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Why do all Starfleet ships appear to be designed by humans? The Vulcan ship which appears at the end of Star Trek: First Contact is obviously way in advance of what Cochrane has built, and even by the time of Star Trek: Enterprise human warp drive is still lagging behind what other races use. But the NCC-1701 and all the ships that come after follow a clear design lineage from Archer's NX-01, so why did the other Federation members agree to use human ships? Has this ever been established, canon or otherwise? Or do other members use their own designs that we just never see?

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  • The Vulcan crewed Intrepid says everyone used the saucer design by 2260s
    – Jontia
    Dec 29, 2022 at 10:22
  • Because human-designed ships exceeded the Vulcan's (technologically-stagnant) designs by the time they were deciding which designs to use
    – Valorum
    Dec 29, 2022 at 11:40
  • @Valorum This would make sense. I look at the bits and pieces of what we know about how Warp-Field Theory is supposed to work, and the Vulcan warp-ring design looks like it'd be the Warp equivalent of a lawn-dart. Very very good at efficient straight-line travel, but at high speeds it will tend to tumble (restricting it to say.. Warp 5 or 6 as we've seen in Enterprise) and it isn't good at changing directions while at Warp. The Nacelle design affords more control over the shape of the warp-field, and so can manuever more easily and reach much much higher maximum speeds. Dec 30, 2022 at 15:45

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It is mostly speculation based on some small remarks made during the TNG era series.

Starfleet and the federation are two distinct entities. So when the Federation was founded it would be logical to assume that all member worlds still held independent fleets (just like the European Union members have independent armies).

As mentioned in the shows there were Vulcan, Betazoid and other none Starfleet ships flying around and Betazed even had it's own (by the sounds of it Non-Starfleet) defense force during the dominion war. Meaning that other members probably have that as well.

This might explain why the Federation is mainly human in crew and design, because Earth is the only (significant) member that fully committed their fleet to the federation while others have kept their private fleets (or decided to integrate their forces further down the road when the Human design already became the standard). This might be reinforced by the point that Starfleet headquarters is on Earth, making it a more Human organization that serves the Federation as a greater whole.

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    Nah, my theory is that Starfleet and the Federation are both headquartered on Earth because early on the non-human ambassadors got together to decide where they should be and someone suggested Earth. The discussion then went "Because they are not involved in our traditional rivalries?" "Well, yes, but that isn't the most important reason. Have you observed humans? They'll have sex with anyone!" Dec 29, 2022 at 15:51
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Why does Starfleet primarily use human designs?

I'd argue they don't

We see a lot of human-designed ships in star trek that aren't Starfleet vessels.
Almost none of them resemble the Saucer/Cigar/Nacelles combo that forms the basis of most Starfleet designs.
Most of them don't even aesthetically resemble the same materials or manufacturing processes.

Kasidy Yates in Deep Space 9 captains the SS Xhosa. An Antares class freighter, constructed at Luna shipyards in the 23rd century.
That makes it contemporary with most of the slightly older starfleet ships we've seen, but very much during the time of the federation.
It's firmly a civilian human design.

It looks nothing at all like a Starfleet ship. No saucer, no nacelles. It's a lumpy boxy thing that wouldn't be out of place in Battlestar Galactica or Star Wars.

Maquis Raiders
It's not entirely clear to me whether these are a human design but they're operated entirely by the Maquis, who are mostly human and ex-federation insurgents.
What's clear though is that no part of them looks like Starfleet equipment.
They're, again, more rough-and-ready in their aesthetic.

I read them as a Non-starfleet human design, probably a repurposed runabout-type ship converted into a combat-craft.

Then there's the Holoship from Star Trek Insurrection.
Basically a flying brick with almost no recognisable Starfleet influences.
I'm not entirely clear whether it's meant to be starfleet at all. The dialog in the story claims is that it is, but the (non-canon) novels suggest that it's a Section-31 ship operating under a false-flag, and not based on any starfleet design.
Which arguably makes it a Human-designed non-starfleet ship as well. Makes sense to me anyway.

Then there's La Sirena from Star Trek: Picard. Which has two nacelles, but otherwise doesn't look starfleet at all either. I don't recall whether it was ever said to be a starfleet design, but nothing about it feels particularly Starfleet outside of the technology on display.


The clear implication to me is that Starfleet designs and operates its own ships, distinct from those of its member races, even humans.

All starfleet ships can therefore follow a clear design-schema, with common components shared across them for compatibility and cross-training reasons.

If they used a mix of ships from their member-races, then they couldn't share crews. An engineer on a human-designed ship would not be trained to work on an Andorian or Tellarite ship and would need cross-training.
Whereas if the whole fleet is using a common and agreed-upon standard, all Starfleet engineers can operate on all starfleet ships regardless of class, with minimal extra training.

This makes a lot of sense to me, and it explains why we generally don't see ships from the member-races operating as part of starfleet.

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Individual members of the federation have local defense forces covering their worlds and systems and are like the United State's National Guard. Some members maintain their own fleet of ships that are not Starfleet but are exploratory--military ships are limited by treaty to certain specifics I can no longer remember where I saw them. So Vulcan, Andoria, Betazed, and a few others have sizeable fleets that are non-Starfleet but which technically defer to Starfleet in matters concerning issues between worlds in the federation or the member world and another civilization.

When the Federation was formed and Starfleet initiated, ships that were not consigned to planetary defense were absorbed into the Federation, so initially, you had ships from Earth, Andor, Tellar, and whichever others, like Denobulus, joined early on all mixed together in a united command structure. Over time I'm guessing various reasons led to ship design coalescing around the Earth-standard concepts of a disc or globe or swept ovoid or triangle attached by pylons to either a secondary hull and then by other pylons to warp nacelles or just to one or two or up to four warp nacelles, but those designs incorporated all the science of all the other federation members. I'm not sure why so many ships were mostly segregated as mostly Human ships or mostly Vulcan or Andorian--I can only assume that it has something to do with operating styles or possibly just prejudice, though that seems odd for the Federation. There's never been all that much in canon about that, and everything there is merely opens the doors to speculation without offering much to satisfy the thirst for definitive answers. There are other ship construction yards in other Federation member systems, though, so it's clear that it's not just humans designing and building these ships, just that Starfleet has settled on Human-inspired designs. The details of why haven't ever been sufficiently explored in canon. I'd be very interested in seeing a show episode that had that as a setting though--an early Starfleet ship manned mainly by Tellarites, say, or the 40 Eridani A Starfleet Construction Yards, run by Vulcans.

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. The whole point of the question is why use Human designs? It doesn't matter much who builds ships where, if all the ship's are built to Human-originated designs.
    – DavidW
    Dec 30, 2022 at 1:10

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