Oberth class history:

The Oberth class can be traced back to the end of James T. Kirk's five-year mission in 2270. Starfleet realised that a dedicated science and scouting type vessel was required to study the unique phenomena that the Constitution and Magee class vessels were discovering. What was proposed was a 'Super Scout' class vessel, to use the 70s buzzword for the type; a science vessel that utilised the most advanced technology available to stay on-station for a year to eighteen months to study any discovery in-detail and in the field. The pathfinder designation given for the design was NXP2272 SS/L [Pathfinder design for 2272 Science Scout/Laboratory]. This issue was that whilst prestigious explorer class vessels like Constitution class vessels could concentrate on large swathes of systems and sectors, they needed dedicated purpose-designed smaller ships like Magee class to do the in-depth studies. Explorers spent a fortnight at each planet or system or interest, but a proper study required months or a year. Hermes class made good scout ships, but a science vessel with specialist laboratories was what was needed. The design eventually came down to a 120 metre long science scout class vessel with a standard crew compliment around 40, compared to the 115 required for the Hermes classes of scout.

The first vessel, U.S.S. Oberth - NX 602 - was laid down in 2273 and completed in 2275 at the Copernicus Fleet Yards [San Francisco was at the time focussing on the redesigning and refitting of Enterprise]. U.S.S. Oberth's motto was: "Because that is the goal: To secure any place on which life can exist and prosper, give life to any dead world, and to give purpose to any living world" - Hermann Oberth, "Men into Space" 1954. The Oberth class was designed for 2 - 3 year length missions, following up probes or earlier missions by explorer class starships, studying phenomena in greater detail. All of the non-senior staff quarters were fitted with bunk beds, to accomodate the crew with only senior staff allowed quarters with a single bed - such was the requirement for space aboard such a small vessel. The laboratories on the ship were second to none. They could be re-purposed quickly with powertables and scanners to do anything from particle physics to zoology to social sciences. Oberth class had three shuttles to perform studies away from the ship, as well as mobile laboratory facilities.

USS Valiant - NCC 20000 as seen in Star Trek: Generations. Pictured for a Discovery Channel programme in ILM studios.Despite a minor setback in the loss of U.S.S. Gagarin in 2279 to then unknown causes - later found to be an attack by a rogue Klingon vessel - the Oberth class has gone from strength to strength, the final design internally and externally finalised in 2290. Production of the Oberth class design has been such that dozens of members of the class are constructed each year, the class numbering over 1000 vessels by 2310. Recent members include NCC 19002 U.S.S. Yosemite and NCC 20000 U.S.S. Valiant. The new generation of science vessel takes the Starfleet to the cutting edge of discovery in the Final Frontier. Nathaniel Hawkins served aboard four Oberth class starships. Serving in science division means that serving on Oberth class science vessels is a large part of the career ladder and a quicker way up for promotion, given their smaller crew compliments. Hawkins served on the Daniel Goleman 5548, Alistair Hull 6073, George Kelly 18880 and Alan Baddeley 18882. George Kelly and Alan Baddeley were where Hawkins learned the responsibility of being a senior officer and executive officer.

By 2312 there are over a thousand Oberth class starships constructed. Examples are named after scientists and discoverers. Full names are typical given multiple scientists with the same surnames. The officer quarters are like 20th Century railway sleeper carriages, with sofas that have the bed fold down onto them, tables that lift to be sinks and drawers underneath their sofa to store personal belongings. All of this is to maximise space in a such a small starship. An Oberth class science vessel is also a good place for progression for both officers and enlisted personnel. The small number of crew means that many of the officers double up in role - so the guideline above changes and there are around a dozen officers. The special operations officer role is for sensitive missions such as with the Grissom and the Genesis Project. Science Officer can often be doubled as Operations Officer or Mission Operations Officer. Other permutations are possible. Non-Commissioned Officers step up to roles that might be officer ones on larger starships. Unlike larger starships that operate for years away from Starfleet facilities, Oberth class starships don't have the duplication of roles and facilities of an explorer. E.g. Sickbay has one or two medics with a bed or two. If more detailed medical facilities are required then a lab can be converted or support requested.

Typical officer arrangements:

  • Commanding Officer
  • Executive Officer
  • Operations Officer
  • Mission Operations Officer
  • Chief Engineering Officer
  • Chief Medical Officer
  • Chief Security Officer
  • Communications Officer
  • Helm Officer (Grissom Navigator was enlisted).
  • Science Officer
  • Security Operations Officer
  • Special Services/Logistics Officer
  • Deputy Science Officer

  • Crew:
  • Officers: 12
  • N.C.O. and Enlisted: 60
  • Cruising Warp: 5.
  • Maximum warp: 6.
  • Starship primary mission: Planetary Exploration. [Usually probe follow-up missions].
  • Length: 120 metres.
  • Shuttlecraft: 3 of various classes.

