A nearly-obsolete patrol ship, the Freedom-class scout is only seen defending outlying colony worlds or plying the Federation’s minor space lanes as a search and rescue or customs enforcement cutter. These odd ships have a very powerful long-range sensor array but are otherwise remarkable except for their single nacelle design.
Science and Exploration
With its trainable telescopic sensor array, the Freedom-class scout had the longest sensor range of any Federation starship when it was first launched in 2339. It is ideal for stellar cartography missions and can take detailed images of stars, planets, and even subspace topography. It also has a small number of labs, but due to the ship’s small size, it doesn’t carry much in the way of a science department. These ships were never meant to wander past the Federation’s extensive borders, but are often tasked with minor scientific missions during the course of their regular patrols.
Freedom-class ships are not equipped for diplomatic missions other than delivering dignitaries from place to place, a task that they can accomplish with a single set of VIP accommodations located near the captain’s quarters. They have, however, been responsible for identifying a number of new civilizations with their long-range scanners, which has led to many first contacts, even though they themselves aren’t suited for this work.
Resembling the old Saladin and Hermes-class starships, the Freedom-class scout is the only serving Federation starship that only has one nacelle. It has no secondary hull, other than a one-deck strip of engineering support systems running over the spine of this nacelle, and so the warp core is located within the ship’s circular primary hull. This connects to a pod containing two forward torpedo launchers, along with a tall interconnecting dorsal that leads to the saucer. The ship’s two small impulse engines are located where the neck of the ship connects to the saucer and given the ship’s small mass, they provide significant sublight maneuverability.
A single shuttle bay is located under the bridge, with provisions for a small complement of auxiliary craft. On the underside of the saucer is a larger turreted sensor system that can pivot to allow the ship to collect sensor data in directions other than its main heading, a feature that has not been repeated in newer vessels.
In the original design, the vessel used an Ambassador-type warp nacelle, which was considered a reliable design by the time it was launched in 2339, and the ship relied on the main shield grid operating constantly at lower power levels to provide for navigational deflection. This proved to be an unsatisfactory arrangement, which led to a brief halt of production on this class after only a few dozen units, but in the 2350s, one of these vessels was used as a testbed for the full-sized version of the Galaxy-type nacelle. This turned out to be serendipitous, as the nacelle not only worked but it improved the ship’s maneuverability and warp speed significantly, along with the addition of a dedicated deflector under the nacelle. Following that, all Freedom-class ships were retrofitted to use Galaxy-type nacelles and a small production run of these vessels was resumed, bringing their numbers up to sixty.
The Freedom-class design has several small Type-IX phaser arrays on the primary hull, like the Ambassador-class. Given that its primary mission is as a patrol ship, it was intended primarily to locate enemy threats and report their positions back to Starfleet, but it is also capable of engaging other ships on its own. It has two forward-firing torpedo arrays and its maneuverability made it dangerous for threat vessels in its time. In the modern era, it is normally tasked with patrolling travel lanes within Federation space, which includes customs enforcement and search and rescue tasks, which it is more suited to than to direct combat.
Cramped, antiquated, and generally unpleasant, the few Freedom-class ships that remain in service are not popular assignments among Starfleet officers. Most crewmembers up to the rank of full lieutenant have to share quarters and there is poor separation between living and working areas aboard the ship, with so much mechanical equipment in the saucer that would ordinarily be in an engineering hull.
Commanding officers of these vessels tend to either be fresh out of command school, or, frankly, suffering some sort of punishment from their superior officers, as it is not considered a prestigious command.
These ships lack holodecks and all but the most basic crew recreation facilities which would be standard on any ship built after the 2360s. This makes shore leave especially important for the crew, and so captains are sure to schedule a few days of this each time they reach port on a patrol.
Developed in the late 2330s alongside the new Ambassador-class explorer, the Freedom was intended to be a more economical vessel than her larger cousin, largely filling the niche left behind by the decommissioned Soyuz-class cruiser as a border patrol and colonial defense ship. Following the design of the older Hermes and Saladin-class scouts and destroyers, it was decided that this would be a single-nacelled design, but otherwise it would use off-the-shelf components, including torpedo launchers from the Constitution-class and internal systems from the Ambassador.
After a short design process, the first Freedom-class ships entered service in 2339, but their performance was far short of what Starfleet had anticipated in every way except the novel sensor array developed for the class. The nacelle’s shape precluded an appropriate number of maneuvering thrusters located there and gave the ship an odd sublight handling profile. Because of this, many vessels of this class had their construction frozen.
While they performed adequately protecting minor colonies, the Freedom seemed likely to be an odd footnote in the annals of Starfleet design. A small number of them were involved in the Cardassian and Tzenkethi conflicts and acquitted themselves well enough, but no better than the even older Miranda-class ships they fought alongside.
It wasn’t until the 2350s when one vessel of this class was resumed in the yards as a testbed for the new Galaxy-class nacelle that interest was revisited in the Freedom. The new nacelle increased maneuverability and performance to a degree that the Freedom had become a viable small vessel for patrol purposes, and so the original run of 60 was completed as a stop-gap while the other classes in the fleet modernization program such as the Springfield and Cheyenne were completed.
While the Firebrand was destroyed at Wolf 359, this class has suffered few hull losses, due to its main role as identifying threats rather than engaging them. A significant number of the production run remain in service as patrol cutters within Federation space on its space lanes, and several have also been reassigned to planetary defense forces.
- Think submarine in space. A Freedom is cramped, small, and fragile enough that it wants to avoid fights with most threats head-on. Instead, it identifies threat vessels and calls in its bigger sisters to deal with them. What it does do well at, though, is fighting off smaller raiders.
- Another good option for a first command, the few of these left in service would almost certainly be commanded by a very junior captain, likely holding the rank of commander or less.
- This is also a good option for an NPC patrol vessel you might encounter—or maybe even one that’s been stolen from the mothball yards by pirates!