Creator of a Billion Light Years Away Ombudsman

Space Based Laser [SBL]Edit

The potential to intercept and destroy a missile over enemy territory soon after launch, rather than over friendly
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tachyon beam energy

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AA Laser Guns

territory, makes the development of a boost phase intercept (BPI) capability very desirable. In concert with ground based theater missile defense (TMD) systems already under development, the U.S. continues to investigate BPI concepts for BMD systems.

The SBL program could develop the technology to provide the U.S. with an advanced BMD system for both theater and national missile defense. BMDO believes that an SBL system has the potential to make other contributions to U.S. security and world security as a whole, such as inducing potential aggressors to abandon ballistic missile programs by rendering them useless. Failing that, BMDO believes that the creation of such a universal defense system would provide the impetus for other nations to expand their security agreements with the United States, bringing them under a U. S. sponsored missile defense umbrella.

An SBL platform would achieve missile interception by focusing and maintaining a high powered laser on a target until it achieves catastrophic destruction. Energy for the sustained laser burst is generated by the chemical
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laser cannon bolt

reaction of the hydrogen fluoride (HF) molecule. The HF molecules are created in an excited state from which the subsequent optical energy is drawn by an optical resonator surrounding the gain generator. Lasers have been studied for their usefulness in air defense since 1973, when the Mid Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL) was first tested against tactical missiles and drone aircraft. Work on such systems continued through the 1980s, with the Airborne Laser Laboratory, which completed the first test laser intercepts above the earth. Initial work on laser based defense systems was overseen by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), but transferred to the newly created Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) in 1984. Work continues today under the auspices of the BMDO, the successor to the SDIO.
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Laser Bolt Star Wars

The SBL program builds on a broad variety of technologies developed by the SDIO in the 1980s. The work on the Large Optics Demonstration Experiment (LODE), completed in 1987, provided the means to control the beams of large, high powered lasers. The Large Advanced Mirror Program (LAMP) designed and built a 4 meter diameter space designed mirror with the required optical figure and surface quality. In 1991, the Alpha laser (2.8 mm) developed by the SDIO achieved megawatt power at the requisite operating level in a low pressure environment similar to space. Numerous Acquisition, Tracking, and Pointing/ Fire Control (ATP/ FC) experiments both completed and currently underway will provide the SBL platform with stable aimpoints. Successes in the field of ATP include advances in inertial reference, vibration isolation, and rapid retargeting/ precision pointing (R2P2). In 1995 the Space Pointing Integrated Controls Experiment offered near weapons level results during testing.

Most recently, the Alpha LAMP Integration (ALI) program has performed integrated high energy ground testing of the laser and beam expander to demonstrate the critical system elements. The next step is an integrated space vehicle ground test with a space demonstration to conclusively prove the feasibility of deploying an operational SBL system.

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Vicker's Cannon laser

Future plans include orbiting the SBL Readiness Demonstrator (SBLRD) in
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Vickers Cannon

order to test all of the systems together in their intended working environment. Designs for the SBLRD satellite call for four major subsystems: the ATP system; providing acquisition, tracking, targeting, stabilization, and assessment capabilities; the laser device, providing the optical power, and beam quality, as well as maintains nozzle efficiency; the optics and beam control systems, enhancing and focus the beam, augmenting the capabilities of the laser device; and the space systems, providing a stable platform, storage of the reactants, and furnish electrical power (but do not power the laser).

Shock Cannons laser

The SBLRD is intended to demonstrate the capability to perform boost phase Theater Missile Defense from space. The objectives of the space demonstration include gaining performance information critical to the development of an operational SBL system, as well as gain a general understanding of operating such a system.

BMDO and the Air Force agreed to transfer the execution of the SBLRD project and the related SBL technology developments to the Air Force. BMDO retained overarching SBL architecture responsibilities.

was a powerful weapon capable of destroying anything as large as Australia. Its energy comes from the wave motion engine, which is a large device that behaves as a high-power capacitor. This "capacitor" charges up the power input to the critical point of 120% at which point the person in charge of the firing mechanism releases the final safety lock and fires the weapon when ready. Due to the massive need of concentrated power, the "barrel" of the weapon is required to be long, and in the Yamato's case, the barrel is the whole ship from the engine to the firing gate. Light emitted from the cannon is so intensive that crew within the light range of the cannon must wear Anti-Shock/Flash goggles in addition of tinting the window.
Yamato 2199 First Wave Motion Gun Fire-1568750119

Yamato 2199 First Wave Motion Gun Fire-1568750119

Star Blazers - Wave Motion Gun-0

Star Blazers - Wave Motion Gun-0

In Yamato 2199, a detailed explanation and system diagram of the wave motion engine and the wave motion gun are shown. The wave motion gun's proper name is the "Dimensional Wave Motion Explosive Compression Emitter". The wave motion engine sits at the core of the ship's reactor unit, and provides power by expanding compactified higher dimensions that are curled up as Calabi-Yau manifolds. With the expansion of the higher dimensions, energy is released into the wave motion reactor into the gravity wave compression chambers and the tachyon particle oscillator control unit. A super-gravity wave is created and directed towards the muzzle of the wave motion gun, generating a stream of micro black holes. These micro black holes rapidly evaporate and have their mass-energy fully converted into Hawking radiation in the process, and that is the source of the wave motion gun's destructive capabilities. [1] The Wave Motion Gun comes in at least two types, the dispersal type which at a certain point spreads out and causes damage to enemy ships in its surrounding vicinity and the concentration type, a more common type it fires a beam straight forward from the bow.

The gun does have one flaw though: if it fires all six shots at once, the ship that it's mounted on will be destroyed. Though you can recalibrate it (see Yamato: Resurrection) it is still a risky move to fire all six shots at once.

More than one Wave Motion Gun can be mounted into the ship's design. For an example, the Andromeda-Class Battleships and its successor all have two Wave Motion Guns that receive its energy through one core. This allows a firepower equivalent or higher than the Yamato along with with more surface area hit with one shot.

The Wave Motion Gun, developed from the energy dispersed from the wave motion engine, was originally invented by the Iscandarians, a race which expanded throughout the galaxy and ruled with an iron fist, just as the Gamillians did.


Twin Wave Motion Gun charging Up


Wave Motion Gun laser


Twin Wave Motion gun Wave Motion laser


Wave Motion Gun laser

Alpha High Energy Laser (HEL)

Megawatt class power levels were first achieved by the Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL) originally sponsored by the Navy, later by DARPA, and then by BMDO. Because the design was intended for sea level operation, the MIRACL laser does not achieve the optimum efficiency necessary for space-based operation. DARPA launched the Alpha laser program, with the goal of developing a megawatt level SBL that was scaleable to more powerful weapon levels and optimized for space operation. In this design, stacked cylindrical rings of nozzles are used for reactant mixing. The gain generation assembly achieves higher power by simply stacking more rings. In 1991, the Alpha laser demonstrated megawatt class power levels similar to MIRACL, but in a low pressure, space operation environment. Alpha demonstrates that multi-megawatt, space-compatible lasers can be built and operated.

Large Advanced Mirror Program (LAMP)

To demonstrate the ability to fabricate the large mirror required by an SBL, the Large Advanced Mirror Program (LAMP) built a lightweight, segmented 4 m diameter mirror on which testing was completed in 1989. Tests verified that the surface optical figure and quality desired were achieved, and that the mirror was controlled to the required tolerances by adaptive optics adjustments. This mirror consists of a 17 mm thick facesheet bonded to fine figure actuators that are mounted on a graphite epoxy supported reaction structure. To this day, this is the largest mirror completed for use in space. This LAMP segmented design is applicable to 10 m class mirrors, and the Large Optical Segment (LOS) program has since produced a mirror segment sized for an 11 m mirror. The large dimension of this LOS mirror segment approximates the diameter of the LAMP mirror

Beam Control- Large Optics Demonstration Experiment (LODE) and ALI

The ability to control a beam was demonstrated at low power under the Large Optics Demonstration Experiment (LODE) in 1987. The current high power beam control technology is now being integrated with the Alpha laser and the LAMP mirror in a high power ground demonstration of the entire high energy laser weapon element. This is known as the Alpha-LAMP Integration (ALI) program.

Acquisition, Tracking, Pointing (ATP)

The ATP technologies required (sensors, optics, processors, etc.) have been validated through a series of component and integrated testing programs over the last decade. In 1985, the Talon Gold brassboard operated sub-scale versions of all the elements needed in the operational ATP system including separate pointing and tracking apertures, an illuminator, an inertial reference gyro system, fire control mode logic, sensors and trackers. Talon Gold achieved performance levels equivalent to that needed for the SBL. In 1991, the space-borne Relay Mirror Experiment (RME), relayed a low-power laser beam from a ground site to low-earth orbit and back down to a scoring target board at another location with greater pointing accuracy and beam stability than needed by SBL. The technology to point and control the large space structures of the SBL was validated in 1993 by the Rapid Retargeting and Precision Pointing (R2P2) program that used a hardware test bed to develop and test the large and small angle spacecraft slewing control laws and algorithms. The Space Pointing Integrated Controls Experiment (SPICE) demonstrated in 1995 near weapon scale disturbance isolation of 60-80 db and a pointing jitter reduction of 75:1. In 1998, the Phillips-Laboratory-executed High Altitude Balloon Experiment, (HABE) will demonstrate autonomous end-to-end operation of the key ATP-Fire Control (FC) functions in a realistic timeline against actual thrusting ballistic missiles. HABE will use a visible low-power marker beam as a surrogate to the megawatt HF beam and measure beam pointing accuracy, jitter and drift against a fixed aimpoint on the target. 

