Four Years War
The Four Years War, as it later came to be known, was a mid-23rd century conflict between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire. The war began with the Battle of Axanar on Stardate 2251.241 (29 August 2251),[Notes 2] and lasted until the Treaty of Axanar was signed on Stardate 2255.164 (13 June 2255), for a span of nearly 46 months.
Following the Romulan War and the founding of the Federation, the new nation's early years were characterized by consistent territorial expansion, as well as technological and cultural growth as warp-driven ships traveled among the Federation's member worlds. Peace again became paramount within the Federation. Resultingly, in December 2193, the Federation Council rejected appropriations for a new generation of starships, believing that the existing designs would continue to suit them well into the future. Coupled with the monumental failure of a later ship design, resulted in an obsolete, 46-year-old destroyer class serving as the Federation's first line of defense during an incident with the Klingons in 2208.
Federation relations with the Klingons were strained from the start, owing in no small measure to their many rough early contacts with the United Earth Starfleet in the mid-22nd century. On Stardate 2208.122 (02 May 2208), the U.S.S. Sentry made contact with a personal, warp-capable shuttle near Gamma Demetrius. When the pilot of the shuttle was granted temporary political asylum, the Klingon warship Devisor exchanged fire with the Sentry before departing, vowing to return and wreak havoc on the Federation. On Stardate 2217.063 (04 March 2217), a Klingon vessel, which was modified to transmit a Federation scout identification signal, seized the U.S.S. Flying Fortress, a slow but heavily-armed prototype transport. The tactic allowed for a sneak attack that destroyed the Flying Fortress bridge, killing all command personnel and rendering weapons systems inoperative. A Federation anti-piracy task force soon forced the Klingons to release their tractor beam, however, and the Flying Fortress—and its experimental new deflector systems—was returned to Federation control. Notably, there was a period of remarkable inactivity along the border between the two powers from 2239 to 2244; this was believed by Starfleet strategists to be a result of another war being fought by the Klingons on their borders furthest from Federation space.
In Massed Fleets, Admiral Samuel Shepherd, the commanding admiral of Starfleet prior to the Four Years War, wrote that, following the Romulan War, "high officials in the Federation felt certain that another war would not occur quickly. Once installations were complete along the Romulan border, the future role of [Starfleet] seemed limited to navigational and simple law enforcement duties. As a result, appropriations ... were cut sharply. Funds for research and development permitted only modest technological improvements. Funds for new construction allowed only for the replacement of vessels no longer safe for use." This policy continued until Stardate 2205.051 (20 February 2205), when the expensive and ill-fated Tritium class entered service. The first starship designed with three warp nacelles, the design sought to disprove Zefram Cochrane's original warp theories, which held that no more than two warp nacelles could be used on a single ship, as imbalances in the warp fields generated would nullify the drive's effect. The engineers responsible—and several flag-rank officers in Starfleet Engineering Command—disagreed with Cochrane, and believed that the third nacelle would dramatically increase maximum operating performance. A total of six Tritium class ships were constructed before the project was terminated. It would be several decades before a three-nacelled starship design could be made to work successfully.
In August 2214, the Terra-Return League was formed on Benecia Colony. The group's goal, as described in their Proclamation, was to end the Federation's policy of expansion and have all Humans return to the Sol system. Believing that mankind had gone deep into space and still had not solved many of humanity's basic problems, the group felt that resources were being exploited and abused on an interstellar level, and that there was room enough in the Sol System, now that several planets and moons had been terraformed. Further, the group called for the disbanding of the Federation, and a strictly isolationist view for humanity. By the time of the Babel Conference of January 2234, the Terra-Return League represented a respectable and vocal minority, and officially raised the question of dissolving the Federation. When the question failed to pass, the League was disbanded.
Adding to the dissatisfaction with the Federation Council was the Scandal of Archimedes. In September 2227, Th'allt, an Andorian colony world very close to several Tellarite trading worlds, claimed harassment by particularly exploitative Tellarite traders. The situation, code-named "Archimedes" by Starfleet, was ignored at first and later badly mismanaged by the Bureau of Interstellar Commerce. The situation became critical in January 2229, when a substantial task force of Starfleet vessels under the command of Andorian Admiral Hathari conducted "fleet maneuvers" near Th'allt, encircling the system with a protective blockade, firing on Tellarite-registered trading ships. The crisis illustrated the shortcomings of the Federation's complex and occasionally ineffective bureaucracy.
