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Over the course of "Battlestar Galactica's" short television run, both in the original series and later in the dismal "Galactica 1980", several different kinds of weapons were seen and mentioned. Some were simply outgrowth of popular Sci-Fi culture of the time, while others had a firm basis in real science. Listed below are the most common weapons spoken of during the series. Weapons

NOTE:
Before we discuss the principles of the weapons of Battlestar Galactica, it is necessary that we define these weapon, as there is a great deal of misconceptions and preconceived notions with regard to exactly what these weapons are. Key to many of the misconceptions with regards to the weapons of Battlestar Galactica is the term "Laser." As an example, what most people mistake as being Turbo-Lasers are often not lasers at all. In truth the term "laser" appears to be little more than a hold over anachronism in the Galactica universe, harking back to the early days of the Cylon / Colonial conflict.

In the early days of the war Humans used these simple light beams as weapons, which is where the term took root in Colonial culture. Newer, more powerful Laser weapons were developed as the years went on and those weapons came to be refered to as "Turbo Laser", the term easier to remember than constantly differentiating between gamma, x-ray, microwave, particle and the mulititude of other types of heavy laser cannons to be found across the civilized universe.

The term "Turbo Laser" also came to extend to particle burst and plasma bolt weapons as they came into regular use aboard Colonial vessels leading to the term laser to become much like ther old anachronism "Blue Print" which continues to be used today by engeneers and architechs despite the fact that true "Blue Prints" do not really exist anymore.

Most of the current weapon affectionately refered to as lasers by the Cylons and Humans, are infact pulsed plasma bolt werapons that fire rounds of charged deuterium. True, Cylon and Colonial vessels are also armed with real laser weapons, but the laser weapons used at present are far more advanced than the simple carbon lasers of old, capable of firing beams in the gama and x-ray spectrum. That being said . . .

LASER BLASTERS:

Blaster is the generic term for the hand held weapons seen on "Battlestar Galactica", also called laser Blasters. As lasers require a complex set of reflective mirrors, focusing lenses and an extremely powerful energy source to be effective, it is unlikely the weapons seen in "Battlestar Galactica" were true lasers.

Along this line of thinking, Blasters probably fired bursts of charged plasma. This plasma is produced by a laser beam inside the weapon, which is used to ionize simple compounds such as helium or argon into a plasma state. These compounds would be relatively abundant and easy to ionize with little energy, and as such the Blaster would not need to be a contained fusion reactor. Judging by the effects seen concerning Blasters in "Battlestar Galactica", this supposition holds true, as a laser gun would create a thin cutting beam, not an energetic explosion like Colonial/Cylon Blasters.

As far as how powerful these weapons are, from what was seen, it looks as if the Colonial Blaster can vaporize approximately 25cm^3 of metal, judging from when characters blasted walls and control panels. If the target destroyed is equalivant to iron, with a boiling point of 3,000 C, a Colonial Blaster would have a power output of approximately 315 kilowatts. Given the armor on a Cylon troop and the gun's ability to burn through flesh, this figure seems to more than hold true to what was seen in the series. Cylon Blaster Rifles were able to vaporize a similar mass as the Colonial hand gun, and probably had an output of roughly 1.5 megawatts.

 

LASER-TORPEDO:

The Laser-Torpedo is the main weapon of the Colonial Vipers and Cylon Raiders. Most likely this weapon was a highly concentrated plasma weapon which discharged bolts of charged deuterium. Unlike a Blaster, a Laser-Torpedo is a highly concentrated fusion plasma burst rather than a simple ionized gas.

On the TV series, it was seen that this weapon had an exposive effect upon impact and could cause almost any ship to explode if one had a solid lock. Primary explosion was most likely the reactor or on-board fuel tanks being struck during the fight. Given that the gun ports on the Vipers were roughly 30mm, it is likely that the Laser-Torpedo were able to bring at least 1,000cm^3 to its boiling point. If the aforementioned mass was made of iron, with a boiling point of 3,000 C, each individual Laser Torpedo gun would have a power of 12.5 gigaawatts (12,489,028,920 watts), giving them a combined, low-end power output of approximately 25 gigajoules per volley.

