda class science/courier ships running around, but by far most of the starships we've seen (in or out of wartime) have been Excelsiors.
Starfleet fields an absurd number of ship classes. Refits are performed to bring ships closer to the latest technology, but old nacelles and other large-scale ship components are commonly retained in the 24th Century, implying that a vast array of warp coil shapes and sizes would need to be available for starships, either stored or specially made. Nevertheless, all the various hulls, nacelles, and internal components ought to constitute a significant drain on the logistical resources of Starfleet.
(Note: A popular opposition argument is that Federation Tac-Fighters are included in ship counts. I have no idea where this notion comes from . . . the claim is not supported, suggested, or implied in the canon. However, that very use of the term "ship" does appear several times in Star Wars, implying confusion on the part of the claimants.)
Final Tally: ~ 8-10,000 starships (est.)
direct canon statements are
available, though there are indicators in the canon. Han
suggests that the entire fleet couldn't have destroyed Alderaan, as it
would take a thousand ships massing more firepower than had ever
existed to perform such a feat. (See the discussion of that scene on this page.)
The statement implies a huge fleet of ships with huge firepower, which
would imply that the Imperial combat-capable starfleet is around 1000
ships or less.
On the other hand, if Imperial ship count compared to member worlds is the same as for the Federation, there could be a few million ships. Further, an infrastructure that can build a Death Star should be able to field a hefty fleet. (Just by volume, the DS1 is worth billions of Constitution Class ships.)
Then again, they only had 27 starships at the Empire's most important tactical engagement (RoTJ) and their goal of stopping the Rebels from escaping would've been better served by more ships, so there's a great deal of uncertainty in play. It's possible they were putting most of their eggs in one basket with the Death Stars.
An important note is that, unlike the UFP, the Empire has no known external threat forces or exploratory arms that would require huge fleets . . . their only threat is a rag-tag rebellion and memory of a civil war. Their primary need for ships is to keep their worlds subjugated and in fear . . . which is precisely what the Death Star was designed to do.
Using Dodonna's statement that the DS1 had firepower greater than half the fleet, one can make an estimate which fits reasonably well within all of the above bounds. It uses an ISD as a baseline, so the true individual ship count could swing either way depending on average firepower and numbers of each vessel type.
The vessel types which make up the Imperial starfleet have not been fleshed out in the slightest. The fleet is known to include different Imperator sub-types and a smaller number of Executors, and presumably older ship classes such as the Acclamators (AotC) and Venators (RotS). "Local bulk-cruisers" are mentioned in a policing role and suggested to be slow compared to "big Corellian ships", presumably Star Destroyers. Acclamators, at ~700 meters in length, are the smallest observed warships, though they still have more volume than the largest UFP starship.
Fighter vessels are frequently referred to as ships in the Star Wars canon, so were we to obtain a proper count of ships this fact would have to be acknowledged. For instance, given that a small group of Y-Wings was able to take down Separatist vessels with ease (e.g. "Destroy Malevolence"[TCW1], "Storm over Ryloth"[TCW1], et al.), the estimates based on firepower equivalence to an ISD should take into account the large number of fighters and their possible performance.
Final Tally: ~25,000 "ships" of ISD-level firepower equivalence
interference (natural or artificial), even Starfleet ships of the
2150's could read the DNA of the crew of opposing ships ("Silent
Enemy"[ENT1]), and could scan for weapons and hull composition of a
ship warping toward them, even when it was two hours distant.
lightspeed, that's 2.1 trillion kilometers ("The Xindi"[ENT3]).
Further, the ship had hull contact sensors enabling even a
cloaked object to be detected when it adhered to the hull.|
By the 2360's, scanning a foreign probe or ship could allow a determination of where it has been ("Bloodlines"[TNG], "Chain of Command"[TNG]), and sensors of the 2370's (if not before) had enough resolution to transport someone when the beaming ship was passing by at at least lightspeed ("Maneuvers"[VOY2]). "Routine" scans have a radius of three light-years ("Skin of Evil"[TNG1]). Sensors can record the position and trajectory of individual particles of interstellar hydrogen, engine exhaust, and space dust ("The Battle"[TNG1], "Relics'[TNG5], ST:FC), and note disturbances in that. Campfires are readily detected on the surface of planets ("Mudd's Women"[TOS1], "The Vengeance Factor"[TNG3]), and lifeforms can be identified with relative ease.
The primary weakness of Federation sensors seems to be that crew isn't always looking for a particular something, and therefore does not see it ("The Hunted"[TNG3], et al.).
Given the massive amounts of information sensors provide, this does point to a weakness, though sensor logs seem to make this information available for later analysis assuming it isn't too late.
Sensitive border regions have numerous sensor buoys ("Preemptive Strike"[TNG7]).
As of "The Wounded"[TNG4], sensor range on a Galaxy Class was 10 light years, when looking for a fellow Federation starship that did not wish to be found. Longer ranges have been observed in other circumstances. One of the more notable is "The Raven"[VOY4], wherein they scanned for Borg vessels (which historically are not easily seen) within a range of 40 light-years.
Final Tally: The sensors are extraordinary, though there are times when the information processing could be better.
|Star Wars ship sensors are questionable at best. |
Imperial vessels have difficulty tracking movements up or down (i.e. perpendicular to their flight path) (ROTJ novel 191-193). And there are no hull contact sensors (TESB).
During the Clone Wars era, Utapau was considered a safe target since the sinkholes could hide battle droids from "long-range" scanners. A Separatist scan of the Jedi cruiser Defender took a significant amount of time. The scan did apparently allow lifeform detection through the cruiser's forward shields, however, to which all power had been routed. ("Storm Over Ryloth"[TCW1])
The Tantive IV was apparently unable to detect Yoda's escape pod with passive sensors at a range of a couple of hundred thousand kilometers or so (RotS novel, Ch. 18). Passive sensors were in use due to fears of active scans being picked up and triangulated. Instead, a stolen Jedi beacon was used to detect Yoda's position, at which point a tightbeam active scan was able to detect Yoda's lifesigns, the model of pod, and the fact that Yoda wasn't a Wookiee. However, Yoda's species could not be identified.
On Hoth, the Rebel base was unable to detect the presence of a nearby Star Destroyer dropping probe droids, or the probe droid's landing (TESB).
Ships using hyperdrive cannot be tracked accurately, if at all (ANH Novel, TESB). However, objects exiting hyperspace may be detectable a few moments before arrival, approximately long enough for verbal warning. This occurred in regards to the massive warship Malevolence, via fighter sensors ("Shadow of Malevolence"[TCW1]). However, this is not always detected (e.g. "Ambush"[TCW1], "Grievous Intrigue"[TCW2], et al.)
There is no evidence for FTL realspace sensor systems, meaning that if a Star Destroyer is sitting in space, it apparently would not be able to see anything coming in at lightspeed before its arrival. A Separatist "listening outpost" during the Clone Wars apparently did not detect ships directly, but their communications.
Maximum sensor range is unknown, though one would not expect it to be profound given the rest of the facts. The Yavin base was able to detect the Death Star, apparently, so ranges in the hundreds of thousands of kilometers seem possible.
