Bireme Class Cruiser
Max Warp: 3.2
Max. Impulse: 0.18 (0.25 with shuttle augmentation).
Armaments: Two lasers (FWD).
Status: Production began in 2092 and continued intermittently for ten years. Seven Bireme class vessels were produced: Bireme (class vessel), Trireme, Longboat, War Canoe, Galley, Sloop, and Pinnace.
About Ship: The Bireme class cruiser was an attempt to create a dual-purpose starship that combined the far-ranging exploration ability of the Valiant with the armed might of a warship. The result was a satisfactory compromise, but performance was hindered by the limited understanding of warp dynamics at the time.
The Biremes were unusual in that they were the only front-line ships ever produced in the Alpha quadrant with a pressure-supported hull. The hull consisted of a rigid load-bearing frame with an outer hull comprised of a flexible polymer/ceramic composite envelope supported entirely by internal pressure. The pressure differential between the ship's interior and the vacuum of space made the hull stronger than many alloys of the day, at a fraction of the mass. This resulted in a vessel that was strong, lightweight, and inexpensive to produce. Interior volume per crewmember was higher than ever before, and was not exceeded until the construction of the Constitution class in the mid 23d century. Unfortunately, it also resulted in a vessel that was difficult to build, resulting in several construction delays while unexpected difficulties were dealt with.
Sublight propulsion was provided by a ring-shaped aerospike nozzle aft, while warp nacelles were mounted amidships. Power was supplied by a fusion reactor mounted inside the central backbone, and deuterium fuel was stored in compartmentalized bladder tanks between the inner habitat/equipment section along the structural backbone and the external membrane. This arrangement provided additional protection for the crew against radiation and micrometeorites. The bridge and weapons were mounted in pods at the forward end of the (roughly) cylindrical hull.
Although the Biremes suffered from the perception that they were about as sturdy as a child's toy baloon, nothing could have been further from the truth. The Biremes served as UESPA's flagships for over 50 years. The type did, however, have its quirks. The entire vessel tended to vibrate when it was underway, causing motion sickness in some crewmembers. While the crew may have complained about the vibration, they quickly adapted, accepting the near-constant creaking and groaning of their vessel as normal. Many engineers boasted they knew the condition of their ship solely by the vibration of the deck against their feet. Despite fears, the only explosive decompression suffered by a Bireme class vessel occurred aboard the Galley in 2123 when a lone attacking vessel fired a missile at her. The missile punctured one compartment, but most of the force of the blast was deflected outward by deuterium escaping from the ruptured bladder. due to the high standard of the crew's training, they quicky evacuated the affected section. No hands were lost and the damaged section was patched and reinflated within 30 minutes of the incident.
Another notable feature of the Biremes were the two large (54m long) lifting body shuttles it carried. These shuttles not only served to transfer crew and supplies to and from a planetary surface, but also served as emergency lifeboats. Often, the crew would use one shuttle as additional living space, reserving the other for normal operations. The shuttle docking rings were reinforced in case a shuttle engine fired while it was still docked with the mother ship. Although the practice was discouraged, the shuttles' engines were occasionally used to boost sublight performance in an emergency.
By 2142, the state of starship design had finally advanced beyond the Bireme. The Daedalus class starships had entered production and all seven Biremes had been retired to storage by 2150.
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