What does mothballing a ship involve?

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What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by FaxModem1 » 2016-05-03 03:23am

In Star Trek VI, mention is made of mothballing the fleet, or at least, the military arm of it while keeping the science and exploration parts of it intact. So, assuming that is what happened to their ships, what all does that involve? How do you preserve a starship for decades until its needed in a war again, such as during Wolf 359, or during the Dominion War?
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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by Prometheus Unbound » 2016-05-03 03:47am

What's the difference between mothballing and decommissioning?

I presume mothballing allows the ship to be emptied of all normal stuff (food, clothing, bedding, equipment etc) and then ... just powered down whilst tethered to something probably near Spacedock or somewhere in the solar system - maybe they leave them at a lagrange point under the watch of a small outpost.

Was the Hathaway a mothballed ship or decommissioned? (Peak Performance). That ship looked like a construction site when they came across it. But the main computer was still there, the warp core was still there (minus fuel)...


Decommissioned ships appear in the ship grave yards we come across in TNG every so often (Unification, Gambit etc)
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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by Elheru Aran » 2016-05-03 10:08am

You have two separate things that can happen:

Wet-fleet navy protocols for *decommissioning* ships typically involve:

--Removing any sensitive equipment (for obvious reasons this usually happens first). Sensors, mainly. Sometimes communications or weapons.

--Disarming the craft. Remove all weaponry (if the ship is to be a 'museum ship' then the weapons are otherwise decommissioned by removing vital parts or disabling them in some other fashion) and ammunition.

--Stripping the ship further of any and all useful equipment. Only that essential to moving it is left, if it's not in its final dock.

--Once at its final mooring, even the engines and such are removed. The steering gear is left behind, that's about it. If it's moved for scrapping, they can just tow it. Any remaining fuel is drained.

Now, *mothballing* is a bit different, as one expects to be able to use the ship to some degree afterwards. So about the only thing that would happen there is removing any sensitive equipment and any live ammunition, perhaps disabling the weaponry, and emptying the fuel once it's moored. For a starship, I would expect a simple precaution being to simply vacuum-harden the interior and open a few space-doors; vacuum shouldn't particularly hurt the insides of the ship and will in fact actually preserve it quite well.
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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by NecronLord » 2016-05-03 03:13pm

Prometheus Unbound wrote:What's the difference between mothballing and decommissioning?

I presume mothballing allows the ship to be emptied of all normal stuff (food, clothing, bedding, equipment etc) and then ... just powered down whilst tethered to something probably near Spacedock or somewhere in the solar system - maybe they leave them at a lagrange point under the watch of a small outpost.

Was the Hathaway a mothballed ship or decommissioned? (Peak Performance). That ship looked like a construction site when they came across it. But the main computer was still there, the warp core was still there (minus fuel)...


Decommissioned ships appear in the ship grave yards we come across in TNG every so often (Unification, Gambit etc)
I just checked the script for Peak Performance, and I watched it a few months back; it's never specified. I'll watch Gambit and post again some time soon.
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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by Ted C » 2016-05-04 11:21am

A decomissioned ship will never see service again. Reusable equipment will be removed, weapons permanently disabled, consumables removed, etc. After decomissioning, what's left is either a museum or scrap.

A "moth-balled" ship is maintained in good enough condition to be reactivated quickly in an emergency. The US Navy Iowa-class battleships were kept in this condition for decades. The US Navy Reserve fleet has different maintenance categories, depending on how quickly the ship is expected to be back in action if needed.
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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by Prometheus Unbound » 2016-05-04 11:44am

ok so essentially decomissioning is just a step away from scuttling and moth-balling is putting it on "pause" whilst taking nearly all perishable or useful assets but leaving the main body intact.

I'm presuming the phrase came from moth-balls in cupboards in the old days - some coat you wont use for 10 years you "moth ball" (colloquial term for putting moth balls with the clothes - cotton or similar balls with moth poison / deterrent in them to stop them laying eggs and them hatching on the clothes) and put in the back of the wardrobe?


So at end of ST6, Starfleet's military wing was "mothballed" but the "scientific and exploration wings will remain unaffected". Could this be why we see so many excelsiors and mirandas in TNG-DS9? These ships, now used for science, ferrying admirals and low scale defensive patrols, are the mothballed hulls from late 23rd / earth 24th century battle hulls?

