The class was originally designed as a replacement for the elder statesman of the fleet, the Miranda-class, in the role of cruiser and deep space fleet escort. The Steamrunner-class was launched in 2353 and quickly slipped into the role of exploration and deep space patrol, working in tandem with the Saber-class, in the expansion of the Federation. Equipped with modest scientific resources and diplomatic facilities, the Steamrunner proved to be a capable stand-alone deep space vessel.
One of the last vessels designed and launched before the debacle at Wolf 359, the Steamrunner-class of starship was the quintessential utility vessel of Starfleet, with a low profile and an increased firing rate for both torpedo banks and phasers. The Steamrunner also incorporated an enhanced threat analysis system and enhanced shield phasing technology. The Steamrunner vessel was less expensive to build than the similar Defiant-class, and although it was less powerful it still offered an impressive payload. Th class was slightly more maneuverable than the Defiant at warp, due to its tighter warp bubble formation.
The Steamrunner is a warship, designated as an escort vessel, like Defiant-class but slightly less powerful. The Steamrunner-class also features a new hull design with the nacelles built into the structure.
The Steamrunner was dedicated to delivering torpedoes, and delivering them fast. However, the excessive torpedo launchers meant everything else - save warp speed - had to be sacrificed. Later, torpedoes could fire with less power, allowing for better protection, but the improvement was modest at best. The Steamrunner was poor in maneuverability, had few phasers, weak shields, but carried a large number of torpedoes, meaning the class was still quite powerful.
Beginning in the early 2390s, the Starfleet Corps of Engineers advocated a plan that called for modular ship designs, where components could easily be switched out or replaced. Modular construction had been a part of Starfleet design philosophy for decades, but was greatly expanded after the Dominion War. As part of this new design system, Starfleet engineers developed the Zephyr subclass of the Steamrunner. The Zephyr-class contained advanced systems and weaponry, but the basic design features of the standard Steamrunner remained present. These included catamaran nacelles that were mounted directly onto the saucer section and a trailing secondary hull, suspended between the nacelles. This meant that the nacelles of the Zephyr-class effectively doubled as the pylons connecting the saucer and secondary hull.
- Steamrunner class article at Memory Alpha, the canon Star Trek wiki.
- Steamrunner class article at Memory Beta, the non-canon Star Trek wiki.
- Blockade Runner Escort article at The Star Trek Online Wiki.