The Exeter is one of the oldest starships in Starfleet, first launched in 2248 as one of the twelve original Constitution-class heavy cruisers. She was refit in the 2270s to the configuration that she largely retains now. Since 2376, she has been assigned to the Starfleet Academy campus on Mellstoxx III to play host to Cadet Squadron Bravo and the Fourth Fleet’s Command School trainees.
The Exeter has received regular updates over the decades to remain relevant as a training vessel, but she is still distinctly not a modern vessel. The purpose of her training cruises is to help cadets develop leadership and teamwork skills more than it is to develop their technical acumen, something that is now largely conducted in holodeck settings.
This ship is equipped with isolinear computers with modern touch interfaces, but no holographic interfaces. The sickbay is equipped with an EMH, given that a cadet crew is less able to respond to medical emergencies than a fully-trained one, but the ship has no holodecks. Engine systems have remained largely un-changed since the ship's last complete overhaul in the 2270s, but better computing technology and other improvements in automation make her far less maintenance-intensive than she was in her days as a front-line heavy cruiser.
The galley system and food synthesizers have long been replaced with replicators and the ship's recreational facilities are well-equipped to give cadets opportunities to bond with one another while embarked, but the Exeter is not a luxury vessel by any means. Cadets and enlisted trainees are assigned four to a room, with only the ship's small complement of commissioned officers receiving their own quarters.
The ship's original phaser banks were replaced in the 2370s with Type-IX phaser arrays, one on the dorsal side of the saucer, a second on the ventral side of the saucer, and a third on the ventral side of the engineering hull. While it was intended to bring the ship into fighting form for the Dominion War, it now allows cadets to train with weapons similar to the ones they would be using on a front-line starship, though with significantly less power. Training cruises often include live-fire exercises, but these phasers can also be configured to deliver laser pulse beams for simulated combat. The ship's 2270s-era torpedo tubes have not been upgraded, though, and must be loaded manually. Typically, the ship only carries training ordnance which is essentially just a large firework.
The bridge of the Exeter retains the general layout of the original Constitution-class bridge from a century-and-a-half ago, but it has been updated to include modern interfaces. It also has extra stations Behind the helm and operations console in the well at the center of the bridge, there are two extra consoles, for training officers to monitor the progress of exercises, and if necessary to take direct control of the ship's systems. There is a third extra console behind the captain's chair for the cadet executive officer.
- Standard cadet cruises embark a commissioned crew of 20 officers alongside 100 cadets and 200 enlisted trainees, under the command of a Starfleet Captain. These cruises last for three weeks and involve drills, starship maneuvering exercises, EVA training, and the other basic training necessary to serve aboard a starship as a member of Starfleet. Cadets typically go on two cruises: one after their second year serving in junior roles and another after their third year serving in more senior roles, including as cadet department heads.
- Command School cruises generally embark a bridge crew of trainees, alongside a regular crew of 80 (the minimum necessary to operate the Essex due to its automation center) and last for a few days at a time, with training scenarios focusing on tactics, diplomacy, and more advanced starship maneuvers than the ones practiced during cadet cruises.
- When not on a cruise, the Exeter is usually docked within Starbase Bravo and plays host to both course-related training exercises with cadets at Starfleet Academy--Mellstoxx III, but also short (day or two day long) discipline specific training exercises for members of Cadet Squadron Bravo, including such things as learning to operate a starship sickbay, performing general maintenance, repelling boarders, and other things that work better in a live setting than on the holodeck.
The Exeter was launched in 2248 as one of the original twelve Constitution-class heavy cruisers. She conducted five five-year missions under various captains in her original configuration before being refit in 2273 to her present configuration, before conducting a further five five-year missions until her retirement in 2298, as the class was no longer considered efficient to operate compared to the Miranda, Constellation, and Excelsior-classes of the time.
Transferred to the surplus depot at Qualor III, the Exeter was succeeded in name by an Ambassador-class heavy cruiser in the 2330s. In 2374 at the height of the Dominion War, the ex-Exeter was evaluated to be pressed back into service. Her spaceframe was deemed to be in excellent condition, and the Starfleet Corps of Engineers was even successful in upgrading her weapons systems to include Type-IX phaser arrays, but this wasn't completed until days before the Treaty of Bajor was signed. However, with the second Exeter destroyed, it was decided to continue the modernization of the original for use as a training ship.
With modern computers and a new automation center, the Exeter was recommissioned and assigned to the Starfleet Academy campus at Mellstoxx III in 2376. In her over thirty years of service in this role, she has been host to thousands of cadets, many of whom have gone on to become starship captains and officers of the Fourth Fleet.
The USS Exeter In-Play
- As a member of the Fourth Fleet, your character is very likely to have been aboard the Exeter for one purpose or another, especially if they were a cadet or junior officer after 2376, as it serves as a training vessel for cadets passing through the Bravo Fleet Academy, command students training at the Fourth Fleet Command School, and enlisted trainees being indoctrinated at Mellstoxx III.
- The Exeter does not leave the Mellstoxx III system and is generally within minutes of receiving help from Starbase Bravo should something happen that it's not equipped for.
- Ideas for using the Exeter in your fiction:
- As a rising junior or senior cadet, describe how your cadet cruise went. What was it like to be actually serving on a real, functional starship for the first time, after learning so much about them on the holodeck? What is it like to be on one of the legendary original twelve Constitution-class ships? How did your character fare in battle drills? What connections did they make with their fellow classmates?
- As a junior officer assigned to Starbase Bravo who didn't go through the academy curriculum there, you might be pulled in to serve either as part of the commissioned crew evaluating and assisting cadets during a training cruise, or as part of the standard crew of 80 used to run the ship during command training cruises. Your character may never have been on such an old ship before and might be much more used to holographic interfaces, which the Exeter doesn't have. What was it like to be working with cadets? What does it make your character hopeful for in moving to one of the task forces?
- As a lieutenant commander, commander, or captain who is going through the command training program at Bravo Fleet Academy, you likely would have a chance to command this ship under the watchful eye of an instructor with a trainee bridge crew during your time there. What was it like to sit in the center seat for the first time? How did your character fare with their first real taste of command?