September 7th, 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. Since the original series’ debut in 1966, the science fiction franchise has become a cult phenomenon, inspiring four more television series, an animated series, and a film franchise of thirteen movies, not to mention the upcoming television series Star Trek: Discovery, set to premiere on CBS All Access in January 2017. Star Trek has had a lasting impact on science fiction and pop culture, with a fanbase numbering in their millions worldwide, and has been cited as an influence on several technological innovations, such as smartphones and tablets. The franchise has also been noted for its progressive and forward-thinking values. But what it’s also known for are the compelling themes of exploration of the unknown, and of course, the really cool starships that every fan has dreamed of taking to the stars at one time or another.
Between Romulan Warbirds, Borg cubes, alien probes and planet-eating superweapons, there is no shortage of powerful and iconic ships on Star Trek. They range from the familiar and human to the aggressively dangerous and alien, from vessels designed for peaceful scientific pursuits to battleships and doomsday devices.
Here are 20 of the most powerful ships ever in the Star Trek Universe. Included are craft from all five television series and all thirteen movies, including the alternate timeline. Our criteria for ranking the power of a vessel are size, speed, weaponry, crew capacity, ability to deflect destruction, and general significance for the canon TV series, the movies, and among the fanbase.
20 USS Excelsior
The prototype of her class, the Excelsior was the result of radical new technology and theories of propulsion, dubbed “the great experiment.” The ship was the first Starfleet vessel to be equipped with a transwarp drive, making it the fastest starship in the Federation at the time. Under the command of Captain Hikaru Sulu, the Excelsior fulfilled her first three-year mission of cataloging gaseous anomalies in the Beta Quadrant, and upon returning home, survived the powerful subspace shock wave caused by the destruction of Praxis, a Klingon moon. Excelsior was also able to sneak into Klingon territory, disabling a Klingon battle cruiser with a modulated positron beam along the way, and nearly made it all the way to Qo’Nos.
The Excelsior was rarely viewed in a combat situation, but was shown in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country as being able to destroy the experimental cloaking Klingon Bird-of-Prey in a few shots, and was a powerful enough vessel to be one of the three starships considered for the proposed Operation Retrieve mission.
19 The Narada
While the Narada was a simple Romulan mining vessel in its own time in the late 24th century, it possessed far more advanced weaponry than any ship it encountered in the 23rd century. In the 2009 Star Trek movie, the time-traveling Narada attacks and easily overpowers the USS Kelvin, killing Captain Kirk’s father. Later, the ship attacked a Klingon prison planet and forty-seven Klingon warbirds were destroyed.
The Narada, under the command of Nero, also engineered the destruction of Vulcan in the alternate Star Trek timeline. Nero used the ship’s immense drilling apparatus, capable of emitting a powerful beam that drilled through the planet’s crust all the way to its core, where he injected the planet with red matter, creating a black hole that consumed the entire world in a matter of moments.
Despite being only a mining vessel originally, the Narada possessed formidable weaponry, including missile-like projectiles which could break apart into smaller projectiles and pierce the standard starship’s shielding and hull. More than fifty starships were destroyed in this manner over the course of twenty-five years.
18 USS Voyager
The USS Voyager was one of the earliest Intrepid-class starships launched by the Federation and featured several recent technological innovations that had become available, including bio-neural circuitry, advanced sensors, variable geometry warp nacelles, and the Emergency Medical Holographic program (i.e., everyone’s favorite doctor). Smaller, faster, and more maneuverable than the larger Galaxy-class vessels, Voyager was the first ship to test the class 9 warp drive and was the only ship in Starfleet capable of cruising at warp 9.975.
Like other Federation starships, Voyager was armed with phasers, shields, and photon torpedoes, though its launchers could also be modified to launch quantum torpedoes. Voyager also carried spatial charges and tricobalt devices outside the standard Starfleet armaments. Eventually, the ship would even be outfitted with 24th-century technology brought back in time by a future version of Captain Janeway, including ablative generators and transphasic torpedoes capable of destroying a Borg cube in one or two direct hits.
17 USS Enterprise-D
Rather than just have a shinier version of Kirk’s Enterprise from the original series, the creators of Star Trek: The Next Generation decided to make a new class of starship twice the length and eight times the interior space of the original - the Galaxy class. Perhaps the most adaptable of the main featured starships, the Enterprise-D was equally capable of exploration, combat, science, patrol duty, or simply acting as a comfortable home for its 1,000+ crew. The ship was basically a city inside (they even had a bar and lounge!)
