When production began, the Sabre Class was intended to be a frontline small warship filling much the same role as the Defiant Class did in the 2370s. Designated as a frigate, it is agile, sturdy, relatively fast and, when push comes to shove, can shove right back. The idea, according to the fleet’s leading strategists of the time, was to quickly produce a large number of small and reliable ships that packed a powerful punch. Built using the same advanced technologies as the Galaxy, New Orleans and Akira, the Sabre was a success from the outset. It is surprising, then, that its beginnings were ignominious to say the least.
The early part of the 24th century had proven to be both a rewarding and disastrous time for Starfleet. While its continuing mission of exploration brought the Federation in contact with a diverse and interesting array of civilisations and phenomena, its often overlooked role as the great planetary alliance’s military arm left it vulnerable to those tenacious enough to pursue their goals. These were not the mighty Starfleet or expansive United Federation of Planets known later in the century and a touch of the old frontier remained in many of their relations with foreign powers. Hostile incursions were commonplace, potentially deadly standoffs even more so and, above all else, the Romulan threat had grown.
Having re-emerged from a self-imposed seclusion in the mid 2260s, the Romulan Star Empire immediately set about strengthening its position as a galactic power. New fleets of starships were constructed and new technologies developed to lend a lethal impetus to the Empire’s expansion. Border clashes between the Romulans and the Federation and the Romulans and the Klingon Empire increased in their frequency and, despite determined resistance, began to end in the Romulans’ favour more and more. Neither the Federation nor the then appeased Klingon Empire was able to counter the shrewd manoeuvrings easily. Indeed, any such attempt would have thrown the Alpha and Beta Quadrants into a war so destructive that few if any commanders could anticipate victory.
It was the Tomed Incident that turned the tide. Although it cost Starfleet dearly, the resulting peace treaty between the Romulan Star Empire and the United Federation of Planets was worth the price. For their part, the Romulans had not expected such a determined resistance to their initiatives in the area, but were willing to back down if Starfleet agreed not to develop cloaking technology of its own and, thereby, leave the Romulans’ advantage intact.
Several decades of mistrust had caused Starfleet Command some concern, but it was the ensuing two decades of open animosity and hostility that inflicted wounds that would take a very long time in mending. For more than half a century, Starfleet had invested in large explorers, ships such as the Constitution and Excelsior that could travel far, conduct scientific research and, if need be, defend themselves against aggressors. While effective designs in either peaceful or combative settings, neither was especially plentiful. Indeed, the Constitution Class was in the midst of being retired when the first shots of the 2290s were fired by the Romulans. That left very few medium-sized vessels to counteract the increasing number of border skirmishes and attacks against military and civilian targets, with the main burden being placed on the resilient but underproduced Miranda Class.
Seeing the need for ships that were less resource intensive than the Excelsior, Starfleet’s flagship class, Command embarked on an exercise of reviewing designs that had been deemed inappropriate for general exploratory missions due to either their sizes or warlike natures. The objective was to begin producing new starship classes with limited scientific capacities but combat capabilities sufficient to deter a renewed offensive by the Romulans and the everyday conflicts encountered by Starfleet when patrolling the Federation’s distant borders. In the past, Starfleet had been caught with its pants down, as it were, with barely a ship or two within reasonable distance of priority incidents. Command sought to rectify that situation immediately.
As the designs in question had usually already passed the initial and interim design certification stages, progress was swift and the first production runs began on a number of classes, including the Apollo, Constellation and Rigel while existing classes of a handful of ships had their numbers added to. Into the latter category fell such starships as the efficacious Miranda, including its many variants, and the admittedly abundant Excelsior prototypes originally created for live trials. Of the new designs that were introduced in the late 2310s to early 2330s, many would go on to be refitted with new technologies or to be redesignated as prototypes. The Niagara Class, for example, would eventually go on to become an experimental test bed for both the Ambassador Class and the Galaxy Class and would benefit from no fewer than three full production runs during its fruitful lifetime while the Constellation would be refitted, changing its role from a tactical deep space vessel to that of a long range explorer. The Centaur and Curry would benefit from the copious resources gifted to Starfleet by the Federation Council, in that what should have been two small variant streams eventually coalesced into two full starship classes in their own right.
