There are two types of well known Bird-of-Prey ship's in the star trek universe, these are the Klingon bird of Prey and the Romulan Bird-of-Prey.
- 1 Klingon Bird-of-Prey (22nd century)
- 2 Technical data
- 3 Background
- 4 Klingon Bird-of-Prey (23rd & 24th century models)
- 5 Technical data
- 6 Interior design
- 7 Romulan Bird-of-Prey (22nd century)
- 8 Background
- 9 Romulan Bird-of-Prey (23rd century)
- 10 History
- 11 Technical data
- 12 Background
- 13 Interior design
Klingon Bird-of-Prey (22nd century)
During the mid-22nd century, the Klingon Empire operated a type of small warship known as the Klingon Bird-of-Prey.
This class is one of the earliest class of starships encountered by Earth Starfleet during the early 2150s. The first encounter occurred on the outer perimeter of the Sol system in early 2153. (ENT: "The Expanse") Starfleet, however, had known of the existence of these ships as early as late 2151. (ENT: "Sleeping Dogs")
This Bird-of-Prey design was revamped over the next two centuries, and was used to represent several different variations of this class that were collectively known under the same name. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
Docked with an NX-class starshipComparable in design to its sister classes, the Raptor-class scout and D5-class battle cruiser, the exterior design of the Bird-of-Prey utilized the same basic avian design, including vaguely feather-like hull plating on its wings.
The bulk of the ship's overall mass was incorporated in the aft section of the ship. The bridge module was located on a bulbous forward section, which was separated from the aft section by a relatively thin connective section that attached to and flared into the aft portion, which sweept down below the main body forming wings.
Located on the caudal section of the ship were the ship's shuttlebay, impulse engines and warp nacelles. The nacelles were positioned on the extreme upper aft section of the ship, perpendicular to the impulse engine.
The offensive arsenal of the Bird-of-Prey was rather impressive, for the time, as the ship possessed at least eight forward disruptor banks, including a twin-pair of neck-mounted disruptor cannons, a pair of wing-tip mounted disruptor cannons, and a 360º rotating turret containing twin belly-mounted disruptor cannons. The class was also equipped with dual photon torpedo launchers, positioned fore and aft, and defensive shields. (ENT: "The Expanse", "Borderland", "Cold Station 12") This class, however, had minimal aft weapons. (ENT: "The Augments")
Prior to the refitting of Enterprise, one Bird-of-Prey was more than a match with the NX class; however, it was unable to repel three older Earth vessels at one time. After Enterprise was upgraded, it was nearly an even match with the Bird-of-Prey. (ENT: "The Expanse") This class of Bird-of-Prey could outgun an Orion interceptor, two to one. (ENT: "Borderland")
It was stated by Arik Soong (in "The Augments") that the Enterprise outgunned their Bird-of-Prey "three to one." It is unclear if this statement, which seems unfair based on previous encounters, was Soong being overly cautious of the situation, or if his statement reflected the current condition of their vessel, which had sustained some damage at that time and was limited to warp 3.8.
Tractoring a transport shuttleThis class of vessel was equipped with tractor beam technology. It had one emitter located on the underside of each wing that, when used in conjunction, could be used to manipulate a ship to its belly docking port. (ENT: "Borderland")
Unlike the Raptor class, this class of Bird-of-Prey was equipped with escape pods. The Bird-of-Prey's escape pod hatch was also located on the belly of the ship. (ENT: "The Augments")
One major flaw of the Bird-of-Prey's design was found at the nape of the ship's neck and primary hull; a direct hit on the main plasma junction, located above the sensor array, could disable the entire power grid. (ENT: "The Augments")
The shuttlebay was located on the extreme aft of the ship, directly below the impulse engines. It was large enough in capacity to store a Denobulan medical ship. (ENT: "Cold Station 12", "The Augments")
Like the Raptor-class scouts of this era, live food was kept aboard these Birds-of-Prey in the targ pits, presumably adjacent to the galley. (ENT: "The Augments")
Located in the "head" of the forward section of the vessel, the bridge, which plated with dispersive armor, was one of the most protected sections of the ship. (ENT: "The Augments")
The configuration of the Bird-of-Prey's main bridge shared with many features found in contemporary designs.
