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Matter/Antimatter powered warp drive
Warp 9.6 (for 12 hours)
The Keldon-class cruiser is the standard Cardassian medium-duty warship, serving in combat, patrol, and utility duties across the Union. It is nearly identical to the slightly smaller Galor-class, with extensions on the stern and to the dorsal superstructure that allows for a higher crew complement and for barracks space to transport up to a thousand troops. An older design, they are relatively common, but not nearly as common as the Galor.
Science and Exploration
Scientific capabilities aboard the Keldon are identical to those aboard the Galor: ten small science labs geared towards resource prospecting and stellar cartography, which help them in their patrol duties and in identifying possible sites for new outposts or colonies. They are also equipped with a complement of observation probes, which can linger in systems after the ship has passed through to keep an eye on things there, notifying the mothership when intruders are detected. These probes have advanced sensors and navigational equipment, which makes them also well-suited to exploring nebulae and other navigational anomalies. Cardassian doctrine favors having extremely detailed navigational data of their own space and enemy space to optimize starship deployments.
The Keldon has greater endurance than the Galor and so is capable of embarking on exploratory and prospecting expeditions outside of Union space, with mission durations of up to two years. While this lags far behind nearly any Federation Starfleet vessel, this degree of independence is unseen in most of the starships used by the neighboring Tzenkethi, Breen, and Talarians, which allows the Cardassian military to develop maps of space far beyond their borders, which makes any necessary tactical operations in these areas significantly easier.
On the top of the superstructure, there is a large combination long-range sensor and long-range communications array, which enhances the Keldon's exploratory capabilities by allowing it to remain in contact with Cardassia Prime.
Keldon-class starships have a standard VIP suite available for a legate or government official, as well as a suite in the dorsal superstructure that is capable of hosting larger delegations in relative comfort. This makes this class a superior diplomatic platform compared to the Galor but it is less capable than the larger and more modern post-Dominion War designs currently in service. Its long-range communications abilities allow it to effectively execute the will of decision-makers back at headquarters.
As with the Galor and most other Cardassian starship designs, the Keldon has a standardized design, with improvements being made in discrete model types. There have now been three distinct types of Keldon-class vessel, each with gradually increased power and more advanced systems, and it is Cardassian practice to maintain a stable fleet size by recycling older vessels for the construction of newer ones and to upgrade more recent vessels to the latest standard. The Keldon-class Type-3 was developed in the 2380s and includes improvements to the ship's life support and recreation systems to improve its utility as a long-range vessel.
Keldon-class ships have a hull that is largely identical to the Galor: it follows the ankh-shaped design of the Cardassian Union's emblem, with a wider primary hull tapering down to a narrow tail. The bridge is mounted in a raised module above the bow, and the spine of the ship has a raised superstructure which contains crew quarters and other systems. The vertical profile of the Keldon-class is roughly cylindrical, and unlike starships of most Alpha and Beta quadrant powers, the warp coils are built into wings extending from the primary hull rather than in separate nacelles. Impulse power is provided by a primary drive unit aft of the bridge and two secondary impulse assemblies in the wings. Beneath the wings the majority of the remaining space is devoted to cargo holds and hanger bays, which are used for both military purposes and construction projects.
Where the design of the Keldon differs from the Galor is in extensions to the dorsal superstructure and stern. The superstructure has been expanded with a large, roughly anthropoid module that contains barracks space, expanded fuel tanks, and additional crew quarters, which allows the ship a longer range and the ability to carry a thousand troops in relative comfort. The stern of the Galor design has been widened with two additional wings, each of which contains an additional phaser emitter, redundant shield generators, and auxiliary power generators.
In many space-faring cultures, a larger design is usually a faster design. This is not the case with the Keldon-class. It does have slightly more powerful engines, but only powerful enough to match the Galor's performance with its larger mass. The reasoning behind this design decision was to maintain the reliability of the Galor-type engine system, given that in fleet situations, the Keldon as a cruiser in the core of the fleet would never need to go faster than her escorting Galors.
Though nearly identical to the Galor, the Keldon serves a different role in fleet engagements, either as a command ship when only with smaller vessels, or as the ship-of-the-line core of a Cardassian battle fleet. Its enhanced shields allow it to soak up firepower while allowing other vessels to surround and separate the enemy. It retains the forward-firing triple-mounted phaser bank used aboard the Galor, though that of the Keldon is of even higher output and glows red, rather than blue—this is essentially the one system in which the Keldon has a clear and noticeable improvement over the smaller ship. In addition, there are sixteen pyramid-shaped phaser emitters spread out along the hull of the ship which provide comprehensive energy weapon coverage at a much lower power. The ship also has the same four forward-firing torpedo launchers as the Galor, which can launch either photon or quantum torpedoes.
The sensor/communications array on the superstructure is very useful in tactical situations where the Keldon is serving as a flagship, as it can cut through most localized interference. These vessels often are assigned to flotillas including six Galor-class destroyers and three Keldon-class cruisers, allowing for the flexibility to operate with either two destroyer squadrons and a cruiser squadron or three mixed destroyer-cruiser squadrons.
