Designed in response to Starfleet’s defense-oriented turn in the late 2380s, the Inquiry-class heavy cruiser is a fast, well-armed starship deployed in large numbers near the Federation’s borders. As standardization was a focus with the design, they are able to be produced nearly anywhere within the Federation, and so their ubiquity has made them a part of a whole generation of Starfleet officers’ first experiences in the fleet.
Science and Exploration
Taking cues from ancestors like the Constitution and contemporaries like the Luna, this heavy cruiser design has a full complement of generalist science labs and sensor arrays, giving it the ability to analyze the wide variety of phenomena it will encounter on its missions. Though Inquiry-class was designed primarily for defensive purposes, it still conducts a full range of scientific and exploratory surveys during the course of its normal duties, making initial discoveries that then get followed up on by science vessels.
Inquiry-class ships are fully-capable of independent exploration beyond Federation space, though they lack the range of the Luna or the versatility of the Nebula; Starfleet tends to keep them close to home, though, and anytime they’re found too far from the frontier, it’s a sign that Starfleet is looking for some threat.
Like all Starfleet ships of her size, the Inquiry is capable of a range of diplomatic missions, including multi-party talks and first contact scenarios. As a well-armed and heavily-shielded vessel, the Inquiry-class is ideal for situations where combat may be a result of a failed negotiation but when a larger ship like a Sovereign would be too conspicuous or threatening to send instead. As on the Luna, diplomatic facilities aboard the Inquiry are capable of supporting a full range of environments for nearly any known species, which makes it well-suited to missions involving races that can’t tolerate an M-class environment.
Taking the majority of its inspiration from the Sovereign-class and sharing design features from the Prometheus, and Akira-classes, the Inquiry-class is a compact, angular cruiser with a roughly triangular primary hull and a truncated, boxy secondary hull, which is meant to both improve warp field dynamics and to minimize the vessel’s target profile. Compared to other heavy cruisers, the Inquiry-class is more compact, but its systems are no less advanced; it relies on many of the advances in automation developed for the Prometheus to reduce the need for a large crew, which further allows it to approach the performance of an explorer with a smaller platform.
The Class-9 warp drive employed aboard the Inquiry-class is finely-tuned for its hull geometry and provides the fastest top speed of any heavy cruiser in the fleet, an extremely impressive Warp 9.99. The power generation systems are all reinforced and have been built with added redundancies to increase its combat survivability. Nearly the entire hull is covered with a substantial layer of ablative armor, even to the point of employing an armored grille over the main deflector dish to protect it from harm.
The impulse engines are located in the saucer section and are oversized for a ship of her size, both to increase sublight speed and to take advantage of larger fusion reactors to power other onboard systems.
Auxiliary craft support is provided by a large shuttlebay on the stern capable of handling all manner of shuttles and runabouts, as well as a smaller shuttlebay on the bow of the ship in the saucer, similar to the one found aboard the Akira-class, though there is no conduit within the ship connecting the two bays. While the Inquiry-class does not routinely embark fighters, it was designed to be able to handle a squadron of Valkyrie-class fighters which would deploy from the forward shuttlebay for combat, and then in the event of a retreat could be recovered via the aft shuttlebay under the cover of the ship’s weapons.
Two large cargo bays are accessible via hatches on the underside of the saucer, which could easily carry small craft in a pinch, but which are meant to hold vast amounts of cargo for humanitarian projects.
A unique feature of the Inquiry-class are mission equipment bays on the aft corners under the saucer section. Round, iris-style hatches cover a large internal bay with power and computer connections allowing for the installation of specialized modules such as sensor pods, weapons pods, or other mission-specific options. In addition, these bays can also be used to deploy experimental munitions, such as long-range torpedoes or drones, as well as small craft such as runabouts depending on what the mission calls for.
Combat is where the Inquiry-class truly shines, with eleven Type-XII phaser arrays (six dorsal and five ventral) and four burst-fire torpedo launchers (two forward and two aft). The shield generators are borrowed directly from the Sovereign-class and the aforementioned ablative armor covers all critical systems, which gives the ship impressive defensive coverage. In addition, the mission equipment bays give the ship many options for additional offensive and defensive systems. Simply put, this is the strongest combat vessel of all of the Federation’s mid-sized starships, other than dedicated escorts like the Manticore and Prometheus.
Like the Resolute-class, there are also additional hardpoints around the ship that can be equipped with additional weapons, such as pulse phaser cannons in the bow and micro torpedo launchers on the superstructure of the hull, as are found on the Sovereign-class. This is meant to allow the ship to be easily refit into an even more capable tactical platform in the advent of war, thanks to lessons learned from the Dominion conflict.