A:   Plasma weapons are more rugged than their far more fragile laser weapon counterparts and would be ideal for use in heavy combat. The easiest way to explain how a plasma weapon works is as follows:

  • Refined weapon grade fuel (usually hydrogen) is siphoned off from a 'magazine' or reservoir and injected into a containment vessel that is protected internally by very intense magnetic fields which will keep the hydrogen / fuel from actually coming into contact with the material surface of the containment vessel.  This containment vessel is often referred to as a magnetic bottle.  Later generations of plasma based weapons feature layered magnetic fields, in effect, magnetic sheathes.
  • A high energy laser (or group of high energy lasers) flash boils the refined weapons grade hydrogen fuel contained in the magnetic bottle until it turns from a cool liquid to a superhot gas plasma (+4500 degrees flow wash temp).  The magnetic fields of the containment bottle keep this process in check by preventing the superhot plasma from coming into contact with any material surface.  A small part of the plasma production process can be siphoned off again as energy to help maintain the magnetic containment fields.  Later designs of plasma weapons utilize layered magnetic fields in a sheath instead of just a single monofield application.
  • One part of the containment field is weakened or lowered in the magnetic bottle, allowing the super hot ionized plasma gas to 'escape' or be handed off through a rapidly cycling sphincter type array that controls both the length and diameter of the bolt.  The "escape" or hand-off of the plasma is induced mostly by the accelerator coil ladder field extending partially into the magnetic bottle to siphon off plasma.  The acceleration coil ladder seamlessly merges the siphoned off plasma into a secondary acceleration sheath, a small magnetic pocket within the acceleration coil ladder assembly. 
  • The acceleration coil ladder then energizes each linear velocity coil in a rapid, stepped manner.  Each coil along the ladder stack pulls the magnetically sheathed plasma towards it, faster than the last coil but slower than the next so that an effect of constant acceleration is produced along the length of the acceleration coil ladder through a consistent hand-off method.  At the end of the acceleration coil ladder, the magnetically sheathed plasma is released toward the target. 
  • As soon as the plasma sheath leaves the confines of the acceleration field array, the magnetic sheath begins to rapidly decay, allowing the plasma to "bloom" or rapidly disperse in the ambient atmosphere (which reduces both its power and effect.  The speed of the plasma bolt can be tailored to the decay of the magnetic sheath giving the arrival on target of the plasma bolt at being before the decay of the magnetic sheath allows for the plasma to fully bloom and dissipate.  Slower velocity bolts have shorter ranges.  Higher velocity bolts have longer ranges.
  • By rapidly cycling the loading / ignition / release sequence, rapid fire shots akin to that of a machine gun could be simulated.   Weapon heating would be handled by the design itself and partially alleviated by the containment fields.
  • Range of the weapon would be determined by the rate of expansion (bloom) of the bolt.  This would be controlled in turn by the velocity of the bolt.  The faster the velocity, the farther the bolt will travel before it starts to lose temperature, cohesiveness, becomes unstable and finally dissipate.   The bolt will lose both velocity and penetration power with an increase in range.
  • The plasma bolt will suffer integrity degradation as it passes through lesser materials, eventually losing power through absorption attrition.
  • The superheated plasma bolt would inflict damage from high velocity / kinetic impact of the plasma, from the high temperature thermal dynamics of the ionized gas, and if delivered in suitable quantity, it would also 'splatter', producing fragment-like damage to nearby surfaces and wounding or damaging targets surrounding the primary target.
  • Superheating of standing liquid trapped in soft tissues and dermal surfaces combined with the rapid expansion of steam induced shock waves would result in massive damage to organic targets through large scale steam explosions.
  • Wounds from plasma weapons would be akin to severe burns with most organic material of the primary wound site being vaporized.  Fluids would flash to steam, organic material would turn to ash and most direct hit plasma wounds would be fatal in nature.  Effects from the "splash" of a plasma weapon would consist of severe burns that might be capable of "burn through" of soft targets.  Regardless, wounds received from plasma based weapons would take a long time to heal and require massive amounts of attention.   Near misses might produce severe burns and heat trauma while fragments from large diameter bore weapons might be crippling or lethal with splash-like side effects.  The explosive decoupling of large amounts of free standing matter (ground, terrain, armor plate, etc.) would also produce high speed lethal fragmentation in a large area around the point of impact.
  • Damage to inorganic materials would be limited to the ability of the plasma bolt to punch / melt through the target material.  Residual heat soak would permeate most materials for some time afterwards until the affected surfaces could once again fall to ambient temperatures through natural cooling and heat loss.
  • Flammable materials struck by plasma fire would instantly combust.
Early series of plasma based weapons operated off of 'clips' or 'magazines' containing plasma 'bullets' or 'cartridges'.  Indeed, the energy required to activate the weapon, power the containment fields, operate the firing cycle, and the minute amount of fuel required as 'ammunition' might all be contained in a readily disposable cartridge, loaded individually inside a magazine type container.  This cartridge might look very much like a 20th century cased bullet.   This type of feed system would allow the plasma weapon to operate much like a modern day assault rifle (M16A1, etc.).  In the two movies, we definitely see that the weapons carried by Kyle Reese (T1) and the Endos (T2) have some type of very well defined magazine behind the pistol grip assembly of the weapon, and that at least two types of plasma weapons seen in the movies are bullpup configuration, like the British Enfield IW weapon currently in service in England.  In one scene during the opening scenes of T2, we see a crippled Endoskeleton reaching for its battle rifle.  A human Resistance fighter runs up and sprays the Endo with his own rifle, and we definitely see spent shell casings being ejected, each trailing their own smoke or coolant steam.  Perhaps the magazine and injection system works to offset the weight of the containment bottle and field coils.
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Cannon laser

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AA laser

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handgun laser

Further review of this idea and the evidence presented to us seems to lend some merit to the argument for shell fed plasma weapons.  In the first novel, Wisher and Frakes describe the weapons of a tracked HK as being chain fed plasma guns.  Here is the entry from the novel.

"Reese's charge exploded first, directly under the main pivot of the rear tread carrier, one of the few weak points in the machine's armor.  The concussion drove pieces of the chassis far up into its torso, shattering one shoulder turret. Sympathetic detonations ripped through the tons of chain-fed ammo coiled within it, until finally the fuel tanks went up and the fifteen-meter-high juggernaut vanished inside an enormous fireball.  Ferro's charge detonated ineffectively nearby, having bounced off the titanium carapace, but it added nicely to the inferno."

-Frakes and Wisher, "The Terminator"

And later, during the second, longer "future dream" sequence of the first movie (where Sarah falls asleep in Kyle's arms, under the bridge after they escape from the police station), we get the following information:

"John had come to this fire base the previous night to organize a raid on the nearby automated factories.  It was known that SKYNET produced the chain-fed plasma cannons used in the Mark Sevens and Eights (there).  A big raid, scheduled three days hence."

-Frakes and Wisher, "The Terminator"

So there you have it.  The early generation big plasma guns on the heavy combat machines use individual power cells.  Obviously, these power cells are volatile and can explode if damaged or exposed to nearby explosions.  Think of the "chain-fed plasma cannon" as more like the Hughes 30mm chaingun found on the US Army's AH-64 Apache.  It uses an electrically driven feed system to pull ammunition into the weapon for a very high rate of fire.  Dud rounds or misfires are simply carried on out by the design rather than stop the weapon from operating like other weapons might when they encounter bad ammunition. 

In regard to the chain-fed plasma guns on the HKs, empty rounds or duds are probably recycled back along a return feed chute and repacked in the ammunition cassette for later removal and reloading.  Changing out ammunition involves either putting new ammo into the cassette (clearing out the spent, recycled rounds first) or simply loading a new cassette of fresh rounds into the vehicle.  All of this is done by automated processes at forward service depots or larger installations.

And now...

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Finger Flash

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Finger Flash energy

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Combined Finger flash

Hand phaser with 16 settings. Basic controls were three main buttons: Beam Intensity (forward, left), Beam Width (forward, right) and the trigger.

All variants of the 24th-century phaser store energy in a sarium krellide cell. Sarium krellide stores a maximum of 1.3x106 megajoules per cubic centimeter. The power cell is connected in series to three control modules: the beam control assembly, the safety interlock and the subspace transceiver assembly (STA):

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Star Energize,Star Fire

  • The beam control assembly includes the controls which alter the beam's intensity and width, as well as the trigger.
  • The safety interlock is used to identify and check the person using the phaser.
  • The STA is used as part of the safety system whilst on a Federation starship, automatically limiting power levels during firing when on board, usually to no more than heavy stun; it also has additional target sensors and processors for distance aiming.

Energy from the power cell passes through all three modules and is then routed through shielded conduits to the prefire chamber, a sphere of gulium arkenide-reinforced LiCu 521, 1.5 cm in diameter. This energy is stored temporarily by a charge barrier, which then collapses the energy, discharging it through the LiCu (the 'emitter crystal') as a pulse of energy.

The charge barrier collapse takes an average of  0.02 picoseconds, whereupon through a 'rapid nadion' effect the LiCu emitter converts the pulse into a tuned phaser discharge. As with a ship's main phaser banks, the greater the energy in the prefire chamber, the higher the percentage of nuclear disruption. Low to moderate phaser settings are calibrated to fall short of this nuclear disruption threshold, limiting the phaser discharge to stun and thermal electromagnetic effects. Phaser Settings.


hand Phaser

This was more like it! We know a fair bit about this model - the "Cobra Phaser" - since there's so much information in the TNG Tech Manual. Mind you, when seen again in TNG, older episodes of DS9 and first-season Voyager it now looks so bulky compared to the Voyager-era version!

One feature which has been revealed about this model, and presumably all subsequent ones, is that it can be deactivated by remote computer control, as demonstrated in TNG's "A Matter Of Time." Of course, I can't recall any other instances of this being done - once again, an example of bad continuity for dramatic reasons. .

One prop was constructed from vacu-form plastic, with a hinged door in the bottom which opened to reveal circuitry; this was used by Data in the episode "The Ensigns of Command", where he uses part of his own neural subprocessor to build a "smarter" phaser, one which will counteract the hyperonic radiation on Tau Cygna V that randomizes phaser beams, rendering them useless.