That's why there's so many - they were built for combat / endurance, but never faced it... so the space frames don't get taxed or worn out nearly as quickly as they thought.

So when a science ship or ambassador's ship is needed, they get out one of the old ships (NCC 1935 or something), recondition it and re-launch under NCC 48365 or something?


Does that sound about right?
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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by Captain Seafort » 2016-05-07 06:15am

Ted C wrote:A decomissioned ship will never see service again. Reusable equipment will be removed, weapons permanently disabled, consumables removed, etc. After decomissioning, what's left is either a museum or scrap.
You're using a different definition of the word than the one I'm familiar with - decommissioned simply means that the vessel in question is no longer part of the active fleet, either temporarily or permanently. AFAIK ships are routinely decommissioned and recommissioned several times during their lives, every time they need a dockyard refit or overhaul. They're de-stored, de-fuelled and don't have a full crew, but they're not stripped to the extent you imply unless it's the end of their service life and they're intended for scrapping.
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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2016-05-20 06:12pm

Commissioning/Decommissioning are terms for the act of placing a ship into and out of active manned service. Ships in some cases are maintained in commission with only partial reserve crews. Before the age of steel navies it was pretty typical for all the worlds fleets to keep most heavy warships laid up like that in peacetime. Generally the rigging and masts would be partly dismantled for preservation on a portion of them, while others were kept in a more ready state. When money got tight ships rotted.

I think some of you might be getting confused because a separate concept is important here, the Naval Register, this is the actual list of all the ships that a navy assumes it 'has'. A decommissioned ship is still on the Naval Register but now in the Reserve Fleet instead of the Active fleet as far as administration goes, sunken ships may also last on the naval Register for some time because they still exist in administrative terms (paying off survivors ect..)

When a ship decommissions it might go to mothballing, which is a formal process of sealing up the ship for preservation. The most important part of this is humidity control internally for a wet navy. In space you'd probably want to keep the environmental system running, least random materials shrink or dry dock from zero humidity or freeze to near absolute zero, but gravity could be turned off and nearly everything else. Extra fire alarms and flooding monitoring equipment are also installed on mothballed ships, you'd want similar remote sensors for a space vessel. Something to for example tell you if an asteroid has hit the hull.

If you strike a ship from the naval register this means you intend to then sell it off for scrap or other use.

Very few modern mothballed warships anywhere in the world have actual crews, past perhaps a few watchmen in some navies. That's basically because unlike the era of steam and sail, these days by the time anyone puts a ship in reserve its probably absurdly obsolete in terms of electronic systems and has little or no chance of ever being reused. Auxiliaries with much simpler systems have much higher chances of coming back to life, but still seldom have even partial ~10-30% crews.

Federation ships don't seem to get uselessly obsolete too quickly, so the Federation would have more incentive to maintain a useable reserve fleet then anyone does in 2016. I'd expect them to favor this kind of idea, since it cuts down peacetime manning and was how navies operated for a lot more of history. The large scale academy system and 'all officers' approach they have also favors this idea, if all personal are highly qualified, and you have the holodeck and other training tools, allowing small groups of people to train with larger groups of simulated crew if you wanted, it'd be a lot easier to think about throwing them onto a reserve ship and right into action.
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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by biostem » 2016-05-20 06:30pm

For a starship, I could see them first going through and removing any computers, weapon systems, transporters, and other key/valuable/hazardous components. After that, remove any perishable materials and soft good, (not just remnant food stocks/raw material stores, but also bedding, medical supplies, and perhaps pulling up any sort of carpeting. Basically, my thought process is this - prep the ship to have its interior converted into a vacuum for storage purposes, but leave it in such a state that you need only bring over some matter and anti-matter, and perhaps a few other key pieces of equipment, to bring the ship back online & flyable, (weapons and other systems to be added later). A decomissioned vessel, OTOH, is simple one taken out of active service, but otherwise kept in working order and ready to go, (but perhaps with its photon torpedo stores removed and phaser banks physically unplugged).

