The following article pertains to large-scale phaser systems employed aboard auxiliary craft, starships, starbases, and planetary installations. For hand-held phaser weapons, see Starfleet Personal Weapons
Phasers are the standard directed energy weapon used by Starfleet as well as several other powers. The term "Phaser" is an acronym for Phased Energy Rectification, the process of turning stored energy into an energy beam without intermediate transformation. They can be grouped into various different system configurations including single emitters, banks, arrays, and pulse phasers. In addition, Federation phaser systems are divided into several different mark types to reflect their maximum power output.
Large-scale phaser systems draw their power through the electro-plasma distribution network aboard a starship or installation which makes them able to direct far higher levels of energy than their hand-held counterparts. A single Type-X emitter, for example, can fire a beam that is over five-hundred times more powerful than the maximum output of a Type II hand phaser. Like their hand-held brethren, these large-scale systems fire a nadion particle beam. They differ, however, in that they incorporate additional systems not found in the typical hand phaser such as the annular confinement beam. It operates in much the same way as a standard transporter in that the annular confinement beam allows the energy beam to continue its journey without being dispersed once it leaves a starship's warp field.
Classification by Configuration
An emitter is the basic component shared by all phaser configuration systems. The single-emitter system is predominately used on smaller craft less capable of supporting larger, multi-emitter platforms such as the bank or array. Physically, emitters are the smallest and least complex of the configurations, sharing perhaps the most in common with those used in smaller hand weapons such as pistols and rifles. In addition to power output, starship-mounted phaser emitters are capable of omni-directional firing. Computer-assisted targeting systems allow the weapon to track and fire at moving targets without the need to physically move the weapon system itself. This has proven most useful in allowing primary emitters (whether single, bank, or array) to successfully engage small, fast-moving targets such as asteroids, auxiliary craft, or starfighters.
A phaser bank is simply a pair of emitters that utilize shared power and targeting systems. Beginning in the 2250s, Starfleet engineers began researching methods to increase phaser output and efficiency. Much of this research would eventually lead to the development of the Type VII phaser system but it also led one group of engineers to discover the benefits of the bank system. A paired set of emitters operating from each phaser system dramatically increased the amount of power that could be channeled by allowing for two separate outputs instead of one single-emitter system. By 2255, the bank configuration had all but replaced single-emitter systems aboard starships. The emitter systems employed by Starfleet during this time period resembled a squat cylinder topped with a half-sphere in cross-section with the sphere section housing the emitter itself and protruding above the surrounding hull.
The phaser array found its genesis in further efforts to increase phaser efficiency during the early twenty-fourth century. For years, Starfleet engineers had experimented with increasing the number of emitters as part of the newly-developed bank configurations with relatively little success. Engineers working at the newly-comissioned Jupiter Station, however, were eventually able to develop a new system that worked by bridging the various single-emitter systems together to form one continuous array. Successful testing of the bridged system eventually led engineers to completely redesign the single-emitters into joint-emitter segments. A cross-section of the phaser array appears almost Y-shaped capped with a trapezoidal mass which holds the actual emitter crystal and phaser-transparent hull coatings. The base of an array segment sits within the hull itself.
Array configurations are different from the bank, emitter, or pulse configurations in that the armament and power of an individual vessel or installation has more to do with the number of emitter segments that mak up each of its arrays than it does the overall number of arrays. For example, the large number of emitter segments that make up the dorsal and ventral saucer arrays aboard Nebula-class, Galaxy-class, or Sovereign-class starships make them much more powerful than those of Sentinel-class, Intrepid-class, or Nova-class starships. The array configuration also allows the engagement of multiple targets simultaneously or in quick succession while still maintaining optimal power output along each beam to each target.
The pulse phaser, also known as the phaser cannon, was a weapon system developed as part of the Defiant-class project. The ability of the Borg to adapt to various phaser settings forced Starfleet design engineers to construct a phaser weapon which could deliver higher damage output per strike than a typical beam phaser. Pulse phaser configurations draw their strength from the use of nearly flawless emitter crystals, rapid discharge EPS capacitance banks, and high-speed beam-focusing coils. The energy emissions of pulse phasers are stored in a magnetic field, allowing them to coalesce and agitate to higher energy states, before being redirected toward the target. This process is repeated rapidly using multiple magnetic field generators, resulting in a stream of phased energy projectiles. Although the effective range of such a weapon is less than the standard single-emitter, bank, or array configurations due to rapid dissipation, the pulse configuration is capable of doing greater damage when operating within optimal ranges. The other limitation of pulse phaser configurations is that they are far more akin to an unguided projectile weapon in that the bursts can only be directed in a single direction along the emitter. As such, deployment of the pulse phaser systems have been limited to highly-maneuverable platforms such as the Defiant-class, Sentinel-class, and starfighters.
