Drake Class

The explorer Drake is an offshoot of an entirely different breed of ship. The Ronin Class, the brainchild of the designers behind the highly successful Sovereign, was to have been a warship through and through, a military vessel with scientific and diplomatic facilities rather than a ship of exploration capable of defending itself. Continuing with the trend of downsizing one family of starship to form another, the Ronin was meant to be a smaller and comparably-equipped counterpart to the Sovereign, much as the Miranda had been to the Constitution and the Nebula had been to the Galaxy. While similar to the Anubis Class in many regards, the Ronin’s primary tasks would not be to patrol, but to engage in deep space reconnaissance and exploration to ascertain the existence of threats and to ensure the security of the Federation’s borders. Many in Starfleet did not agree with the proposition of a starship meant to be a heavy hand abroad and argued that there was no need for such a vessel, not even after the successful conclusion of the War, but a compromise was finally achieved in 2376. The Ronin Class would go into production in limited numbers and would be pushed to the forefront of exploration as a premier starship whenever or wherever a Sovereign or Galaxy could not be deployed. Its non-tactical capabilities would be increased and there would be a serious downgrade in its overall combat abilities.

However, with the Anubis Class being pushed into full-scale production immediately after the Dominion War and the Nebula Class undergoing continuous upgrades and refits, less Ronin Class starships were required than would otherwise have been the case. As such, Starfleet put the entire project on indefinite hold and mothballed the three space frames already laid down in an attempt to refocus its shipbuilding efforts on vessels they deemed to be less combat-oriented. New projects were created covering a multitude of areas. From these came such ships as the Daystrom Class, a non-militarised surveyor that was initially proving highly successful in the field. It was not long, however, before Starfleet issued a request for more explorers, science ships and surveyors, so in 2378 a joint team with elements from four other shipbuilding projects jumped at the chance to convert the warship Ronin into the explorer Drake. The principle behind their plan was that a smaller, less-capable counterpart to the Daystrom could be built even as the Ronin was to have been the Sovereign’s little brother. So, instead of going back to scratch on the entire project this combined design team concentrated its attention on the Ronin and the three space frames lying in wait. For them the Ronin was a near-perfect template upon which to base the Drake. The Daystrom is a deep space vessel, intended to go on long duration missions. The Ronin was also designed for deep space activities.

Incorporating a type of nacelle and warp coil assembly that were markedly more efficient than most others and rivalled those employed on the Daystrom, including in terms of the level of protection they provided against contamination of surrounding space, the new design team found it acceptable to enhance the original’s scientific capabilities at the expense of its propulsion and self-sufficiency systems. This was achieved by the development of a new technique that found form in the pair of ramscoop/plasma injector polydyne chambers attached to the underside of the nacelles. Working by both reinforcing and duplicating some of the effects of the plasma injector/warp coil system, these chambers can increase energy conservation by upwards of 5% under normal circumstances and as much as 30% when the Drake has been forced to use the ramscoops as a source of fuel alone. By limiting the Ronin’s deep space capabilities, the Drake could devote more space and energy to its new mission of near-space exploration. This was not seen as a disadvantage to the design. Much like the Anubis, although the Drake could not engage in deep space missions or match some of Starfleet’s newer ships in terms of speed, it was more than capable of operating independently of any base of operations for up to two years at a time. For the mission parameters in mind this was more than suitable, as the Drake was intended to travel just beyond Federation space or to survey the unexplored territories that lie along its furthest borders. This was a significant improvement over the abilities of other ship classes used to survey star systems and phenomena, such as the Nova and the Oberth, as the Drake was a completely independent starship with a greater range of operations and a much higher capacity for longevity and scientific research.

