Author Topic: Jane's Spacecraft Monthly  (Read 3047 times)

Offline Indefatigable

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Jane's Spacecraft Monthly
« on: August 28, 2010, 10:55:34 AM »
An attempt to produce a series of pieces in the style of magazine articles, to be produced each month.  I'm afraid it's beyond my power to illustrate it.  The inspiration might be fairly obvious, but a E.W. Hornung said, "This form of flattery".

==September Issue==

Proceedings of the Constitution Class Committee

"Indefatigable"

      The Constitution class is regarded as one of Starfleet’s finest designs.  They widened the field of exploration, defended the Federation and pushed back the boundaries of science more than any other starships up to the mighty Galaxy class.  Some of them, the Lexington, the Yorktown and especially the Enterprise are still considered the finest starships in history.  However, many people have often wondered why so few ships were built.  Recent documents released under the 90 Year Rule can now provide an explanation.  These are the proceedings of the Constitution Class Committee.  This civilian committee, an offshoot of the Defense and Exploration Committee of the Federation Council, was formed in 2243 to consider the troubled beginning of the design.  The Military Staff Committee had no input, and that often created tension between the civil and military arms of Federation bureaucracy.

      It is well known that the first ship, USS Constitution, was launched several years late, in 2245, and suffered from powerplant problems during development.  The second ship, USS Enterprise, was launched later that year.  However, the documents show that a Constitution Class Committee meeting in 2244 considered cancelling the project completely, and the motion was defeated by a mere two votes.  The two ships then spent several years on space trials to iron out numerous teething troubles associated with such a pioneering design.  During this stage, the vast expense in resources meant that cancellation was considered twice more, and only the testimony of Captain April of the Enterprise as to how successful the ship was prevented this.  However, the planned production run was cut from twenty, to fifteen, then twelve, and finally ten more vessels, and placed on hold until a temporal displacement problem in the warp drive was solved (Constitution and Enterprise could not exceed Warp 4 at the time).  Once the ‘time barrier’ was broken, they settled into service well.

      At a Committee meeting in 2250, Commodore April (now retired) gave his full evaluation of the ship as a successful and effective vessel.  Although one Tellarite member, Grak, was vehement in opposition, a vote was taken, and the Committee recommended that the project go ahead.  The Federation Council approved this, and full production got under way in 2252.  Success followed, most notably the voyages of Captain Pike of the Enterprise.  Many were named after aircraft carriers from various Earth navies.  This brought the class to public (and political) attention.  The Committee was criticised heavily for their dithering and lack of faith in what was ultimately a wonderful design.  The new Committee chairman, the Human Franz Joseph, recommended a second batch of sixteen ships to a meeting on Stardate 0965.

      However, there were still major engineering problems, with some ships coming close to 'flying apart at the seams' on a regular basis.  The first serious loss was the USS Valiant on Stardate 1193, where the ship apparently blew up in space for no reason.  A Committee meeting on Stardate 2209 concluded that it was an engine failure, possibly a reactor breach, and placed the second batch on hold indefinitely.  Many years later, in 2352, a Romulan defector claimed that this was the result of sabotage.  The last of the original production run of ten ships was due to leave yard in 2265, leaving a total of twelve.  However, there was still a need for more ships in a rapidly expanding fleet.  On Stardate 3220, the Committee recommended an extension to the original production run instead of a second batch, producing a further three ships by 2268.

      The next loss was USS Constellation on Stardate 3579, however that was the result of combat against an extremely large and powerful robotic weapon, nothing to do with engineering problems.  The Committee concluded as such, and remarked how well the Constellation and the Enterprise, which came to her assistance, had withstood the attack.  The third loss was the result of an encounter between USS Intrepid and a very large amoeboid life form.  Sensor readings taken by the Enterprise while investigating the loss proved inconclusive, but the Intrepid was presumed destroyed in an antimatter explosion used to kill the amoeba.  The fourth loss occurred during a war games exercise on Stardate 4729, and again could not be blamed on engineering failures.  While the hull of the Excalibur was salvageable, it was highly unlikely that anybody would wish to serve on a ship where the all of previous crew had died, and the hull was stripped for spares and scrapped.  Two weeks later, the Enterprise discovered the derelict hull of USS Exeter orbiting planet Omega IV.  This ship was contaminated by an organism from the planet, and was first quarantined, then tractored into the Omega sun to prevent the contagion spreading.

