Nob Akimoto wrote:
Could you give me your thoughts on the classification scheme itself? Tried to go with as much a combination of payload types and endurance as much as anything else. Some of the classifications were required out of dialogue. For example TNG's Conspiracy established there were still heavy cruisers and frigates.
My impression is that the system works, but again seems to fall into the trap of classifying by size. The mission payloads of different craft will tend to determine size a lot more than the reverse, and this should be reflected by what the ship is meant to do.
The Intrepid class, for example, could fit various definitions depending on what the ship actually has aboard it; it could just as easily be a cruiser, a frigate, an explorer or a surveyor. There's a bit of an arbitrary cutoff there that seems to assume something about a size difference between two ships that might otherwise have the exact same payload.
So I'm thinking the classification should go a bit more "under the hood" as such. The "scout" class, for example, would be a vessel that carries powerful sensors as well as probes and/or shuttles but doesn't carry a lot of laboratory equipment or analytical hardware; it's more about gathering
information than processing it. Likewise, it's tempting to think of cruisers as being "multirole" platforms, but this is not necessarily the case; it could very well be that "cruiser" tends to be a ship with a large deflector dish and enough fabrication equipment to replace its food and/or equipment in the field. Frigates would differ from cruisers in that they lack the big deflector dish and the fabrication equipment and instead pile on the firepower.
In the end, it's going to come down to trying to examine some of the nuances in how Starfleet technology actually works, and that will require some educated guesses (mainly because Star Trek is wildly inconsistent in this regard). I volunteer the possibility that a starship's "main deflector dish", in addition to functioning as a gigantic sonic screwdriver (e.g. a device that can do just about anything if you need it to) is probably indispensible for long-range subspace communications and scanning. A ship that lacks such a dish (or is in a position where it cannot use it for some reason) would have a time delay of several days or weeks between transmission and receipt of his message; those same ships would have very limited FTL sensing ability and would have to move much closer to an object to scan them at all. The big dish makes a lot of things on the ship possible, but it is also probably the most expensive component on the entire ship, which would explain why not all starships even have them and only very special ones have a small "secondary" dish to back it up.