The Inquiry-class is highly maneuverable compared not only to her larger cousins but also ships in her own size class, which allows her to literally run circles around threat vessels to take full advantage of her many weapons emplacements. Coupled with her shields and armor which allow her to shrug off most hits, the Inquiry is an extremely tough ship and a match on her own for nearly anything she would encounter.
While this ship has capabilities approaching the Sovereign-class, automation means that it has less than half the crew complement. This allows the Inquiry-class to have a comfortable standard of accommodations, though certainly not as luxurious of one as large explorers.
A unique ship-board feature is the recreation areas that ring the saucer section. Connected together as a promenade on either side of the ship, these two-story areas provide a sense of space and openness to help address the claustrophobia that can sometimes come from serving aboard a starship, while also providing extra space for triage and refugee accommodations should the need arise. Holographic belts of green space go down the center of the promenade and lounges can be called up as needed for different group sizes. A traditional forward lounge does exist above the forward shuttlebay, though.
Unlike other starship classes, there are fewer specialized, physical recreation areas. While there are two gymnasia and a handful of mess halls, all sports courts, theaters, salons, and the arboretum have been replaced by holodecks or holosuites, which further gives the ship flexibility in situations where it might need to house refugees or handle other crises.
Medical facilities are state-of-the-art, but compact, as on the Sovereign-class. Two sickbay modules provide support for the crew in the primary and secondary hulls, with large-scale medical events behind handled through the multiple holographically-configurable spaces available on the ship.
As Starfleet moves into the 25th Century, the Inquiry-class has been produced in large numbers and has become for a generation of Starfleet officers their first experience out of the academy on an actual starship. These ships of the line also represent an era in Starfleet Command’s thinking, so crews coming up on these ships have all been trained with the sense that Starfleet’s primary role is to keep threats outside of the Federation’s borders, while still exploring out and seeking the unknown in the process. So, to have served on one of these ships is to learn a very different ethos than on other heavy cruisers, one of duty and service over curiosity.
In 2385, everything changed for Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets with the destruction of their most important shipbuilding facility: Utopia Planitia. This not only ended the Starfleet effort to evacuate Romulus, but also marked a shift for Starfleet from an outward looking, exploratory posture to an inward looking, defensive one. After an evaluation of remaining shipbuilding capacities and fleet needs, Starfleet commissioned the Inquiry-class as a combat-enhanced heavy cruiser design which would shore up the Federation’s borders against the chaos anticipated alongside the imminent destabilization of the Romulan state.
The Sovereign-class was identified as Starfleet’s most successful multi-mission tactical design and the Inquiry-class was designed over a shortened period by shrinking this design and increasing its level of automation, resulting in what some at the design bureau called a “pocket battleship,” though that terminology has never been used in official parlance. The brief also called for a starship that could be more easily produced at standard starbases than other medium-sized ships could be. As such, the Inquiry’s components, while advanced, are also ruggedized, simplified versions of the ones found aboard their larger cousin, meaning that they can be more easily mass produced.
Unlike other classes which are largely dependent on a small number of advanced fleet yards to construct them, the Inquiry-class could and was produced at a large number of facilities across the Federation, allowing for proliferation at a scale not seen above the size of a frigate in Starfleet’s prior history. With their modest crew complements, they were just as easy to deploy as they were to build.
Mass production, however, meant standardization. While many other starship classes had variants as the years progressed (with some varying month-to-month as new equipment came online) the Inquiry-class was kept to a much more regimented standard. While most Odyssey-class ships were quite different from one another due to their long construction times, Inquiry-class ships could be built in a year and were identical to one another within distinct “block” of subclasses, which kept production simple. The Inquiry-class (Block I) itself was first launched in 2390, with the Block II units led by the Ride coming online in 2395, followed by the Block III units led by the Zheng He in 2399. Each of these blocks represented incremental, defined improvements over the original, rather than the more fluid differences found in other starship classes.
The starship class has proven to be effective in service, with remarkably few design-related flaws discovered during the course of their service, due to so much of the design being derived from older, proven classes. A contemporary with the Resolute-class heavy cruiser, the two designs tend to be sent on very different missions: the Resolute staying largely close to the core and the Inquiry sent to the borders; there are currently many more Inquiry-class ships in the fleet than Resolute-class ones.
- As described by Captain Riker, this is Starfleet’s “toughest, fastest ship,” though factoring in a little bluster we can amend that to being Starfleet’s toughest, fastest ship in this size range. Broadly speaking, it’s a smaller version of the Sovereign-class and has similar capabilities.
- These ships are pretty common, given their large production run, so if your character entered service somewhere between 2390 and the present, it’s very likely that they’ve served aboard one of these ships.
- Because there are so many of them, Inquiry-class captains range from relative novices to grizzled veterans.