|Expected Duration||190 Years|
|Time Between Resupply||5 Year|
|Time Between Refit||7 Years|
|Cruising Velocity||Warp 8|
|Maximum Velocity||Warp 9.9|
|Emergency Velocity||Warp 9.99 (For 36 hours)|
The Century Class, the most recent addition to Starfleet’s array of vessels of exploration and scientific discovery, arose out of the Excalibur Class. Early in the 2370s, Starfleet had finally grown concerned enough about the perceived deficit in its range of modern deep space explorers and set the Excalibur’s design process in motion. The Constellation was being phased out of service, the Cheyenne, while an effective design, was not devoid of problems, particularly where its structural configuration was concerned, and the Prometheus had been subverted to fill an almost purely tactical role. Even the Galaxy, once Starfleet’s bright light, had lost some of its lustre in the alterations required by the Dominion War, repeated Borg incursions and hostilities with, among others, the Klingons.
Disaster – at least, disaster insofar as the exploration division at the Advanced Starship Design Bureau was concerned – struck during the Dominion War. Elements of Starfleet, long convinced of the need for an advanced fleet command and control vessel, were vindicated by the losses suffered during the Dominion War when first the Jem'Hadar, then the Cardassians and the Breen exploited the Dominion’s technical superiority in field and communications jamming technology to catastrophic effect. Dozens, then hundreds of ships were lost because fleet battles, which could hinge on the transfer of a single command, found the Federation combatants in particular unable to communicate with one another.
Something needed to be done and, albeit too late to partake in the war, the Excalibur was repurposed to counter this deficit in Starfleet’s tactical abilities. Its role as an explorer was subverted to fill Starfleet’s need for a command and control vessel. Gone were the impressive laboratory suites and expansive research stations, the equipment and technology that would have made the Excalibur Starfleet’s premier explorer. Some of these were replaced by the ship’s communications and counter-communications equipment, exceedingly complex hardware typically only ever found aboard starbases.
A fleet command vessel would, by necessity, find itself a target for enemy vessels and, as such, the Excalibur needed to be able to hold its own in any engagement. The most advanced Federation weaponry and shielding of the time were employed, including an impressive torpedo armament that, just years before, would have been considered both impractical and egregious on board a Federation vessel.
However, the Excalibur not only needed to be able to defend itself, but it also needed to be able to launch an offensive, much like the Klingon’s Negh’var Class. Its hull was reconfigured to better house multiple fighter assault wings, including an innovative Drop Bay, and Marine transports. In a startlingly short time, the Excalibur could launch an invasion of a planet or a space installation.
By the early 2380s, Starfleet’s need for a large deep space explorer was still going unmet and those whose initial idea it was to retrofit the Excalibur, which should have been the simplest solution, were given pause for thought when the problems with the still-young fleet command vessel were highlighted. It was undoubtedly a good all round vessel. Not all of its non-combat oriented technology had been removed and it was able to fill a multi-purpose role quite adequately. However, many Federation starships could boast the same. The only arena in which the Excalibur excelled, despite its vast size, was battle.
Moreover, the ship had structural problems. The hull, originally intended to be significantly larger, had been specifically redesigned to suit a smaller ship, but the Excalibur’s unique profile still caused problems. Too much was being asked of it and, despite the foresight to build massive structural supports akin to those found aboard the Galaxy, the Excalibur’s hull required levels of maintenance that were disproportionately high compared with its youthful age. Its overly powerful impulse engines, for example, placed considerable strain on the saucer section.
Elsewhere, its tactical systems drew a lot of power. While the warp core and power transfer systems were up to this task, they were sometimes overtaxed when engaged in combat for protracted periods and were difficult to repair when damaged. Hence, when the viability of a large deep space explorer was reconsidered, the simple option – retrofitting the Excalibur – was not entertained for long. Instead, Starfleet Command opted for a redesigned Excalibur.
The Century Class, as it soon became known, shared many of the Excalibur’s design details, but the most obvious and immediate difference between the two was the hull shape. While their configurations were basically the same, the Century’s hull followed in the footsteps of the Intrepid and the Sovereign and was streamlined for high-warp performance. While some of this not insignificant alteration was achieved through new construction techniques that were later retroactively applied to Excalibur Class vessels when they berthed for refits, it was primarily possible because the Century was smaller, both in dimensions and mass, than its sister ship. Therefore, a large number of the structural problems afflicting the forerunner were immediately sidelined, allowing the design and construction teams to focus on the Century’s other aspects.
