You are on page 1of 8

HISTORY OF STARSHIP

BRIDGE LAYOUTS
BY
CMDR. BERNARD GUIGNARD and CPT. EUGENIO ANGUEIRA

The bridge has always been the nerve center of all ships, whether they sail the seas or soar
through the stars. In this article we will review various bridge layouts for those ships that soar the
stars, the ships of Starfleet.
In the early days of Starfleet starship bridges were, to say the least, haphazard and not well
thought out. This created problems for the command staff, particularly during combat situations,
which needed to be addressed. When the decision to build Class One exploration Heavy Cruisers
was made, namely the Constitution-class, the team of Starfleet engineers assigned to the project was
instructed to review the recommendations made by the officers who had served on starships to date.
As a result, a more practical bridge layout was developed, one in which the captain could receive
information with great efficiency; a bridge that could actually function as the ships nerve center.
The layout was so well accepted that it was utilized in all Class One starships designed at the time,
namely the Ptolemy-class tugs, and the Saladin-class destroyers.
The first bridge design to be developed, the MK9BR-SH1, can be seen in Figure 1. This layout was
introduced with the Constitution-class and in the USS
Constitution herself. The internal layout for this bridge
design stayed almost the same for about 20 years. The
only revision made to this bridge design was introduced
as the SH2 with the upgrade of the Constitution-class to
the Achernar
subclass. This
layout (Figure
2) differs by the
addition of a
Figure 1. MK-9BR-SH1
door next to the
m a
i n
viewscreen, for access to the bridge Jeffries tubes, and
repositioning of several stations.
Further review of captains logs revealed that a
single turbolift elevator proved to be inconvenient in many
situations. It was, therefore, decided to address this
Figure 2. MK-9BR-SH2
inconvenience by the addition of a second turbolift shaft.
This required changes to the exterior hull design as well,
which were first introduced in the USS Hashira, a Surya-class exploration frigate. This bridge
layout, the SH3, resulted in an internal layout which no longer was skewed in an angle as with prior
layouts. This layout also introduced a forward-facing tactical station, separate from the helm.

-2-

Figure 3 shows a representation of this bridge design.


With the development of the Soyuz-class, a vessel
intended to function as a tactical frigate, it was decided to
once again add a door on the bridge that would permit
access to the ships Jeffries tubes for easier repairs. A
more traditional arrangement was decided for the bridge
stations, however, as can be seen in figure 4.
Despite its acceptance, the SH4 bridge was not
utilized broadly. Most captains favored the forwardfacing tactical station separate from the helm (as in the
SH3 bridge) while the engineers preferred a design that
Figure 3. MK-9BR-SH3
incorporated a door for easy access to the Jeffries tubes (as
in the SH4). In
order to satisfy the needs of both groups a new layout was
introduced that integrated both features. This layout was
incorporated into the larger exploratory cruisers, namely
the Tikopai-class, and received wide acceptance. It was,
however, only a step before a major bridge redesign and
represented the last of the MK-9BR bridge types.
As Starfleet continued to grow, so did the variety
of missions that were required of the fleet. This
demanded that
newer ships be
designed that
Figure 4. MK-9BR-SH4
could fulfill all
the required
tasks and led to a major refit of ships in the 2270's given
that the aging Constitution-class and ships of similar
design were no longer enough to achieve Starfleets
mandate. Since a major overhaul of all ships was being
done and new technologies were being introduced, the
Starfleet Corps of Engineers decided to introduce an
entirely new bridge design that could incorporate the new
technologies available which, in effect, would be
Figure 5. MK-9BR-SH5
modular. This would allow for a bridge module to be
attached to a ship that would be more appropriate to that
ships mission at the time. Such a modular system would also permit easier upgrading when
necessary.

-3-

The modular bridge system, MK-10BR, was first


introduced with the design upgrade for the Constitutionclass, also referred to as the Enterprise-subclass. The
Enterprise herself became the test bed for the new bridge
design (Figure 6) which saw action prematurely because
of the VGer Incident. Her bridge design, the MK-10BRMH1, was so well received that it was integrated into
several ship designs for the next 5 years without major
changes. This bridge design placed the science station in
between the turbolift elevators and introduced extendable
components that gave the science officer access to Figure 6. Modular Bridge System/MK-10BR
various pieces of hardware that could be modified for
mission-specific tasks. This bridge design also incorporated a separate tactical station in the same
location as in prior bridge layouts given the advantages noted from this design concept. Something
new as well was the addition of a docking port to the aft section of the bridge. This not only allowed
shuttles and pods to dock at the bridge, but for egress from
the ship, if needed.

Figure 7. MK-10BR-MH1

Just as the Enterprise herself did not remain unchanged


during her years in service, neither did her bridge. At the
end of Kirks second five-year mission, some
modifications were made to the ship and the bridge. Per
Commander Spocks recommendation, the science station
was moved next to the starboard turbolift elevator. This
change allowed for easier communication between the
captain and his science officer without the captain having
to turn his chair 180 degrees. It also freed the area
between the turbolifts for traffic.

