LAST EDITED ON Jul-23-17 AT 06:35 PM (EDT)
Revised the class listing to include a couple of things I'm frankly amazed I forgot the first time. --G.
Babylon Project Galactic Database
Text Data Extraction Search: Jane's Fighting Starships
Search criteria: nx class
SEARCH COMPLETE: FEBRUARY 12, 2412
Mk V Challenger-class frigate HMS Endeavour NCC-105 (RSN file photo)
(WDF / Royal Salusian Navy)
The first class of starship larger than a heavy fighter to incorporate Cochrane space warp drive as its principal FTL propulsion system, the Challenger-class frigate began as a Wedge Defense Force proof of concept, but served the Royal Salusian Navy in greater numbers after the 2288 fall of the WDF.
Name/Model: NX-type / Challenger class
Manufacturer: Utopia Planitia Naval Shipyard / Royal Saenar Fleet Systems
Combat designation: Frigate (FF)
Entered service: April 1, 2278
Note: Specifications below apply to the last revision of the Challenger class to be fielded by the RSN, the Mk V.
Mass: 120 kt
Power system: RSFS Mk III Mod 5 antimatter annihilation reactor
Secondary power system: RSFS 5c75-J fusion reactor
Propulsion system: RSFS Dual DriveLine 780 impulse drive
Speed rating: 80 MGLT
Flight control system: RSFS Mk CCL reaction control system
Maneuver rating: 25 DPF
Navigation: Royal Saenar Compusystems HC-9590 computer core
Primary FTL: RSFS Mk III Mod 5 Cochrane warp drive
Warp speed rating (cruise) Warp factor 5.5
Warp speed rating (flank): Warp factor 7.9
Secondary FTL: RSFS Mk MDC motivator drive unit (hyperdrive)
Hyperdrive rating: 2.5
Shields: RSFS Deflectron-540 projective deflector shield system
Shield rating: 300 SBD
Armor: Polarized tritanium alloy hull
Armor rating: 200 RU
Fixed armaments: 8x Royal Salusian Fleet Arsenal Mk XVI phase plasma beam emitters
Expendable armaments: 2x RSFA 20" standard torpedo tubes
Royal Salusian Marine Corps complement: 12x Marine
The Challenger-class frigate originated in one of the several advanced starship technology programs the Wedge Defense Force embarked upon in the mid-23rd century: in this case, the development of a small but powerful escort vessel capable of operating alongside or ahead of elements in the WDF's projected late-century expansion into a full fleet-scale operations force.
Part of this ambitious intiative called for the new escort to be equipped with Cochrane space-warp drive as its primary faster-than-light propulsion system, so that it could be used as both an advance scout and a fleet patrol escort. This was widely considered impossible at the time, thanks to the enormous energy requirements of deploying and maintaining such a large warp field. Zefram Cochrane and his co-designers on what the WDF's internal documentation designated "Project NX" solved the problem by developing what is today the standard method of powering a starship-scale warp drive system, the antimatter annihilation reactor.
The result was a radical new starship type with a profile unlike anything seen before to that date. Although much larger than any previous ship to use the Cochrane system, the Project NX starship was small for a vessel of its very considerable capabilities, being unusually agile at sublight speeds and packing deceptive combat power for its tonnage. It established beyond doubt the viability of what was then a whole new technological paradigm for spacefaring warships and set the standard for virtually every warp-driven starship to follow.
In a departure from traditional starship construction practices, the experimental starship that resulted from Project NX originally had no class designation. Two prototypes were constructed, neither of which was intended to be completed as a spaceflight article. Perhaps for this reason, the starship class was not named after either; though both had names, neither was official. On the other hand, because of the prototypes' existence, the first operational NX-type ship, WDF Enterprise, was not technically the first of the type. Perhaps that is the reason why the WDF's Bureau of Starships never designated Enterprise the class ship either. The full details are not known, but regardless, no class ship was ever designated. In the WDF's internal documentation, Enterprise, though it received the hull number NX-01, was always described simply as a "starship of the NX type".