By all accounts, the Four Years War began when several members of the High Council were pressured by more militant factions to initiate open hostilities against the Federation. This pressure, combined with the need for territorial expansion and conquest of additional resources, led to open warfare. Although an expansionist Federation was seen as a looming threat to the Empire, war was frequently postponed by a policy of aggressive expansion in areas of the Empire not near the Federation. As those campaigns dwindled, however, more militant Houses began to express their displeasure at the Chancellor's apparent cowardice.[Notes 3] The chancellor planned a bold offensive against the Federation, in the hope of mollifying those Houses and remaining in power. The goal was to seize and annex a large region of space controlled by the Federation, and then to turn the Empire's energies toward the Romulan Star Empire. The plan assumed that the Federation would surrender control over the disputed area, rather than enter a prolonged conflict, and that the war would be over in a matter of months with minimal casualties.
Starfleet maintained a medium-sized research outpost on Archanis IV,[Notes 4] an otherwise uninhabited Class K planet. The outpost had no extensive offensive or defensive weapons systems, aside from various personal sidearms, and patrols in the area were generally limited to an occasional Hale or Bode class scout. On Stardate 2249.355 (21 December 2249), the U.S.S. Bohr, while on standard patrol near the Archanis system, reported observing a Klingon task force consisting of three of the fairly new D-7 class ships in the area of unclaimed space between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Not expecting deliberate hostilities, the Bohr intercepted and tracked the Klingon group. This was a lure, as a second group of 20 ships moved into the Archanis system and attacked the research station. After knocking out the station's deflector shield with their shipboard disruptors, two companies of Klingon marines transported down, killing all 112 personnel with hand weapons.
Buildup on the Border
From Stardate 2250.25 (25 January 2250) through 2250.55 (24 February 2250), Klingon forces began to build in the unclaimed territories between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. On Stardate 2250.025, the U.S.S. Rutherford detected a Klingon battle fleet of more than 100 ships in the neutral area. Moving just spinward of the Rigel system, the Klingon fleet was apparently heading into Federation space. The fleet, code-named "R" by Starfleet, was commanded by Admiral epetai Kazu, an officer with a reputation for making quick, violent decisions. On Stardate 2250.55, the U.S.S. Irwin detected a nearly identical force; code-named "U" and commanded by Admiral zantai Kone, this fleet was moving spinward of Starbase 22 with the same heading into Federation space. Starfleet Intelligence was aware of a massive shipbuilding program within the Empire, and had attributed it to a war on the Empire's borders away from the Federation; given that conflict, they did not expect these new forces to be used against the Federation, but instead to be deployed elsewhere.
In preparation for a Klingon assault, however, all Starfleet vessels capable of combat were transferred from Starbases 21, 14, and 15 toward the border sectors. Then, in May 2250, both fleets changed course and reduced speed, stopping short of the Federation border. This left the Federation Council confused and unwilling to commit to hostilities with the Klingons, despite the attack on Archanis. Nothing further happened for several months, and the Klingon fleets eventually split up into a number of smaller squadrons, while the enormous new shipbuilding facilities at Starbase 15—as well as other shipyards throughout the Federation—began to go into immediate, full-scale production. Meanwhile, distracted by the overt moves of these Klingon forces, a smaller, 9-ship task force left the Klingon base at Ruwan, moved past Starbase 14, and through the heart of Federation space to occupy Axanar.
The Battle of Axanar
On Stardate 2251.149 (29 May 2251), a single D-4E class cruiser traveling at warp 5 was spotted eight parsecs from Axanar by the U.S.S. Xenophon, a Marklin class destroyer under the command of Captain Kelvar Garth (aka "Garth of Izar"). Garth observed the Klingon vessel for several days, precisely plotting the ship's course: the Klingon ship's only possible destination was Axanar.
The Sawyer class U.S.S. Gulliver had received orders in March 2251 to make a routine visit to Axanar as a follow-up to an earlier visit conducted by the U.S.S. Yardley. The Gulliver wasn't heard from again after that, and although the ship had not yet been officially listed as missing, Captain Garth concluded that something had gone wrong, and that this Klingon vessel was somehow involved. Garth engaged the D-4, ordering its commander to surrender. When the D-4 attempted to raise shields and bring its weapons on line, Garth used superior tactics to disable the Klingon ship's warp drive.
