Starfleet Starships: Cruisers

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Cruisers are mid- to large-sized vessels which Starfleet can optimize for a wide variety of general or specialized mission profiles, from exploration, to interdiction, to tactical/defense. Although smaller than Explorers, they are easier and less expensive to produce, and therefore more of them have been built. In many ways they could be said to form the backbone of Starfleet.

Because of this ship type's versatility, Starfleet has created many subcategories for this classification to better designate a given ship's primary function. The basic Cruiser is a mid-size, multifunction vessel, able to perform many different duties well. The venerable Miranda-class ship and the somewhat younger Renaissance-class vessel are representative examples. As of 2375, "standard" Cruisers are typically tasked to one of three broad duty classifications: scientific/research vessels, which usually have expanded scientific/sensor packages; military/interdiction, which usually have improved tactical packages; and long-range patrol craft, with uprated drive systems. Miranda-class ships are an example of the first type; Renaissance-class craft of the second type. The long-range patrol Cruisers are gradually being phased out in favor of Fest Cruisers and Fast Frigates.

Exploratory Cruisers are, in essence, a "junior" version of an Explorer, similar in some ways to a Light Explorer. They are equipped with many of the same systems (though space limitations on the Exploratory Cruisers may restrict the amount of equipment which they can carry vis-a-vis and Explorer) and are expected to perform the same wide variety of duties. The Constellation-, Excelsior-, and Nebula-classes are typical Exploratory Cruisers.

Fast Cruisers, such as the Niagara- and Osaka-class vessels, are relatively new additions to the fleet. They are intended to perform long-range diplomatic and courier missions. During the Dominion War, many also served as reconnaissance craft which performed daring behind-the-lines scouting and forward observation missions to gather information on Dominion-Cardassian alliance fleet movements.

Heavy Cruisers, which have been a part of the fleet for almost two centuries, often serve as flagships for Sector Deployment Commands or various branches of the fleet. Thanks to their heavy armament, they served at the forefront of many battle task forces during the Dominion War, and have also helped to counter recent Borg incursions. Examples include the Akira-class, with its multiple torpedo launchers, and the newer Achilles-class vessels, which have often been testbeds for phaser uprating packages. Heavy Cruisers remain a favorite with the ASDB; five new Heavy Cruisers classes, including the proposed Legacy- and Morningstar-classes, are on the ASDB drawing boards as of stardate 52372.4.

Additionally, a modification of the Heavy Cruiser tentatively designated as the Strike Cruiser has been proposed. A Strike Cruiser would take advantage of recent developments in warp field theory and warp engine technology to create a Heavy Cruiser with the speed and maneuverability of a regular Cruiser. Only one design, the Falcon-class vessel, is currently under development.

Last but certainly not least, Light Cruisers fulfill many functions, including diplomatic and courier duties, support for Explorers and larger Cruisers in conflict situations, reconnaissance, and patrol of outlying (but relatively quiet) sectors. Because they rarely include breakthrough or experimental technology, they can be built quickly and cheaply, making them very common. Starfleet fields many classes of Light Cruisers, including the Apollo-class, Cheyenne-class, and the proposed Odin-class.

Caveat: The term "cruiser" (lower case) is often employed in a general sense to indicate any large ship (frigate or larger) capable of extended missions and/or possessing substantial tactical "punch." While the term is not so employed in this report, the reader should be aware of it to avoid confusion in other venues.

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