But a Federation Starship is an exercise in skill, almost a work of sculpture. Throughout its history the Federation has routinely pushed the envelope to the absolute maximum with each new generation, striving for an unmatched level of perfection almost for the sheer pleasure of it. This manifests itself in many ways; while a Federation ship typically devotes between 5 to 30% of its internal volume to combat equipment, they are usually more than a match for dedicated warships of similar size built by other powers. Starfleet ships tend to be faster, more agile and far more flexible than their competitors.
Starships also tend to have a somewhat longer life span than most Alpha Quadrant vessels. The recent Galaxy class has a designed life span of 100 years, by no means unusual for a Federation vessel, while examples of the Miranda class remain in full front-line duty more than one hundred and five years after they were commissioned. This allows Starfleet to maintain a significantly larger force for a given industrial capacity. For example the 50 year life span of the Cardassian Galor class battlecruiser means that their production of 63 ships of this class per year allows them to maintain a maximum fleet of up to 3,150 ships of this class; a similar production schedule for Norway class ships would allow a fleet of over 5,000 ships, while for Galaxy class ships the number would rise to 6,300.
Prior to first contact with the Dominion, Starfleets total production for all major ship classes stood at one hundred ships per year, allowing them to maintain a total fleet of almost 8,000 capital ships - a capital ship in this case being defined as any vessel capable of sustained independent operation. With the loss of the USS Odyssey at the end of 2370, the Federation began a series of dramatic and highly secret preparations. The president ordered Starfleet to halt all planned retirements and increase ship production to the maximum possible level; by the outbreak of the war three years later Starship production was up to three hundred ships per year and the standing fleet was at 8,726 ships. The onset of the war allowed the president to openly make ship production a top priority, and by the end of the first year of war a further 370 ships had been built. The second and final year of fighting saw 402 further vessels put into service. Production was almost entirely based around the more combat capable vessels, with production of heavily science-biased ships such as the Nova class cut back almost to nothing. Various measures were also taken to increase the combat capability of vessels already in service, resulting in a significant increase in Starfleets war fighting capabilities.
Unfortunately, the Dominion war took a heavy toll on Starfleet, far exceeding vessel production. The first three months of war alone cost nearly a thousand capital ships, leading many analysts to claim that the hostilities could not possibly be maintained for more than twenty eight months before it simply ran out of ships. Indeed, this was regarded by many to be an optimistic estimate since Starfleets ability to mount serious opposition to the Dominion would surely fall as its numbers reduced.
While ships losses continued to greatly exceed production throughout the war, those first three months proved to be the low point. The re-taking of Deep Space Nine is hailed as preventing any further Dominion reinforcements arriving via the wormhole, but that operation also led to the first major defeat suffered by a Dominion warfleet. The Romulan entry into the war just a few months later complicated matters for the Dominion, while the allied offensive into Dominion space shortly afterwards marked a major shift of initiative towards the allies.
Nevertheless, the loss rate remained above 220 per month for most of the remainder of the two year war. When hostilities ceased Starfleet had lost a total of 5,800 capital ships, nearly 60% of the total operated during the period. Fatalities totalled 1.6 million personnel, not including those lost on starbases or in ground combat. The post-war fleet numbers only 4,116 ships, and although ship production is highly unlikely to remain at its wartime level it is probable that it will continue at a higher than normal rate until the fleet has returned to something approaching normality.
The following table shows the number of Starfleet vessels both in service
at the start of the war and built during it, the losses sustained by each
class, and the number of ships remaining in service.
|Sovereign||Explorer / Heavy Cruiser||2,910||5||-||5||14,550||14,550|
|Prometheus (docked mode)||Attack Cruiser||1,649||1||-||1||1,649||1,649|
|Galaxy (Uprated)||Explorer / Heavy Cruiser||1,351||18||4||14||24,318||18,914|
|Nebula (Uprated, weapon pod)||Explorer / Heavy Cruiser||1,325||172||16||156||227,900||206,700|
|Excelsior (Lakota)||Explorer / Heavy Cruiser||1,295||1||-||1||1,295||1,295|
|Nebula (Basic, weapon pod)||Explorer / Heavy Cruiser||1,108||25||12||13||27,700||14,404|
|Galaxy (Basic)||Explorer / Heavy Cruiser||1,000||31||6||25||31,000||25,000|
|Nebula (basic non weap pod)||Explorer / Heavy Cruiser||835||25||18||7||20,875||5,845|
|Ambassador||Explorer / Heavy Cruiser||720||58||7||51||41,760||36,720|
|Rigel||Explorer / Cruiser||500||84||70||14||42,000||7,000|
|Excelsior (E-B)||Explorer / Cruiser||410||102||44||58||41,820||23,780|
|Excelsior||Explorer / Cruiser||370||414||212||202||153,180||74,740|
In general, it is all but impossible to get a truly accurate picture
of Starfleets shuttlecraft armada now that many Starships are both designing
and producing their own models as needed. Thus while the following table
is based on the most accurate sources available, it should be regarded
as a guideline only.
|Work Bee||Construction craft||45||20,436||7,251||13,185||919,620||593,325|
There are many who regard the Dominion war as the greatest disaster ever to befall the Federation. But while it cannot be disputed that the loss of life has been little short of disastrous, the unswerving dedication and self-sacrifice with which Starfleet and its allies faced - and, ultimately, defeated - their foe has gained the admiration of the entire quadrant. Throughout its history the fact that Starfleet not only regards its military role as a relatively minor one but is positively proud of this fact has led many to suggest that it is somehow weak, even soft. This is a criticism that has seldom been heard since the start of the Dominion war, even from the Federations traditional opponents.
With the end of the war Starfleet has already begun shifting its dispositions to a peacetime basis. While it is likely that several of the larger combat fleets will be retained for at least the next year or two as a deterrent to further hostilities, many ships are being transferred back to their more normal roles. The diplomatic mission especially is likely to take up much of Starfleets time over the next few years. During the war the Federation was desperate to make as many alliances as possible in an attempt to gain reinforcements against the Dominion. Such a hurried and haphazard process has already resulted in some severe strains, even leading to one major political scandal within the Federation itself.
Despite the many pressing concerns of the present, Starfleet is unlikely
to forget that its main goal is to ensure the future. Ultimately the Federation
must continue with its scientific and exploratory missions if it to remain
the vibrant and active culture it has always been. Starfleet is the principle
instrument of this process, and as such it will surely continue to prosecute
to the fullest the mandate outlined in the motto of its most famous vessel
- "to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life forms and new civilizations,
to boldly go where no one has gone before".
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