Image used with permission from creator.
The late 23rd century was a time of great change for Starfleet, both technologically and scocially. With the destruction of Praxis and the Khitomer Peace Conference, Starfleet was faced with a plethora of new objectives and challenges for the next century.
* - Retire all starship classes originating from the 2240's and earlier and their upgrades. Upgrade all other vessel classes to meet with new Starfleet Engineering and Operational Procedures outlined in Star Fleet Technical Directive 4576Y-117T.
* - Fully integrate new LN-series "Transwarp" technology into Starfleet. Continue and expand current R&D on phaser bank, deflector screen and sheild, photon torpedo, and computer hardware programs.
* - Modify exsisting Starship Register to include all Starfleet-operated vessels in the previous numerical register. Alphabetic ID prefixes shall no longer be used, due to confusion between staryards.
* - Begin mass production of new starships to compensate for mass decomissioning of outmoded classes.
* - De-emphasize "military" aspects of Starfleet protocol. Enable Dreadnought and Destroyer class starships to carry out limited scientific duties.
* - Comply with Khitomer Conference Regulations and Restrictions. Modify Starfleet Deployment Protocols accordingly.
With these goals inmind, the Advanced Starship Design Bureau (ASDB) began modifying and exploting the Excelsior class design, spawing new, more specialized variants on the basic hull frame. Such ships include the Centaur (Destroyer), Hokule'a (Multi-Mission Cruiser), and Merced class ships (Frigate). Shipyards and Starbase facilities were strained to the breaking point early on, but managed to decomission all of the outmoded classes by the year 2298. Mass construction also famously boosted the registry numbers, but the relative number of operational Starfleet vessels remained relatively the same as in previous decades (approx 8,500).
Now, with most of their immediate design work finished, the ASDB now turned their attention to focus on the goals petitioned to them by Exploratory Command (ECom), having been ignored in recent years. Although their objectives were being quite nicely filled in by the Excelsior family starships, they could forsee the need for larger, more multi-tasking vessels in the near future. Purely scientific endeavours were slightly preempted with scouting and reconnissance duties in recent decades, and ECom needed more multi-mission ships in operation to compensate. The ASDB was more than happy to accomodate, enjoying a healthy influx of talented, fresh new engineers, scientists, and designers from all corners of the Federation.
ECom provided these basic goals for the first "Explorer" type starship, although the offical documents outined were much more specific.
* - Develop a starship capable of performing all exploratory duties outlined in Starfleet Exploratory Directive 675A-087E
* - Equip such vessel with the latest in engineering systems, weapons technology, scientific equipment, computers, and crew furnishings.
The ASDB recived and acknowledged these orders, with main design and research work beginning in 2299. Hull frames and radical techniologies came and went, with only a worthy few eventually selected for further development. The main "Alaska" class project spawned other, parallel class projects, such as the "Apollo" class cruiser and the "Renaissance" class frigate, both of which had strong influences from their grandfather. Despite much fanfare and optimisim among the engineers, work was forced to plod along at a rediculously slow pace for the next 5 years. Recent rising tensions with other governments and increased need for resources in other, more immediate concerns forced the Alaska projects to make due with barely a half of the resouces they required.
In 2304 , the project heads decided to focus their combined energies on the least radical of the three classes, the Reniassance frigate. Once the prototype's blueprints were finished, it could then be transfered the project to one of the larger yards, who would finish any further modifications. The Alaska and Apollo designs would be temporairly shoved into "cold storage", as the Renaissance was finalized in less that two years. On the stroke of 2400 hours, Earth time, the USS Renaissance NX-9756 was comissioned in Hellas Planetia. A total of 57 were eventually ordered and comissioned throught the initial prduction run, serving with distinction to this day.
Six years later, primary construction of the USS Apollo had begun, along with the fabrication of the next 19 others. These would serve as the new "pack-a-mules", the ever adaptable workhorse of the fleet. Thanks to simplified construction and the novel "mission pod", these ships would serve as stop gaps until the Ambassador (the final, official name of the Alaska) could be finished. But, recent bugdet cutting lead to a heated, 6 month debate with in Starfleet on wether or not the ship should be constructed. Proponents of cancelation argued that the Apollo and Renaissance, coupled with the still adequeatly useful Excelsior family vessels, would serve the original ECom orders. The Ambassador would be "an unnecessary expenditure of vital resources; a waste". Members of this camp were gaing ground, as recent conflicts proved the worth of the Apollo and Renaissance.
But, one year would completley shift the balance of power in this issue; The Tomed Incident. On Stardate 09786.6, a taskforce of Romulan cruisers violently clashed with Admiral Caro's fleet, after several days of intense debate about the Neutral Zone borders. The subsequent clash of men and mettle will go down in history as one of the worst battles in Federation history. Evenly matched, both fleets annilated each other, and spillover fire hit the Tomed Star Facility and colony, crippling them both. Not only was this battle bloody, it also took Starfleet's most prominent symbol of exploration and benevolence, the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-B. This single loss demoralized and crushed the Federation, stunned that such a swift, violent bloodbath could happen it what was previously a "post-Cold War" era.
With the defeat of the Enterprise, a newer, stronger starship was needed. Although most ship were moderatly capable in scientific duties, they were not up to spec with other races in terms of firepower. The new phaser arrays of the Apollo class had proven their advantages over the phaser bank system, but most ships of that time were still using 'ancient' dual phaser banks. Leaps in torpedo technology were also on the horizion. Engineers were already experimenting with various new alloys, to make more rugged and reliable hull frames.
