Klingon Bird of Prey
The Klingon Bird of Prey is a class of vessel that has seen service in the Klingon Empire for almost a century. It has become an ubiquitous warship of the empire used for such a wide variety of missions such as spying, reconnaisance, commerce raiding, and of course combat. Despite her age the Bird of Prey design is still quite effective even during the Dominion War where they fared well against the mainstay of the Dominion fleet - the Jem'Hadar fighter.
One cannot think Kliungon without immediately thinking of these vessels.
The Klingon Bird of Prey consists of actually two distinct sub-classes of ship.
The first is called the B'Rel class and is usually classified as a Scout or Fighter. It is small, agile and very light craft with a crew of about 20 Klingons. The B'Rel was first encountered on screen during the Genesis Incident when Captain Kruge took his Bird of Prey deep within Federation Space and destroyed the Grissom and ambushed and crippled the Enterprise. Pavel Chekov picked up the Bird of Prey for a moment on the scanners before she cloaked and classified her as a "Scout class vessel" (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock) and Sulu verified that the crew compliment of a Bird of Prey consisted of about a dozen officers and men. (Star Trek III) The Bird of Prey in the movie novelization is classified as a Klingon fighter.
The second class of Klingon Bird of Prey is the K'Vort class cruiser which was a far heavier vessel designed to go toe to toe with Federation starships. The K'Vort class is first identified as such by Wesley Crusher during an attack by three K'Vort cruisers on the Enterprise-D and Enterprise-C during "Yesterday's Enterprise".
Despite the differences in class there are certain common features that the ships all share.
- Cloaking Device - all Klingon Bird of Preys are equipped with a cloaking device. During the Genesis incident the cloaking device on Kruge's vessel emitted a visible distortion effect especially when the ship was in motion. No similar distortion effect has been seen in any other portrayal of the Bird of Prey cloaks which could indicate that Kruge's cloak was malfunctioning at the time.
- Disruptor cannons - all variations of the Klingon Bird of Prey sported rapid fire twin disruptor cannons with an impressive rate of fire. Even up through the Dominion war a steady fusillade of these cannons could destroy a Dominion fighter in a single salvo.
- Photon Torpedo launchers
- Variable Geometry Wing Design - the Klingon Bird of Prey has wings that can raise or lower at certain angles. What role the various wing positions play is unknown as the Birds of Prey have been observed to attack in all states of wing positions, raised above the hull, parallel the hull, and down below the hull.
There is one feature which the B'Rel class has that is unknown if the K'Vort class shares. The B'Rel have atmospheric capabilities. There is one possible instance where K'Vort cruisers may have also exhibited atmospheric capabilities. During the Dominion War an attack led by General Martok against a Dominion base on Trekla V has Bird of Preys decloaking and strafing a base on the surface. There is no mention of the class of these vessels but given the fact that they later took on Cardasian capital ships and Kor led his single Bird of Prey in a suicide attack on 10 Dominion fighters would seem to suggest this was a K'Vort class cruiser.("Once more Unto the Breach")
The Klingon Bird of Prey was first depicted during the Genesis incident in which it was instantly recognized by Sulu when decloaking suggesting the vessel was already in service for some time by the time it made its appearance in Star Trek III.
The Bird of Prey soon replaced the Klingon D-7 and the K'T'Inga class cruisers as the standard Klingon warship generally encountered by Starfleet during the Motion Picture era of Star Trek and even during TNG era it was an extremely common vessel probably produced in massive numbers given the inordinate amount of Birds of Prey encountered as opposed to other Klingon warships.
Out of universe note on the nomenclature of the Klingon ship, in early drafts of Star Trek III Kruge was supposed to steal a Romulan Bird Of Prey and use its cloaking device to carry out his illegal mission into Federation space but over time the vessel became a Klingon ship but the class name never changed.