Hey all……..doing my normal read-through of my defense/foreign-policy blogs this morning has jogged my memory a bit regarding something I forgot to post regarding a subject that I’m surprised Trek hasn’t broached yet (at least to a substantive degree) – drones.
Toward the end of my treatise on the Class F shuttle, I mention how Starfleet briefly retained only two squadrons, one for training and one which saw its craft converted to target drones. That last bit right there is something the USAF actually does with certain fighters and something I ran across again when I skimmed through the last “Hobbyist’s Guide……..” installment (Parts II/III). In his piece about the Killer Bee (an augmented Work Bee that approximates the capability of a Light Fighter), Timo broaches an area that I’m honestly surprised hasn’t been explored yet.
In real life here, much ink is spilled over the development of unmanned drones by various militaries (Northrop Grumman’s X-47B and Dassault’s nEUROn being but two examples). There’s even mention of drones being controlled in the air by F-35 pilots. Now I know that on screen, starships (and in DS9‘s case, a space station) garner much of the attention for obvious reasons. In TrekLit it’s also kind of easy to understand, as starfighters and their ilk have extremely limited utility as story-telling vehicles/set pieces. Going back to that last Hobbyist’s Guide installment and reading on, the Peregrine (Federation Attack Fighter) and the ‘Maquis Raider’ (not going to bother getting into the name issue on that) are described as being highly modular and exceptionally easy to upgrade, making the whole issue a moot point.
Will I get into that? Well, it’s possible at least from an experimental standpoint, but I’m going to have to do some more reading. From a tactical standpoint, the focus for most of the major powers during the 23rd Century has been “bigger and better”. The UFP has weaponry, the Klingons have sheer size/brute force and the Romulans have their cloaking technology. There’s nothing there that presents a clear/pressing need for a specialized small craft/combatant. Logistically, Starfleet runs a pretty tight ship. Its front-line forces may have multiple classes with overlapping mission profiles, but with the inception of the Class II program (their first/earliest attempt to ‘do more with less’ – building everything from gunboats and corvettes to surveyors & light transport-tugs off of a single basic spaceframe), we get our first glimpse at the ‘multi-mission’ paradigm that will emerge around the turn of the century.
To that end, I think that most of the specialized missions too large for shuttlecraft, yet too mundane for a destroyer, frigate or other starship of similar size should fall to the Corvette – larger than a cutter (runabout), yet smaller than a destroyer, used for policing, patrol and basic support missions and a type which we’ve seen/heard comparatively little of in this period. The Antares class concept I had already planned to include as a surveyor (link), Timo included as a corvette under a different class name (Procyon). Then you have the penultimate Corvette design, La Fayette as I wrote it and the issue seems to be solved………or does it?
Going back to what I wrote on the Class F, I put that only about 90% of the shuttlecraft fleet had completed its major propulsion refit before the whole effort was canceled. From a logistical standpoint, giving remote bases, colonies and the like the capability to operate drones – say, a squadron of Killer Bees for defense and perhaps a Pershing (upgraded Sherman class Cargo Drone) for transport/resupply duties would simplify things greatly. Again though, I’m going to have to do some more reading to try and get an idea of how Starfleet drones work before I can formulate any ideas.
Peace and Long Life