On Stardate 2251.156 (05 June 2251), the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard recovered the Gulliver's recorder buoy, and learned of the task force that had occupied the system and destroyed the Gulliver when it came out of warp there on Stardate 2251.91 (01 April 2251). The Bonhomme Richard immediately set course for Axanar, transmitting both its log and the Gulliver's to Starfleet Command, which in turn informed the Federation Council. By this time, Garth and the Xenophon were already on their way to Axanar.
The Klingon task force at Axanar was immediately contacted. The Klingon commander was given a choice between withdrawing his entire force to the Klingon border under a Starfleet escort and outright surrender. Perhaps generously, he was given four months in which to contact the High Council and receive their instructions. Arriving at Axanar on Stardate 2251.160 (09 July 2251), several hours before the Bonhomme Richard, Captain Garth was given overall command of a squadron whose orders were to maintain complete surveillance of the Axanar system and contain the Klingon warships. On Stardate 2251.241 (29 August 2251), Garth's scouts detected a second Klingon task force, consisting of two squadrons of D-4E cruisers and numerous cargo freighters and assault ships, moving toward Axanar.
Garth split his squadron into three groups. One remained at Axanar, while the other two left the system at high warp. The new Klingon task force moved in, pinning the first group and crippling several of the scouts. Meanwhile, the second group conducted a massive communications counterintelligence operation, simulating the subspace radio traffic of several large Federation fleets moving to encircle the Klingons, who broke off their initial attacks and reformed for a second attack. The third group then moved into covert attack positions, and directed their fire into the unshielded aft sections of more than half the Klingon force.
Three Starfleet scouts were destroyed, and four destroyers (including the Xenophon) and the cruiser Bonhomme Richard were badly damaged. Six D-4E cruisers were destroyed and nearly all the other Klingon warships were damaged before the Klingon task force commander surrendered to Captain Garth, who was also wounded when his ship was hit. The Klingon reinforcements never reached Axanar and no supply line was established.
On Stardate 2251.272 (29 September 2251), Klingon Admiral Kkorhetza finally replied to the Federation's demands, unaware of the destruction of his reinforcing task force. He declared, "An alliance now exists between the powerful Klingon Empire and its honorable servitor, the natives of the world of Axanar. By the insulting condition in the terms of your own weakness-infested Council's 'ultimatum,' a state of war is now in effect between the Klingon Empire and the United Federation of Planets." Following the declaration of war, and having received additional reinforcements of his own, Garth's task force moved into the Axanar system on Stardate 2251.273 (30 September 2251). Garth soundly defeated the seven-warship invasion fleet in what came to be known as the Second Battle of Axanar.
From October 2251 through April 2252, several Klingon squadrons passed into Federation space, attacking any ships they encountered. During this time, the Battles of Andromeda, Genmarx, Lea, and Lyclydun were fought, and Janni IV was subjugated by regiments of Klingon soldiers in the first ground action of the war. Commodore Sven van Anling recalled in a Contemporary Federation Military History lecture given to Starfleet Academy graduate students shortly after the war that "our forces did slow the Klingons' progress, but losses were high."
Unhappy with Starfleet's handling of the Archanis Incident and unsatisfied with the strategic withdrawal of Federation forces in the face of the Klingon onslaught, Captain Robert April, commander of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 and one of Starfleet's most respected captains, felt a more aggressive approach could, and should, have been taken to repel the Klingons. In January 2252, Captain April was promoted to the admiralty.
On Stardate 2252.041 (10 February 2252), a zone-intrusion detection satellite along the Romulan Neutral Zone tracked a Graceful Flyer class scout ship. Senior Starfleet officers believed it to be a prelude to military intervention by the Romulan Empire, and Starfleet hoped that their old animosity toward the Klingons would be sufficient to get them on the Federation's side. Until the Romulans' intentions could be determined, however, forces were diverted to the Romulan border as a precaution, seriously hindering the war effort against the Klingons.