I've recently been reminded that in the TNG episode "Lessons" science officer Lt. Cdr. Nella Daren used her away team's phasers to create a forcefield to hold off firestorms on the planet Bersallis III. How this was done isn't clear, but she may have used a similar method to B'Elanna Torres with a later-model phaser.

Once again, poor aiming abounds as hapless actors try to aim a nearly-straight hand-held weapon. This image being one of the worst examples.

I've been provided with some screengrabs showing some examples of phaser settings: maximum stun, overload deactivation, the power gauge, and the underside hatch open and closed.

Heavy-duty weapon, not usually carried as part of a normal starship’s manifest. Rechargeable using powerpacks. Can be re-configured to fire expanding energy pulses insteadof the usual beam.


Introduced largely as a plot device in "The Mind’s Eye," and only ever seen in TNG twice more, in "Descent" and "Lower Decks," this ‘not usually carried’ weapon (as the TNG Tech Manual would have it) was a common sight in DS9, be it on the station, a runabout or the Defiant; carried by Earth security troops ("Homefront/Paradise Lost"), and Starfleet ground forces (". . . Nor The Battle To The Strong," "The Siege of AR-558"). The Maquis have also used this model, as have those free-love types on Risa ("Let He Who Is Without Sin. . .")!

The standard version occasionally been supplemented with a light emitter installed forward of the flip-up sight.

While it's difficult to judge the weight from how an actor holds what is really a wood/plastic/fibreglass prop - in one scene in "The Adversary" Sisko does a John Woo, covering one person with his rifle and another with his hand phaser! - but the rifle is certainly very light, maybe no more than a couple of kilograms. It's in the same episode that the expanding energy pulses are used; it's also implied that while the reconfiguration took some time, resetting them to normal operation is the work of an instant.

"The Mind's Eye" establishes a few facts about this weapon: the presence of a beam control assembly and safety interlock; the beam width and intensity controls are tested; energy cell usage is rated at 1.05 megajoules per second; the discharge crystal's efficiency rating is usually 86.5% (as opposed to 94.1% on a Romulan-replicated copy); The evidence that the rifle in question is a fake is found in the wave pattern of the emission beam - the pulse frequency from the emission chamber is steady, but the initial output spike is inverted in the Romulan version, suggesting (according to Data) that the weapon has been charged with a forced pulse from a terahertz-range feed, limiting the weapon's origin to 327 possible suspected races! "They fashioned a perfect Federation rifle, but they had to charge it from their energy sources. So the discharge crystal and the emission beam pattern corrspond to those you'd find in a Romulan disruptor" says LaForge. [Teleplay by Rene Echevarria]

In the DS9 episode "Return to Grace," Kira Nerys says probably the most that's ever been said about phasers at any one time, while comparing the Type-3 and a Cardassian rifle: "This is a standard issue, Cardassian phase-disruptor rifle. It has a four-point-seven megajoule power capacity, three millisecond recharge and two beam settings. . . This is a good weapon, solid and simple. You can drag it through the mud and it'll still fire. . . Now this is an entirely different animal. It's Federation standard issue. A little less powerful, but with more options - sixteen beam settings, fully autonomous recharge, multiple target acquisition, gyrostablized - the works. It's more complicated, so it's not as good a field weapon. Too many things can go wrong. . . I think you should stick with the Cardassian rifle. It's smaller and easier to use. And if we get boarded, I don't want you to have to think too much about the weapon you're using." [Story by Tom Benko, Teleplay by Hans Beinler]

The DS9 episode "The Siege of AR-558" showed a Type-3 being disassembled. Although not shown clearly, it was obvious that the emitter head could be removed (Bashir was shown blowing on the contacts inside) and that the powerpack was inserted in the stock, under the cover at the rear.

Alex S has this to say about the Type-3 rifle: "I like the idea of the phasers essentially "aiming" themselves (targetting scanners focusing the beam onto the target, the explanation for why the pasers beams don't always emanate straight from the muzzle), so anything else (a buttstock, a rehash of a Bushnell HOLOsight like in Nemesis, etc) just adds extra weight and bulk. Since it is equipped with a "gyroscopic stabilizer," a buttstock to keep it steady would be unneccessary, though a rifle with a stock just appears "meaner," I suppose, and may have been added for dramatic value onscreen. The Type-3 appears to be the ideal weapon: light, compact, easy-to-use, and the best part, options aplenty if you choose to use them!"

He continues: "I suspect that the "flip-up sight" is probably some form of heads-up display so the operator can "see" what the targetting scanners see. Remembering that, as with the Type-1 and -2 phasers, one need only get the muzzle nearly on target, and the weapon supposedly does the rest; so, I would suspect the sight allows the user to "see" distantly using the weapon's targetting scanners. Star Trek technology has usually been an offshoot, logical development, or analogy to currently-existing or currently-theoretical modern technology, so it doesn't surprise me that they'd design a more-futuristic version of the SIPE unit being developed by the US Army (which incorporates digital cameras and thermal imagers attached to the rifle which lead to a heads-up display on the user's helmet (and there again, another nod to the TR rifle and its user display). Such a display, being a display rather than the "scope" itself, would allow for its use while a white-light was attached (a la DS9, and another nod to current technology already in use). And it also would allow the unobtrusive attachment of a sling.

"On the subject of the white-light seen on DS9: note that it is mounted ahead of the sight over the forward grip, where there's a black or dark-gray rail. Again, venturing a guess based on current-day stuff, I would suspect this to be something like a "picatinny rail" used to mount optics, lights, etc on a rifle (for example, the M-4 carbine with the "rail interface system"). I would also suspect that this rail (or perhaps a cover for a rail?) provides a tap into the phaser's power cell in order to power said light. If it is a cover, then the actual rail (with battery connections) might be underneath. Again, a simple, handy accessory for what looks like a simple (by 24th century standards), handy little carbine. . . The sling for it, as well, is great: it allows the weapon to be carried in such a fashion as to make it easy-to-deploy, unlike the "Gewehr sling" type on the movie rifles, which again is probably a militaristic accent added for dramatic effect. . . I would add that, judging by the cosmetic resemblance to the TNG Type-2 hand phasers, it probably has a lot of components in common with, or is extremely similar to, that weapon. This makes training, use, and repair that much easier."

In TOS there were three types of phaser weapon seen. The first was a rifle which Kirk carried in the second pilot episode, 'Where No Man Has Gone Before'. Spock has this weapon beamed down to the planet that Gary Mitchell is being held prisoner on. The rifle is probably a very early version of a phaser - Pike's crew were using laser pistols less than a decade before. The weapon is of a very curious design - at the front it has a very slender-looking barrel that looks like it would break very easily. At the back is a rather uncomfortable-looking stock, and between the two is a set of three cylinders. As you can see in this image, the topmost of the cylinders is directly in line with the barrel

After Mitchell escapes, Kirk wakes up and gives a few orders to a crewman. He then picks up the rifle and does a strange thing - he grabs hold of the cylinders and rotates them, bringing a different cylinder into line with the barrel. More on potential meaning of this later.

This is the only time we ever saw this weapon used. During the rest of TOS we saw only two phaser weapons :

The above weapon was dubbed 'Phaser One'. It was 107.2 mm long (Source : Star Fleet Technical Manual by F. Joseph).

This weapon was called 'Phaser Two'. It was long assumed in Trek fandom that a Phaser Two was a Phaser One clipped into some kind of holder, with a handgrip beneath. It was also thought that there was no canonical proof of this, but in fact we actually get to see Sulu clipping a Phaser One into the pistol grip in order to heat some rocks in the TOS episode "The Enemy Within". The pistol weapon was 221 mm long (Source : Star Fleet Technical Manual by F. Joseph). The episode 'The Devil in the Dark' establishes the terms Phaser one and Phaser Two canonically, and establishes through dialogue that Phaser One is 'far less powerful' than Phaser Two, so the handgrip does not serve simply as a more ergonomic way to hold the weapon - rather it appears to take the output of the small unit and boost it to a higher power rating.

These descriptions were slightly modified for The Next Generation. In this series the phasers are very similar to those above :

The above is what the TNG Technical Manual calls the 'Type I Phaser'. I have seen one of the actual props used on the show for this weapon - I couldn't measure it, but it was about 70 mm long. The book 'The Art of Star Trek' describes it as 'less than three inches long' on page 104. This is so small that it's actually quite hard to see the weapon when it is used onscreen, and as a result the Type I is rarely seen in TNG. Yar uses one in 'Symbiosis' and Riker uses one in "Hide and Q", though.

This is one of several different versions of the Type II phaser seen through TNG, DS9 and Voyager. Roddenberry apparently wanted the TNG phasers to look less like weapons and more like tools. As a result the weapon is not terribly ergonomic, and actors often have difficulty aiming it properly. More on that later. Unlike the TOS Phaser One/Phaser Two combination, this is apparently a completely separate weapon from the Type I.

This is the Type III phaser rifle, seen in several TNG episodes and also on DS9. The front section closely resembles one of the later versions of the Type II, and it seems possible that the TNG rifle is an enlarged version of the Type II in much the same way that TOS Phaser Two was associated with Phaser One.

In the TNG episode 'The Outcast' the Enterprise-D crew fitted some Type IV phasers to a Federation shuttle craft. The TNG Technical Manual also claims that the phaser arrays of the Galaxy Class are Type X, and that starbases are fitted with 'Type X+' weapons. The DS9 Technical Manual claims that Type VII, VIII and IX weapons are in use on various Federation starship types. Although care must obviously be taken with non-canon sources, there is no real controversy about these numbers.

One slightly more controversial data point is for the Sovereign class Starship. A poster showing a cutaway drawing of the Sovereign labeled its phasers as 'Type XII'. This is the only source which makes this claim, and a poster really should be regarded as a pretty shaky foundation to rest such a claim on. Nevertheless, like the numbers in the DS9 TM there is really nothing as yet to contradict the number, and it is a figure I have used for the Sovereign entry on this site. Indeed, my assumption is that the 'Type X+' weapon mentioned in the TNG TM is in fact the Type XI, and that this was then redesigned for use aboard ship as the Type XII.

