Back in the days when Perpetual Entertainment was developing the Star Trek Online MMORPG, one of the developers (Lead Systems Designer John Yoo) asked the folks at the now-disabled StarTrek-Online.net how they'd rank the starships in the Star Trek universe in terms of power.
Many of the responses seemed to make reasonable sense. But beyond "big ships can beat up small ships," a couple of things started to bother me about the various rankings provided.
For one thing, everybody assumed that "power" meant "combat power." But Starfleet in the Star Trek universe is about more than just combat, and its ships have other uses. What about defining "power" as "exploratory capability?" Could a satisfactory ranking of ships in the Star Trek universe be created on that basis?
More importantly, although some of the justifications given were obviously based on careful thought, many of the choices still seemed rather subjective. I felt if I was going to contribute a list of my own, I needed to offer some additional value. Adding a measure of objectivity might be something I could accomplish.
So it occurred to me that it might be fun to work up a spreadsheet. By entering as many canon-supported values as I could find for the ships of Star Trek, it might be possible to arrive at somewhat less subjective results. So that's what I've spent the past few weeks doing.
As I got into this process, two things became apparent:
1. For many ships, there simply is no hard canon information. In many other cases, information from one canon source conflicts with other canon sources. So while I could maximize the objectivity of my ship power rankings by using the canon data with which most sources agree, there's no way to entirely avoid some amount of subjectivity.
2. Having an automated (spreadsheet) way of calculating "power" means I'm not stuck thinking of power only as prowess in combat. Numerically documenting non-combat ship capabilities would allow me to generate a rating for each ship that describes its potential for exploration.
With that basic sanity check satisfied, I proceeded to create a spreadsheet with as many canon values as I could find for all the major ship classes. I then filled in the empty values as best I could with respect to the known values of other ships and the assumed ship design philosophy of each political entity.
From these values I calculate ratings for Maneuverability, Firepower, Survivability, and Science. And then I use these values to derive overall ratings for Combat and Exploration power. With that done, I can then use Excel's "Sort" function on the Combat and Exploration columns to show me how these ships stack up against each other.
WHICH SHIPS TO INCLUDE?
The attempted demarcation point for including a ship class in this list is canonicity to the accepted timeline from the Star Trek line of live-action TV shows and movies from Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) to the end of Star Trek: Nemesis (VOY). This has the effect of including pretty much anything shown on-screen in a live-action Star Trek TV show or movie, while excluding essentially anything that appears only in print form, anything seen only in Star Trek: The Animated Series (TAS), anything that appears only in an alternate timeline, anything only from Star Trek: Enterprise (ENT), and anything from "the future" beyond the USS Voyager's return to Earth (such as Admiral Janeway's shuttle in VOY: "Endgame" and the Wells- and Aeon-class timeships).
Generally speaking, if it appears in an episode of TOS, TNG, DS9 or VOY as a physical or CG model from that era, or if there's evidence for it from a screen display or Master System Display (MSD) graphic, it's probably listed here. Otherwise, it is (with a few exceptions) probably not shown.
This is why ships like the Equinox's "Waverider" shuttle, the Centaur, Challenger and Cheyenne classes, and and even the freakish "Curry" type are given, but ships found only in TAS (e.g., the Aquashuttle) or given in speculative form in printed works (e.g., classes such as the Zodiac from The Star Trek Encylopedia) are generally not included.
The crazy multiplicity of Trek sources -- not to mention inconsistencies in actual canon material -- mean that some amount of subjectivity is required. Even so, where inclusion/exclusion was concerned, I tried to be as consistent as possible in requiring some canonical reference to a ship type or class. For example, although the Ptolemy, Saladin/Hermes, and Federation ship classes from the Franz Joseph Star Fleet Technical Manual of the 1970s were once considered non-canon, their appearance on Enterprise tactical displays in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan creates enough of an appearance of canonicity to make those ships worth including in a spreadsheet. Likewise, the Olympic/"Hope" class shown in an alternate/future timeline in TNG: "All Good Things..." wouldn't be here if it wasn't referenced in DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels". On the other hand, classes such as the Daedelus (despite appearing in model form on Sisko's desk) and the Whorfin (which I love as a "Buckaroo Banzai" in-joke) just didn't quite make the cut.
