|Date Entered Service||
|Expected Refit Cycle||
|Time Between Resupply||
Matter/Antimatter powered warp drive
Warp 9 (12 hours)
The Tonga-class science vessel is a light-duty Cardassian vessel used for scientific surveys. They are substantially more capable of scientific missions than mainline warships, but on that same token are not suited for combat.
Science & Exploration
The Tonga-class is the Cardassian Union's preferred scientific platform, as it has advanced sensor arrays and two dozen labs, which make it perfect for deep space and planetary surveys. Its small crew allows it to conduct dangerous missions without risking too many lives, while at the same time keeping sensitive experiments away from prying eyes. The ship has four large, customizable sensor pallets, two forward, and one on each nacelle, which give it wide sensor coverage. The main sensor array is located just forward of the deflector/weapons array, and draws power directly from the main EPS tap to produce images of astounding resolution from extreme range, which allows the ship to double as a surveillance vessel.
Laboratory facilities aboard the Tonga are far superior to those aboard a Galor-class destroyer, even with the ship being a third the size, because the ship is only lightly armed and doesn't need massive troop barracks. All of the labs are configurable to specific purposes, but these vessels typically have a stellar cartography suite and a mineral analysis suite, for mapping and resource prospecting duties. It is very common for the scientific staff and command staff to only be assigned temporarily to this class of vessel to fulfill a very specific scientific task, such as an archaeological expedition or stellar survey, with the labs being purpose-configured for that task. After the mission, the ship is then set up for the next team's needs.
The two forward torpedo launchers are over-sized to be able to handle large probes. One strategy used by these vessels to collect data is to launch several dozen probes over a large area of space, and then travel back to each of them to download their memory banks. Bespoke probes such as automated drones and ice penetration torpedoes can be built in an onboard fabrication facility.
These vessels can operate for up to 3 years independent of support, thanks to their efficient engines and reliable systems, to allow for long-distance surveys. Typically, long-distance missions operate with a crew as small as 60, to further stretch the ship's life support.
Tonga-class ships are among the least-imposing of Cardassian starships, which is seen as a detriment to its diplomatic utility. Its low speed also makes it impractical as a courier, so the Tonga rarely engages in formal diplomatic missions. However, as an exploratory ships it is often charged with initial observation activities before first contact.
The Tonga is roughly the size of the front third of a Galor-class cruiser, and has roughly the same ankh-shaped layout, but at a smaller scale. The wings of the Tonga are shorter, with raised structures containing the warp coils that resemble the engine nacelles of other Alpha and Beta Quadrant powers. These nacelle-like structures taper down to impulse engines, which draw power directly from the warp reactor. The main hull is essentially cylindrical, with six decks above the wings and three at and beneath them, with the bridge module prominent on the top. As is standard for Cardassian designs, the reactor is located on the stern of the ship, connected to the pronged heat radiation system common across the fleet.
These ships are relatively slow (but can sprint at Warp 9 if needed), but their engineering plants are almost entirely automated. This allows them to have as small an engineering crew aboard as possible, to maintain the security and secrecy of whatever scientific mission is underway.
There is a small hanger under the bridge, which can store two shuttles, but there is very little cargo space aboard the Tonga, as much of its internal volume is taken up by crew quarters and labs.
The weapons aboard a Tonga are purely for deterrence and defense. The forward end of the ship glows with the same ominous hexagonal triple phaser array found aboard Cardassian warships, but it is less than a third as powerful as the unit aboard a Galor. Still, it's enough to make a raider think twice before engaging. There are six light phaser emitters as well, on the upper and lower tips of the wings, and on the upper and lower stern, which provide all-around coverage against small attackers. Compared to larger warships, the Tonga is highly maneuverable and can bring its forward phasers to bear much more easily than they can, but it lacks the power to do much damage, and so must rely on its powerful sensors to hit an enemy where it will hurt the most. The two torpedo launchers stock only 20 photon torpedoes, and are often used to surprise an enemy before the ship escapes long enough to call for help.
Tonga-class ships almost invariably have surveillance as their secondary mission assignment, and so it's difficult to sneak up on them. It is rumored that some of these vessels are also equipped with cloaking devices to further increase their intelligence-gathering abilities, but the Cardassian military's official position is that these are non-combat, peaceful vessels of exploration.
While still hierarchical, life aboard a Tonga-class science vessel is much different than on larger Cardassian warships. There are few to no fresh recruits aboard these ships, as it doesn't carry troops, so more of the crew, especially the scientists, are officers. As such, they have quarters with windows that look out into space. More seniority still means better accommodations, and the captain has both a well-appointed suite near the top of the ship as well as their own private lab space just off of the bridge. The culture aboard these ships tends to be collegial and friendly among the scientists, but there is often a strict divide between them and the engineering and security crews that operate the ship's systems, as they have often not been read in to the ship's primary mission.
Most missions aboard these vessels are contained to accomplishing a specific scientific task, and so their crews are teams of scientists who have histories before joining the ship. For instance, an archaeological team using a Tonga would normally be assigned to a lab or a base, and would see the ship more as transport than anything else. Some teams are assigned permanently to these vessels, especially stellar survey teams. The crews assigned to long-range missions tend to be hand-picked by the mission commander for loyalty and proficiency.
Because it is involved in long-range missions and because the crew expects a certain standard of accommodation, the Tonga has two holosuites, an officer's lounge, and multiple other small recreation areas around the ship.
Developed in the late 2350s to replace a number of purpose-built small starships for individual scientific mission types, the Tonga is a standardized science vessel that can handle a number of different mission profiles with time between missions to reconfigure equipment. The idea was that the support and scientific vessels could be standardized the same way the Galor standardized warship design. What emerged was a small, relatively slow science vessel with a small crew and enhanced automation.
It was envisioned that the class would never be part of the standard order of battle, but groups such as the Obsidian Order quietly ordered a few of their own for surveillance duties. Over the years, several of them claiming to be on scientific missions very close to borders with other races have been involved in incidents with the Federation, the Talarians, and the Breen; the incident with the Breen resulted in the destruction of the lightly-armed vessel.
Otherwise, these ships have served quietly and in the background, which is exactly what the Cardassian Union expects of them. Their small size allows them to conduct sensitive and dangerous missions without being observed. Most of their missions end up being classified, even the ones related to peaceful research, as the Cardassian government keeps a tight hold on its resource prospecting data.
The Tonga-class In Play
- This class of vessel is equivalent to a Starfleet Nova-class surveyor. They're purely scientific in nature, though sometimes they operate suspiciously close to other races and may have ulterior information collection motives.
- With only limited armaments to fend off trouble, Tonga-class captains are extremely cautious about approaching other starships. They will often run rather than face a confrontation, but then come back with a wing of Galor-class destroyers to handle any aggressors. While they are weak on their own, the work they perform is valuable, so they're never more than a few hours away from help.
- Officers assigned to this ship would often be their temporarily for the science project at hand, but engineering crews might stay there for a long time. There would essentially be two different crews: the visiting scientists and the people actually running the ship, and so there's room for interesting relationship dynamics there.