Further recommendations included the addition of a bridge head which could be accessed
via the turbolifts, and the addition of battery units and
independent life support units which would allow the
bridge to function independently of the rest of the ship in
the event of severe damage to the ship. Explosive bolts
were also added that would permit the bridge to function
as a lifepod in the event of an extreme emergency. This
new layout, the MH2, became the most widely used
design at the time, seeing service not only in Heavy
Cruisers but Frigates and Tugs as well.

Figure 8. MK-10BR-MH2

-4-

T
h
i
s
bridge layout also underwent some modifications resulting
in three more layouts that were used primarily in a few
Constitution-class starships. The first of these was the
MH-3. This bridge layout was designed to be used on
newly-built starships only while these were being tested
for performance. It was not intended to be any vessels
final bridge. It was first used in the USS Enterprise-A
immediately after its commissioning (the bridge module
was replaced shortly after the ships first run and before
Kirks encounter with Sybok). This layout had minimal
changes when
Figure 9. MK-10BR-MH3
compared to the
MH-2 but was
given a different designation because of its purpose. Its
most obvious change was the addition of certain structural
hardpoints. Yet another modification of this layout was
developed but never used, the MH-3a. This new layout
rearranged the bridge stations to the more traditional setup
because it introduced a new touch-screen system for the
stations
that
would permit
them to be
Figure 10. MK-10BR-MH3a
reprogrammed
for
different
tasks. The concept was accepted by both engineering
and command staffs but instead of using the MH-3a, an
entirely new bridge was developed for mass utilization of
the concept. This new layout, the MH-4, was introduced
in another Constitution-class vessel, the USS America, of
the America-subclass. The performance of the new
systems in this bridge layout was well beyond
expectatio
ns.
The
Figure 11. MK-10BR-MH4
ability to
change the configuration of a bridge station by means
of software allowed for reassignment of vital functions
to a different station with far more ease during combat
situations (should the primary station be damaged) and
maintained functionality even in extreme situations.

Figure 12. MK-10BR-MH5

An entirely new bridge setup was developed for


Dreadnoughts of both Federation- and Ascensionclasses. This layout, the MH-5, was intended to be

-5-

used for flagship functions and included additional bridge


stations in the traditional position of the helm station and
provided a seat for both the flag officer and the commander
of the vessel. This bridge was elongated given the need to
place airlocks at either side due to the central nacelle on the
saucer section. This bridge layout was chosen in favor of a
layout that was only seen in schematics and which never
received a designation other than EX-1. The EX-1 did not
allow for the two airlocks but did provide a conference room
on the bridges aft section. Despite the advantage of having
the conference room in the bridge deck, the concept was
abandoned and never saw construction.
As with the Dreadnoughts, Starfleet Command
requested that a new bridge be developed for the
Shuttlecarriers as well. This new bridge (MH-6) was to
be used first on the Fredrikstad-class and was first
introduced with the USS Malverne. While this bridge
used the same technologies of the MH-4 and MH-5
bridges, it required somewhat different bridge stations to
deal with shuttle traffic and management. It also
changed the location of the turbolift doors to a more
forward position. Because the turboelevators were kept
in the same traditional location, access to the bridge
required walking through a short hall before entering the
bridge proper. This actually proved to be better for
security but was an inconvenience to the command staff.

Figure 13. EX-1

Figure 13. MK-10BR-MH6

The idea of relocating the turboelevators to a more


forward position remained, however, and this concept was
utilized in the next upgrade to the bridge of the
Constitution-class ships. This new bridge was introduced
in the USS Enterprise-A. The MH-7 bridge not only
relocated the turbolift doors but the elevators themselves,
using smaller units than before. The repositioning of the
elevators allowed for the space aft of the bridge to be used
for an officers mess room, a captains ready room, and a
full EVA suit locker room. This new layout was used in
all Heavy Cruisers for many years without major
modifications.
Figure 14. MK-10BR-MH7

New layouts were developed for use in science


vessels, battleships, and star liners. The MH-8 was the preferred design for the latter and was used
in the Sunshine-class.. This bridge parted with all prior design concepts. While the turboelevators

