(Data graciously provided by The Trekker – Officer’s Bible, and Star Trek: Magazine.)
Although the StarFleet is the major protectorate of United Federation of Planets Space, few people fully understand the extent of the organization’s domain. This basic information course is usually shown as a media presentation at StarFleet Academy, during the first day or two of any cadet’s stay there, as a preparation for their service.
History and Background
StarFleet was founded in 2161, almost as soon as the United Federation Of Planets came into being. It was created to provide Federation members with an exploratory, scientific, diplomatic, and if necessary, military agency. Its motto is “to boldly go where no one has gone before”. In practice, StarFleet’s mission is to explore unknown space, make contact with new species, conduct scientific studies, supply Federation colonies, provide medical support to Federation citizens, and defend the Federation. StarFleet Headquarters is based in San Francisco, Earth in the same complex as StarFleet Academy, but StarFleet Command is also represented at other outposts throughout Federation space.
StarFleet’s mission has always been carried out by a corps of highly trained officers and a fleet of interstellar spacecraft. Some StarFleet vessels, such as Oberth-class ships, are predominantly research vessels and have minimal offense capabilities, but most ships are designed to serve multiple functions and are equipped as research and military vessels.
StarFleet’s earliest ships were Daedalus-class vessels; these ships were designed to make extended interstellar journeys and facilitated contact with countless worlds. Since then, StarFleet has developed many more classes of starships. Daedalus-class ships were introduced in the 2160’s and stayed in service until 2196. They had crews of 230 and traveled extraordinary distances in their mission of exploration. In fact, some Daedalus-class ships, such as the USS Archon NCC-189, visited worlds that StarFleet did not contact again until 2260’s.
StarFleet captains had to represent the Federation in all of their dealings with different forms and civilizations. However, at this point in StarFleet’s history, communications were extremely primitive and ships were sometimes forced to rely on radio messages that could take decades to reach Earth. As a consequence, captains were given an extraordinary measure of independence. This is a tradition that has lasted for hundreds of years; even in the 2370’s StarFleet captains make most decisions without referring to StarFleet command.
Although it has a great deal of faith in its officers, StarFleet has established a substantial number of guidelines and regulations that control how they carry out their duties. The most important, General Order Number One, also known as the Prime Directive, basically prohibits StarFleet personnel from interfering with the normal development of any culture. The directive was framed to prevent the cultural contamination of the new societies that StarFleet encountered.
The Prime Directive prohibits StarFleet officers from making their presence known to pre-warp cultures and prevents StarFleet from interfering with internal disputes in neighboring powers, such as the Klingon Empire. The Prime directive does not apply if an individual or government request StarFleet’s assistance without being prompted.
The Prime Directive was not introduced until StarFleet had been operating for some time, so the earliest explorers often interacted with less advanced cultures. On occasion this had disastrous consequences. In 2168, the USS Horizon NCC-176 visited the planet Sigma Iotia II. The Horizon’s crew made contact with the native inhabitants and left behind a book called Chicago Mobs of the Twenties. The Horizon moved on and, unbeknownst to them, the Sigma Iotians adopted the book as a model for their society. Within several years, the planet was dominated by a mob culture.
Over the years, many StarFleet captains have chosen to violate the Prime Directive if they believe that by doing so they are protecting a culture from destruction or repairing damage done by a previous contamination. For example, when the Mintakans witnessed Federation technology in action in 2366, Captain Picard of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D chose to explain what had really happened to prevent the Mintakans from falling back into a period of superstition.
Because its captains have so much authority, StarFleet is careful to ensure that they are extraordinary people. Captains play a vital role in the expansion of the Federation and have to serve as diplomats, scientists, and soldiers. A captain’s duties include putting together reports on potential Federation members and their recommendations are almost always followed.
StarFleet captains are often required to act as mediators in disputes and many, such as Captain Picard, have earned formidable reputations as diplomats. Captains must also be ready to go to war and undergo extensive tactical training for this possibility. Some captains, such as Edward Jellico, are known for being military specialists.
On board ship, the captain is assisted by a first officer who, in many cases, is a captain in training. Under normal circumstances the first officer is responsible for performing crew reviews and determining assignments, but he or she must be ready and willing to take command of the ship if the captain is missing or disabled.
In the 21st and 22nd century, StarFleet vessels usually had crews in the region of 200-500, but StarFleet became concerned that extended deep space exploration was depriving its officers of a family life. It accordingly began to allow families to travel on its ships in the 2360’s; as a consequence, Galaxy-class ships have complements of over 1,000. Not all StarFleet vessels can carry civilians; some new designs, such as the Intrepid-class, have crews of under 200.
StarFleet has taken several other steps to make it easier for its personnel to cope with long periods of isolation. Many modern ships have counselors who are responsible for the crew’s mental and emotional health, and most are equipped with holodecks that can faithfully recreate almost any environment, effectively allowing the crew to take shore leave without leaving the ship.
