The development of the Wallace class is a story of necessity being the mother of invention. Following the cessation of hostilities at the close of the Dominion War, Starfleet was left with a large number of Defiant class vessels that had been produced during the war. Not truly suitable for deep space missions like the larger ships of the fleet, she was however thought to be a perfect starbase support vessel, as the class leader had proved for station Deep Space Nine. However, as time progressed, problems would come to light with the class in that role. The Defiant class vessel is a finely calibrated instrument that requires constant upkeep by her engineering staffs to ensure optimal performance. In addition, she was geared primarily towards combat missions with less thought put into other applications and roles. Station commanders who were not faced with imminent Dominion attack soon found the Defiants more trouble then they were worth, taking up too much of their engineering crew’s time and not meeting the needs of their users on top of that.
Thoughts were made to returning these bases to the standard runabout based support, however the experiences with the Defiant and her missions from DS9 showed the need for a more capable platform for station based operations. Specifications for a vessel that would fill a role somewhere between a full fledged starship and the runabout platform were issued by the ASDB in 2376, and a team working under chief designer Captain Marc Benjamin Rouse set to work. Unlike the Defiant the new design would not push the envelope as far as technology is concerned. It would use tried and true systems, trading enhanced capabilities for reliability and durability. The idea was to create an easily constructed design of a very modular nature that would still fulfill the mission requirements demanded of Starfleet, with the motto of the project being “build it simple and build it fast” echoing the Liberty Ships of Earth’s second world war. The team incorporated the normal development engineers but also mixed in several active line officers from the engineering departments around the fleet in order to provide the “what worked in the field” viewpoint. Unlike many new craft, many elements were lifted nearly unchanged from existing classes. This was done not only to ease construction requirements, but also with an eye for use by crew down the line. With so many familiar systems, the design would have an easy learning curve for new officers ensuring that much of the normal “feeling out” period new ships underwent would be absent. Apart from the hull design itself, almost everything else would be a pre-existing systems.
The design team had stayed within the mandate of simplicity, and with a total development time of just over two years they had worked quickly as well. The classes namesake, the USS Wallace, was launched in mid 2378, and after a quick shakedown was commissioned into the fleet in February, 2379.
The class, now named Wallace after the class leader, brought a mix of patrol ship and utility craft to station commanders where she would be deployed. One week might see her ferry marines between stations and assignments, the next playing temporary home to an SCE crew. An archaeological team could take the Wallace planetside and making the ship their home and lab, or perhaps act as a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Like the smaller, less capable runabouts to which she is related, the Wallace’s mission profiles include Extended Away Team Missions, Perimeter Defense, Forward Scouting, Scientific Observation, and Emergency Mobile Medical Deployments.
However, her greater size and capabilities give her the ability to loiter on station or deliver larger shipments to her target. In addition, her offensive and defensive capabilities dwarf those of Runabout type craft, which were never designed with tactical operations at the forefront. The Wallace carries the same Type-VII Phasers that outfit the Danube, but these are best suited to non-combat uses (such as drilling or other such applications). The primary punch of the craft is the two Type-U Phasers borrowed from the Defiant class. Originally a twin torpedo turret was considered for the Wallace, but it was dropped early in development in the interests of keeping things simple. A single fixed fire torpedo launcher is located forward, as it was decided that with a self guided weapon having a turreted launcher would only provide a small increase in targeting ability in a design as agile and small as the Wallace.
Her internal layout is a model of efficient space usage, with her top deck being comprised of standard type, though scaled down, bridge unit backed by a multi use area, much like the smaller runabouts. This area contains medical systems, the transporter, and can function as many other non-specific spaces. The lower deck contains access to the other compartments including engineering, environmental controls, and other mission critical systems. Almost every panel on the ship can be removed to reveal systems, and many commanders operate their vessel with many of these panels removed to provide easy access to systems beyond. The lower deck also contains a cargo bay and a small living space for her crew. Unlike most other Starfleet vessels of the 24th century, the Wallace uses a simple bunk area with triple stacked bunks and a communal head, much like vessels of the last century. These bunks can also be collapsed into recessed areas across the floor to turn the bunk room into a second cargo area.