Starfleet's numbers

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by JJohnson, Dec 11, 2019.

  1. JJohnson

    JJohnson Captain Captain

    Sep 2, 2006
    Jacksonville, FL
    I'm working up my own fanon wiki for use in my own fan fiction and was thinking of Starfleet.

    Let's say that it's maybe 1000 or 2000 light years in area during Kirk's era (2260s) for the UFP. How many ships would be needed to patrol such an area? How many servicemen, split between officers and enlisted? Which kinds of ships would Starfleet need to have and in which numbers?

    Which kinds of service divisions would Starfleet need to function effectively?

    And then, the same for the TNG era. That UFP is about 8000 light years, with probably trillions of sentient life forms. How many ships, crew, and numbers of each class would be needed to patrol this area and keep it safe?
    Qonundrum likes this.
  2. Takeru

    Takeru Space Police Commodore

    Sep 6, 2007
    Germany, EU, Earth
    50,000 ships at least in the TNG era. The ridiculously small numbers we heard on the show make little to no sense.
  3. Qonundrum

    Qonundrum Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    It's a shame 90s Trek put the spotlight on civilian life as often as it had and making it relate "Just like us, *squee!!*". The size of the galaxy and Federation territory and planets could potentially be one helluva monopoly (for lack of genuinely appropriate term, given the complexity of all this) and it'd still fit within Gene's ideas and ideals. JJohnson's brought up a rather fascinating point.

    We know that Memory Alpha had no defenses because it was a library that anyone could use - which was written in as a throwaway to justify the carnage to get the audience to hate the Zetarians and move along with the plot, except none of it holds together... DS9 with the ill-handled but otherwise initially robust concepts behind "Let He Who Is Without Sin" that also falls apart, but not always for the same reason...

    Of course, bringing in this continuity would mean a lot of other stories would have to be changed - either in small ways or completely. Nor are ideas formed or thought out to their potential at the perfect times. Those that do or are close in doing so tend to see longer runs, unless they cancel Gilligan's Island despite high ratings because they wanted Gunsmoke back instead (it was to be canceled, citing dwindling ratings, but it was saved and still did rather well for another eight years. That's not too shabby, in all honesty... ) Why did I roam into this tangent? Oh yeah, how a show's vision and continuity can create or hinder great ideas, or how it has to be scrapped in order for new life to breathe in (see "Star Trek, with chapters regarding the Borg and Voyager for more on that... :D )
  4. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Jul 23, 2001
    The Wormhole
    According to Disco, Starfleet has over seven thousand ships in the 2250s, and that's after a devastating war that resulted in the loss of 20% of the Federation.
  5. Henoch

    Henoch Rear Admiral Premium Member

    Dec 27, 2018
    Back on the Shelf
    According to some simple web searches, at distance up to 100 light-years, there would be about 12,930 stars. Kirk told Cochrane that they were on a thousand worlds. Making some assumptions like the % of M-Class planets (or terraformed into M-Class planets) are found verses non-habitable solar systems, we can get some idea of volume of space the UPF encompasses. If life can be supported on 10% of these solar systems (and this seems low based on my TOS observations), then the UFP could be smaller than envisioned fitting inside 100 lightyears in radius. Put it at 0.5%, then we need about 200 lightyears radius. Again, possibly smaller than thought.

    Of course, the UFP could be irregular in shape making it bigger in some of its linear dimensions. For example, in Squire of Gothos, it was suggested they were about 900 light years from Earth and they were on their way to Colony Beta Six, so, the UFP has colonies out about 1000 light years. Based on this piece of evidence, 1000 light years from Earth seems plausible for UFP space.

    I see an exploration zone around the UFP space to be another few hundred lightyears for new exploration. Room to grow.

    How many ships? Easy, 12 Starships during TOS. We also know the Federation has a fleet of smaller exploration/cargo/survey vessels like the Antares and SS Beagle. If we assume the ratio at 50 to 1 of smaller vessels to Starships, and we get 612 ships. With a high degree of mobility, I can see one Starship per 100 planets. Probably less since the safer inner systems don't need that much protection plus strong member worlds contribute to their own defense. Both these thoughts will tend to push the Starships out to outer "surface" of the UFP bubble. Also, how many times did we see it taking months or years (or decades) for a Starship to investigate something, further suggesting a smaller fleet. YMMV :).

    With an utopian Earth, most people don't want to risk their lives. It takes a rare person defend the UFP with their life and to venture out to explore the galaxy. I like the feel of a smaller fleet where each ship and even each crewman holds a large degree of importance. They are the best of the best. UFP also needs staff for all the starbase and station installations where the vast numbers of Federation personnel are found.

    Starfleet Academy graduates officers. A few hundred per year. On the Enterprise, the oldest few officers are in their forties with some in the thirties and most in their twenties. It is a job for the young. The attrition rate for Starships must be quite high. I guess they either leave Starfleet or transfer to ground stations.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2019
    J.T.B. likes this.
  6. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    Okay, a few onscreen truths:

    - Starfleet is never big enough to do its job. That's the whole point of Star Trek: the heroes are needed because lack of colleagues results in bad things happening, and the heroes only ever reach the spot in the nick of time if then. So we get nowhere trying to calculate how many ships would be "needed"!
    - Starfleet in the 2250s is about 7,000 ships strong. The NCC registries don't go that far up, though, so probably the bulk of the Fleet is ships of some supposedly lesser sort - examples of which we might see in TOS and TAS already.
    - Starfleet in the 2270s operates something like ten combat formations called Fleets, each of which has several hundred fighting vessels at least. We only ever see "elements" of such Fleets, so we only get a lower limit there.
    - For other eras, there are no definite figures for anything. Certainly nobody ever says there would only exist a dozen starships...
    - Nor are there any numbers for how many officers graduate per year. Might be millions: they have a whole city dedicated to the task, after all. Might be fifteen: only the criminally insane ever would enroll, after all, and the Federation supposedly is very good at weeding out those.

    All that apart, the number of ships needed to patrol the UFP is not really dependent on the parameters of the UFP, but on those of the ships and their support assets. Perhaps a network of sensors (or even a single big intriguingly glowing tetrahedron on Ascension Island or whatever) covers the entire UFP and beyond with realtime data on all enemy movements, and ships on emergency speed can reach all locations within the UFP in two days, tops, whilst it takes two days, minimum, for the enemy to get from sensor range to any target. Starfleet then needs just the same number of ships as the attacker, enough to defeat those ah so inferior villains. As per the show itself, though, it seems that enemy ships can't be easily spotted even at the dozen-or-so-lightyear range of starship sensors, and flying to distant yet vulnerable and crucial UFP assets to protect them takes aeons.

    So the "number needed" is probably somewhere around millions or hundreds of millions, with the odds massively favoring the attacker. Which is nicely in harmony with the fact that Starfleet always lacks the numbers needed!

    Timo Saloniemi