Star Trek Expanded Universe

The Highlander class was a type of Federation starship that entered service in the early 2370s after many years in development. (Delta Fleet)



The Highlander-class starship project was an endeavour that started in idle theorization and ended in a chaotic rush for completion.

It began with a "delightfully vague" memo from Starfleet Command arriving at Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards' facility Advanced Starship Design Bureau in the late 2350s. Not much notice was taken at the time, and the memo was classified as low priority, requiring only theoretical work to be done on a possible design for the next twenty years.

The Highlander class was planned to be the next great class of starship, after the Galaxy-class and the developing Sovereign-class had served their day in the limelight. The Galaxy class, just completed by Utopia, was projected at the time to serve as the Starfleet's front line vessel for at least the next twenty years, with the Sovereign class planned to succeed it.

In fact, a design team was not even assembled for the Highlander, and the 'Theoretical Research' of the project was relegated to technical staff being briefed to doodle in their spare time if they could. There was more time dedicated in those first few months to design the project logo than actual research. And so the Highlander project, as well as a few other minor starship projects relegated to the same priority, dwindled on for the next four or five years.

Starfleet's luck started to change for the worse around the beginning of 2365. The first contact between the USS Enterprise-D and the Borg Collective furrowed the brows of the admirals at Starfleet Command, including Admiral J.P. Hanson. The Galaxy-class Enterprise had been severely damaged after encountering a single Borg vessel. Starfleet knew they would be in serious trouble if not even the strongest of their ships would be able to defend itself if the Borg attacked the Federation itself, and signs pointed to that becoming a reality within a decade. Accordingly, Hanson and others brought forward the design schedule of many research projects which would form almost a new breed of starship - the most notable of these being the Defiant class.

However, the Highlander Project received orders only to formalize its research, with the schedule cut back to ten years. The Highlander-class seemed too big a task to undertake at the time, yet a design team had been formed, and theoretical models were drawn up within the next year.

The Borg caught the Federation off guard in late 2366, and Starfleet's last stand at Wolf 359 resulted in devastating casualties. The loss of 11,000 personnel, not to mention the destruction of 39 starships, literally crippled and numbed the Federation.

The painful but necessary task of repopulating the fleet and redeploying what resources they still had got bitterly underway. Starfleet's resources had to be spread thin across the Federation and its outer colonies, and some sectors had to be left totally devoid of Fleet assistance. Starship fabrication did not fare well during this period, either; of the twenty starship frames brought out of storage, four were deemed to have a chance of being space-worthy within the next ten months - and one of these starship frames had not even been brought into production - the USS Bradbury. Research phases for the Akira class, Steamrunner class, and Norway class were hurriedly completed by the middle of 2367, and the misfortune-laden production process was begun. The spaceframe building of the Sovereign-class was also hurried along.

In the midst of this, the Highlander-class was shocked into top priority by Starfleet, and much to Utopia Planitia's objections, the lead ship was ordered to be spaceworthy by 2375.

Chaos ruled for the next two years in the newly designated Highlander-class division. Technicians painstakingly tried to feed data into the computer from notes they had scribbled a year before. The four theoretical models that had been previously completed had been left in a static state once the computer had deemed them theoretically capable of warp flight, once technology caught up in twenty years. Major overhauls were made, and after much testing and revamping, the four possible designs for the Highlander class were submitted to Starfleet in record time.

In 2369, the ASDB breathed a collective sigh of relief when Starfleet Command chose Concept No. 3, primarily because it was the only design that had passed over 75% of the computer's Spaceflight tests. The ASDB had "fudged" on the other results in order to make deadline.

This particular design called for multiple replaceable mission modules as well as the newly-developed concept of variable warp field geometry, pioneered by the Intrepid-class research division.

The 40% reduction in internal volume over the Galaxy class meant that the vessels would be much easier to fabricate en masse. The Highlander team's research into new materials meant a much stronger spaceframe and hull could be built which was not available to the other classes as their first test ships neared completion. Also, the mission-specific modules were developed further so that they were able to be replaced in a matter of hours, allowing the Highlander to have a wider range of mission profiles than ever before, suiting the far-reaching changes in political climate throughout the Alpha Quadrant and beyond.

