In 2359 a project began to develop a new breed of combat based, multi-sectional starship to boost Starfleet’s combat role. Later named the Prometheus Class, the ship was intended to be able to separate allowing for a distinct tactical advantage turning a single starship into, essentially, three. Taking advantage of features like the quantum torpedo, Type-XII phaser arrays, and new shielding, the Prometheus Class became Starfleet’s premier deep space tactical ship.
The Prometheus is the culmination of several separate research projects which have been combined into one prototype testbed. Starfleet has long recognized that, all other factors being even, vessels with high maneuverability can gain a significant combat advantage. The physics of warp drive dictate that for a given engine capacity the least massive vessel will have the greatest maneuverability – but minimizing vessel size is at odds with the large number of scientific and diplomatic functions which a starship must be able to perform. One obvious solution to this problem was to design ships that are able to configure themselves for the mission at hand, but the non-military nature of Starfleet gave research in this area a relatively low priority. However, the Galaxy Class did incorporate some of these ideas in that the saucer section was built to be easily separated and re-attached without outside support. Without the bulk of the saucer the stardrive section was much more maneuverable, in theory giving it a significant combat advantage over a saucer-equipped Galaxy. In practice, however, this operation is somewhat unwieldy on the Galaxy class and leaves the saucer, which does not have an independent warp drive, extremely vulnerable to attack. In addition, the saucer section contains the Galaxy’s two longest phaser arrays and can provide a significant reserve of power from its fusion reactors. The Galaxy Class has therefore not used this capability very often.
In 2361 Starfleet initiated a research project intended to explore the possibility of a true multi-section vessel. The requirement called for a vessel able to separate into at least two independent sections, each with a fully functional warp drive of its own. One would be capable of launching an attack with almost the full ships weaponry, at high speed and maneuverability. The other, comprising the scientific, diplomatic and accommodation sections, would clear the area at high warp carrying the civilian complement. Much of the technology being developed for the Intrepid Project was included in this design, with the result that the theoretical model finalized in 2363 bore a close resemblance to the Intrepid herself.
In 2364 Starfleet was considering moving to a production basis with the multi-section starship. However, during this year contact with the Romulans was re-established when the USS Enterprise encountered a Romulan Warbird at the Neutral Zone. The warbird appeared to outgun the Enterprise – then Starfleet’s most powerful ship – by a moderately considerable margin and Starfleet was confronted with what appeared to be a powerful and aggressive enemy. As part of their response Starfleet requested a complete re-design of the multi-section starship. The new requirement called for an almost totally re-designed vessel; the ship would be in three sections, each of which would have an independent warp core and drive system. The scientific and diplomatic sections were removed in favor of increased armament and power for the weapons.
During the development phase Starfleet also encountered the Borg and the Dominion, both hostile and powerful enemies. This led to an ever-accelerating effort to turn the new ship into a pure combat vessel; much technology from other projects was put into what was now dubbed the “multi-vector assault starship”. In place of the type-X phaser arrays that the original ship had shared with the Intrepid Class, the Type-XII phaser arrays from the Sovereign Project were included. The shield system was massively upgraded and, in light of the subsequent Borg attack, closely based on the auto-modulating shields of the Sovereign. The advanced warp engine design included many elements of the Sovereign Class, while the ablative armor, high capacity structural integrity fields and quantum torpedo tubes developed for the Defiant Project were also included.
This technology combined to make the new starship one of the most massively armed and armored vessels of its size ever contemplated, let alone built. Her relatively small size combined with incredible speed and maneuverability when in multi-vector assault mode. When the prototype USS Prometheus was launched in late 2373 she was thought to have a combat capacity an amazing nine times that of the equally-sized Intrepid class, while her Type XII phasers made her a formidable foe for any vessel in the Alpha Quadrant. The Prometheus is comparatively armed to the Sovereign Class, yet faster, more maneuverable, and has the advantage of being able to attack from several angles at once.
During the tail end of it’s deep space shakedown, the Prometheus was hijacked by agents of the Tal Shiar in an attempt by the Romulans to gain intelligence about the new ship and the Federation’s newest starship systems. During this incident the ship was recaptured by Starfleet forces but was still forced to engage in combat with three Romulan Warbirds. Out performing the rest of the Starfleet task group sent to rescue it, the Prometheus was able to heavily damage all three warbirds into retreat. The performance of the Prometheus during this accidental live-fire trial exceeded all expectations for the ship. With Starfleet, by this time, losing ground against the Dominion, the class was moved into production. Three semi-completed ships finished outfitting and were commissioned in late 2374. However, the four Prometheus Class ships arrived in too limited numbers and too late to make an impact on the war. Full series production began in early 2375 but, due to the closure of the war, and Starfleet’s return to the mandate of peaceful exploration, the Prometheus Class is to be produced in limited numbers.