Final Tally: Poor, with odd limitations
UFP has range,
no fear about
and would laugh at the fighters
Federation has a large amount of experience with massive fleet
engagements (DS9), bringing into play an amalgam of tactical and
strategic concepts from air, sea, and land. Weaknesses are calculated
(Riker and the Tholian blind spot, Riker in "Best of Both Worlds"), and
exploited (ST2, "BoBW", Phoenix vs. Cardassian weapons range in "The
Wounded", Hathaway vs. Enterprise-D in "Peak Performance", Defiant
taking position on a Bird-of-Prey's underdefended rear in "Way of the
Warrior", Sisko in "Shattered Mirror").|
Warp strafing of sublight targets has also been observed ("Elaan of Troyius"[TOS], "The Ultimate Computer"[TOS]), monopolizing on an impressive speed advantage in realspace.
With the transporter, ships can be boarded when their shields are down or unable to prevent beaming, allowing opportunities for capture or mayhem ("WotW", "Return to Grace", "BoBW"). Transporters are also useful for weapons delivery ("Dark Frontier"[VOY]).
As a last resort, ramming is not unheard of ("BoBW", "Caretaker"[VOY], ST:FC, ST:Nem).
Fleet encounters usually end up as close-range affairs, either to preclude the use of torpedoes (known to be unsafe if fired at extremely close range), or to preclude the use of fleet fire concentration on individual ships.
engagements are a virtual
unknown in the Empire, which has not been seen to mass a fleet of more
than 27 ships in a single engagement (ROTJ). The Emperor's Fleet (TESB
novel) consists of merely the six ships at Hoth, with fighters, and is
considered a "great space armada"(209).|
However, the Clone Wars era did feature more multi-ship action, including but not limited to the Battle of Coruscant, a huge melee of warships.
The Empire fields two main classes of capital ship, the common Imperial Class Star Destroyer (in two observed variants), and the far larger "super Star Destroyesr" like the Executor.
Fleet formation tactics in RotJ seemed to involve a roughly spherical distribution of lesser ships around the command ship. Given the Imperial dependence on fighters and fighter harassment of capital ships, this makes a great deal of sense, since it would help shield the command ship against fighter attack.
Maneuvering tactics are almost non-existent, in part due to the bulk, sluggishness, and relative slowness of the ships. Ramming is referred to in the RoTJ novel as the last-ditch maneuver of a burning starship, and reference is made to the use of abandoned cargo ships loaded with charge, set on collision courses. However, given the fragility of Imperial ships (as per the Executor crash, etc.), ramming could only be a suicide tactic, albeit an effective one ("Storm Over Ryloth"[TCW1]).
Bringing capital ships to within a couple of kilometers range of one another was said in the RotJ novel to be virtually unheard of prior to Endor, but as seen at Coruscant in RotS this was not completely accurate.
firepower and type
Trek shield technology is graviton-based, as per Geordi's screen
in Generations, and capable of protecting the vessel from
electromagnetic, kinetic, and subspace energies. They possess frequency
windows allowing sensors (and eyes) to peek through, but there is
apparently no easy way to determine another ship's shield frequencies.
Starship shields can be brought down remotely by another starship, provided you have the prefix code and that it hasn't been changed (ST2, "The Wounded"[TNG4]).
Trek vessels also frequently make use of forcefields for a wide variety of purposes, from atmosphere containment to security to medicine. Such fields have been described as "electrostatic forcefields" ("Worst Case Scenario"[VOY4]), though the precise mechanics that description implies are unclear at best. When used to contain the atmosphere of a shuttlebay, the fields allow vehicle transit without letting the ship's atmosphere leak out.
An interesting use of forcefield technology is to contain hull breaches. See armor.
A curious feature of both Trek's brig forcefields and Wars's ray shields is that vibrations in the air (i.e. sound) are transmitted perfectly across the field. Thus, either air flows through these forcefields (making them basically the exact opposite of atmospheric containment fields), or else the forcefield somehow acts to transmit the vibrations. Presumably it's the latter, since medical containment fields would hardly be of much value if air flowed through them.
(Rough dissipation limits will be added at some point.)
Wars shield composition is
unclear, and frequently contradictory in role and appearance.
For instance, we've heard of ray shields, apparently used only over small areas. The red planar shields seen in TPM during the lightsaber fight are described as electric beam, electron beam, electric ray, and so on. This same shield type is called a ray shield in TCW. Ray shields have also been seen elsewhere in TCW as hull-hugging tank shields and in ANH as an invisible barrier to weapons fire but not proton torpedoes. Similarly, visible ray shields were used as a prisoner containment field in RotS, and in the novelization we learn that they would not get along well with human flesh, or lightsabers.
Also in RotS, we see the use of a visible atmosphere containment field over an open hangar bay aboard the Invisible Hand. Curiously, the bay's containment field is also described as a shield, and it is not thought penetrable by the Jedi in their fighters. In the novelization, it's strongly suggested that the Jedi fighters would've been destroyed had they touched it, though it's unclear if this would be due to the impact or a ray-shield-esque zapping. However, this containment field was easily brought down, which is when the emergency "blast doors" closed. This implies that the normal condition of the ship is to have the blast doors open and the shield up, which is quite remarkable when one ponders that the entire bay must be depressurized for any ingress.
This event could suggest a separation of coverage between the 'combat shields' (of whatever flavor) and the defensive/containment shields over the launch bays, which makes some sense for a fighter-dependent naval vessel. In the case of the Hand the combat shields would presumably be down despite Obi-Wan's suggestion to the contrary, given that the ship was wounded significantly by fighter weapons moments later.
The alternative is that Star Wars vessels enjoy only partial shield coverage as a matter of course, with vessel armor making up the difference. There is a remarkable amount of data in favor of this idea, especially given the large number of Star Wars fighting vessels and vehicles that are not shielded.
Such technology had been improved upon by the 1020s RE, when Home One's bay shield did not involve such cumbersome design. Presumably an ISD's lower bays operate similarly. Curiously, though, the technology involved in this improvement seems to be moving from whatever sort of containment shield was employed on the Hand to a magnetic field of unknown type.
The Death Star also had a magnetic field as its primary defense. Fighters were able to penetrate it without much difficulty, leaving the entire largely-unshielded vessel open to attack.
It's also of interest that the Jedi fighters' wings seen in RotS are said to be covered by "ablative shielding" per the novel, implying that the term "shield" may be somewhat loosely employed at times. The so-called shielding behaved like the simple ablative coating it was.
Turbolaser blasts became swift shafts of light that shattered into prismatic splinters against shields - Rots Ch 2
Given the bridge-tower destruction in TESB (the novel suggest the entire ship was destroyed), Anakin's flight into the cargo bay in TPM, the Millennium Falcon attaching itself to the bridge tower, and the apparent necessity of shooting the various little rocks floating about in the TESB asteroid field, one could make a defensible argument that a "particle shield" complement to ray shields is not employed very often, if at all, and if it even exists. Weak magnetic deflectors were observed and flown through when fighters approached the Death Star in ANH, and referred to in the novelization as the "outer shield". On the other hand, fighters were said in the novel to have collided against DS2's shield, and Anakin's Naboo fighter seemed to score knock-downs of droids with its shield, so particle shield utilization is a hazy thing.
Some have attempted to argue that SW shielding does not have frequency windows as Trek shields do . . . i.e. that SW shields are full-spectrum. However, this is absurd . . . we can see ships when they're shielded. That means the shields are transparent to visible light at the very least (and probably other parts of the spectrum as well for sensor usage, communications, et cetera). This assumes, of course, that the ray shields are not limited to a certain spectrum that turbolaser weapons also must operate inside.