In April 2252, a convoy of Orion merchant ships heading for a Federation manufacturing facility on Alphosa was intercepted by a Klingon destroyer task force near Laxala. The convoy, which carried supplies of partially refined dilithium, was vital to the Federation's war efforts. The Klingons were likely aware of this, and demanded the cargo be turned over. As one merchant ship closed in to make the transfer, the Orion captain deliberately overloaded his warp drive, totally destroying his ship and one Klingon destroyer, and severely damaging a second, ending the attack. Shortly afterward, the Orion government stated that all shipments of dilithium would be treated as "sacred cargo, not to be captured, diverted, or destroyed by any government until after reaching its declared destination." The Rigel XII dilithium mining complex, which was under Orion jurisdiction, was said to have been equipped with enough antimatter to vaporize the planet, which they threatened to do if anyone interfered with future shipments. Neither side was willing to test the Orions, and their conditions were unanimously accepted.
The Battle of GR-1 and the Assault of Nozseca occurred in May 2252, and were significant setbacks for Federation forces. Nevertheless, marines on Nozseca under Andorian General Shruth put up a valiant defense as they attempted to engage orbiting spacecraft with their limited surface-based, anti-space weapons. The defending Starfleet squadron of Portsmith class destroyers and Nelson class scouts had been eliminated, giving the Klingons uncontested ground attack capability from orbit. The defending forces were annihilated by ship-based disruptor attacks, and Klingon soldiers landed.
The Attack of Convoy Y-16Z in July 2252 was considered to be the first genuine Federation fleet victory. A large Federation convoy under the command of Commodore Jarv Maxwil was en route from Deuteronomy III to a front-line repair outpost, when they were discovered by a small Klingon task force. The U.S.S. Defiant NCC-1764 and a cover squadron of Baton Rouge class cruisers destroyed or captured the entire Klingon force.
Although designed primarily for exploration, the Constitution class cruisers were the most powerful ships in service at the time. Despite this, after March 2253, they were reassigned away from the combat zone, and only served in their prewar roles of survey, exploration, and planetary contact.
Taking the Offensive
At the same time as the Constitution class cruisers were reassigned, and General Order 7 was established under heavy security classification, the Defense of Rudgur III marked the first use of chlortheragen, a Klingon-designed nerve agent. Starfleet marines landed on Rudgur III, near Klingon space, in a surprise attempt to make inroads into the Empire. This marked the first time Federation forces actually landed on Klingon soil, but the landing was, as the official briefings of the time put it, "not entirely successful." Klingon High Command, learning that Rudgur had been taken, sent in large numbers of ground troops. Unsatisfied with their progress, the Klingons used clortheragen for the first time. The chemical, a lethal nerve agent, was designed to inflict agony on its victims as it killed them, demonstrating a new level of brutality in Klingon tactics. A Federation recovery ship moved in to recover the few survivors. Many marines were killed, and most of the survivors were captured and later killed by the Klingons. Colonel Wilhelm Mann'dela, commanding officer of the Fifth Marine Regiment and one of the few high-ranking survivors, summed up the conflict with a grim pun on the planet's name, calling the battle "The Ruddy, Gore War."
A major setback for the Klingon Empire occurred in October 2253 with the Battle of Kesse, when the Federation's fast-moving 84th Special Task Force of Baton Rouge class cruisers got behind enemy supply lines and ambushed a vital Klingon convoy headed for a forward supply installation. The Battle of Webirty in December 2253 and the attack on Zal Vhros in February 2254 highlighted the growing Klingon frustrations and desperation in fighting against the Federation. As the Klingons continued to push deeper into Federation territory, their lines of supply grew longer and more tenuous, resulting in a major diversionary tactic in March 2254. A new class of ship with a nonstandard design, the K-23 class escort entered service, and the Klingons claimed to have a new ally. Monitored communications seemed to indicate that the crews were not speaking any known, understandable dialect of Klingon, and the ships would not surrender under any circumstances, preferring self-destruction over capture. 
A Klingon thrust toward Adhara, which the Klingons believed to be a major Federation military center, was met by Starfleet forces at Thranstor, which had been selected as a potential future shipbuilding facility, in April 2254. The Battle of Thranstor was notable for the fact that, in a rare instance, the Federation actually had a larger available force to meet the Klingons. As the Klingons maneuvered in their standard V-formations, squadrons of Federation ships turned in formation and flanked the Klingon cruisers, wreaking havoc and causing the Klingons to scatter among the system's asteroid belt. This led to dozens of smaller encounters, and with most of the asteroids containing high concentrations of metals, it became difficult for either side to detect opposing starships due to confused sensor readings. When the battle was finally over, more than 100 warships were permanently disabled, nearly as many more were seriously damaged, and the disorganized Klingon survivors were forced to withdraw to their own territory.
