Ship of the Week:
Galaxy Class Starship
Affiliation: United Federation of Planets
Role: Heavy Cruiser
Special Abilities: None standard. However, robust ship design makes for strong survivability and modular construction allows for outfitting with a variety of Starfleet technologies.
Following the destruction of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-C) by technologically superior Romulan warbirds in 2344, Starfleet Command turned to the Utopial Planitia Fleet Yards to design a large, next-generation heavy cruiser capable of holding its own against such ships. While the ship architecture and warp technology progressed at a robust pace throughout the 2350s, disputes with Starfleet Command regarding manufacturing techniques and weapons systems resulted in those technologies being finalized less than a year before delivery of the Class Ship (NCC-70637) in 2363 (Note: these disputes ultimately led Starfleet Command to order Utopia Planitia to turn responsibility for the follow-on Nebula Class over to the Yoyodyne Division for construction at San Francisco Fleet Yards, a rift that led to numerous disputes and depressed starship production for nearly a decade).
Early experience with the Galaxy Class showed it to be an excellent design, with robust warp drive, shielding, and weapons systems. Nearly 50% more massive than the preceding Ambassador Class, the Galaxy had the internal volume to accommodate systems and equipment that had been ruled out in previous classes. In particular, holodecks for continuous crew training were determined to be an invaluable resource, and augmented social spaces reduced the "performance drop-off" of long deployments. However, Starfleet Command was dismayed to learn in 2364 that despite their attempt to create a cruiser superior to recent Romulan warbirds, the newly-commissioned Romulan D'Deridex Class was nearly twice the size of the Galaxy Class.
Although Starfleet Command initially envisioned a large number of Galaxy Class Starships, the disputes with Utopia Planitia slowed initial procurement. The loss of the USS Yamato (NCC-71807) in 2365 caused Starfleet to slow production further, and after the losses of USS Odyssey (NCC-71832) and USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) in 2370 and 2371 (respectively), Starfleet Command halted construction and ordered a full review of the Galaxy program, focusing on previously unknown vulnerabilities (off the record, several flag officers claimed that Galaxy Class procurement was halted to allow for accelerated production of smaller classes of starships to make up for losses sustained during the Dominion War).
Although Utopia Planitia initially worried that the review would become a political opportunity to blame shortcomings on the shipyard, ADM Kellan’s even-handed and fair technical review and the subsequent design improvements were widely credited with repairing much of the rift between senior Utopia Planitia management and Starfleet. Not only were design flaws constructively discovered and corrected, Utopia Planitia and Starfleet managed to revise production techniques for Galaxy Class to reduce the number of unique components (particularly the girders underlying the Galaxy Class’s constantly curving hull structure and the hull plating itself), thereby reducing Galaxy Class acquisition cost and construction time by nearly 10%. Ultimately, Utopia Planitia was able to spin the review to its advantage, securing a sizable contract to apply the lessons learned to the new Intrepid and Sovereign Class starships designed by San Francisco Fleet Yards.
Although the future of the Galaxy Class has been widely debated due to the success of the smaller and more powerful Sovereign Class, Utopia Planitia has continued to secure contracts to design and backfit modern systems into the existing Galaxy Class starships. Further, the simplification of the Galaxy Class construction technology has allowed for other shipyards in Federation space to begin limited production of these starships. While Starfleet Command refuses to publicly state how long Galaxy Class procurement will continue, recent press statements from Utopia Planitia suggest that Starfleet has commissioned several Galaxy Class variants to take advantage of its large hull volume, potentially including both a large support cruiser and a battle-augmented variant.