(Rough dissipation limits will be added at some point.)
UFP hulls offer
more bang for
may make up for it in combat, despite lesser materials.
ships use comparatively thin but tough tritanium and duranium armor,
augmented by structural integrity fields. With sufficient energy input,
the SIF can act as a shield ("The Chase"[TNG7]). This allows the ship
to survive collision events (ST:Nem), though collisions in sensitive
spots, like the neighborhood of the warp core and antimatter pods, can
lead to catastrophic destruction ("The
Tritanium is said to be twenty times harder than diamond, and a natural vein required a phaser blast to pop a chunk out ("Obsession"[TOS]). A big chunk of it is also said to be beyond the capacity of Federation technology to melt ("The Arsenal of Freedom"[TNG1]), though given that tritanium is used for starship hulls and other uses in alloy form this statement makes little sense. For instance, tritanium was used for projectiles ("Field of Fire"[DSN7]), armor plating for ground-based assault skimmers ("Business as Usual"[DSN3]), and even for simple hand tools ("In the Hands of the Prophets"[DSN1]).
Despite the similarity of name, there's no reason to assume that Star Wars duranium and Star Trek duranium are the same material..
According to "Descent, Pt. II"[TNG7], the outer hull of a Galaxy class starship can withstand 12,000 degrees Celsius (and 10,000 rads of absorbed solar radiation) without even starting to glow. "The Arsenal of Freedom"[TNG1] shows the Enterprise easily withstanding 3,300 degree hull temperatures. "Symbiosis"[TNG1] features a "very old" and virtually un-maintained sublight cargo ship enjoying 3,000 degrees while falling into a planet's atmosphere. The ship lasts for more than a minute until structural integrity fails.
no canon data on armor
composition. Whatever it is, it apparently isn't supremely helpful, since a
hit by an asteroid
in TESB sheared off a Star Destroyer's bridge tower and
destroyed the ship.
We've been told in the canon about the substance durasteel being in use for some buildings on Tatooine (ANH, Ch. 6), and Coruscant's towers are described as "needles of steel alloy" (TPM novelization, p. 134), and we learn of metal towers, referred to as "steel pseudopods", rising above the surface of the first Death Star (ANH, Ch. 8). Given the latter, at least some plain steel construction seems likely.
There are also instances of materials similar to steel but not exactly steel. For instance, bridge blast doors of Nute Gunray's Trade Federation battleship were made of a substance called steelcrete, described as a metal. Some of the components of Grievous's construction are "Durasteel. Ceramic armorplast-plated duranium." (RotS, Ch. 5).
Despite the similarity of name, there's no reason to assume that Star Wars duranium and Star Trek duranium are the same material.
During the Clone Wars, Republic armor was at a disadvantage. Whereas multiple mentions of fighters taking chunks out of Republic cruiser armor are mentioned in the RotS novelization, we're also told that the Invisible Hand's armor wasn't penetrable by Republic turbolasers in a single shot, so they had to keep taking out chunks with heavy turbolaser fire.
A temple in the ANH novelisation was described thusly: "Theoretically, no weapon could penetrate the exceptionally dense stone of the ancient temple"(178). Assuming a natural stone of normal elements, it would have to be something along the lines of the mineral iridosmine, an Iridium-osmium alloy of supreme hardness and extreme density, in the range of 20,000 kg/m³, or almost three times iron. Given that SW weapons obviously destroy SW craft with remarkable ease, one would assume a far less dense substance.
Hopefully, they armor most things better than they do their AT-STs.
The non-canon makes use of the term "neutronium", suggesting that it is the same ultra-dense compressed neutron material found within neutron stars. However, this is completely untrue.
|Cloaking and Jamming Tech
craptastic tech, but no treaty to restrain their use
use disallowed by treaty with the Romulans. However, the USS
Defiant had a Romulan cloak on loan due to the Dominion threat, and we
have seen the Federation employ cloaking technology without terrible
ramifications when they mined
the Bajoran Wormhole ("A Call To Arms"[DSN6]). However,
Federation ships were not retrofitted with any sort of cloaking devices
during the war even while the Romulans were allies.
A splinter group once illegally developed a phase cloak that could allow a ship to be invisible and pass through normal matter . . . one could hide within a planet ("The Next Phase"[TNG5] and "The Pegasus"[TNG7]).
Alpha Quadrant cloaking technology is available for ships of all sizes, and the cloaking devices can even cloak themselves alone ("The Emperor's New Cloak"[DS9-7]). More here.
(Jamming to be added.)
|Cloaking devices are known to exist, but their effectiveness is not known. Given the profound limitations of Imperial sensors,
cloaking technology is almost certainly not terribly well-developed.
We do know that the Millennium Falcon, a ~31.5 meter saucer, is considered too small to have a cloaking device.
We also know that the cloaking devices are more than simple sensor jammers, since we've seen sensor jamming technology already and it wasn't referred to as cloaking ("Duel of the Droids"[TCW1]). Cloaking devices are thus presumably an invisibility screen of some kind.
Sensor jamming is frequently used. During the Battle of Coruscant, R2 attempted to scan for Palpatine's locator beacon but complained of a lot of "ECM SIGNAL JAMMING", according to the translation on Anakin's screen (RotS novel). Anakin ordered the jamming of the aforemention listening outpost's sensors to avoid detection.
Dedicated communications ships can jam most SW sensors (ROTJ novel, 191-193), and the Death Star used some sort of distortion field that confused the instrumentation of nearby Rebel *and* Imperial ships, causing people to have to look around to see who was shooting them (ANH novel, 174). (This may have been related to the magnetic field the fighters flew into.)
Calling it for quantity over quality
Dominion War saw extensive use of small (~30 meter) "tac-fighters",
armed with shields, phasers, and small torpedoes. Though these are
commonly referred to as fighters, they seem to be more along the lines
of somewhat smaller-role PT boats (i.e. the WW2 small, fast, ~24m
wooden boats with four heavy torpedoes aboard, any one of which could
take down or severely damage a warship). |
Such ships had existed for some time prior, given their use by Maquis forces alongside the large Maquis raiders. Their use by Starfleet is unusual, given the low survivability against Cardassian capital ships. However, they were able to dish out moderate punishment, even on Galor Class Cardassian vessels. Firepower estimates are going to be questionable, since we've never seen them fire against a target we know much about.
Runabouts are not commonly used in the fighter role, though this is not unheard of ("The Jem'Hadar"[DS9-2]). Runabouts are remarkably tough little ships. They have strong shields (successfully withstanding several hits from a Jem'Hadar attack fighter in "Treachery..."[DS9-7]), and very good phaser coverage. At least some have torpedoes ("Past Prologue"[DS9-1]).
Shuttles have never been observed in the fighter role, though most seem to be armed and lightly shielded. Firepower figures for shuttles are not known, but "Detained"[ENT1] shows us a shuttlepod with weapons at least in the ~50 megajoule range against what are presumed to be simple concrete walls, so anything less is quite unlikely.
Peregrines, runabouts, and some shuttlecraft have warp drive. Runabouts are capable of no less than warp five ("Dax"[DS9-1]), while Type-9 shuttles are capable of warp four ("Resolutions"[VOY2]), and have a range of no less than 6.7 light-years ("Renaissance Man"[VOY7]).