Given that we are theorizing that armor in the Galactica universe is some 20X greater than iron, the main weapons on Vipers and Raiders would be rated at roughly 500 gigajoules, 250 gigawatts per gun-port. Some argue that these figures at too low, given the way Vipers and Raiders exploded, but does fit what was seen when Apollo's brother Zack was struck by Cylon fire. It is likely that the larger explossions were due to the fuel tanks being ruptured and not the weapons..

TURBO-LASER CANNONS / TURRET WEAPONS:

Captial ships of the Galactica universe are armed with a multitude of weapons, ranging from energy beams to projectile weapons. Listed here are the primary weapons seen used during Battlestar Galactica's television run.

  • BLASTER TURRET:

Blaster Turrets are those defensive plasma bolt weapons lineing the hulls of Cylon and Colonial vessels (like the Blaster Turret pictured above). These weapons, although refered to as lasers, were not lasers. Blaster Turrets were infact plasma bolt weapons. This assertion is based on the fact that these so called Turbo-Lasers, fired beams at sub-light speeds, thus clearly demonstrating that they were not lasers as a laser bolt would travel at the speed of light.

Main advantage of these type of weapon over the Laser-Torpedoes found on fighter craft, is that pure plasma weapons have greater range over hybrid plasma bolt weapons and can sustain maximum power for greater distances. Turbo-Laser plasma batteries, like those seen being used by Battlestars and Base-Stars, are primarily for anti-starfighter defense but can be adjusted for ship-to-ship combat, as well as orbital bombardment.

Turbo-Lasers on the Galactica were powerful enough to destroy fighters, asteroids and their combined power was capable of destroying another vessel. Unfortunately, we were never really given an opportunity to see these guns in all their glory, thus we must make some suppositions as to their tactical capability.

Given what was seen in the TV series, the Turbo-Laser turrets on the Galactica must have had a low-end power rating of 60 Gigawatts (61,386,702,791 watts). This estimate is based on the fact that the Turbo-Lasers most likely brought a cubic meter to its vapor point in one second. If the mass of the effected armor was equivalent to iron, then the total power required to bring said mass to it's boiling point would have been 60 Gigawatts. This would make said weapon very effective against fighter attacks, but if the ship's hull was the approximated 3 to 4 meters in width (as stated in the "Capital Ship" section), it would take several direct hits to punch the hull of another capital scale vessel at this power level.

Armor used in the Galactica universe was not iron. Given estimates that Colonial armor is some 20 times greater than that of iron, the power output of Colonial Turbo-Laser turrets per volley is more likely in the neighborhood of 1.2*10^12 watt or 1.2 Terawatts.

  • LASER CANNONS:

Galactica was also beleived to have been armed with two heavy laser cannons set to either port and starboard of the forward hull, as shown in the image to right. Only time this weapon was beleived to have been seen fired was in the episode "The Hand of God", when Galactica faced off against a Cylon Base-Star. This theory is supported by statements from the production staff and Richard Hatch's recent novels and images available from "www.BattlestarGalactica.com".

Given the damage this weapon inflicted on the Base-Star in "The Hand of God" when it made contact, it was obviously more powerful than the anti-starfighter turrets dotting Galactica's hull. When calucating the amount of damage inflicted I used Todd Boyce's size figures for the Base-Star, the low-end figures putting the Base-Star at some 1730 meters.

When using the image of the laser cannon's effect, the image placed the entire Base-Star at 572 pixels. This means that each pixel would represent roughly 3 meters. Galactica's beam was some 62 pixels in diameter or 187.5 meters. If the destroyed area was equal to half a sphere, the maximum volume destroyed was 1,726,211 cubic meters. At 400 kg/m^3 the mass destroyed would have been 690,484,461 kilograms or 690.4 tons.

