The scale of space combat in Star Trek is so vast that the concept of attack fighters is wildly different than what you may think. In a future where even exploratory ships can carry thousands of people, who needs small-complement fighters? But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Step aside, Wars in the Stars: here’s the best of the starfighters the Star Trek galaxy has to offer.
8) Benthan Fighter Ships (Voyager)
These weird looking things showed up in Voyager’s fourth season, in which Tom Paris was conned into getting his body nicked by a body-swapping alien pilot addicted to… well, body swapping and bad looking starships, apparently. These fighters just look too ungainly.
7) Cardassian Hideki Patrol Ships (Deep Space Nine)
Cardassian ship design from a capital-ship perspective is already pretty cool; the Galor-class essentially being flying battleship recreations of the Union’s insignia is neat. The Hideki-class takes that sort of aesthetic, throws in a bit of the Defiant’s hull design for good measure, and shrinks it down to a ship for just a 30-man crew.
That still counts as an attack fighter in this universe, apparently. Told you scale was weird!
6) Vaadwaur Assault Fighters (Voyager)
Sure, the Vaadwaur turned out to be arseholes when the crew of the Voyager woke them up from stasis, but they knew how to design a cool-looking fighter. Unfortunately, they turned said cool-looking fighters against Voyager in an attempt to steal its advanced tech and had to be blown up. Womp womp.
5) Ba’ul Fighters (Discovery)
Discovery’s second season finale needed as many ships as it could gather to explosively fling at the threat of future-evil A.I. Control. That included the Discovery and Enterprise themselves, and even little Federation shuttle pods with phasers strapped on for good, desperate measure. So it was probably for the best that, alongside the Klingons, Saru’s sister showed up with a bunch of these dinky-little drone ships used by the Kelpians’ former oppressors. Weird action sequence, but a cool-looking ship design.
4) Maquis Fighter Shuttles (The Next Generation)
OK, these are technically Federation fighter shuttles, considering the Maquis swiped the ships before using them to defend their colony homes from the Cardassians. But they’re the ones who turned them into fighters, so they get the honour of naming them. They also look infinitely cooler than literally any Federation shuttle, former or otherwise, so good on the Maquis for realising that these babies could do with a few more weapons and being put to good use.
3) Jem’Hadar Fighters (Deep Space Nine)
Once again, here’s the thing about the inherent weirdness of Star Trek and “starfighters” as a concept: the Jem’Hadar attack fighter, the smallest in the Dominion fleet, still had a crew of 43 people and was over 90 meters long. An X-Wing it ain’t. But in a world where it flew out of cruisers and battleships that were thousands of meters long — the Jem’Hadar fleet had cruisers that were nearly 30 times the size of these scarab-looking vessels — then we can safely call this a starfighter.
Regardless of crew compliment, it still looked cool as hell, like every other Jem’Hadar ship, really.
2) Reman Scorpion Fighters (Nemesis)
Star Trek: Nemesis: not a good movie, really. But man, when it came to ship design? Good shit. The Enterprise-E is the best TNG-era version of the iconic vessel. The Scimitar, Shinzon’s flagship? A fabulous take on the warbird aesthetic that was mean as hell in the most extra way. And then, it gave us actual starfighters! Two-man (well, two-Reman) crewed fighter ships that looked as slick and sleek as the capital ship they flew out from. Shame we only ever got to see one in action through Data and Picard stealing it.
1) Federation Attack Fighters (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine)
Once again, fitting that these didn’t start life as specifically designed fighters, but courier vessels. Like the Maquis shuttles before them, these were first adopted by the guerilla group into attack wings against the Cardassians. But when desperate times called for desperate measures in the Dominion War, Starfleet decided it wasn’t such a bad idea to have some smaller ships that could easily get blown to smithereens in that one really cool bit of “Sacrifice of Angels,” instead of it being endless Galaxy and Excelsior-classes facing a similarly explosive fate. At least they look very cool while doing the blowing up.
Every good starfighter should pass the “swoosh” test — if there’s a toy version of it, it’d feel good held in your hand while you wave it around saying “swoosh” like an excitable child (grab an X-Wing model and try it, you’ll know what I mean). The Attack Fighter would pass that easily, with those twin bridged nacelles and slickly curved wings, if only some toy manufacturer would cater to my very specific interests and make one.