In the front of the bridge, against the forward bulkhead, was the ship's viewscreen. Directly behind the viewscreen, near the center of the bridge was the captain's chair. Directly behind the captain's chair, was the entryway to the bridge, with two manned consoles located on either side of the doorway. Along the perimeter of the bridge were several stations, each designated for a specific task. (ENT: "Borderland", "Cold Station 12", "The Augments")
The term "Bird-of-Prey" was first referenced on Enterprise in "Sleeping Dogs", and may have been implied to be the "two ships approaching at high warp" at the end of that episode. An earlier reference made in "Broken Bow" to "a fleet of warbirds" might have originally intended to be a reference to the Bird-of-Prey.
The design of this CGI model was inspired by Nilo Rodis's Klingon Bird-of-Prey, which first appeared in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. At that time the "Bird-of-Prey" designation was originally believed to be a Romulan term that was adopted by the Klingons in the late 23rd century. With the appearance of ships of this name in use by both Klingons and Romulans during the 2150s, the "in-universe" origin of the term is much more obscure.
Klingon Bird-of-Prey (23rd & 24th century models)
The Klingon Bird-of-Prey was a type of warship utilized by the Klingon Empire serving the Klingon Defense Forces from the late 23rd century into the late 24th century.
This type of craft, initially descended from its counterpart from a century earlier, was one of the most versatile warships employed by the Empire, serving a variety of mission roles, including that of a scout, raider, patrol ship, and cruiser.
The Klingons applied several class designations to the different types of their Bird-of-Prey design, including the K'vort-class, B'rel-class and D12-class.
The D12-class was retired from service by the 2350s due to faulty plasma coils, which were components of the cloaking systems. (Star Trek Generations) In fact, according to Gorta, finding one of these vessels with a working cloaking device was rather unique in 2370. (TNG: "Firstborn")
By the 2360s, it was not uncommon to find a B'rel-class Bird-of-Prey stripped and relegated to a surplus yard. Ferengi DaiMon Lurin acquired two of these vessels, complete with cloaking devices, and managed to make them space worthy once again, after a few repairs and the addition of some weapons. (TNG: "Rascals")
In an alternate timeline, the K'Vort-class was referred to as a battle cruiser, and was larger than its "prime universe" counterpart. While slower than the Galaxy-class battleships of the era, in a 3:1 confrontation, a Galaxy-class was not able to last long. (TNG: "Yesterday's Enterprise") This class was known to be equipped with several escape pods, and in use well into the 2370s. (DS9: "Penumbra")
The Bird-of-Prey dates back to the mid-22nd century, when they were first encountered by Earth Starfleet, during a short confrontation on the edge of the Sol system in 2153. (ENT: "The Expanse") Starfleet continued to possess knowledge of the Bird-of-Prey during the 2280s. Hikaru Sulu was among those familiar with the class at that time, since he was capable of visually identifying a Bird-of-Prey, as well as being familiar with its crew complement. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
A well-publicized encounter with a Bird-of-Prey occurred in 2285, when a Bird-of-Prey commanded by Kruge conducted a mission to uncover the secrets of Project Genesis. After acquiring the information, the ship destroyed the Merchantman, and later the USS Grissom, before facing off against the USS Enterprise in orbit of the Genesis Planet.
Kruge ultimately lost the battle, and his ship, allowing James T. Kirk the privilege of Starfleet capturing its first Klingon Bird-of-Prey. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
This event was well documented in the events leading up to the court martial of Admiral Kirk, and the ship was thereafter utilized for time traveling back to Earth's 20th century. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
In an early storyboard proposal for Star Trek VI, Captain Montgomery Scott was in charge of disassembling the previously captured Bird-of-Prey for intelligence purposes. A few years later, the first Bird-of-Prey to ever breach the Great Barrier was commanded by Captain Klaa in 2287. (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier)
The first Klingon Bird-of-Prey to ever be captured by Cardassia was commandeered in 2372 by Gul Dukat. (DS9: "Return to Grace")
For nearly a century, the Bird-of-Prey proved to be a rugged, sturdy design that saw continuous use. In that they were much like their Federation counterparts the Excelsior- and Miranda-class starships, whose usefulness out-lived contemporaries such as the Constitution-class cruiser. (TNG; DS9)
Despite the age of the Bird-of-Prey design by the 2370s, the ships fought valiantly during the Dominion War and featured in every battle of the conflict. Though the Bird-of-Prey design had been in service for nearly 100 years, constant upgrades ensured that the ships were still a powerful and capable front-line war ship.
In the hands of a seasoned and aggressive commander, a Bird-of-Prey could engage multiple Dominion fighters and expect to come out victorious. They were consider much more agile than K't'inga-class cruisers, allowing them to be better suited for some tasks. (DS9: "Call to Arms", "Once More Unto the Breach")
Design overviewComparable in design to its 22nd century predecessor, the exterior design of the Bird-of-Prey utilized the same basic avian design, including vaguely feather-like hull plating on its wings.