    Oberth class arrangement
  • Deck 1 Bridge, conference room, officer quarters, mess hall, lounge.
  • Deck 2 Shuttlebay upper deck. Enlisted crew quarters, gym, laundry, cargo bay.
  • Deck 3 Shuttlebay main deck, cargo bays, escape pod access, cryogenic tankage.
  • Deck 4 Sickbay, life sciences, transporter, main engineering, computer core, life support, waste recycling.
  • Deck 5 Deuterium tankage, jeffries tube to secondary hull
  • Deck 6 Deuterium tankage, jeffries tube to secondary hull, plasma flush vent
  • Deck 7 Deuterium tankage, jeffries tube to secondary hull, deflector generator, structural integrity.
  • Deck 8 Science/cartography sensor array, science labs, communication buoy magazine.
  • Deck 9 Science/cartography sensor array, science sensor processing compartment, buoy/torpedo/probe workshop,
  • Deck 10 Science/cartography sensor array, aft sensor compartment, life support, batteries.
  • Deck 11 Science/cartography sensor array, batteries.

    Author's Notes:

    You can see on this page the difference between the 1984 study model Valiant and the finished example of the shooting model for Grissom, Pegasus and the others. The window arrangements on the saucer section are different, the name on Valiant is in the three and nine o'clock positions, notthe traditional twelve o'clock position on movie era models. The impulse deflector crystal arrangement on Valiant is like two teardrop shapes skewed, not the industrial zone with cogs in the final model. Finally there's officer's lounge-style windows at the aft of the saucer on Valiant, something not adopted for the Grissom shooting model. Perhaps these are features for the prototype and pre-production models like the differences with transwarp Excelsior, Hood and Repulse models.

    Oberth class deckplan as shown in TNG's episode 'Hero Worship'.

    Oberth class [A list of all the known members mentioned to-date]

    Name Starship Registry Notes Author's Notes
    Oberth 602 Prototype. Launched 2275. The registry number is the number given in the Okudagram in Star Trek VI.
    Gagarin 603 Lost in 2279. In the Name of Honor
    Dawkins 614
    La Grange 617 Starfleet Academy PC game guidebook
    Hawking 618 Starfleet Academy PC game
    Banting 619 Starfleet Academy PC game guidebook
    Carver 630 Klingon Academy PC game guidebook
    Aamot 631 Klingon Academy PC game guidebook
    Freedom 632 Klingon Academy PC game guidebook
    Grissom 638 In Star Trek III Destroyed
    Copernicus 640 Seen in spacedock in Star Trek IV Starfleet Academy training vessel by the Stargazer novels
    Ballard 642 Named for the discoverer of the Titanic
    James Irwin 657
    Mukai 661
    Helin 1692 In Star Trek IV
    Noam Chomsky 4279
    Tereshkova 18111
    Uganda 18720 Academy Training Vessel
    Vico 18834 Federation science vessel Hero Worship
    Bicester 18836
    George Kelly 18880 Hawkins learned to be an XO on this vessel.
    William Penney 18881
    Alan Baddeley 18882
    Edward Jenner 18883
    Urbani 18884 Named for Carlo Urbani
    Resnik Name for Judith Resnik, second woman in space
    Musgrave Named for Story Musgrave
    Titov Named for Vladimir Titov
    Yosemite 19002 Realm of Fear
    Chawla 19586
    Valiant 20000 Seen in Star Trek: Generations
    Raman 29487

    Oberth class Bridge

    The Oberth class starship possesses only 8 - 10 officers. This low number is reflected on the Bridge where there are only 4 - 6 officers. Enlisted personnel and Non-Commissioned Officers take up the slack in the other leadership roles.

  • Command Officer: This is an individual of rank captain who makes the command decisions for the starship and mission. The final arbiter in decisions.

  • Executive Officer: Typically of rank Lieutenant Commander or occasionally Commander. This is the Devil's Advocate sounding board for the Captain and the voice of the crew. With the small officer contingent, this role is doubled up with either the Science Officer, Chief Engineer or Chief Medical Officer.

  • Operations Officer: This individual is usually rank Ensign or Lieutenant and doubles up as Chief Science Officer. This officer is in charge of the ship's sensors and resources. They command the scientific mission.

  • Chief Engineering Officer: Typically Ensign or Lieutenant, this officer is in charge of all engineering matters on the Oberth class starship. Usually positioned in Main Engineering, the Chief Engineer oversees the main reactor, impulse and warp drive systems. They organise the repair and maintainance schedules.

    Oberth class Main Engineering is on deck 4. This was never shown on the Grissom or any other Oberth class vessel except Pegasus.

  • Logistics Officer: Typically Ensign or Lieutenant, this is the head of the sky blue division on the Oberth class starship. In charge of managing the cargo bay and contents, as well as the care and maintainance of living quarters.

