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The Kennedys were a purpose-built class (similar in superstructure to the Surya-class) developed to provide a safe environment for treaty negotiations and conflict resolution. Defensive systems were enhanced and weapons systems were designed to be as unobtrusive as possible. In a break from Starfleet tradition, captains were chosen from the ranks of the Federation Diplomatic Corps, and not Starfleet.
Kennedy-class starships were the cornerstone of Federation policy during their time in service (2246-2330s), heralding the addition of 27 new Federation member worlds, negotiating numerous ceasefires and settling thousands of trade disputes.