After the end of the Romulan war, most ships in the Starfleet were small, lightly armed exploratory cruisers (such as the former UESN Daedalus and Comet classes). Most of the UESN’s heavy cruisers (Conqueror class) and fighter-carriers (Yorktown class) had been mothballed, repurposed, scrapped, or sold off to local defense forces, with only a small number entering service with Starfleet.
To meet any potential remaining Romulan threat, Starfleet needed to replace its Conqueror-class heavy cruisers. The large crew complements and offensive mission profile made them poorly suited for a more defensive role.
In April 2163 Starfleet issued a request for proposals for the Dragon class of border-defense heavy cruisers. The requirement was for firepower (both missile and beam weaponry) at least 33% greater than that of Conqueror. Cruising and maximum speeds were wf 3.4 and wf 4.5,again an improvement over the Conqueror. Displacement was planned to be 150,000 tons or less with a crew of 430 officers – both approximately a third of those of Conqueror. These ships were planned to be less expensive to design, construct, and operate, but still be more effective for border defence than the wartime Cruisers. 20 Ships were planned, to commission for 2166 onwards. This baseline ship is shown as the Dragon Mk1 on the Data sheet.
The successful design was in essence a scaled up Daedalus, using some Comet style components as well. Construction of the class began in August 2164, but problems were encountered as the first Dragon began to be fitted out with various components supplied by subcontractors. The challenging requirements led to many of these systems being designed specifically for the Dragon class, and also to these systems having an impact on the overall design. In addition Starfleet Intelligence threat analysis led to a requirement for across-the-board performance increases for all ship’s systems. Accordingly, the damage and ranges of all weaponry were to be increased by an average of 25%; and cruising and maximum speeds were increased to wf 3.6 and wf 4.7. This improvement was to be delivered from just a 10% increase in crew size and displacement.
To meet the new performance requirements, numerous changes were made. To increase the cruising and maximum speeds, a more powerful warp drive with larger reactor was installed requiring the addition of a separate “reactor hull”. In addition, the 129-m-long nacelles were replaced by 157-m-long units. As well as the increase in firepower the missile load was increased, and the shuttle bay enlarged. These changes further decreased the space that could be used for crew quarters, stores, and life-support systems. Dragon was now 257 m long, with an estimated displacement of 180,000 tons, and the various technical issues were still to be overcome. This is the Mk2 configuration.
In December 2165, Hull #1 was christened USS Fafnir (NCC-213) and launched to begin trials despite the ongoing integration problems. Upon commencement of trials construction was authorized to begin on the next 3 ships of the class. However the trials of Fafnir quickly revealed numerous problems. The most severe being that the firing of a full missile salvo from the forward missile tubes at attack speed caused the mounts for the p forward deflector and targeting sensors to become misaligned. This was resolved by structural reinforcement. High speed warp runs revealed harmonic flexing from the nacelle supports propagating throughout the length of the ship – these vibrations played havoc with navigation, weapons targeting, and prevented Fafnir from reaching design speeds. In the longer term these vibrations would lead to fatigue failure possibly resulting in the catastrophic loss of spaceframe integrity. To resolve these issues it was necessary to shorten and thicken the neck connecting the primary and secondary hulls and adding redundant supports for the nacelles on the reactor hull. Fafnir was now 247 m long but displaced 194,000 tons
By October 2166 most of the outstanding problems were being solved: the lead ship, USS Fafnir, was commissioned. Unfortunately by 2167 Starfleet’s requirements had changed, and the defensive posture of the Dragon meant they were ill suited for use in a exploration role. The lack of internal space owing to the level of equipment and weaponry fitment meant that there was no space for the installation of laboratories, scientific equipment, crew quarters, common areas, and long-term life-support systems. With the Romulan threat in abeyance, the Dragon had become a costly and immobile white elephant, and in November 2167 Starfleet cancelled the final 10 ships of the class before construction had begun.
Despite these problems the 10 completed Dragons proved to be rugged and reliable ships – however, all Dragons were withdrawn from front-line service by 2180 without ever having fired a shot in anger.
The Dragon-class heavy cruiser USS Jörmungandr (NCC-218) is on display in the Starfleet Museum.
Ship Source: Starfleet Museum
Ship Datasheet: Coming Soon
Dragon Mk2 Configuration:
- USS Fafnir NCC-213 completed in this configuration, but was modified during trials