The debacle caused by the Dominion War proved to be another challenging ordeal to the aging but still massive Excelsior Class fleet. Despite the various modernization programs launched by Starfleet, front line Excelsiors still suffered considerable attrition rates against enemy forces.
The USS Trailblazer was one such vessel. The aging "Refit" was already well in her thirties when she was overhauled for combat operations in the Tyfersia Fleet Yards. Acquiring badly needed updates such as modern targeting computers, advanced tracking systems and Yamato-grade Phaser emitters, Trailblazer was re-launched as a dedicated "Combat Excelsior Refit" in 2375, just in time for the Battle of Cardassia. However, the aforementioned updates proved to be a lame duck against the numerically and physically superior opposition. Trailblazer, along with several fellow Excelsiors were pounded to critical levels by the elaborate defense mechanisms installed by the Cardassians. During the battle, Trailblazer's port section of the stardrive was heavily damaged, causing numerous internal ruptures. A massive piece of her impulse assembly was also torn off and her starboard nacelle was forcibly shut down to avoid a catastrophic coolant leak. Around 40% of her crew were lost and the vessel was left for dead until the Battle was concluded.
However, this major setback did not necessarily mean death row for the Trailblazer. Starfleet Salvage Teams managed to recover her battered hulk. Much to the team's surprise, the Trailblazer remained largely intact save for the missing components. After intense inspection and re-inspection of the battle damage, Trailblazer was still deemed a salvageable ship. This came as a relief to her commanding officer, Sergey Petrovsky. A well known figure in the Excelsior fleet, the aged captain considered himself part of the "old guard" of Starfleet officers from the early decades of the 24th Century. Indeed, Petrovsky was the first and still current CO of the Trailblazer. With more than three decades under his belt, he could not imagine service without his trusty Excelsior. The last few months of 2375 had Petrovsky personally oversee the tedious re-construction of the Trailblazer in Utopia Planitia.
At one point during the rebuild effort, the captain noticed an iconic silhouette pass by the Trailblazer's drydock. It turned out to be the USS Putrajaya NCC-79702, a "Wyvern Refit" of the old Constitution. Seeing a classic in such fine form inspired him to take a similar approach to his vessel. The following day, Petrovsky arranged a joint meeting with his engineering staff and members of the Wyvern Project to discuss a similar attempt to bring his Excelsior to modernity. After weeks of planning, deliberation and intense lobbying, Petrovsky and his team finally received a special grant from Admiral Weeson to update his starship. The challenges were far from over though, Montgomery Scott's Wyvern Team had their work cut out for them. Even more so to Scott himself, who always saw the Excelsior Class as an "overgrown bathtub of circuits".
Once the initial restoration work was complete, Scott's teams immediately started upgrade work. Previous experience from the Wyverns was a valuable asset in the Trailblazer's modernization plan. After a full month of troubleshooting integration issues and heavy renovation of certain internal components, the Trailblazer was fitted with the latest Starfleet technology could offer. Ranging from Bio-Neural circuitry, fully integrated subsystems, high output engines, Battleship grade weapon banks and a myriad of countless modern touch ups. By March 2376, the Trailblazer's refit was complete. Her general outward appearance remained largely unchanged save for the new phaser banks and remodeled nacelle components. Beneath the hull, she sported systems comparable to the Akira and Intrepid. Six days later, she was re-launched in a brief but notable ceremony with Petrovsky at the captain's chair.
Captain Petrovsky's pioneering effort to step up the Excelsior modernization issue was noticed by like minded officers in the Excelsior fleet. However, the Trailblazer would remain a one-off design. A post refit assessment by Scott's Wyvern Team determined that the cost of fully refitting and overhauling an Excelsior to similar standards would be comparable to building an all new Akira cruiser or two Sabre destroyers. Still, his pet project would remain to be a unique landmark in the annals of Excelsior development and evolution, showing full well that Excelsiors are enduring and hardy designs that have stood the test of time.
Model by Rick Knox, edits by Amateur and Starfox