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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2016-05-21 02:17pm

That wouldn't be anything like mothballing, that would be stripping a hulk for parts before scrapping, and at the least a surefire way to ensure it will never return to service. Seriously why would you remove the weapons and computers? Ammunition sure, but the actual weapons and systems? Pull up the carpet? What in gods name for?
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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by Borgholio » 2016-05-21 06:32pm

Sea Skimmer wrote:That wouldn't be anything like mothballing, that would be stripping a hulk for parts before scrapping, and at the least a surefire way to ensure it will never return to service. Seriously why would you remove the weapons and computers? Ammunition sure, but the actual weapons and systems? Pull up the carpet? What in gods name for?
He's probably assuming for security reasons or something. I can see his point, but it really wouldn't be necessary. You wouldn't mothball a brand new ship with the latest technology. If someone tried to break into a mothballed ship and steal something, it'd be last-generations tech and not as sensitive as the latest stuff.
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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by biostem » 2016-05-21 06:45pm

Borgholio wrote:
Sea Skimmer wrote:That wouldn't be anything like mothballing, that would be stripping a hulk for parts before scrapping, and at the least a surefire way to ensure it will never return to service. Seriously why would you remove the weapons and computers? Ammunition sure, but the actual weapons and systems? Pull up the carpet? What in gods name for?
He's probably assuming for security reasons or something. I can see his point, but it really wouldn't be necessary. You wouldn't mothball a brand new ship with the latest technology. If someone tried to break into a mothballed ship and steal something, it'd be last-generations tech and not as sensitive as the latest stuff.

Imagine we're in the time frame of TNG. Even stripped of torpedoes, if the phasers were still operable on a Constitution-class vessel from TOS era, it could still do a lot of damage before any Federation ship could get to the location that it attacked.


As for terminology, "mothballing" seems to fall into 2 categories:

1. A "boneyard" setup, where craft are kept semi-intact or disassembled for parts. (Article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aircraft_boneyard)

2. And a "reserve fleet" setup, where craft are kept in a functional or easily-made-operational status, in case a need arises for them. (Article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reserve_fleet)

My reference to "pulling up carpets" was under the assumption that it'd be easier to preserve craft by not worrying about maintaining an environment inside while they're in storage, and that soft materials like carpeting wouldn't hold up as well, or may hold onto particulates or microbes that could return once an atmosphere is reintroduced.

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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by Prometheus Unbound » 2016-05-22 06:01am

Borgholio wrote:
Sea Skimmer wrote:That wouldn't be anything like mothballing, that would be stripping a hulk for parts before scrapping, and at the least a surefire way to ensure it will never return to service. Seriously why would you remove the weapons and computers? Ammunition sure, but the actual weapons and systems? Pull up the carpet? What in gods name for?
He's probably assuming for security reasons or something. I can see his point, but it really wouldn't be necessary. You wouldn't mothball a brand new ship with the latest technology. If someone tried to break into a mothballed ship and steal something, it'd be last-generations tech and not as sensitive as the latest stuff.
True but remember those ship yards we saw in Unification? Not 100% secure (though apparently they hadn't lost anything in years). The Maquis would maybe be a worry, even older torpedos or phasers can be damaging in groups. They got the weapons from somewhere.

Ironically it could have been sympathetic starfleet officers who were taking out the weapon systems at these ship yards... the idea to make the ships safe, not realising the weapons were now mobile heh.
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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by Prometheus Unbound » 2016-05-22 06:19am

biostem wrote: My reference to "pulling up carpets" was under the assumption that it'd be easier to preserve craft by not worrying about maintaining an environment inside while they're in storage, and that soft materials like carpeting wouldn't hold up as well, or may hold onto particulates or microbes that could return once an atmosphere is reintroduced.

No need - just give it a Baryon sweep - that effectively irradiates all life forms apparently. (Starship Mine)

Harry Kim regularly used to give his quarters he shared "with a slob" baryon sweeps due to the mold and dirt there. (Ashes to Ashes)

Cassidy Yates offered a baryon sweep of her cargo in case it had viral contaminants in it (For the Cause)

I presume it doesn't vapourise stuff like nail clippings etc as it didn't seem to be an issue for Picard to initially leave his saddle behind - that was most likely made of real leather. But assuming you give it a good vacuum (and the ships are apparently "self cleaning" (Up the Long Ladder) I don't see why turning off all the systems, then on reactivation a baryon sweet (takes a few hours) wouldn't be just fine as a system.



