The Centaur-class scout is a long-serving Federation starship design based off of technological innovations developed for the Excelsior-class. While she had initially been designed to serve as a counterpart to the larger ship that could replace the Miranda, her smaller size and more limited capabilities led to her older cousin actually being in production past the end of her own run. They remain in service as scout ships, though they are becoming increasingly rare.
Science and Exploration
Centaur-class starships possess a smaller scale version of the planetary scanning array on the ventral surface of their saucer section as the one employed aboard Excelsior-class starships. This array makes them adept at scouting out uncharted worlds, though they lack the corresponding lab facilities to perform as well as a true surveyor, or even a Miranda-class vessel. Their role in exploration is to identify interesting worlds for more capable vessels to explore fully, while being small enough to typically evade detection if the planet in question harbors any threats.
The Centaur-class has often been used to launch long-range probes and to place sensor beacons in frontier areas of space, thus being able to explore in a greater radius than her shipboard facilities would normallyallow. She also serves a tender for unmanned sensor outposts, collecting their data to relay home and maintaining their facilities. The class does have a handful of scientific labs, but they are relatively small and geared more towards sample collection and storage rather than analysis, a task that is left to their bases of operation.
Centaur-class ships are entirely unsuited to diplomatic missions, as any visitors must be housed in standard crew quarters. In the rare circumstances in which a Centaur-class ship must take part in diplomatic talks, they’re often relegated to the ship’s sole briefing room or even to a cargo hold or the mess hall, depending on the size of the parties involved. However, because of their complete lack of suitability, they have sometimes been chosen for clandestine missions in which their presence could easily be mistaken for something innocuous.
At a glance, the Centaur-class appears to share the same primary hull and nacelles of the much larger Excelsior-class heavy cruiser, but upon closer inspection it is clear that it merely uses general design features of this much more capable class on a smaller scale. At roughly 210 meters long, the Centaur is even smaller than the Miranda-class from which the design was inspired. The saucer section is connected directly to an underslung torpedo pod borrowed from the Miranda-class (albeit with the forward launchers angled down to avoid hitting the ship itself), and two slender warp engine nacelles.
For her day, the Centaur-class was exceptionally fast, thanks to her low mass and warp coils derived from the advanced Excelsior-class, and they remain a fast design, though their endurance is severely lacking due to a lack of storage space for spare parts. While the original design had cleaner lines, a number of external components above the impulse engines and under the primary hull have been added over the years to increase the ship’s capabilities for power generation and management, though she lags behind more modern vessels by a significant degree.
The vessel’s only shuttlebay is located forward of the bridge module, with a short doorway that can only handle the smallest of auxiliary craft, such as workbees or shuttlepods. Large vessels must come alongside for transport or use the docking port aft of the bridge.
With nine double Type-VIII phaser banks and four torpedo tubes, the Centaur is well-armed for her size. When she was designed, she was more than capable of taking on Klingon Birds-of-Prey, though in modern times she is more suited to handling raiders and other light craft. This class was deployed extensively during the Dominion War and suffered significant casualties, though her kill rate was slightly higher than the Miranda-class thanks to her greater maneuverability.
Centaur-class ships typically employ hit-and-run tactics, as they are not built to take significant punishment, being something of a glass cannon. Though they have aft-firing torpedo tubes, they have no beam weapon coverage in that quarter, contrary to the design of most other Federation ships with all-around coverage.
The Centaur has five sets of phaser banks on its ventral side, and since the torpedo tubes are angled slightly down, the optimum attack strategy for this ship is to attack from above, keeping its ventral side towards the enemy as much as possible. This also has the effect of keeping the bridge relatively safe.
The Centaur is a very cramped ship, as it does not have the same automation as other small vessels lacks a secondary hull. Mercifully, assignments on this class tend to be short, as crew fatigue makes missions of longer than six months difficult. Due to their age, they are typically assigned only within Federation space, so they’re rarely far from a starbase or other outpost. While not quite so cramped as a Defiant-class, even the Saber-class has a higher standard of accommodation than the Centaur does, with all crewmembers other than the senior staff sharing quarters. This vessel lacks holodecks and all but the most basic recreation facilities.
Despite the cramped quarters, Centaur-class ships are old enough to have histories that go back many decades, leading to a sense of pride among the ships’ crews that they are carrying on that legacy, as well as a sense that they are just as capable as any other unit, despite the antiquated equipment.
Compared to other vessels in the 2390s, the Centaur requires a lot more hands-on maintenance and daily operational support. Things like weapons calibration, impulse driver field monitoring, and computer diagnostics must be performed manually. There are no holograms aboard (not even an EMH), so there’s often a sense that Centaur-class crews have to work harder than their companions aboard newer vessels, and to an extent this is true.
Developed in the 2390s as a possible replacement for the Miranda-class, it was clear midway through the design process that a small, swift counter to the Bird-of-Prey would be a better use of the design resources, while keeping the larger Miranda-class light cruiser in production as a proven design. The Centaur-type design shared the overall arrangement of typical Starfleet light cruisers, though at a smaller scale, more suitable as a replacement for the Akula-class than the Miranda. At the time, they were built with the latest technologies, resulting in a fast, highly-manuverable scout that could go toe-to-toe with her Klingon and Romulan counterparts, though in a time of relative peace this was rarely tested.
The design proved merely satisfactory, though a large order was made so that Oberth-class starships could be kept closer to home and these hardier vessels could replace them in frontier areas. In the end, though, the Centaur was rapidly out-classed by larger, more-modern vessels at the beginning of the 2300s, with the Freedom-class proving to be a markedly superior vessel within just a few decades of the Centaur’s introduction.
The class, therefore, terminated production in the 2330s, while the Miranda actually continued production until the end of the 2340s. This class saw extensive service in the Cardassian War, operating as a long-range scout and frigate, and then into the Dominion and Borg conflicts that followed. This class has suffered heavy losses during its time in the fleet, though there are still several dozen lingering on in service in lesser duty stations across the Federation.
- At face value, this appears to be the Excelsior-derived version of the Miranda, but it is a substantially smaller ship. In many ways it is inferior to the older vessel, though it is faster and more manuverable. It would be preferable to serve on a Miranda, in terms of comfort.
- Few of these remain in service, and where they do they’re not given glamorous or important assignments. These vessels would be given the most routine of milk runs without much possibility of danger, as they’re simply not built to survive sustained engagements on their own.
- A posting to a Centaur-class ship is not glamorous or particularly prestigious, but some may enjoy the challenge of having to do much more maintenance and other hands-on work than larger, more automated vessels. Keeping a ship like this running is a challenge, so it can be quite satisfying to be a successful chief engineer on this ship. By contrast, a tactical officer or scientist would be equally as bored here, given that it’s not used for many exploratory missions other than drive-bys of planets and it’s typically ordered to stay out of danger.