      These three losses, with two others declared unserviceable, only serve to emphasise the dangerous nature of the duties these ships undertook.  The extra three ships from the extended production run helped to fill in the gaps, but on Stardate 4444, the Committee recommended that the second batch of Constitutions should be revived.  The voyages of the Enterprise had caught the public imagination, and the Federation Council applied pressure to get this recommendation.  These new ships (the number increased from sixteen to twenty) would act as replacements and expand the fleet to cover new Federation territory.  Concerns about the losses and the perceived shortcomings of the original ships – cramped and noisy by modern standards – resulted in a number of modifications.

  • A wider saucer section, to address the overcrowding of the original design and add extra science labs
  • An extended engineering section with a larger shuttlebay to carry four shuttlecraft instead of two
  • A new design of deflector incorporated within the hull, removing the familiar golden ‘satellite dish’
  • Upgraded sensor and weapons fits, giving better all-around coverage with both
  • Swept-back warp pylons, aiding streamlining at warp speeds

      While it was originally planned to name the first four after ships previously lost, Committee members Selvar of Andoria and Romanov of Earth considered that this would offend the families of lost crewmembers.  The four names selected continued the ‘Earth navies’ aircraft carrier’ theme, USS Akagi, USS Ark Royal, USS Kirov and USS Nimitz.

      On Stardate 6307, Franz Joseph proposed a third batch of up to 111 ships, but this was rejected.  At the same meeting, Rear Admiral Cartwright (Deputy Chief of Fleet Operations and once captain of the Hood) pointed out that the modifications had increased the ships’ mass by 16%, which had a detrimental effect on performance.  As a result, the Committee recommended a halt in production, and only the first four Block 2 ships made it off the production lines at the new Earth Spacedock.  However, the Transwarp project was also under way at the time.  One of the by-products of this was a vertical warp core design capable of producing more power than previous reactors.  The new core, coupled to a new design of warp coil originally developed for the Miranda class, would increase available power to counteract the mass increase.  Rather than build a new ship, the Committee recommended that Starfleet retrofit the new engine to USS Enterprise, the next ship due for her five-yearly overhaul.  Since the new engine required a complete rebuild of the drive section, it was decided to incorporate all the improvements of the Block 2 ships into the refit.  What emerged two years later was practically a new ship built around the structure of the original vessel.  The V’Ger Incident caused her to be rushed into service, but after this ended she went into comparative testing with USS Akagi.  The new engine proved to deliver 25% more power than the old design, allowing the Enterprise to sustain Warp 9 for extended periods.

      The refit was so successful that all the remaining Constitution-class ships were scheduled to undergo the same treatment over the next five years, and the Committee agreed.  Rear Admiral Mendez, chief of Starfleet Planning and Policy, appeared before them on Stardate 7732, and suggested that the planned Block 2 ships, now referred to as Block 3, should be built to Refit specifications.  The vote was unanimous, and the Federation Council agreed.  They were scheduled to begin construction in 2275.  The third batch, now known as Block 4, would begin construction as soon as the second was complete.

      In the early 2280s, the Transwarp Project looked highly promising, producing the highly-advanced Excelsior class.  A Committee meeting on Stardate 8015 recommended that Starfleet continue with the Block 3 run, but shelve the Block 4s.  However the Federation Council, carried away by promises from the Transwarp Project, ignored both the Committee and the recommendations of Transwarp skeptic Admiral Morrow (current CINC Starfleet and once captain of the Constitution).  They not only curtailed the production run of the Block 3 ships, but also cancelled the last two refits the Farragut and the Lexington.  The often-discussed Block 4s, planned as early as the 2260s, were also shelved in favor of an order for the new Excelsiors.  The Refits would be placed on secondary and training duties, and decommissioned within ten years.  Franz Joseph resigned in protest.  Several Block 3s went from the shipyards directly into storage, while the Lexington was ‘stuffed and mounted’ in the Fleet Museum, where she resides to this day, still in original condition.