The new classes did their jobs splendidly. Retasking a number of major construction yards to produce the smaller craft instead of the large Excelsiors and, in later years, vessels of the Ambassador Class allowed Starfleet to put in place a sizable force that effectively quadrupled the Federation’s military numbers in less than half the time anticipated. Moreover, using existing cutting edge technologies rather than investing in the development of new ones cut down on construction time considerably. The trade between speed and future capabilities was an acceptable one in the eyes of Command, as the need was too urgent and immediate to be set aside in favour of producing ships that would still be top of the line in ten or fifteen years time. Significantly, the majority of craft faced by the new classes in combat would be of similar size. Only a handful of races could field vessels large enough to totally outclass the latest additions to the Federation’s fleet.
Activity along the borders quietened for a time, prompting Command to renew its exploratory programme in earnest with the design and construction of the Ambassador Class, but even as the first self-sealing stem bolts were being placed in the Ambassador’s keel, another threat emerged. Unexpectedly, it was the worsening relationship with the Klingon Empire rather than a resumption of hostilities with the reclusive Romulans that fomented a renewed call for more combat oriented designs than those currently on the drafting boards. The Klingons, practised and effective warriors, had long been of the opinion that quantity surpassed quality in terms of importance; as long as a ship did its job – travel fast and shoot well – that was all that mattered. Accordingly, they had been mass producing their latest designs, primarily variants of the reliable K’t’inga and Bird of Prey classes, for several decades and pressing them into service all along their borders. While Starfleet’s latest designs could still match their Klingon counterparts in one-on-one engagements, the odds were rarely so favourable. Worse yet, few could stand up to the K’t’inga and its powerful disrupter weaponry and impressive shielding.
Once again, time was a factor. Estimates predicted that if the Federation did not immediately begin refitting its frontline vessels with the latest weaponry, engines, sensors and shielding, then the Klingons would have accrued an insurmountable advantage by the end of the 2330s. It was, however, too daunting a challenge to bear. Less than a decade remained in which to upgrade what constituted a third of the fleet and no retasking of construction yards or increased resources from the Federation Council while still on a peacetime footing would save the day.
In the end, it was not weight of arms that allowed the Federation to persevere, but its strict adherence to a peaceful discipline. Diplomacy won out, at least for a time, and prevented the Klingons from flexing their military muscles to the extent that war would need to have been declared. Brinksmanship kept the two powers from one another’s throats for nearly nine years. Certainly, there were skirmishes and, on occasion, fierce battles between individual ships, but they were never enough to instigate a bloodbath that would probably have resulted in the destruction of the Federation.
It was in this environment that Starfleet’s latest attempt to increase its strength resulted in the ill-received Steamrunner Class. While very well armed and protected, it suffered an excessive number of problems. In 2335, such problems could not be easily overcome, and the class’ production run was cancelled after just 23 ships had been constructed. One factor in that decision was the revelation that the statisticians’ estimates had been off by a good percentage; the Klingons were not as numerically superior as first predicted and the Federation, although not out of the woods, was not in the dire straits that its commanders had believed.
However, from the embarrassing footnote in Starfleet’s history that was the Steamrunner came a surprising victory, the Sabre. Almost immediately upon the former’s fall from grace, the latter – at least in a pre-design stage – was under consideration. Very little time had been given to the Steamrunner’s designers and builders, just one of the reasons it proved problematic, but enough effort had been expended in the project to warrant an ongoing but low key review with the aim of either refitting the class or redesigning it completely. With the signing of the Khitomer Accords, though, Starfleet’s need for a well armed and fast patrol craft diminished, relegating even that review to a once per decade re-examination.
