Starfleet Ship Classes: Pre-Federation Era
Starfleet has been in service since before the United Federation of Planets was formed. This article lists classes of Starfleet ship in service during the pre-Federation era, in which Star Trek: Enterprise is set.
According to the show Star Trek: Enterprise, Starfleet has been in operation since before the United Federation of Planets was formed. In the early days, Starfleet was an exploratory and defensive organization under the United Earth government. It was at this time that the first Starship Enterprise (also known as the NX-01) was commissioned. Starfleet operated very few starships back then, and we know very little about them.
This article lists the classes of Starfleet vessels known to be in service during the pre-Federation era (2150-2160). For later classes of starship, see our list of Federation-era ship classes.
The NX Class starship was the first Earth vessel capable of reaching warp-5. This made it sixteen times faster than the warp-1 freighters common at the time. The warp-5 engine was designed by Zephram Cochrane (the inventor of warp drive) himself, although he didn’t live to see it used.
The first NX Class starship to be commissioned was the USS Enterprise NX-01. The second was the NX-02, named Columbia. In the future, the NX prefix would be used to denote a prototype starship; the USS Exelsior NX-2000 for example.
The NX-01 was initially equipped with plasma cannons and spacial torpedoes, but was later upgraded with phase cannons and photonic torpedoes.
Before the launch of the first NX Class starship, the NX program produced three prototype vessels, used in the development and testing of the warp-5 engine. These were NX-Alpha, NX-Beta and NX Delta. The design was based on the Phoenix, Zephram Cochrane’s first warp ship.
NX-Alpha was the first Earth ship to reach speeds in excess of warp-2.
The Emmette-type was a vessel used by Starfleet sometime prior to the development of the NX Class. This early design used chemical rocket engines rather than impulse engines, as well two warp nacelles.
During the beginning sequence of Star Trek: Enterprise, we see an Emmette-type (SS Emmette) flying over the first lunar colonies.
This class of starship has never been named in the show, but has come to be known as the Warp Delta. It’s design is an evolution of the Emmette-type. The triangular hull shape and raised warp nacelles were retained, but the old chemical engines were replaced by impulse engines.
These ships were armed with forward and aft phase cannons. While little is known about them, it could be assumed that they are patrol vessels.
The Intrepid-type (referred to as the “half saucer” by the show’s developers) was a mid 22nd Century class of starship to which the USS Intrepid belonged. The Intrepid was equipped with phase cannons and two torpedo launchers.
This is an interesting design as it seems to show the development of the “engineering hull” feature used in later (actually earlier) designs. It is also reminiscent of the more modern Steamrunner Class and Sabre Class starship designs.
Notes on the initial design sketch for the Sarajevo referred to it as an “elite observation vessel”, although what this means is anybody’s guess. Perhaps it’s an explorer, or a science ship.