The Enterprise-D was able to generate 12.75 billion gigawatts of power (and that’s just in planetary orbit) and was armed with twelve phaser arrays, two torpedo launchers, hundreds of antimatter mines and a payload of 250 torpedoes. Shields were high capacity and could operate on multiple frequencies. The saucer section was even able to separate from the bottom hull in emergency situations. This Enterprise showed itself to be a highly versatile and powerful opponent, able to match a Romulan Warbird in one-on-one combat. Even if it was unable to outmatch its opponents, such as in the case of a Borg cube, it could easily outmaneuver and outsmart them.
16 Deep Space Nine
Okay, so this one’s technically a space station and not a ship, but seeing as how the station was at least partially mobile and the setting for an entire series, not to mention numerous space battles, it deserves an honorary slot on this list. Deep Space Nine, originally called Terok Nor, was at first just a Cardassian mining facility. For the first three seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, it was a fairly standard space station administered by the Federation. However, by the end of season 4, it became a vital commercial and strategic outpost due to its proximity near the Bajoran Wormhole and the discovery of the Dominion threat. So, placed on the threshold of an interstellar conflict, it underwent a massive military refit.
DS9 was retrofitted with heavier shield generators, 48 rotary mount phaser arrays, 36 stationary phaser emitters, 3 sliding phaser emitters, 48 torpedo launchers, and over 5,000 photon torpedoes. DS9 was able to successfully repel a Klingon invasion during the brief Federation war with the Klingon Empire of 2372-73, and during the initial Dominion invasion of the Alpha Quadrant, DS9 was responsible for the destruction of over fifty Jem’Hadar and Cardassian warships.
15 Negh’Var warship
While not as well-known as the Bird-of-Prey, this Klingon battleship was the largest and most powerful class of starship in the service of the Klingon Empire. The original IKS Negh’Var was the flagship of the Klingon Imperial Fleet under the command of General Martok. The ship saw service during the Klingon-Cardassian War, where it was used to devastating effect, and during a clash with the station was able to inflict damage on a militarily refitted DS9, able to pierce the station’s shields sufficiently to transport Klingon troops aboard.
Measuring in at 2,250 feet (686 meters) long, the Negh’Var class was also heavily armed with phasers, disruptors, and torpedoes, and outfitted with a cloaking device. It could easily prove a match for a comparable Federation and Cardassian ships at the time. Near the end of the Dominion War, several of these ships were in service to the Empire, and it’s easy to see why.
14 Romulan Warbird
The largest and most powerful of the Romulan spacecraft, fans and the crew of the Enterprise-D alike were in awe when the Romulan Warbird was first revealed. Per the Memory Alpha Wikia, the D’deridex class of Warbird “Was the backbone of the Romulan fleet during the later half of the 24th century,” Romulan Warbirds became synonymous with Romulan military might, and participated in several historic battles with both Starfleet and later the Dominion. During the Dominion War, they were instrumental in pushing back Jem’Hadar battleships.
A Romulan Warbird is twice the length of a Galaxy-class Federation vessel and powered by a forced quantum singularity - yes, it is literally powered by an artificial black hole. The battle cruiser was also armed with several directed energy weapons systems, including ten disruptor arrays, capable of firing in the form of both beams and pulses, and torpedo launchers. Some of them were also equipped with phasers.
Most formidable of all, however, is the famous Romulan cloaking device. The Warbird is pretty much synonymous with this stealth technology in Trekkie minds, and for good reason - the ship frequently uses it to deadly effect in combat situations. Not only does it make the vessel invisible to the naked eye, but it masks it to the electromagnetic spectrum and other ship’s sensors.
13 USS Enterprise-E
This Sovereign-class craft was considered the pinnacle of starship design when it was first launched by Starfleet. Appearing in the TNG movies from First Contact to Nemesis and referenced in both Deep Space Nine and Voyager, The fans seemed to agree, as it was voted the best-engineered Starfleet ship by a StarTrek.com fan poll.