Hmm, I wonder how Voyager goes through the sweeps, with its bio gel packs...
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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by Elheru Aran » 2016-05-23 11:34am

The gel packs are probably shielded in some fashion.

Pulling up the carpeting is a bit absurd. Odds are it's inorganic anyway and effectively imperishable-- some form of future polyester, perhaps.
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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by Enigma » 2016-06-19 09:02pm

Yeah, I'd say that weapons systems whether decommissioned or mothballed would have been disabled (whether by password protecting it or by removing key components). In Relics, Geordi LaForge told Scotty that the photon torpedo and phaser technology hadn't changed much since his time. The older phasers may not pose much problem against newer Starfleet ships but they can play merry hell against civilians and commercial shipping.
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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by Simon_Jester » 2016-06-21 06:50am

The catch, of course, is that there's not much point in keeping a ship in service if it can't threaten enemy military vessels. People like the Romulans, the Klingons, and the Dominion (let alone the Borg) are constantly upgrading and adapting to build more powerful ships and employ more advanced weapons.

A ship that would have been a front-line combatant against the Klingons eighty years ago (c. 2300) will probably not be able to perform against them in the 'present' of the setting (c. 2380), unless it's been significantly refitted. As with the Lakota, an Excelsior-class ship whose basic hullform dated to the late 2200s.

She had to be refitted to modern standards with extensive modifications in order to stand up to the new Defiant, a much smaller (though 'punchy') starship. Meanwhile, I imagine that something like a Romulan D'Deridex or Klingon Negh'var battleship could present a major threat to the Defiant in its unmodified state... and would easily blow through mothballed Excelsiors unless they were refitted as the Lakota was.
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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by NecronLord » 2016-06-21 12:21pm

I'm not sure how much refit time is necessary. Ultimately, phasers are a directed energy weapon of a sort; Mirandas still have the same weapons output they always had. They say the Lakota's been upgraded, sure, but that could be any number of things, it might be replacing the weapons, or it might be updating the firmware so they can more accurately target enemy frequencies, or new focussing crystals, or something of that nature. I can't imagine the overall firepower changed unless they also swapped out the warp core, which is certainly possible.

As for torpedos, quantum torpedos seem to be backward compatible.

I like the point about the Baryon sweeps; that makes a good deal of sense.
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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by Simon_Jester » 2016-06-21 12:55pm

NecronLord wrote:I'm not sure how much refit time is necessary. Ultimately, phasers are a directed energy weapon of a sort; Mirandas still have the same weapons output they always had. They say the Lakota's been upgraded, sure, but that could be any number of things, it might be replacing the weapons, or it might be updating the firmware so they can more accurately target enemy frequencies, or new focussing crystals, or something of that nature. I can't imagine the overall firepower changed unless they also swapped out the warp core, which is certainly possible.
If it were an easy refit to make, the refits would be nearly universal and O'Brien would not be surprised at the Lakota's display of firepower.

So presumably they had to do something which was complicated and extensive enough to be unusual, in order to make an Excelsior competitive with a Defiant-class.
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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2016-06-21 01:01pm

Swapping warp cores as part of a major refit has precedent in the refit Constitutions; they had a totally different power plant installed, so the Lakota refits could well include such. That may also explain the extra bulges in the secondary hull too.
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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by Crazedwraith » 2016-06-21 01:29pm

Eternal_Freedom wrote:Swapping warp cores as part of a major refit has precedent in the refit Constitutions; they had a totally different power plant installed, so the Lakota refits could well include such. That may also explain the extra bulges in the secondary hull too.

Those bulges are unlikely to have been added in the recent refits. They're stock from the Enterprise-B Excelsior Variant.
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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2016-06-21 01:39pm

But we only ever saw the E-B with those until the Lakota came along, all the Excelsior's seen in TNG were the ST3 models.

I know the out-of-universe explanation, but in-universe, there must have been a reason. Maybe the initial use for those bulges proved unsuccessful and were either removed or not added to other ships in the class.
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Re: What does mothballing a ship involve?

Post by Elheru Aran » 2016-06-21 01:41pm

Special equipment for the Enterprise-B as flagship. Extra shield projectors, torpedo storage, science labs... whatever. I suspect Trek ships (Starfleet, at least) are fairly modular; they can swap out bridges, why not chunks of ship as long as they aren't structurally essential.
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