The original design brief was for a medium-size ship capable of performing 85% of the Excelsior's mission capabilities while requiring a smaller crew and fewer resources and having a shorter build time. The design team borrowed from the Miranda class concept for their design, but based the ship off of the Excelsior class components that were coming out of the shipyards.
The ship was given a forward Shuttlebay, which also helped shield the bridge from enemy fire in case of shield failure. This unique placement also allowed for rapid deployment of attack or rescue craft towards the ship's destination or target. Having only the one Shuttlebay would normally mean a small complement of support craft, but the large capacity of the bay allows it to carry a larger complement when necessary.
The ship's design is centred on the Excelsior class saucer, so the internal arrangement is similar in the crew areas. The ship's Phaser banks are arranged with 4 on the dorsal saucer, 5 on the ventral saucer, and 1 on the aft of the lower pod. There are two torpedo launchers on the forward side of the pod and 1 aft-firing launcher aft of the bridge on Deck 2. To protect the bridge from any cases of a launcher jam, the launcher was placed at the end of a long extension away from the main section of Deck 2.
Another unique feature of the design is an ejectable bottom deck, which stores the Antimatter containment pods. The entirety of decks 15 and 16 are contained in a blister-like attachment to the bottom of the cargo/engineering section that can be ejected from the ship in an emergency situation, which makes it easier to retrieve the antimatter later if it doesn't detonate as a result of whatever emergency prompts the ejection. This feature is intended for use in conjunction with a warp core ejection and thus the ship has no warp core ejection hatch on the lower hull.
The Centaur has surprising manoeuvrability for its size and era, surpassing the Miranda class and rivalling the newer Intrepid class in combat situations. This has given the ship a high survival rate in massed-fleet combats, though it doesn't fare quite as well in one-on-one engagements. In this role it is an excellent fleet-support ship, being able to defend larger ships against attacks from smaller enemies and draw the fire of large cruisers.
The Centaur has proven itself effective at border patrol and anti-pirate activities, and more recently in the Cardassian and Dominion wars as a fast attack ship. It has also proven itself effective in convoy harassment and raids, being able to use its manoeuvrability and speed to perform hit and run attacks and take minimal damage itself.
Along with its battle capabilities, the Centaur has proven a solid platform for scientific operations of varying natures. Several Centaur class ships have been involved in planetary surveys and archaeological expeditions. Their easily accessible cargo areas also provide an excellent capability for transporting medical supplies and scientific equipment, as well as other supplies. It's not a cargo ship, but works well as a medium-range courier for small amounts of supplies.
|1||Bridge, Captain's Ready Room|
|2||Aft-firing Torpedo launcher, Shuttle deck high-bay|
|3||Torpedo magazine, Shuttlebay, shuttle maintenance, pilot ready rooms, senior officers quarters|
|4||Dorsal Phaser Banks, Impulse Engines, Deuterium Storage, Officer Quarters|
|5||Deuterium Storage, Officer Quarters, Transporter Rooms, Recreation Facilities|
|6||Sickbay, Crew Quarters, Crew lounges|
|7||Crew quarters, Science Labs, Gymnasium Deck|
|8||Main Engineering, forward crew lounge (Mess hall), guest quarters|
|9||Environmental control, Auxiliary control room|
|10||Ventral Phaser Banks, Security offices, Brig|
|11||Cargo bays, Deflector systems, Primary sensor arrays|
|13||Forward firing torpedo tubes, torpedo magazine|
|14||Torpedo magazine, Aft Phaser bank|
|15||Warp core and Antimatter storage ejection systems|