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Plasma cannons were a form of directed energy cannon weaponry. On Starfleet vessels, they were the precursors to phase cannons. Plasma cannons fired a plasma discharge in the form of a beam or a burst similar to the plasma bullets fired by hand-held plasma weapons, but much bigger in size. (ENT: "Fortunate Son", "Horizon", "Shadows of P'Jem")
In the early- to mid-22nd century, Earth Cargo Service freighters were commonly equipped with low-yield turrets, often referred to as "popguns", designed only to break up asteroids and meteors. Earth Y class freighters were typically equipped with a single plasma cannon and J class ships with two turrets. The captains of these freighters, however, would often upgrade the cannons for more powerful ones the first chance they got. To achieve a weapons lock, the target had to be within a nine kilometer range. (ENT: "Fortunate Son", "Horizon")
The Enterprise NX-01 was equipped with several plasma cannons during the first days of its mission, but was eventually upgraded with the more advanced phase cannons. (ENT: "Broken Bow") Enterprise's Shuttlepod 1 was equipped with dual plasma cannons. (ENT: "Awakening") These plasma cannons had a range of less than ten kilometers. (ENT: "Shuttlepod One")
In an alternate timeline, Vosk, the leader of the Na'kuhl, offered Nazi Germany plasma cannons and plasma rifles in exchange for materials to build a temporal conduit. He also had a plasma cannon on top of his base which he used to damage the Enterprise NX-01 when Archer refused to help them. During the Battle of New York City, Vosk's squadron used plasma cannons on the Enterprise after the plasma cannon at Vosk's base couldn't be used due to lack of available power. When the Enterprise destroys Vosk's compound with three photonic torpedos, the third torpedo impacts directly on the still-extended plasma cannon and destroys it. (ENT: "Storm Front, Part II")