How Many Starships?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Spock's Barber, May 16, 2019.

  1. Spock's Barber

    Spock's Barber Commodore Commodore

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    In TOS it is mentioned several times that there are only 12 Starships in Starfleet. These are supposed to be the frontline vessels that protect outposts, colonies, planets and other smaller Starfleet vessels. In a couple of episodes it is established that no other Starships are in the area to assist the Enterprise. My thought is that there should be many more Starships to cover the immense amount of space just in our galaxy alone. What do you think?
     
  2. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Umm, what? It is mentioned exactly once that there are a dozen ships like Kirk's. Ships unlike his may be common as fleas. Indeed, if only one man in a million is starship skipper material, then there are thousands of them around at any given time, and that's only counting Earthmen.

    It's true Starfleet only vectors one ship to each adventure. It would be foolish to waste several, though, so we can't readily tell if there is a shortage. Kirk himself serves as a wingman to another skipper often enough, sorting out the messes of others. Sometimes under orders, but more often at random, indicating there are lots of ships if Kirk's can happen on the spot completely by chance!

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  3. Spock's Barber

    Spock's Barber Commodore Commodore

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    Uh, the US Navy has hundreds of main vessels just to cover the Earth's puny little oceans. Space is unlimited in its' vastness. 12 Starships is just not enough.
     
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  4. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    So the fleet presumably has thousands, just like I said, and just like the show allows for - but "enough" is not what we need, because the show demonstrates that there aren't enough and that the galaxy isn't covered. And the fleet is fine with that. Why wouldn't they be? Britain never had the oceans covered, yet still ruled them.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  5. MAGolding

    MAGolding Captain Captain

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    Your statement that:

    Implies that you think that the Federation has starships patrolling in other galaxies as well as a in our own galaxy. That is incorrect.

    Our galaxy is extremely big, Very, very, very, very big. It has literally at least one hundred billion (100,000,000,000) star systems and possibly several times that many. It probably has hundreds of millions of planets with life and possibly many times that number.

    But each of the major space powers in the Star Trek galaxy seems to rule only a few highly advanced and very populous planets - maybe tens, hundreds, or thousands of such highly advanced planets that a contribute a lot to the power of that government. So every space travelling society ever known in all of Star Trek combined would rule only a tiny fraction of our galaxy.

    Thus the Federation's Starfleet needs only a tiny insignificant number of starships compared to the vast number of starships required to patrol the entire galaxy. In E.E. Smith's famous Lensman series the governments of two galaxies fought increasing spectacular battles. At first they had fleets of millions of space battleship each, but the fleets got bigger.

    But how large is the volume of space ruled by the Federation? How many starships are needed to patrol the volume ruled by the Federation, and does the federation have as many starships as it needs?

    The Federation might include tens, or hundreds, or thousands of highly advanced and densely populated planets capable of building starships and other defense systems. And for each star system with such a planet, how many other star systems without advanced planets are in Federation space?

    And another question is how many starships are needed to defend Federation space? Should the ratio be ten starships for every star system, or ten star systems for every starship? Or some totally different ratio?

    Nobody ever said that there were only 12 starships in Starfleet during TOS. What was actually said was:

    One question is did Kirk mean there were only 12 ships like the Enterprise including the Enterprise, or the Enterprise and 12 other ships like it?

    Another question is did Kirk mean the entire Starfleet when he said "the fleet" or did he mean something like the Tenth Fleet when he said "the fleet"?

    Another question is how similar to the Enterprise did a ship have to be for Kirk to say it was like the Enterprise? Would Kirk call any ship that was vaguely similar to the Enterprise "like it", or would Kirk only call ships that were very, very, very similar to the Enterprise "like it"? Were there many starships that Kirk didn't count as being like the Enterprise?

    And was Kirk even telling the truth about the 12?

    Another possible hint about the number of starships is in "Court Martial":

    So what percentage of the Federation's population did Stone consider to be "men", and how many such "men" were there?

    Did Stone say that not one man out of a million had the basic personality needed to command a starship, or did he say that not one many in a million both had the right personality and also the right training from Starfleet Academy and experience in Starfleet to command a stasrhip?

    In any case Stone claimed that the total number of Federation starships commanded by "men" was less than one millionth of the total number of "men" in the Federation. But of course there could have been billions or trillions of "men" in the Federation, thus making it possible for the Federation to possibly have up to thousands or millions of starships commanded by "men".

    So there isn't much hard numerical evidence about the number of starships in Starfleet during TOS.
     
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  6. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    I'm pretty sure the idea that there would be 12 Enterprise-type starships was based on the approximate number of supercarriers in the U.S. Navy. But as Timo said, that doesn't limit the number of smaller ships that might be in the fleet.

    If you want to see a well-stocked version of Starfleet, check out the rosters of ships in the Star Fleet Technical Manual by Franz Joseph.
     
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  7. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    It doesn't limit the number of larger ships in the fleet, either. Indeed, in retrospect we learn that Kirk's ship is in fact one of the smaller ones.

    Might be the larger ones get built in larger batches, too, and Kirk's special nimble scoutship was a silver bullet of which only a handful ever existed (just like dedicated scout cruisers ITRW were a minority in big battleship fleets like the RN or the USN). Might be scoutships like Kirk's were built in the hundreds back when they were the hottest news, but only a dozen of the relics survive (as we witness quite a attrition rate in what must count as sedate peacetime) as a prestigious assignment for those daring to brave their failing machinery.