-6-

remained in the aft section of the bridge, no stations were


placed in the area. The only aft stations were stand-up
stations facing forward on either side of the captains chair
and directly behind the captain. This bridge layout was
designed so VIP passengers could view the workings of
the bridge at the captains discretion.
Though the role of a science vessel is very different
from that of a battleship, the bridge designed for one could
be used for the other after some modifications. This
Figure 15. MK-10BR-MH8
layout, MH-9, also parted from the more traditional
designs. The aft docking port was completely removed
and, instead, the area was left open for bridge access for
the turbolifts. An engineering schematic of the ship was
added to the aftmost section of the bridge and a tactical
station was placed just aft of the Captains chair. All other
bridge station, with the exception of helm and navigation
were placed at either side. First introduced in the
Illustrious-class, this bridge saw many years of service in
science and battle vessels.
In the year 2284 Starfleet introduced the USS
Excelsior, The Great Experiment, as she was known.
This vessel was intended to be the most advanced ship in
the fleet and, as such, was equipped with the latest in
Figure 16. MK-10BR-MH9
technology; including the new transwarp drive. When first
co mmissio ned,
the Excelsior was fitted with a new bridge layout that was
different from the standards of the era. This layout, the
EX-2, had two turbolift elevators but access to the bridge
was through a single doorway. The elevators opened into
a staging area in the aft section of the bridge. This aft
section also provided space for a captains ready room, an
officers mess, and the bridges head. The bridge itself had
the traditional arrangement with stations in the outer
perimeter and helm/navigation in the center area.
Despite the failure of the transwarp experiments in
Excelsior-class starships, Starfleet found the design of the
vessels themselves to be sound and saw no reason to reject
Figure 17. EX-2
the design. Because these vessels were larger than most
other starships, so were their bridges. After the acceptance of the addition a captains ready room
in the MH-7 bridge, it was decided that this concept would remain with the bridge for the Excelsior

-7-

and her sister ships. Even an office for the first


officer has also been added with this bridge layout.
Also the idea previously established with the EX-1
bridge, a conference room, was revived with this
layout, the MH-10. This conference room can be
reached through a passageway located in the central
aft section of the bridge. Like the traditional bridges
of the Heavy Cruisers, this bridge had the bridge
stations on the periphery of the bridge with the helm
and navigation stations in the lower part of the deck.
Access to the bridge is by two turbolift elevators
Figure 18. MK-10BR-MH10
which have doors opening in a more forward
position, like in the MH-6 bridge. The elevators
themselves, however, were of the smaller units used in the MH-7 layout.
In her history, the Excelsior-class underwent
to upgrades, the Ingram- and Enterprise-subclasses.
The upgrade to the Ingram-class occurred within a
few years of service of the Excelsior-class and was
limited to a small number of ships. The upgrade,
nonetheless, led to the development of a new bridge
layout for this subclass of ships, the MH-11. While
the overall concept of this bridge was similar to the
MH-10, the arrangement of the stations was less
circular.
The command area was longer and
additional stations were added so the ship could
Figure 19. MK-10BR-MH11
perform the function of flagship in combat situations
(the Ingram-class was intended to function as a Space
Control Ship and would be used mostly in command of fleets as needed). Two tactical stations were
added at either side of the captains chair as well as two stations for fleet operations just behind the
captain. Access to the ready rooms, the airlock, and bridge heads was through a door located in the
aft central position of the bridge.

Figure 20. MK-10BR-MH12

With the upgrade of the Excelsior-class to the


new standards established with the Enterprisesubclass in the 2290's, some modifications were
made to the MH-10 bridge layouts resulting in the
MH-12 design (the MH-10 was selected as the
platform from which to develop the MH-12 based on
the preference of most commanding officers). The
Enterprise-B herself was the first ship fitted with an
MH-12 bridge at the request of Captain Harriman.
The MH-12 bridge had a very similar layout to the
MH-10 but added a tactical station behind the

-8-

captains chair. It also relocated the captains ready room


and the first officers office to a more forward position in
the aft bridge section and added an officers lounge.
Access to these aft areas was through two doors located in
an alcove behind the tactical station. This layout was the
preferred layout over the years as the Excelsior was
upgraded and was kept in service with minor changes.
Several new bridge layouts were developed in the
early 24th century but most were minor variations of
established designs. There were exceptions, of course.
Figure 22. MK-10BR-MH21
One such exception is the MH-16 bridge used in
Ambassador-class starships. This layout was also used in
lighter cruisers given its practicality. This design had seats
for the captain, the first officer, and the second officer or
counselor of the ship with several stations located aft and
forward of the center area. CON and OPS retained their
traditional location but the stations were now separated
and not contained in one unit as before. A variant of this
design was used in Bowie-class scout explorers, the MH21. The MH-21 only has one center seat but is otherwise
very similar to the layout of the MH-16. Both these
bridges have a captains ready room that is a small version
of the captains quarters. While the concept of a ready
room had already been well accepted, the decision to
provide a bed for the captain in the bridge was redundant.
Figure 23. MK-10BR-MH25
This concept was, therefore, abandoned with other bridge
designs.
A more traditional layout, similar to what was used in the 2290's, was chosen for the
Exploration Heavy Cruisers of the Hornblower-class of the 2360's. This layout, the MH-25, even
reintroduces the airlock aft of the bridge deck while retaining a captains ready room and a small
mess room for the officers. While very practical, this
layout and most of its predecessors were completely
ignored when Starfleet started the Galaxy-class project. It
was felt that such a radically new starship design required
an equally new bridge layout. One that retained its
functionality but at the same time allowed for more
comfort for the bridge personnel. But this and the new
bridge layouts that followed will be the subject of the
second part of this report.

Figure 21. MK-10BR-MH16