Really stupid Star Trek question.

Why do ships equipped with cloaking devices have to shut them off before firing their weapons? It’s not like they have to do that to move or use the transporters or anything else, so why just the guns?

I realize that they were making movies and TV shows, and it makes it easier for the viewers to follow what’s going on, but I’m not really interested in the “real world” explanation. Do they explain why this is so in context?

I quit watching the TV shows about halfway through TNG and the movies after ST 6 (which movie highlights the practice), so that may explain my ignorance.

The weapons/shields and cloaking device take a lot of power, so much that only one can be used at a time. Except for the ones in Star Trek 6 and Nemesis.

I think it a good plot device.

If the ships could be cloaked and shoot and have their shields up all at the same time then those ships would be too powerful. It also makes the choice of cloaking your ship a tough one for that ship’s captain. Do you cloak and turn off you ability to fire?

Plus the moment a ship de-cloaks is always a dramatic suprise. Usually ships are picked up by the long range scanners while the Enterprise crew had plenty of time to get to battle stations, but, when one suddenly de-cloaks right next to the ship, that is an exciting scene.

It’s a Power Consumption thing. A Very Big Deal was made of the Klingon ship General Chang had that could fire when cloaked in “Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country”. Everyone acted suitably surprised that it had enough juice to fire AND stay cloaked.

Okay, firing phasers takes power, therefore a ship usually can’t power both the phasers and a cloaking device. So why can’t a cloaked ship fire photon torpedoes? Those are self-propelled, aren’t they?

A logical explanation would be that a cloaking device works by actively cancelling out any energy signature that the ship emits, or is probed with. But there would be no way to cancel out a phaser blast or photon torpedo launch, firing one effectively announces the location of the ship and allows it to be targeted.

Now, they don’t actually do things this way on Star Trek, since they show the enemy ships decloaking by becoming visible, then firing. But if we give them a little slack, we can say that is just a graphical representation of what is really happening.

Or, we could do both…since firing a weapon would reveal the location of the ship, they might as well turn it off to save power for weapons and shields. Of course, ST-VI kind of blows that theory away.

I can buy the “not enough power” argument for TOS, but not for TNG+. I CERTAINLY can’t buy the notion that the Federation has stuck to its No-Cloaks treaty for 70+ years.

24th century ships had far more power than their Kirk-era brethren. Surely the power requirements for cloaking devices haven’t gone up in that time.

Plus, and most damning… why can’t ships fire their photon torpedoes?!? How much energy would a missile launcher need?

Who cares? If you can sneak up to your target ship and catch him with shields down, he’s dead. Fire a single photon torpedo at 'im without shields, and he’s dead. Generations proved this quite conclusively.

So great. They’re worried that their targets might know where they are for the five seconds that they’re alive.

Or maybe they just want to give their enemies a fighting chance. Damn those honorable Romulans!

The cloaking devices we used in the Army operated by physically shifting the vehicle & it’s contents out of phase with current space. It was eerie to be on board when cloaked as the landscape was only slightly more visible than we were–which wasn’t much! Typically we had to navigate completely by instruments that would keep a virtual map of “our” space and “real” space to keep us from getting lost or “uncloaking” inside another object. We had to “uncloak” to fire in order to move the ordinance into the same physical “plane” as the target.

Energy consumption for the device was pretty incredible, but not unmanageable. Energy to run the device was used only when shifting in/out of phase. Once you got to where you were going you were done. Onboard monitors prevented us shifting without sufficient power for the “return trip” as we called it, but occasionally a unit would shift after receiving a hit to the main generator and run low on power while out of phase. Because each unit was programmed to shift slightly out of phase from others in the column–to prevent mishaps that couldn’t be serviced-- It was a hairy bitch trying to find one of those! You had first to identify the unit, get it’s 5th dimension coordinate from HQ which could take days, and then shift to that location & start looking. I can’t imagine trying to do a recovery operation in space!

But, in answer to the OP, it’s a technology issue. A cloaking device is too bulky to put on a warhead, so the vehicle itself needs to do all the work. In order to hit your target, you have to get back into its same 5th dimension, which makes you “visible.” I don’t know what those crackheads on Star Trek were thinking about. Maybe by the 6th film they were hinting at a new technology which would warp space/around the craft–this was tried and discarded long ago because of the “seam” which left part of the craft exposed. Phase shifting is much more secure.