Several days later, in May 2254 and about 40 parsecs away, a similar battle occurred near Argelius. The Engagement for Argelian Approaches, as it became known, "was not won by the Federation as much as it was lost by Klingon forces," according to Admiral Sebastian Westervliet in his book An Informal History of the Four Years War. Many of the Klingon vessels, having to operate so far from their supply bases, had not been repaired from previous conflicts. Numerous odd formations were the result of Klingon commanders attempting to protect damaged systems; an entire squadron of D-7s was even reported to have gone into battle in reverse, as their damaged forward shields had not yet been repaired. Federation losses were light, and Argelius itself never saw hostile combat or heard the sound of disruptors.
On Stardate 2254.340 (06 December 2254), the destroyer U.S.S. Aramis intercepted a K-17 class scout ship, which was traveling from the rapidly shifting front lines to a Klingon fleet massing at Grank. Klingon Admiral Komex, who was aboard the K-17, hailed the Aramis and demanded to speak with "the highest-ranking available official with Starfleet." The Aramis boarded the scout vessel and took it in tow before contacting Admiral Devon aboard the U.S.S. Aquila, a Cygnus class command courier in use as a mobile operations center. Komex declared that the Klingon Empire could not win the war, and he believed that the war must end as soon as possible to allow his government to rebuild in order to fight at another time. He swore that he was acting in the best interests of the Klingon Empire with a convoluted chain of logic that was not easily understood by any but himself, and described the location and defenses around Kolm-an, the main center of Klingon operations. The last battle of the war, Operation Argus Redoubt, was fought on Stardate 2255.79 (20 March 2255) at Kolm-an, using the detailed information provided by Admiral Komex, and the remaining Klingon forces, despite fighting valiantly, were routed.
Axanar Peace Mission & Aftermath
The Axanar Peace Mission convened on Stardate 2255.132 (12 May 2255), after a number of Klingon delegates were rushed to Axanar. The Treaty of Axanar was signed on Stardate 2255.164 (13 June 2255), and its terms, which included the mass evacuations of several Klingon worlds in what was now neutral territory, were carried out from July 2255 through April 2256. Several classes of ships were deemed no longer necessary by Starfleet, and they were decommissioned or destroyed at the Centauri and Arcturus Test Ranges. Other ships were refitted and assigned to peacetime missions. Axanar officially became a Federation protectorate, and the Federation Council approved funding to construct Starbases 12 and 27 in the newest region of space to come under Federation jusrisdiction. Much larger due to the gains made during the Four Years War, the Klingon Empire established a new base at Mastocal and proceeded to consolidate their territorial gains. The Neutral Zone was now much smaller, as the two powers expanded into the previously unclaimed territories between them.
While a full accounting of ships destroyed in the Four Years War has not been published, losses were heavy on both sides of the war.
- Though the "Federation Ship Recognition Manual" and "The Four Years War" give the class name as Anton class, this was later superseded by the Miranda class designation from the television series and films.
- FASA game materials referred to events by a FASA-specific dating standard called the "Reference Stardate." All dates taken from FASA sources in this article have been adapted from that notation into standard calendar dates, which are then adjusted for errors in the baseline dates used as reference by the FASA authors. Working with a known, dated event (e.g., the launch of the Constitution class starships), the other dates in the timeline can be adjusted accordingly. FASA sources give the launch of the Constitution class as Reference Stardate 1/8801.04, which translates to the standard caldendar date of 04 January 2188. This has been established on screen, however, as occurring in 2245. As the exact month and date remain unstated in other sources, those remain the same, but the year has been adjusted to 2245, giving a modified date of 04 January 2245. This can then also be converted into the pre-TOS stardate system established in Star Trek (2009), giving us a stardate of 2245.004.
- "The Four Years War" refers to "family lines" and the "Emperor" when discussing Klingon politics. These terms have been replaced with "Houses" and "Chancellor," to reflect the terminology and political makeup of the Klingons as established on screen in Star Trek: Enterprise, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
- Although spelled consistently as Arcanis throughout "The Four Years War," the spelling has been modified to Archanis, to bring it into alignment with the spelling used on screen in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
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