The bulk of the ship's overall mass was incorporated in the aft section of the ship. The bridge module was located on a bulbous forward section, which was separated from the aft section by a relatively thin connective section that attached to and flared into the aft portion, which swept from the main body forming wings. The wing-design was characterized by its multi-positioning for various flight modes.
Located on the caudal section of the ship were the ship's cargo bay, impulse engine and warp nacelle. The nacelle was positioned diagonally along the aft section of the ship, above the cargo bay, and perpendicular to the impulse engine. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, etc.)
The Bird-of-Prey of the mid-24th century was said to be equipped with the Klingon Empire's "best weapons" and "finest warriors". While typically designated for peaceful missions, they were always "prepared to go into battle instantly." (TNG: "A Matter Of Honor")
The typical offensive arsenal of the Bird-of-Prey included twin forward-firing wing-mounted disruptor cannons, dual photon torpedo launchers — positioned fore and aft — and deflector shields. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock; DS9: "Blood Oath", "The Way of the Warrior") By the 24th century, at least one type was armed with phasers, rather than disruptors, and possessed a weapons range that exceeded 40,000 kilometers. (TNG: "A Matter Of Honor")
In general, the firepower of a Klingon Bird-of-Prey varied by ship and era. During the 2280s, a Bird-of-Prey was said to be "out gunned 10 to 1" by a Constitution-class battle cruiser. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
Kruge's statement about being out gunned 10:1 appears to be based on the ship's state of condition following two unshielded photon torpedo impacts. While considered to be "no match" for the Federation's Galaxy-class, during the latter 24th century, the Bird-of-Prey was also significantly inferior to the Federation's Defiant-class as well. (TNG: "A Matter Of Honor", Star Trek Generations; DS9: "The Way of the Warrior")
Despite this, the Bird-of-Prey proved more than a match for several other contemporary vessels, including the Empire's very own Vor'cha-class cruiser, as was demonstrated at the outbreak of the Klingon Civil War, when two Birds-of-Prey were nearly successful in defeating a Vor'cha class in an ambush attack, before being repelled by a third Bird-of-Prey. (TNG: "Redemption")
In a line cut from this scene, Jean-Luc Picard stated that a Vor'cha class cruiser "should have twice the firepower of a Bird-of-Prey."
Engaging a Jem'Hadar fighter.The Bird-of-Prey also proved to be very successful against the Dominion's Jem'Hadar fighters as well. On more than one occasion during the Klingon-Cardassian War and Dominion War Bird-of-Prey commanders have successfully engaged and defeated Jem'Hadar fighters. (DS9: "Soldiers of the Empire", "Call to Arms", "Sons and Daughters", "Favor the Bold", etc.) However, during one Klingon-Cardassian War encounter, a Bird-of-Prey was ambushed by three Jem'Hadar ships – this three-to-one engagement was considered to be "long odds," and the fact that the ship was able to successfully escape in one piece was good fortune. (DS9: "Soldiers of the Empire") It was also during this conflict that a single Bird-of-Prey was successfully able to overwhelm the Cardassian outpost on Korma, disabling the planetary defense systems and destroying every building. (DS9: "Return to Grace")
The weakest spot on a Klingon Bird-of-Prey was located the underside of the ship's hull. While weak, this section was able to withstand sustained phaser fire from a Cardassian Groumall-type freighter with the shields down. This area was however, not unable to withstand a shot from a system-5 disruptor, which was capable of breaching the hull within two shots. (DS9: "Return to Grace") The Bird-of-Prey's neck was one of the more resistant sections of the ship, capable of withstanding the change in pressure caused by a hull breach. (TNG: "A Matter Of Honor")
The Bird-of-Prey was also utilized in the mirror universe by the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance where they were described by Intendant Kira Nerys as being "quick and powerful". These vessels, however, were not without their weaknesses, specifically, their targeting systems could be easily fooled. (DS9: "Shattered Mirror")
Birds-of-Prey were typically outfitted with a cloaking device – the key to the ship's success in battle. The first 23rd century models' cloak could permit the use of communications and/or the ship's transporters, but could not be kept up at the same time as the ship used its weapons systems. Also, the cloak left an "energy surge" that could be picked up on close-range sensor scans as a "distortion", tipping off an observant opponent to the vessel's presence. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock; Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) There was approximately two seconds of vulnerability from the time a Bird-of-Prey's cloak begins to engage/disengage and the raising/dropping of the ship's shields. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek Generations)
In the mid 2290s, an advanced Bird-of-Prey prototype was developed that could fire weapons from under cloak and did not display the characteristic "energy surge". However, that model cloak could not mask "neutron radiation" or high-energy plasma, such as the exhaust from the ship's impulse engines. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)
Under normal conditions, a Bird-of-Prey was capable of making warp 7. (DS9: "Once More Unto the Breach") Under ideal circumstances, a Bird-of-Prey could reach warp 9.8 while initiating the slingshot effect. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
During the 23rd century, the Klingon Bird-of-Prey utilized a dilithium sequencer that was considered "primitive" by Federation standards. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
The primary impulse injector on board a Bird-of-Prey was located on Deck 5. (DS9: "Sons and Daughters")
To create a graviton burst, it is necessary for a Bird-of-Prey to divert warp power to the main deflector . (DS9: "Once More Unto the Breach")
In the case when a Bird-of-Prey is experiencing a containment problem in the warp core, an adjustment can be made to the tritium intermix to compensate. (DS9: "When It Rains...")
