Star Trek: How lousy ARE their military tactics?

Here’s a couple of simple facts of war: Fire when you see the whites of their eyes, and don’t stop firing 'til they’re dead.

So how come our friends of the Federation can’t do that?

It’s a common occurence… an enemy ship appears out of nowhere (gee, I thought they had sensors to detect an enemy lightyears away), the enemy ship fires several times (damaging the ship, even though it doesn’t penetrate the shields), and then zooms off. The Fed ship just sits there like a rock.

If this were a modern-day naval excercise, everyone on that vessels’ bridge would be demoted to scrubbing the warp core.

What is so difficult about the simplest of war tactics? You activate the phasers, press the “fire” button, and DON’T LET GO until the target is blown to smithereens!! Is it that difficult a concept to understand?!?

Now, look… I generally like the series… but I CRINGE every time I see the Enterprise (or whatever) take six blasts from a hostile ship, and then return fire with a single blast or two from their own phaser banks. Are all these people conducting their space battles while smoking pot or something?

Worf: “Hey, someone’s shooting us!”
Picard: “Heh… that’s funny… uh… shoot back or somethin’…”
Worf: “Hehehehehe… you shoot 'em back! Hehehehehe… damn, I’m fucking stoned…”
Picard: “No, you shoot 'em… I’m staring at my lava lamp…”


All right, so, everyone… what do you think is lousy about the Federation’s seeming inability to conduct intelligent space warefare?

I think it’s a good point of the series that they try negotiating as much as possible.

But you’re right - why isn’t this highly trained crew much more alert? (I’d make them warp the scrub core myself).

I remember one 1st series Star Trek where Kirk used a nebula (or similar) to provide cover from the enemy sensors. That was good tactics.

Yeah, I have to agree with you on this. They definitely seem to just sit around and keep hailing an enemy ship about 50 times before they realize they are not welcomed.

A couple things I noticed about Federation military tactics:

  1. Warships - They don’t have any! What’s up with that? Other than the Defiant, they don’t have anything that can really pound on hostile intruders like the Borg or the Dominion. I don’t buy the notion that they don’t have anything with large firepower to combat enemies. I mean, the Federation has had its share of wars with the Klingons, Cardassians and the Dominion. Through all those wars, the Federation should’ve come up with something decent.

  2. Fighters - I remember the first instance of fighters being used in DS9 against Gem Hadar (sp?) fighters but other than that, I never even remember seeing any in action. I figure that it’s not always necessary to have large ships (frigates, destroyers, carriers) directly fighting each other. I mean, sometimes it seems more advantageous to have a slew of small fighters attacking large ships. Also, I don’t really consider shuttlecraft or runabouts to be much help since they seem to lack any sort of firepower or good speed.

  3. Planetary defenses - Are there any around worth noting? Even a society as large as the Federation should have some decent system of defense satellites or platforms to defend against hostiles. I believe there was mention of a planetary defense around Mars when the Borg assimilated Picard and almost made it to Earth. Having just a bunch of science vessels roaming around the stars won’t really do much when you have an aggressive species or two knocking at your doorstep.

  4. Standing army - There really isn’t much on this since conflicts on the surfaces of planets is not brought up as much on the series. There was an instance where a group of Federation crew members were kept at a position for a long time and were agitated or something (TNG or DS9?). But I don’t think you can fight wars of attrition while wearing your usual red/yellow/blue uniform on the battlefield. However, I noticed in the first-person shooter game Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force, they actually had some interesting ideas. First off, the members were all fitted with personal shields that deflected some shots as well as scramble transporter beams. They also had miniature replicators so they wouldn’t have to carry a lot of bulky equipment. Man, that’s just friggin dope! Why couldn’t they have done that during any of the series?

Well enough of my crazed typing, it’s already 4:00AM in my area and I should hit the proverbial sack.

Random facts:
In one episode they fire phasers from 3 million or so.
In TOS they could fire from warp at stationary ships, and they have also been able to fire torpedoes at warp more recently.
They show random super weapons at regular intervals (Genesis device, trilithium torps, phase cloaks, etc, etc), but always forget about them or lose them by next week.

But virtually every time we see them fight they march up to visual range, and blaze away at each other. The attacks by the Klingons on DS9 are a pretty good example.

