Pathfinder Class

From Bravo Fleet
This article is official Bravo Fleet canon.

Federation Faction Starfleet

The Pathfinder-class long-range science vessel is a modernized and specialized version of the Intrepid-class light explorer, intended to handle scientific missions far from Federation space. Just as the Intrepid was intended as a smaller counterpart to the Galaxy-class explorer, the Pathfinder is a smaller and much faster companion to the Sutherland-class research cruiser. Packed with the most advanced scientific equipment available, this nimble vessel brings bleeding-edge advancements to the darkest corners of the frontier.

Science and Exploration

The Pathfinder has the specialization of a science vessel with the extreme range of an explorer. Compared to the Intrepid, she has a similar range but less endurance, as her smaller hull allows for fewer consumables or spare parts. A substantial portion of the primary hull's volume is taken up by the advanced secondary deflector array just forward of the bridge, which provides power and focusing ability to the ship's long-range sensors, space which is used for cargo storage and crew accommodations aboard the Intrepid. In effect, this means that the Pathfinder is often sent to chart a specific course or to investigate a narrow area, while an Intrepid is more capable of wandering for longer periods of time. This approach parallels the much larger Vesta-class explorer which has a high top speed and is often sent out to answer a specific question rather to turn over every comet and asteroid in an area of space.

With more science labs than the Nova or Grissom, the Pathfinder's primary limitation is its overall crew size, which is greater than either of these two small surveyors but reduced from the Intrepid. Unlike the Sutherland, which is a university in space, the Pathfinder has focused and lean science departments. To keep their mission profiles versatile, these departments usually have just one specialist in each major area, but more generalists than ships of a similar assignment, allowing teams to shift to the appropriate discipline as necessary. Some vessels of this type are fitted out as extreme specialist units, though, with an entire crew dedicated to the study of one scientific area. Thanks to the modular nature of Starfleet vessels, a quick refit of the science labs could allow a ship of this class to be configured for archaeology, biology, or almost anything else on short notice. Given that this class has just entered service, though, there are still more generalist Pathfinders than specialist Pathfinders.

Unique to this class is a set of two bands of lateral sensors on the ventral side of the primary hull, which complement the band on the edge of the hull that is also found on other starship types. This extra surface area for scientific equipment makes it very easy to configure the Pathfinder for both its primary mission and to carry experiments and sensor pallets for secondary missions. The second and third bands also contain miniaturized deflector technology, which allows them to be used to focus on targets much further away than is normally possible with lateral sensors. The design of the main deflector also provides more space for mission-specific equipment.

The Pathfinder carries a modest stock of probes but also has a dedicated probe fabrication lab, which allows new probes to be prototyped and deployed in the field. As on the Intrepid, two doors on the ventral surface of the primary hull connect via shafts to labs within the interior of the saucer, allowing for the launch and retrieval of both probes and personnel in EV hardsuits.


Pathfinder-class starships are not intended for significant diplomatic duties, but their nature as long-range starships means that they have been equipped for first contact missions. They have guest quarters and conference areas that can be configured to a wide variety of atmospheres and gravity levels, which allows them to accommodate most visitors with ease. For the most complex diplomatic assignments, they must rely on their holodecks to provide additional conference spaces. Generally, a Pathfinder captain is likely to only undertake a first contact mission if they are sure they have already been detected by a new race, as it would usually be better to summon a diplomatic ship to do so instead.


The resemblance between this class and the Intrepid is clear, as the Pathfinder was specifically ordered as a streamlined and modernized version of the older class, optimized for deep space science assignments. While her overall length remains roughly the same, the Pathfinder is four decks shorter than the Intrepid with a corresponding decrease in internal volume. All of the cargo holds from the primary hull were removed, and so cargo operations on the Pathfinder are centralized in a large set of cargo holds under the stern of the ship.

Small craft facilities have also been shrunk, though the Pathfinder retains a docking cradle for an integrated runabout. This cradle is itself modular, and so captains may choose between an Aeroshuttle and a Waverider from amongst the standard offerings or other craft like a Captain's Yacht. In theory, this module could also be committed entirely in favor of a large piece of scientific equipment or additional fuel tanks, but this has not yet been tested.