The sublight accelerative capabilities of these vehicles are not definitely known, but would be expected to be on par with the larger starships. One good example we have is from Mosaic, in which a May 2341 shuttle flight to Mars, departing from Spacedock, takes three hours. In mid-May 2341 the distance to Mars is 1.44 AU (~215,424,000km) from Earth, implying an average velocity of 71,808,000 km/h, or 19,946.67km/s. Assuming a dead start but even ignoring the requirement that the shuttle stop at Mars (i.e. giving the shuttle a slow and constant acceleration toward Mars for the full three hours), this gives the shuttle an absurd-minimum acceleration of over 3693m/s², or better than 376g. That's only about one-tenth the acceleration of the Enterprise in TMP, but at least puts shuttles clearly in the same range.
Empire uses a variety of small
(~6m) TIE fighters and TIE bombers. Most TIE vessels are unshielded,
and the most common TIE fighters have two small weapons on the central
sphere with limited off-axis firing ability. A
direct hit from this weapon can severely damage an R2 unit, or cause an
explosion of an X-Wing's engines (ANH), implying that the weapons are
not that powerful. Naboo and Trade Federation fighter weapon
output from a few decades earlier were decidedly
sub-kiloton, probably at a parity with 2150's shuttlepods; there is no
indication of significant advancement in that area in the intervening
TIEs are capable of atmospheric flight, as seen in TESB, and would thus seem to have repulsorlifts, but are not commonly equipped with hyperdrive capability. The prologue to the RoTJ novel explicitly defines TIE as "Twin Ion Engines" . . . NASA probe Deep Space 1 uses such a device, though we can of course presume that TIEs feature much-improved versions.
TIE fighters seem to have lesser acceleration capabilities than the Millennium Falcon, which suggests top-end acceleration of a couple of hundred meters per second.
are quite powerful beam weapons, with verbally implied energy levels
*at least* in the high-gigawatt/low-terawatt range ("A Matter of
Time"[TNG5], Data tells Geordi they must avoid a variance
above .06 terawatts), though that shot apparently involved maximum
power from the entire ship.
Against the sentry pods in "Conundrum", the Enterprise phaser arrays were used in a peculiar fashion. Normally, we can see the array energize at both endpoints and a beam erupt where the energy meets, but in this case the array energized and a large number of smaller beams were used. This suggests that phaser arrays may be commonly used in such a manner in the event of numerous small weak targets.
Circa 2151, starship weaponry was rated for 500 gigajoules per cannon (one terajoule per dual-cannon shot, or about a quarter-kiloton), though this could be increased to 5 terajoules per cannon at extreme risk (damage to power relays and the weapons themselves). It is logical to assume that significant advancements were made in the following 200 years.
And indeed, the vaporization of the ice surrounding the
Estimates from "The Die is Cast", ......... too high.
(And given 100-megaton torpedoes, and the general gist from battle scenes that photon torpedos are 2-5 times more powerful than phasers, 1-10 megaton phasers (~ 4,000 - 40,000 TJ) wouldn't be too difficult to argue for at all. That could be driven up as high as 20-50 megatons (~83 - 209 PJ (1000xTJ)) to keep with the "gist" ratio.)
of several varying
to be the primary beam weapon, though ion cannons exist and may be
deployed on some vessels. Some claim thousands of terajoules for these
weapons, but with the exception of a line from the RotS novelization
none of the figures have canon support. So far, the only time we've
gotten a good show of turbolaser firepower against targets we can make
a guess about is TESB, during the asteroid scene. Brian
Young's Turbolaser Commentaries assigns a firepower of some sixty
kilotons to the event. A similar scene is seen at Geonosis, where
low-gigajoule energies are the rough minimum from a ~20m ship.
There are sizes of beam weapon emplacement on Imperial vessels, ranging from the heavy guns on the port and starboard dorsal, to various other weapons all over the ship.
However, in the one instance the heavy guns have been seen to fire (RotJ), they missed a relatively stationary and close target (and the ship itself was also missed by similar return fire), so the firepower is somewhat less important than the aim. Even against a non-maneuvering galactic cruiser (as occurs in the beginning of ANH) most of the shots from the smaller guns missed.
All that having been said, the fact that weak-firepower fighters are considered a threat, even at the numbers observed, places logical limits on starship effective firepower. The fighter guns may be weaker, but their comparative accuracy makes up for a lot.
Final Tally: 1.5
megatons for largest emplacements, kilotons and below for most others
and the new Quantum Torpedoes are in use aboard Federation starships,
with photon torpedoes being the most common by far. Photon torpedoes
are projectiles capable of being fired at FTL or STL speeds at any
target. Both torpedo types appear to be independently shielded, and can be used at warp to
fire on sublight targets. The yield is variable, from something in
cannonball range (Star Trek V), to something in the 100-150 megaton
range ("Rise"[VOY3]), to
many hundreds of megatons (detonation fireball very visible from
planet's surface in "Skin of Evil"[TNG1]).
The "photonic torpedoes" deployed on Earth Starfleet ships in the early 2150's had yield variability such that they "can knock the comm array off a shuttle pod without scratching the hull, or they can put a three kilometer crater into an asteroid" (Reed, "The Expanse"[ENT2]). Common estimates place the upper-end part of the statement at about 20 megatons.
Final Tally: ~ 100 megatons (418,000 TJ), average
Missiles and Proton
Torpedoes have been seen, but are rarely used. These weapons seem to be
more of a surgical strike weapon, whereas Imperial beam weapons are
their version of blunt-force. Capital ship missile weapons have not
been observed. Fighters have been seen to use
missile weapons in ANH and TPM, but in both cases direct hits against
the hull of starships were ineffective. (Proton torpedoes are also
referred to as laser torpedoes in the ANH script, which may suggest
something about their function.)
The highest firepower observed would be from Slave I's missile that was spoofed by spare parts. A large fireball was created, but none of the nearby asteroids seemed to be affected. This weapon is referred to in the script as a "guided aerial torpedo".
Final Tally: ? . . . ?
Ducks in a barrel.
Full Story Here!
(but not all) impulse battles occur at severely short
ranges. We have seen weapons used at impulse to
have profound ranges ("The
Wounded"[TNG4], "Return to Grace"[DS9-4], "The
Search"[DS9-3], etc.), in the area of 100,000-250,000 kilometers.
However, weapons limited to lightspeed would take a third of a second
to cross a 100,000km distance, so maneuverable Trek targets engaging in
evasive maneuvers could evade (especially given that phasers do not
move at lightspeed, canonically). "Elaan of Troyius"[TOS3] shows the
Klingons firing at about 80,000 kilometers.
At warp, torpedo ranges are at least 5 million kilometers ("Human Error"[VOY7], with similar range shown in "Flashback"[VOY3]). Phaser maximum range at warp is unknown.
Maximum Range: ~200,000 km (STL only), Effective Maximum Range: 10-200,000km (variable).
battles in Star Wars occur at
slower-than-light velocities, and weapons ranges are perilously short.
On smaller craft such as the Millennium Falcon, maximum weapons range
for a target which is almost stationary relative to the Falcon is on
the order of a couple of kilometers (200 meters in one case,
actually, but I'm being generous), which seems true for fighters as
Capital ships would presumably allow for bombardment of a planet from orbit (100-1000km), but actual ship-to-ship combat ranges have not been seen to exceed 100 kilometers. The longest observed starship weapons range was a Trade Federation battleship firing at about 60km in TPM, and a possibly similar example in "Cargo of Doom"[TCW2]. The point-blank affair seen in ROTJ (around two kilometers) is unusually close, however, per the novelization, though the Revenge of the Sith battle and the use of dedicated broadside guns may suggest this is more normal than thought.