And nothing in this world or any other could have compelled me to include the "Alka-Selsior". /shudder
(Here's an example of the kinds of decisions I had to make. There's a bunch of argument and blahblah over whether the Federation "attack fighter" is the same thing as the Peregrine class "courier" ship and/or the Maquis "raider" ship. Everybody pretty much agrees at this point that the Maquis ship is something different, but there's still confusion over the fighter/Peregrine situation. Although some [e.g., Star Trek vs. Star Wars Technological Assessment] have argued that they refer to different ships, others [Ex Astris Scientia] have concluded that they can be considered the same ship class. After considerable deliberation, I've chosen to treat them as the same vessel; the values provided here are for the attack fighter by whatever name we call it. But the nice thing about having a spreadsheet to play with is that, if you prefer, you can split this "Peregrine fighter" record into two records: a 20-meter "attack fighter" and a 25-meter "Peregrine courier" with its own stats.)
WHICH STATS TO USE?
One significant problem in assigning values was that there were a lot of conflicts within canon sources. In most cases these differences are the result of inconsistencies of continuity in the filmed episodes of a series, differences between series, differences between TV series and movies, and innumerable differences between the TV shows/movies and the various printed "encyclopedias" and such. Between all these things, I did the best I could to rationalize the numbers. Sometimes that meant taking the best-argued number (usually from Ex Astris Scientia); a few times it meant choosing the most seemingly reasonable number between all the numbers I saw.
For example, the apparent size of the Defiant ranged from 50m to 120m to 170m, depending on the episode. But the best arguments, which considered visual appearances and canonical statements about the number of decks on the Defiant (although even that wasn't perfectly consistent!), indicated that a length of 120 meters fits most of the available facts. So that's what I went with.
An even more frustrating example of this was the case of the Amazing Expandable Bird-of-Prey. This vessel was scaled visually both upward and downward across numerous episodes to provide a desired visual effect against other ships. And to further confuse matters, this ship type was given multiple names -- B'rel, K'Vort, D-12 -- so that even one type might have multiple sizes. I finally had to just pick some numbers that, while not perfectly satisfying, would provide ships that cover most of the observed cases. For that matter, the D7/K't'inga sightings didn't make things any easier, either. (In fairness to the FX folks working on the various ST shows, their goal was dramatic effect, not simulationist accuracy. It just makes things a little tough for someone who's trying to find a rational consistency among these "facts" inside an imaginary world.)
A related problem was that even for the best-known ships, there are often gaps in the specifications provided. For example, what's the rated deflector shield power output for an Oberth-class ship? Although their MSDs suggest it, can Defiant- or Prometheus-class ships land on a planetary surface and launch back to space? How many laboratories are normally fitted on a Nebula-class ship? How many shuttles are normally carried aboard a D’Deridex class ship?
A final difficulty was the way in which the "hero" ships -- the NCC-1701, -1707-A, and -1701-D Enterprises, the Defiant, and Voyager -- survived encounters with ships that were clearly much more powerful. Obviously this was required for dramatic effect; opponent ships had to present a real threat but the main characters had to always survive. But when you create numbers that can explain this amazing survivability, those numbers are grossly inflated compared to the more reasonable (on paper) numbers for the generic ship of that class... so which numbers do you go with?
I used several methods to try to resolve all these issues.
For which ships to choose, I selected those that were shown on-screen in the main timeline between TOS and VOY.
To fill in the detailed specifications for each ship, I consulted numerous online sources:
Ex Astris Scientia (general info)
Ex Astris Scientia (ship lengths)
Star Trek vs Star Wars.net: Volumetrics
But an Intrepid class ship, with a stated length of 344 meters and a mass of tons, has "only" 13 phaser arrays and 5 torpedo launchers! Even though I've bumped up the mass of the Nova to rationalize it against the other ships, it seems completely unlikely that a Nova -- supposedly a science ship -- would have the room to carry so much armament, much less the design requirement to do so. This is an example of how I've made a few changes to quoted specs to bring a ship more in line with our observations of it on the screen. I've tried not to do it often, but I definitely do it. You'll have to be the judge of whether I've gone too far in search of rational consistency.
