"Aerie" class heavy carrier (refit version shown)
Inscription on Commissioning plaque:
"The hand is the cutting edge of the mind."-- Jacob Bronowski
Max. Warp: 7.55
Max. Impulse: 0.65 lightspeed.
Crew: 370 (excluding fighter crews); accommodations for up to 465.
Armaments: Three banks of medium lasers (1 fwd, 1 each port and starboard); Refit model was uprated to phaser armaments, including one additional phaser bank (aft) and four photon torpedo launchers (2 fwd, 2 aft).
Type: Heavy carrier
Status: Entered production in 2250. 12 produced, with class vessel commissioned in 2256. One destroyed in 2262. Four vessels were refit beginning in 2267. The remaining seven were converted to fleet support vessels in 2271. The four uprated carriers were converted to fleet support in 2280, and all remaining vessels were retired in 2345.
About Ship: Before the Constitution class vessels began entering service in 2245, Starfleet began a review of it's ship requirements for the forseeable future. While carriers capable of transporting fighters were in service, the current version was innefficient, slow and maintenance-intensive. While not a high priority, the carriers were intended to be the "eyes of the fleet", scouting ahead in times of war and alerting the combat vessels when an enemy fleet had been located. Additionally, carriers were one of the primary means to provide fire support to ground operations, courtesy of the fighters carried aboard her. Starfleet decided to commission a new carrier to replace the older, obsolete ones in service.
Several designs were submitted for consideration, but Starfleet Engineering settled upon a design based on the general layout of the Constitution class vessels. This decision was based on two main considerations:
While the Aerie class appears quite similar to the Constitution class (it's dimensions are within a handful of meters in any direction, with the exception of the depth of the saucer section), there are many significant differences between the two. The Aerie was designed to be able to keep up with the fleet, and although its cruise speed is comparable to the Constitution class, it's emergency speed is less. Furthermore, much of the interior of the saucer section is devoted to launching, storing, maintaining, and recovering fighters. Shielding, maneuverability, and armament are all less than the Constitution vessels. Since fighters were not intended to be used against capital ships, the carriers were expected only to defend themselves if attacked and run whan possible, not to stay and slug it out with enemy vessels.
Armaments consisted solely of medium lasers until four Aerie class vessels were refit during a modernising program. The refit vessels (Aerie, Den, Lair, and Nest) were provided with phaser armaments, to include a new, aft-firing bank mounted in a pod beneath the shuttlebay fantail. Four photon torpedo launchers were added, mounted in blisters under the saucer and alongside the engineering hull. The refit vessels also received an improved warp core, computer, maneuverability, and shield systems.
The Aerie class vessels had an almost spotless safety record, marred only by the destruction of the U.S.S. Cave during shakedown. The warp core exploded, deforming the spaceframe beyond salvage. Fortunately, the science officer ejected the antimatter pods and activated the emergency warp containment field in engineering moments before the explosion. 32 of the crew of 370 lost their lives, with an additional 12 severely injured. If the protective actions had not been taken, it is quite likely that the entire ship and crew would have been lost. The cause of the explosion was determined to be a defective baffle plate and not an inherent design flaw. Subsequently, all baffle plates were subjected to additional scruitiny before and during installation to ensure there was no repeat of the incident.
The improved capability of the refit Aeries allowed Starfleet to reconfigure the remaining seven vessels to fleet support vessels, a type that was currently in short supply, due to the slower-than-expected rate of production experienced by the Pelican class. All armaments were stripped out, and a single phaser was mounted under the fantail as in the Aerie refit. The fighter support systems were removed. The interior was reconfigured for the fleet support mission, with fabrication and repair facilities installed, and additional cargo space provided by the empty fighter launch, storage, and recovery bays. Performance of the fleet support variant is comparable to the pre-refit Aerie class. As the perceived need for a heavy carrier diminished, Starfleet decided to eliminate the class in 2280, ordering the remaining four to be converted to fleet support configuration. The Aerie class began showing its age around 2320 and Starfleet began phasing them out in 2325. The last vessel of the class, Burrow, was decomissioned in 2280.
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