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Defender Class

Size Comp
Universe : Prime Timeline
Affiliation : Federation
Class Name : Defender Class
Type : Heavy Cruiser
Unit Run :
USS Defender - Destroyed
plus 5 others built in total. 6 have been retired from service.
Commissioned : 2280 - 2283, remained in service until 2375
Dimensions : Length : 339 m [1]
Beam : 140 m
Height : 59 m
Decks : 8
Mass : 1,200,000 metric tons
Crew : 215
Armament : 12 x Type VII phaser bank, total output 10,000 TeraWatts
Defence Systems : Standard shield system, total capacity 499,500 TeraJoules
Standard Duranium Double hull.
Standard level Structural Integrity Field
Warp Speeds
(TOS scale) :
Normal Cruise : 6
Maximum Cruise : 7.8
Maximum Rated : 8.4 for 1 hours.
Strength Indices :
(Galaxy class = 1,000)
Beam Firepower : 200
Torpedo Firepower : -
Weapon Range and Accuracy : 400
Shield Strength : 185
Hull Armour : 20
Speed : 309
Combat Manoeuvrability : 4,080
Overall Strength Index : 172
Diplomatic Capability : 3
Expected Hull Life : 95
Refit Cycle : Minor : 1 year
Standard : 1 years
Major : 15 years


The Defender class was one of several designs produced around the 2280s as a possible successor to the Constitution class heavy cruisers. Starfleet was driving strongly for much higher warp speeds for its ships during this period, most notably in the Excelsior project which was to incorporate transwarp drive in a move dubbed "the great experiment". However, Starfleet was aware that should the radically new technology of the Excelsiors prove unsuccessful, there would be a significant period whilst a new design was created and developed - a period during which the ageing Constitution class, now ten to fifteen years beyond their major refit, might prove unable to cope with their Klingon counterparts.

The Defender class was considered a fall back option. Starfleet wanted a ship which would be significantly more capable than the existing Constitutions, but would use existing technology to achieve this goal. Given the 'second fiddle' role of the ships to the Excelsior project, Starfleet also wanted the design produced on a resources shoestring.

The designers responded with a vessel which utilized a refit-Constitution class saucer section attached to a brand new engineering hull. Although the warp drive was not at all innovative in terms of the technology employed, the hull configuration was rather unusual in that four nacelles were to be employed in a much flatter, more subspace-streamlined configuration.

After a remarkably speedy design process, six of these ships were built between 2280 and 2283 to establish performance characteristics and prove the basic concept. All proved highly successful in service.

When the great experiment did indeed end in failure, Starfleet endured considerable public embarrassment. The fact that the unstable transwarp drive had only avoided a catastrophic nacelle implosion on its first flight because renegade Starfleet officers had sabotaged the system was an added humiliation. The Defender project team looked forwards to the cancellation of the Excelsior project and a big production run for their ship.

Starfleet's top brass had other ideas. Determined to make a success of their prize project any way that they could, they announced that the Excelsior would be fitted with a conventional warp drive [2] and built in even greater numbers than had been previously envisaged. The decision was a reasonably sound one; the basic engineering of the Excelsior class was excellent and the ship included a whole new generation of sensors, computers and other systems besides the transwarp drive.

However, the move was death for the Defender project; starfleet cancelled all further production of the class. The six existing ships were initially to be cancelled, but they had already performed so well in service that this decision was reversed and all six entered normal service. Although their crews considered them excellent vessels they were never popular with the rest of the fleet, who tended to write them off as failed Excelsiors. Starfleet came close to scrapping the class on numerous occasions, but each time their mix of performance combined with cost effectiveness was a telling point in their favour and they survived review after review. They remained in service for an astonishing ninety five years, their crews dubbing them "the great unwanted fleet". Eventually they became part of the Sector 001 defence force; in 2367 one of this class took part in the battle of Wolf 359 [3], where in true Defender fashion it survived several hours in combat with the Borg cube before going down in flames with all weapons blazing.

In 2370 Starfleet was once again considering the scrapping of the remaining ships, when the USS Odyssey was destroyed by the Dominion. Suddenly the Federation was in a position of needing every single ship they could find, and so the Defenders received yet another reprieve. However, their time was now considered to be largely past. Starfleet generally kept them in their Earth defence role, where three were destroyed during the Breen attack on Earth. Once the war was over in 2375, the remaining two vessels were finally retired for good.

Colour key

Canon source Backstage source Novel source DITL speculation


# Series Season Source Comment
1 Speculative Scaled so the saucer section is the same size as the Constitution refit. Note that class name is entirely speculative.
2 Star Trek Chronology second edition
3 Generic official information
Source : Speculative
Comment : Scaled so the saucer section is the same size as the Constitution refit. Note that class name is entirely speculative.
Book : Star Trek Chronology
Comment : second edition
Series : Season
Episode : Generic official information


This is one of those ships where I just have to bite the bullet and speculate like crazy!

We know almost nothing in terms of onscreen stuff about this class of ship. The model was built as one of several possible 'state of the art starship' designs for what would eventually become the USS Excelsior in Star Trek III. It's basically a Constitution saucer section with a new, very flat engineering hull and four nacelles. The ship never made it as the Excelsior, but when the Next Generation folks did the Wolf 359 graveyard scene for Best of Both Worlds, they threw in all kinds of models that they had had sitting around for ages - including this one. It's just barely possible to make the ship out as a fairly blurred background shape in the Enterprise-D flyby - and that is literally everything we know about it. No ship names, no class name, no nothing.

I had planned to do a fairly brief entry on this class, with minimal notes on its history. But the oddity of the design forced a little more on me - I had to explain how come a ship with Constitution parts is still in service in the 2360s! The more I typed, the more I came to like these plucky little ships... well I ended up doing a fairly substantial entry which I think makes a fairly sensible case for the ships. And hell, writing stuff like this is way more fun than compiling lists or writing episode guides! I hope you enjoy the history I invented.

I've pitched the stats for the ship somewhere between the Constitution refit and the Excelsior. I wanted to covey a ship that was slightly more advanced than the Connies at the beginning, and has been somewhat upgraded over the years, but which was still not up to the standards of a modern Excelsior class. The twelve phasers are those we see on the saucer section of the Constitution section; the torpedo box structure of that ship is missing from this design, and I can't see any obvious place that torpedo tubes would be, so I've omitted them completely. The mass figures are based on those of the Constitution, accounting for a somewhat smaller engineering hull and the four nacelles rather than two. The crew figure is a reflection of somewhat smaller internal volume and/or lower manning levels due to slightly more automation than the Constitution had.

The length I came at by scaling the saucer to a 140 metre diameter refit Constitution saucer section. The size comparison image is one I've created myself using photoshop 6; I'm rather proud of how it came out considering that it's only the second time I've done something like that from scratch rather than kit-bashing some other image.

© Graham & Ian Kennedy Page views : 90,309 Last updated : 5 Jun 2009