Historically, Starfleet had only ever fielded one heavy Destroyer class,
the Detroyat class of 2224. In 2243, Starfleet Tactical suggested the
development of a new tactic for Destroyer operations, the use of leaders.
New sensor technology, such as that fitted to the Constitution class offered
massive range improvements, but it was felt that the sensor suite and
associated systems were too large to be fitted to standard Destroyers. As a
result the 10 Detroyat class ships were refitted with modern warp drives,
and with the new sensor systems, it was also decided to order 26 vessels to
supplement the Detroyats. The total of 36 Heavy Destroyers was felt to be
sufficient to allocate one to each group of 6 standard destroyers operating
along the Klingon and Romulan borders. The Heavy Destroyer would act as the
command ship for the group, and also provide long range sensors.
The design, later to be named Apache, started off as a modified Detroyat
design. During the design process the class evolved, the saucer was modified
to feature an elongated rear edge and the secondary hull was massively
enlarged compared to that of the Detroyat. It was intended that the Apache
would be allocated to Destroyer groups allocated to more remote areas, and
as a result the secondary hull was enlarged to enable it to carry spares and
supplies to support its assigned group.
In service the Apache proved to be as dependable as its illustrious
ancestor. Destroyer groups led by Apaches served with distinction throughout
the Four Years War, and a group led by the USS Tartar was instrumental in
the Attack of Convoy Y-16Z in 2253, the first significant Federation fleet
victory of the war. So effective was the Leader concept, that a number of
Cygnus class command couriers were rearmed and modified to act as Leaders to
supplement the insufficient numbers of Detroyats and Apaches.
Postwar the fortunes of the Apache, and the leaders in general waned. The
progress in miniaturisation meant that conventional destroyers could now
mount the long range sensors far more economically. As a result the
Detroyats were reclassified as long range scouts and assigned to exploration
duties, and the new leader class, the Derf, was modified to become a tender.
The 18 surviving Apaches were retained in service, but were grouped together
to form three heavy destroyer groups, which were assigned to the defence of
Terra, Vulcan and Alpha Centauri. In 2258 the ships were rearmed with
phasers and photon torpedoes.
Heightened tensions leading up to the Organia conflict led to the Apaches
being refitted again, and recalled to the Klingon Border. This time they
served as sector command ships, supplementing the Perimeter Action Ships of
the Kiaga and Agilis classes. The success of the ships in this role led to
them being reclassified as Strike Cruisers (interim) in 2268, and they
served in this capacity until the Belknap class entered full service.
The Apaches were progressively retired to reserve from 2280 onwards as
the Belknap class ships assumed their role.
The Apache class was named by Admiral Wood, commander of Military
Operations Command in commeration of his first command, the Mann class
Cruiser USS Apache.