StarFleet’s primary mission is to explore the galaxy, but before a ship is sent into unexplored regions of space, StarFleet uses subspace telescopes to collect as much data as possible. It may then send unmanned probes to gather more detailed information before eventually sending a starship to make a thorough investigation and, if the circumstances are appropriate, make contact with new races.
StarFleet vessels have visited some of the most remote places in the galaxy; they have interacted with parallel dimensions, and encountered some extraordinary life forms, many of which have made the Federation redefine its ideas of what is possible. StarFleet vessels have had dealings with silicon-based life forms such as the Horta, beings of pure energy such as the Organians, and living “starships” such as the Gomtuu.
The discovery of the Bajoran wormhole which leads to the Gamma Quadrant has opened a whole new frontier for exploration; sadly the war with the Dominion made it impossible to pursue this for many years.
In the 23rd century, StarFleet vessels often made first contact with new races or reestablished contact with races that had been contacted in the early days of its existence. By the 24th century, StarFleet was a little more cautious about first contact and its ships spent more time servicing Federation planets.
When a starship arrives at an unexplored planet, the normal procedure is to run extensive scientific scans of the planet, then to possibly transport a small scouting party down to the surface. These parties are often made up of some of the ship’s most senior officers and almost always include the first officer.
In addition to their mission of exploration, StarFleet ships perform important medical functions and are often required to transport vaccines or other medical supplies to Federation worlds. StarFleet regulations also require its ships to make regular calls on remote colonies to perform medical checkups.
StarFleet doctors have one of the most demanding jobs in the Federation. They have to be able to treat hundreds of different races, some of which are not even humanoid. Doctors like Leonard McCoy and Beverly Crusher, who have encountered many races for the first time, have made enormous contributions to medical science.
All StarFleet doctors contribute to databases on the different races and conditions that have been encountered. This information is available to all Federation vessels and on some advanced ships have been incorporated into an Emergency Medical Hologram – a holographic physician that can support the ship’s normal medical staff when necessary.
Not all StarFleet’s missions involve sentient life forms. Most StarFleet vessels have a large number of science labs – Constitution-class vessels such as the original USS Enterprise NCC-1701 had 14 – and a major part of the starship’s duties involves collecting data on stellar phenomena such as nebulae and comets. The crew of StarFleet vessels also include a number of academic specialists such as botanists and historians.
One of the most important departments on a StarFleet vessel is Stellar Cartography. This is used to analyze stellar phenomena and collect data about the position of stars and other stellar bodies. This information is then combined with data gathered by subspace telescope to generate the galactic condition database, which provides vital navigational data to all starships.
StarFleet maintains a massive network of StarBases to support its ships. Some of these are based on planets, others such as StarBase 74, are effectively spaceborne cities. These stations provide a number of important facilities. Most StarBases have large populations and often act as bases for StarFleet Command and the Judge Advocate General’s office, which conducts StarFleet’s legal affairs. Almost all StarBases have shore leave facilities that allow tired crews to recuperate.
All StarFleet ships make regular calls at StarBases for routine maintenance and upgrades. This can be as simple as taking on new supplies of deuterium, which is an essential component of the warp and impulse drives, or as complex as repairing major damage sustained in battle. It is extremely difficult for a starship to function without making these regular stops.
In some cases StarBases play a vital role in assisting planets that are preparing for Federation membership. The officers stationed at Deep Space Nine, a space station near the planet Bajor, have established a large number of projects designed to help the Bajoran people.
StarFleet also operates a system of subspace relays that allow ships and planets to communicate across vast distances. These relays can send messages at faster-than-light speeds, up to 60 times faster than the fastest starship. The subspace network contains thousands of relay stations, and StarFleet vessels deploy more as they explore new areas of space.
Without this communication system, the Federation would barely function; although it is often overlooked, maintaining it is one of StarFleet’s most important duties.
StarFleet maintains several specialist departments that are not based on ships. The StarFleet Engineering Corps is responsible for specialist construction projects such as adapting the planetoid where the Genesis device was tested in 2285, or designing new shuttles and ships. StarFleet Medical coordinates StarFleet’s medical projects and ensures that information is disseminated. StarFleet Security is responsible for ensuring the safety of Federation planets, while StarFleet Intelligence collects information on external threats.
Few facts have been revealed, but evidence suggests that when StarFleet’s charter was established the Federation created a covert department of StarFleet Intelligence known as Section 31. This department is effectively the Federation’s secret police. It does not answer to anyone and is responsible for regulating itself. It appears that Section 31 has taken actions of which most Federation citizens would not approve.
Since the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 proved that time travel is possible, StarFleet vessels have made several journeys into the past. However, time travel is particularly dangerous because it is very easy to alter the course of history. Accordingly, StarFleet has established a specialist department called Temporal Investigations to police journeys through time.
Although StarFleet is predominantly a scientific and diplomatic organization, it has always had a military role. StarFleet vessels are responsible for defending the Federation from outside threats and policing its territories.