At least two tractor beam emitters were located on the ventral sections of the Bird-of-Prey, specifically on the "head", behind and below the torpedo launcher, and between the wings, below and in front of the impulse engines. (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior", "Return to Grace") In 2375, the IKS Rotarran emitted an EM pulse from a location near the latter tractor emitter. (DS9: "Shadows and Symbols")
On average, a Bird-of-Prey had a crew compliment that varied from "about a dozen officers and men," up to a crew of thirty-six. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock; DS9: "Return to Grace") A skeleton crew of a half-dozen could adequately operate a Bird-of-Prey, and even take it successfully into battle. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home; DS9: "Once More Unto the Breach")
The interior design of the Bird-of-Prey had limited space available for the very fact that it was designed as "a military ship, not a pleasure craft," according to Klingon captain K'Vada. (TNG: "Unification I") Jadzia Dax described life on board a Bird-of-Prey as "cramped and uncomfortable," by comparison to a Defiant-class starship. (DS9: "Soldiers of the Empire")
The script for "A Matter Of Honor" described the Bird-of-Prey interior as appearing "utilitarian", while lacking "the smooth free-flowing lines and coloring of the Enterprise-D."
Due to their age and variety of configurations, main bridge design for the Birds-of-Prey included numerous variations.
The Bird-of-Prey encountered by the USS Enterprise in 2285 over the Genesis Planet featured the chair of the commanding officer on a raised platform, providing the captain with visual access to the main view screen on eye level. From his position, he could visually monitor all stations located in front of him, including the helm, navigation and tactical consoles, located in a recessed "pit" around him. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
Three months later, the same ship featured an all-different bridge as Captain Kirk and his crew steered the vessel to Earth. In the center of the room was located the captain's chair, with the vessel course control stations located in front of it. Aft to the captain's right was located the communications console, while aft to the captain's left were located engineering and scientific monitoring stations. It is possible that the differences are the result of the reconstruction and repair of the ship during its three-month stay on Vulcan. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
One year later, the USS Enterprise-A confronted a Bird-of-Prey with yet another layout, one difference being that it provided the commanding officer with a direct link to the starship's weapons systems. (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier)
In 2293, General Chang commanded a prototype Bird-of-Prey that had the ability to fire its weapons while it was cloaked. Its bridge was similar to that of the previous Birds-of-Prey, though it had no consoles in front of Chang's command chair to obstruct his view of the main viewscreen, instead featuring the helm station behind the captain's chair. This unique helm station incorporated a large wheel for directional control rather than conventional console-based controls. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)
The following information of specifications and defenses comes exclusively from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual:
- Production Base: Qo'noS Orbital Factory Base.
- Type: Scout (B'rel); Cruiser (K'Vort). Common plan form scales up 4.3 times for cruiser.
- Accommodation: 12 plus flight crew and troops (B'rel); 1,500+ flight crew and troops (K'Vort).
- Power Plant: One M/A warp system; two impulse systems.
- Dimensions: Length, 157.76 meters; beam, 181.54 meters; height, 98.54 meters (B'rel). Length, 678.36 meters; beam, 780.62 meters; height, 423.72 meters (K'Vort).
- Mass: 236,000 metric tonnes (B'rel), 1,890,000 metric tonnes (K'Vort)
- Performance: Warp 9.6 (B'rel and K'Vort).