The real question here is what exactly does a Type number mean? There are several possibilities. For instance, the term could refer only to the form of weapon used. Much as any computer that sits on a desk is called a 'desktop' and smaller versions are called 'laptops' and now even 'palmtops', maybe Type I is short for 'palm weapon', etc. :

Type Description
Type I Palm held weapon.
Type II Pistol.
Type III Rifle.
Type IV Large infantry / small vehicle weapon.
Type VII Starship weapon.
Type VIII Heavier Starship weapon.
Type IX Even heavier Starship weapon.
Type X Heavy phaser used on large ships.
Type XI Possible real designation of 'Type X+'
Type XII Really heavy weapon. Possible ship borne version of 'Type X+'
Type X+ Starbase / planetary defence phaser

Although this system works well at the low end, things rapidly start to become a bit silly at the top. For instance, under this system the phaser Type number does not relate at all to the power of the weapon. But if this is so, then what is the point of using the term 'Type X+'? Simply calling it a Type XI or XII or XV or whatever would tell the enemy nothing if the Type number just meant 'Starbase defence weapon'. Additionally, if the GCS's Type X means something like 'Weapon used on big ships', then why does the Sovereign array need to be called a Type XII? Even if it is bigger and more powerful than a Type X as used on a Galaxy, isn't it still a 'weapon used on big ships'? Think of the computer names analogy I used earlier - no matter how much faster or more powerful new computers get, a desktop PC is still a desktop, not a 'Desktop plus'.

The implication seems to be that the Type number is somehow related to the power output of the weapon. Now in the following example I am going to list some phaser power figures. I know that the output of a phaser array is a hotly debated topic in some areas, so let me say that these figures are examples only, intended to illustrate the system. Remember that - THESE NUMBERS ARE MADE UP EXAMPLES ONLY.

Type Description
Type I 10 kilowatt output
Type II 100 kilowatt output
Type III 1 Megawatt output
Type IV 10 Megawatt output
Type V 100 Megawatt output
Type VI 1 Gigawatt output
Type VII 10 Gigawatt output
Type VIII 100 Gigawatt output
Type IX 1 Terawatt output
Type X 10 Terawatt output
Type XI 100 Terawatt output
Type XII 1000 Terawatt output
Type X+ Classified

So, under this type of system we remove some of the previous nits. Now it makes sense that the Type X+ has a classified Type number, because revealing that number would reveal the precise power output of the weapon to enemies. And as ships get more advanced and their weapons more powerful, it would make more sense that they would have higher Type numbers.

Unfortunately we introduce brand new nits, this time at the bottom end of the scale. If a Type I phaser has a certain output power (and let's just say one more time for the record that the above figures are made up examples to illustrate the point), then this would mean that the TOS Type I and II would be exactly the same power level as the TNG Type I and II. This isn't terribly realistic; once the scale is set up, we should really expect that the size of a weapon of a given power would shrink as technology advanced. So that the weapon that is classified as a Type I in the TNG era would count as a Type II or III in the TOS era, and so on.

So it seems that either example comes with penalties. I would suggest a compromise system - make each type represent not a single power figure but a band of possible outputs, like this :

Type Description
Type I 1 - 10 kilowatt output
Type II 10 - 100 kilowatt output
Type III 100 - 1000 kilowatt output
Type IV 1 - 10 Megawatt output
Type V 10 - 100 Megawatt output
Type VI 100 - 1000 Megawatt output
Type VII 1 - 10 Gigawatt output
Type VIII 10 - 100 Gigawatt output
Type IX 100 - 1000 Gigawatt output
Type X 1 - 10 Terawatt output
Type XI 10 - 100 Terawatt output
Type XII 100 - 1000 Terawatt output
Type X+ Classified

Do I need to say it again? Yes, these numbers are only made up to illustrate the system. Even the idea that the bands go up in multiples of ten is purely speculation.

Now the great thing about this idea is that it solves all the above problems. A TNG Type I can now be more powerful than a TOS Type I, but it still makes sense for them to have the same designation. Meanwhile at the top end we would expect the weapons carried by small ships to be of a lower type than those carried by the big ones, which matches what the DS9 TM claims. We would also expect the more advanced ships to have higher Type numbers than the less advanced ones, which fits with the idea that the Sovereign has Type XII arrays compared to the Galaxy Type X. Finally, it makes sense that the Type X+'s true number is classified, to keep the enemy guessing as to how powerful they are.


The latest Star Trek series, 'Enterprise', is set in 2151, about 100 years before Kirk's adventures in the original series. It features the crew of the first Human starship capable of reaching warp 5 and so exploring space beyond a few light years from Earth. The crew of this "NX" class Enterprise carry weapons called "phase pistols" and the ship is fitted with "phase cannon" which are, on the face of it, identical to the phasers used in TOS and beyond. The weapons fire a glowing beam much like the phaser, they can be set to stun or kill like a phaser.

Unfortunately, this causes a contradiction with the TNG episode 'A Matter of Time'. In this episode a man named Rasmussen visits the Enterprise-D, claiming to be a time traveler from the future. At one point he chats with Riker, Crusher and Worf about how different people view history in different ways and to illustrate the point asks what they think the most significant invention of the last hundred years was. Worf replies that it was phasers; 'There were no phasers in the 22nd century', he states.

There are numerous possible explanations. It's conceivable that Worf said this as some sort of test of Rasmussen. The time traveler turned out to be a 22nd century con man who had stolen a time machine from a real time traveler and gone to the future to steal advanced technology. If Worf suspected this, he might have lied to see if Rasmussen spotted it. But this is unlikely because Rasmussen continues to fool the crew for some time until he is revealed as a fake at the end of the episode. Worf could have got his dates wrong, but again this is unlikely - Worf is very into both history and weaponry, and it seems improbable that he would make such a mistake. It's possible that Worf was being not quite literal - maybe he thought of 22nd century phase pistols as being so primitive that they were not true phasers. Again, though, this seems a bit unlikely.

Taking the canon strictly at face value, Worf's statement would mean that the phase weapons of Enterprise are not actually phasers at all. Perhaps they are some primitive forerunner of the modern phaser, much as the flintlock was a forerunner to the modern machine gun. This would be my personal preference - I generally tend toward ideas that take canon statements at face value to the maximum sensible degree (and yes, that is a subjective judgment). Or we could just say that this was a writer's mistake, that the Enterprise writers messed up again either accidentally or deliberately, shrug our shoulders and pretend that Worf really said 21st century instead of 22nd. How acceptable you find that is also a subjective matter.

Whatever the rights and wrongs, Worf's quote does mean that we should be careful in including phase pistols and cannon in any discussion of phaser effects or capabilities.

Phasers were the most common and standard directed energy weapon in the arsenal of Starfleet and several other powers. Most phasers were classified as particle weapons and fire nadion particle beams, (Star Trek: First Contact; TNG: "The Mind's Eye"; VOY: "Time and Again", "Demon") but some, like the Ferengi hand phaser, were classified as plasma weapons and fired forced plasma beams. (TNG: "Descent") Based on the intensity and field of the beam and a variety of adjustments, a wide variety of effects could be achieved.



  1. History
  2. Descriptions and uses
  3. Modifications
  4. Sidearm settings
  5. Types of phaser weapons
    1. Hand-held phasers
    2. Starship-mounted phasers
  6. Appendices
    1. See also
    2. References
    3. Background information
      1. Establishing phaser technology
      2. Phaser settings
      3. Other types of starship phasers
    4. External links

History EditEdit


Phaser rifle, 2260s

Phaser technology used by Starfleet was preceded by phase-modulated particle weapons in the mid-22nd century, including such weapons as the hand-held phase-pistol and ship-mounted phase cannon. Laser weapons, such as the laser pistol, were also used before phasers became the standard-issue weapon in the Starfleet arsenal. (Star Trek: Enterprise, all; TOS: "The Cage")

Although phase-pistols were intended to predate phasers, a phaser is referred to in the script for ENT: "Breaking the Ice", when Captain Jonathan Archer advises Commander Charles "Trip" Tucker to take one with him when the latter officer visits T'Pol with news that he accidentally read a very private letter she sent. The reference to a phaser isn't included in the final version of the episode, though, instead replaced with a reference to a phase-pistol.'According to Star Trek: Legacy, the Daedalus-class starships featured phase/laser banks in the mid- to late-22nd century.' [3]

Rose holding a Type 2 phaser in 2257.

Phaser weaponry was invented during the 23rd century. (TNG: "A Matter of Time") The technology was used by Starfleet as early as 2233; the USS Kelvin was equipped with ship-mounted phaser banks. (Star Trek) Phaser rifles were used as early as 2265, although at that time officers were still armed with laser pistols. (TOS: "Where No Man Has Gone Before") In 2269, starship bridges were defended by an automatic bridge defense system programmed to defend the ship from capture. (TAS: "Beyond the Farthest Star") On Deneb V, in 2268, death by phaser was one method of execution for those who were given the death penalty. (TOS: "I, Mudd")

Hand lasers were presumably used simultaneously with hand phasers, as in Star Trek, the crew of the USS Kelvin were equipped with phaser pistols. [1] [2]The weapons used by the Human clones of the Mariposa colony were described in the script of TNG: "Up The Long Ladder" as "phaser-like weapons". The technology was presumably developed independently some time after the colony ship had left Earth in 2123. [3] [4]

Akira-class starship firing from a phaser array and a Defiant-class starship firing with phaser cannons

In the 2270s, phaser power systems of Federation starships were redesigned to channel power directly from the warp core, thereby increasing the power output of phaser banks. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)

The 24th century saw many new advanced forms of phaser weaponry for the Federation, such as the ever more powerful phaser arrays that made use of multiple phaser emitter segments, the rapid-fire phaser cannons and new compression phaser rifles. (Star Trek: The Next Generation, all; DS9: "The Search, Part I"; VOY: "Caretaker") As a historical note, the regenerative phaser was chosen instead of the TR-116 for development. (DS9: "Field of Fire") The SC-4 shuttlecraft from an alternate early-25th century featured four hot-ready filament phasers according to a sketch by Rick Sternbach.'In the alternate 26th century, seen in ENT: "Azati Prime", the Federation still appeared to be utilizing phaser arrays on their starships at the Battle of Procyon V. Also, in the undeveloped Star Trek: Final Frontier animated series set in the 26th century, Starfleet hand-phasers, [4] phaser banks, [5] and phaser cannons [6] were intended to be featured according to storyboards and the script. [7]In the 29th century, phaser pistols were still used by Starfleet, (VOY: "Relativity") but subatomic disruptors were used on timeships, such as the Aeon, as a ship-mounted directed energy weapon. (VOY: "Future's End") According to a post by Rick Sternbach, the USS Relativity of the same era was armed with phaser strips and a nose temporal/subspace disruptor according to this sketch. [8]

Descriptions and uses EditEdit


Phaser rifle, 2370s

The phaser beam could stun, heat, kill, or disintegrate living creatures. Phasers could damage shields or other systems or even cut through a hull. Phasers could also be used to cut through walls and burrow through rock. The beam could be focused to a single spot or widened to impact a large area.

