The Monoceros class scout was designed to provide Starfleet with a light scout which was cheap and easy to build. First commissioned in 2246 (1/89), further ship production was delayed after a design flaw in the warp field balance coil was discovered. At high warp speeds, the ship tended to “rise” out of its own warp field, causing the ship to violently exit warp. The problem was corrected by reconfiguring the control computer software.
The Monoceros II was also designed to act as a demonstrator for the improved generation of linear warp drives then in development. The SCNN nacelle and reactor arrangement adopted for the single FWB-1 warp engine was lighter than the equivalent PB series installation. Fitment of a full-blown linear drive assembly with hull mounted warp core was dismissed in this design on safety grounds. It would be a further 10 years before work began on a class mounting such a system.
The experience gained in operating the SCNN equipped Monoceros II class paved the way directly for later SCNN engined vessels (such as the Endeavour class) and also demonstrated the benefits that ships equipped with linear drives had compared to those with circumferential warp drives. Of the 16 ships commissioned, not a single vessel was lost to warp drive related problems, but some nine vessels were lost to enemy action. The decommissioning of the class in 2257 (1/99) was the result of the need to continue the testing of the new engines on the few surviving ships of the class. Accordingly all seven survivors continued to be operated as test-beds by both the engine manufacturers and the Starfleet Corps of Engineers, the last not being retired until 2272 (2/17).
The Monoceros did see action in the Four Years War, albeit limited. In 2253 (1/95), the USS Vulpecula was responsible for inflicting minor damage on several unescorted Klingon G-4 transports. The captain and crew of the Vulpecula received Starfleet’s highest commendations for this action. Most ships of this class, however, served as sentry ships for assembled fleets.
An interesting footnote to the ship’s history is the origin of the class name. It has been told that Commodore Charles Tatum, who was overseeing the design of the proposed scout, was studying the ship schematics at home when his seven year old daughter became curious as to her father’s work. The commodore light-heartedly asked his daughter what the ship should be called, and she promptly answered, “Unicorn!” Impressed, the commodore (after changing the name to its Latin derivative) submitted the name and it was eventually approved.
|Ship Source:||Starfleet Technical Manual/Lee Wood||Ship Datasheet:||Download PDF|