Battle of Wolf 359

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Remains of the Federation Fleet after the Battle of Wolf 359

The Battle of Wolf 359 took place in 2367 in the Wolf 359 system, roughly eight light years from Earth, between the forces of the United Federation of Planets and the Borg Collective. It is recorded as one of the most destructive battles in Federation history prior to the Dominion War.

Prelude to the Battle

In 2366, on stardate 43989.1, the USS Enterprise-D arrived at Jouret IV after contact with the New Providence colony was lost twelve hours earlier. The colony was found to have been completely destroyed, literally scooped from the planet's surface.

Admiral J.P. Hanson and Lieutenant Commander Shelby of Starfleet Tactical arrived to investigate the disappearance. An away team determined that the colony was wiped away by weapons similar to those found on the Borg Cube encountered by the Enterprise in System J-25. (TNG: "Q Who") Starfleet immediately began preparations for a possible Borg invasion.

Admiral Hanson returned to Starbase 324 to discuss strategy with Starfleet Command. Starfleet imposed a fleet-wide standing yellow alert, and warned all Federation and allied outposts. That evening at 1900 hours, the USS Lalo departed Zeta Alpha II on a freight run to Sentinel Minor IV. At 2212 hours, Starbase 157 received a signal from the Lalo reporting contact with a cubical object. The signal was cut off mid-transmission, and no response was received to further hails. "...We have engaged the Borg."

Upon receiving this information from Admiral Hanson, the USS Enterprise set a course for the Lalo's last known location. With Starfleet reinforcements at least six days away, the Enterprise was on her own. En route to the coordinates, contact was made with the unknown vessel: a Borg cube. News was relayed to Admiral Hanson, who had begun to assemble a fleet to combat the invasion. The Borg demanded that the Enterprise captain, Jean-Luc Picard, beam himself aboard their vessel for an unspecified purpose. After a brief exchange of fire, the Enterprise retreated into the Paulson Nebula, with the Borg vessel close behind.

Hiding in the dust cloud, the Enterprise and her crew prepared for the inevitable conflict. Attempting to force the starship out, the Borg launched magnetometric-guided charges into the nebula, causing minor damage to the Enterprise. Picard ordered the ship out of hiding, and in the ensuing attack, Picard was captured by the Borg, who then left at high warp, en route to Sector 001 and the core of the Federation.

The cube maintained its course, with the Enterprise in hot pursuit. William T. Riker, as acting Captain, planned to force the cube out of warp in order to attack it using the Enterprise's deflector dish. An away team led by Lt. Cmdr. Shelby was sent over to the vessel, and succeeded in taking the Borg cube out of warp. In the process, it was discovered that Captain Picard had been assimilated by the Collective – he had been transformed into a Borg drone with the designation Locutus of Borg. Having temporarily disabled the cube, the Enterprise launched its deflector weapon. (TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds")

The cube easily shrugged off the Enterprise's assault with the unwilling aid of Picard's knowledge, and resumed its course to the Sol system. The Enterprise was forced to stay behind, having suffered extensive damage to its deflector array and Warp Core. In the meantime, Admiral Hanson and Starfleet Command had hastily assembled a fleet of forty starships, with more on the way. The Klingon Empire was in the process of dispatching warships of its own to assist in the defense, and the possibility of requesting Romulan support was even considered. (TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II")

The Battle

In 2367, around stardate 44002.3, the cube entered the Wolf 359 system. Locutus hailed the assembled fleet, ordering them to disarm and escort the cube to the Sol system. Immediately thereafter, the fleet engaged the Borg.

The Excelsior Class USS Melbourne was among the first ships destroyed, with its saucer section partially vaporized while approaching. The Miranda Class USS Saratoga was quickly neutralized thereafter. When the Ambassador Class USS Yamaguchi and the Nebula Class USS Bellerophon rushed to rescue their trapped sister ships, they, too, were destroyed, along with numerous other starships entering the combat zone. (DS9: "Emissary")

After bare minutes of combat, the fleet was faced with utter defeat. Admiral Hanson attempted to rally the remaining ships to launch a last-ditch assault, but his ship was destroyed shortly thereafter. His final words were to Captain Riker of the Enterprise, whom he contacted briefly during the course of the battle. Communications were cut off in the midst of this transmission, and no further transmissions were received. (TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II")

Ultimately, 39 starships were lost with a total loss of nearly 11,000 lives. Many people were assimilated. Only one starship managed to escape the disaster. (TNG: "The Drumhead")

In the scenes seen of the battle, Starfleet used a "wave" assault tactic while engaging the cube. This in turn allowed the Borg cube to simply pick off the Starfleet ships one at a time (as it did with the USS Melbourne, USS Saratoga then presumably the USS Yamaguchi and USS Bellerophon next). In Star Trek: First Contact, when engaging a second cube, the Federation fleet used a "swarm" tactic in the scenes seen of the battle. As reported by Data after the arrival of the Enterprise, that cube had sustained heavy damage - something not even closely achieved at the battle of Wolf 359.