      In 2286, the Transwarp Project collapsed and the Federation Council shelved Excelsior order indefinitely.  Franz Joseph, now serving on the Federation Council, sent a memo to its previous head with the simple message ‘Told you so’.  The stored Block 3 ships were hauled out, dusted off and made ready for service without consulting the Constitution Committee at all, although they later approved the decision.  One originally had the name Excelsior, but this was naturally changed, initially to Yorktown, to replace a vessel proposed for decommissioning, and then to Enterprise after Admiral Kirk was forced to self-destruct his ship.  One Committee meeting suggested a revival of the Block 4 order, but that was overturned by the Defense and Exploration Committee, who preferred to continue producing more of the cheaper Miranda-class ships, some of which took their names from the cancelled Block 3s.  Meanwhile, the plan to decommission the Refits, whose core hulls were up to forty years old, was deferred until replacements could be found.  The old Yorktown and her sisters soldiered on.  The Constitution Committee, meanwhile, was declared dormant and did not meet again between 2285 and 2310.

      After the signing of the Khitomer Accords, treaty requirements called for a reduction in military strength on both the Federation and Klingon sides.  By now, the refitted ships were beginning to show their age.  Some were developing hull-stress problems caused by prolonged, continuous strain on their spaceframes.  As a result, the Refits began to decommission from 2293 onwards, although the Yorktown and the Valiant continued as Academy training ships.  This was an operational decision, and fell outside the Committee’s purview.  The earliest Block 3s, including the Enterprise-A, fell within the treaty boundaries, and went back into storage, pending disposal, in various facilities throughout the Federation.  With the USS Excelsior proving to be a solid, dependable and fast ship, the Block 4 order was cancelled for good and the Excelsior class began full-scale production in 2294.

      Over the next fifteen years, several Block 3s continued the tradition of the class, providing sterling service to the Federation.  However, their role became steadily less important as the Excelsior and Miranda classes continued to increase in numbers.  In 2319, 74 years after USS Constitution’s maiden voyage, the Committee reactivated.  It did not take long to decide that the class had had its day, and they recommended decommissioning from front-line service within a decade.  The Committee itself wrapped up business and dissolved a year later in 2320.  All files were sealed under the 90 Year Rule, and have only come to light this year.

      This explanation seems to fit the facts.  The Constitutions were excellent ships, but bureaucratic dithering and political infighting prevented them from being as successful as they could have been.  What might have been a class of nearly 150 ships peaked at 25.  This would seem to prove the saying that starships and bureaucracy do not mix.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2010, 10:58:07 AM by Indefatigable »
Still rambling away...

Offline Shik

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Re: Jane's Spacecraft Monthly
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2010, 12:04:59 PM »
It's an interesting idea, & it's got some good concepts, but it suffers from a lack of coherency. On the technical side, the whole piece needs cleanup & editing, as the flow is awkward & disjointed. Also, I'm not sure what sort of voice you're trying to use here. It starts out like a thesis or position paper, then become a straight historical playback, & then ends with more opinion. On the in-universe side, there's some interesting concepts (& some that sound much like some of my own propositions) & it's a good basis for something that could be better.

A tip that helps me when I write things like this: read it back to yourself aloud. Use a steady, measured tone & rate, much like a documentary narrator, & listen for how the words sound when they come out. Notice how your lips & tongue form the words, how the stops, starts, & pauses are dispersed. Most people "read long" in there minds with an article, & so writing should tend to be conducive to that.

Offline Indefatigable

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Re: Jane's Spacecraft Monthly
« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2010, 07:53:15 PM »
Perhaps I should change my signature to "The Artless Bodger".  Yes, this was a bit of a bodge, mostly because I was adapting something rather than starting from scratch.  I was also trying (but not succeeding) to avoid just parroting facts, which I'm sure the members of this site know very well, but explain why things happened they way they did rather than how.  I've already seen a good few areas where I could have introduced more of the why and cut out some of the what, if you see what I mean.  I'm not going to change it, but leave it as it stands, because it's always worth seeing something we can improve from.

Next time, out into new territory.  I'm working on an article about the "Federation Guinea Pig".  If you're interested, you won't have to wait a month, the thread title was just for convenience.
Still rambling away...

Offline Shik

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Re: Jane's Spacecraft Monthly
« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2010, 08:44:42 PM »
Yes, I found myself asking "why?", "who?", & "how?" quite often without having available answers.

Offline Bernd

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Re: Jane's Spacecraft Monthly
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2010, 06:29:58 AM »
You've got some great ideas to link everything together in-universe. As Shik suggested, the coherence of your text may be improved, although I don't think it is so bad (at least if the reader already knows all the facts that you're talking about).