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When did the Federation stop constructing new Centaurs, Constellations, Excelsiors, and Mirandas?

DS9 shows us that many vessels of these 80+ year-old designs served in the Dominion War (and many more were used as components of the Frankenstein ships), but when did the Federation cease production of new hulls of these types?

I think the switch happened in the years after wolf 359. The time around the first appearance of akira, saber and Steamrunner class starships.

As the Battle of Wolf 359 happened in 2367, that would mean that, as of the default starting year of 2371, there are still a fair number of these vessels that are less than 10 years old, right? Sure seems weird to be building the same spaceframe (even if greatly upgraded) 80 years after it was introduced, but the Klingons certainly do the same with their hulls.

Also, it seems Starfleet got a bunch of new ships out in an amazingly short period of time. The first of the Akira class was launched in the year following the Battle of Wolf 359 and several other classes came out in the next three years (almost as many as Starfleet had developed in the previous half-century).

I suppose there’s some in-universe reason for the push to modernize the fleet, but I think it’s most likely just the fact that Trek was on the screens (TV and big) and thus the opportunities to show audiences new ships meant they could come out as fast as the artists and writers came up with them.

I believe they stopped making new ships of those classes in the 2340s, when they started working on the Ambassador class ship, and then later the Nebula, Galaxy, and New Orleans class vessels.

The New Orleans Class, which came out before Wolf 359, was supposed to replace the Miranda Class as the workhorse of the fleet.

Also, Wolf 359 happened at the end of May, beginning of June in 2366. The Enterprise-D first encountered the Borg in 2364 thanks to Q. I imagine after that initial report, Starfleet would have looked at their somewhat outdated fleet and decided to modernize it in order to handle the Borg and other possible advanced threats (like the Dominion).

So far I know, the Akira, Steamrunner, Sovereign, Intrepid, and Defiant-class ships were all designed to combat the Borg threat, and later the Dominion. But in my eyes that doesn’t invalidate the use of older ship classes for general operations like exploration, colonization, scientific research, etc. especially if the classes are refitted and upgraded. After all, we only ever see the visual appearance of the ships on-screen, but there has never been canon information about their current specifications.

On top of that, most ships, especially those that participated directly in the Dominion War, have definitely been upgraded to survive against Dominion weapons, and later the Breen energy dissipator. Upgrading also seems more appropriate than waiting to design and build completely new ships (also since certain ship classes, especially the Galaxy, require a specific spacedock configuration), and it’s generally faster to build established ship classes.

Memory Alpha gave me the the 2067 date for the Battle of Wolf 359.

I know the Ambassador class was a relatively short-lived run that was replaced by the Galaxy class (and near-concurrent Nebula class). I suppose that the production of the Ambassador class might have taken the yards, personnel, and materials that had previously been going into the Excelsior class. I imagine that production of the Sovereign class then replaced the Galaxy class, but it didn’t happen as fast (were any Sovereign-class vessels seen in the Dominion War?) as production of things like the Akira.

The only Sovereign-class ship that appears in canon is the Enterprise-E. Logically though, there would’ve also been a USS Sovereign, as the class is typically named after the first ship. And no Sovereign appears anywhere other than the last three TNG films, which is sad because it’s one of my favorite ship classes ever.

That was probably just to keep the Enterprise special.

I also think that the Sovereign did replace the Galaxy as the “flagship” class, since the Enterprise-D, and then the E, was the flagship of Starfleet. But about whether it was intended to replace the Galaxy-class altogether, I don’t think so. Both ships served different purposes, the Galaxy was mainly a deep space exploration ship, while the Sovereign was a “warship” in all but designation. I still expect a few more of them to have been built (and some were under construction around the time Voyager was launched in 2371)

I’ve always thought that they do seem to have produced a ridiculous amount of ships in a very short period of time, but that’s definitely (offscreen) a result of the needs of the show (per @HappyDaze) . It’s interesting to note that the variety of ships rises massively once CGI is available for the modelling (before that time it’s all Mirandas, Nebulas and Excelsiors - frequently modified to show more variety, such as the Soyuz).

On-screen, I assume most of the new ships were already in development, then modified for the latest circumstances and rushed out as current affairs worsened. Which leads to an interesting plot possibility that many of the newer ships may not be quite as robust as expected, leading to persistent technical issues for their crews after the wars…

Regarding the original question, I certainly always had the impression that most of these ships went out of production early in the 24th century (certainly by the time the Ambassador appeared) but, whether because of their versatility or durability, stayed in service for a long time before their replacements appeared (remember that the Galaxy-class had a 20 year development period). (Note that the Centaur, though, was originally considered one of the “Frankenships”, although I’m personally fond of the idea it was a contemporary of the Excelsior.)

Even then, many of these ships might have been mothballed and kept in storage, then reactivated as circumstances required - we know this is the origin of the “Frankenships” (ugh!), so it might apply to more complete hulls too.

One further thing: there’s a whole generation of vessels we’ve only caught brief glimpses of - the vessels destroyed at Wolf 359. As well as the New Orleans, we have the Cheyenne, Challenger, Springfield, Freedom and Niagara classes - all of which appear to be of the same generations as either the Ambassador or Galaxy-classes. There’s even a lone Constitution. It’s possible that these represented a large portion of the active ships available at the time*, so the only way to rebuild the fleet quickly was to accelerate the development of new vessels and to reactivate older obsolete vessels.

(*For those that care, this was also the reasoning why we’ve never seen the various Discovery classes in later shows - there were very few of each class, and they were all destroyed during the Klingon War - although I note that some of them - such as the Magee - are still in use afterwards.)