Many new "battleship" classes were being studied and concieved, but most of them were too radical, too unstable, or just plain unfeasible to be made possible. Then, discouraged designers turned their eyes toward the ship that almost never made it, the "waste". The Ambassador.
It was a perfect fit, for both the ship and Starfleet. Originally, the Ambassador was intended to use standard single-fire torpedo tubes, a technology that hadn't changed much since the 2270's, making the basic configuration four decades old. Also, the ship had been designed with dinstinctly outdated dual phaser banks, 20 of them scattered across the hull. Her scientific equipment was old, and took up a lot of internal volume, even though the ship was 526m in length, the largest ship yet concieved. Thoughout the latter half of 2311 and all of 2312, several of Starfleet's best weapons experts, scientific researchers, engineers, warp physicists, and well trained design teams gathered at Hellas Planetia, dug out the Ambassador design from the catacombs, and totally reworked it.
The ancient dual phaser banks were replaced with new, untested Type-8 coliminated Phaser arrays, and the four Type-1 single-burst tubes were replaced with two, Type-2 rapid fire burst launchers, which allowed the Ambassador to sustain a head-spinnig fire rate of 75 torpedoes a minute. These new weapon systems now needed more room in the hull, much of which was openly provided by the Ambassador's natural vast volume. However, the installation of newer, less bulky isolinear computers and ODN networks allowed the armarments to be evenly spaced, allowing more heat dispersion to take place, and giving the shield grids better heat dispersion rates too. Any remaining space was taken up by the best in crew anemities, lounges and recreational rooms, educational facilities, cargo bays, shuttlebays, and any other extra equipment that the Ambassador would accumulate over it's projected hull life of 50 years. New impluse systems and warp coil designs gave the Ambassador phenomal speeds, able to sustain an emergency speed of approximately Warp 9 for about 12 hours, and with a standard cruise speed of Warp 6.
An unprecedented construction schedule was started in 2313, with the first two originally ordered Ambassadors (USS Ambassador NX-10521 and USS Horatio NCC-10532) well under way later that year. Construction went along at a incredible pace, as the engineers fought the passage of time to have the ships ready. Finally, in 2320, the prototype Ambassador was officially comissioned amid great fanfare.
From that year on, many more Ambassador class ships were built and activated, quickly becoming the spearheads of Starfleet's exploration programs. One such legend was the legendary USS Enterprise NCC-1701-C, the new flagship of Starfleet. The Enterprise, under command of Captain Rachel Garrett, served for almost 20 years, making contact with 19 new races, 11 of which became Federation members. Sadly, this valiant starship was cut in her prime at Narendra III, while defending the Klingon outpost from five Romulan warbirds. Although the Enterprise managed to eradicate two of them, the other three retialiated. Although the Enterprise was conpletley vapourized, her sacrifice allowed many Klingon personel and civilians to escape the orbital outpost, seeking shelter on the planet below.
Aside from this incident, the other Ambassadors served the fleet in less dire circumstances untill the Cardassian Wars thoughout the early 2350's. The Ambassadors were vital command ships in the various fleet actions, often leading the charge into battle or protecting evacuations from multiple Cardassian Galors. Although the Cardassian Military nearly matched the Federation in firepower, in the words of Captian Trago of the Yamaguchi, most of their ships had "sheilds so weak that one torpedo volley could usually take them down." But, they relentless and merciless tactics practically horrified many officers within the ranks of Starfleet. Slaughters such as the Mallar VII Incident took the lives of hundreds of thousands of Federation citizens. Starfleet would need new, more combat oriented designs to counter the brilliant tactics of the Cardassian fleet.
Thankfully, tremendous foresight of behalf of Starfleet would provide them with all these criteria, and more. With the commencement of the "Galaxy" project in the early 2340's, a slew of new, powerful ships appeared to assist the war effort, combining prototype technology and design concepts from the Galaxy project with exsisting systems and weapons. These vessels included the Nebula, Akira, Niagara, Norway, Cheyenne, Saber, Challenger, Freedom, Steamrunner, New Orleans, and Springfield classes, all intended to supplement and replace the Excelsior era classes with newer technology.
Although these classes helped to win the war effort and return the Federation to peace in the late 2350's, they would also reduce the Ambassador's role as a command and warship. This was mainly due to the advancement in weapons that the Ambassador herself had introduced. The Nebulae could be fitted with up to 6 Type-2 rapid fire tubes, and was much better equipped in the phaser apartment with her long arrays. Even lesser vessels, such as the Saber, New Orleans, Springfield, and Cheyenne class frigates had just slightly less firepower than an Ambassador, but had weaker sheilds. Still, because of their abilities, the Ambassadors were sent on long duration missions of exploration; their original purpose.
The recent Dominion War has radically reshaped the Ambassadors role. Losses on an unimaginable scale has forced them back to mainstream fleet duties, and has given them a badly needed refitting.
The new, Mark-III Ambassadors are now state-of-the-art battlecruisers. Their standard, 11 Type-IX phasers have been replaced with 13 slightly longer, Type-XI phasers. Along with these, the Ambassadors will also be refitted with modern lifeboats, Type-IV burst-fire tubes, computer hardware and software, abalative armour, and general shipwide system upgrades. Minor propulsion and warp powerplant upgrades have also taken place, giving the Ambassador nearly 50 more years of dedicated service life, well into the 25th century.
From her difficult conception to it's new rebirth, the Ambassadors will be forever recognized as one of the fundamental, if not relatively few, Explorer type starships in operation today.