If the mass was brought to it's vapor point, low-end output of these heavy laser weapons would be approximately 5.38*10^15 joule or 5,385 terajoules. As we have estimated armor strength at 20x greater than iron, the low-end output of a Battlestar's heavy lasers would be 1.07*10^17 joule or 107,716 terajoules.

There is however a significant problem with the figures above. As you can see in the image featured top left, the beam diameter is significantly greater than the barrel of the Galactica's cannons. As such, the beam seen in the image most likely represents both of the Galactica's cannons focused on one spot, making the output per barrel to be roughly 5.38*10^16 joule or 53,858 terajoules per gun port.

MEGA-PULSAR GUNS:

Of all the weapons mentioned in the universe of "Battlestar Galactica", the Pulsar weapons were the only true anti-capital ship weapon ever mentioned. Capable of destroying another vessel with only a few shots, the Pulsar weapons are an extremely powerful type of fusion gun and only the dreaded Cylon Base-Star is armed with them (guns located at the top of the north saucer, and bottom of south saucer).

Essentially the Mega-Pulsar gun is a hybrid Neutron / Particle beam cannon. Neutrons are condensed together as they are accelerated within a magnetic chamber at speeds near that of light. When two masses of neutrons becomes too great to contain, they are allowed to collide together. The massive energy release of this collision is then forced through the weapon's projection matrix creating a beam of pure destructive energy comprised of potons, x-rays and neutron particles.

Mega-Pulsar cannons are the heavy weapon of choice for the Cylon's largest capital ships and planetary defense as the poton/x-ray burst is capable of cutting through any known armor. Electronic countermeasures are equally useless against this weapon as the defensive electromagnetic shields employed by both Cylon and Colonial forces offer no resistance to neutron weapons, as a neutron has a neutral electrical charge.

Given that these weapons must take out enemy capital ships, and the fact that we've never seen these guns in action save the episode "Gun on Ice Planet Zero" where it was stated that the planetary based weapon could destroy the Galactica in a single shot, we must make some guess work as to the effectiveness of these weapons.

The cannon found on Ice Planet Zero was designed for planetary defense against enemy ships. We're guessing that the Mega-Pulsar cannon was capable of bring 3.5 million cubic meters of iron to its vapor point in one second, giving it a power output of 1.1*10^16 joule or 10,920 terajoules. If this is indeed the low-end power output, taking into consideration the strength of Galactica armor, I estimate that the Mega-Pulsar gun found on Ice Planet Zero must have an output of approximately 2.18*10^17 joule or 218,402 Terajoule. Given that the Base-Stars are not beleived to be capable of destroying a Battlestar in a single shot the Mega Pulsar cannons found on the Cylon Base-Stars likely have an output no greater than 100,000 Terajoules.

Mega-Pulsar weapon seen in the episode "Gun on Ice-Planet Zero" required a massive ammount of energy to be fired and, while the power reserves of the Base-Star are impressive, firing this weapon probably drains the ship of almost all her energy, every time it was fired. This is probably why we never saw it in use during the series' run.

NOTE: The reason why these fusion - fusion/mass-driver weapons are referred to as Pulsar weapons, is due to the massive radio wave and x-ray burst accompanied by firing.

DEFENSE SYSTEMS:

Primary means of defense employed by they Cylons and Colonials was dense armor as clearly illustrated on the bridge of the Battlestar Galactica during Cylon attacks. With every attack Commander Adama ordered "Positive shield!" and the heavy blast doors that protected the forward view port would close. Still, debate on whether the races of the Battlestar Galactica series employed any form of electronic defense like those found on "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" continues.

There is no visual evidence to support the theory that any type of shield technology existed in the Galactica universe, but given their level of technology and the open ports on the landing bay, a small part of Galactica cannon does suggest some form of invisible barrier technology was indeed at play. Screen captures from the Colonial War-Book also supports the idea that some form of electronic defense was available.

