Starfleet began developing the Defiant-class starship as a means of defense against the Borg in the wake of the massacre at Wolf 359 and near-assimilation of Earth in 2367. Starfleet abandoned the project due to design flaws and the seemingly-decreased Borg threat.

However, when the Federation learned of the threat posed by the Dominion in 2370, the prototype USS Defiant was relaunched and assigned to station Deep Space 9, under the command of Benjamin Sisko. (DS9: "The Search, Part I")

During the Dominion War, Joran Belar, who was involved in the development of the Defiant class got the command over another prototype of the Defiant class, the USS Escort. (Star Trek: Unity One)

When the Defiant proved her value in combat against the Dominion, Starfleet commissioned other vessels of the class, many of which played decisive parts in the Dominion War and later conflicts with the Borg. (DS9: "Valiant", et. al; Star Trek: First Contact)

The experimental energy weapon NX Destructor was originally developed for the Defiant class, but only a few ships of the class were equipped with the weapon. Later on other Federation starship classes, such as the Executor-class, it became standard equipment. (Star Trek: Unity One)

On Brandenburger Tor, a series of uprated Defiant-class escorts was constructed that were nicknamed the "Field Marshals". One of them was USS Rommel. Other ships included in the subclass were Guderian, Kesselring and Manstein. ("First Choice", Star Trek: Laughing Sawfish)

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