SHIP SIZE COMPARISON
Quite often, we tend to quote the sizes of ships, or their lengths, but it is difficult to grasp just how big the vessels are that we talk so much about. A natural way to achieve a sense of the size of the starships we're talking about is to compare them to real world objects or vessels. This page is an attempt at precisely that.
The most recognisable real world example which is easy to compare to the starships of Star Trek and especially Star Wars is a modern aircraft carrier. And what aircraft carrier would serve better than the USS Nimitz, the largest aircraft carrier class to date, and (arguably) representing the pinnacle of twentieth century military engineering.
"95,000 tons of diplomacy. 4.5 acres of sovereign U.S. territory anywhere, any time. The most powerful weapons system on the planet. "
So it says on the homepage of the USS Nimitz.
I am sure we can all identify with the size and majesty of these huge ocean going vessels. The Nimitz is therefore the best identifiable example of a modern vessel which can be compared to our favourite starships. I have included some facts about the Nimitz below, for comparison with the Starship Enterprise, and an Imperator-class Star Destroyer.
USS Nimitz factfile
Power Plant: Two nuclear reactors, four shafts
Length, overall: 1,092 feet (332.85 meters)
Flight Deck Width: 252 feet (76.8 meters)
Beam: 134 feet (40.84 meters)
Displacement: Approx. 97,000 tons (98,556.67 metric tons) full load
Speed: 30+ knots (34.5+ miles per hour)
Ship's Company: 3200, Aircrew: 2480 (Total: 5680 souls)
By comparison, the starship Enterprise-E is 685m long overall, and is largely a flattened disk-shaped. The Enterprise has a crew of about 1000, including civilians (families of crew-members). Being about twice as large as the Nimitz, and having less than a fifth the crew, the Enterprise appears to be a very undermanned ship. However, many functions are automated or otherwise computerised. It is questionable how wise that is on a military ship since automated processes have a way of not behaving properly in military situations. Few military organisations would allow machines to do jobs that can be more reliably accomplished by sentient operators.
As far as our Imperator-class Star Destroyers go, an ISD is approximately, five times longer than the USS Nimitz, and is decidedly more massive in width and height as well. An ISD's bridge section is probably about twenty or thirty times more massive than the equivalent structure on an aircraft carrier, and an ISD would have about a hundred to a hundred and twenty times the volume of an aircraft carrier, with about seven times the crew. An ISD operates a similar number of starfighters (72, excluding shuttles, barges, etc) as an aircraft carrier.
From this comparison, we can determine that an ISD is extremely under-crewed as it has the lowest ratio of crew-member per unit volume of the three vessels.
Oh, one other thing. Have a look at the pic of the Nimitz above, paying particular attention to the bridge section. It has a shield dome on the top. How strange! Didn't know the US navy had shield or force-field technology.
Actually, the original designers of ISD's intended the spherical structures on the bridge to be sensor domes, or the Star Wars equivalent of the radar domes seen on many modern ships. These devices are extremely sensitive, and also utilise radiation which is harmful to the crew, thus are located at this extremity of the ship for two reasons, crew safety, and as far from likely sources of interference as possible. Early concept sketches of ISD's had these labelled as sensor domes, but later references mistakenly referred to them as shield domes after misinterpreting an event in Return of the Jedi. The event in question was the destruction of one of these sensor domes. A bridge officer on the ISD observing this realised that if the enemy weapons were penetrating then their defensive shields had to be down, and announced that the bridge shields were down. Subsequent reference guides took this to mean that the domes were shield domes, the destruction of which resulted in shield loss. This is blatantly illogical, since the shields would have had to be down first before the domes could be destroyed.
This has caused much confusion amongst fans, and continuous argument as to which has higher canonicity, the intentions of the model makers who designed the ISD, or the (illogical) interpretation of the Return of the Jedi event by the third party company which produced subsequent reference material.