Some in Starfleet questioned the need for a ship that, for all intents and purposes, looked on paper to be just another version of the Intrepid Class. The design team – and the majority of Starfleet Command – disagreed. Whereas the Intrepid was indeed a light explorer, the general consensus was that its purpose lay more in charting unknown space than it did in actual research of those areas. Its sensor suite, one of the most advanced currently in use by Starfleet, made the Intrepid ideally suited to the roles of scout and mobile telescope, but the compromises made to its combat capabilities had significantly reduced its ability to be a true scientific vessel. As such, Starfleet felt overall that, while the two ships may initially fall into the same category, the Intrepid was too militaristic and, more importantly, lacking in the necessary on board scientific and research facilities to take advantage of its impressive speed and sophisticated sensor arrays. The Drake, on the other hand, was to be a ship with greater internal volume than the Intrepid, volume that was primarily devoted to multiple generic and a number of highly specialised labs. Inevitably, because the Drake and the Anubis were the occupy the same areas of space, comparisons were drawn. Some in Starfleet questioned the need for the Drake, believing that its abilities and limitations would only lead to a duplication of the tasks performed by the Anubis. Supporters of the project argued otherwise. Whereas the Anubis had fulfilled its mission parameters perfectly, now that the Dominion War was over it had become a patrol ship that rarely engaged in combat. As such, they argued, the time it exhausted on the Federation’s borders could be better spent exploring or surveying. Unfortunately, its scientific capabilities were not deemed thoroughly suitable for this, but instead of recalling the Anubis to augment this side of its operations, as suggested by some, Starfleet decided that reducing its tactical abilities could be disastrous. The galaxy had never been a safe place, and recent events had made a lasting impression of Starfleet Command that defensive vessels were a necessary evil in the face of possible threats. In essence, the decision to go ahead with the Ronin variant meant that the Drake was to be a ship similar to the Anubis in terms of speed and range of operations, but with a completely different mission. The deciding factor was Starfleet’s satisfaction with the Daystrom and their willingness to send as many of them out past the current limits of Federation exploration, a courseof action that would require ships with similar capabilities to free the Daystrom from its internal and near-space missions.

In design terms the Drake is almost completely a different animal than its parent, taking the downgrades in the Ronin’s tactical abilities to another level. In perhaps the greatest compromise made on the project, the weapons pod that was to have housed three Pulse Fire torpedo launchers and over three hundred torpedoes was removed to increase the amount of power required for the ship’s new scientific equipment. For a time the idea of attaching a sensor pod not unlike that employed on some vessels of the Nebula Class was toyed with, but in the end it was felt that such an endeavour would reduce the resources earmarked for the highly successful Nebula and would only consume more time and effort than was worth the results.

Thanks to a membership that included engineers who were also working on the Daystrom Class at the time, the joint design team was able to considerably increase the Drake’s ability to conduct long-to medium-range sensor sweeps. The means used to achieve this enhancement were the secondary deflector arrays of the Daystrom, at least in theory. To actually include the smaller arrays would have required a total redrawing of the Drake’s hull geometry, but the designers ingeniously incorporated a version of the technology in the Drake’s two bolt-on torpedo cannon. While the original intention had been to remove these cannon, weapons that had taken their cue from the New Orleans, the designers effectively gutted much of the weapons hardware and installed two singular assembly deflectors. Unlike the Daystrom these have no benefit to space flight whatsoever, but because of them a ship that would otherwise have only had 60% of the Daystrom’s sensory capacity would now have approximately 85%.

The majority of the Ronin’s internal structure was redesigned for the Drake. Technology and equipment that made use of the latest advances in science were installed, eventually consuming a full third of the ship’s overall volume. Added to this were an increased number of diplomatic facilities and more comfortable living arrangements for the ship’s crew. One drawback of the Drake openly admitted to by the design team is the reduced crew complement. Although a result of so much internal volume being devoted to the vessel’s peaceful mission of exploration and because the ship has an impulse engine configuration that makes it one of Starfleet’s fastest sublight vessels, both Starfleet Command and the design team it was felt that the reduction was more than made up for in the abilities that the Drake was to have.

