Star Trek: Warp Combat Tactics

Written: 1998.08.01
Last Revised: 1999.08.14

The Picard Maneuver

The Picard Maneuver is an offensive maneuver created by Captain Picard aboard the StarGazer during a Ferengi attack. He took the ship to warp for a very brief interval, travelling almost directly toward the Ferengi vessel, then dropped out of warp in front of the Ferengi vessel and opened fire at point-blank range with all weapons. This maneuver destroyed the Ferengi vessel almost immediately, and helped Picard make his name in Starfleet. The maneuver appeared to work by not allowing the Ferengi vessel's sensors to accurately determine the location of the ship.

Because our vessels can survive a full salvo from a Federation starship, the Picard Maneuver will not be effective. It relies on the ability of the first salvo to cause total destruction of the opposing vessel, but that would not happen in this case. Our ISD commanders can simply re-target the vessel once it re-enters realspace, and after surviving the first blast they will be able to destroy the enemy vessel.

Some Federation cultists claim that the Picard Maneuver only worked because the target Ferengi vessel lacked subspace sensors which would permit it to track targets at superluminal speed. However, this argument is facetious and logically indefensible for the following reasons:

  1. It is hard to imagine how the Ferengi vessel could have successfully navigated through space at superluminal speeds without being able to detect objects ahead of it at superluminal speeds. Unlike Imperial starships, Ferengi and Federation starships do not use navicomputers to predict clean flight paths before exceeding lightspeed.

  2. In "The Battle" Commander Data stated that there was no known defense against the Picard Maneuver, even though he was currently aboard the Enterprise-D which supposedly did possess subspace sensors. He was eventually able to devise a countermeasure, but the countermeasure was based on detection of deep-space gas compression ahead of the Stargazer rather than direct detection with their subspace sensor array.

Therefore, the Picard Maneuver conclusively demonstrates that Federation starships must drop out of warp in order to fire tactically effective phaser bursts at its target. Phasers have been fired at warp at times, but it is most likely that there is a severe drop in firepower associated with the phaser beam's transition through the warp bubble. They could still fire through the bubble, but their weapons would strike with only a small fraction of their usual power.

Warp Strafing

Many Federation cultists feel that Federation starships would be able to use their primitive warp drive to strafe our ships with impunity. This claim is based on the assumption that they are capable of delivering their full firepower to a sublight target while at warp, and also on the assumption that a sublight target with sublight weapons is helpless against warp-capable starships. However, they are ignoring several facts:

  1. Our sensor technology actually propagates data at greater speeds than their primitive subspace sensor technology.

  2. In "Way of the Warrior" and "A Call to Arms" Klingon and Dominion starships attacked DS9 at sublight velocities, and at very close ranges. If they were capable of warp-strafing with virtual impunity due to the total immobility and sublight weapons of DS9, then they would have done so. In both cases, the attacking fleets sustained heavy losses.


Although Federation starships can engage sublight targets while at warp, they suffer a serious weapon performance loss when firing through warp bubbles, as discussed in the TM. If they choose to use these tactics against our starships they will find that their weakened weapon bursts will be completely ineffective against our shields and they will be forced to either retreat or drop to sublight and close range for maximum weapon effect. Under those conditions, they will be quickly destroyed by our heavy turbolasers.