Star Trek: Federation Industrial Capacity

Written: 1998.08.01
Last Revised: 2001.03.31

The Enterprise leaves spacedock
A 23rd century Federation starship prepares to leave shipyards

Size

The Federation is an extremely small organization. While the Empire contains millions of member systems, the Federation contains only 150 member systems. While the Empire spans a galaxy, the Federation spans a mere 8000 light years. This information comes direct from Captain Picard, in STFC:

Lily: "How many planets are in the Federation?"
Picard: "Over one hundred and fifty. Spread across eight thousand light years."

A strict interpretation of this quote would be that the Federation has a sum total of roughly 150 planets under its direct control, including each and every insignificant outpost or low-population colony in its entire territory. However, this is doubtful. It is more likely that Picard is referring only to major planets. We know that the Federation is replete with systems that contain only a few hundred or few thousand colonists, and it is highly doubtful that Picard was including all of those insignificant systems when he stated his figure of 150 planets. We can conclude that the Federation probably has hundreds or perhaps even thousands of small colonies and outposts scattered throughout its territory, with roughly 150 planets that have populations numbering in the billions.

Logistics

The Federation uses replicators to produce a wide variety of simple components and food products, but this does not eliminate the necessity for transport ships, mining operations, etc. Replicators still require "raw foodstock" to produce food according to the TM, and they require refined engineering materials to produce weapons, components for ships, etc. (see the Federation special-technology discussion). Therefore, their industrial capacity is still limited by their transport fleets. This fleet uses very small ships (strangely enough, their merchant marine has even smaller ships than Starfleet, perhaps indicating that the small <1km ships of Starfleet represent the limit of Federation starship construction technology). These ships are restricted to their pitifully slow warp drive, which may explain why so many of their industrial, scientific, political, and military resources are centred on Earth; their propulsion technology restricts them from distributing these resources over a wider area.

Fleet strength

The Federation dedicated a significant portion of its forces (two complete fleets) to an attack on DS9 in an attempt to regain control of the wormhole during the Dominion war. This task force consisted of roughly 600 ships, including fighters. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the Federation possessed no more than a few thousand ships at the time. This is also consistent with dialogue from Way of the Warrior which established that a Klingon attack force comprised over a third of the Klingon military, and that the very first wave of the attack would consist of over a hundred ships. If we assume that there are several waves (three or four) it logically follows that the Klingon fleet is from 1000-2000 ships. The Federation fleet would logically be of similar or smaller size, because the Klingon fleet has a significant proportion of very small BOP-class warships, while the Federation fleet tends to consist of larger vessels, which were usually several hundred metres in length or more.

It is often assumed that the Federation must have constructed 600 ships during the Dominion war to replace their losses, but there are numerous logical problems with this assumption. First, the Federation most likely had a few thousand ships before the war. This means they could have lost hundreds of ships without replacing them, and still been able to muster a 600-ship task force. Second, the Federation was not decisively winning the war, which would seem to be the expected situation if they were capable of replacing ships as quickly as they were being destroyed while the Dominion had limited shipbuilding facilities.

We can use the TM's description of GCS construction scheduling to make reasonable stimates of how quickly the Federation can build starships:

Therefore, it takes 13 years for the Utopia Planitia shipyards to build 3 Galaxy Class starships, or slightly over 4 years per ship. It is sometimes assumed that these ships were constructed so slowly because they were prototypes, but the 13 year timeframe starts AFTER the design is frozen, so it does not include all of the design time that would have greatly lengthened the project duration. Even if we assume that construction rates are doubled for subsequent starships of the same line, it would still take them at leasty 2 years to build a single GCS at a typical shipyard.

There are 3 shipyards in the Sol system- the large Utopia Planitia shipyards orbiting around Mars (the Federation's foremost shipbuilding facility, with dozens of construction bays), and two relatively small facilities orbiting Earth: the San Francisco Shipyards and Earth Station McKinley. Earth Spacedock is more of a maintenance centre than a shipyard, but it was apparently converted into a makeshift shipyard during the Dominion War as well, which gives some idea of their desperate need for shipbuilding capacity, given Spacedock's limited interior space.

However, we don't know how many shipyards exist in the entire Federation- the Sol system is obviously a very important star system, since it contains Federation HQ and Starfleet Academy. If we assume that they have one full shipyard for every member planet, they might have as many as 150 shipyards (Captain Picard estimated the number of member planets at 150 in ST:FC). Therefore, they may be able to build as many as 100 ships per year, particularly since most of their starships are much smaller than the diminutive 600m long GCS ships. Over a period of many decades, they could have easily built 1000-2000 ships, and we know that older ships are often refitted to newer technology rather than being scrapped. After 20 years of service, a ship would presumably either be scrapped or put through such one of these extensive rebuilding programs.