    In any case, DSC now directly tells us Starfleet of the day is 7,000 ships strong, not counting the "third of the fleet" lost in Burnham's War. And the Constitutions, no matter whether common or rare (we aren't told), are considered prestigious at the time, too. Nothing incompatible with TOS there. Except, of course, for the fact that there aren't NCC registries going up to the seven thousands in TOS, despite a considerable sample of those from "Court Martial". Then again, there aren't NCC registries going up to the seven thousands in DSC, either, or anything with a first digit (of four) other than 1. So apparently NCC isn't mandatory for every vessel in the fleet.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  8. Phaser Two

    Phaser Two Commodore Premium Member

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    Right, or (if I'm remembering correctly) Star Fleet Battles.
     
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  9. Shamrock Holmes

    Shamrock Holmes Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Indeed, the best analogy for Constitution-class starships might be a Blue Ridge/Ticonderoga fusion, larger and more prestigous than the "common workhorses" and comparatively rare, but not the biggest vessels (battleships, battlecruisers and carriers) that might only be used sparingly in peacetime.
     
  10. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    The Making of Star Trek clearly states that the Enterprise is the largest vessel we have, and it's like a city in space. The idea of bigger Starfleet ships didn't come along until ST: TNG. Don't even get me started on JJ-Trek and all that; it's an unrelated universe.
     
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  11. Lakenheath 72

    Lakenheath 72 Commodore Commodore

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    TNG was pushing it. The Enterprise had over a 1000 people on board, with 90% of the ship being run by automation. What did each of those 1000 people do? Having watched through mid-third season TNG, it feels as if La Forge was just about the only engineer on board, with a handful of others doing what exactly who knows, having to rely on a holographic simulation or Data and Q to arrive at a solution.
     
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  12. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    ...And as with most of the stuff in TMoST, this never made it on screen. So most of the ideas from the spinoffs fit right in without requiring a mallet or much vaseline.

    Kirk's ship is being run ragged with menial duties and errands. In the sort of fleet that might have a dozen carriers or perhaps a dozen battleships, none would be doing that - the lowly cruisers would. And a special cruiser class a dozen strong might well be sent out on frontier errands rather exclusively, much like the big navies of Earth deployed their colonial cruisers on distant stations. A cruiser would get sidetracked in a big war, sent to a secondary theater like that primitive but important Pacific island Organia, with orders to flee at the first sight of the enemy, and only ever be allowed to engage other cruisers or perhaps battlecruisers. Why, a cruiser could even be sent to the ends of the world on a survey mission, with no need to hurry back - she wouldn't be missed, and neither would her young and expendable crew of nobodies. But an old dog like Commodore Decker might still prefer her as his command vessel, considering the many handicaps a battleship or a carrier has in such a role.

    (Use the synonym "frigate" to see this through the era-of-sail lenses. Much like the writers did.)

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  13. Birdog

    Birdog Commander Red Shirt

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    Back in the day, a Cruiser was a frigate that was on detached duty, cruising. A frigate is the smallest ship of the line or the largest non line ship depending on the navy.
     
  14. Kor

    Kor Admiral Admiral

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    A baker's dozen. The Enterprise, plus "twelve like it." :techman:

    Kor
     
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  15. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    But a most of that is just emptiness. There is some finite number of systems, worlds, colonies, border areas etc. that you care about, and starbases and ships would be distributed as needed to cover it.

    Also, not every duty would require the biggest vessel. [joke]As all right-thinking people agree[/joke], the closest real-life analogy to Starfleet is the Victorian British Navy. Here you can see a list of the entire Royal Navy in 1897, which is around the high-water mark of the British empire. You can see that the smaller protected cruisers were the ones distributed around to do the bulk of the work patrolling and policing the empire, and it seems like something similar would work internally for the TOS Federation.

    I'm not sure that would be a consideration in the mid-'60s. The US had eight super-carriers (four Forrestals, three Kitty Hawks and Enterprise) when TOS premiered, one more on the way (JFK), plus WW2-era Midways (three) and Essexes (five) in "attack carrier" status. (Including the familiar names, BTW, of Saratoga, Constellation and Intrepid, and Yorktown and Lexington in service as ASW carriers).

    My take on "twelve like her" is that it doesn't necessarily rule out more than twelve of similar size. It could mean ships just like Enterprise, probably some of the newest, hottest, most capable or whatever. There's room for other similar-sized types, newer or older but not exactly the same. The FJ TM take on it doesn't seem unreasonable.

    Any vessel on independent service; in the Nelson-and-fighting-sail days the most numerous cruisers were sloops.
     
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  16. Galileo7

    Galileo7 Commodore Commodore

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  17. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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  18. Kor

    Kor Admiral Admiral

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    Twelve ships like the Enterprise doesn't mean the whole fleet only consists of twelve ships. Reasonably, there would be other classes of ship.

    Kor
     
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  19. BillJ

    BillJ History’s Greatest Monster Premium Member

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  20. Boris Skrbic

    Boris Skrbic Captain Captain

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    It’s interesting that DSC’s Enterprise plaque keeps the “starship class” designation in the context of other plaques with the same new design and traditional class names (Walker, Crossfield). Is Starfleet now entering a period where class names become less important than functions? Or is it simply that the Constitution is one of the first starship classes, thus following in the footsteps of the U.S.S. Franklin style of plaque, which also uses “starship class”?
     
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