It was the 2351 call for new designs that breathed life into what would one day become the Sabre. Unlike the Steamrunner, which was passed by on that occasion, serious thought was given to a new starship class that could engage the small-to medium-sized warships appearing on the frontlines of possible threat races, such as the Cardassians. Support for the Sabre was slow in coming, though, as it was still designated as a Steamrunner variant, and was in danger of falling through the cracks once again when the threat posed by the Cardassians escalated after diplomatic relations between the Cardassian Union and the Federation deteriorated frighteningly. While that crisis did not last for more than a year and a half, it was enough for the Sabre’s design team to put together a feasible set of schematics and get Command’s approval to commence work.
Command had come to the realisation that, once again, Starfleet was ill prepared to fight a full scale war with a civilisation that relied more on force of numbers than precision and skill. While hundreds of Mirandas, Excelsiors and the like remained in service, the early 24th century patrol ships were aging poorly. Refit programmes could only achieve so much and, despite the Cardassians’ reliance on quantity over quality, their standard warships were well able to match Starfleet’s in even contests. Presented with a situation disturbingly similar to that experienced during the century’s early decades, Starfleet Command postponed the current round of scheduled upgrades and instead siphoned the vast majority of its resources into new designs such as the New Orleans, Steamrunner, Norway, Galaxy, Nebula and Sabre.
The technical aspects of the Sabre were straightforward enough in their conception, although their execution left much to be desired for the better part of three years. While preliminary – some would say “overly optimistic” – work done during the 2340s had rendered a wealth of information on which to base the project, putting the gathered data to practical use proved more than bothersome. As with the Steamrunner, the project team experienced difficulties with the structure of the Sabre’s hull. While not as angular as its predecessor – the sharp lines had been softened thanks to the lack of a requirement to devote internal space to additional living quarters or scientific equipment – the hull was nowhere near as smooth as the saucer sections with which the engineers were used to working, which caused some confusion when high warp speeds were shown to place unexpectedly large stresses on it.
Most worryingly of all, the Sabre was afflicted with a bad case of warp core/power requirements mismatch. The power source initially included in the design should have been more than able to cope with the strain placed on it by the Sabre’s proportionately large tactical systems, but the engines being used threw up an unexpected obstacle. The latest in warp field creation, they were to utilise much of the same technology being implemented in the New Orleans, Galaxy, Nebula and Akira projects, and therein lay the problem, that is, scale. Rather disappointingly, it gradually became apparent that a certain minimum amount of plasma would be required for the engines to work effectively. Whereas the Sabre’s larger counterparts could easily produce that minimal quantity, the level needed was several percentage points higher than first planned.
It was not that the Sabre’s tactical systems were power thirsty, at least no more so than expected. Rather, they were overly large for a ship of its size. Moreover, they were plentiful in the extreme. The Sabre’s hull was to have been littered with no fewer than twelve Type VIII phaser banks and a single Type VIII array located along its leading edge, an armament that would have been more than respectable for a Miranda or even an Excelsior of the time. The Sabre’s shields were also problematic. Thanks to the latest advances, Starfleet could field starships protected to a degree never before seen, but it may have been arrogance that prompted the Sabre’s architects to incorporate next generation shield generators in their design.
For the better part of a year, the design team wondered whether they were striving for too much, a sentiment with which some members of Starfleet Command grudgingly agreed. This was no more the case than when one interim review of the project revealed that when the warp engines and tactical systems were powered simultaneously, the chances of power relays blowing through the ship increased exponentially.
Salvation came in the form of experienced thinking and the addition of the Federation’s foremost expert on warp systems to the design team. Several engineers from the ongoing Steamrunner project were reassigned to implement a number of their tested practices in the Sabre, beginning with the structural problem. As the Sabre was essentially the saucer section of the Steamrunner with the engineering section strapped to the bottom rather than hanging from behind, the engineers were able to adapt some of their developments to the burgeoning warship. At the time, structural integrity technology was not advanced enough to afford engineers a free hand in manipulating field characteristics, so more practical solutions were used. While the power to the integrity fields was increased, the majority of the unusual burden was borne by an increased number of structural supports. Fortunately, the reduced size of the Sabre in relation to the Steamrunner meant that fewer such supports were required, but even that amount of space used was considered almost excessive by some.