The Enterprise-E had twelve phaser arrays and five torpedo tubes designed for use with the new quantum torpedoes, a more powerful alternative to the classic photon variety. Eventually, four more phasers and five more torpedo tubes were added. After its first year in space, it participated in the second Borg incursion into Federation space, where it was shown capable of taking on a Borg cube. The ship was also able to take on the Son’a and Shinzon’s Scimitar competently. A deleted scene from Star Trek: Nemesis also established that the captain’s chair came with a seatbelt, to which Picard quipped, “It’s about time.” Hey, you can’t beat that.
12 USS Vengeance
This vessel from J.J. Abrams’ alternate Star Trek timeline is scary powerful. Making its debut in Star Trek: Into Darkness, the USS Vengeance is the first and only of Starfleet’s Dreadnought class, developed in secret with the help of Khan and operated by the shadowy Section 31. Unlike almost all other Starfleet vessels, the 23rd-century battleship was designed specifically, and only, for combat. Originally designed for what was considered an inevitable war with the Klingon Empire, the Vengeance was twice as large and more heavily armed than any other known vessel. It was also three times as fast, easily outrunning the Enterprise at warp speed.
Largely automated, the Vengeance could even be operated by a single person. In addition to its advanced weapons systems, including powerful phaser arrays capable of piercing the shields of any standard starship and swivel-mounted torpedo launchers, the Vengeance could also launch drones which in turn were armed with their own torpedoes and capable of deliberately ramming their intended targets. The Vengeance was able to easily overpower the Enterprise, and presumably all other ships of the time period.
11 Jem’Hadar Battleship
This Dominion warship is twice the size of a Galaxy-class starship, and three times as powerful. It proved to be a menace for the Federation and its allies during the course of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. When employed by the Jem’Hadar, the military branch of the Dominion, the battleship was more than capable of engaging almost any Federation, Klingon, or Romulan vessel, and more often than not emerged victorious.
Jem’Hadar battleships are immune to tractor beams and easily pierce opponent’s shield. After the crew of the USS Valiant spent three hours scanning and studying one of the battleships, they determined it was a direct threat to every Federation outpost and colony within fifty light years. When they pursued the battle, they were easily destroyed. Many of these ships participated in the Battle of Cardassia during the final stages of the Dominion War and were used to put down the Cardassian Rebellion to devastating effect.
10 Xindi weapons
Thanks to being manipulated into believing that humans were evil and would destroy their future homeworld in the 26th century, the Xindi, an alliance of alien species, decided to send a large mobile particle beam superweapon to destroy Earth. Three of these weapons were built, with the final weapon’s goal being the complete destruction of Earth, The first one - merely a small prototype - bypassed Earth’s defenses and used a powerful particle beam to cut a 4,000-kilometer swath of destruction from Florida to Venezuela, killing 7 million people before self-destructing.
The second of the Xindi weapons was tested in the Calindra system. Though the test didn’t go as planned and the device’s weapons were sabotaged, it was intended to destroy a small moon of a gas giant within the system. The third and “final” Xindi superweapon was specifically designed to destroy whole planets. Its capabilities were shown in an alternate universe where the Xindi launched the weapon before the crew of the Enterprise arrived and the Xindi superweapon destroyed Earth within a matter of seconds.
The massive, heavily-armed warship Scimitar was a unique Reman-made variation on the classic Romulan Warbird that appeared in the film Star Trek: Nemesis. The Scimitar was constructed by Shinzon as part of a plot to overthrow the Romulan Senate, appoint himself as Praetor, and start a war with the United Federation of Planets. It inflicted heavy damage on the USS Enterprise-E and the forces of the Romulan Star Empire during what would become known as the Battle in the Bassen Rift.
The Scimitar possessed fifty-two pulse disruptor cannons and twenty-seven photon torpedo bays, as well as primary and secondary shields. It was thus ready for nearly any kind of combat, having almost five times the weaponry of any other ship. In addition, Geordi La Forge characterized its cloaking technology as “perfect” in that it emitted no tachyons and left no residual antiprotons. It could even fire its weapons and travel at warp speed while cloaked. The ship could also hold Scorpion-class attack fighters. The Scimitar’s ultimate weapon was the ability to convert itself into a powerful thalaron radiation emitter, which was capable of wiping out all life on a planet on a genetic level.
