The Aryabhatta class, an Andorian design, entered service in 2222 to replace the large numbers of ageing cruisers that were employed in the research role.
The Andorian ship-building industry was in a poor condition by 2218. During the Earth- Romulan War, Andorian naval ship yards in orbit had built ships of local design totaling many millions tons’ displacement. However, after 2161 few Andorian designs found favor with the new Starfleet as it preferred ships with separate primary and secondary hulls were preferred for reasons of safety and flexibility. Andorian ships placed all ship’s equipment into a single hull with integrated nacelles. The first ship in many years to be adopted by the fleet based on Andorian designs was the Aryabhatta class Cruiser which began trials in 2221.
Work had begun in 2218 after Exploration Command had convinced the Federation Council that a class of dedicated explorers would be more effective and less expensive to build, operate, and maintain than the current fleet of converted, obsolete cruisers. The only stipulation was that construction of this new class would in no way interfere with the introduction of the projected new Valley Forge cruiser class. Ten exploratory cruisers of the Aryabhatta class were authorized. Generally free of interference from Military Operations Command and the Federation Council, the design stage of the project proceeded extremely smoothly.
The new exploratory cruiser was to displace some 70,000 tons. The primary hull was a thick, rounded crescent, which housed most crew spaces, computer core, life-support machinery, scientific equipment, and deuterium tanks. The upper and lower surfaces of this hull supported sensor panels and antennae. The short secondary hull housed the shuttle bay, the M/AM reactor, additional scientific equipment and a long-range, omnidirectional scanner. Weaponry was fitted purely for self defense.
Delivery was delayed by the procurement of the Kestel Class cruiser version of the design, but in compensation five additional ships were ordered. USS Aryabhatta commissioned in March 2222, and the other fourteen followed through to June 2225. The new class fulfilled all Exploration Command’s needs as a medium-range exploratory cruiser. Because of their relatively short endurance, they were primarily used to survey areas within Federation territory, following up surveys done previously. In their more than 30 years of service, the class was credited with mapping and exploring more than 500 star systems and establishing contact with 31 civilizations. Although they served almost exclusively within areas under Federation control, their missions were not without danger. In 2234 USS OmarKhayyam was severely damaged after being fired upon during a first contact attempt that went tragically wrong.
USS Prince Henry of this class is now on display at the Starfleet Museum.
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