In the nadion particle beam phasers, plasma was passed to a phaser emitter resulting in a discharge of nadion particles. Residual particles could be found in places where a battle had recently taken place. The disruptive effects of nadion discharges were moderated to produce varying effects (discussed below), ranging from benign to extremely destructive. (VOY: "Phage", "Memorial", "Endgame")

The visual effect of the standard beam of a Starfleet hand phaser has been depicted in The Original Series sometimes as a red beam, in "The Changeling" for example, a blue beam in "The Galileo Seven", or a green beam such as in the "Wink of an Eye"; in some episodes there was no visual beam at all, only the impact on the target that gave off a blast of light such as in "Whom Gods Destroy". Later on, in TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds", it was established that the color of the beam depended on the resonance frequency the phaser was tuned on. From TNG onwards, Starfleet phaser beams were depicted almost exclusively as orange-red in color. [6]

Using phaser drills

The Starfleet-issue personnel phasers came in three types: The phaser type-1 (hand phaser) was small and could be concealed easily. The type 2 phaser was larger and hand-held. It had a longer hand grip or a pistol grip, depending on the model. The phaser type-3 was also known as the phaser rifle. It had a longer barrel, a stock, and some models had a second grip. Over the centuries of use, there have been several models of these weapon types. (TOS: "The Devil in the Dark"; TNG: "The Mind's Eye")

Beyond these types, phasers were usually mounted devices, such as the type 4 phaser emitters, which were sometimes used on Starfleet shuttlecraft, all the way up to the large phaser banks and phaser arrays of starships and space stations. Various types of banks, arrays, and emitters existed, such as the more powerful phaser type-8 and the phaser cannon. (TNG: "The Outcast", "Preemptive Strike"; VOY: "Live Fast and Prosper")


A phaser used to create heat from rocks

Hand-held phasers were also used by Starfleet personnel as tools and not just weapons. The phaser could be used to heat rocks and stones for warmth. (TOS: "The Enemy Within", "Spock's Brain"; TNG: "Final Mission"; VOY: "Parturition"; DS9: "Rocks and Shoals") While there were specialized tools like phaser bores and phaser drills, (TAS: "Once Upon a Planet"; VOY: "Once Upon a Time") Worf once used his type-2 phaser to open a tunnel on the Cardassian planet Celtris III. (TNG: "Chain of Command, Part I") A phaser, when fired together with another in tandem or set to a high setting could create an opening in a solid rock wall. (VOY: "Caretaker"; DS9: "Rapture"; Star Trek: Insurrection)

Different models of phasers made different sounds when fired, depending on the model and setting. Federation phaser fire typically made a high-pitched "whistling" or "tearing" sound, for example. A knowledgeable person could use the sound to differentiate between types and power settings. (TOS: "Errand of Mercy"; TNG: "Too Short a Season"; DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels")


The alternate Enterprise firing all phasers

In the alternate reality created by Nero's temporal incursion, hand phasers of the late 2250s emitted concentrated bolts of phaser energy rather than the steady streams generated by phasers of the prime reality.


An alternate reality phaser pistol

In addition, these phasers had a rotating nozzle which flipped when set from stun to kill or vice versa. The ship-mounted phaser banks aboard the USS Enterprise were also used to fire bolts resembling proximity blasts. (Star Trek)

The advanced phaser weaponry of the USS Vengeance included emitters capable of firing powerful arcing phaser blasts. (Star Trek Into Darkness)

The hand-held phaser design used aboard the Vengeance was devised by prop designer John Eaves. He was not told all the information about how the prop would be used, designing it merely as a form of "dark phaser" implemented by Starfleet. "Almost as soon as I started to put pencil to paper I was asked to start working on the new [...] hand phaser," Eaves said. "The early designs were based on a handyman’s all-in-one pocket tool that had inspired Scott [Chambliss'] [...] imagination." Eaves did a first-pass illustration of the phaser for Chambliss, the production designer on Star Trek Into Darkness. [9] (The concept image can be viewed here.) [10]

Soran firing his phaser

Bajoran phaser rifles were used by the Bajoran Militia, based on the design of their own hand phasers. (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior") Regalian phaser rifles were less powerful than their Starfleet counterparts. (TNG: "The Vengeance Factor") The phaser used by Tolian Soran in 2371 fired concentrated bolts of phaser energy. (Star Trek Generations) The weapon used by Soran was inconsistently identified as both a phaser and a disruptor in the script of Star Trek Generations, [10] though it did fire similar blasts as the phaser rifles featured in subsequent films. While phasers were powerful weapons, they also had limitations. Phasers had no effect on neutronium alloys or the dikironium cloud creature. (TOS: "The Doomsday Machine", "Obsession") The creature known as Armus even seemed to be able to feed off of phaser blasts. (TNG: "Skin of Evil") In 2369, two type-2 hand phasers at maximum level were unable to penetrate the toranium inlays of Cardassian doors. Major Kira Nerys recommended a bipolar torch to be used to cut through the door. (DS9: "The Forsaken")

Hand phasers could be made to overload, either deliberately or by sabotage. Phasers in the process of overloading emitted a distinctive high-pitched whine. The weapon released all of its energy in an explosion capable of doing considerable damage to its surroundings. In 2266, Lenore Karidian attempted to murder James T. Kirk by hiding an overloading phaser in his cabin. (TOS: "The Conscience of the King") In 2269, Kirk, McCoy, and Sulu were almost killed while on the Kalandan outpost planet, when its defensive computer fused the controls on Kirk's phaser, causing it to overload. (TOS: "That Which Survives") According to Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual, one possible method to overload a phaser involved disengaging the safeties that normally managed the phaser's power system. This allowed energy to be transferred from the power cell to the prefire chamber then back into the power cell faster than the cell could reabsorb the energy, causing the cell to overload.

Modifications EditEdit

Personnel phasers were normally set to fire a single steady stream of nadion particles. This beam could be widened to perform a phaser sweep. Most types of phasers could be set to alternatively fire a concentrated bolt of phaser energy. In addition a personnel phaser could be set to fire a spread of multiple beams at once, a field burst of a specific frequency, a luvetric pulse, or an expanding energy pulse. (TOS: "The Enemy Within"; TNG: "Time's Arrow, Part II", "Descent"; DS9: "The Way of the Warrior", "The Adversary")

Phasers had an adjustable resonance frequency. When modified, the color of the beam changed. Borg systems were vulnerable to a frequency spread in the high narrow band, but compensated for the weakness after Locutus was assimilated in 2366. (TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds") In 2367, the phaser adapter was designed, a chip that automatically retuned the phaser to a random setting after each discharge. Using the adapter, phasers were set on a rotating modulation to allow at most twelve shots to penetrate Borg shielding before they adapted. (TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II"; Star Trek: First Contact; VOY: "Scorpion")

Hand phasers also had an adjustable dispersion frequency measured in gigahertz and they could be set for specific phase variances. These allowed the phaser beam impact targets that were phased or interphased. (VOY: "Distant Origin", "Scientific Method") A phaser's setting could be modified to disrupt a hologram's holo-matrix. (VOY: "Renaissance Man")

Like the transporters and sensors, hand-held and starship-mounted phasers were also inoperative in areas with high levels of hyperonic radiation, because the phaser beams were randomized by the radiation. To compensate, it was possible to modify a phaser with a servo circuit that continuously recollimated the output. Neural subprocessors of Soong-type androids could be utilized as these servos. (TNG: "The Ensigns of Command")

The 23rd and 24th century personnel phasers included several settings.

  • Setting number one is also called the base cycle stunning force. (TOS: "The Enemy Within") This minimal setting caused only a stun effect to the average humanoid lifeform. A hit would leave the target dazed and unable to stand or think straight for a short time. (TOS: "The Man Trap") When used at close range, a phaser set on stun was still capable of inducing sufficient trauma to kill a Human if fired at a vital organ such as the brain. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) However, even several hits on stun had very little effect on an Augment, though only by hitting the torso, while a shot to the head would be enough to knock them out for less than a minute. (Star Trek Into Darkness) Two phasers set on setting one fired simultaneously could break large objects into pieces, such as the urns of the second planet of the Taurean system. (TAS: "The Lorelei Signal")
  • Force 3 was a setting available on 23rd century phasers. It was powerful enough to destroy most living organisms. A notable exception was the flying parasite that invaded Deneva in 2267. Because each parasite was part of a huge organism, and drew strength from that organism, it could largely resist even Force 3. Parasites exposed for five to ten seconds reacted as if mildly stunned; they fell from the surface to which they were attached, and did not react to external stimuli for about one minute. (TOS: "Operation -- Annihilate!")
  • Setting 3.1 was enough to cause a Changeling to experience similar discomfort. Setting 3.4 or 3.5 was determined to be a stun setting that would effectively stun and force any Changeling to revert back into the gelatinous state. (DS9: "Homefront") A wide-field stun setting was used when large groups needed to be stunned with a single shot. (TOS: "The Return of the Archons") Some stun settings could also cause unconsciousness. Although mostly harmless when used at these low settings, multiple phaser stuns like this could result in injury and death. (TNG: "Samaritan Snare") There was a heavy stun force setting and a maximum stun setting also known as full stun charge. (TOS: "Tomorrow is Yesterday"; TNG: "Legacy"; TAS: "The Eye of the Beholder") The highest stun setting was strong enough to immobilize a soong-type android. (TNG: "A Matter of Time")

Damage caused by setting 6 or 7


Phaser used to cut through a corridor wall

According to Valeris phasers can not be fired on vaporize aboard a starship and will trigger an alarm. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) According to the script of "The Vengeance Factor", [11] the Human vaporization setting was called setting 8.