Since we don’t know much about the so called “dark times” except the episodes with Stargazer and Enterprise-C, one can assume, the conflict with the romulans brought forward the ships like the New Orleans and all those other classes. But TNG didn’t give us many details…

We know the Romulans isolated themselves after the Tomed Incident in 2311 if that helps?

regarding ship design time, starfleet seems to vary, the galaxy took 20 years, but the Defiant only took 5 or so. My guess is the galaxy is how long it’d take if you where designing an entire new generation of ship systems from day one, while the defiant is more normal if you where just putting tech you HAD on a frame. this would imply that once starfleet moved up a generation of techology they’d produce several lines of new ships fairly fast.

From a practical perspective, they never would have stopped making those ships, they would upgrade the design with new technology as it comes about. Of course, from a marketing, merchandising, and artistic perspective, they’d want you to enjoy the new ships and forget the old ones.

Here’s a question, if the federation could construct 4 constitution class cruisers in the same time it takes to build a single galaxy class ship, and they would have the same kind of computers and technology, just different total capabilities, wouldn’t it be more pragmatic on some level to have four ships instead of just one?

And, counterintuitively, if you have a smaller ship, you need to cover less surface area in shields, and thus could technically have even stronger shields on that smaller ship if you had a similar power level being put through it.

This is one reason why I like the defiant, it is a smaller ship with newer tech, probably the only example in trek where a newer better ship wasn’t bigger, when in my opinion, most of the newer better ships would be either the same size, or smaller.

EDIT: newer technologies would be tried out on smaller classes first, and then when miniaturization and refinement happens, they would be applied to bigger classes of ships.

Arguments vs size aside for now (although I will note an increase in size means an exponential increase is interior area) there are valid reasons to retire a vessel for a new class, there comes a time when refits are proably more expensive then a new built. especially as you often have to completely change the structure to add in the new techs etc. there is a reason why we don’t just keep refitting and rebuilding old ships in real life after all. Historicly you rarely saw that level of rebuild, well except among Japan and the UK following the washington naval treaty. truthfully given both the Klingons and the federation seemed to opt for rebuilds of the Conny and D7s respectfully I’ve often wondered if there WAS some sort of arms control treaty eistablished between TOS and TMP (perhaps as a result of the Organian treaty)

I feel that this game is overly generous with upgrades. While I certainly believe that an Excelsior-class starship in the 2370s is much improved from its initial (post-transwarp fiasco) specs, I do not really agree that it should be a match for the capabilities a “modern” Nebula-class or Akira-class starship. Obviously the game’s writers/designers disagree with me.

We did see what an updated Excelsior did to the Defiant, though Worf was probably not trying to destroy the Lakota at the time.

Arguments vs size aside for now (although I will note an increase in size means an exponential increase is interior area) there are valid reasons to retire a vessel for a new class, there comes a time when refits are proably more expensive then a new built. especially as you often have to completely change the structure to add in the new techs etc. there is a reason why we don’t just keep refitting and rebuilding old ships in real life after all. Historicly you rarely saw that level of rebuild, well except among Japan and the UK following the washington naval treaty. truthfully given both the Klingons and the federation seemed to opt for rebuilds of the Conny and D7s respectfully I’ve often wondered if there WAS some sort of arms control treaty eistablished between TOS and TMP (perhaps as a result of the Organian treaty)

Well in the real life there are a lot of corrosion related reasons why you don’t just keep using the same metal ships, you need to build new ones.

What I was saying is that… “re-fitting” is when you take an existing ship and update it. But instead of that, you “update” the blueprint of the class, like you take the “constitution-1” and update it to “constitution-2”, and build new ships with the new design, its not a refit, its an update to the class, and sure maybe eventually you’d call it a brand new class.

Ehh… it’s hard for me to explain. I wish I could get my military buddies to explain it. But in general I think the people who have laid out the ship class progression and retirement of certain designs perhaps lack a certain understanding of how practical design might have been used by the federation to begin with… I dunno.

I think more people should take industrial design classes

Up until around Star Trek IV the Refit Constitution was officially and in-universe referred to as Enterprise-class. By Season 1 of TNG/Star Trek V they went back to the Constitution designation.

Why design new ships?

  1. Size. Generally, the design philosophy of the Federation was “bigger is better”. So if you want a bigger ship, you have to come up with a new design. The Galaxy class was certainly one. It was intended to have families aboard, something which was very new at the time. Also the ship needed facilities, like classrooms and an appropriately large sickbay.

  2. New Tech. It is always easier to integrate new technologies in a new design than to upgrade an existing design. The Intrepid class for example uses bio-neural gel packs. This technology seems difficult to integrate into existing designs.

  3. Hull. Even though it is not mentioned, I imagine hull armor has come a long way since the NX class. Especially since ablative armor exists. Although it appears as if you could just equip a ship with ablative armor, I imagine that additional hull armor changes a ship’s geometry in a way that you have to modify warp nacelles and the deflector so that the ship remains stable at warp.

  4. Age. Although each Starfleet vessel looks impeccably maintained, I think age plays a role. In DS9 we still see old Mirandas and Excelsiors. Maybe they were not used much in the past and don’t have that much milage. Or the design proved it could be upgraded easily.

  5. Improved design. Over the years of service, you may find that particular designs don’t work as well as intended or can be improved with newer technology. Discovery for example has these huge empty spaces where turbolifts move through. This seems to be a design that did not survive. In TNG, turbolift routes seem much more compact.

Regarding STA, yes they are very generous with refits. But it still is a game after all. And I understand that players may want to have the ship with the most System points. But you should actually just play with whatever class you want, not looking so much at the overall strength. So for me it is a good compromise.

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