Named for the Earth city in the United States, the New Orleans-class was commissioned in the middle of the 24th century as a mid-sized, modern frigate to serve alongside the upcoming Galaxy-class and Nebula-class vessels, for which she was a test-bed for several systems.
Acting as a reliable frigate on the front lines of the Cardassian, Tzenkethi, Borg, and Dominion conflicts, the New Orleans is a proven design, but it lacks long-range independent exploratory capabilities and is substantially more crew and resource intensive than smaller escorts and frigates
Nonetheless, the New Orleans remains a well-rounded smaller vessel and is still a welcome sight amongst reserve fleets for its exceptional capability as an exploratory scout and it’s proficiency against small and fast-moving ships, drones, or probes in combat.
Despite being developed first and foremost for tactical use, the New Orleans-class is also a capable short-range explorer. Its three signature modular pods (typically seen deployed in the sensor-pod configuration) and state-of-the-art navigational deflector, coupled with its expanded computer core built specifically for processing huge amounts of data at a rapid pace, makes the New Orleans an incredibly reliable vessel for full and detailed long-range scans of undiscovered planets and interstellar phenomenon.
The relatively small secondary hull of the New Orleans leaves little room for spacious science facilities, especially when compared to its older cousin the Springfield-class science vessel or its younger cousins the Nebula and Galaxy-classes. This means that while the New Orleans is useful for long-range scientific surveys, data accumulation, and processing, it lacks the capacity for extensive on-board laboratory analysis of this data, which must be sent back home instead.
However, these long-range scans conducted by New Orleans-class vessels have often laid the groundwork for additional scientific study, stellar cartography, and deep space exploration for future generations.
Such ventures into the unknown are also made possible by the ship’s revolutionary deflector design. Employing new navigational sensory technology and a distinctive eye-shaped deflector that would later become a signature of the Nebula and Galaxy-classes, helm officers aboard New Orleans vessels are free to set bolder courses with greater confidence in their ship’s ability to perform the necessary adjustments and calculations needed for long-range warp travel.
Operating a New Orleans-class vessel efficiently and effectively requires a particularly skilled Chief Science or Operations Officer, someone who can quickly pick out vital information from substantial sums of data and who knows what to look for when faced with otherwise bafflingly detailed readouts. However, such officers might find the on-board science facilities cramped and their access to resources somewhat limited compared to larger vessels they may have served aboard in the past.
Though the saucer section of the ship is somewhat cramped and the observation lounge found at the saucer’s aft section is considerably smaller than those found aboard its larger contemporary vessels, the location itself still serves suitably as a highly adaptable conference room and relaxation area which allows the New Orleans to conduct limited diplomatic missions
Given the typical assignments of ships of this class, which commonly involve deployment to the edges of Federation space where they could come into contact with new life forms and with galactic powers, designating this space as a diplomatic amenity made sense without having to add a dedicated conference suite.
That is not to say that Starfleet personnel aboard New Orleans vessels don’t also make ample use of the observation lounge for off-duty relaxation and casual meetings.
However, VIP quarters aboard ships of this class are few in number and not particularly spacious. That, along with the fact that these starships are typically deployed as tactical vessels in potentially hostile territory, makes the New Orleans a suboptimal candidate for diplomatic missions or ambassadorial functions when compared to other active vessel classes.
Though considered a pioneering vessel in starship design during its hayday, the New Orleans does not come without its own engineering challenges with regards to keeping it afloat in space.
Its advanced sensor network and navigational controls, coupled with its large computer core and relatively heavy armament, can lead to certain strains and issues with EPS networking and power efficiency. For this reason, it takes an exceptionally adaptable and sharp-minded engineering staff to keep a New Orleans running efficiently.
Despite this though, the navigational network made possible by the various sensor systems allows for cruising and max warp speeds of a comparable level to its contemporaries.
The New Orleans-class also performs remarkably well at sublight speeds. Designed with more modern approaches to hull geometry, including incorporating an oval-shaped saucer section as opposed to the more traditional circular designs seen in decades prior, the vessel is remarkably agile and relatively easy to control at impulse speeds thanks to its wider triple impulse engine layout.
Easily the greatest adaptation for vessel design utilized by the New Orleans-class though is its set of triple modular pods. Though this class is most typically deployed with advanced sensor pods, additional phaser banks, cargo holds, or small craft facilities are also available.
These adaptable pods, though rather resource-intensive when it comes to the vessel’s construction and maintenance because of the challenges they present to warp-field geometry and structural integrity field generation, allow the New Orleans an impressive level of adaptability and flexibility with regards to its varied assignments across Federation space.
Designed for use in combat along Federation borders, the New Orleans-class boasts an impressive armament of six Type-X phaser arrays with two located dorsally and one ventrally on the saucer and three affixed to the top and sides of the secondary hull.
The New Orleans was the first Starfleet vessel to feature Type X phaser arrays, a new development for the Starfleet Corps of Engineers at the time of the ship’s first shakedown cruise, and served as an effective testbed for the newer and punchier banks compared to the now-dated Type-VIII variants.
This, combined with the impressive sub-light maneuverability afforded by the ship’s impulse engines and the revolutionary sensor-pods, which allow for fast and accurate targeting and impressive stealth-detection capabilities, the New Orleans class is a capable frigate-size vessel in combat.
Tactical and Helm Officers are practically spoiled with the array of tools at their fingertips, but it takes a delicate and knowledgeable hand to know how to wield such weapons wisely and efficiently, especially given potential issues with the vessels’ EPS systems, should they be pushed too far.
Officers who serve aboard a New Orleans-class might find conditions a little more on the uncomfortable side, as far as starship travel goes. With its limited space and more combat-orientated design, crew quarter size has been compromised slightly, particularly in the ship’s considerably smaller secondary hull section.