The Death Star destroyed Alderaan from within six planetary diameters, which (assuming Earth's diameter) would be just under 77,000 kilometers, the maximum seen from any SW weapon.
Maximum Range: ~1,000km (?)
Effective Maximum Range: ~100 km
but more capable
starships carry a single matter/antimatter reactor or "warp core",
which operates via dilithium crystals and the creation of something
called a dilithium matrix. The dilithium matrix is apparently
some sort of energy field that does some unspecified activity in
regards to mediating the matter/antimatter reaction, and it is
critically important for generating power for the vessel.
power levels are often seemingly rather higher than what reasonable
quantities of matter and antimatter should be able to achieve via
e=mc², leading several Trek researchers to believe that the dilithium
matrix somehow allows for greater energies to be obtained from the
reaction via unspecified means.
However, warp reactors are not without their problems.
1. Federation starships are generally seen to require numerous engineering personnel, many of whom seem to be focused on the reactor systems.
2. Antimatter is the preferred primary fuel source for Federation vessels, which is significantly more dangerous to have around than hydrogen or gasoline, and requires powered containment systems to prevent the antimatter from touching matter and causing devastating explosions. However, the energy density per unit volume is vastly superior, meaning that to get equal power a UFP fuel tank would be miniscule compared to an Imperial tank.
3. Also, a toxic and highly explosive waste known as trilithium resin is produced and deposited in very small amounts on the reactor walls ("Starship Mine"[TNG6]). Also, inefficiencies in the reactor process produce "antimatter waste", a toxic residual antimatter that emits theta radiation and which requires additional systems to recycle ("Night"[VOY5]), though there has never been a known failure of such devices on a Federation starship. It is also possible that the two things noted above are the same basic thing, given that the former was established but the latter is seemingly just Voyager technobabble.
While earlier starships required fresh sources of natural dilithium crystals which could be used up, 24th Century UFP vessels are able to recrystallize dilithium. ("Relics"[TNG5])
Ships also feature fusion reactors for impulse flight and reserve batteries of unspecified technology for emergency power. Certain late-model starships such as the Intrepid Class carry a dismantled warp core which can be built and installed in a short time in the event the primary core is damaged or ejected.
Certain space facilities use simpler fusion reactor technology, such as the Argus array ("The Nth Degree"[TNG4]). Some small 24th Century Cardassian starbases also used a laser-induced fusion system with multiple reactors (one or more main and one or more secondary reactors), to Chief O"Brien's unending despair on DS9 (e.g. "The Forsaken"[DSN1], "In the Hands of the Prophets"[DSN1], "Civil Defense"[DSN3], et al.). However, these could also be intentionally overloaded to destroy the related faciility, implying high output. And, of course, there's the fact that DS9 was later able to be outfitted with extensive weaponry, making it a threat to significant-size fleets (e.g. the destruction of 50 Dominion and Cardassian ships in "A Call to Arms"[DSN5]). Presumably the related upgrades (noted in "Way of the Warrior"[DSN4]) included enhancements to its original balky fusion reactors, as well.
Colony homes feature small fusion reactors and can expect years of trouble-free operation, but most buildings on worlds like Earth get power from a planetary energy grid.
Ship's power is distributed via plasma conduits, suggesting that energetic plasma powers most systems. A few systems, however -- most notably internal ship communications -- do use electronic circuitry at some point, as implied by Picard in "Symbiosis"[TNG1], and certain references in TOS.
At least five million gigawatts (5,000 TW, or 5 petawatts) pour through a power conduit in "Revulsion"[VOY4]. Data, in "True Q"[TNG6], says the Enterprise (while orbiting a planet and not at alert status) is "presently generating twelve-point-seven-five billion gigawatts per . . . ", but is cut off. A statement of 12.75 billion gigawatts by itself without any other modifier would refer to 12,750 petawatts, or 12.75 exawatts . . . a remarkably large figure. However, I do not believe we should roll with that. More detail can be found here.
In any event, multi-terawatt and perhaps petawatt reactor energies are certain. Geordi comments to a non-Federation person in "The Masterpiece Society" that the reactor "kicks plasma up into the terawatt range", and in "Good Shepherd"[VOY6] Torres says "we need to route at least another five terawatts to the sensor array" . . . which not only implies that more than five terawatts were available for the long-range sensor boosting of the episode, but that some number of terawatts were already involved. Since sensors have never seemed to be a particularly power-intensive item, it seems likely that a figure akin to the "Revulsion" value is correct.
Not all systems can accept such levels of power, however. In "The Dauphin"[TNG], the Enteprise-D receives a signal punched through the dense atmosphere of a planet, a signal that is generated by a terawatt transmitter. Riker notes that's more than the entire ship can generate and that the Enterprise cannot respond.
While some have tried to argue that this is a limit on the total output of the warp core, this makes no sense . . . not only is it contradictory to the other examples above, but it is also illogical since the Enterprise then promptly beamed an individual through the dense atmosphere.
If overload destructiveness is a guide, then we can note that for the Delta Flyer, the ejection of her sabotaged warp core required a stated safe distance of a million kilometers, and when the actual blast occurred at 1.2 million kilometers from a stationary Voyager, the ship was still rocked.
Final Tally: ~ 5,000 TJ / sec on a midsize vessel
the non-canon has graced us
with occasional use of "hypermatter" reactors (though other
equally-valid and recent non-canon refers to normal fusion), the canon
novelizations all refer to
fusion and fission as the Imperial power sources. For
instance, the ANH novelization refers to the Death Star's exploding
reactor as representing "the liberated energy of a small
artificial sun", and the RotS novelization refers to "the
fusion furnaces that power everything from starships to
The fuel source for Star Wars reactors (as seen on the Separatist vessel Invisible Hand in the RotS script and deleted scenes) seems to be some sort of flammable liquid, one safer than gasoline. It is not dense or especially viscous or caustic (one can swim in it like water), and does not present evaporative dangers like gasoline (e.g. with the vapors being supremely flammable). However, if the fluid itself is exposed to a sufficient heat source the entire liquid volume can explode violently, potentially wrecking a ship.
An alternate apparent fuel source is seen on Separatist Munificents, based on a heavy black oil, piped in significant amounts alongside the broadside weapons emplacements, and similar in flammability to refined oil. However, this may also have simply been a special oil pipe lubricating something related to the broadside guns (e.g. recoil shock absorbers), or perhaps leading to a droid servicing bay, since they do require something called an oil for lubrication.
In any case, the behavior of these fluids plus the fact that nuclear fusion seems to be the primary power source for Imperial ships (implying a need for hydrogen) has led some (such as StarfleetJedi.Net's "Jedi Master Spock") toward concluding that the substance is a fluid high in hydrogen, flammable, and presumably readily obtainable. In short, it is not too dissimilar from diesel fuel, or some similar hydrocarbon fuel source, but used for fusion rather than simple combustion. This "diesel starships" theory does adequately explain Imperial reactor power, if too conveniently.
The one name for a fuel that we know is tibanna, which in liquid form is a potent explosive and fuel.
One apparent advantage to this technology is that we seldom see dedicated engineering crews. For instance, in "Cloak of Darkness", the engine room of a Venator is completely unmanned and unguarded, with only a small Treadwell droid looking around the large darkened room.