Classification by Type (Federation)
The Type IV phaser system is the smallest, lowest power phaser employed by the Federation. It is markedly superior to the Type III phaser rifle in that it provides more power, range, accuracy, and adaptability. As such, it has most commonly been deployed as a weapon emplacement for ground forces, mounted on ground-based vehicles, or outfitted aboard auxiliary craft for decades. These weapon systems have come to be seen as having little tactical advantage over more contemporary defensive systems. Instead, they are used to fill the role of scientific instrument or defense against natural threats such as asteroids or debris. Type IV phaser systems are currently being replaced by the more capable Type V system.
The Type V phaser system is generally considered to be the next feasible replacement for the Type IV system currently employed aboard auxiliary craft throughout the Federation. While not as powerful as the Type VI or Type VII systems, the Type V phaser system draws its strength from its ease of construction, maintenance, and repair.
The Type VI phaser system is the second largest classification used on Federation auxiliary craft such as runabouts. While the Type VI is undeniably more powerful than its more dimunitive counterparts with faster recharge rates, firing ranges, and offensive capabilities, it remains well behind the Type VII system in ease of maintenance and power output.
Phaser systems of this type were first introduced in the mid 2240s as the primary armament on early Constitution-class vessels at the time of their construction and were also among the first in Starfleet to utilize the bank arrangement. The Type VI is no longer as commonly found as any of its counterparts, primarily due to the detailed work required in constructing it and the insignificant advantage over the Type V system it provides in tactical situations. It has been deemed a suitable armament for the Hunley-class Shuttle as its intricate composition has proven easily adaptable to the shuttle's underwater requirements.
The Type VII phaser system is the largest classification used on small craft such as runabouts and escorts. It is considerably more powerful than its more dimunitive counterparts having demonstrated faster recharge rates, greater firing ranges, and greater offensive capabilities.
Phaser systems of this type were first introduced aboard older vessels such as the Oberth-class and Miranda-class starships using bank configurations which had not been upgraded to the Type VIII system. Recent advances in technology have allowed Starfleet to decrease the overall size of the Type VII system, thereby allowing it to be employed on vessels previously considered to be much too small to cope with the necessary machinery. As such, the Type VII is markedly superior to the Type VI system but, due to practical reasons, falls well short of the standard Type VIII systems now being deployed aboard starships and installations.
The Type VIII phaser system is the armament of choice for most of Starfleet's small to medium-sized starships. While varying degrees of power and capability can be found from class to class or even from ship to ship, the general operating principles for the Type VIII system remains the same. Systems of this type provide excellent offensive and defensive capabilities for many starship classes that, due to their size, require significant quantities of internal volume for other operations which would otherwise be consumed by larger phaser weaponry.
Originally, these systems were installed as bank configurations aboard Federation starships such as the Excelsior-class, Constitution-Refit-class, or Constellation-class designs. Modern starships equipped with Type VIII systems are configured in the standard phaser array.
The Type IX phaser system is the armament of choice for many of Starfleet's larger vessels and some of its medium-sized patrol or combat-oriented craft. While bulkier and more complicated than its Type VIII counterpart, the Type IX system provides excellent firepower with an impressive rate of fire that has only been beaten by subsequent system designs.
Phaser systems of this type were initially fielded aboard Ambassador-class starships sometime around the late 2320s. It is the first classification to be designed primarily for use in array configurations. Recent advances in weapons technology has allowed Starfleet to reduce the operating size for the Type IX system's components, allowing it to be employed as the new phaser weaponry of even refitted twenty-third century starships.
The Type X phaser system is the standard array configuration aboard most Starfleet vessels. It's development began as part of the Galaxy-class project which began deployment during the late 2350s and remained the heaviest weapon in use aboard Federation vessels until the development of the Type XII system. Phaser systems of this type have since seen incorporation into other starship classes, providing significant firepower to some of Starfleet's largest vessels.
The Type XII phaser system has been used in dedicated planetary defense systems and starbase installations since its development in 2363. Many believed the Type XII system unsuitable for use on a starship because the power requirements were too high and the support systems too bulky. By 2368, however, technical improvements had allowed for considerable shrinkage in the size of equipment and starship power distribution systems had become capable of supporting the weapon. Considered to be the most powerful phaser weapons currently in use by the Federation, systems of this type can be found aboard starships such as the Sovereign-class, Legacy-class and Prometheus-class designs.
The Type U phaser system is the most combat-focused Federation weapon system to date. A designation purely used for pulse phaser configurations, it combines large, nearly flawless emitter crystals with rapid-discharge EPS banks and high-speed beam focusing coils. The system allows the charge to be stored in the coils for a few nanoseconds, then releases it as a layerd pulse. Due to its nature, shields and armor have a harder time dispersing the pulse, resulting in more damage to the target.