What Made the USS Defiant of Deep Space Nine Such a Tough Warship: There are plenty of differences between Star Trek and Star Wars. The latter is very much a tale of good vs. evil, even if recent series such as The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett have attempted to cast the far, far away galaxy in shades of gray rather than purely in black and white.
By contrast, Star Trek was conceived as a “Wagon Train in space,” yet also served to depict the complex geopolitics of the 1960s and the Cold War. The fictional Starfleet of the United Federation of Planets wasn’t technically a military organization, but it could fight when needed. With Star Trek: The Next Generation, the primary role of Starfleet was exploration – noted by the inclusion of families, including children, on the flagship of the Federation.
However, as we see in our very real post-9/11 and Cold War 2.0 world, conflict never simply goes away. To maintain the peace, we must prepare for war – and that point was made in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine with the arrival of the USS Defiant (NX-74205).
USS Defiant: The Battleship of the Star Trek Universe
Where the Galactic Empire of Star Wars was seen to build massive “Super Star Destroyers,” which according to StarWars.com were 19,000 meters (11.8 miles) in length – USS Defiant was far more “realistic” in terms of size, and perhaps even capabilities.
It could be argued that Star Wars sought to showcase broadsides between massive warships – and such combat was notably seen in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. By contrast, Star Trek’s capital vessels are seen to be more maneuverable, and such is certainly the case with Defiant.
According to her backstory, the development of the warship began after the initial and hostile “first contact” with the Borg. Following the defeat at the Battle of Wolf 359 – seen in the episode “The Best of Both Worlds,” the third season finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation – Starfleet moved forward with its first true warship.
The vessel made its screen debut in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “The Search,” where it was sent to serve as force projection and a deterrent to the Dominion. The vessel had featured minimal equipment for scientific research, and couldn’t accommodate families.
However, it was described as being overpowered and over-gunned – so much so that it almost shake apart when the engines were tested at full power. She was also equipped with “Ablative armor,” which was designed to disintegrate under enemy fire at a controlled rate, which helped to dissipate the effects of directed energy weapons. In addition, the USS Defiant was the only Federation vessel to be equipped with a Romulan cloaking device – the sci-fi series’ version of stealth technology.
Behind the scenes, the arrival of the ship also allowed the characters serving on the space station to take part in more traditional “Star Trek” universe adventures – including the fan favorite “Trial and Tribble-actions,” which saw a cross-over with the Star Trek: The Original Series, as the actors from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine were digitally added to the classic episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.”
Fighting the Borg and the Dominion
As the USS Defiant had been designed and developed as a warship, it was fitting that it was present at the Battle of Sector 001 – and allowed Commander Worf to appear in the film Star Trek: First Contact, despite him being transferred to Deep Space Nine (DS9). Damaged at the battle, the warship was repaired and returned to DS9, where it remained a fan favorite.
The capabilities of the vessel were then seen in the final seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which involved the only war actually depicted in the Star Trek franchise to date. Described as a “tough little ship,” she was destroyed by an energy-dampening weapon.
In the final season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the USS Sao Paulo was assigned to DS9, and a special dispensation was granted by Starfleet to rename her USS Defiant. That vessel played a vital role in the Federation’s eventual victory in the Dominion War at the end of the series, and she remains the only true “warship” seen in Star Trek canon.
Bonus: Best Real Battleships
Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.