We know from comments made by Colonel Tigh and Commander Kane that jamming technology did exist. We know from Adama's comments made during "Experiments in Terra" that the Galactica has Force Shields. Thus the question becomes less of "Do the Colonials have shield technology?" but rather "What is the nature of Colonial shields?" To this end, let us examine some of the facts pro and con regarding shield technology in the Galactica universe.

Supporting Facts:

  • FACT: Throughout the whole of the "Battlestar Galactica" series we often see Colonial Vipers, shuttles and a wide assortment of craft enter the Colonial, landing bay. There is NO evidence of a pressure doors and there is clearly some invisible force at work to keep the oxygen inside the bay.
  • FACT: On several occasions we see data called up from the Colonial War-Book that states the Vipers, Raiders and even the electronics ship Celestra had "shield depth."
  • FACT: In "The Living Legend" Commander Kane notes that he wants to fire his missiles at point-blank range and states - "not even their (THE CYLONS) shields will be able to protect them."
  • FACT: During the episode "Fire in Space" the bay remains pressurized, allowing the fire to spread throughout the ship, rather than be extinguished by the vacuum of space out through the landing bay portal.
  • FACT: In "Experiments in Terra" the Western Nationalists had prison cells protected by what some have dubbed a shield.
  • FACT: In "Experiments in Terra" Adama orders his crew to "Raise Force Shields."

Undermining Facts:

  • FACT: In "Saga of a Star World" Vipers and Raiders, when struck by laser-torpedo fire, are destroyed or heavily damaged, in the case of Apollo's brother Zack. There is no evidence of any shield technology, despite later screen shots of the Colonial War-Book clearly refers of Cylon Raiders having shield depth.
  • FACT: During the "Battle of Carolon" a Cylon fighter collides with the port landing bay, starting a fire just inside the maw of the bay, despite what is most assuredly a shielded area as later seen in "Fire in Space."
  • FACT: In "The Living Legend" Apollo and Starbuck are able to fly their Vipers in close and successfully destroy the Cylon's missile launchers and blaster turrets, giving the Battlestar Pegasus a fighting chance. There is NO evidence of any shields to stop the two Vipers.
  • FACT: In "Fire in Space" Cylon fighters collide with the Galactica and, via the use of Solonite charges, do serious damage to the Battlestar, again there being NO evidence of any form of shield technology protecting the ship.
  • FACT: In "The Hand of God" we clearly see Cylon and Colonial weapons striking and doing damage to each other's hull. There is no bubble shield effect as seen in "Star Trek" or energy deflection as shown in "Star Wars." Impact zones do however glow red-hot before cooling, though some may argue that this is indicative of skintight shields protecting the hull.

We know that the Colonials have some form of intense field covering the mouth of the landing bays, keeping the air inside. In theory a combination of gravitational and electromagnetic fields could sustain this field, but it is obvious that this system has it's own power supply (given they could not shut it down during "Fire in Space"), and may very well require opposing forces from all directions to keep the field constant and stable. If this were true, than such a shield could not be used to cover the ship. Also, we know that mass and even energy was capable of penetrating this barrier, as all manner of craft was able to pass through it, suggesting it is just strong enough to keep low mass particles like oxygen inside.

Adama's comments in "Experiments in Terra" confirm that the Colonials do have some form of defense, but all other evidence from the series contradicts the idea they have "Star Trek" or "Star Wars" style energy shields. More specifically, let us examine Adama's dialogue:

ADAMA
Stand by on force shields.
OMEGA
Force fields standing by.
ADAMA
Stand by on maximum laser power.
OMEGA
Maximum laser power standing by.
ADAMA
Negative shield now.

Firstly, if the "Shields" Adama always refers to are in fact the ship's energy shields, why order "negative shield" and open the blast doors if this defense system is still only on standby? Given observations of the special effects and comments made by Adama, it is my opinion that the "shield" order often refers to activating the ship's blast doors and NOT activating energy barriers like those seen on other sci-fi series.