A small "fusion furnace" or "fission furnace" is seen in use to recharge droids among the Rebels (e.g. Luke and R2 on Dagobah in TESB, per the novelization). This implies that the droids do not have onboard fusion power systems (meaning they would simply need a supply of fuel), but instead batteries. Whether the unit was fission or fusion is unclear, given that the novelization switches terms between different sentences. It is possible it may be capable of either function.
Imperial power distribution systems appear to be simple electricity via conductive wires, based on myriad references in the ANH novel, Han's attempted "hot-wire" in RoTJ, and other examples. This may also explain the use of ion cannons.
Interestingly, though, the second Death Star appeared to have a drastic difference to other Imperial vessels. Instead of wire-based power distribution, mention is made in the fourth chapter of the RotJ novelization of a different system. "The room was dim except for the light cables running either side of the elevator shaft, carrying power and information through the space station." Seemingly, then, the energy distribution was based on photonic power systems, which are a rather recent development on modern-day Earth. Whether this was in the process of becoming the new standard for Imperial design or whether this was merely an implementation due to the massive size of the Death Star (which would've undoubtedly required incredibly complex wiring and distribution systems without photonics) is unknown. However, one would presume that a true totally-photonic power system would avoid the peril of ion cannons, so either the technology was brand new or was a one-off for the Death Star II.
Photonic power systems would have many advantages. For instance, data and power (as noted) could be run through them, eliminating the need for separate cabling. And, unlike UFP ships whose plasma conduits can explode violently if ruptured, a ruptured photonic power cable would not expel hot gas, but would instead merely heat whatever was in front of the rupture. This might also result in an explosion, of course, but might also simply result in melting . . . which is generally preferable to shrapnel.
Star Destroyer reactor energies or rates of production have never been provided. However, given the fusion generation, then the reactor energies are going to be on the small side, even given the massively huge reactors you could fit into a Star Destroyer. Not only does it take a lot of reactant to produce power (compared to a total annihilation drive as one would have with antimatter), but that reactant will take up a lot more space.
If overload destructiveness is a guide, then we can note that for Amidala's small vessel in "Destroy Malevolence"[TCW1], the overload of its power systems produced a small sub-kiloton explosion.
More information on the Death Star reactors can be found here.
A comprehensive overview of Imperial shipboard power generation and utilization can be found here. There, we find that Venators and Acclamators probably have reactors in the 120TW or less range, while Star Destroyers can probably put out 500TW. However, chances are good that the fuel stores allow for greater endurance.
Final Tally: ~ 500 TJ / sec on an ISD
UFP ships can go faster with effort, but the
drive, using some sort of "continuum distortion" via subspace fields
produced by massive warp nacelles on the outside of ships,
allows the vessel to achieve speeds of several thousand times that of
light in realspace. While non-canon warp speed charts suggests a
warp-factor-cubed or other similar velocity, most on-screen references
go against such values.
Verbal references suggest that the ships of the Federation are capable of traveling up to about 1 light-year per hour (Galaxy maximum of 9000c as per "Where No One Has Gone Before"[TNG1], slightly better than the speed of the Kelvan-enhanced Enterprise in TOS). In "Encounter at Farpoint"[TNG1], Data reported that they could make warp 9.8 "at extreme risk", but the maximum warp red line was 9.2.
Newer ships such as the Intrepid have higher maximum speeds. For example, In "The 37's"[VOY2], Paris says warp 9.9 is 4,000,000,000 miles per second, or 21,400c (2.45 ly/hr). Note that the Intrepid Class is capable of a sustainable cruise velocity of warp 9.975 ("Caretaker"[VOY1]). On the other hand, "Unimatrix Zero" uses the 9000c figure from "WNOHGB" again as a maximum speed, saying that it took the ship two hours to travel two light-years. "Maneuvers"[VOY2] has Voyager traveling 2 billion kilometers/second, or about 6700c, though no warp speed is given at the time.
As for lower warp speeds, we have "The Most Toys"[TNG3], where the Jovis's warp three speed calculates out to a mere 39c. In 2152, the Enterprise NX-01 demonstrated the ability to achieve a speed of 1460c (12 light-years in three days) in "Cease Fire"[ENT2], and this was presumably her maximum (warp five) thanks to the overworking of the injectors.
None of these are dead-firm figures, however. The Enterprise-Prime would take 11 hours to travel 990.7 light-years in "That Which Survives"[TOS3], suggesting 90 ly/hr, or 788,400c. "Bread and Circuses"[TOS2] has the Enterprise cross .2 light-years in about a minute, suggesting a speed of 107,000c. Even the runabouts, apparently capable of warp five or so, were seen to make 30,000c if not more in "Whispers"[DS9-2], taking 1.23 hours to a destination at least just under five light-years distant). Then, of course, there's the Star Trek V incident, where a trip to the center of the Milky Way from Nimbus III (which could be no less than 17,000 light-years from the center, as per First Contact) took under seven hours. That suggests a speed of over 2500 ly/hr, over 20,000,000c! (Which, entertainingly, is just about what it would take for stars to float past a la TOS.)
Then there's the opposite side of the coin. "Fight or Flight"[ENT1] gives us a value for warp 4.4 of 30,000,000 km/sec, or almost exactly 100c, though the rest of the series contradicts this value. In "Bloodlines"[TNG7] Riker calculated in his head the time required for the Enterprise to travel 300 billion kilometers at Warp 9, and gets about 20 minutes, which would be about 900c, or .1ly/hr. In "Caretaker"[VOY1], Janeway said that at "maximum speeds", it would take 70 years to make the 75,000 light year journey, which works out to only .12 light years per hour, or just over 900c. That contradicts other maximum Voyager values . . . perhaps she was including stops, or calculating with a warp six velocity.
The common theory used by fans to reconcile all the variable speed figures is the idea of "warp highways", areas of space where warp drive works especially well. These are often thought of as roughly linear phenomena, but could also simply be large patches of space. However, there is nothing in the canon which makes any reference to this concept. Taking all the data, it would seem that older Federation ships are limited to the 10,000c range (about 1.1 ly/hr), with newer ships limited to the 21,400c range (about 2.45 ly/hr). Cruising speeds are probably closer to 2,000c. But, I'll have to go with the Tech Manual on this one and say that your mileage may vary.
~ 21,000c (fast ship at warp 9.9)
~ 9,000c (slower ship max at 9.2)
~2,000c (common velocity at 6?)
|Hyperdrives apparently take a
vessel into a hyperspace domain where some sort of 'space-folding'
distance shortening activity occurs. Thus, when Han
comments that his ship is only capable of ".5 past
lightspeed", we ought to know somehow that this is actually faster than
it sounds. Notice that he also refers to making the Kessel
Run in 12 parsecs, which is a distance, not a time or speed. (It should
be noted, however, that the script has the following to say about that
line: "Ben reacts to Solo's stupid attempt to impress them with obvious
misinformation.") Hyperspace may also involve a time dilation
effect for those travelling within it.
Hyperdrives can only be activated outside of a certain distance from a planet's gravity well, usually six planetary diameters. Vessels therefore must reach this limit before they are able to go to lightspeed. However, one can drop out of hyperspace at lesser distances . . . Solo arrived at Alderaan in ANH expecting to be a single planetary diameter from the planet.