The DS9 TM has the following to say about their shipbuilding efforts during the Dominion War:

"Rapid prototyping and refurbishment was initiated on at least 178 partial builds, salvaged hulls, and spaceworthy warp engine systems. The ships that could not be structurally mated and outfitted were hastily launched and flight-tested, more often than not given no formal name or registry number. Some temporary designations for surviving vessels have passed through the formal review process since the operation and may be added to the official ship inventory. As an example of the expedited assembly procedures applied to some of the existing classes, a number of Galaxy-class hulls were pulled from the internal structures work path, equipped with additional weapons, and launched with 65 percent of their spaceframe volumes empty."

This indicates that in addition to normal shipbuilding operations, 178 ships were hastily rushed into service from partial builds and salvage operations. This allows us to gain some sense of scale for the fleet at the time of the Dominion War, since the stripped-down Galaxy Class starships represented a significant percentage of Starfleet's forces in the confrontations with the Dominion. For point of reference, 178 Galaxy Class vessels are equivalent to roughly 13 Imperial Star Destroyers in volume. This reinforces the notion that a few hundred starships (at most) were built during the Dominion War, not several thousand as some overzealous Federation cultists have claimed. Since it took the Federation more than a year to recover from the loss of 39 ships at Wolf 359, this result makes sense.

Starbases

Earth SpacedockThe Federation also constructs numerous facilities other than starships, most importantly star bases. According to the Star Trek Encyclopedia, there are over 500 starbases in, around, and beyond Federation space. These starbases vary widely in size, intent, and capabilities. Some of them are large installations comparable in size to a large Imperial warship, while others are insignificant outposts intended simply to maintain a presence and gather data. Some of them are not even space stations at all, but rather, they are planetary surface installations. It is therefore difficult to estimate how many large military space stations the Federation has, except that the number must be lower than 500.

The largest known Federation starbase is Starbase 74 (pictured here), in orbit around the Federation planet Tarsas III. homeworld (seen in "11001001"). It is significantly larger than Earth Spacedock (seen in ST3), even though the two structures have the same superficial appearance. The E-D's size as a proportion of Starbase 74 was similar to the E-Nil's size as a proportion of Earth Spacedock. Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that Starbase 74 is approximately 50% longer than Earth Spacedock, and therefore more than 3 times as massive. Earth Spacedock is described in the ST3 ILM size charts as being approximately 12000' (3600m) in diameter and 15250' (4600m) tall (thanks to Ryan McReynolds for bringing this to my attention). The Enterprise-D did not appear any larger with respect to Starbase 74 than the original NCC-1701 Enterprise was with respect to Earth Spacedock, therefore we can conclude that the general dimensions of Starbase 74 are approximately 50% larger (meaning that its volume is 3.4 times larger). This would make Starbase 74 approximately 5400m in diameter, and 6900m in length. It has a mushroom shape, similar to the much larger Bespin Cloud City tibanna gas mine that was once run by Lando Calrissian. Its prominence in Federation space underscores the limitations of the Federation's industrial capacity. The insignificant Deep Space Nine space station is less than 1 mile in diameter (ref. DS9 TM) and even though that diameter is mostly empty space (the station is a ring rather than a sphere), Federation spokespeople consider it an extremely large structure, as seen in the following quote from the Deep Space Nine Technical Manual:

"By any standard of measurement, Deep Space 9 is an extremely large free-flying orbit station irrespective of its origins or current custodians ... at least three major Starfleet starbases dwarf Deep Space Nine in sheer size and mass, but the former Terek Nor is the largest spaceborne materials refining facility known to date."

Note that the common Star Destroyer dwarfs this "extremely large" space station. Earth Spacedock and Starbase 74 are clearly much larger than Deep Space Nine, so they undoubtedly account for two of the three starbases that dwarf Deep Space Nine. A third starbase exists which has the same superficial appearance as Starbase 74 and Earth Spacedock: this is Starbase 84 (seen in "Phantasms"). Its size is unknown but since its cavernous interior is designed to hold starships, it is doubtful that it is significantly different in size from the two aforementioned similar starbases. We can therefore conclude that the three "major Starfleet starbases" mentioned in the DS9 TM are probably Starbase 74, Earth Spacedock, and Starbase 84. The rest of the Federation starbases would therefore be the much smaller external-docking variety, or the planetary surface bases.

