Why Does Starfleet Not Use Cloaking?


Romulan standoff with cloaking ships

Almost every race that Starfleet crews come across have cloaking technology. While Starfleet ships can implement this technology, they have refrained from doing so. Why does Starfleet refrain from using cloaking technology?

Starfleet signed a treaty with the Romulans at Algeron after the Earth-Romulan wars that had the provision that Starfleet would not use cloaking technology. Klingons have cloaking technologyOpens in a new tab. because they joined the Romulans’ side. Starfleet developed the ability to detect cloaked ships as a defense.

Starfleet might have caved in the treaty of Algeron, but let’s keep going to find out how they’ve adapted to win wars and conflicts.

History of Cloaking Technology

The “stealth technology” that the Suliban had on Star Trek: Enterprise suggests that cloaking technology existed long before Starfleet sent their first warp-capable ship into space. Some say, however, that the Suliban’s stealth technology was a precursor to cloaking technology because it doesn’t exactly use light bending. In that same series, the Suliban’s technology is proven to be cloaking technology.

Romulans had cloaking technology in the 22nd century. Supposedly the Klingons gave the technology to the Romulans, as they had an uneasy alliance. However, the Romulans’ devices needed extensive engineering to work properly, so the Klingons alliance was terminated.

Humans never had a chance to use this technology, as the treaty was signed before Starfleet engineers could create anything that resembled a cloaking device. The Vulcans also withheld information from humans because they thought humans were too primitive to handle space travel rigors.

What Is Cloaking Technology?

A cloaking device allows a ship to become invisible to enemies, which has the added advantage of spying on another culture before attacking. It uses a selective bending of light and other forms of energy that makes the ship invisible to most sensors. In order to work, the device needed to be connected to a ship’s deflector shield grid. 

When Did Humans First Encounter Cloaking Technology?

Two fishermen on a whaling ship off the coast of Alaska in 1987 were hunting two whales when their spear hit the side of something. They didn’t know what it was at first, but suddenly a large flying ship appeared out of nowhere. Admiral Kirk and crew were going home in a Klingon Bird of Prey after getting Spock and discovered that they needed to go back in time to save humanity.

Humans’ first encounter with cloaking technology was when Kirk and crew saved Earth from itself by bringing two humpback whales with them to repopulate the species and have them talk to the alien probe. 

The next encounter with this technology was when Suliban agents broke into the Enterprise’s sickbay to kidnap Klaang before he could go back to Kronos with vital information. Since that encounter, Starfleet ran into this technology multiple times. 

Races Who Can Use Cloaking Technology

Who can use cloaking technology without it being seen as an act of war? It appears that almost any other race or civilization can use cloaking technology. But because of the Algeron treaty, the Federation was never to put cloaking devices on their ships. (Of course, certain Starfleet ships did use the technology without being detected.) The races who could use the device were:

  • Romulans
  • Klingons
  • Suliban
  • Cardassians
  • Xindi
  • Xyrillians
  • The Sphere Builders
  • The Duck Blind Mission on the Ba’Ku homeworld 
  • and many more.

The Treaty of Algeron Stopped Starfleet From Using Cloaking Technology

The Algeron Treaty stated that the Federation could not use or complete further research into cloaking technology. In return, the Romulans would stay on their side of the Neutral Zone and not commit espionage acts in the future.

Captain Pressman, who tried to circumvent this treaty by using a phasing cloaking device, declared that the treaty was the biggest mistake the Federation made, as it cut off any possibilities for real defense. He was arrested in 2370 for his role in the illegal cloaking device activity.

The Earth-Romulan War

The treaty was signed 160 years after the conclusion of the Earth-Romulan war. The war began in 2156 due to the tension the Romulans felt due to how Earth was creating peace among the enemies of the Romulans–Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellerites. As a result of space exploration by the Enterprise with Captain Archer, the diplomatic relations between these races improved greatly. 

But the Romulans didn’t like this new peace and created a campaign to disrupt it by sending automated drones to attack Andoria and Tellar. Unfortunately for the Romulans, it had the opposite effect. The attacks resulted in the new factions working together to return the drones and created peace between the worlds.

These neighbors created a Coalition of Planets and fought together when the Romulans waged open war in 2156. The war lasted until 2160 when the Coalition brought a decisive blow against the Romulan empire. Once the war was decided, a treaty was signed between the Romulans and the Coalition by subspace radio.

The treaty established the Neutral Zone, which neither side could cross without being interpreted as an act of war. The neutral zone did its job so well that neither side saw each other for over 100 years. 

Tomed Incident and the Algeron Treaty

In 2311, a confrontation between the Romulan Empire and the Federation resulted in the loss of thousands of lives. Named the Tomed Incident, it was a staged terrorist attack against a Federation starbase. A Romulan warship crashed into the base at high warp, and the quantum singularity wiped out over thirteen Starfleet outposts.

However, while thousands of lives appeared lost, that was a ruse by Starfleet to make it seem they were dead. The outposts were empty and emitted false life signs. The names of the people that died had already died before this incident and were covered up until this time. The Klingons sided with the Federation on this incident, suggesting that they already had an alliance with the Federation by this time.

The entire act of terror was orchestrated by Starfleet to diffuse the rising tensions between them and the Romulan Empire and create a treaty that would ensure peace for another century. The Romulans were required to remove themselves from the interstellar government, while the Federation could not have or research cloaking technology.

Starfleet Developed the Ability to Detect Cloaked Ships

In the aftermath of the treaty being signed, Starfleet still completed research and used cloaking devices in a limited fashion. While most did not get caught, Erik Pressman was arrested in 2370 for the research and application of the phasing cloaking device used on the Pegasus in 2358. 

However, during the period before the treaty was signed, Starfleet crews developed the ability to detect cloaking devices. A ripple in space, gaseous anomalies, and other methods were used to detect a cloaked ship nearby. After the treaty, these methods were even more important, as it provided a defensive strategy against those who would use cloaking to destroy the Federation. 

Conclusion

The Algeron treaty was considered a mistake by many in the Federation because it restricted their defensive abilities. But the treaty had accomplished one thing for the Federation—it took the Romulans out of circulation from the interstellar government. Peace was possible because factions that wanted war were out of the way.

Eventually, the Romulans gave Starfleet permission to use cloaking devices with limited supervision against the Dominion. (Only the Defiant could use a cloaking device.) The Dominion came from the Gamma Quadrant to take over the Federation, starting with Deep Space 9. Commander Sisko also used the technology several times during his time at the starbase.

Sources

Brad

Sci-fi lover and Tech Nerd.

Recent Posts