Aftermath of the Battle

Following the battle, the cube resumed course towards Earth, completely undamaged. The Enterprise, having finally completed repairs, raced to catch up to the Borg. Using the recaptured Locutus and his link to the collective mind of the Borg, the Enterprise crew managed to plant subversive commands to deactivate and destroy the Borg ship in Earth orbit. (TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II")

Although the outcome of the invasion could have been much worse, the result of the battle was nothing short of disaster. With so many starships assigned to long-range missions of exploration, Starfleet was left with fewer ships for defense duties in the Federation core systems, weakening their relative position with neighboring races, including the Cardassian Union. (TNG: "The Wounded")

Commander Shelby took command of a special task force to rebuild Starfleet's strength. (TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II") Construction of new starships was accelerated, but it took several years for Starfleet to return to previous deployment levels. Perhaps more importantly, Starfleet's entire philosophy began to sway towards more offensive, combat-ready starships – warships, to be more precise. Although Starfleet avoided using such a classification, euphemisms such as "escort" or "tactical cruiser" were substituted instead. Such previously controversial designs with heavy armaments, such as the Defiant Class, gained more support following the battle in light of the heightened Borg threat. (DS9: "The Search, Part I")

In 2367, Admiral Norah Satie used the battle as a means to question Captain Jean-Luc Picard's integrity during an inquiry board on Romulan subversion. She implied that Picard's relations with the Borg led to the battle, and hence he was untrustworthy. (TNG: "The Drumhead")

In 2370, Benjamin Sisko missed the painful fourth year anniversary by one day. It was the cause of his inability to sleep. (DS9: "Second Sight")

In 2371, Vice Admiral Toddman commented to Sisko that the Battle of the Omarion Nebula between the Dominion and a Romulan Tal Shiar/Obsidian Order fleet sounded "like Wolf 359 all over again". Sisko admitted that he had had the same thought. Like the Starfleet ships at Wolf 359, very few Cardassian or Romulan ships survived. (DS9: "The Die is Cast")

In 2374, the Alpha Hirogen, Karr, in control of the USS Voyager, wanted to create a simulation of the Battle of Wolf 359, as it was one of the "notorious battles" of the Federation. (VOY: "The Killing Game")

Other Notes

Star Trek Encyclopedia speculates that the USS Endeavour was the ship that escaped the battle intact. The ship was mentioned in VOY: "Scorpion".

The Star Trek: Voyager episodes "Unity" and "Infinite Regress" refer to people being assimilated during the battle and subsequently being returned to the Delta Quadrant, perhaps suggesting the presence of an undetected second Borg vessel which returned to Borg territory. In fact, "Infinite Regress" suggests that Seven of Nine personally assimilated at least one of those people. Also, in "Dark Frontier", the Borg Queen even claimed that she was present at the battle, a fact seemingly confirmed by Picard's memories of her seen in Star Trek: First Contact. However, this could alternately be the result of the Borg sending boarding parties to assimilate one or more of the Starfleet vessels and their crews at the battle and instead of continuing with the cube to Sector 001, these ships instead headed back towards the Delta Quadrant. ENT: "Regeneration" supports this theory as the assimilated Arctic One gradually was able to increase its maximum speed through Borg enhancements.

A possible alternative explanation can be found in First Contact when Picard asks the Borg Queen how she survived the battle, stating that all Borg Drones had been killed. She replies that it is sad that he only thinks in "three-dimensional terms", which could indicate a fourth-dimensional (temporal) method for her escape, or some form of wormhole. Another explanation could be that the Queen was there, but was able to escape the Borg Cube, or was on a second vessel that did not take part in the battle, and was using the Borg Collective consciousness to be in Picard's mind without having to be there physically. Or, perhaps the Borg Queen isn't dependent on a physical body and is constructed as necessary, as the Queen herself states that she literally is the collective.