The Cheyenne-class development project was approved in 2338, the design brief for the Cheyenne originally requested a Light Cruiser to counterpart the New Orleans-class Frigate and the upcoming Galaxy and Nebula-class Explorers with the intention of utilising the class as a bridge between the explorers and patrol vessels of the fleet. The Cheyenne was intended to be somewhat faster than its contemporaries in order to allow it to travel out ahead of the main body of a fleet to act as a scout or to act in a first response capacity. In order to accomplish this, the Cheyenne was fitted with four nacelles in the pattern established by the much earlier Constellation-class. While the Constellation was considered to be an overworked yet underpowered vessel, due in part to the four nacelle design, the Cheyenne would benefit from new power generation and management techniques designed to work with class 5 warp drives.
An interesting design feature of the Cheyenne-class is her Shuttlebay, unlike the modern bays that rely on horizontal take-offs, the Cheyenne is equipped with a drop-bay, a feature which had not been seen seen the NX-class vessels of the Earth Starfleet and would not be seen again until the Defiant-class Escort came into service. Occupying a large portion of the bottom two decks of the primary hull, the drop-bay can deploy shuttlecraft faster than most bays and can easily be converted into a refuge that can house up to 500 people during evacuation operations.
Initially, all did not go well with the Cheyenne. Starfleet has relatively limited experience with four nacelle designs, and a good deal of difficulty was experienced with the warp field geometry. Eventually these problems where overcome and the USS Cheyenne, launched in 2344, achieved a maximum speed of Warp 9.2 in trials. However, in December of 2344 the Galaxy project received new specifications calling for a top speed of Warp 9.6. With the prototype about to enter service and five more ships under construction, it was already too late to make any serious attempt to improve the top speed of the Cheyenne, so Starfleet was forced to bring the class into service even though it was somewhat slower than the vessels it was supposed to work alongside.
Over the succeeding years several attempts where made to bring the speed of the Cheyenne up to Warp 9.7, but problems with the field geometry began to re-surface with alarming regularity. This culminated with a test on board the USS Little Wolf; when a new computer control system was tried out the ship created a wormhole effect on its first test flight. Although the Little Wolf survived and there where no casualties, the subspace stress caused severe cracking in the hull structure of all four nacelle struts. The ship was in spacedock for over a year while the struts where replaced. Starfleet suspended production of the class in 2352 after twenty five had been commissioned, mothballing the six ships under construction.
The Cheyenne proved less than successful in service. Her relatively low speed restricted her performance in her designed role, and the class was forced to operate in the role of a Corvette. She is not especially suited to this task - certainly not when compared to the New Orleans-class which was purposely designed for a combat orientated role. As a result the Cheyenne's were given a very low priority for refits and upgrades, and fell considerably behind the rest of Starfleet in this respect.
It wasn't until the Battle of Wolf 359 that the class 'earned its stripes', the USS Ahwahnee fought bravely in the battle before being destroyed along with 38 other Starfleet vessels. Because the fleet was left weakened and because of the Ahwahnee's surprising performance, Starfleet re-evaluated the designs potential and began refitting the mothballed Cheyenne's and those that were still in service, bringing them back up to par with the New Orleans-class.
Although Starfleet planned to retire the Cheyenne's once again in 2370, the hostilities between the Federation and the Klingon Empire and the subsequent war with the Dominion led Starfleet to re-evaluate the Cheyenne's place within the main fleet once again and while the Cheyenne's took several losses during the conflicts, the remaining vessels are still serving Starfleet adequately to this day.
|1||Deuterium Tankage, Deuterium Ejection Systems, Subspace Antennae Assembly, Communication Arrays|
|2||Deuterium Tankage, Auxiliary Tractor Beam Emitters (Fore and Aft)|
|4||Docking Ports (P/S), Structural Integrity Field Generators, Inertial Dampening Field Generators|
|5||Bridge Module: Main Bridge, Captain's Ready Room, Observation Lounge, VIP Quarters|
Secondary Hull: Matter Injector, Engineering Workshops and Laboratories
|6||Environmental Control, Air Filtrators, Shield Generators, Engineering Workshops and Laboratories, Primary Computer Core (Upper Section), Captain's Quarters, Senior Officer's Quarters, Crew Quarters, Guest Quarters, Holodecks 1 – 2|
|7||Sickbay, Medical Labs, Medical Storage, Morgue, Crew Quarters, Junior Officer's Quarters, Guest Quarters, Primary Computer Core (Mid Section), Computer Core Control, Security Offices, Brig, Main Armory, Marine Barracks, Marine Training Facilities, Engineering Workshops and Laboratories, Primary Phaser Array, Tactical Sensors|
|8||Impulse Engines (P/S), RCS Thrusters, Transporter Rooms 1-4, Main Engineering (Upper Floor), Concealed Deflector Array, Deflector Control, Long Range Sensors, Lateral Sensors, Crew Quarters, Science Laboratories, Stellar Cartography/Astrometrics Lab, Primary Computer Core (Lower Section), Crew Mess, Officer's Mess, General Recreation Areas|
|9||Matter/Antimatter Reaction Chamber, Main Engineering (Main Floor), Engineering Workshops and Laboratories, Transporter Pattern Buffers, Shuttlebay Observation Deck, Shuttlebay Machine Shops and Equipment Storage, Shuttlepod and Workbee Storage, Phaser Control and Maintenance, Secondary Phaser Array, Tactical Sensors, Crew Quarters|
|10||Shield Generators, Planetary Sensor Array, Shuttlebay (Main Floor), Shuttlecraft Storage, Shuttlecraft Maintenance Area, Shuttlebay Door Mechanism, Shuttlecraft Launch and Retrieval Systems, Gymnasium, General Recreation Areas, General Work Areas, Crew Quarters|
|11||Cargo Bays, Cargo Transporter 1, Engineering Workshops and Laboratories, Secondary Computer Core (Upper Section)|
|12||Docking Ports (P/S), Structural Integrity Field Generators, Inertial Dampening Field Generators, Secondary Computer Core (Mid Section)|
|13||Torpedo Launcher (Fore), Pre-fire Chamber, Cargo Bays, Cargo Transporter 2, Secondary Computer Core (Lower Section)|
|14||Antimatter Storage Pods, Torpedo & Probe Storage (Fore & Aft), Torpedo & Probe Loading Ports, Torpedo and Probe Workshop, Primary Tractor Beam Emitters (Fore and Aft), Cargo Bays|
|15||Torpedo Launcher (Aft), Pre-fire Chamber, Auxiliary Sensors, Antimatter Storage Pods, Antimatter Ejection Systems, Antimatter Fill Ports, Warp Core Ejection Systems, Waste Reclamation Systems|