  • The standard level 16 setting on a type 2 phaser could be used to vaporize tunnels through rock large enough to crawl through. (TNG: "Chain of Command, Part I") The level 16 wide-field setting could easily destroy half of a large building with a single shot. (TNG: "Frame of Mind") However there were materials phasers couldn't cut through even at this maximum level, such as toranium (DS9: "The Forsaken") and the unknown material used to create the Hotel Royale on Theta VIII. (TNG: "The Royale")

Types of phaser weapons EditEdit


The diagram of the ship-mounted phaser bank on Constitution-class starships


Constitution-class forward phaser bank in a schematic


Enterprise phaser banks disintegrating a building

There were several numbered types of phasers of increasing size and capability: types 1, 2, and 3 were personnel phasers, and types 4 and above were ship-mounted weapons. The phasers mounted aboard starships were considerably more powerful than those used by Starfleet personnel, owing to the increased power reserves available. Early phasers, such as the MK IX/01 type found on the USS Enterprise, were mounted in banks of one or two emitters. The only picture so far shown of a starship's phaser emitter is found in the episode "The Trouble with Tribbles", where Scotty is looking over a diagram clearly marked as a "MK IX/01" phaser diagram. The diagram itself, however, was taken from maintenance manual for one of the large-scale water heaters found on Desilu's production lots.

Hand-held phasersEditEdit

These main types and technologies were further classified to distinguish the many variations.


Somewhat strangely, phasers are capable of doing various different things. For the next part of the article I'm going to list and discuss each of the observed properties of phasers.

Stun :

Phasers can be set to stun a person - the phrase "phasers on stun" is a well known one, and has been used countless times in the series. Here's an example from TOS :


Plasma Weapons - 2001 A.D. to 2029 A.D. - an overview of technology

Energy weapons, often the realm of science fiction, became science fact in the 1970's and were well on their way towards being issued to individual soldiers on the battlefields of the early 21st century.  Lasers would prove too fragile and temperamental for mobile battlefield use but they provided excellent aerospace defense systems when adequately protected in hardened and defended emplaced positions.  The same could be said for particle accelerator weapon systems.  Plasma weapons offered an efficiency of design not available to other types of weapons, especially to the more common, lower technology based projectile weapons.  Energy weapons had advantages over the more archaic projectile weapons in that their lethality could be provided with smaller amounts of raw materials.

The advent of plasma gun technology was not new when SKYNET blazed its thermonuclear vengeance across the surface of the planet.  Indeed, plans for several different designs of both man portable as well as semi-portable plasma guns had been held by the R&D teams at both General Dynamics as well as Westinghouse years before SKYNET went rampant and these plans (as well as some prototype weapon systems) were present in SKYNET's Order of Battle and Manufacturing (OBAM) protocols.   In the Far East, Japan was known to be experimenting with limited applications of directed plasma as a weapon system with their homeland based JDF forces while both China and Russia were expressing increasing interest in high powered energy weapons.  Early intelligence reports of long barrel prototypes from Kalishnikov and Dragunov proved that while the Russians were several years behind the Western allies in both energy weapon technology and sophistication, it was a gap that was rapidly being closed by the Soviets.

The first generation plasma weapons, for all of their destructive power, were bulky, heavy, somewhat temperamental and had a very slow rate of fire.  Each new generation improved range, performance, rate of fire, power/fuel storage capacity and became lighter and easier to wield.   Phased plasma weapons, which utilized a Phased Stacking Array (PSA) to hold the plasma longer (in order to produce near fusion temperatures), appeared during the fourth generation.  SKYNET started to produce first generation plasma based weapons shortly into the 21st century.  Several advances marked clearly recognizable epochs in the development of the high energy plasma weapons.  Rapid Pulse Modulators (RPM) (3rd Gen), Variable Duration Apertures (VDA) (4th Gen), and Phased Stacked Arrays (PSA) (4th Gen) were just three of the many evolutionary steps that increased the effectiveness and lethality of the various generations and series of high energy plasma weapons throughout the War.  Improved gain plasma weapons appeared during the 2nd and 3rd Generation, increasing the ratio of output (plasma) to the amount of energy input (fuel, power) by twenty-four percent.  Fourth generation and all later generations of plasma weapons were considered to be high gain weapons where the ratio of input to output increased by thirty-five percent.  The Phased Stacking Array was introduced into regular production runs during the early part of the fourth generation weapon families with this one improvement, when paired with a high gain weapon design, adding over forty-three percent improved effectiveness compared to a non-high gain, non-phased plasma designed weapon system.  Improvements to the containment bottle systems as well as the accelerator coil fields in third and later generations of plasma weapons allowed for hotter, tighter bolts to be discharged with significantly improved range and performance over earlier models and families of weapon systems.

By the end of the War, SKYNET was mass producing and equipping its main line combat units with variable duration aperture (VDA) advanced sixth generation phased plasma weapons and rapid pulse, VDA fifth generation phased plasma weapons.  After the War, researchers and scientists sorting through the technological databases of SKYNET discovered that the computer-god had working prototypes of several fusion based directed energy weapons (whereby the plasma bolt would be held and charged longer so that the plasma would begin actively fusing).  SKYNET was ready to put several seventh generation phased plasma weapons into late developmental testing at a variety of automated facilities and was prepared to start production on four new series of VDA rapid pulse sixth generation phased plasma weapons systems.

In contrast, by the end of the War, the Resistance was regularly fielding fifth generation and fourth generation VDA rapid pulse phased plasma weapons with a few sixth generation VDA phased plasma weapons entering operational status (these newer energy weapons being mostly obtained from hot zone salvage ops or production site theft and with the resulting outcome usually being that these heavier weapons were mounted on mobile assets for quick deployment to and from as well as all around the combat zone).

Hypervelocity electromagnetic linear acceleration reduces time to target impact

Unlike a projectile weapon, the velocity of a plasma bolt was much higher than that of a bullet, often traveling at hypersonic speeds (6kps to 12kps) via magnetic induced linear acceleration.  The acceleration coil ladder of a plasma weapon accepted the magnetic field sheathed bolt from the containment bottle via a shared merged field handoff coupling.  As the plasma bolt was "siphoned" off from the ready plasma in the containment bottle, it was compressed into a long, thin bolt, encapsulated and completely isolated in a strong magnetic field "sheath" which would start to rapidly decay the instant that the plasma bolt  left the last acceleration coil.  Plasma bolt cohesion over distance was achieved through the aspect of velocity, higher velocities gave less time for the magnetic sheath to decay thus increasing the range of the weapon.  Slower velocities reduced the range of the plasma bolt by allowing more time for the magnetic sheath to decay over a shorter distance traveled.  Variable velocity settings were tried in some weapons, thus allowing for the future introduction of variable duration apertures. 

The time on target for a plasma bolt, from the instant it left the barrel of the weapon to the instant of impact, was much, much lower for an energy weapon than for a projectile weapon, even at maximum range.  Due to the low flight time and rapid on target impact of the plasma bolt, energy weapons were far less affected by environmental conditions like wind direction and wind speed.   Energy weapons also enjoyed an almost completely flat trajectory in their operation, an aspect that greatly added to their accuracy, especially with automatic fire control systems.

Ammunition - weapon applied input power and refined fuel storage / injection

'Ammunition storage for energy weapons was very compact (even for the first crude plasma weapons which SKYNET began its extermination crusade against the human race with) and the storage capacity for energy weapons only increased, sometimes exponentially, over the years and decades that followed.  ' From a practical standpoint, plasma guns were both an evolutionary as well as revolutionary element to 21st century warfare. 

Early low gain plasma guns shared some basic operating features with the projectile weapons that they largely replaced in quick order.  Both types of weapons relied on kinetic impact of high speed projectiles to penetrate armor and cause damage.  In the case of a projectile weapon, the power source and ammunition were self contained in a single application; the cartridge or bullet.  Each bullet housed enough power and fuel (in the form of cap ignited propellant) to accelerate a piece of shaped metal to very high velocity over a dropping trajectory flight path to the target.   The early designs of low gain plasma guns mimicked this simple mechanical loading operation in that first generation low gain energy weapons used a box style spring loaded magazine to carry and store individual power cells.  Spring loaded plasma cartridge magazines, operating nearly identical to those found on clip-fed assault rifles, provided an easy transition for the soldier during training and plasma weapon deployment.  Each power cell was roughly the size of a 7.62mm NATO standard rifle cartridge and contained enough fuel (encapsulated refined hydrogen) and power (in the form of a rapid discharge capacitor to produce a single fixed length and duration plasma bolt.  Each power cell was disposable with some of the cell casing being consumed and used to form mass for the plasma bolt.  Ejected spent power cells retained enough residual thermal energy to cause light burns but generally not enough to be a source of combustion if they should come in contact with flammable materials (like straw or dry grass). 