Comparison with Competing Groups

The DS9 TM contains a very detailed analysis of the military production and conscription rates of the Cardassian Union:

Item

Annual Production

Starships

Galor-class battlecruiser

63

Galor-class warship

15

Fighter

352

Freighter

188

Heavy penetrator

443

Troops

Base-level troops

583,000

Glinn-level officers

21,600

Gul-level officers

8,900

Miscellaneous

Planetary disruptors

430

Photon torpedoes

54,300

Offensive EM devices

230

Biogenic weapons

430

This chart (which presumably does not include the activities of their allies, the Dominion) indicates that the Cardassian Union produces approximately 80 capital ships per year, 350 fighters, and 450 "heavy penetrators", which are apparently long-range strategic smart missiles. We know that Galor-class warships are approximately 370 metres in length (ref. DS9 TM), so we can generate a rough volume comparison with respect to a Star Destroyer, by simply cubing the length ratio of 1600/370. We can easily calculate that a Star Destroyer is roughly the size of 80 Galor-class warships using this method, which should be accurate to within a reasonable degree of error.

Therefore, the Cardassian Union's entire yearly capital ship production is equivalent to a single Star Destroyer! This is an excellent example of the laughable industrial capacity of the Cardassian Union. We can compare the Klingon Empire and the Cardassians to see that their fleet sizes are similar. If a typical Cardassian starship has a service life of 20 years like a Federation GCS (ref TM) before it must be either retired or put through a massive refit, then an annual production of 80 capital ships would mean that their average fleet size is roughly 1600 ships, assuming that all ships last for their entire service lifetimes without being destroyed in battle. Their annual production of 350 fighters would mean that they can field roughly 7000 fighters. This is completely consistent with the estimated size of the Klingon fleet, at 1000-2000 ships (based on Way of the Warrior). Since the Klingon Empire and Federation both have superior warships to the Cardassian Union, they would each easily overpower the Cardassians even with numerical parity. If either the Klingon Empire or Federation had a much larger number of ships than the 1600 ships available to the Cardassian Union, then they would have been able to overrun the Cardassians almost effortlessly, and without bothering to commit a significant portion of their fleet. Certainly, the Klingons would not have had to commit more than a third of their entire military to their attack on the Cardassian Union if this were the case.

Since we know that the Klingons had to commit more than one full third of their military to their attack on the Cardassian Union even with the advantage of complete surprise, and since we know that their advances were greatly slowed once the Cardassian military mobilized against them, we can conclude that the Klingon military is probably no more than three times the size of the Cardassian military. If the Klingons have military forces which are less than three times as powerful as the Cardassian Union's military forces, then we can conclude that they probably produce roughly 240 capital ships per year. This figure is based on an assumption which severely exaggerates Klingon fleet size: the assumption that Klingon and Cardassian ships are tactically equal. A more realistic assessment would account for the large tactical advantage conferred by the Klingons' superior technology (particularly the effect of their cloaking technology), which would reduce the ship-count required for them to overwhelm the Cardassians.

However, if we use this estimate in spite of the generous assumption, then we can conclude that the Klingons' average fleet size is no more than 5,000 ships. The Federation probably has a smaller fleet than this, because the average Federation starship is larger and more powerful than the average Klingon starship. Furthermore, in an alternate timeline where the Klingon Empire and the Federation went to war, the Klingons were decisively winning the war (ref. Yesterday's Enterprise). Therefore, the Federation's fleet is probably a few thousand capital ships, as previously stated.

The DS9 TM also describes the Cardassian Union's shipbuilding facilities:

"Starfleet Intelligence believes that the current Cardassian industrial base includes Cardassia Prime ... and at least fifteen other neighboring worlds supporting major scientific and fabrication facilities. One hundred fifty three additional orbital and deep interstellar facilities are thought to make up the bulk of their off-world assets. When applying all of their available resources, the Cardassian Union is capable of producing, deploying, and supporting a large armed fleet and accompanying combat troops on a continuing basis."

This allows us to determine that the Cardassian Union has a total of less than 170 major systems and facilities, which fits very closely with Picard's statement that the Federation has 150 major systems. It also allows us to determine that the Cardassian fleet, at 1600 ships, is considered a "large" fleet by Starfleet Intelligence. It should be noted that 1600 Galor-class capital ships would be equivalent in size to roughly 20 Star Destroyers.

Conclusion

The Federation is a very small organization, which is capable of controlling only a small portion of one quadrant of their galaxy. Their industrial capacity is proportionate to this small scale. Other Star Trek organizations such as the Klingons, Romulans, Dominion, Cardassians, Borg, Kazons, etc. are also similarly limited.

Of the major established organizations near Federation space, the Borg is by far the most prolific organization, even though it is limited to only a few thousand star systems. The military-industrial might of the Star Wars Galactic Empire dwarfs all of these organizations combined.


Acknowledgements



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