The use of hyperdrive does not necessarily imply a direct route, however. There are hyperspace lanes, and after the Battle of Geonosis, the Separatists were able to seize control of major hyperspace lanes, separating Republic forces. It seems from instances strongly suggesting direct trips like these lanes may simply be like interstate highways in the United States . . . the fast way, but not the only way in most cases. However, starships approaching and leaving planets always seem to be near the same point in space, suggesting perhaps that there is a preferred entry/exit point for hyperspace near a planet.
Vessels can make short hyperjumps (RotS novel), and this seems to also be a favorite tactic by the Separatists. Separatist Munificents make very precise drops from hyperspace in "Ambush"[TCW1] and "Storm over Ryloth"[TCW1], with probable precision measured in the tens of meters in the first case. The warships are kept out of sight and then jump in.
Larger vessels have to plot wider courses around obstacles, as noted in "Shadow of Malevolence"[TCW1]: "There are many star clusters in that area. With a ship that big, he will be unable to chart a course that's less than 10 parsecs." Hyperdrives are carried internally, whereas warp speed require large external nacelles. This should make the FTL harder to damage, at least on larger ships.
In any case, the size of the Empire suggests effective hyperdrive speeds at least on the order of warp velocities.
Actual hyperdrive speed estimates from the canon films are somewhat difficult, but TCW may continue to provide more information in this regard. Thus far, hyperdrive speeds in TCW seem to be faster than in the films, but there's no clear evidence yet.
From the films, we do know that Tatooine to Geonosis is "less than a parsec" in AoTC, and the indications within the film are that the trip took about 15 hours (more on this here), implying a speed of around 1752c. The Rebel fleet hyperspace trip in Return of the Jedi demonstrated a speed on the order of 11,000c, however, and the TCW film strongly suggested speeds greater than 1752c in order to go between two planets within a day's time.
(Note: Some argue that the use of the phrase "halfway across the galaxy" in AoTC implies huge speeds. However, the evidence points to lesser speeds. This is not anti-Star Wars thinking . . . I attribute Captain Pike's comment about Earth being "at the other end" of the galaxy from Talos to be similarly full of hyperbole.)
The non-canon gives us wildly variable figures, from 21,000c ("Heir to the Empire") to 50,000,000c ("Behind the Magic" CD-ROM). That last value would get you from the Milky Way to Andromeda in 19 days. However, there is nothing in the canon to support these figures, and a lot of information like this is contradicted in the canon (e.g. BTMCD was contradicted by AotC).
Hyperdrive requires extensive computer resources in order to be employed.
~ 16,500c (fast ships (est.))
~ 11,000c (standard?)
~ 1752c (slow ships).
engines powered by a separate fusion reactor system are used, and ships seem to use an artificial mass reduction
effect to conserve fuel and enhance acceleration. This renders impulse
"not-quite-Newtonian". This also explains the apparent use of
"one-quarter impulse", "half-impulse", and such as speed estimates, and
not acceleration. You could, for example, fire a brief thrust, then
turn on mass reduction and suddenly start zipping along when your mass lightens.
Federation ships have incredible advantages over Imperial ships in acceleration, as observed in TMP (half lightspeed in no time flat, bare minimum 34,000 m/s² acceleration), "Peak Performance"[TNG2] (the E-D zipping around a planet in no time flat), "The Swarm"[VOY] (some calcs suggest 4000km/s²), and so on.
Further, Federation starships could run circles around their Imperial counterparts. At Wolf 359 (as depicted in "Emissary"[DS9]) we see two of the largest ship classes, Ambassador and Nebula, flying in tandem. They both execute remarkably quick and tight 120-degree turns. (A 3ivx version is here, and an animated .gif here.)
Final Tally: Starships are capable of accelerations of thousands of m/s, and offer profound maneuverability.
to impulse, but involving
big honkin' thrusters on the back on every observed ship type except
for TIE fighters, which have two smaller ion engine apertures. The
Falcon's engines are also ion engines.
These huge engines, and comparatively small observed speeds, suggest a less-advanced, possibly straight-Newtonian, approach. In open space, Star Destroyers are referred to as sluggish and slow to respond in the TESB novel, incapable of avoiding a very damaging collision in TESB.
Closer to planets, antigrav technology is used, so the big engines are not the only force in play in such cases.
Some claim that a screen in ROTJ showed the Imperial Fleet making a maneuver that would have involved acceleration of 30 km/s^2. However, the script has Leia reacting as if its the Rebel fleet approaching through hyperspace. In neither the film nor script is Leia shocked as if she's seeing an Imperial fleet's trap (in the novel, the Rebels have arrived and combat is in progress).
Final Tally: Starships are sluggish and generally not that maneuverable. Even small, fast ships like the Falcon can only make accelerations of a few hundred m/s.
observed on shuttles and in a variety of smaller applications
throughout Trek since the 2150's. Flying automobile-size
vehicles akin to those in AoTC
were observed in the 2151 scenes from "Shockwave"[ENT1], and of course
the shuttepods also seem to use antigravity, but the precise nature of
their technology is uncertain.
Interestingly, antigrav technology is demonstrated on some vessels that are not thought capable of landing. "Storm Front, Pt. II"[ENT4] shows us a heavily damaged 2150s-era NX Class floating at low speed over New York City without any apparent support from rocketing thrusters or anything else, implying significant starship-grade antigrav or mass-reduction technology even at the time.
Similarly, the Constitution Class of the 2260s is not known to have shipboard antigravity systems, though on one occasion it was observed inside Earth's atmosphere at a fairly low level ("Tomorrow is Yesterday"[TOS1]). In the original version the ship's nose was pitched upward somewhat as she struggled to gain altitude in her damaged state. In the remastered version, such upward pitch is not as clear, implying level flight with no obvious thrust being employed. This may be evidence for antigravity systems, but then there's no clear explanation as to why the ship, initially powerless, didn't simply hit the ground anyway.
Intrepid Class starships of the 2370s, at 700,000 metric tons, have been seen to land on four tiny footpads. All told, that's basically akin to having nine or ten Enterprise Class aircraft carriers, or 15 Iowa Class Battleships, or 2,102 Boeing 747's strapped together and sitting on an area about the size of a house or two. This would seem to require a constantly operating antigravity or mass-reduction system.
Thrusters are often mentioned when Voyager lands, though this appears to be shorthand. "The 37's"[VOY2] makes specific reference to "antigrav thrusters" during landing, implying a non-Newtonian thruster system for landing operations. Certainly the lack of rocket plume or blast wave supports such a concept.
However, Galaxy Class starships of the 2360s are not seen to have any antigravity technology whatsoever. This may be related to their comparatively large size and mass. The NX Class mass is unknown, but the Constitution and Intrepids are both below a million tonnes. But as seen in Star Trek: Generations and implied in other TNG episodes, the Galaxy Class has no capacity for operating near the surface inside an atmosphere. Indeed, Generations shows us that the saucer section, detached from the stardrive, can have a controlled descent, but will definitely crash into the surface. Estimating the saucer density as being akin to the Intrepid's, she should weigh in at over four million tonnes, or four times more than the entire Constitution or Intrepid.
If the Federation had cheap and easy antigrav tech at the time, one would think they'd have employed it on the saucer, rather than crash families. However, it may also be that the antigrav tech observed in other classes also relies on the presence of unknown components in the engineering hull, perhaps the warp engines themselves.