- Armament: Two ship-mounted disruptor cannons; one torpedo launcher (B'rel). Four ship-mounted disruptor cannons; two torpedo launcher (K'Vort).
Romulan Bird-of-Prey (22nd century)
In the 22nd century, the Romulan Star Empire fielded a warship known as a "Bird-of-Prey", so named for its distinctive bird-like hull form and for the bold pattern of an alien bird painted on its hull. (TOS: "Balance of Terror") The ships were equipped with advanced weaponry, as well as a cloaking device.
The Bird-of-Prey was first encountered by Humans in mid-2152, when Enterprise accidentally entered a minefield surrounding a planet claimed by the Romulan Empire. At least two ships of this type were present in the system; both confronted Enterprise and forced it to leave. (ENT: "Minefield")
The fact that the Birds-of-Prey in the 2150s were equipped with cloaking devices constitutes an apparent continuity violation, because Spock's comment gives the impression that cloaks were apparently unheard of before "Balance of Terror". However, this is Spock's own personal notion based on what he knows, and does not necessarily reflect the totality of the Federation's expertise on Romulan equipment. Alternatively, the fault could be said to lie with previous episodes, because "Minefield" was not the first time a cloaking device was seen on Enterprise. See also Earth-Romulan War.
The appearance of the 22nd century Bird-of-Prey, at face value, constitutes an apparent visual continuity violation as well, in that Lt. Stiles mentioned in the same episode that during the Earth-Romulan War, Romulan ships of the time were painted like giant birds of prey (hence the name). Some fans have speculated that the 22nd century Birds-of-Prey with their cloaking devices and overall pseudo-24th century appearance are the result of the Temporal Cold War. We can also assume that other classes of Romulan ships during the 22nd century were painted like giant birds, especially smaller, more easily manufactured cruisers, making a majority of their unseen fleet possibly able to validate the comments of Stiles. It is also possible that the Romulans did not adopt the Bird-of-Prey markings until the Earth-Romulan war had actually begun.
Several staff writers on Star Trek: Enterprise – among them Producer Mike Sussman – believed that 22nd century Romulan ships should not have been equipped with cloaking devices, in keeping with "Balance of Terror". Season Four showrunner and Co-Executive Producer Manny Coto decided that Romulan ships would not have cloaks in any subsequent encounters. Birds-of-Prey were seen in Star Trek: Tactical Assault as light cruisers.
According to the novel The Good That Men Do, these cloaking ships were one-offs. Romulan stealth technology was still in development, the cloaked mines were considered a successful application of the technology but the power requirements for cloaking a whole ship were problematic, sometime after the encounter with the Enterprise the prototype cloaking ship, Praetor Pontilus, was destroyed in an antimatter containment failure caused by its stealth systems. The Romulans believed it would be decades until a successful cloaking device could be developed.
Romulan Bird-of-Prey (23rd century)
The Romulan Bird-of-Prey was a type of space vessel that was in service with the military of the Romulan Star Empire during the latter half of the 23rd century.
Gaining its name from the bold pattern of an alien bird's feathers painted on the ship's ventral hull, the Romulan bird-of-prey was the successor of a 22nd century counterpart of similar design.
The Federation Starfleet first encountered this vessel in 2266, when a single ship of this type crossed the Romulan Neutral Zone and attacked several border outposts, destroying them utterly. The USS Enterprise responded to the alert and engaged in a tense game of cat-and-mouse with the intruder for more than ten hours, before the Bird-of-Prey was destroyed. (TOS: "Balance of Terror")
The Romulans later used larger numbers to patrol their border with the Federation in force. Typically during an incursion, one Bird-of-Prey will bring a starship out of warp with a plasma torpedo to allow the ships in its battle group to attack the target en masse. When the Enterprise violated the Neutral Zone on the orders of Commodore Stocker in 2267, it was ambushed by a squadron of ten Birds-of-Prey. (TOS: "The Deadly Years")
After the Romulan-Klingon Alliance of 2268, the Bird-of-Prey was largely supplanted by the more massive and more versatile Klingon D7-class battle cruiser, although some were used in concert with the D7s. (TOS: "The Enterprise Incident")
Information on this class of starship was assimilated in 2375, by the Borg drone One, from the database aboard USS Voyager. (VOY: "Drone")
Remarkably similar in design to similar era Federation starships, the Romulan bird-of-prey was designed with a sole primary hull configuration.
