Here we are on another May 4th (may the fourth we be with you), aka Star Wars Day. In celebration, we thought it would be interesting to compare the technologies of two of the most popular sci-fi universes ever created – Star Wars and Star Trek.
There have been many comparisons of the technology, ships and weapons possessed by the occupants of both universes, however let’s see if we can take a more modern look at things.
There is no question that the Galactic Empire has more ships and larger ships than Star Trek’s Federation. However, there is a question about weapons, shielding, speed, maneuverability, and sensors.
Lasers are the main weapon of ships in the Star Wars universe. Some sources say the power of the lasers in the Star Wars universe are magnitudes of power greater than the phasers that are equipped on Star Trek ships. However, we do know that phasers ultimately replaced lasers for the Federation, so it’s hard to make a direct comparison here.
Obviously, the most powerful weapons in the Star Wars universe are the Death Star and, if we’re looking at the latest movie, the Star Killer Base. In the case of the SKB, it is capable of using the power of a star to destroy multiple planets across a distance of what appears to be light years. This is far and beyond the power of anything in the Federation fleet. That said, it has been explained that even Kirk’s Enterprise possessed enough weaponry to completely destroy the surface of a planet. In terms of being able to take out entire planets, the Empire of the Star Wars universe obviously has the advantage.
Both the Empire and the Federation possess physical ordnance in the form of Photon Torpedoes for the Federation and Proton Torpedoes as well as Concussion Missiles for the Empire. All of the above types of weaponry seem able to thoroughly physically damage a ship.
Shields are an area that the Federation might have an advantage in. In one famous clip from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Lt. Cmdr. William Riker points out that the lasers of a ship encountered by the Enterprise would not even be able to penetrate the Enterprise’s navigation shields. The crew generally treats the craft as the lowest form of a threat.
This would seem to indicate that the Federation’s shields are able to stop lasers regardless of power level. Without phaser technology it’s possible that a ship from the Star Wars universe might not be able to damage a federation ship with lasers and may have to use torpedoes or missiles just to weaken shields.
However, it’s also been established that the “lasers” in the Star Wars universe are not lasers in the same sense of the word as we use it. Due to movement speed of the laser blasts (which appears to be much slower than the speed of light), we have to assume that the lasers have mass and thus might be able to do more damage than traditional lasers from the Star Trek universe.
One thing is clear, Federation ships have strong shielding that allows them to survive close encounters with stars, asteroids, debris and weapons. On the other hand, the shields in the Star Wars universe don’t seem to do much to stop physical damage. Asteroids and physical attacks from fighter class ships seem to have no problem physically damaging the hulls of even the largest ships.
Sensors and Other Technology
The Star Trek universe seems to have a clear edge in sensor technology and technology in general. Individual batteries of guns on many Star Wars ships have to be manned by personnel while the Enterprise’s entire weapons and movement systems can be controlled from the bridge by only a handful of personnel.
Star Trek universe sensors can detect and scan DNA on the surface of a planet from orbit. Life forms can be detected on ships and weapons can even be targeted to a specific individual. While sensor technology does exist in the Star Wars universe, on several occasions we see large, interstellar warships unable to track and find specific ships. Most famously, the Millennium Falcon hid in an asteroid and on the hull of a Star Destroyed undetected.
Then there is the issue of the transporter. Federation ships are all equipped with a transporter which can teleport crew members across space and onto planets as well as other ships. Without advanced shield technology it is likely that Federation crew members would be able to transport onto the bridges of Empire ships at will.
The Star Trek universe gets a clear nod here.
Hyperspace travel in Star Wars by all measures is drastically faster than any Warp Drive in the Star Trek universe. This type of drastically faster than light travel is what has allowed the Empire to spread across an entire galaxy as opposed to only a section of a galaxy for the Federation.
As far as moving ships, escaping trouble, and bringing in reinforcements, the nod is clearly for the Star Wars ships here. However, there is one small caveat. Hyperspace is a straight shot from point A to point B, whereas Warp Drives allow for course corrections and the use of weapons while traveling faster than the speed of light. This might give Federation ships a slight advantage in mid range engagements where the use of Hyperspace travel would be impractical.
In conclusion, while the Federation seems to have some key advantages that might give it a slight edge in single ship to ship combat (namely better sensors, longer range weapons, better shields, and better maneuverability), in an all out war, it seems like the Empire’s sheer size and ability to move troops quickly across a galaxy would ultimately win a long term war. Not to mention the long range planet destruction capabilities that exist in the Star Wars universe.