Final Tally: Anti-gravs have been seen to be employed on vehicles of up to 344 meters in length, at a mass of 700,000 metric tons.
technologies are used within six planetary diameters, even by larger
ships (ANH novel, 115-117). Many larger vessels can and do land. However, ships such as the
"galactic cruiser" (aka Corellian Corvette) seen in the beginning of
ANH cannot enter atmosphere without a "stabilizer fin" (ANH novel, ch.
How antigravs work is unknown, but it does have to have a decent gravity field to push against, according to the ANH novelization. It seems that near planets, Star Wars ships become quite a bit quicker and more maneuverable than in open space, such as the massive Home One turning fairly quickly in RotJ, and other incidents.
Put simply, antigravity technology seems far more common in the Star Wars galaxy, no doubt due to the lack of transporters. Also, given that hyperspace entry cannot be achieved closer than six planetary diameters, and antigravs become even more important. Necessity being the mother of invention, it follows that their antigravity technology is highly refined.
The largest vessels seen to land thus far are the 1100 meter Venators, ships almost three times as long as the Federation's Intrepids.
Final Tally: Anti-gravs have been seen to be employed on vehicles of up to 700 meters in length, and are far more commonly used in such large applications.
transporter definitely comes to mind. After 200 years of use and
development, beaming is quite commonplace. Geordi, in "Realm
of Fear"[TNG6], says millions transport daily. Maximum transporter
range is about 40,000 kilometers, as per "A Matter of Honor".
Transporters have spawned spin-off technologies such as the replicator. Industrial replicators can do wonderful, wonderful things for an infrastructure. The Federation gave Bajor two industrial replicators for their rapid rebuilding project. After the aborted Klingon invasion of Cardassia, which left the industrial base of dozens of Cardassian worlds destroyed, the Federation was to have given them twelve such replicators of the same type for the building of power plants and factories.
Indeed, the number of man-hours a replicator would save cannot be overemphasized.
One could say that another spin-off of the replicator was seen in Rom's self-replicating mine design.
Stars I and II, with the
second one capable of firing smaller bursts at individual ships. I rate
these as "common", even though they can't be built too quickly,
requiring "many long years of secretive construction"(ANH novel, 31),
or at least three years of less secretive construction for one
described in the RoTJ prologue as "nearly twice as big as its
predecessor [...] but more than twice as powerful".
The firepower of the Death Star 'superlaser' is not known quantitatively, but qualitative estimates of Alderaan's destruction were made by Han in the ANH novel: "No...the entire Imperial fleet couldn't have done this. It would take a thousand ships massing a lot more firepower than has ever existed"(102).
People commonly use as a basis of calculation the gravitational binding energy of an Earth-like world (1E32J) and the energy that would be required to get planetary debris moving as observed (for a grand total of 1E38J). However, the "ring effect" of the planet and Death Star explosions indicate that the Death Star superlaser is not simply a direct-energy-input weapon, but achieves its goal through some peculiar energy technique or physics effect that is not known. This is confirmed by a wide variety of observations. More on this here.
technology and knowledge seem to be far more advanced in the
Federation. Compare the ability to repair almost any non-lethal wound
to the use of artificial mechanical limbs, peculiar medical watertanks
filled with bacta, and Darth Vader's suit in Star Wars. Granted, they
are advanced artificial limbs, but artificial limbs all the
Holodecks, exceptionally useful for training, could also be very useful for interrogation purposes.
Starfleet ships are capable of precision attacks to disable enemy ship systems ("Shockwave"[ENT], "The Defector"[TNG], "The Wounded"[TNG], etc.), whereas the Empire seems capable of just firing and hoping for the best (ANH).
Starship Flexibility: With rare exceptions, we seldom see a single-role starship. We've seen dedicated transports and science vessels, but even Federation warships such as the Defiant are capable of performing scientific duties.
Force and lightsabres. It is
difficult to ascertain the effect the Force might have, but there *are*
only two Sith at a time, and their powers obviously didn't allow them
to prevent the formation and continuation of the Rebellion before
Luke's arrival. However, the Emperor is said in the RoTJ
novelization to be the force holding the Imperials together . . . his
death causes chaos among the ranks.
Similarly, there are presumably only two lightsabres in the Imperial arsenal, but if these were made more common, they would be profoundly effective in melee situations. Mere bat'leths would pale in comparison.
Droids, though subject to electronic hallucinations (ANH novelisation, p. 9) and other behavioral quirks, may also present quite an advantage (especially in regards to manpower), though apparently few are as sentient, intelligent, and resourceful as C-3P0 and R2-D2. On the other hand, most people in the Republic thought droids couldn't think at all (Dex and Obi-Wan, AoTC).
In hand-to-hand combat, one would assume that the Stormtrooper armor would provide some assistance, even though it is apparently not sturdy enough to ward off simple spears (ROTJ), and has been seen to crack with limited damage.
A wide assortment of weapons emplacements give the vessels of the Empire very good coverage, though the heaviest and most visible Star Destroyer weapon emplacements are limited to the dorsal firing arcs.
Cloned and "programmed" soldiers are a profound advantage, despite the lack of the training ability afforded by holodecks.
situation where transporters are useless, Federation ships must rely on
a comparatively small number of auxiliary craft.
Federation warp engines make large targets. Really huge. Downright massive.
Large Imperial vessels could engage in maneuvers within planetary atmospheres that only ships such as Starfleet's Intrepid and Nova classes could hope to match.
The Federation has a ridiculous number of ship classes (based on all the weird kitbashes used in some of the fleet shots and in the Wolf 359 wreckage scenes), though these oddballs seem to be rare compared to Excelsiors, Mirandas, Akiras, and so on. Nevertheless, this would almost certainly wreak havoc in regards to starbases keeping parts in stock, or repairing various ships.
would think that the larger
ships must have a horrible response time to emergency conditions. Not
only does the Empire still use gunnery crews on the ship's periphery, presumably due to unreliability of computer targeting (ANH
novel p. 285), but ships of such colossal size would make "Imperial
Rapid Response" an oxymoron.
The large bridge windows of Star Destroyers are referred to in the TESB novel as a severely weak point, compared to the hull . . . this was proved by the A-Wing that destroyed the Executor's bridge (and shortly thereafter the Executor) in ROTJ.
Those huge sublight engines make huge targets. Really huge. Downright massive.
1. It is often suggested that Federation transporters would have no trouble with Imperial shields. Actually, the record of Starfleet vessels beaming through unknown shielding is more of a hit-or-miss affair. As far as hits go, the Enterprise-D beamed effortlessly through Borg shields, until they adapted. They were also able to find a way to beam through the planetary shields of planet Aldea, which is rather impressive given the technology level of the Aldeans. On the other hand, Gomtuu's shields were impenetrable, which is a miss. One basic issue involved is that in most situations involving unfamiliar shielding, transporting through them is often not discussed, especially in tactical situations.
2. "Statistical Probabilities"[DS9] was referring to Federation casualties only, though this was not explicit in the conversation between Bashir and Sisko. However, when Jack and Lauren are discussing handing over Starfleet's battle strategy to the Dominion (thereby trying to make the conflict end in weeks, and thereby be less bloody), they explicitly refer to 'only' 2 billion Federation casualties, as opposed to 900 billion.
3. Some argue that SW planetary shields are
suggested in the prologue of the canon novel of RoTJ. This is
case: "the view-screen depicted the battle station itself,
the moon Endor,
and a web of energy—the deflector shield—emanating from the green moon,
encompassing the Death Star."