Designed for independent operations in dangerous regions of space, the Manticore–class escort is a formidable opponent in combat while still serving Starfleet’s mandates of exploration, diplomacy, and aid. With Starfleet’s presence stretched thinner across the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, the Manticore has demonstrated itself capable of representing remote Federation interests with limited support, or supplementing security interests at home.
Exploration and Science
The Manticore under-performs in scientific missions compared to most Starfleet vessels in her size category. While its laboratory spaces and scientific sensor sophistication are limited, it is still capable of undertaking missions of exploration and analysis such as might be competently handled by an Intrepid. The scientific suitability of any Manticore is often dependent upon the mission pod, which may sacrifice laboratory space for further weapons capacity.
It is, of course, inefficient to dedicate a Manticore to solely such a mission. It is usually sent on such assignments only if there is some anticipation of danger, such as hostile local powers. In those cases, the Manticore is able to conduct exploratory operations while able to defend itself where other explorers of its calibre could not.
Although the initial designs for the Manticore did not consider its role as a long-range explorer, Federation needs have changed. While it will never be sent on deep-space assignments such as those reserved for the Century or the Elysion, it is capable of operating without resupply for years. With Starfleet forces more thinly-spread, this makes the Manticore suitable for missions ranging beyond Federation borders for some months – so long as there is a need for its tactical capabilities.
As one of Starfleet’s premier tactical vessels, the Manticore is reserved for diplomatic missions which include warring governments, insurgency movements, disruptive third parties, or natural disasters. If the overtures of peace must come with a message that Starfleet will defend itself or those deemed under its protection, a Manticore is a suitable choice of vessel. Otherwise, it is easy to see this show of strength as a threat, and wrongly-applied, the Manticore is a sign of the Federation’s increasing xenophobia and self-interest.
With multiple VIP suites and two diplomatic conference rooms, the Manticore is able to host delegates in safety. Comfort is provided by the proximity of these quarters to the holodecks, lounge, and other recreational facilities also enjoyed by the crew. This allows delegates to room and meet aboard in the safety and comfort of neutral Starfleet territory.
As a tactical cruiser, the Manticore is designed to be tough and fast, with a significant weapons loadout. While this already placed significant parameters on the design team, Starfleet’s wish the Manticore not exclusively serve tactical operations put further demands upon its space and resource allocation for scientific needs.
In anticipation of taking weapons fire, its saucer and secondary hull design are more integrated than most modern Starfleet ships. This allows for thicker hull plating around the main body of the vessel, and the deflector dish is more naturally shielded by the saucer than is the case with the Manticore’s contemporaries. An additional benefit of this has been a more narrow profile, which has aided in target evasion.
It is one of the fastest Federation ships, and presently boasts the highest emergency speed in Starfleet. This, as well as its need for exceptional shielding, makes the Manticore also one of the most power-intensive. Advances in warp drive technology provide the energy needed, with multiple redundancies built-in on power allocation and distribution in consideration of the high likelihood of damage. This includes the four-nacelle build, which allows the Manticore a more stable warp field as well as redundancies if a nacelle is damaged in battle; for this reason modern, variable geometry nacelles were chosen. Independent fusion reactors power each impulse engine, a redundancy and power boost lifted from its successes in the Sovereign-class.
With this robust power array, complex warp drive, and a need to maintain redundancies in case of combat, the engineering department is a large proportion of the crew. This includes a notable array of specialists to ensure each system is operating at peak efficiency, and able to keep operating after the ship has taken damage.
Tactical assignments are where the Manticore shines. While it is out-performed by the manoeuvrable Prometheus and its Multi Vector Assault Mode, it otherwise takes a Sovereign or an Akira with the right mission profile before the Manticore is surpassed in combat. It can stand its ground one-on-one against most starships barring the largest battleships, and enjoys enough speed and manoeuvrability to be a flexible part of any task force deployment. There, it is often the first point of engagement with enemy forces, tying them up to be harried by smaller, faster tactical vessels.
Phaser strip coverage is closer to 300 degrees than 360, with lesser protection on the rear; while the Manticore’s manoeuvrability compensates to some degree, this dictates a heavy, front-focused assault style. The most common tactical pod enhances a Manticore’s torpedo capacity, which may allow the Manticore to act as more of a long-range gunboat. Without it, the ship is far more suitable engaging in a closer-ranged slugging match with an opponent.
The Manticore’s original design includes space for a Combat Information Centre, which has been most favoured by ships on long-term independent assignments, focusing upon the strategic analysis of a region. After the mission pod, this is one of the features that differs the most across Manticores; some captains replace the CIC with another science laboratory, while those within Federation borders or on diplomatic missions may replace the CIC with further recreational facilities. This is not an insignificant refit, and tends to reflect the long-term profile of a Manticore and its captain rather than the needs of individual missions.
The Manticore has a larger-than-average sickbay for a ship of her class, along with additional storage bays for medical supplies and deployable field hospitals stored in the cargo bays. These robust medical facilities of the Manticore make it a suitable starship to respond to natural disasters. While it lacks the resources to attend to epidemics or other such medical crises, it is reasonably well-equipped for disaster relief, and can of course provide the security, in personnel as much as tactically, that is often needed on such missions.
