Klingon Cruisers 2162-2269
Early in the 23rd century, the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire began nearly 100 years of conflict, which was to be resolved only after both sides realized the futility of further competition. Although the respective governments were based on wholly differing philosophies (representative democracy vs atheist imperialism), both were ascendent powers locked in a zero-sum game to expand their spheres of influence at the expense of the other. The origins and political history of the conflict are better left to more detailed discussions, such as Daniel Carlson's acclaimed Galactic Cold War (Starfleet Academy Press, San Francisco, Earth, Sol, 2373) and Tzema Kurnau's classic Earth and Empire (Shinkyu Shuppan, Nuevo Kobe, Maristan, Delta Cygni V, 2298). What concerns us here is a history of Klingon warships opposing the Federation Starfleet and the Romulan Star Empire.
For the Federation historian, investigating the developmental and service histories of Klingon warships is by turns extremely challenging, deeply rewarding, and painfully frustrating. Although the successful conclusion of the Dominion War and the appointment of Worf Rozhenko as Ambassador to the Court of Kahless has enabled some Federation historians to gain access to Klingon military archives, their access is by no means complete. Despite our natural interest in Klingon actions against the Federation, records of some engagements are still deemed to hold secrets that might compromise either the honor or the security of the Empire and remain closed. In addition, as alluded to in the introduction to our article on postwar Romulan cruisers, Klingon military records are fundamentally different from military archives in the Federation. Klingon records comprise mainly battle reports, which often are of questionable or even doubtful accuracy. In such records, Klingon commanders are always brave, combat is always glorious, and outcomes are always victorious. Fortunately, Klingon reports of actions against the Federation can be compared with Starfleet's own accounts. The differences alone are often quite interesting for the insights they give into Klingon beliefs and priorities. However, reports of actions against the Romulans are more difficult to judge, since Federation historians have never been granted access to comparable Romulan archives. In such cases, we present the Klingon versions of the story with the warning that their accuracy cannot be independently verified.
However, the recent opening of the Klingon border has also allowed access to an extremely valuable new resource for students of Klingon technological history. Warships in the Klingon Empire have traditionally been developed and produced by only a handful of Great Houses, which are often held in contempt by other, more politically powerful, Houses because they produce weapons but not warriors. We and other historians have approached the leaders of these ship-building Houses and were greeted warmly, since no Klingon historian had ever shown any interest in their stories. These Houses have granted us nearly unlimited access to their engineering records, which, unlike military records, are extensive, accurate, and complete. This Starfleet Museum history of Klingon warships would not have been possible without their help.