Damn, your country must have a big military budget. All we get in the Canadian Army is a lot of green face-paint.

I suspect the real reason has much to do with the fact that cloaked ships pretty much correspond to WWII submarines. A submarine running “silent” can stay hidden but blowing tanks, popping up to periscope depth and letting loose a torpedo pretty much gives its location away.

Cloaking devices were introduced in the TOS episode Balance of Terror which is very similar to a WWII movie about a battle of wits between a destroyer and a U-boat captain. (And for the life of me I can’t remember the name of the movie at the moment.) Beyond the obvious appear-then-fire-a-torpedo comparison there were others as well. For example, at one point the Romulan ship shoves a bunch of debris and even a dead body out into space to make the Enterprise think they had been hit. (IIRC the U-boat in the movie I mentioned did the same thing.) Kirk having the Enterprise randomly fire phasers/photon torpedos corresponds to the destroyer dropping depth charges. And both the Enterprise and the Romulans get into the “run silent” mode at one point or another.

So, when you see a cloaked ship, just think of it as a submarine.

Inigo Montoya, I think I love you.

Of course, the actual reason for the existence of cloaking devices is to give Spock an excuse to board the Romulan ship so he can bag the very attractive female commander.

Meaning ? :dubious:

2 movies come to mind. * Run Silent, Run Deep * and Das Boot. And just about any other submarine movie it seems. :wink:

Except Yellow Submarine–those guys were not silent, but VERY deep.

I don’t think this is the same thing. A Sniper can pop off rounds and remain hidden, a spacecraft using an energy field (for what? to bend light *around * it?) should give its location away no more if it fires a hard round.

Lasers and other energy weapons would probably be affected by such a field, but if visual/sensory contact with the enemy can be maintained, then that means that some form of energy from the target is reaching the cloaked ship. There is no reason that the weapon couldn’t fire on that same trajectory, warping along with it and reach it’s target. It’s a clumsy device. I much prefer phase shifting as the model.

There was an episode of TNG where it turned out the Federation had a treaty with the Romulans, in which the Feds agreed never to try to develop cloaking technology.

Cloaked ships have to decloak to use their transporter as well (cite: “Trials and Tribble-ations”), not just fire phasers or photon torpedoes.

As most people in this thread have said, the canon reason for it is power consumption. The cloak is a massive drain on ship’s resources in addition to using other necessary systems such as warp drive, life support, that something has to be sacrificed and the weapons are the most logical choice.

The non-canon explanation is two-fold. The most obvious one is that it’s just cheesy (even by sci-fi standards) to have an invisible ship that can fire at you at will and you can’t even see the damned thing. The second one, as someone else already mentioned, is that cloaked ships are the equivalent of submarines and for them to fire their weapons would be to give themselves away.

I think the movie that tanstaafl was refering to is The Enemy Below with Robert Mitchum and Curt Jurgens. More or less the entire movie is a battle of wits between the two captains (Mitchum on the destroyer, Jurgens on the submarine), clearly inspiring the Star Trek episode mentioned. One of the best WWII submarine movies, by the way, in my opinion.

“The Pegasus”. Season Six.

In Season Three of Deep Space Nine, the Defiant is introduced and it was given a cloaking device from the RSE to use in Dominion Space. At first, there is always a Romulan on board to operate it but over time, she was phased out and it was used whenever it suited the ship’s purpose.

There’s no telling how many other ships, especially those chartered by Section 31, use illicit cloaks. Just because you do not see something on the show, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Otherwise, there wasn’t a single toilet on the original Enterprise.

What you have going on is an arms race… the 24th century cloaking devices aren’t the same ones used in the 23rd century; the Federation learned how to detect and defeat those in a couple of years, and the Romulans had to go back to the drawing board. Each new generation of cloaking device takes that much more power.

Uh huh. Umm, tell me. Have you been to Philadelphia lately? How about North Carolina?

The truth is out there.

Possible justification: a photon torp launched from “behind” the cloak would have to re-acquire its target once it emerged from it. We are asked to believe then that the main sensor arrays on the ships can make the adjustment for the bent-light distortion, but the PT warhead somehow can’t do so on-the-fly and needs to be in “real” sightline (or radiation detection line) of the target all the way.