Adama's comment to Omega "Stand by on force shields", also suggests that this system is indeed different from the armor shield we know so well. The word force means "4: an agency of influence that if applied to a free body results chiefly in an acceleration of the body and sometimes in elastic deformation and other effects", "4a: to press, drive, attain to, or effect against restraint or inertia."

Key word that pops out from the paragraph above is the word inertia. Energy, power and force are three completely different things. Force fields are likely denoted as such due to the fact they shield the ship from the effects of outside force. NOTE: we never saw the crew of the Galactica sent flying or reeling from explosions outside the ship. This suggests to me that the "Force Shield" Adama was referring to was some form of inertia dampening field to protect the crew from the effect of kinetic impact and offset the effect of acceleration. Given that hundreds or perhaps thousands of high yield nuclear weapons were about to start going off across the Galactica's nose, defense against the kinetic force of those explosions in the upper atmosphere was likely a concern for the Galactica's crew.

Next on the list are Commander Kane's comments about the Cylons' being in possession of "shields." We know that Kane's attack on Baltar and his two supporting Base-Stars was based primarily around the use of a close range missile attack. Shields to resist the kinetic force of those missiles, given what was stated in the aforementioned paragraph, would have obviously been a concern and this rationalization is not too far fetched.

We know that, unlike the Colonials, the Cylons had managed to develop inertialess propulsion systems but given that Cylon Tankers and fighters still relied exclusively on ion propulsion this advance was most likely a new development. It is possible that the Cylons had managed to develop a means of augmenting this propulsion system to reduce the effect of incoming weapons fire. Unfortunately the fact that Starbuck and Apollo were able to fly in close and destroy the Base-Star's turrets seems to disprove this assertion.

In the episode "Take the Celestra" a display from the Colonial War-Book noted that the Celestra had a means of defense called a "Point Diverter." It was apparently listed as both defensive and offensive. No hard data is available on this means of defense but the name suggests that it is only capable of protecting a single point at any one given time, hence the name "Point Diverter."

As for the supposed shield technology of the Western Nationalists on the planet Terra, there is no evidence to suggest they did have shields. It is more likely that the energy barrier that kept people inside most likely consisted of lasers and was not a true shield.

My personal theory is that Cylon and Colonial warships did have shields, but they were NOT the all powerful, encompassing defense as seen in other sci-fi series. It is more likely that the shields of Battlestar Galactica fell into one or all of the following categories:

Armor Shields: The deployment of armor over exposed/vulnerable targets.
Armor was most definitely the primary means of protection for Colonial and Cylon ships. It fits the majority of all our observations and given that Adama's order to activate or deactivate shields was always followed by the opening or closing of the blast doors, armor was a key if not primary means of defense.

Force Shield: Localized artificial gravity field capable of negating the effect of kinetic impact and offsetting the effect of inertia.
This method of defense was likely the means by which the crew avoided becoming pasty red stains on the deck every time the Galactica accelerated or stopped. This means of defense would not only protect the crew from the effect of high acceleration but it would also have protected them from the jarring explosions just outside the ship. Unlike armor however, the nature of this defense does not appear to extend beyond the resistance of kinetic force and is likely all but useless against weapons, energy weapons in particular.

Megatron Shield: Intense, localized field of electromagnetic radiation capable of refracting and/or reducing the effect of energy weapons.
This is probably a key part of the defense of any ship in the Galactica universe as electromagnetic radiation would disrupt incoming energy weapons, causing them to become subject to the inverse square law, and thus cause a focused energy weapon fire hose out, reducing the weapon's intensity and spreading the energy beam over a wide area rather than a lancing point.

Point Diverters: Interceptors designed to strike incoming weapons, like missiles or laser torpedoes, and negate its effects before impacting a target.
Similar nature to a flack cannon, this defense system can obviously be found on some of the ships in the Rag-Tag fugitive fleet and could likely be used for both offensive and defensive purposes. Effectiveness of such a defense system would, obviously, diminish as the battle draws closer giving this defense system less time to target and shoot down incoming weapons fire.

 

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