Where no authoritative source provided the kind of detailed information I wanted to track, I've chosen to develop a ship design philosophy for each polity. I then use this as a guideline to the kinds and numbers of systems I believe each ship class would have, given the nature of the culture that produces it, its apparent mission, and its baseline physical parameters (esp. size and mass).
The cultural design philosophies I've used can be described as follows:
Federation: "Individual lives have value." Ships are balanced offensively/defensively and have large power plants and redundant systems.Using these philosophies, I tried to assign appropriate values to each ship class. (In some cases, this actually required me to invent technologies to support the values. What are the hulls of Jem'Hadar ships made out of, and how strong are they? What kind of computers do Klingons use, and how fast are they compared to, say, isolinear circuits? What about the Romulans? You get the idea.) At the same time, I also tried not to go cookie-cutter, giving every ship within a polity the same kinds of technology -- even within a fleet (even for the Borg!) there should be some variation.
Klingon: "Glorious battle assures immortality." Ships are strong offensively and are highly maneuverable, but at the expense of defenses and support systems.
Romulan: "Subterfuge cloaked in mystery sheathed in deception." Ships are well-powered with good support systems, but speed and firepower suffer, requiring ships to be larger (more massive) to carry more weapons.
Borg: "Identical cogs in a perfect machine." Ships are fast, strong and survivable (through regeneration), but become too big to be maneuverable. They are also dependent on centralized command and control.
Cardassian: "Winning is everything." Ships mount a lot of offense, but require a lot of bulky power systems to do the job, reducing maneuverability and space for other systems.
Ferengi: "There's no profit in dying." Ships are fast, maneuverable, and have good active defenses. They're somewhat underpowered offensively when alone, but they can be dangerous in numbers.
Jem'Hadar: "My life for the Founders." Balanced offense and defense like Federation ships, but virtually no support systems.
Species 8472: "Enough pure energy can solve any problem." Species 8472 ships are essentially maulers: single-weapon ships where all systems exist to support the weapon.
Breen: "#%$& $*@ #@^&." Not much is known of Breen design philosophy, but it seems to emphasize energy/power systems. So Breen ships tend to have good support systems to power their energy weapons.
Gorn: "I'm tougher than you are." Their ships would have basic offense and support systems, and they'd be painfully slow, but they'd be so massively armored that taking one down would be a real challenge. (Note: There are no Gorn ships in canon Star Trek... but there should be. ) )
Finally, to bring the strengths of the ships of different polities into line with the hints given in various TV episodes and movies, as well as to make the calculations of ship capabilities, I had to assign numeric values to the many devices and qualities a starship could have. For example, I needed to decide that a computer based on isolinear processing was the baseline (with a multiplier value of 1.0) and that duotronic circuitry was about 0.7 times as powerful; "unimatrix" shielding was 1.5 times better than standard deflector shields; a Mark VI Type XXV photon torpedo delivers 18,500 units of damage while a Mark Q-II quantum torpedo does 33,000; and so on. Virtually none of these values has any source in canon, but all were necessary in order for the spreadsheet to be able to calculate numeric values for ship class capabilities.
So I made 'em up. I tried my best to pick numbers that were both in line with TV/movie quoted statements and with published data, but which also generated reasonable results in calculating the relative strengths of ships with respect to each other. If any part of this spreadsheet is suspect as being as subjective as some of the other suggested starship power rankings, this is probably where the worst offenses are committed.
Rather than leaping directly toward the generation of Combat and Exploration ratings, I found it more useful to start with ratings that are more specific to the kinds of systems found on board starships.
Combat capability, for example, isn't just about how many weapons you're packing -- the ability to hang in a firefight also requires a ship to be able to take punishment. Being able to fly loops around an opponent is also useful, and the ability to analyze an enemy's capabilities can come in handy as well.
So I elected to start by generating four primary ratings: Maneuverability, Firepower, Survivability, and Science. I then use these numbers (with appropriate weightings) to generate the two secondary ratings of Combat and Exploration capability.
One important note here is that the four primary ratings aren't absolute numbers -- in all cases, I have made them relative to the number generated for the Galaxy class. This makes it much easier to look at a rating and see immediately how it stacks up against a Galaxy class ship like the Enterprise-D, and thus against all other ships. (This is why the Galaxy class values are "1.0" for all four of the primary ratings.) Another way to say this is that a value of less than 1.0 implies less capability compared to a Galaxy-class ship, while a value greater than 1.0 implies more capability in a particular area.
