Robert Comsol wrote:
"Not the 97th "bird" (in the sense of starship). If the new cruiser design (1601) starts the series I believe it also starts a new construction cycle and all vessels built during this construction cycle - from a cargo drone to a starship - will get a prefix of 16.
Of course the 31st, the 64th, the 72nd, the 85th and 97th Starfleet vessel built during this cycle are Constitution Class starships, too.
I'm sorry, Bob, I hate to seem mean, but this is idiotic. The point of having a handy name for a class of ship is to identify the specific type of vessel to know it's rough mission capabilities and maintenance requirements. If that name is applied to all types of ship built during a given period, then it becomes a reference to a mere historical coincidence of when the ship was built and carries no useful information of what that ship is and what it can do.
Considering that Federation vessels are contacted by their registry number and with the possibility that your favorite foes are listening to the subspace chatter, I think it wouldn't really be a smart thing to provide these with "useful information what that ship is and what it can do".
I rather think it would be a good idea to have a variety of ships carrying the prefix of a cruiser design series as this would create confusion among your adversaries (since deception isn't compatible with UFP standards).
My "idiotic" proposal was inspired by Gene Roddenberry: „In addition to the 12 Starships there are lesser classes of vessels, capable of operating over much more limited distances. They are involved in commercial ventures, survey work, archaeological expeditions, medical research and so on. The Starships are the heavy cruisers, the ones that can best defend themselves as they probe farther and farther out, opening new areas…and then the others follow
.” The Making of Star Trek
You are free to find fault with my proposal and I'm open to listen to alternate proposals.
The producers settled for 12 starships just prior to Season Two and after "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" and after "Court-Martial" which revealed an "NCC-1718"
So what happened to all the other starships of the 17th series (and the rest of the 97 "starships" of the 16th series)?
According to your strict interpretation, we are talking about 97 starships of the 16th design, at least 19 starships of the 17th design and 31 starships of the 18th design (total: 147 starships).
Did they all perish in the Battle of Donatu V? Was the bulk of the fleet "mothballed"?
At the time of TOS the Enterprise
was 40 years old. If Starfleet already felt 40 years earlier the strength of the fleet has to be 12 starships at least, we'd be looking at a loss of almost 4 starships every year, i.e. one third of the fleet is being lost every year!
So out of 3 starships being put out to space, one will not return. Admittedly that's a better ratio than the German U-Boot sailors had (out of 4 that put out to sea only one returned), but it makes me wonder why people in the 23rd Century are so keen serving on starships.