8 USS Defiant
This “tough little ship” as Commander Riker once called it, was a turning point and a game-changer for the Federation. It was Starfleet’s first warship and the prototype for the new Defiant-class of vessels designed specifically for combat. Originally built and designed to fight the Borg, the Defiant was eventually assigned to Deep Space Nine to counter the new threat of the Dominion. From the perspective of the storyline, the appearance of the Defiant also marked the true opening of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
The Defiant was unique among Federation vessels in having little scientific or exploration equipment, not even having living space for families - the ship was entirely focused on military purposes, and was so over-powered with weapons for a ship of its size that it nearly shook itself apart during its experimental trials, initially compelling Starfleet to abandon the project. They reconsidered this position after the destruction of the Galaxy-class starship Odyssey by the Jem’Hadar, and the Defiant was put on active duty.
Armed to the teeth, the Defiant had four phaser cannons in addition to the standard “beam” phaser arrays, which were used to devastating effect against a Borg cube in the movie Star Trek: First Contact. Covered in the most advanced armored hull, it was the first starship to use quantum torpedoes, with six launchers, four in the front and two in the back. It competently took on and defeated Jem'Hadar warships, and was even eventually tricked out with a Romulan cloaking device.
7 Borg Cube
Few vessels on Star Trek are as terrifying or iconic as the Borg cube. As the primary vessel of the Borg Collective, every fight against one resulted in heavy loss of life. At the Battle of Wolf 359, forty Federation ships engaged a single Borg cube. Armed with the tactical knowledge of the recently assimilated Jean-Luc Picard, the Borg managed to destroy thirty-nine of them in a matter of a few minutes. The battle became an infamous defeat in Federation military history. In the film Star Trek: First Contact, an entire fleet was summoned to take down a single cube, and they also suffered heavy casualties.
Borg cubes are massive ships - each one is around three kilometers across and possessing an internal volume of 27 cubic kilometers. It’s estimated they can still function with 78% inoperable. Capable of both warp and transwarp velocities, they can easily chase down the fastest starships. Cubes were also shown to be able to drain the shields of a Galaxy-class starship within seconds with its tractor beam and use similar cutting beams to carve through enemy vessels. Millions of cubes exist within Borg space in the Delta Quadrant, but often times a single cube is enough to assimilate all civilizations on an entire planet.
6 Doomsday Machine
One of the most iconic vessels from Star Trek: TOS, the Doomsday Machine was a nameless, automated device capable of destroying entire planets. The aptly-named “planet-killer” literally ate planets (and ships, and pretty much anything else) that it could fit into its maw, destroying planets with its antiproton beam and fueling itself with the rubble. By the time the machine was encountered by the crew of the Enterprise in the episode “The Doomsday Machine,” it had already destroyed and consumed all seven planets in system L-370.
The planet-killer’s outside hull was made of pure neutronium, rendering it completely invulnerable to attack. It also projected a powerful dampening field that cut off communications and could disable even the most powerful Starfleet vessels with a few shots of its beam. The planet-killer’s tractor beam would then pull the ships into its glowing maw.
Perhaps the most chilling thing about the Doomsday Machine is that its origins remain unknown; it was believed to come from another galaxy outside the Milky Way. Even though it only appeared in one episode, it remains an instantly recognizable fan favorite and has been featured in several non-canon productions.
5 Whale Probe
This unknown cigar-shaped probe came to Earth in order to contact members of the long-extinct humpback whale species in the movie Star Trek IV: the Voyage Home. Virtually any technology ceased to function when exposed to the communications the probe broadcasted. Seven ships, including two Klingon vessels, were disabled by its approach to Earth. The messages broadcasted into Earth’s oceans were so powerful that they began vaporizing the oceans and ionizing the atmosphere of the planet, causing environmental disasters. The best part? It was most likely just an unintended side effect of trying to establish contact with the whales.
The probe was one of the largest vessels ever encountered by Starfleet, measuring at roughly seventy kilometers long and dwarfing both starships and spacedocks. Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons the Whale Probe remains embedded in our memories is that it remains a mystery; its creators were never identified and their motives for broadcasting its messages to Earth remain unknown. Due to its EMP-like powers to disable technology, there was no defeating the probe: instead, they merely placated it by letting it talk to the whales.
The probe seems to have had some level of consciousness, as it restored power to the vessels it had disabled as it departed.
