The Constitution class cruisers are the most renowned vessels of their time. Serving as both a research vessel and a cruiser, these ships have performed their duties to perfection for the last 50 years. The Constitution class ships were an integral part of the buildup during “The Great Awakening,” from the outset the most versatile of all ships built for the expansion efforts.
The original construction contract called for 13 vessels to be built that would serve as cruisers, have complete research facilities, and be capable of operating on 5-year research and exploration missions. In January of 2245 (1/8801), the first of these vessels, the USS Constitution, was commissioned, followed by one more each month for five months. As soon as these vessels were completed and commissioned, they were sent on 2-year shakedown cruises. Over the next five years, the remaining 7 cruisers were built. As scheduling allowed, the ships were upgraded with new technology, particularly with binary shield generators, which led to the Mk Ib and Ic. The construction program came to a halt with the commissioning of the USS Defiant.
When the Four Years War broke out, Starfleet decided to produce warships instead of the dual-purpose cruisers that devoted large areas of their space to research and laboratories. Even though the Constitution class was not put into production for the war effort, four of the ships- in the form of the Mk Id- saw action. Each distinguished itself in battle time and again, soon gaining the nickname “The Queens of Starfleet.” After-action reports continued to show the combat ability of this ship to be superior to any other ship in the fleets, save for the combat-dedicated Heston class, and so the decision to produce more of them was finally issued in November of 2254 (1/9611).
The ship that would be produced was the Mk II version, mounting the new phaser weaponry and photon torpedoes. Because of these modifications to the original design, construction did not begin until September of 2255 (1/9709) and the first ship did not come off the line until January of 2257 (1/9901), 7 months after the end of the war. Starfleet decided to continue the production of the Constitution class cruisers and expanded the proposed total number to 42 vessels.
In April of 2258 (2/0104), the FWF-1 warp drive engine was brought into the inventory and all Constitution class ships were recalled to be refit as Mk IIIs. By October of 2263 (2/0510), the refitting was complete and the Constitution class remained the most advanced starship of its time. One Mk III, the USS Ark Royal, still serves in Starfleet, exploring the rimward areas and acting as ongoing proof of this class’ successful record. Duty on the Ark Royal is awarded as a special training tour to Starfleet cadets. It is the only Constitution class vessel still in active service.
After the first successful test firing of the FP-5 photon torpedo, Starfleet ordered that 12 Constitution class ships be modified to fire it. In February of 2269 (2/1202), the USS Discovery, USS Saratoga, USS El Dorado and USS Kitty Hawk were sent into service as Mk IVs, mounting not only the new torpedo system, but also more powerful impulse engine and shield generators.
The Mk IV was the last version of the Constitution class to be built, but not the last to use that particular hull style. The Enterprise class cruiser was originally built from older Constitution hulls and retains its general appearance. Constitution class ships were constructed at the Sol IV shipyards.