By Doug Horton

Challenger graphics

The Challenger's history is a long and prestigious one. When it was commissioned almost eighty years ago, it was the flagship of the UPF fleet. It was the largest and most heavily armed warship in the Frontier at that time, measuring just over five hundred meters in length. Built in response to the Sathar threat, it was equipped with the latest in advanced weapons and technical innovations. For fifty four years it helped keep peace in the Frontier, battling pirates and "showing the flag" wherever the Sathar insurgents threatened.

As the years passed, the maintenance costs for these older ships became prohibitively expensive. The Ion engines these ships were powered by were slow and comparatively clumsy, sometimes even being outrun by mere freighters.

With the first of the new Battleship class starship, the UPF high command downgraded the Challenger class vessels to Heavy Cruisers and the Challenger and four of its sister ships were decommissioned and placed in mothballed status in orbit around Morgain's World. They were no longer the most powerful warships and were considered too expensive to maintain while better craft were available. Only the UPFS Redoubtable was left in service, assigned to support Task Force Cassidine, where its slow speed wouldn't hamper its defensive role.

The years passed, and the old cruisers were nearly forgotten. With the recent Sathar attack on Volturnus, the United Planetary Federation realized the threat that the Sathar still represented and put pressure on the UPF Fleet Admiralty to take steps to learn current Sathar fleet strength and learn the location of Sathar outposts. They also needed more resources for the construction of additional warships, if necessary to repel the next Sathar attack, which seems imminent.

The Admiralty proposed a scouting mission using contracted civilian starships. Many were sent out, but few returned with tangible results. UPF assault scouts were sent in limited numbers as well, but with the loss of the UPFS K'tress'k, the Admiralty reconsidered that plan. What was needed was a ship that could fight off attackers, scout planets' surfaces, and succeed in reporting back with that data. The problem was that every ship that met that criteria was needed for the defense of the Frontier.

That was when Rear Admiral Bolchak first proposed the refitting of an old heavy cruiser to make it suitable for the task. After a brief debate, it was decided to be the best course of action. The Challenger was chosen as it had the largest hull size and the best structural integrity of the five cruisers.

After four months of intense work, the Challenger slowly eased out of spacedock. Once little more than a museum piece, it was now one of the most advanced warships of the UPF spacefleet.

Yada yada yada. Obviously, this history don't work in the framework of the Buck Rogers universe. No alien invaders, no other worlds than those in the solar system, and so on. Short version of a suggested Buck Rogers background: Being one of the first battler-class ships, the Challenger class was the pride of RAM's spaceborne navy for many years. However, its technology became obsolete, and the ship was mothballed against future needs. Now, with NEO becoming a real power in the struggle for Earth, RAM cast about for more capital ships to put into the fight. Deciding that it was cheaper to refit than to build new, the Challenger battler was taken out of the recycling queue, and put into space dock. After a few months of intense work, the Challenger slowly eased out of the spacedock. Once little more than a museum piece, it was now state-of-the-art, ready to be put into service against those pesky NEO insurgents.