Monday, October 22, 2007

Comparative Rankings of Starships in Star Trek +

Originally Posted by Random Redshirt:
Why so much difference in power based on ship size. Granted, an Oberth class would never have the capability of a Sovereign, but let's talk Miranda and Constitution (refit) for just a moment. The Miranda, in all respects was simply a Constitution Refit with less hull. So, wouldn't that lead us to believe that it should have the same offensive/defensive capabilities as the Constitution, in a better package because it is more maneuverable and less hull area to strike? Seems to me that there are some problems in how ships are ranked within the ST Universe. Defiant is another example. In Legacy for example, a Defiant class was easier to destroy than an Intrepid class, even though the Defiant class was supposedly built for war and to withstand a pounding.
Bearing in mind that all this is just us swapping ideas -- I'm not trying to make a definitive statement here -- my short answer would be "structural points."

If we're talking combat rating, firepower is obviously important, but so is survivability. If the size of a ship determines how much structure it has, then it stands to reason that a bigger ship is more survivable; it can hang in a firefight longer (presumably continuing to dish out damage).

If we're talking about the Constitution-refit and Miranda classes specifically, it's important to note that there's not just a size difference here. The big structural difference between these two classes is that the Constitution sports a large secondary hull while the Miranda does not. That gives the Constitution (original and refit) two important survivability advantages over the Miranda:

  • more damage-absorbing structural points

  • saucer separation capability
So even though the Miranda class is only marginally less capable than either Constitution class in terms of firepower -- six Type-IX phaser emitters (three dual-emitter banks) on the Miranda to the eight of the Constitution -- the difference in survivability is enough to give the Constitution a distinct edge over its Miranda cousin in combat situations.

As for maneuverability and difficulty of targeting, I actually do include both of those things in my calculations. Small and Tiny ships (I categorize the USS Defiant, for example, as Small, and treat shuttlecraft as Tiny) get a bonus to their Survivability for being hard to target, while I add the square root of a ship's calculated Maneuverability value directly to that ship's Combat rating.

So here's one more difference between the Constitution and Miranda classes: the Constitution was more maneuverable with two impulse engines than the Miranda which (according to the DS9 Tech Manual as cited at Memory Alpha) had only one impulse engine. Thus, even though the Constitution packed more mass spread over a larger area, the additional impulse engine more than compensated for that mass when maneuvering at sub-light speeds.

I think all this reasoning could also explain the disparity between the relative combat ratings of the Defiant and Intrepid classes. The Defiant class is tougher, but it's also significantly smaller -- 120 meters in length and 4 or 5 decks, versus 344 meters over 15 decks for the Intrepid class. Being Small gives it a minor bonus to Survivability, as does its ablative armor, but that's far outweighed by having so much less structure to absorb damage.

On the other hand, the Defiant class has three impulse engines to the Intrepid's two. In conjunction with having less mass to move around, the extra engine gives Defiant-class ships a great advantage in Maneuverability.

Combining the serious firepower of the Defiant class with its excellent Maneuverability gives it a fractional edge over the Intrepid in overall combat capability despite the Defiant class's lower Survivability. My current spreadsheet shows the standard Intrepid class with a Combat rating of 0.90 and the Defiant class at 0.96 (relative to the 1.00 rating of the Galaxy class).

On paper, ships of either of these two classes could give a Galaxy-class ship a hard time. I think that's a bit off, as I noted earlier; I think the Voyager and Defiant stats are artificially inflated for dramatic necessity, making their base classes look tougher than they really would be without a "hero" crew.

Either way, the relative numbers are still fun to bat back and forth, no?