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Romulan Bird of Prey

Size Comp
Universe : Prime Timeline
Affiliation : Romulans
Class Name : Romulan Bird of Prey
Type : Stealth warship [1]
Unit Run : Unknown, but thought to have peaked at 250 in service in 2274. 250 built in total. 53 have been lost in all. 197 have been retired from service.
Commissioned : 2266 - 2275, remained in service until 2305
Dimensions : Length : 192 m [2]
Beam : 180 m
Height : 51 m [3]
Decks : 5
Mass : 200,000 metric tons
Crew : 150
Armament : 1 x Heavy Plasma launcher [1] Equivalent to 20 S2 photon torpedo tube
Defence Systems : shield system, total capacity 40,500 TeraJoules
Light Monotanium Single hull.
Low level Structural Integrity Field
Warp Speeds
(TOS scale) :
Normal Cruise : 3.5
Maximum Cruise : 3.6
Maximum Rated : 4 for 2 hours.
Strength Indices :
(Galaxy class = 1,000)
Beam Firepower : -
Torpedo Firepower : 1,250
Weapon Range and Accuracy : 50
Shield Strength : 15
Hull Armour : 0.31
Speed : 33
Combat Manoeuvrability : 7,510
Overall Strength Index : 371
Diplomatic Capability : None
Expected Hull Life : 30
Refit Cycle : Minor : 1 year
Standard : 1 years
Major : 5 years


One of the most interesting designs of the 2260's, this vessel was designed to combine a very high level of firepower with stealth, small size and manoeuvrability. Unfortunately for the Romulans, this came at the cost of very low speed and limited range.

The Bird of Prey was the first vessel in standard military service which was known byt the Federation to incorporate cloaking technology. A force field selectively bends light - and sensor signals - around the ship, [1]
while a series of measures were taken to reduce the emissions from internal systems to an absolute minimum. The power required to maintain the cloaking device was enormous, and the Romulan vessel was unable to raise shields or fire whilst using this system. [1] This difficulty was not helped by the fact that the ship had only simple impulse style fusion generators to power her. While these were of a very high output, they were no match for the matter/antimatter system of contemporary Federation designs.

To provide sufficient firepower to destroy heavily shielded vessels and installations, the bird of prey was equipped with a plasma torpedo system. [1] This vented the entire output of the ships EPS system into an enclosing force field (see weaponry section for details), creating a large and highly destructive energy bolt.

In 2266 the Romulans sent the first of their new ships across the neutral zone in order to test out the Federations technological and psychological preparedness for open warfare. The vessel was successful in destroying several of the Federation outposts along the zone before being engaged by the USS Enterprise. A game of cat-and-mouse ensued as the two ships attempted to destroy each other repeatedly. the Romulan cloaking device proved only partially successful; the Enterprise was unable to gain a solid targeting lock, but was able to gain sporadic position information sufficient to follow the Romulan ship. Several other weaknesses in the Romulan design surfaced; use of the cloaking device for long periods drained most of the ships fuel reserves, while the plasma torpedo itself did not perform well even against an Enterprise suffering from several important malfunctions. Performance of this weapon against a fully functional Starship would subsequently be seen to be questionable at best.

Ultimately the Enterprise was able to cripple the Romulan vessel, whose' captain self-destructed the ship rather than be captured. [1]
The Romulans were convinced that they could not compete with the Federation technologically, despite having fielded a somewhat innovative design. Instead they turned to the Klingon Empire for assistance. In return for cloaking technology the Klingons agreed to supply D-7 heavy cruisers, [4] and these rapidly became the core of the Romulan fleet.

Colour key

Canon source Backstage source Novel source DITL speculation


# Series Season Source Comment
1 TOS 1 Balance of Terror
2 Star Trek Encyclopedia Calculated from the scale diagram on page 581, compared to the Vor'Cha class.
3 DVD introductory sequence
4 TOS 3 The Enterprise Incident
Series : TOS Season 1
Episode : Balance of Terror
Book : Star Trek Encyclopedia
Comment : Calculated from the scale diagram on page 581, compared to the Vor'Cha class.
Source : DVD introductory sequence
Series : TOS Season 3
Episode : The Enterprise Incident


The Bird of prey seen in "Balance of Terror" is something of an oddity. Scotty described it as having "simple Impulse power". Most have taken this to mean that it didn't have Warp drive, but although this may be what the original writers meant, I just can't accept it. Clearly the ship was operating across interstellar ranges, clearly it was keeping up with the Enterprise - which was travelling at warp speed for much of the engagement. It must have had warp drive!

So what does "simple impulse power" mean? Well, in the federation Warp drives are Matter/Antimatter powered, while Impulse is Fusion-driven. My guess, then, is that "simple impulse power" means "fusion power". So I think that the Romulans DID have warp drive, as early as their war with the Humans - a war that would have lasted about ten seconds flat if one side had warp and the other didn't. But Romulan warp drive was fusion powered, and hence a good deal slower or shorter ranged than Federation designs.

Later the Romulans traded with the Klingons to get some D-7's, introducing Matter/Antimatter power to the Romulan fleet and apparently giving the Klingons cloaking technology in return. And of course, eventually M/AM technology was replaced by Quantum Singularity power, at least for the D'Deridex class Warbird.

The description of how the plasma weapon works is my own, intended to explain the details of how this weapon seemed to perform on screen.

© Graham & Ian Kennedy Page views : 77,248 Last updated : 31 Jul 2004