For the ship's crew, life aboard a Keldon is very similar to life aboard a Galor: Crew facilities are segregated based on rank, with junior enlisted personnel sharing large bunk rooms of up to forty along with communal hygiene facilities and bare mess halls with limited replicator options. More senior enlisted personnel have smaller bunk rooms, as well as a lounge. Junior officers share with just two other people, better food, and also have a lounge. Senior officers have private quarters, access to the officers' mess, and a small number of holosuites. Each class also has physical fitness facilities and they are expected to stay in shape. The commanding officer of a Galor-class ship has a large set of private quarters with their own dining room, holosuite, office, armory, and strong room. There is also a smaller set of VIP quarters aboard for visiting legates and civilian officials.
Galor-class crews do not see the segeration of their facilities as anything other than an incentive to advance. Service aboard these bread-and-butter vessels is common for officers in their first several years of service, so the majority of the Cardassian military has cut their teeth here; advancing to better facilities is seen as a rite of passage, which also helps to reinforce strict adherence to protocol and following orders.
For troops, the situation is a little different: while not steerage by any means, troops are housed ten barracks rooms that house a hundred troops on bunks three-high with shared sanitary facilities and large, cavernous mess halls that also serve as training facilities. These ships are not meant to house ships for extended periods, but rather to transport them from location to location, so thankfully these conditions are short-lived. The troops embarked here are not trained in starship operations or repairs, but could be very useful in a boarding scenario if an enemy was unwise enough to get close to a fully-loaded Keldon.
The Keldon has very capable medical facilities, to handle treating its large troop contingent. In addition to the sickbay for the crew with ward facilities that can accommodate up to six bedridden patients, there is a twenty-person ICU and a forty-person medium care ward in the superstructure, along with a medical staff of fifty. When necessary, the cargo holds and hanger are used for additional medical treatment space.
By the mid-2360s, it was clear that the Galor-class cruiser, a design which was now over 30 years old, was lagging behind the capabilities of comparable starships in use by other Alpha Quadrant powers, especially the Federation. During conflicts, the Cardassians were able to wear their opponents down by attrition more than tactical superiority, which was becoming untenable. The Galor was quick and easy to build, thanks to standardization, but the standardization had become so acute that the Cardassian Union feared it would not be able to retool facilities to produce larger, more capable ships without substantial investments of both time and resources. Instead, it was decided that a companion design to the Galor would be created, using an expanded space frame to give it enhanced defensive capabilities at a reasonable price point.
During the design process, Central Command expanded the mandate to also include additional space for troops and military cargo, which resulted in a large module being added to the dorsal superstructure. In the end, the only other external difference from the Galor was an extra set of wings on the stern. With this new, larger design, the Galor was redesignated as a destroyer, with the Keldon now being the cruiser. Production was conducted largely in secret at shipyards in the core of the Union, as the secrecy of these more-capable ships was considered a tactical advantage. The Obsidian Order began to selectively leak information about new, powerful warships being built, even though in reality the Keldon was more survivable than the progenitor design, but not significantly better-armed.
The Keldon immediately proved its utility as a troop transport, as well as a flagship for important legates and guls. It could transport an entire legion at once, with better conditions than a freighter and without needing the legion to be split across several smaller ships. They also proved useful for exploratory missions, though this was a short-lived program as tensions in the quadrant rose.
The Obsidian Order in cooperation with the Tal Shiar secretly built a fleet of fifteen enhanced Keldon-class cruisers that were equipped with enhanced weapons, faster engines, and cloaking devices. All fifteen of these vessels were destroyed during a failed attack on the Founder's homeworld in 2371.
At the beginning of the Klingon-Cardassian War in 2372, the Keldon was the largest warship in the Cardassian Union. These vessels survived at substantially higher rates than the Galor-class during this devastating conflict, proving the premise of the design. Production was ramped up, but as the war went on, these vessels began to suffer significant losses alongside their smaller cousins, until the Dominion entered the conflict.
By the end of the war, the Keldon fleet was in shambles, and it took almost all of the 2380s to bring it back up to numbers anywhere close to where they were before the war. The current version of the Keldon has enhanced systems compared to the original, but not the heavier weapons or cloaking devices found aboard the ill-fated Obsidian Order fleet. As the 25th century approaches, this vessel continues to be produced in relatively large numbers.
- Keldon-class and Galor-class ships are nearly identical. This is on purpose, as the Cardassians love standardization. There's not a lot of difference between them, other than the Keldon having stronger shields and being able to hold more troops.
- These cruiser-sized ships are less common than the destroyer model and signify that the Union takes a situation seriously when it dispatches one of them to handle it. Still, they're not the newest or the largest anymore.
- Without carrying any troops, a Keldon makes a pretty good exploratory platform, even if it doesn't have the dedicated science labs that Starfleet ships do, but a clever ship's captain could overcome that deficiency by repurposing barracks or cargo space.