Nomad is an Earth probe launched in 2002 that appeared in the TOS episode, The Changeling. During its mission, it lost contact with Earth and later merged with an alien probe called Tan Ru in deep space. The two machines merged into a small but powerful machine, which due to its faulty programming destroyed everything it labeled as imperfect, a category it extended to all organic life. Before it was first encountered by Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise, Nomad casually “sterilized” an entire solar system, including over four billion people on Malur for not meeting its standards of perfection.
Despite appearing as little more than a one-meter long cylindrical object smaller than an average human, Nomad showed advanced combat capabilities during its encounter with the Enterprise. It was capable of firing an energy beam with the force of 90 photon torpedoes and could travel at warp speed. Nomad’s red energy bolts could travel at warp 15 and track a target, and its defensive screens could deflect counter-attacks with ease. Nomad could entirely block sensor signals, disintegrate nearly anything, drain all knowledge from living beings, affect mechanical changes in the Enterprise’s engines to “upgrade” them, and absorb data from the ship’s computers at a much faster rate than their maximum transmission rate. Nomad even restored Montgomery Scott to life after he was killed by its defensive screens.
Nomad was a nigh-unstoppable entity - it was defeated only through pointing out a logical fallacy in its programming, which caused it to self-destruct. If Kirk hadn’t stopped it, it’s possible Nomad could have gone on to eliminate all life in the galaxy.
3 Species 8472 Bioship
One of the most memorable moments of Star Trek: Voyager is the opening of the two-part episode “Scorpion,” where off-screen Species 8472 bioships effortlessly destroy two Borg cubes. Species 8472 emerged as the first species able to carve through Borg ships like a hot knife through butter, and made a big impression on the Star Trek universe in doing so. Invading from “fluidic space,” the unnamed species used organic ships with biotechnology more advanced than anything the Borg had ever seen. The bioship was heavily fortified and armed with weapons so powerful and frightening they actually necessitated a temporary Federation-Borg alliance.
The relatively small Species 8472 bioships were shown pretty much destroying everything in their path; a group of eight of the vessels, with another energy-focusing ship, was able to destroy an entire planet in seconds, Death Star-style. After a failed Borg invasion of fluidic space, Species 8472 began a systematic extermination of the Borg and other species. Within a period of five months, the bioships were able to destroy tens of billions of drones, and hundreds of Borg-controlled planets. To make them even more epic, each ship only has one pilot and shares DNA with them. Its outer hull was also invulnerable to conventional weaponry, scanners, and tractor beams.
2 Krenim Temporal Weapon Ship
The powers of this craft from Star Trek: Voyager is virtually unlimited. Spearheaded by a Krenim scientist named Annorax, the temporal weapon ship had the power to eliminate its targets from the space-time continuum entirely, even erasing entire species from history. It was first used against the Rilnar, moral enemies of the Krenim, but was also used against the Alsuran Empire, the Malkoth, the Zahl, the Garenor, and the Ram Izad.
When its temporal core is in operation, the vessel and everyone on it stands outside the space-time continuum, rendering it immune to damage by conventional weaponry and protecting its crew from the passage of time, essentially making them immortal. Though the Krenim temporal weapon ship’s greatest weapon is obviously its power to change history, it also sported formidable direct-energy weapons for more conventional combat.
The temporal ship’s core concept would be emulated by the Romulan ship Narada in the 2009 Star Trek movie, but even the Narada couldn’t actually wipe out the Vulcan civilization, whereas the Krenim temporal weapon ship was used to erase countless entire species over the course of two centuries.
Yes, while 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture may not have been as glorious, there’s no denying the awesome power of V’Ger. Taking the form of a mysterious, menacing, luminous cloud the size of a solar system, V’Ger was unlike anything the Enterprise crew, or the Federation in general, had ever encountered. By far the largest vessel ever portrayed on Star Trek, V’Ger’s ship was almost 300 million kilometers across (for comparison, the Death Star was around 160 km), or 82 astronomical units in diameter, or 7.6 billion miles. It possessed blue plasma weapons able to dissolve entire starships and stations in a matter of seconds, and yellow versions hundreds of times more powerful. Needless to say, it is able to destroy entire planets with very little effort.
The vessel, considered a living being with a sentient spacecraft at its center, was described as being able to generate “twelfth-power energy” or a scale beyond that which would be generated by thousands of starships. There’s no doubt about it: V’Ger stomps the Enterprise, plays ball with the Death Star, and holds the undisputed top spot as the most powerful ship ever in the Star Trek universe.