For several years, particularly since the ongoing retirement programme of the Constellation Class and given the growing gap between the fleet’s aging transportation abilities and its modern needs, Starfleet had been contemplating a new design of starship that could fill a role previously managed ably by the Miranda and several other small ships while still retaining the ability to be redeployed to crisis situations speedily. In essence, Starfleet was looking for an emergency response starship.
Although the Starfleet of the late 2370s and early 2380s had no shortage of fast ships, they were all intended for grander things, as it were, than emergency situations. The Intrepid was an explorer and a scout, designed to travel beyond the Federation’s borders. The Sovereign was a capital ship, an all-rounder with an emphasis on exploration and defence. The Prometheus, Starfleet’s fastest ship at the time, was a resource-intensive and high-maintenance long-range tactical cruiser.
Starfleet required a ship that could traverse vast distances in relatively short periods, a feat quantified by the Advanced Starship Design Bureau as demanding an easily manufactured vessel that could reach and maintain speeds in excess of warp 9.9. It would also need to be durable. Although the new ship was intended to respond to most civilian emergencies, the dangers posed by living beyond the range of most regular Starfleet patrol routes meant that conflict with other races and galactic powers was, if not a certainty, then a likelihood. As such, the new ship would have a secondary emphasis on emergency tactical response.
For the 2380s, it was felt that an emergency response vessel would have to meet certain requirements. Natural disasters and other non-military crises often placed heavy demands on the resources of whatever ships responded to the distress calls and, with the exception of Starfleet’s largest or most modern vessels, few starships were able to address those demands on their own. Consequently, the new ship would need the latest in industrial replication technology and a large portion of its internal volume and power output devoted to creating and maintaining large stores of consumables and other necessities. Indeed, the ship’s primary cargo bay was, given the vessel’s overall size, extensive and, in a bid to make moving large components or supplies in inhospitable environments more easy, had three separate external access ports through which shuttlecraft could tractor or bring aboard the materials in question.
Typically, response vessels only needed to deliver assistance, not to act as transports for refugees, so the new ship would not need to be overly large. Where setting up local medical stations was not an option, though, its Sickbay would need to be large enough and sufficiently outfitted to cope with the stresses placed on it. Given the fact that a proportionally large number of disasters meant that transporters were rendered ineffective, aid would need to be delivered by other means. Typically, this meant a high number of shuttlecraft that could render the aid in question, but that would have necessitated a larger ship. To keep the vessel small and relatively easy to construct, however, Starfleet demanded that it be capable of entering just about any atmosphere. So, while it would carry some shuttles – two Type 11 craft were deemed suitable, as they were fast and capable without being overly large themselves – they would primarily be used to ferry cargo and personnel, perform extensive sensor sweeps during search and rescue operations and so on.
Speed and durability were the other key requirements. The new ship would need to be able to reach almost any disaster site in an impressively short time. It would also need to be able to take care of itself if, during the course of its relief or search and rescue operations, it found itself in less than favourable surroundings, be they natural or otherwise. The emphasis, however, would be on shields, with the ship’s armaments and other tactical systems being treated as secondary considerations. If the ship could escape an area quickly and intact, then it would have no need for the latest phasers or torpedo systems.
Starfleet put together the Sunbird, a close cousin of the Diligent prototype then undergoing testing. Using the multi-configuration nacelle technology first pioneered on the Intrepid and successfully implemented on other craft, such as the Delta Flyer, the revised warp field geometries allowed the Sunbird to attain high velocities. Unlike those predecessors, though, the Sunbird’s nacelles would only retract fully not when at impulse, but when entering an atmosphere, at which time it would rely upon its manoeuvring thrusters, or when maximising shield coverage. Its warp core, a cousin of the one used aboard the Anubis Class, could produce sufficient quantities of power to drive the engines. While they were oversized, they provided a cruising speed comparable to that of an Excalibur and a maximum cruise that could put a Luna to shame. However, its maximum attainable emergency velocity would not have been possible, at least not for more than a few hours, if not for the structural work undertaken to prevent the Sunbird from flying apart. Every aspect of the ship’s hull was designed for high-velocity travel, allowing it to push further and faster to reach crisis areas more quickly than most other starships.
