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Old June 24 2012, 05:48 AM   #474
Ian Keldon
Fleet Captain
 
Re: My homebrew kitbashes

The Pathfinder-class light cruiser was one attempted solution to the "curse of the science vessel" problem that has plagued Starfleet all the way back to it's origins.

Science vessels typically sacrifice most or all of their non-research-based capabilities in order to focus on their mission profile. This however, typically leaves them weak and largely defenseless in the face of potential threats, either from hostile action or the various unknowns that lurk in the unexplored areas of the galaxy.

Therefore, Starfleet typically has had to confine the missions of science vessels to the safe confines of charted space, or tie up additional resources in terms of support vessels to aid in their defense outside those zones.

In 2276, the ASDB proposed a vessel that would combine the best features of the
Ajax-class patrol frigate's primary hull with the additonal facilities of the Decatur/Belknap-class cruiser's secondary hull. Additional modifications were made to the Mark 11-C-A primary hull to accomodate a powerful array of specialized sensor systems.

The resulting vessel would be theoretically powerful enough to enhance it's survivability on unsupported science and light exploration missions, while retaining the most desirable characteristics of a science vessel. The overall tonnage requirements placed the new hull as a "light cruiser", despite it's primarily scientific and research mission profile.

The
Pathfinder at launch found herself able to perform adequately in all expected scenarios, though the use of ACB-based PN-22D warp nacelles led to slight heating problems at high sustained warp speeds. The Ajax primary's oversized dual impulse engine mounts made her extremely fast at sublight velocities, and her compact mass distribution made for excellent maneuvering characteristics.

Her tight shield envelope made for a powerful defensive profile, and she was more than adequately armed in the event offensive action was called for, though torpedo storage was limited.

That combination of abilities brought the class to the attention of TacFleet, who pushed for permission to refit a number of hulls with more combat-oriented sensor packages for use as patrol cruisers. Permission was granted, and nearly half the class found itself re-purposed to that task, serving ably in various contested regions, and on monitoring patrols along the Klingon and Romulan Neutral Zones. The high-resolution sensor antennaes made them particularly adept at spotting cloaked vessels, which doubtless frustrated many captains from both races operating covertly anywhere near Federation space.

While exact figures and details are classified to this day, it is widely believed that TacFleet Pathfinders foiled at least nine separate attempts at penetrating the Federation border between 2279 and 2293, when the Praxis incident led to the signing of the First Khitomer Accords, and the Romulans stepped back from their confrontational posture to begin a period of isolation that would last until the mid 2360s.

45 ships of the
Pathfinder class were constructed in all. Of those, 22 were configured as science vessels primarily and the other 23 were configured for and assigned to TacFleet. Seven Mk I (science) and 4 Mk 2 (tactical) ships were destroyed or otherwise lost between commissioning and the class' effective retirement in 2349. Of the remaining 15 Mk Is and 18 Mk 2s, 7 each were retained in reserve fleets and the remaining hulls were decommissioned and scrapped.

The reserve ships were reactivated in the second half of the Dominion War with all hulls being refit for tactical duties. Six of the 14 were lost in combat. The remaining 8 remain in service due to ship construction shortfalls that are projected to last for at least another 5 to 7 years. Depending on their condition when the yards are back to full capacity, they will likely either be scrapped or converted back to Mk 1 specifications.

---Jane's Fighting Starship Review, February 2381 edition.
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