The Century’s impulse engines, while availing of the latest advances in technology, were several times smaller than the Excalibur’s. This avoided the compression problems experienced by the larger ship, but it meant that the Excalibur’s maximum sub-light speed was markedly inferior. Not even the addition of a third, central engine during the design process’ early stages made a significant difference, although the relocation of the two existing engines to the nacelle pylons, which could easily stand up under the strain of the smaller drive units, boosted the Century’s manoeuvrability somewhat. In Starfleet Command’s eyes, however, the overall loss when compared with the Excalibur was virtually inconsequential. The Century, after all, was not intended to be a combat vessel and, for the most part, its impulse engines would not be called upon as frequently as the Excalibur’s, which would typically not be free to flee an engagement area at warp.
The Century’s phaser arrays numbered only half of that of the Excalibur’s. Although they were of the same type and could muster near identical outputs, the reduction not only meant that the Century’s power distribution networks would not need to be overly complicated and numerous and, as such, open to failure or damage, but that more of the ship’s power output would, in the normal course of events, be devoted to its scientific systems. Likewise, the Century’s shields, while advanced, were not as strong as the Excalibur’s. Indeed, the shortfall was as much as 15% when amplification through additional power transfers was not required in emergency situations.
The Century could not boast any fighter launch bays or staging areas and its communications systems, while advanced, could not compare with those found aboard the combat-oriented Excalibur. In keeping with the desire for a vessel of peaceful exploration, the Century lacked its sister ship’s three quantum torpedo turrets.
Essentially, the Excalibur’s military components had either been removed or considerably scaled back to make room for the re-inclusion of scientific equipment. Using the latest and most advanced systems, from long-range multi-spectral sensors and quantum distortion spatial probes to poly-state laboratory scanners and adapted tri-deflector interference generators, the Century surpassed the exploratory capabilities of the Galaxy, the Nebula and the Excalibur.
In addition, room was made aboard the large for families. For several decades where deep space or long duration missions were concerned, Starfleet had been attempting to see to its personnel’s social and communal needs by providing living areas for their families. In the 2350s, the Galaxy had been purposely designed to administer this policy and other designs had been modified to better accommodate non-Starfleet personnel. The Century could boast school rooms and play areas for children and recreational areas of many varieties, including holodecks.
Many areas on board the Century could be converted for specific uses as the mission went on, although some were deliberately engineered to suit the most commonly envisaged scenarios – hydroponics, arboreta, testing ranges, storage bays, additional labs or extra quarters (for newborns, etc.) – better than others. Given the Century’s exploratory nature, luxurious accommodation was built for visiting dignitaries and one of the most powerful computers ever to be in service aboard a Federation starship was installed.
In late 2383, the first Century Class starship, the class’ namesake, launched on her shakedown trial for a grand tour of the Federation’s borders. During the opening months of the tour, the Century needed to modify its course to make use of the local starbases’ docking and maintenance facilities five times due to problems with its power generation systems. On one occasion, another starship had to divert to rendezvous with the Century when the prototype’s warp engines, stricken by an inexplicable power surge, failed. The modifications ordered and overseen by the experienced engineers aboard the other Starfleet vessel spelled the end of the Century’s burgeoning power problems and, for the remaining year and a half of the shakedown cruise and testing, the ship never needed to visit another starbase or meet with another vessel again.
In late 2385, the USS Century was commissioned NCC-87700 and immediately set out for beyond Gorn space. Three other vessels of the class were officially launched soon after, with a further three nearing completion above Vulcan. The Century, what the Excalibur should have been but on a reduced scale, is a peaceful explorer, the armaments of which are a last resort and intended for defence alone, and a community in space with the sole aim of exploring the mysterious uncharted reaches of the Alpha Quadrant and beyond.
|Starfleet Starship Classes (Active)|
|Research Bases||Argus class - Lowell class|
|Starbases||Celestial class - Colony class - Ithaca class - Nor class - Regula class - Stardock class|
|Cruisers||Ambassador class - Galaxy class - Nebula class - Prometheus class - Sovereign class|
|Light Cruisers||Akira class - Cheyenne class - Excelsior class - Intrepid class - Luna class - Normandy class - Norway class|
|Research Vessels||Daystrom class - Nova class - Olympic class - Oberth class|
|Escorts||Centaur class - Defiant class - Diligent Class - Miranda class - New Orleans class - Sabre class - Steamrunner class|