The Sunbird’s tactical systems incorporate a number of advances in phaser and torpedo technology insofar as volume and power requirements permit. The ship’s armament of Type IX phaser arrays, while numbering no fewer than 11, provide it with less firepower than the arrays found aboard the Anubis or the Luna, and its torpedo launcher system is akin to that of the Akira, a design a good 20 years older than the Sunbird, and chosen because of spatial requirements. Its shields, however, are some of the best to be found aboard a Federation starship. While lacking the overall output of capital ships, the Sunbird’s protective fields can take a punishment almost equal to the damage that can be inflicted upon an Akira, but the primary emphasis in their design was on making them adaptable to inhospitable environments that, on previous missions, were more than capable of rendering otherwise modern Starfleet shielding systems nearly, if not completely, inoperable. It is their flexibility rather than their endurance that is their great strength.
The Sunbird was designed to operate in and provide aid across the furthest reaches of the Federation, places where Starfleet vessels were few and far between and the dangers posed by nature and sentient malfeasance were both unpredictable and deadly.
|Cruising Speed||Warp 8|
|Maximum Speed||Warp 9.9|
|Emergency Speed||Warp 9.998 (for 24 hours)|
|Shuttles||Type 11 Shuttle: 2|
|Defensive Systems||Ablative Armour|
|Shielding Systems||Auto-Modulating Shields|
|Phasers||Type IX Array: 11|
|Torpedoes||Pulse-Fire Torpedo Launcher: 4|
- Photon Torpedoes: 57
- Quantum Torpedoes: 85
- Polaron Torpedo: 8
Tri-Cobalt Devices: 2
|1||Bridge, Captain’s Ready Room, Observation Lounge, Cargo Bay 1, Cargo Transporters, Cargo Bay Doors, Probe Launcher, Escape Pods|
|2||Crew Quarters, Lounge, Science Labs, Deuterium Storage, Matter Injector Assembly, Industrial Replicator Suite, Tactical Support Systems, Escape Pods, Warp Core Jettison Hatch, Emergency Batteries|
|3||Crew Quarters, Main Computer Core (Level 1), Upper Shuttlebay, Shuttlebay Control, Main Communications, Auxiliary Deflector Control, Deuterium Reserve, Power Distribution Nodes, Primary SIF Generators, Primary IDF Generators|
|4||Main Engineering, Main Computer Core (Level 2), Shuttlebay, Impulse Drive Assembly (Upper), Environmental Support, Main Armoury, Brig, Auxiliary Life Support, Tactical Sensors, Main Deflector Sub-systems, Forward Tractor Emitter, Gravity Polarity Generator 1, Nacelle Control Room, Main Power Transfer Conduit Complex|
|5||Crew Quarters, Navigational Deflector, Main Deflector Control, Main Computer Core (Level 3), Impulse Drive Assembly (Lower), Impulse Engines, Fusion Reactors 1-3, Shuttlebay Support and Maintenance, Main Life Support, Transporter Room, Sickbay, Engineering Labs, Lateral Sensors, Graviton Polarity Generators 2 & 3, Escape Pods|
|6||Main Sensors, Aft Tractor Emitter, Anti-matter Injector Assembly, Anti-matter Storage, Anti-matter Generator, Main EPS Control Nodes, Secondary SIF Generators, Secondary IDF Generators, Cargo Bays 2 & 3, Escape Pods|
|7||Forward Torpedo Launchers, Torpedo Magazines, Secondary Communications Array, Anti-matter Reserve|
|8||Aft Torpedo Launchers, Emergency Batteries|
Ships of the Line
- USS Firebird
- USS Sparta
- USS Skylark
- USS India
- USS Syrian Prince
- USS Belos