All these factors combined to make the Highlander class a small, robust multi-mission workhorse with an unprojected lifetime, ready for any circumstance.

Production began in earnest, and for the first time in the Highlander's history, things seemed to be running worryingly smoothly.

Unfortunately things got back to "normal" in 2370, when Starfleet had another serving added to its already overloaded plate of worries: the Dominion.

The starship USS Odyssey, a Galaxy-class vessel, was destroyed by three Jem'Hadar fighters in the Gamma Quadrant. The Dominion were a clear and immediate threat to the Federation, and like the Borg, they were coming, and soon.

With a few teething problems, Utopia Planitia had been able to build three Highlander-class spaceframes by 2371, with a fourth on the way. However, actual internal and external fabrication of these ships had hardly begun. Even though they would be ready within the next three years - two years before they were planned to be finished - Starfleet now needed them sooner. They were deemed as too essential an element to be left out of Starfleet's tactical arsenal when the inevitable confrontation with the Dominion occurred.

In order to bide more time, Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards, on behalf of Captain Sisko pulled the aborted Defiant-class project out of mothballs and submitted the USS Defiant test vehicle for Starfleet's disposal. Thus placated, Starfleet Command finally allowed the Yards eighteen months to complete the first batch of Highlander-class vessels.


The first Highlander-class vessel was declared spaceworthy in mid-2372 and the USS Highlander was launched in a rushed ceremony at Earth Station McKinley. She was then hurried out to patrol the Cardassian border after the Klingon invasion of Cardassia. However, the other two ships needed a further six months' work due to sabotage by unknown agents. Starfleet could do little but concede this, and security was upped at Utopia Planitia to ensure completion.

"Spaceworthy or not," the USS Hunter and USS Lennox were commissioned and launched in a combined ceremony at Antares Fleet Yards in February 2373. The USS Arbuthnot, from the fourth initial spaceframe, followed shortly after that in March.

The lessons learned with the first four vessels made fabrication much easier, and as further resources became available, the manufacture began five further ships in the next year.

In action[]

The Highlander vessels were all mounted at the front line in the Typhon sector when the Borg came in late 2373, along with their counterparts such as the Akira and Norway classes. They performed surprisingly well against the Borg threat, and even though two of these were lost, they were instrumental in slowing the Borg sufficiently before the entered the Sol sector, allowing enough vessels to regroup for the final attack and make destruction of the Borg vessel a possibility when its weakness was finally found. Although casualties were again heartbreakingly heavy, the Highlander class prevented further loss, and still maintains stability.

During the Dominion War, Highlander-class starships commanded five divisions of the Starfleet/Klingon taskforce.

However, the Highlander project was by no means finished, and research continued as more and more vessels were completed in record time. The Highlander class was downsized so much that it would never be the foremost class of starship, but as each vessel came off the production line, the blood pressure of many a Starfleet officer dropped just a little bit more.

Highlander-class vessels[]

First batch[]

  • USS Highlander (NX-79101) - Current status: Undergoing repairs
  • USS Lennox (NCC-79104) - Current status: Active
  • USS Hunter (NCC-79105) - Current status: classified
  • USS Arbuthnot (NCC-79107) - Current status: Active

Second batch[]

  • USS Armstrong (NCC-79112) - Current status: Destroyed
  • USS MacDougal (NCC-79113) - Current status: Active
  • USS Baird (NCC-79114) - Current status: Active
  • USS Stewart (NCC-79115) - Current status: Destroyed
  • USS Bannerman (NCC-79117) - Current status: Active


  • USS Gordon (NCC-79132)
  • USS Forbes (NCC-79133)
  • USS Campbell (NCC-79137)
  • USS Burnett
  • USS MacDonald
  • USS Drummond
  • USS Grant
  • USS Fraser
  • USS Blair
  • USS MacGreggor
  • USS Ramsay



Highlander-class design variant

  • A Highlander-class design-variant also existed with four warp nacelles (shown right).
  • Years later, designer Mark Kingsnorth would create the Insignia-class based on the same design from the Technical Manual.