Life for the crew of a Manticore-class is expected to be comfortable due to her size and the allocated resources. Senior staff enjoy solo quarters, while junior officers and NCOs either share rooms with one other or have their own room in shared quarters. All quarters are spacious enough to encourage personal touches and decoration. Facilities likewise allow a decent standard of living, with several holodecks, a full range of permanent recreational facilities, two crew messes, and an officers’ mess. The most notable luxury is the main lounge, whose proximity to the diplomatic facilities makes it the ideal place for hosting guests as much as recreational gatherings. All of this is deemed necessary for a starship expected to be capable of conducting missions away from Federation territory for long months, while lacking the feel of the ‘floating city’ of the Galaxy, Sovereign or Century.
Small enough in size that a Manticore officer will know many of the crew by sight, large and comfortable enough that the ship may be considered a home, the class has been noted for its crews developing a familial-like bond. This is only redoubled in the Manticores mission profile as an escort, a high-stress environment. Under combat conditions, including simple threat of combat, crews are more likely to bond closely and quickly. This was one of the design purposes of the expansive recreational facility; Starfleet research supports such facilities assisting in the psychological welfare of crews under such stress, and these tend to play a major role in developing crew bonds. A further contribution has been the Manticores unsuitability for families; while some civilian staff may be counted among the personnel and fraternisation is permitted, only under specific circumstances are spouses on the civilian roster and children are not berthed.
Senior staff of a Manticore are usually veterans of other tactical vessels, and a Manticore is likely to be a captain’s second command after proven service as a combat leader. While a Manticore is not as prestigious an assignment as the ships of the line, it is respected enough in its specialised purpose that a captain may never sit another command chair and still be deemed to have a successful career. The only staff who may view a Manticore as a stepping stone to something greater are likely to be the ambitious, or the science department.
The Manticore is of the first generation of tactical starships after the Dominion War, which required the significant tactical refitting of many vessels. Those already designed or suitable for warfare were the small Defiant with its limited range, the grand and personnel-heavy Sovereign, the auxiliary craft-reliant Akira, or the more compact but complex and resource-intensive Prometheus. The absence of a combat starship capable of independent tactical operations with a reasonable demand on expense and personnel was noted at Starfleet R&D, and options were explored throughout the mid-2370s without much progress.
With the war’s end, the design mandates that would lead to the Manticore remained on the backburner as Starfleet endeavoured to return to its focus on exploration in the late 2370s. This influence meant the small team continuing work at Antares were mindful their superiors wanted a design more flexible than the Prometheus, and so the Manticore was eventually pitched as a starship as capable of long-term, independent assignments as the Intrepid, representing the full gamut of Starfleet interests in troubled regions where conflict was expected or likely.
Avoiding expensive tactical complexities like the Prometheus’ Multi-Vector Assault Mode, the Antares team had to look elsewhere for design cues. Instead they examined early proposals for the Sovereign, and examined what could be scaled down, lost, and repurposed for their needs. This became considerably easier with improvements in miniaturisation and compact starship design over the 2370s with the perfection of the Defiant and the designs that followed on from it. The Manticore could not compare with the Sovereign in armaments or complexities of systems, and was sacrificing the tactical exceptionality of the Prometheus for more flexibility, but as a more modern starship enjoyed new advances in system design, weapon efficiency, shielding and hull plating.
With ambitions for a relatively compact frame – compared to Starfleet’s huge ships of the line – paired with a hefty weapons complement, high speed, and a respectable sensor array, power demands and allocation rapidly became a concern. The demanded warp factor for a ship that could operate, if needed, as a rapid response vessel turned the team back to the Prometheus for inspiration, and the Manticore was redeveloped with a four-nacelle design. This included redundancies in the warp systems as well as that of the nacelles themselves, considered essential for a starship that might still need high mobility under or after taking heavy fire.
The template for scientific capabilities was taken from smaller vessels such as the Intrepid or the Elysion, though the Manticore does not attempt to mimic the latter’s degrees of automation. Medical facilities were given more thorough consideration and resource allocation, with an emphasis on triage and emergency medicine in-line with expected mission profiles. Likewise space was established for diplomatic quarters and facilities.
Initial simulations in the early 2380s still saw the Manticore under-perform in changing, unpredictable or flexible missions requiring anything but combat. While it massively out-performed its contemporaries tactically, Starfleet rejected the design as unsuitable to use outside of internal patrols and defence, as a starship on a long-range mission appropriate to the Manticore’s size and expense needed a higher rating in science.
Shortly after this setback came the oncoming Romulus crisis and the attack on Mars, both of which placed new demands on Antares Shipyards. These might have finished off the Manticore as the Federation reeled and re-allocated its resources, but the project was saved by a proposal from lead designer Commander Kren Tavik. The power output of the Manticore could support more facilities, and so a mission pod was suggested. At a default it would offer an upgrade to the ship’s scientific resources for long-range missions, but if the Manticore was needed for tactical duties closer to home, it could enjoy an upgrade in sensor arrays or torpedo capacity and launchers.
This new viability of the Manticore matched the changing needs of Starfleet post-Mars. What had always been a secondary project of lesser importance suddenly became a valued design as the fleet underwent massive changes in build and distribution. More apprehensive of threats from outside, but keen to protect core member worlds, Starfleet jumped at a new starship which could protect its borders with limited support while meeting scientific and diplomatic needs. After a slow development cycle of over ten years, construction on the USS Manticore herself was fast-tracked in earnest in 2389. She was launched in 2391, further builds ordered not long after.