Here are the basics of the calculations I used to get the four primary ratings (excluding tweakage numbers):
Maneuverability: square root of ((Power plant output * Count of plants * number of Impulse engines / Mass) + Planetary landing rating)
Firepower: (sum of (Weapon Type output * Weapon Count) for three weapons) + Tractors + (Fighters * fighter Firepower)
Survivability: (Shield type * Output * Count) + (Length * Hull Type * Armor) + Size bonus + Sections + Cloak
Science: (count of Labs * Computer rating) + (Computer rating * computer Count)) * Sensor rating
From these relative rankings I then calculated the two kinds of secondary "power" ratings that are important for Starfleet vessels:
Combat: Firepower * 12 + Survivability * 10 + SQRT(Maneuverability) + Science
Exploration: Science * 15 + SQRT(Maneuverability) + MIN(3,Survivability) + MIN(3,Firepower/2)
The "MIN(3,X)" function serves to cap the value of X at 3.00 so that (for example) the crazy Maneuverability of shuttles (which I've capped at 8.00 times better than the Galaxy class) doesn't swamp the whole calculation.
(Note: In a more general MMORPG, we'd probably want to calculate a third secondary rating: Economic power. Among other things, generating this number would require knowledge of the cargo space available in non-military craft. Actually, we'd need more non-military craft, wouldn't we?)
With all these numbers generated, we can (finally!) use Excel's sort function to rank the various ships in order of each type of power.
Here's the full list of ships sorted by Combat capability (last updated 2009/03/03):
POLITY CLASS/TYPE COMBAT RATING Species 8472 Energy Focusing Ship 500.62 (planet-killer weapon) Romulan/Reman Scimitar 317.08 (planet-killer weapon) Borg Cube, variant 1 8.10 Borg Cube, variant 2, tactical 6.82 Borg Cube, variant 2 4.94 Borg Sphere, variant 1 4.14 Borg Queen's Ship 3.34 Species 8472 Bioship 2.80 Borg Sphere, variant 2 2.01 Jem'Hadar Battleship 1.84 Klingon Negh'var-type 1.45 Romulan D'Deridex (B-type Warbird) 1.40 (said to be more than a match for a Galaxy) Federation Sovereign 1.37 Romulan Warbird (Valdore) 1.12 Jem'Hadar Battle Cruiser 1.11 Federation Prometheus 1.07 Federation Galaxy 1.00 Breen Warship 0.83 Federation Curry-type 0.76 (treated as a carrier) Ferengi D'Kora (Marauder) 0.75 (said to be almost a match for a Galaxy) Klingon Vor'cha 0.71 Federation Ambassador 0.68 (after phaser/photon torpedo refits) Federation Niagara 0.67 Federation Intrepid 0.66 (on paper -- Voyager was tougher) Federation Akira 0.65 (treated as a carrier) Federation Nebula 0.65 Federation Defiant 0.64 (firepower + maneuverability) Cardassian Keldon 0.62 Federation Cheyenne 0.59 Federation Challenger 0.58 Klingon K't'inga 0.54 Federation Elkins-type 0.53 Federation Merced 0.50 Federation Steamrunner 0.50 Federation Norway 0.48 Federation Excelsior 0.47 (after early refits) Cardassian Galor 0.46 Federation Federation 0.46 Klingon Bird-of-Prey, K'vort 0.46 Borg Probe 0.45 Federation New Orleans 0.45 Federation Springfield 0.45 Federation Freedom 0.43 Federation Constellation 0.41 Federation Saber 0.41 Federation Nova 0.38 Federation Constitution (A-refit) 0.36 Federation Yeager-type 0.36 Jem'Hadar Attack Ship 0.35 Federation Constitution 0.30 Federation Soyuz 0.30 Klingon Bird-of-Prey, D-12 0.28 Klingon D-7 0.26 Federation Centaur-type 0.26 Romulan D-7 0.25 Romulan Bird-of-Prey 0.25 Klingon Bird-of-Prey, B'rel 0.24 Federation Miranda 0.23 Federation Delta Flyer 0.23 (advanced off/def + great maneuverability) Romulan Science Vessel 0.23 Borg Scout 0.23 Federation Peregrine 0.22 Cardassian Hideki 0.22 Federation Saladin 0.22 Romulan Scout 0.20 Romulan Shuttle 0.19 Federation Scout-type 0.18 Federation Olympic 0.17 Cardassian Transport 0.16 Federation Raven-type 0.16 Cardassian Supply Ship 0.16 