Tactically, the Drake is inferior to the Anubis and most other ships of the line currently being produced. It is, however, an approximate match for its larger sistership – the Daystrom – and is undoubtedly superior to the Nova, Oberth and Miranda designs that are tasked with the same missions. The Drake’s phaser armament has been drastically reduced from the original design’s nine Type XII arrays to only six Type VIIIs. For a time the designers were evenly split on whether a comparable armament to the Anubis should be employed, but in the end Starfleet Command overruled those in favour of installing the Type X arrays and instead opted for their less powerful counterparts. The overall size of the arrays, though, means that, despite having fewer individual arrays than the Daystrom, the Drake nearly equals it in power, capable of emitting a total output of 9,500 terawatts as opposed to the Daystrom’s 11,000.

The Drake’s torpedo launching abilities were radically reduced as well. As mentioned above, the ship’s three Pulse Fire tubes vanished with the removal of the weapons pod and the ship’s two bolt-on cannon were massively usurped by enhanced sensory technology. This setup would have been practically useless in a modern combat situation, only equalling the Miranda in forward firepower, if not for two decisions. The first of these was to reverse the design ethic of the bolt-on cannon. Whereas the original idea had been to move all of the launchers’ functions into self-contained units, the Drake’s design team opted to internalise a large portion of the operations. Because of volume constraints, however, a new firing mechanism was created, one that would handle both launchers. Located inside the saucer section between the two cannon, this firing mechanism in effect makes the tubes one single double-volley device, launching torpedoes either simultaneously or in a staggered pattern. Due to this innovation the Drake far surpasses the forward photon torpedo capability of the Miranda, approximately equalling the Ambassador Class. The second decision made was to keep the Rapid Fire torpedo turret or, more accurately, to leave it unchanged. When the limitations of the bolt-on cannon became apparent some members of the design team proposed a modification to the turret that would allow it to fire photons as easily as it fired quantums. Others disagreed. As with the idea of a sensor pod, this modification would have taken much too long to design, perfect and implement. Certainly, it would have had benefits in other ship classes further down the line, but with a solution to the bolt-on cannon problem found this proposal was dropped and the turret was kept intact. No one ever suggested removing the turret completely, primarily because this would have left the Drake sorely underarmed in the face of powerful ships of a similar size moving onto the lines of the other major powers in the galaxy, but also because the internal design issues involved would have constituted a not-insignificant redrawing of several core ship’s systems.

Gone too were the heavy shielding and the dense armour of the Ronin. Unlike in other areas concerning the Drake’s tactical abilities, though, the designers were allowed free reign with the ship’s defences. Thanks to recent advances in shielding technology, and again with the input of the Daystrom engineers working on the project, the Drake’s shields were kept at a better-than-average 1,945,700 terajoules when at full power, just short of the Daystrom’s maximum output. Also quite significant was the decision to retain some of the original design’s ablative armour. While the Daystrom was protected by 7cm of high density armour the Drake was encapsulated by 6cm of ablative armour in an attempt to increase its survivability in combat situations or when conducting scientific missions in hazardous areas of space where standard shielding would be considered disadvantageous.

The Drake was launched in late 2379 to commence her shakedown cruise and commissioned nearly a year later in a ceremony at Utopia Planetia. With a predicted production run of 488 between 2381 and 2400 the Drake would accomplish another design goal, that of launching five of its class for every three Daystroms before manufacture for both ships was scheduled to halt. Like the Daystrom, the large amount of the class to be produced had much to do with politics, a visible return to Starfleet’s peaceful spacefaring ways, but a part of the reason was Command’s happiness with the ongoing success of the Daystrom and with the Drake’s design itself. From a Sovereign variant to an Anubis/Daystrom hybrid, it was a medium-range range capable of independent action with a decent life span, long refit cycle, a well-rounded scientific capacity, impressive sensory capabilities and reasonably low production costs despite its size.