NX-01 WDF Enterprise, in original Mk 1 configuration, patrols the Denorios Belt (WDF file photo)
Since the role for which the NX type had been conceived was not yet a going concern within the WDFs force structure when Enterprise entered service, the ship spent most of her career attached to the organization's Exploration Command instead of on tactical operations, an ad hoc role in which she served with distinction. This was not noticed only within the WDF; the exploration and astrographic doctrines of the United Galactica Navy were later influenced by studies of WDF Enterprise's career. These developments were then passed on both to the UGN's successor organization, the Federation Starfleet, and to allied forces such as the Royal Salusian Navy.
In the aftermath of the WDF's 2288 dissolution, a joint task force of the UGN and RSN searched the abandoned Utopia Planitia Naval Shipyards complex at Zeta Cygni II for information on the force's distribution and future plans, as well as any surviving shipbuilding data. Among many other valuable finds, the UGN and RSN personnel discovered a nearly-complete second (or fourth, depending on how you reckon these things) NX-type ship on the ways, as well as evidence in the shipyard's construction databanks that the WDF had placed orders for a further four.
The UGN declined to exercise its option on any of the NX-type technology or equipment available, having already set their sights on certain future-development projects their engineers found in the UPNS databanks (from which would eventually emerge the iconic UGN, later UFP Starfleet, Constitution and Miranda classes). The RSN was left with the complete NX archive, the tooling, and the 90-percent-complete WDF Columbia (NX-02), and in early 2290, the Admiralty decided to pursue the implementation and further development of the type. Accordingly, all information and matériel relevant to the project was relocated to the Royal Saenar Fleet Systems yards at Salu II.
Opportunities to learn from finishing the unfinished Columbia were few, given how nearly complete the ship was when the Salusians found her; however, RSFS Chief Engineer Ralph Saenar (77th Baron Saenar) reported after a complete survey of the equipment and parts recovered that the second prototype, Structural Test Article 099, could and should be completed as a fully operational starship—a dress rehearsal before his engineers and yardworkers attempted to construct a new ship of the class entirely from scratch.
This was accordingly ordered, and in June of 2292, Queen Asrial presided at the newly-completed spaceframe's commissioning, under the same name it had informally worn as a UPNS test article, as HMS Challenger (NX-099). HMS Columbia (her hull number amended to NX-102) followed two months later, and the first of their completely Salusian-built sister ships, HMS Discovery (NCC-103—by this point the Royal Starship Construction and Commissioning Board no longer regarded the class as experimental), was launched two years after that.
In all, a dozen Salusian-built Challenger-class light frigates were commissioned after the completions of Challenger and Columbia, each of the subsequent hulls taking less time to complete than the one before; the last, HMS Erebus (NCC-114), entered service in 2322. When they ran out of the WDF's planned names, the Commissioning Board took to giving them names that started with E, which is why you will sometimes alternately see the ships referred to in the lay press as the "E-class ships", even though no fewer than six had names beginning with other letters. They were highly regarded by the crews who served on them and influenced both RSN tactical and (as previously mentioned) exploratory doctrines.
By 2328, field reports and hard-won experience suggested significant improvements to the Challenger-class platform, and Saenar's design team developed a sweeping remodeling program to implement them. The first ship to receive this remodel, starting in March of 2330, was HMS Endeavour (NCC-105). The reconstruction took the better part of two years, and by the time it was finished, the ship was so radically changed that some within the Navy argued for designating her the first of a new class. In the end, this action was not taken; instead, the revised vessel, and those to be remodeled subsequently, were documented as the Challenger class, Mark V, frigate—no longer a light frigate, but still the same class. (Some unofficial outlets, confused by a premature report made by a Cheltopolis newspaper, still occasionally call the Mk V remodel the "Endeavour-class refit".)
Over the next six years, all the remaining Challenger-class ships were upgraded to the Mk V standard, which increased their speed and both offensive and defensive capabilities considerably. Some consideration was made to ordering a new flight of Mk V vessels; however, by then the design of what became the Pioneer-class heavy frigate was well along, incorporating most of the advances made in the Mk V Challenger remodel, and so the Admiralty opted to put it into production instead.
The Challenger-class vessels remained in service for many decades thereafter; the last was retired in 2377, in a budget-trimming decision that some both within and without Her Majesty's Navy still lament as premature and unkind.