StarFleet has repelled several threats from outside the Alpha Quadrant. These have sometimes taken the form of non-sentient alien entities with enormous destructive powers, such as the massive “amoeba” encountered by the USS Intrepid and the USS Enterprise. On other occasions StarFleet has had to counter invasions from outside known space, such as the Kelvan assault of 2268.
However, the most consistent threats to the safety of the Federation have come from the other major powers in known space. The establishment of the Romulan Neutral Zone – an area one light year wide which both sides are forbidden from entering – succeeded in preventing all-out war between the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire, but relations between the two powers have always been uneasy. Similarly, a Klingon Neutral Zone created with similar parameters succeeded in averting many disastrous situations.
One of StarFleet’s duties is to patrol the Neutral Zone to ensure that the treaty is observed. In 2266, StarFleet intercepted and destroyed the first Romulan ship with a cloaking device and has confronted the Romulans on many other occasions, often challenging them on entry into Federation space.
For many years StarFleet was on the brink of war with the warrior race the Klingons, but thanks in large measure to the Organian Peace Treaty of 2267, all-out war was averted. The Klingon Empire began suing for peace with the Federation in 2293, and the two powers eventually became allies, but there have still been occasional conflicts between them.
In the 2350’s, StarFleet was involved in a series of conflicts with the Cardassians. This situation was resolved by a series of treaties between 2367 and 2370, but the situation has since deteriorated.
One of the greatest dangers to the Federation has been posed by the race of automatons known as the Borg. In 2367, StarFleet suffered one of its greatest ever losses at the Battle of Wolf 359, but to date StarFleet has managed to repel two Borg invasions, both of which penetrated the very heart of the Federation.
When StarFleet began to explore the Gamma Quadrant in 2369, it made contact with the vast Dominion. A state of cold war existed between the two powers until Cardassia joined the Dominion in 2373. The massive forces then poured into the Alpha Quadrant, forcing the Federation to declare war.
StarFleet has suffered very heavy losses in the Dominion war and has been forced to reconsider its priorities. It has begun to construct large numbers of Defiant-class ships (its first true war-ships) and to mount projects such as the USS Prometheus, a vessel that can split into three parts to maximize its offensive capabilities.
The Longest Journey
Despite the Dominion war, StarFleet is still dedicated to exploration. Many of its vessels continue to push the frontiers of known space.
In 2374, StarFleet made contact with the USS Voyager NCC-74656, a StarFleet vessel that was stranded in the Delta Quadrant by an entity known as the Caretaker. Although they were thousands of light years from home, the crew stayed true to StarFleet’s primary mission, and collected invaluable data on new races and cultures on their long journey home.
Starfleet Command is responsible for recruiting, training, and administration over StarFleet. The Starfleet Command Department is divided into the following Sub Departments, or Commands:
- Logistics Command: Starship Refueling and Supply
- Operations Command: Fleet Deployment
- Combat Tactics Command: Wargaming and Strategic Development
- Training Command: StarFleet Academy and Related Services
- Legal Command: Promotions, Reviews, Court Martials, and Legal Services
- Traffic Command: Civilian Spacelane Control
- StarBase Command: Stationary and Planetary Base Coordination
StarFleet is organized into 10 Primary Fleets, each under a Fleet Admiral. Under normal operating conditions, the average Fleet is comprised of nearly five hundred vessels. Each Fleet is subdivided into smaller sub-fleets, often called Groups, and these typically are comprised of 100 vessels, under the command of an Admiral. As such, the 1st Home Fleet is divided into 5 sub-fleets, each consisting of 100 vessels. Sub-fleets, or Groups, are further divided into three units of 30, called Wings (see chart below). The 10 ships not placed in one of the Wings form the Command Wing, which is typically composed of a Explorer Type command ship, support vessels, couriers, and Tactical starships. Each 30 ship Wing is then broken down into five groups of six vessels, called Squadrons. The Command Wing is typically commanded by a Rear Admiral, and each of the other three Wings by a Commodore or a Captain. Each ship captain in a squadron reports to the captain of the squadron lead ship, which protocol dictates is the vessel with the greatest tactical value.
The individual Fleet inventory is dependent on the Fleet’s primary Mission. The Fleet’s Mission can be described as Exploratory, Monitor, or Defense. The 1st Fleet, assigned to Sector 001, is a Monitor Fleet, and the 7th Fleet, assigned near the former Cardassian DMZ, is a Defense Fleet. An Exploratory Fleet would be comprised mostly of large Explorer Type vessels and small Survey Type vessels, such as the Oberth Class science ship. A Defense Fleet would be made up mostly of Heavy Cruiser Type vessels, such as the Akira Class, and patrol vessels. A Monitor Fleet is neither near a hostile enemy nor the Frontier, and is typically tasked with neutral zone patrols and enforcing the civil laws of the Federation.