The first generation of plasma weapons were plagued with overheating problems.  Prototypes sometimes retained enough residual thermal energy to "cook off" the next round resulting in a catastrophic destruction of the weapon.  Protocols of weapon operation and mechanical safe guards almost always guaranteed that such cook offs couldn't happen in actual combat (with the emphasis being on the word "almost").  Standard firing protocol for early high energy weapons dictated one shot every three seconds in order to allow for proper loading of the power cell, bolt generation, bolt launch, power cell extraction and weapon cooling.  Rapid fire of early low gain high energy weapons produced some disturbing results.  Residual thermal signatures within the main action of the weapons would become so great under stepped fire that some parts of the weapon would tend to glow red (with the exit port often moving through the visual thermal range from red hot to white hot).  Some weapons became uncomfortable to hold while others had to be released for extended periods of time in order for them to cool down before their onboard diagnostics would allow further operation.  Early weapons were also plagued with temperamental ejection systems based on regular production projectile weapons.  High operating temperatures and rapid fire (greater than 45 bolts per minute) could (and often did) result in a curious operational anomaly associated only with the first generation low gain high energy weapon systems.  Under high operating temperatures and with a high rate of sustained fire, the mechanical ejection system would sometimes mis-synchronize with the onboard operating system, extracting a still too-hot spent power cell from the ignition chamber.  The resultant spray of molten metal would be enough to cause second or third degree burns to the right hand and forearm of the user as well as spread molten metal across the loading port of the weapon, effectively welding it shut until the user could get out their combat knife and chip away at the splattered metal to free the loading action hardware, a task that was made even more difficult when the weapon itself might be almost too hot to hold.  Second generation low gain high energy weapons employed an improved closed loop liquid nitrogen cooling system which eliminated the deformation of extracted power cells, even under heavy sustained rapid fire operations.

First generation based heavier, rapid fire plasma support weapons used chain fed electrical loading mechanisms drawing from dedicated ammunition hoppers or modular cassettes.  A dedicated electric motor would spin the ammunition through the receiver array at high speed, thus generating very high rates of fire.  The cooling systems were much larger on the crew served weapons thus heavy rapid fire was not as much of a problem or danger as it was with the smaller energy weapons.  However, so much volatile ammunition on board a vehicle could prove disastrous if enemy fire struck the ammunition storage area.  Drawing from then-modern main battle tanks (MBTs) designs built to minimize vehicle / crew damage in the event of a critical hit to the ammunition storage capacity of that vehicle, early SKYNET combat designs carried the plasma ammunition in a reinforced bulkhead with a blow out hatch.  The blow out hatch was specially designed to protect the machine in the event of a catastrophic ammunition hit or failure.  The bulkhead was reinforced in the floor and walls but not in the ceiling so that a plasma charge cell explosion would be directed up and out, away from the carrying machine.  All of the ammunition in the bulkhead would be lost but the machine would remain fully functional.  Simple maintenance at an automated depot could repair the machine while powered reloaders could replenish the ammunition cassettes in a matter of minutes.

Power fuel cells / charge slides

'All of SKYNET's third generation (and later) energy weapons ' disposed of the cumbersome and inefficient individual power cells with their spring loaded magazines in favor of a much more efficient power fuel cell which combined both weapon input power and refined fuel in one integrated containment cassette.  The newly designed power fuel cell looked like a magazine, to a certain extent, but the operation of the power fuel cell was certainly different.  Like the magazine design before it, the power fuel cell was nothing more than a container for power and fuel used by the plasma weapon.  However, instead of storing power and fuel in a series of disposable cartridges, the power fuel cell stored energy and fuel as two separate commodities within the same container.  Upon activation of the weapon, input power was siphoned off from a dedicated, rechargeable high density capacitor within the power fuel cell housing.  This initial pull charge powered the weapon, energized pre-containment fields, ran diagnostics and energized the fuel injector(s) to draw a charge of refined fuel from a high pressure storage tank within the housing of the power fuel cell.   and inject that refined fuel, under pressure, into the containment fields at the introduction point of the magnetic bottle.  A quick discharge from the high density capacitor provided the power required to activate the high energy laser ignition system and flash-boil the refined fuel to a plasma state.  After that, a small bit of the energy produced by the active plasma in the magnetic bottle was drawn off through field induction to both maintain the ready state of the plasma in the containment area as well as to replenish the charge siphoned off from the power fuel cell.  A plasma weapon could be carried in a "hot" state for a long period of time, that is, an active plasma bolt could be carried in the containment bottle, using the thermal heat energy of the bolt to power the containment field.  This was not standard practice though as the plasma bolt was, in essence, eating itself to maintain the field containment units, drawing power and energy from the bolt itself in order to sustain the magnetic containment fields which held it in check.  Adjusting the duration of active containment would result in a direct correlation between the strength of the bolt, an application of design that would play a critical role in later, heavier plasma based energy weapon systems.

Larger semi-portable, crew served and mounted third generation plasma guns were fed by support hardware that carried an integral high density power storage array and a separate fuel tank of refined weapon grade fuel.  Third generation and later Machine mounted heavy weapons drew startup power from the power core of the machine itself, using the dedicated power storage array only as a feed conditioner buffer or if the main power core was taken offline.  SKYNET's standardized designs called for centralized refined weapon fuel storage that was linked to all plasma weapons installed on the chassis.  Each weapon would draw operational power and fuel supply from the central power core and the central weapons grade fuel storage cell.  If the central power core or central weapons grade fuel cell were to be damaged or destroyed, the weapons could still fire for some time using the backup, integrated power fuel cells located at or near the installation point of the weapon in the chassis.

                                    Notable advances in plasma weapon technology

VDA Variable Duration Aperture Assembly

Initial first generation weapon designs used half meter to full meter long plasma bolts fired at low cyclic rates (approximately 45rpm to 60rpm).   The discharge was both wasteful of available weapon fuel and overkill when it came to anti-personnel applications.  As plasma weapon technology quickly improved over the years, SKYNET managed to be able to coax more performance, effectiveness and damage from its plasma weapons by reducing the length and diameter of the plasma bolt, adjusting the velocity of the bolt and increasing the cyclic rate at which the plasma bolts were discharged.   A more thorough understanding of electromagnetic science led to hotter and higher velocity plasma bolts produced with less fuel and less input energy (which led to the subsequent development of the improved gain and later high gain plasma weapons).   The VDA Variable Duration Aperture was introduced by SKYNET in 2014 A.D. as an answer to making the plasma gun not only more effective but also to opening a wider range of combat operations to the plasma gun. 

'The VDA' allowed individual plasma guns to fire a variety of different sized (variable length / diameter) bolts, from long duration, low frequency bolts intended for maximum impact against immobile or slow moving targets / groups of targets to short duration, high frequency bolts intended for fast moving or agile targets.  By 2015 A.D., the battlefield was lit by all shapes and sizes of plasma bolts, most of which could be found as having originated from a single class of energy weapon system.  Plasma guns became tunable to target parameters and combat environmental conditions, able to adjust their discharge based on whether a target was static or dynamic in range of motion.

RPM Rapid Pulse Modulators

Third generation plasma based weapons benefited not only from a standard variable duration aperture assembly but also from the introduction of a rapid pulse modulator to the overall design.  The rapid pulse modulators appeared during the third generation series of weapons and were standard on each generation and series of weapons afterwards.  The rapid pulse modulator allowed each design of plasma weapon to cycle its VDA very rapidly thus providing select fire to each series of plasma weapon.  Increased cooling systems were required for the RPM to be effective and these cooling systems were not available until the third generation of weapons began to be developed.  Along with increased cooling systems, there came the need for quick load / quick siphon systems which necessitated a redesign of the second generation magnetic bottle array.  Rapid cooling combined with rapid pulse and select fire gave the plasma based weapon systems true rapid fire capacity.  Combined with the VDA, a plasma gun began to become a truly configurable weapon system able to respond, engage and eliminate a variety of threats.

PSA Phased Stacked Arrays

SKYNET's research into plasma weapons quickly improved the containment bottle design and the laser ignition system until the point where the core plasma reaction could be held slightly longer, really only a matter of fractions of a second but just long enough that the improved laser ignition system could heat the core plasma charge hot enough that a quasi-fusion reaction began to take place.  This "phasing" of the plasma bolt from one thermal range to a higher thermal range improved bolt effectiveness in all areas of its performance by 40%, a noticeable improvement.  The PSA itself wasn't a complex modification to the basic system, being an evolution of the core system rather than a revolution in technology.  The PSA consisted of reinforced sheathed leaf containment field generator, three boost phase input field generators and a multi-stage fast cycling laser ignition system that was far "hotter" than non-PSA based weapons. 

The first phased stacked arrays tended to be slower in output than non-PSA equipped weapons due to the increased time required to raise or "phase" the bolt and the time it took to (safely) cycle the entire plasma production and emission process.  By the advent of the sixth generation plasma weapons, SKYNET's PSA engineering was at a point where PSA enhanced weapons had rates of fire equivalent to previous genreation non-PSA weapons.  This improvement was brought about with the introduction of a fast cycling high energy laser ignition system and a variable stutter field modulator incorporated into the sheathed leaf containment field generator.