Cardassian Freighter 0.15 Romulan/Reman Scorpion 0.15 Federation Danube 0.14 Federation Oberth 0.14 Cardassian Shuttle 0.13 Federation Argo 0.13 Federation Ptolemy 0.12 Federation Intrepid Aeroshuttle 0.12 Federation Shuttle, Type 10 0.12 Federation Sovereign Captain’s Yacht 0.12 Klingon Toron 0.12 Ferengi Shuttle 0.12 Federation Shuttle, Type 11 0.12 Federation Shuttle, Type 7 0.12 Federation Shuttle, Type 6 0.12 Federation Shuttle, Type 9 0.12 Federation Nova Waverider 0.12 Federation Galaxy Captain’s Yacht 0.12 Federation Shuttle, Type 8 0.12 Ferengi Shuttlepod 0.11 Federation Shuttle, "Galileo 5" 0.11 Federation Shuttle, Type 18 0.11 Federation Shuttle, Class F 0.11 Federation Shuttle, Type 16 0.11 Federation Shuttle, Type 15 0.11 Federation Hermes 0.11 Federation Sydney 0.10And the full list of ships sorted by Exploration capability:
POLITY CLASS/TYPE EXPLORATION RATING Borg Cube, variant 1 4.38 Borg Cube, variant 2, tactical 2.64 Borg Cube, variant 2 2.32 Borg Queen's Ship 1.78 Borg Sphere, variant 1 1.53 Federation Galaxy 1.00 Borg Probe 0.99 Federation Nebula 0.96 Borg Sphere, variant 2 0.77 Romulan D'Deridex (B-type Warbird) 0.74 Federation Intrepid 0.68 Federation Nova 0.68 Federation Prometheus 0.65 Federation Sovereign 0.61 Federation Olympic 0.60 Borg Scout 0.59 Romulan/Reman Scimitar 0.58 Romulan Science Vessel 0.57 Romulan Warbird (Valdore) 0.57 Species 8472 Energy Focusing Ship 0.54 Federation Defiant 0.50 Jem'Hadar Battleship 0.50 Klingon Negh'var-type 0.48 Federation New Orleans 0.47 Federation Curry-type 0.47 Species 8472 Bioship 0.45 Federation Challenger 0.45 Ferengi D'Kora (Marauder) 0.43 Federation Akira 0.42 Federation Niagara 0.42 Federation Freedom 0.42 Federation Raven-type 0.42 Breen Warship 0.42 Cardassian Keldon 0.41 Federation Cheyenne 0.41 Federation Scout-type 0.41 Federation Oberth 0.41 Federation Norway 0.40 Cardassian Galor 0.40 Federation Steamrunner 0.39 Federation Merced 0.38 Federation Saber 0.38 Federation Soyuz 0.38 Federation Constellation 0.38 Federation Springfield 0.37 Federation Yeager-type 0.37 Jem'Hadar Battle Cruiser 0.36 Federation Federation 0.35 Federation Hermes 0.34 Cardassian Hideki 0.34 Klingon K't'inga 0.33 Klingon Vor'cha 0.32 Federation Ambassador 0.32 Klingon Bird-of-Prey, K'vort 0.31 Romulan Scout 0.31 Federation Constitution 0.31 Klingon D-7 0.31 Federation Excelsior 0.31 Federation Constitution (A-refit) 0.30 Federation Elkins-type 0.29 Federation Delta Flyer 0.28 Federation Shuttle, Type 10 0.27 Federation Miranda 0.27 Federation Centaur-type 0.27 Federation Sydney 0.27 Federation Ptolemy 0.27 Jem'Hadar Attack Ship 0.26 Federation Saladin 0.26 Klingon Bird-of-Prey, B'rel 0.26 Romulan D-7 0.25 Romulan Shuttle 0.24 Cardassian Shuttle 0.24 Klingon Bird-of-Prey, D-12 0.24 Romulan Bird-of-Prey 0.24 Romulan/Reman Scorpion 0.24 Federation Peregrine 0.23 Federation Danube 0.23 Federation Argo 0.23 Ferengi Shuttle 0.23 Federation Intrepid Aeroshuttle 0.23 Federation Sovereign Captain’s Yacht 0.23 Federation Shuttle, Type 7 0.23 Federation Shuttle, Type 6 0.23 Federation Shuttle, Type 11 0.23 Federation Nova Waverider 0.23 Federation Galaxy Captain’s Yacht 0.23 Federation Shuttle, Type 9 0.23 Federation Shuttle, Type 8 0.23 Ferengi Shuttlepod 0.23 Federation Shuttle, Type 18 0.23 Federation Shuttle, Type 16 0.23 Federation Shuttle, Type 15 0.23 Klingon Toron 0.21 Federation Shuttle, "Galileo 5" 0.20 Federation Shuttle, Class F 0.20 Cardassian Transport 0.20 Cardassian Freighter 0.19 Cardassian Supply Ship 0.17CONCLUSION
The Internet being what it is, I assume that no one will agree with any part of either of these rankings. :)
The good news is, now you have something approximating a factual basis for disagreement. I've attached to this essay the spreadsheet I used to generate the rankings I show above. Check it out; you'll see every assumption I made.
