Certainly the most unusual looking of the ships which appeared in First Contact, many don't like the Steamrunner much. I thought it was too strange at first, but after getting a good look at the design I've come to like it quite a bit. There are two major depatrures in the Steamrunner - first, the nacelles are becoming integrated into the saucer section. This is also done with the Sabre class, but the Steamrunner has the bussard collectors on the top of the saucer, which makes it look a bit odd. The second odd feature is the rollbar pod, which is supported directly from the nacelles alone and hangs down under the ship rather than up above. This pod doesn't seem to hold any weapons, but carries the ships navigational deflector. All in all a definite departure from the norm!
Like the Akira, the Steamrunner has some design elements from the Sovereign - most notably the lifeboat hatches. However, the registry of the Steamrunner class USS Appalacia (NCC 52136) is even lower than the Akira class ships we've seen, indicating the Steamrunner dates from somewhere around the 2340's or so.
In size the Steamrunner is a bit smaller than the Akira, about the size of the Miranda. I've classed her as a light cruiser also, and to distinguish the two I've tried to suggest that Starfleet was trying out a few new ideas with this ship - ideas which basically didn't work out all that well in some cases, which is why we haven't seen more ships looking like this.
The Steamrunners we saw in First Contact where getting really hammered
by the borg, and the relative lack of them since indicates to me that Starfleet
doesn't really want to throw these ships into a pitched battle. So I've
assumed that they aren't all that stong in combat, maybe as a result of
their design problems. My guess is that the Steamrunner would be a scout
type, and as such is basically an older version of the Intrepid.
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