With the help of the aforementioned specialist, who eventually stayed on to head that element of the Sabre’s development, the ship’s warp systems were completely redesigned. Gone was the Steamrunner-esque core, to be replaced by a variant of the sizable core employed in the Ambassador Class. Adapting the design to the Sabre’s unique setting proved something of a challenge and it was almost six months before any progress could be reported, but just under a year after joining the project, the expert produced a slightly oversized warp core that could power the engines and tactical systems while not adversely affecting anything else. While the Sabre could not produce the same magnitude of energy as the Ambassador, the relative difference between the two was practically negligible, something that would have been thought impossible just five years previously.
The increase in tensions between the Cardassian Union and the United Federation of Planets came at the same time as the Sabre project’s power problems. Ironically, it was the former that provided a partial solution to the latter. While the decision did not sit well with some members of Command, the order was given to have the Sabre’s tactical systems focus more on all out attack than defence. The Sabre’s phaser armament had to be remodelled as a consequence. With the emphasis now on assault, a large all round firing arc was no longer necessary just so long as the ship could pack a powerful forward punch. As such, its twelve phaser banks were replaced by four small Type VIII arrays, two of which were aimed almost directly forward, and its existing large Type VIII was removed to allow a smaller but more powerful Type IX array to be installed further back along the ventral surface. While this meant that a new power distribution network needed to be designed, there were notable benefits in that the space taken up by the additional structural supports was no longer such a hindrance and, while temporarily inconvenient, the new network would be less complicated.
Everything on the Sabre was to be aimed towards its destructive impact. Beyond its phaser armament, the ship’s torpedo systems were revised upwards. While there was to be no change from the type of launcher used – burst fire launchers had been planned from the outset – the number was increased from two to three. Although much internal volume had been saved by reducing how many phaser arrays were to be employed, adding a third launcher was a considerable job that required a moderate redesign of the Sabre’s leading edge and forward compartments. With space at a premium, some thought was given to using a smaller version of the bolt-on torpedo cannon then developed for the New Orleans Class, but this proved unfeasible given the Sabre’s diminutive size and warp field dynamics. It was eventually decided to link the two fore launchers in an innovative dual-firing structure. A single tube, albeit an enlarged one, was used to facilitate both launchers in a move that slightly reduced their burst fire capabilities but preserved the torpedo complement and prevented internal changes that could have adversely affected the functional capabilities of the Sabre as a whole.
The USS Sabre was launched at the beginning of 2358 but, due to the sensitive nature of the field testing involved, was not officially commissioned until late 2359. Those tests, primarily involving rapid response functions, combat capabilities and simulated battle durability, pushed the Sabre beyond its limits, so much so that it spent a full three months undergoing repairs after its commissioning ceremony to be certified as spaceworthy once again. By that time, however, no fewer than 30 ships of the class were nearing completion across Federation space. By the time war with Cardassia broke out, the number of active Sabres in Starfleet had increased to 65.
The Sabre Class proved its calibre during the war. Operating as a solitary border patrol ship, it was capable of inflicting considerable damage on any Cardassian warship it encountered, but given the Cardassian tactic of sending out destroyer wings rather than single ships, the Sabre saw an equal amount of action while working alongside Steamrunners, Norways or ships of its own class. While it could be bested by one of the Union’s premier ships of war, such as the Galor, in a straightforward boxing match, the Sabre’s superior manoeuvrability gave it the necessary edge to dance around even that robust opponent before succumbing or withdrawing.
