While not strictly military (according to the designers Eaves and Sternbach, they were not "escort" vessels, more like "sports car heavy cruiser"), and usually used for diplomacy and exploration, Sovereign still packs a punch, more than Galaxy-class vessels, due to how many torpedo launchers they have. They're also tougher (finally, a non-custom ship with real armour, even if only around critical areas). It's overall a better ship, stronger in battle, even if that's only because it's more technologically advanced.

They were introduced to service before 2373, and the Dominion War lasted until 2375. So why weren't they used in battles?

I can't remember where, but I read that they were "used to put out diplomatic fires". Why not use smaller vessels for these tasks, like the Intrepid, which was sent to Romulus, arguably a mission much more important than any of these unspecified "diplomatic fires"? The only time we saw a Sovereign in Deep Space Nine was on a computer screen, a silhouette.

What were the Sovereign-class vessels doing during the war? There had to be a few. There was the Sovereign itself, then the Enterprise, and some I can't remember by name.

I'm looking for both in-universe and tv explanations.

  • 2
    “finally a non-custom ship with real armour” Finally! Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 11:10
  • @PaulD.Waite wasn't the Defiant the only armoured ship before Sovereign came into picture? And the Defiant is pretty much one of a kind at the time of DS9 it was originally Sisko's middle finger for the Borg. They made only 3, and only two were active at the same time, and two were destroyed, so most of the series there was only one operational Defiant-class vessel.
    – Petersaber
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 10:11
  • I’m sure it was. It’s just, you know — the difference between armour and shields in Star Trek is fictional and pretty much entirely arbitrary. Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 10:26
  • @PaulD.Waite No, by armour I mean reinforced hull plating designed to withstand weapons fire. I think it was called "ablative armor". The Defiant was the first ship to use it. Previously, Federation used generic hull plating designed for non-military purposes. Only one source claims that Galaxy-class was the first one (TNG tech manual), but other sources contradict that (DS9)
    – Petersaber
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 15:10
  • I know, I’m just saying that such plating is only an upgrade on shields because the writers say it is. Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 15:17

6 Answers 6


What were the Sovereign-class vessels doing during the war? There had to be a few.

Sure, but probably not very many compared to older starship models, given that they’d only recently been introduced.

It’s therefore not a huge surprise that we don’t see much of them in Deep Space Nine. There’s lots of war going on that we don’t see, and plenty of important battles and missions elsewhere. The few Sovereign class ships were probably spread quite thinly.

I’d also speculate that you might tactically want to save your most powerful ships for when you really need them, rather than sending them into battles like the one that re-took Deep Space Nine. Remember that when the Federation first heard of the Dominion, they sent a ship from their then-flagship Galaxy class through the wormhole as a show of strength, and that didn’t work out so well.

Finally, “diplomatic fires” may actually be very important — for example, for securing war resources, or preventing a race from joining the enemy. A shiny, powerful ship could be much more effective than an older or war-damaged one in convincing wavering allies that the Federation was strong enough to side with.

  • Well, they DID use the Intrepid for Romulus, which IMHO was far more important than any other mission of that kind. And yeah, the third paragraph makes sense, even if the Defiant's crew most certainly didn't care for that logic. But it's in the name, so.
    – Petersaber
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 10:15
  • 2
    @Petersaber: sure, but as far as anyone else knew, the Intrepid was just attending a medical conference. The whole point was for the Romulans not to realise that it was on an important mission. Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 10:23
  • @Petersaber: and regarding the Defiant, true, although when it’s introduced it’s kind of described as an engineering failure. The fact they didn’t make many more probably shows that, overall, it’s not one of the most powerful ships at their disposal. Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 10:29
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    IIRC only two Sovereign-class ships were made, the Sovereign and the Enterprise. I don't think any mention was ever made of any others. Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 13:21
  • @PointlessSpike - Memory-Alpha lists the Enterprise, and three more as "suspected". But that's just TV shows and movies. Memory-Beta, which includes books, lists like 40+
    – Petersaber
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 15:04

A real world explanation for the absence of the E and her sisters is that the producers and studios wanted to save the Sovereign-Class design for the movies.

The Intrepid-Class (USS Voyager), was similarly not included in the DS9 fleet scenes (The Intrepid sent to Romulus being the exception) because the producers did not want the audience to think that Janeway and crew were suddenly back in the alpha quadrant fighting instead of exploring the delta quadrant.


Whilst this is from the non-official canon within the novels; the Enterprise did take part in the Dominion War fighting on the front lines and launching covert operations into Cardassian space. This particular story line was in the Dominion War book series, the first and third book of which involve the Enterprise and can be found here and here.

It is explained in this book that the Enterprise has been fighting on the front lines for a while, and that the Cardassian ships are eager to bag a prize as large as the Enterprise.


I would assume that they were utilized in a manner similar to, though not in actuality, the Iowa class battleships of the USN. The USN did not put these ships at the front lines because they were BIG targets, they were EXPENSIVE, and they didn't want to run the risk of losing such a powerful ship. The IJN was similar in comparison as the Yamato class rarely saw action until 1944/45 when it was too late for them to have a noticeable impact on the war. In retrospect, the Sovereign class may have also been too much of a gamble because of the track record of the pathfinder USS Sovereign as stated in Star Trek: Bridge Commander.


Sovereigns are fleet in being ships. You don't send such ships out to the front line unless they are desperately needed. You keep them in places you want to prevent raids, since anything less than a fleet would be incapable of engaging them. Nobody will risk attacking the area because to do so would mean pulling a whole fleet to attack, which would weaken you position at the main battle line. So they are both kept safe from attack, and prevent attacks at the same time. If you deploy such a ship to the front lines though, they will be massive targets. Everyone will know what they are, and will focus on taking it out first, and you will surely lose it.


The E-E was the first sovereign class ship. It was the only one until 2375. The first sovereign class was meant to be the USS Honorius but the E-D was destroyed at the Battle of Veridian III 2 years before its completion. the USS Honorius was renamed the E-E. Also, it had the best firepower. Pulling it to the front lines will get it destroyed (like the USS Odyssey), so they left it in case the Dominion actually go through. The E-E is a fleet in one ship. It took out a Borg Cube and Sphere (although there were a dozen ships to help the E-E including the USS Defiant) multiple Son'a Battlecruisers (although sustaining heavy damage and a warp core) and the Scimitar (although it had the help of 2 Romulan Valdore class cruiser briefly).

  • 1
    Sources for your information would improve your answer.
    – Politank-Z
    Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 15:23
  • 1
    Are you saying it was the first of it's kind or the only one that lasted until 2375?
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 18:09
  • Traditionally, the first Sovereign-class ship would be the USS Sovereign. Production issues could prevent it from being the first ship to enter active service, but it would have been the first to begin construction. What's the reference for this USS Honorius?
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Dec 17, 2020 at 18:22
  • @T.J.L. The USS Sovereign is covered, among others, by the video game Star Trek Bridge Commander. As a prototype ship, there were a lot of trials and tribulations during development, and the Enterprise was the first Sovereign class starship to be put into active service because of this. The Sovereign was refit at a later point to address the issues. I do not know off the top of my head whether the USS Sovereign participated in the Dominion War or in the aftermath, but it was involved in at least one Cardassian conflict.
    – Tom Lint
    Commented Oct 17, 2022 at 11:42
  • @TomLint That's not the question I was asking the poster, the exact opposite in fact.
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Oct 17, 2022 at 12:09

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