Grey in color, with its namesake bird design painted on the hull, the bird-of-prey was essentially saucer with parallel warp nacelles mounted port and starboard of the main body. The aft of the ship was designed with a raised "fin." (TOS: "Balance of Terror", etc.)
Dialog in the shooting script (never used and never filmed) had Commander Hansen speculate that the Romulan Bird-of-Prey was designed from stolen Starfleet ship blueprints. In further unused/unaired dialog Stiles later remarks on this in his tirades against Spock.
Firing a plasma torpedo.Although incapable of matching the Federation's Constitution-class starship one-on-one, the ship still featured several technological advances that were previously unattainable to Federation science: the first practical invisibility screen, and the massively powerful plasma torpedo. This class of starship had a single forward torpedo launcher. It also carried a number of nuclear weapons.
New CGI Bird-of-PreyThe Romulan Bird of Prey model was designed by designer Wah Ming Chang.
Although the original Romulan Bird of Prey studio model was rumored to have been damaged or destroyed (leading to the D7 class to be used in its place in "The Enterprise Incident"), the fact of the matter is that its whereabouts are officially unknown at this time and the Klingon ship was used because they had more invested in it and they needed to get their money's worth out of it.
New CGI visual effects were created for the Bird of Prey for the 40th anniversary of the original series. In addition of recreating the original angles of the ship in space, a new shot was included showing the aft three-quarters of the ship, which was previously unseen in the original airing of the episode.
The question of whether the Bird-of-Prey had warp capability is one that has divided fandom. The Star Trek Encyclopedia claims that the vessel only had impulse engines. Scotty's precise line from "Balance of Terror", however, actually says "their power is simple impulse", possibly referring to their power generators, not necessarily their propulsion system. Kirk did say "We can outrun them", which seems to imply that the "impulse" Scotty was referring to was in fact the propulsion system. It seems reasonable to assume that Scotty meant that they did not use the same type of power system (matter/antimatter reaction) used by the Federation, and that the Romulan ship was capable of propelling itself faster than light with the (rather large) engines it mounted, inducing a warp effect by a simpler, brute-force method.
Whatever was said, the Romulans must have some form of faster-than-light drive or they could not have engaged the Earth in an interstellar war in the 22nd century. Perhaps the fuller meaning of Scotty's line is that the Romulans did not have FTL drive of the same type or capabilities as the current type of warp drive used by the Enterprise, or that the early cloak required so much power that it couldn't be used at the same time as warp engines.
Visual evidence (such as the presence of warp nacelle-like objects on the model) also suggest that the ship had faster-than-light capability, as does the fact that the Enterprise was traveling at warp speeds for much of the engagement with the Romulans.
Some fans speculate that the powerful plasma weapon in conjunction with the equally powerful cloaking device proved too debilitating for both the ship's power and the Bird-of-Prey's propulsion system (which may very well have been warp drive), leading the Romulan Star Empire to negotiate with the Klingons for an exchange of the cloaking technology for their ships and schematics.
Other evidence proves that theory wrong. In season four of Star Trek: Enterprise, the three-part Romulan story arc features a refitted warbird that was warp-capable. That would make it seem highly unlikely that the Bird-of-Prey wouldn't have warp drive when it was built more than a hundred years later.
The bottom line is that no matter what Scotty's "their power is simple impulse" line was meant to mean, the fact of the matter is that the ship had to be traveling faster than light in order to travel the distance they traveled. If Scotty's line was indeed referring to the ship's speed, then really all that we need to do is realize that this was either just an error or the speed the Romulan Bird-of-Prey chose to maintain or could only maintain. The latter of the two seems most likely since it was clearly established in "Balance of Terror" that the Bird-of-Prey's fuel was "low" and "all but gone" with the fuel reserve completely "gone."
The frequent mentions of fuel status also tie in nicely with dialog from "The Doomsday Machine" (among other episodes) that suggests that impulse power (ie, a fusion reaction) can propel a starship at faster than light speeds, but at a severe loss of "fuel efficiency", and possibly a lower top speed.
With these combined abilities, the Bird-of-Prey was able to strike its enemies at will, practically undetected and unchallenged. (TOS: "Balance of Terror", "The Deadly Years")
The Main Bridge.The main bridge featured a rather small command center, providing access to four computer terminals facing each other in a centrally located console. These terminals maintained the vessels course control, tactical and cloaking systems. No seating was provided for any of the officers. The bridge had direct access to a corridor in the aft and a viewscreen in the forward section. (TOS: "Balance of Terror")