The saucer section of the New Orleans-class typically houses senior and commissioned officer quarters. The Captain and the First Officer’s quarters are of the same size and design as other senior officer quarters, though they do enjoy the privilege of a slightly larger viewport, which allows for a more scenic environment. Typically large enough for all basic needs, senior officers’ quarters have two separate rooms: A living area and a bedroom with an attached bathroom. These rooms are comparably spacious and allow for some personal flair and decoration, though officers transferring from Ambassador or Excelsior-class vessels might find them to be a tad smaller than they had hoped.
Commissioned officers typically share quarters, which usually consists of two separate bedrooms with attached bathrooms and a single shared living space, comparable to a single Senior Officers’ quarters.
The secondary hull section contains enlisted and non-commissioned officer quarters, each of which has a single room featuring a bunk bed built into the bulkhead and a small living area with an attached bathroom. These quarters are infamously cramped, something many non-commissioned officers of higher rank claim to be effective for ‘character building’ and a rite of passage in Starfleet.
The mess hall aboard the New Orleans-class is of a reasonable size, all things considered, and is typically capable of seating about 50 or so people at once. Conversations in such mess halls could typically be likened to that of a large café, with officers breaking off into small groups to discuss the latest nightmares of engineering, or complaining to their friend that one of the senior officers is abusing the extra space of the cargo pod module to stow several cases of Arcanis Lager for their next shore leave.
A common custom aboard one such New Orleans ship, the USS Al Khobar, was to push all the tables in the mess hall together after victory in battle and have a huge buffet where the crew were all brought together as one to celebrate.
The observation lounge, which could be reserved for the occasional dignitary, ambassador, delegate, or civilian, is also a relaxing place to spend one’s time aboard a New Orleans-class. Despite its small size (as with most facilities about the vessel), the rear-dorsal lounge serves as an effective meeting room for senior officers, a gathering location for briefings amongst departments, or a room that could host smaller diplomatic functions such as mediations between factions or trade negotiations.
Civilians aboard New Orleans vessels are usually rare, due to the lack of available space and amenities and the typically hostile and dangerous assignments the ships tend to be deployed to. This lack of a civilian influence and concern, coupled with the New Orleans’ smaller crew complement and tactical deployments, typically leads to a strong interpersonal connection amongst the whole crew and a deep and profound sense of loyalty to one another when under fire, either from the enemy or from Starfleet’s own admiralty.
However, the New Orleans houses just enough officers for friendly competition or even some rivalries to grow either amongst individual crewmen, groups of people, or even whole starship departments. Whilst friendly competition is usually encouraged by senior officers, tensions and animosity between crew are quickly stamped out.
As part of the fleet modernization program throughout the 2340s, the New Orleans was designed to be the fourth and final of series of medium-sized vessels that would supplement and replace where possible the aging Miranda and Constellation-class cruisers. Though the specifications called for a vessel nearly the size of a Constitution-class vessel, the New Orleans was classified as a frigate and was meant to answer the growing tensions along the Cardassian Border. This vessel was chosen to prototype the Type-X phaser arrays that would become standard for the following forty years on Federation vessels and would be equipped with extensive long-range sensors for border surveillance.
It became apparent during the initial development phase of the New Orleans that the state-of-the-art sensor pods, though incredibly effective in their own right, would be an unnecessary tool for captains with regards to certain other missions. Therefore, the decision was made to make the pods a modular feature of the vessel, allowing them to be swapped out with relative ease during pre-mission refits for additional cargo holds, added firepower in the form of phaser banks, or even small hangar bays for small craft, essentially turning the New Orleans into a light carrier for certain missions.
Designing the New Orleans was a challenge for the Starfleet Corps of Engineers, and initial construction was difficult and costly on the Federation in terms of functionality and resources. The modular mission pod design, in particular, was difficult to perfect, and even Starfleet’s best struggled to find an efficient way to increase the vessels’ warp core power output to match the high demands of all of the vessels new and comparably taxing systems on the EPS grid, even with the support of auxiliary power from the impulse reactors.
Despite the initial struggles of the ship’s development though, its shakedown cruise proved to the Starfleet Admiralty just what it could do. Despite initial struggles with maintaining efficient power in all systems, the vessel’s incredible sensor capabilities and patented new phaser arrays lead to it becoming a first-class choice for a short-range explorer and frigate amongst the Federation’s border regions. In the early months of 2352, the USS New Orleans, the first commissioned vessel of its class, departed from the Utopia Planitia shipyards and headed for the borders of the Cardassian Union.
Though obviously the most capable of her other small cousins (the Springfield, Challenger, and Cheyenne), this class had a relatively limited production run largely due to factors beyond her control: first and most importantly, she was the last of the line designed before the more capable Nebula-class was introduced and Starfleet generally preferred ordering one of those in favor of three or four of the New Orleans and secondly, the Battle of Wolf 359 led to a dramatic reimagining of Federation shipbuilding and Starfleet’s defensive strategy, leading to the majority of New Orleans-class orders to be replaced with Akira-class orders in the late 2360s. Those that were commissioned however have remained in service for many years, becoming venerable ships of respect and renown across the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. The most famous of the New Orleans-class vessels launched was the USS Rutledge, which earned a reputation as a veteran of the Federation-Cardassian War of the 2350s.
The Starfleet Corps of Engineers made some incredible strides with their development of the New Orleans and many of the lessons learned from both its triumphs and its failures were employed in later ship designs, including those still being developed today.
Though the modular mission pods were incredibly effective, their resource-intensive design, both in terms of manufacturing and of powering the modules, was deemed an inefficient use of the vessels EPS headroom and the decision was made to instead employ a more singular multi-mission pod design in later designs such as the Nebula and Luna-classes.