By the close of the war, only 26 of the Sabres that had started the war and 91 in total remained. Although a considerable attrition rate, the Sabres victories more than made up for its defeats with more than 150 capital ship kills attributed to the class, a ratio matched by only the Excelsior, New Orleans and Cheyenne and only surpassed by the Galaxy, Nebula, Akira and Ambassador.
The Sabre Class underwent an early refit in the 2370s in light of increasing tensions between the Alpha and Gamma Quadrants. While its phaser armament was not significantly altered – the dorsal arrays were extended to increase the ship’s overall firing arc – its three burst fire torpedo launchers were replaced by a similar number of pulse fire launchers. The Sabre’s shield generators were removed in favour of those currently seeing service on such ships as the Defiant, Akira and Galaxy. In addition, the Sabre was given a protective layer of ablative armour to increase its staying power in a fight. Beyond that, however, Starfleet has not chosen to make any alterations. Whereas the Norway, for example, was refitted as a ship of diplomacy and scientific endeavour, no such attempts to downplay the Sabre’s combat capabilities were made. Several systems were heavily upgraded, such as its sensors, but the Sabre remains a patrol and combat vessel more than anything else.
Although its role has been usurped by the extremely powerful Defiant Class, the Sabre continues to play an important role in Starfleet’s strategic planning. While not as agile, durable or deadly as the Defiant, the Sabre exists in greater numbers. In fact, despite initial plans to discontinue building by 2371, threats originating from all quadrants – the Dominion, the Borg, even the Romulans and Klingons – prompted Command to keep the project open at a somewhat reduced capacity for a further six years, allowing Starfleet to field an additional 170 Sabre Class frigates.
|Cruising Speed||Warp 5.6|
|Maximum Speed||Warp 8.9|
|Emergency Speed||Warp 9.3 (for 12 hours)|
|Shuttles||Type 9 Shuttle: 3|
|Defensive Systems||Ablative Armour|
|Shielding Systems||Auto-Modulating Shields
|Phasers||Type IX Array: 4
Type X Array: 2
|Torpedoes||Pulse-Fire Torpedo Launcher: 3
– Photon Torpedoes: 80
– Quantum Torpedoes: 60
|1||Main Bridge, Captain’s Ready Room, Conference Room, Primary Sensor Array, Primary Communications Array, Weapons Locker|
|2||Officers’ Quarters, Lounge, Transporter 1, Auxiliary Deflector Controls, Holodecks 1-2, XO’s Office, CoB’s Office|
|3||Diplomatic Conference Room, Armoury, Guest Quarters, Officers Lounge, Holodeck 3, Security Office, Brig, Chief Security /Tactical Officer’s Office, Airlocks 1-2|
|4||Science Labs 1-2, Medical Lab, Astrometrics/Stellar Cartography, Chief Science Officer’s Office, Sickbay, Gym, Lounge, Mess Hall, Crew Quarters, Airponics|
|5||Crew Quarters, Cargo Bay 1, Cargo Transporter 1, Transporter Room 2, Quartermaster’s Office, Forward Torpedo Launchers, Deuterium Storage Tank, Deuterium Injection Assembly|
|6||Enlisted Crew Quarters, Cargo Bay 2, Cargo Transporter 2, Life Support Systems, Holodeck 3, Shuttlebay|
|7||Computer Core (Upper), Core Monitoring Centre, Chief Operations Officer’s Office, Engineering (Upper), Aft Torpedo Launcher, Main Deflector Controls, Navigational Deflector|
|8||Computer Core (Lower), Lower Level Engineering, Industrial Replicator, Chief Engineering Officer’s Office, Cargo Transporter 3|
|9||Cargo Bay 3/Parts Storage, Cargo Transporter 4, Warp Core Ejection Hatch, Antimatter Storage, Antimatter Injection Assembly, Tractor Beam Emitter, Waste Reclamation|
Ships of the Line
- USS Falchion
- USS Katana
- USS Rapier
- USS Scimitar
- USS Eagle
- USS Cutlass
- USS Gladius
- USS Jian