Duration95 years
Resupply3 years
Refit6 years
Cruising SpeedWarp 6
Maximum SpeedWarp 9.6
Emergency SpeedWarp 9.7 (for 36 hours)
Auxiliary Craft
RunaboutsDanube Runabout: 2
Talon Scout: 1
ShuttlesHunley Shuttle: 1
Type 9 Shuttle: 2
TransportsArgo Transport: 1
WorkpodsBrunel Workpod: 1
Defensive SystemsAblative Armour
PhasersType VIII Array: 6
ShieldingAuto-Modulating Shields
Metaphasic Shielding
Regenerative Shielding
TorpedosBurst-Fire Torpedo Launcher: 4
- Photon Torpedoes: 60
Rapid-Fire Quantum Torpedo Turret
- Quantum Torpedoes: 40
Tri-Cobalt Devices: 2

Deck Listing

1Bridge, Captain's Ready Room, Observation Lounge
2Primary Communications Array, Secondary Sensor Array, Sensor Analysis Suite, Armoury, Environmental Controls, Stellar Cartography, Security Office/Brig
3Transporter Rooms 1 & 2, CO's Quarters, XO's Quarters, Senior Officers' Quarters, Multi-purpose Labs (10), Main Computer Core (Level 1)
4Main Diplomatic Facilities (1 lounge, 2 conference areas), VIP/Guest Quarters, Junior Officers' Quarters, Hydroponics, Botanical Studies Lab, Chief Operations Officer's Office, Main Computer Core (Level 2), Advanced Sensor Computation Units, Sensor Analysis Suite
5Holodecks 1 & 2, Primary Sensor Array, Secondary Diplomatic Facilities, Cargo Bays 1 & 2, Experimental Sciences Lab 1, Astrophysics Lab, Chief Science Officer's Office, Main Computer Core (Level 3), Deuterium Storage, Crew Quarters, Civilian Quarters, Escape Pods
6Sickbay, Sickbay Support Units, Chief Medical Officer's Office, Exobiology Lab, Xenobiology Lab, Cryogenics Lab, Biological Development Lab, Auxiliary Deflector Control, Holodeck 3, Aft Sensor Palettes, Transporter Room 3, Main Computer Core (Level 4), Deuterium Storage, Crew Quarters
7Shuttlebay, Shuttle Maintenance and Storage, Torpedo Loading Mechanism, Torpedo Magazine, Lateral Sensor Arrays, Port Impulse Assembly (Upper), Starboard Impulse Assembly (Upper), SIF Control Systems, IDF Control Systems, Crew Quarters
8Geology Lab, Planetary Development Lab, Lounge, Impulse Reactors, Aft Torpedo Launchers (2), Torpedo Magazine, Torpedo Loading Mechanism, Torpedo Turret Access, Bolt-On Cannon Access, Tactical Sensors, Intensive Sensor Acquisition Suite, Crew Quarters, Escape Pods
9Forward Torpedo Launchers (2), Secondary Deflectors, Main Power Transfer Conduit Complex, Port Impulse Assembly (Lower), Starboard Impulse Assembly (Lower), Main EPS Control Nodes, Escape Pods
10Primary Tripartite Deflector Alignment Controls, Power Distribution Nodes, Power Distribution Network Processors, Secondary Communications Array, Multi-purpose Labs (6), Archaeology Lab, Computational Subprocessor Matrices
11Graviton Generator 1, Cargo Bay 3, Maintenance Bay, Reserve Tactical Batteries (2), Tactical Support Systems
12Main Engineering, Chief Engineer's Office, Main Navigational Deflector, Graviton Generators 2 & 3, Multi-purpose Labs (2), Experimental Sciences Lab 2, Secondary Computer Core (Upper)
13Engineering Labs, Emergency Transporter Room, Advanced Sensor Computation Support Units, Ramscoop/Plasma Injector Polydyne Chamber Monitoring System, Secondary Computer Core (Lower)
14Cargo Bay 4, Antimatter Pod Ejection Systems, Antimatter Storage Pods, Engineering Support Systems, Industrial Replicator Suite
15Tractor Beam Assemblies, Forward Tractor Beam Emitter, Aft Tractor Beam Emitter, Warp Core Jettison Hatch

Ships of the Line

  • USS Magellan
  • USS Zheng He
  • USS Cabot
  • USS Armstrong
  • USS Chafee
  • USS Columbus
  • USS Cartier
  • USS Cortes
  • USS La Salle

Categories: Starship Specs
Last Modified: October 8, 2017 8:39 pm

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