As to ground troops… they’ve forgotten minor points like weapons that can be aimed, weapons that can use sustained or indirect fire, use of cover, choke points, etc, etc. Phasers on wide-beam -> great close-quarters weapon right? Shame it’s been used once ever.

And they’re really scared of enemies that think throwing your guns away and hitting people is a good plan, or walking slowly towards them without any ranged weapons at all.

The theoretical reason is that the UFP are mostly pacifist, and Starfleet is not a true military organisation. (What that says about all the enemies they’ve beaten is another matter)
The actual reason is the writers of course, but that’s life.

Modern-day naval vessels have warp cores? COOL!


Spoofe, you don’t need to fire right away when you’re a galaxy class ship and all your torpedos blow up the enemy in one shot. While they’re firing on you, you’ve got the time to flip through that episode’s screenplay and figure out on exactly what page you get a chance to retaliate.

Seriously, take a look at Generations for a perfect example.
The Klingon female, Lursa (?), found a way to bypass their shields.
“Fire at will!” she screamed. The enterprise was defenseless and, indeed, they did. Hull breach on levels 14-16 (isn’t that always the way? Damn I’d hate to be living on those levels), sparks flying across the bridge with humans chasing right after them. Mass hysteria.
And another shot. And another shot. Enterprise can’t do a thing about it.

Finally “hey, if we hook up the mass spector invecting coils to the plasma relay gamma…cripes, even I can’t make up technobabble…just fire!”

One torpedo. Blam! There go the enemy. Oh, and while the torpedo is being launched, the Klingons, all mighty and fierce warriors that they are, just sit there watching it come in.

And don’t get me started on the warp engines. I mean, speaking of the Navy, has no one ever heard of tacking? CHANGE COURSE WHILE IN WARP SPEED AND NO ONE CAN FOLLOW YOU!

That really needed to be said.

B’Etor: Stop being silly, Lursa! Of course I’m firing at Will! I’m also firing at Jean-Luc, Deanna, Beverley, and Geordi!

(sorry, I never can resist when I hear that on TNG)

This was a tatic used when the American forces were very low on supplies (ammo and guns). This caused the most dammage for what they had.

IMHO The whole potilical structure of Startrek has been geared towards representing a liberials utopian society (excluding TOS). Kind of how they presently view the UN today.

Sometimes they don’t fire because the enemey is no threat, but other times they risk their lives and the technology of their ships trying to communicate while getting hammered- not very realistic.

Voyager has been torn apart so many times I would be supprized if any part of that ship is still OEM. That’s somewhat a diffrent situation though as they are truly F&@$ed in a ship that is in no way made for the trip.

The Defiant wasn’t the only ship of it’s type, you realize. After the first Borg invasion, someone at Starfleet R&D said “Aw, crap!” and designed the class of warships of which the Defiant was the prototype. The Defiant was the only one operating when the Dominion first appeared, but by the end of that series there were other ships of that class fighting in the war.

Then there was that wacky three-in-one ship, the Prometheus, from the Voyager episode “Message in a Bottle”, which looked an awful lot like a prototype warship to me.

Actually, I always thought fighters were a little silly when you’re going up against ships with shields. The Jem’Haddar fighters had weapons which initially went right through Federation shields, which is what made them so dangerous. But how the heck were those dinky Federation fighters supposed to do anything to warships with functional shields and computer-aimed weapons?

Hmmm…actually, now that I think about it, a large fleet of fighters firing warp-speed photon torpedos from a long way off…say several light-hours…could be very effective. But on DS9 the fighters were always using phasers at close range, which struck me as incredibly suicidal.

I remember one episode where they mentioned that the Federation signed a treaty with the Romulans in which, among other things that weren’t discussed, the Federation agreed not to develop cloaking technology, probably because that’s the best excuse the writers could think of to not have a cloaking device in the Enterprise.

I think the Defiant had a cloaking device, though.

Spoofe, two things:

1 The writers’ half-baked pacifistic political ideas, on TOS to some extent, but much worse in the others, and

2 A great deal of intellectual laziness on the part of same.

That was the TNG episode “Pegasus,” which was in their “Hey the show’s coming to an end let’s tie up some loose ends and answer some unanswered questions” phase. Good show, despite that.