Warp performance aboard the Pathfinder has been optimized with hull changes to enhance the integrity of the warp field, though this class retains the same basic design of warp engine developed for the Intrepid. With enhancements over the years, it now falls between the Intrepid and Vesta in terms of top speed. Because this design has been used for nearly 30 years, advances in automation have led to a smaller engineering staff, but it is still packed with enough cutting-edge technology and delicate systems to make it a challenge for any engineer. Unlike the Intrepid, the Pathfinder only has a single matter/antimatter reaction assembly, i.e. warp core. The warp nacelles are articulated for variable geometry flight, raising for warp travel and lowering for impulse flight. The Pathfinder also has a set of two small impulse jets in the primary hull to enhance maneuverability.

As with the Intrepid, the Pathfinder is capable of routine planetary landings.


Like the Intrepid, the Pathfinder is a well-armed vessel, as Starfleet recognizes the dangers faced by ships on long-distance missions. Any Pathfinder captain understands that they are often going to be weeks from assistance, so they must be prepared to defend themselves. To this end, the Pathfinder has thirteen Type-XII phaser arrays spread around the vessel to provide comprehensive phaser coverage. Two forward torpedo launchers flank the main deflector and two aft launchers are located just behind the bridge, as on the Intrepid. In addition, the ship has two pulse phaser cannons flanking the secondary deflector, as on the Vesta, to give it enough of a bite to dissuade raiders. These cannons are easily brought to bear thanks to the ship's high degree of maneuverability.

The Pathfinder's smaller size compared to the Intrepid means that it has lower overall fuel reserves and smaller reactors, meaning that its combat endurance is also more limited. While a dedicated tactical vessel like the Manticore-class heavy escort could expect to go toe-to-toe with threats for many hours, a Pathfinder must strike quickly and cleanly before making its escape. Ships of this class just don't have the ability to wear an enemy ship down and need to get to safety before their own reserves are depleted. A favored tactic for this class is an alpha strike involving a full volley of from the phaser cannons with a spread of torpdoes designed to distract an enemy or stun them as the Pathfinder retreats.

Because of their advanced scientific systems, Pathfinder class ships can usually see threats from many lightyears away, which gives this class utility as a reconnaissance platform during tactical campaigns, but Starfleet is unlikely to commit a ship of this class to any serious or sustained combat operations, as they are too valuable for scientific purposes.

Shipboard Life

Accommodation standards aboard a Pathfinder are roughly equivalent to those aboard the Intrepid, though with several decades of minor improvements in terms of things like shipwide holographic projectors and higher fidelity replicators. The number few specialized recreation areas (like gyms or pools) has been reduced, meaning that the crew must rely on holographic recreation for physical fitness, but there are no less than five lounges with large windows spread across the ship for crew members to take in a meal or grab a drink. Somewhat oddly for a Starfleet ship, there are no lounges that face directly forwards, which is thanks to the ship's large secondary deflector. This means that the favored crew lounge for senior officers is often the aft lounge under the shuttlebay. Medical facilities are advanced but compact.

Pathfinder-class ships are still cutting edge, and so they are a prime posting for any science officer or engineer. Pilots often are excited to join their ranks as well, given their high top speed at both warp and impulse. Command of a Pathfinder would be a serious feather in the cap of any officer, and this is not the type of assignment that generally falls to a green leader. Still few in number, these ships are assigned only to the most important scientific missions, which gives the ships an atmosphere of focus and seriousness, with excitement and tension at the prospect of finding something new bubbling under the surface. Crews aboard these ships also recognize that they are likely to be separated from their families for extended periods of time, so they savor the small windows they have of real-time connections with home.

Pathfinder-class History

The Pathfinder-class design was ordered in tandem with the Sutherland-class research vessel and was heavily influenced by the design of the Vesta-class explorer, all of which debuted in the late 2390s. While the Intrepid-class light explorer had served ably with a science bent for the past few decades, Starfleet wanted to take that design further to develop a pure science vessel using a similar space frame. This new design would use the same bleeding-edge equipment deployed on the Sutherland with the high top speed and tactical independence of the Vesta, at the expense of the Intrepid's ability to sustain long-duration missions and serve in a more generalist capacity.

The design process continued throughout the 2390s, with Pathfinder herself beginning construction in 2395. The prototype was launched in 2398 while other units were brought online later in that year. Following shakedown cruises, the class formally entered service in 2400.

The Pathfinder In-Play

  • Outwardly resembling the Intrepid and using similar components, the Pathfinder is a more specialized vessel intended specifically for scientific missions far from home. Smaller and faster than the Sutherland and much more capable than the Nova and Grissom, this ship rounds out Starfleet's scientific fleet.
  • Compared to the Intrepid, this ship is smaller and slightly faster, but much less versatile.
  • This was a brand-new ship in 2400, so they are extremely rare still and command of one would be a significant achievement.