    We have never seen the shuttlebays on an Oberth class starship. The shuttlebays and cargo bays are on deck 3. The main shuttle bay is in the front of the Oberth class. The three and six o'clock position has bays for worker bee to bring in cargo.

  • Helm Officer: Typically Ensign or Lieutenant - this officer controls the warp and impulse drives and steers the ship. They liaise with the Navigator, typically an enlisted post.

  • Chief Medical Officer: Typically Ensign or Lieutenant, this officer is in charge of all medical matters on the Oberth class starship. Sickbay is a minimalist facility on the Oberth class with two bed and a diagnostic/operating table. This facility doubles up as Life Sciences lab.

    We did not see a medical officer on the Grissom. The Chief Medical Officer tends to be the only doctor onboard, backed up by a team of nurses. They double up as life sciences department.

  • Chief Security Officer: Typically Ensign or Lieutenant, this officer is in charge of all security matters on the Oberth class starship.As a smaller starship, this officer doubles as the Chief Security Operations Officer. In charge of the safety and defence of the starship and its crew. Optionally also in command of a small unit of 4 - 6 security operations enlisted personel (indigo tabs on their shoulders and indigo cuff band on their left sleeve). This is an additional, specialist contingent from the other security personnel with their windsor green tabs and cuff sleeve.

    On the Grissom we had no sign of either a security officer or the commando division seen in Star Trek V. For the Grissom stories I created Lars 'Thor' Thorsen as an addition on the Grissom as Security Operations Officer - protecting the vital Genesis project. Normally there'll be a security chief who doubles up to have the SWAT/Commando enlisted personnel under their command.

    Oberth blueprints by David Schmidt and Tim Palgut. © Quantum Reality Inc.

    Author's Notes:

    The Oberth class is the most numerous of the starships that Starfleet possesses. Given a construction time of circa twelve months, compared to 3 years for a Miranda, 5 Years for a Constellation and 7 for an Excelsior, an Oberth class can be built in a very short time. As has been seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Oberth class vessels tend to be named for famous scientists and discoverers, although some have been named for mythical creatures - as seen in 'The Pegasus', although this was supposed to be a Cheyanne class starship.

    Oberth class scout vessels are short-range ships with plenty of triple-deck bunks for the crew, minimal officer compliment and a large proportion of senior enlisted crew running departments. The cramped living arrangements would dictate missions of a few months to a couple of years in length - although the psychological pressures of such small living accomodation would make such missions rare.

    I had to decide what the Oberth class were replacing - what the purpose was for the design. The answer was obvious: a replacement for the aging Magee class vessels, although I have gone to pains not to use the class designations in the above class history. To allow for the registry numbers of the Oberth class vessels, and to account for the fact many fans [myself included] do not like the idea that the Oberths have a three-digit registry, I have given mine a five-digit registry to match what was the Oberth vessel that fired up my enthusiasm for the class - U.S.S. Valiant, the original study model of the Oberth class design from 1984. My rational for such high registries being the registry of the 'executive shuttlecraft' seen in Star Trek VI - NAR 25820 - seen in 2293.

     My inspiration for the Oberth class - USS Valiant, NCC 20000 - as seen in Star Trek: Generations. Pictured for a Discovery Channel programme in ILM studios.Construction of the Oberth class began in earnest after the first vessel, NCC 602 U.S.S. Oberth, was commissioned in 2275 - based on the fandom date for the commissioning of the first Gagarin/Oberth class vessel. Oberth class construction will continue until the replacement design, Nova class, begins construction in 2368. Indeed when seen in Star Trek: Generations, rescuing the surviving crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D from the surface of Veridian III [supporting Nebula class U.S.S. Farragut and Miranda class U.S.S. Bozeman] the U.S.S. Valiant NCC 20000 was completing her final mission, to be replaced shortly thereafter by NCC 74210, U.S.S. Valiant - Defiant class.

    By this time, there have been hundreds of Oberth class constructed, although their service life tends to be shorter than the larger ships. Phasing out of the Oberth class will take decades after the introduction of Nova Class, although Nova is inspired from many of the lessons learned from Oberth class. The cutaway of the S.S. Vico gives an idea for the configuration post-2340s when replicators freed up more space for crew accomodation, please visit Owen E. Oulton's website for more cutaways reflecting a variant of the original configuration of 2275.

    Sources for this Oberth class history include: Bernd Schneiders Ex Astris Scientia website, Strategic Designs Oberth class blueprints for the deck configuration, Owen E. Oulton's superb website with Oberth class details and deckplans, and the model of S.S. Vico, NAR 18834, built for TNG episode 'Hero Worship' that has damage showing the internal deck arrangement. Added to this is Alex Rosenzweig's brilliant 'Starship Spotter' book, Herman Zimmerman, Rick Sternbach and Doug Drexler's DS9 Technical Manual and Deciphers Star Trek roleplaying supplement on Starships. Finally a mention must be made of Franz Joseph's original Starfleet Technical Manual.

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