Given how the UFP works, it seems completely reasonable to accept that they would have negotiated away their rights to develop cloaking technology. I always find myself having to remind people who want to get all snippy about cloaking technology that early vessels couldn’t travel at warp while cloaked, so they had minimal strategic benefit.

The Romulans leant it to them.

And insisted on Romulan Engineers aboard to run it at first (IIRC, they ended up keeping it beyond that.).

And, the Defiant WAS the only one of its kind for a long time. Soon after it was finished the Defiant class was abandoned, for 2 reasons:

a) The Borg threat, in response to which the Federation decided it needed dedicated warships (ie, the Defiant Class), became less urgent.

b) There were some fairly major design flaws in the Defiant. It was, to quote Sisko - ‘Over-gunned, and over-powered’ and it almost came apart on its shakedown.

Once the Dominion threat became real and urgent, production model Defiant Class (Such as the second Defiant) ships began rolling out.

(The first episode with the Defiant just aired around here the other night, so this information is fresh.)

Whenever a landing party is sent down to an unknown and probably hostile planet, or sent off in a shuttle craft to investigate some mysterious unknown space anomaly, always send the most senior officers. Send them all, as many as will fit into the transporter pad or shuttle craft: the captain, sub-commanders, chief engineer, senior medical officer, and any admirals that happen to be on board.

And even though the senior communications officer doesn’t know how to do anything other than operate a communications console, send her along too, just in case one is discovered on the planet.

In the event the away team gets blown up, the ship will be left to the ensigns & non-coms.

If a vital piece of equipment or important character has to be destroyed or stolen then the weapons arrays suddenly become inoperable. But, when a bad guy absolutely has to be taken out then suddenly phasers and torpedoes come flying out of every orifice.
But seriously, the Federation, and to this end Starfleet, are peaceful by nature and although they don’t intend to be a sitting duck they don’t want to go around phasering the ass off everything that moves ergo they sign up to treaties preventing them from using sneaky new technology in exchange for a more peaceful life and ask questions first fire later. DS9 sorta proves how if push comes to shove then Starfleet can gear itslf up for war.
BTW to make the series more watchable I’ve decided to myself that the reason you don’t see any amazing systems for aiming weapons is that countermeasures and other such devices eg transporter scramblers have become so advanced that the best way to get things done is to do it by eye which is probably completely crap but helps. It is slightly disappointing to see a distinct lack of real looking military technology, eg the marines in DS9 look not so very different from the normal Starfleet crew.

SPOOFE, this is in response to this thread, isn’t it? :p:p:p

From the MAD satire of ST:TNG :

Crewmember: Captain, they just attacked us!
Have our lawyer send them an angry leter!

Space tactics ought to be a subject of great interest, but it hasn’t made it into he movies. Read E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensmen series, or David Weber’s Honor Harrinton stories, or Jerry Pournelle’s books, or Larry Niven’s (or the Man-Kzin War series, although there’s precious actual war in that), or A. Bertram Chandler. As I say, the movies are always at least a decade behind the books. In this case they’re several decades behind – Do Smith was writin this stuff in the 20s and 30s.

If you want more information on Star Trek vs. Star Wars combat than you could ever use in your life, just go to You’ll find documented, scientific PROOF of just how inferior Star Trek really is, including an incredibly well-written fan fiction that does NOT have Captain Picard being choked by Darth Vader! (What DOES happen to Picard, I’ll let you discover for yourself.)

I’ve always laughed at major battles in ST:TNG…

“Shields down to 70% Captain!”
“OK. Target their engine room.”
“Yes sir. Firing. <ZAP> Minor damage to their starboard shields.”
“Our shields are down to 20%, captain.”
“OK. Target their weapons array.”
“Our shields are failing. Targeting their weapons array. <ZAP> Their weapons are down. They’re hailing us.”
“Let’s talk. On screen.”

I wonder if any Federation starship has ever won a battle with more than 50% of their shields intact.


Actually, no, it was a response to a thread in Comments On Cecil’s Columns.


Your example is an isolated incident. The reason the E managed to obliterate the Klingon ship in one shot was because the Klingon vessel’s shields were down.

And, the whole time that the Klingon ship was firing at them… how many times did the E return fire?

Additionally, I’m not just talking about the Enterprise… I’m also talking about Voyager. Their battle tactics are even worse. It makes me wonder how Janeway managed to reach the rank of Captain.