Athabasca class Assault ship (“ Athabasca ” is place name spelling i.e. the glacier I visited in ‘85, “Athabaskan” is current HMCS of Iroquois class).

The Athabasca class assault cruiser came about when the Knox class frigate was nearing the end of the production run in the early 2280s. Newport News had the exclusive deal to construct all of the Knox class; they had big for the Miranda class in the same way but had only achieved a partial contrct, what they were looking for was a means to retain their workers and dockyard skills. In addition, Starfleet Command were coming to terms with the testing of Menahga class was not looking promising. This coincidence of need resulted in Newport News tabling a proposal for an assault cruiser based upon the successful Belknap design.

Belknap class testbed NX-2500 U.S.S. Decatur had just finished a protracted period testing the feasibility of a light dreadnought design based on the Belknap, this forming the NX-2520 Ascension class light dreadnought (DNL). What was proposed was a twin-nacelle design with a frigate-type primary hull to provide extra hanger and barrck facilities for upwards of 500 Security Operations or Federation Starfleet Marine Corp personnel. The assault cruiser would have the C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) and defensive systems to lead an Expeditionary Strike Group.

NX-2500 Decatur was in storage after her testing with a third nacelle and other classified systems for her role as a light dreadnought. She was drydocked and Newport News set to work removing her third nacelle and Constitution-style saucer section. A spare Knox class hull was then attached to the secondary hull of the Decatur. 2283 saw NX-2500 emerge with her new primary hull and additional omni-directional phaser cannons. Talon and Tomahawk class shuttlecraft were delivered to the additional shuttlebays. The class would have three hanger bays and this would enable the ship to have almost a dozen embarked shuttles.

NX-2500 was quickly advertised as the testbed for the Belknap Family, testing continuing for planetary assaults using just shuttlecraft, just transporters and then a mix of the two. It was discovered that the Athabasca class would be able to offload FSMC in less time than the Menahga class with more people. With the testing receiving positive results, Starfleet Command authorised the construction of a first batch of Athabasca class.

NCC 2560 USS Athabasca was launched in 2283. Introduced in the 2280s, the Athabasca (corrected spelling) class swiftly presented itself as a replacement for the abortive Menahga class. The superior shuttlebay facilities and barracks aboard the Athabasca , combined with state-of-the-art command and control facilities made this design a handsdown winner.

Starfleet TacFleet immediately put in an order for ten vessels with a provision for another couple of batches of ten. Starfleet Security Operations/FSMC approved of the design over the Menahga due to the facility to send personnel down by shuttlecraft rather than rely too heavily on transporters. With the advent of the Tabula Rasa incident, the construction programme was accelerated; it also provoked Starfleet Command into authorising the second batch of ten vessels. By 2313 the construction of the third batch of Athabasca class is nearing completion.

The Athabasca class kept the Newport News yards in business. Massive Dynamic supplied much of the new systems for the class. As expected the Athabasca class became the primary Expeditionary Strike Group vessels until the Ingram class came online. Even with Ingram now entering production, the Athabasca class would be the principal assault ship class of the Starfleet. The remaining Menahga class ships would be reserved for smaller missions. After the successful Tabula Rasa missions, upgrades were conceived to build upon the strengths and overcome the weaknesses of the design.

The Starfleet Review of 2312 looked favourably on the Athabasca class. The flexibility of the design for peacetime and combat operations has meant the ships are much in demand. Starfleet has put in to have the design upgraded and a potential further order of vessels is looking likely.

NCC number Name Notes
2560 Athabasca
2562 Jalashwa
2568 Weyzhiss

Thanks to my good friend Andrew Brown for the U.S.S. Jalashwa CGI

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