(covers information from several alternate timelines)
- "Maximum Warp" redirects here. For the Pocket Books miniseries, see Star Trek: The Next Generation - Maximum Warp.
Maximum warp (shortened from maximum warp speed and also known as top warp speed, maximum speed, or high warp speed) was the maximum warp factor velocity a starship was designed for and a term whereby a bridge officer could ask the flight control officer to accelerate the ship to its highest possible velocity.
The maximum warp velocity and the time it could be maintained by a starship varied between classes. This was due to energy output limitations of the warp core and limitations of other systems, such as the warp coils, the structural integrity field, and the amount of energy the propulsion system could handle without overloading. (ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly"; DS9: "The Sound of Her Voice"; TOS: "The Changeling")
In the early days of warp drive development, the top speed capabilities took massive leaps in the mid-22nd century after the warp 2 barrier was broken. (ENT: "First Flight") The invention of the warp three engine allowed early Earth starships to travel ten times faster, (ENT: "Fortunate Son") while ships installed with the warp five engine could travel a hundred times faster. (ENT: "Broken Bow") The increase in capabilities slowed down later on, as the Starfleet ships of the 2370s were only twice as fast as the ships used in the 2290s. (VOY: "Flashback")
Galaxy-class ships, such as the USS Enterprise-D, could theoretically achieve warp 9.8, but the maximum warp speeds above 9.6 could be maintained for a few hours only. (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint", "The Best of Both Worlds") Intrepid-class ships such the USS Voyager, on the other hand, could maintain it from three days up to two months. (VOY: "Workforce", "Workforce, Part II", "Friendship One")
Even though the Nova-class was designed to travel at a maximum speed of warp factor 8, when the USS Equinox powered its warp drive with energy derived from the corpses of nucleogenic lifeforms, an increase of 0.03% was added to the warp factor, allowing the velocity of traveling ten thousand light years in less than two weeks. (VOY: "Equinox")
During its time in the Delta Quadrant, the USS Voyager encountered technologies that enabled it to travel great distances at massively greater speeds than its rated maximum warp velocity, including the quantum slipstream drive, transwarp coil and Tash's catapult. The vessel had arrived in the Delta Quadrant from the Alpha Quadrant, approximately 75,000 light years, via the Caretaker's array. (VOY: "Hope and Fear"; VOY: "Dark Frontier"; VOY: "The Voyager Conspiracy"; VOY: "Caretaker")
Maximum warp limitations by class
- Warp 1.4† – Arctic One-type
- Warp 1.8† – Y-class
- Warp 2† – Neptune-class, J-class
- Warp 3.2 – Defiant-class, USS Valiant had suffered combat damage
- Warp 4 – Whorfin-class†, type 9 shuttlecraft
- Warp 5 – Danube-class
- Warp 5.2† – NX-class
- Warp 6† – D5-class, class 3 neutronic fuel carrier
- Warp 6.5† – Suurok-class (Ti'Mur)
- Warp 7† – Suurok-class (Sh'Raan), Coridan ship
- Warp 8† – Constitution-class
- Warp 8 – Nova-class
- Warp 8.7 – Baran's mercenary vessel
- Warp 9.3 – Nebula-class (2368)
- Warp 9.5 – Nebula-class (2370, could be pushed to warp 9.6)
- Warp 9.5 – Defiant-class
- Warp 9.6 – D'deridex-class
- Warp 9.8 – Galaxy-class, Xepolite Free Trader
- Warp 9.9 – Prometheus-class
- Warp 9.975 – Intrepid-class
- Warp 36† – Karla Five's vessel
Maximum warp requests
As noted above, the tolerance of a ship's systems for the stresses of warp travel are a primary limiting factor, so while exceeding the ship's maximum rated speed can be technically possible, it carries the risk of severe damage to the warp drive or to the ship's structural integrity.
When a ship is ordered to accelerate to maximum warp, it does not always mean the absolute highest reachable warp factor. For example, in ENT: "Affliction", Enterprise NX-01 already travels at maximum warp, but then accelerates to warp 5.2. In both TNG: "Time Squared" and TNG: "Bloodlines", maximum warp denoted warp 9, although the Enterprise-D was established to be capable of faster speeds in other episodes. A similar situation occurred in DS9: "The Sound of Her Voice", when the USS Defiant, traveling at maximum warp, accelerates to warp 9.5.