Generation Plasma Gun Produced:     2004 to 2008 A.D.' Output:          Cyclic, mechanical
Yield:              Low gain

  • High energy weapon system capable of anti-personnel and anti-material combat roles
  • Primitive cooling systems hamper sustained performance
  • Slow rate of fire through mechanical actuation (average >60 pulses per minute) and safety protocols which (mostly) prevent weapon damage and subsequent destruction.
  • Overheating occurs through sustained rapid fire, especially on smaller scale weapons which have the least effective cooling systems
  • Heavy and cumbersome
  • High felt recoil
  • Primitive diagnostic systems are mostly mechanical with simple weapon temperature, containment bottle / field status, and rounds remaining counters.
  • Disposable power cell feed, simple designs reduce weapon efficiency
  • Stacked power cells in spring loaded magazines and overall shape of hand weapons reduce training and weapon familiarization time when migrating from concussive driven projectile weapons to plasma based high energy weapons
  • High attenuation ("bloom") of generated plasma bolt results in shorter effective range

Generation Plasma Gun 'Produced:     2006 to 2010 A.D.
Output:          Cyclic, electrical
Improved gain

  • Improved designs of disposable power cell feed results in more efficient and more effective discharge with increase in weapon gain
  • Overall, 2nd Gen plasma weapon 30% lighter and 25% more efficient than previous generation
  • Introduction of electrical fire actuator systems to replace simple mechanical controls
  • Simple onboard diagnostics improve weapon efficiency
  • Improved cooling systems features high flow coolant pumps, enlarged coolant reservoir.  The overall operating system improvements reduce overheating and allows faster rates of fire ( < 60ppm ).  Catastrophic weapon failures are greatly reduced in number and occurrence.
  • Improved acceleration ladder array increases bolt velocity by 15%, subsequently also improving plasma bolt range.
  • Second generation onboard diagnostics are still simplified mechanical tell-tales but now offer easier visibility and are more accurate.
  • Improved two stage over-sheathing of hand-off packet packaging increases half-life of encapsulated plasma by 20%
  • Integral magnetic recoil damper field generator reduces felt recoil from weapon to 50% of actual recoil

Generation Plasma Gun Produced:     2008 to 2012 A.D.' Output:          'Select, electrical
Improved gain

  • Introduction of Variable Duration Aperture allows profile and target specific formatting of plasma bolt while increasing efficiency through manual intervention
  • Improved cooling systems result in a truly stable series of weapons.  Catastrophic malfunctions are reduced to zero.
  • 10% more efficient than previous generation
  • Improved acceleration ladder array increases generated plasma bolt velocity by 12%
  • Integral magnetic recoil damper field generator reduces recoil from weapon to 20% of actual recoil
  • First true integrated power fuel cell technology allows for introduction of VDA assembly

Generation Plasma Gun Produced:     2010 to 2020 A.D.' Output:          'Select, electrical Yield:              High gain

  • VDA Variable Duration Aperture standard
  • Introduction of Rapid Pulse Modulator standard
  • Improved cooling systems
  • Improved plasma containment field systems
  • Improved onboard diagnostics (OBD-Alpha Stip) allow integration with modular components
  • Overlapping containment fields improve plasma transfer to siphon field handoff
  • Magnetic recoil damper field generator reduces recoil from weapon to 12% of actual recoil
  • Improved acceleration ladder array increases bolt velocity by 15%.
  • 8% more efficient than previous generation
  • Improved integrated power fuel cell technology increases effectiveness of both VDA and RPM modules.

Generation Plasma Gun Produced:     2015 to 2029 A.D.' Output:          Select, electrical
Yield:              Very high gain

  • VDA Variable Duration Aperture standard
  • RPM Rapid Pulse Modulator standard
  • Introduction of Phased Plasma Array increases weapon lethality by 40%
  • Improved cooling systems incorporate larger interchillers and subflow purge venting
  • Improved plasma containment field systems introduce reinforcement through variable two phase cross sheathing.
  • Improved onboard diagnostics (OBD-Alpha Stip2) allow integration with modular components
  • Overlapping containment fields now incorporate sheath buffers to improve plasma transfer to siphon field handoff
  • Magnetic recoil damper field generator reduces recoil from weapon to 12% of actual recoil
  • Improved stacked acceleration ladder array increases bolt velocity by 15%.
  • 10% more efficient than previous generation
  • Improved integrated power fuel cell technology

Generation Plasma Gun Produced:     2025 to 2029 A.D.' Output:          Select, electrical
Yield:              Super high gain

  • VDA Variable Duration Aperture standard
  • RPM Rapid Pulse Modulator standard
  • PPA Phased Plasma Array standard
  • Improved cooling systems included force routed coolant recycling for 30% increase in cooling capacity
  • Improved plasma containment field systems incorporate two phase cross sheathing
  • Improved onboard diagnostics (OBD-Delta Stip) allow for real-time modular integration with component systems
  • Overlapping containment fields improve plasma transfer to siphon field handoff
  • Magnetic recoil damper field generator reduces felt recoil from weapon to 8% of actual recoil
  • Improved acceleration ladder array increases generated plasma bolt velocity by 15%.
  • 12% more efficient than previous generation
  • Improved integrated power fuel cell technology incorporates high density storage array and high pressure fuel cell for improved performance over previous generation

Generation Plasma Gun Produced:     Research complete
Output:          'Select, electrical
Ultra high gain

  • VDA Variable Duration Aperture
  • RPM Rapid Pulse Modulator
  • IPPA Improved Phased Plasma Array increases weapon power by 30%.
  • Improved cooling systems incorporate very high flow turbo coolant pumps, two step recondensers and primary flux stage intercoolers.
  • Improved plasma containment field systems incorporate three phase cross sheathing
  • Improved onboard diagnostics (OBD-Delta Stip 2) incorporate real-time modular integration with component systems
  • Overlapping containment fields improve plasma transfer to siphon field handoff
  • Magnetic recoil damper field generator reduces recoil from weapon to 5% of actual recoil
  • Improved acceleration ladder array increases bolt velocity by 15% over previous generation.
  • 25% more efficient than previous generation
  • Improved integrated power fuel cell technology results in improved performance

2014-07-10 21.29.26

Cobra laser guns

2014-07-09 20.16.02

Cobra laser bolt

2014-12-30 18.45.50

Unicom laser bolt


HEL laser

Many types of laser can potentially be used as incapacitating weapons, through their ability to produce temporary or permanent vision loss when aimed at the eyes. The degree, character, and duration of vision impairment caused by eye exposure to laser light varies with the power of the laser, the wavelength(s), the collimation of the beam, the exact orientation of the beam, and the duration of exposure. Lasers of even a fraction of a watt in power can produce immediate, permanent vision loss under certain conditions, making such lasers potential non-lethal but incapacitating weapons. The extreme handicap that laser-induced blindness represents makes the use of lasers even as non-lethal weapons morally controversial, and weapons designed to cause permanent blindness have been banned by the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons. Weapons designed to cause temporary blindness, known as dazzlers, are used by military and sometimes law enforcement organizations. Incidents of pilots being exposed to lasers while flying have prompted aviation authorities to implement special procedures to deal with such hazards.[76] See Lasers and aviation safety for more on this topic.

Laser weapons capable of directly damaging or destroying a target in combat are still in the experimental stage. The general idea of laser-beam weaponry is to hit a target with a train of brief pulses of light. The rapid evaporation and expansion of the surface causes shockwaves that damage the target.[citation needed] The power needed to project a high-powered laser beam of this kind is beyond the limit of current mobile power technology, thus favoring chemically powered gas dynamic lasers. Example experimental systems include MIRACL and the Tactical High Energy Laser. [16] Boeing YAL-1. The laser system is mounted in a turret attached to the aircraft noseThroughout the 2000s, the United States Air Force worked on the Boeing YAL-1, an airborne laser mounted in a Boeing 747. It was intended to be used to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles over enemy territory. In March 2009, Northrop Grumman claimed that its engineers in Redondo Beach had successfully built and tested an electrically powered solid state laser capable of producing a 100-kilowatt beam, powerful enough to destroy an airplane. According to Brian Strickland, manager for the United States Army's Joint High Power Solid State Laser program, an electrically powered laser is capable of being mounted in an aircraft, ship, or other vehicle because it requires much less space for its supporting equipment than a chemical laser.[77] However, the source of such a large electrical power in a mobile application remained unclear. Ultimately, the project was deemed to be infeasible,[78][79][80] and was cancelled in December 2011,[81] with the Boeing YAL-1 prototype being stored and eventually dismantled.

The United States Navy is developing a laser weapon referred to as the Laser Weapon System or LaWS.[82]

The Tactical High-Energy Laser, or THEL, was a laser developed for military use, also known as the Nautilus laser system. The mobile version is the Mobile Tactical High-Energy Laser, or MTHEL. In 1996, the United States and Israel entered into an agreement to produce a cooperative THEL called the Demonstrator, which would utilize deuterium fluoride chemical laser technologies. In 2000 and 2001 THEL shot down 28 Katyusha artillery rockets and five artillery shells. On November 4, 2002, THEL shot down an incoming artillery shell. The prototype weapon was roughly the size of six city buses, made up of modules that held a command center, radar and a telescope for tracking targets, the chemical laser itself, fuel and reagent tanks, and a rotating mirror to reflect its beam toward speeding targets. It was discontinued in 2005.[1]



On July 18, 1996, the United States and Israel entered into an agreement to produce a cooperative THEL, called the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrator, which would utilize deuterium fluoride chemical laser technologies. Primary among the four contractors awarded the project on September 30, 1996 was Northrop Grumman (formerly TRW). THEL conducted test firing in FY1998, and Initial Operating Capability (IOC) was planned in FY1999. However, this was significantly delayed due to reorienting the project as a mobile, not fixed, design, called Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser (MTHEL). The original fixed location design eliminates most weight, size and power restrictions, but is not compatible with the fluid, mobile nature of modern combat. The initial MTHEL goal was a mobile version the size of three large semi trailers. Ideally it would be further downsized to a single semi trailer size. However, doing this while maintaining the original performance characteristics is difficult. Furthermore, the Israeli government, which had been providing significant funding, decreased their financial support in 2004, postponing the IOC date to at least 2010.

In 2000 and 2001 THEL shot down 28 Katyusha artillery rockets and five artillery shells.

On November 4, 2002, THEL shot down an incoming artillery shell. A mobile version completed successful testing. During a test conducted on August 24, 2004 the system successfully shot down multiple mortar rounds. The test represented actual mortar threat scenarios. Targets were intercepted by the THEL testbed and destroyed. Both single mortar rounds and salvo were tested. Many military experts, such as the former head of the Administration for the Development of Weapons and the Technological Industry, Aluf Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, considered THEL to be a success and called for its implementation.[citation needed] However, in 2005, the US and Israel decided to discontinue developing the THEL after the project budget had surpassed $300 million. The decision came as a result of "its bulkiness, high costs and poor anticipated results on the battlefield."[1] During the 2006 Lebanon War, Ben Yisrael, currently the chairman of the Israeli Space Agency, renewed his calls to implement the THEL against high-trajectory fire.

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