[Note: Given security concerns about Excel spreadsheets, I haven't yet updated this blog entry to attach my spreadsheet to it. If/when I feel it's safe to do so, I'll update this entry with the spreadsheet file and make a note of that as a new blog entry.]
Even better: Feel free to tweak any or all of the values and publish your own rankings. That's the main reason why I've attached this spreadsheet that I spent so much time working on -- I'm curious to see how other people will use it.
The obvious problem with doing that is, how do you avoid changing reasonably canonical values without having to look up every ship for yourself? In addition to cherry-picking numbers from multiple canon sources, I've obviously created a lot of numbers out of my head. How is anyone looking at this spreadsheet supposed to know what numbers are authoritative and which come solely out of my fevered imaginings?
To make it clear where a value is generally agreed on and where I've had to improvise, I've adopted a color scheme for labeling each cell of the spreadsheet. I've left uncolored many (though not all) of the values that are taken directly from Memory Alpha or Ex Astris Scientia. Values that can be directly inferred from visual study of images of the ships (such as the number of warp nacelles and the configuration type), or are simple extrapolations based on hints from visual evidence and dialogue, combined with knowledge of other similar ships, are colored in yellow. And values colored in red are pure guesswork on my part -- those values are things that seem right to me for that kind of ship but for which I can point to no canon source or sufficiently similar ship.
(Note: There are probably a few places where I mistakenly failed to color some value in yellow or red that I should have. Please feel free to let me know where, in your opinion, I got a canon number clearly wrong or didn't label a number properly.)
The point to this labeling is that, if you like, you can second-guess my choices to come up with values that you think are more appropriate without running afoul of information that is considered (relatively) canon. It's a spreadsheet! Playing with numbers is what these things are for, so here's your chance to try out any crazy theories you might have about which is the better ship class and why.
(Note: If you want to add new Computers or Shields or other devices on the appropriate sheet [found at the bottom left of the spreadsheet], just be sure to add the new item in alphabetical order. Excel won't be able to find it when doing a lookup if you don't. Caused me all kinds of problems until I figured that one out....)
A final note: It's important to recognize that the calculated ratings for all these ships are their ratings on paper. All other things being equal, a ship with a higher combat rating (for example) will be able to defeat one with a lower combat rating... but things out in the field are almost never equal.
People, in particular, can make a big difference (up to a point). Technology is cool, but how it's used matters, too. What about crew morale? What about differences in organizational models (Borg-like discipline vs. Federation ingenuity)? What about legendary officers?
My spreadsheet doesn't track any of those things (although it does try to track crew size). Consequently, it's missing an important piece of what distinguishes a ship that appears relatively weak on paper (Voyager) compared to one that seems overwhelming on paper (e.g., a Borg sphere). I think it's worth seeing how ships look on paper, but I want to acknowledge that it's far from the whole story of how a ship will actually perform.
All that said, I hope someone will find this tool useful. If not... well, hey, I had fun putting it together.