Ah, one of the age-old debates in Trek geekdom. Almost as old and bitter a debate as Kirk vs Picard. The debate over the combat prowess of the vaunted Galaxy class starship vs the new Sovereign class starship.
Many social lives have been lost and feelings decimated in this great and bitter feud, that has lasted almost as long as the Federation-Cardassian Wars, and is twice as bitter.
The conflict rages, even though there is only one real answer, the facts and evidence support only one outcome, because many do not bother to fully analyze the facts and evidence, or even look at them, and many of those who do do not do so in proper scientific fashion, or even in honest, good faith.
Full disclosure: I love the Sovereign class. It is one of my favorite designs, tied with the Steamrunner and New Orleans for the number one slot. I greatly appreciate the Galaxy, but it is not in my top three, and sometimes isn't even in my top five favorite ships (my favorites tend to fluctuate a bit). I would choose to command a Sovereign class over a Galaxy class on personal preference alone, and in most situations. The one situation I would not choose a Sovereign, however, is in a battle between the two.
When I first started my technical analyses of Star Trek, I held the Sovereign to be superior in all respects. As I examined the data, however, it became more and more clear that the Sovereign could not possibly compete with the Galaxy class in a raw tactical footing.
This is a long and complex topic, and understanding precisely how and why the Galaxy class out-matches the Sovereign requires an understanding of several pieces of Trek technology, as well as different pieces of lore, and scientific and military realities.
These include understanding how phaser arrays work, a thorough examination of the observed performance of those arrays, the operation and observed performance of photon torpedoes, how shields work, a basic understanding of how a warp core works, the roles that certain base ship configurations fill in a fleet, and the history of the design and construction of each ship and the events surrounding their construction.
This presentation will be much more than one post, it will be a series of posts, each covering a separate topic (sometimes multiple topics for the smaller ones, or just a sub-topic for the larger ones). This is just a declaration of intent, and a brief overview of how the ships match up.
In combat, the Galaxy class is superior in all respects save production cost and warp speed. Even in sublight maneuverability, the Galaxy has demonstrated superior performance.
Size: Though slightly longer than the Galaxy, the Sovereign is a much smaller vessel. In total volume, the Galaxy measures ~5.2 million cubic meters, where as the Sovereign is only 2-2.4 million cubic meters in volume. You could fit ~2.5 Sovereigns inside of a single Galaxy class.
Maximum Observed Phaser Shot: Galaxy is superior by a factor of 3:1
Sustained Phaser Output: Galaxy is superior by a factor of 1.67:1
Shield Endurance: Hard to define and currently uncertain, but will be examined
Torpedo Firepower: Even without quantum torpedoes, the Galaxy's at-launch torpedo capacity is significantly greater than even the Nemesis-refit Sovereign class. At launch, the Galaxy can fire a maximum spread of 52 torpedoes from both launchers. At launch, the Sovereign can fire a salvo equivalent to only 24 photon torpedoes, and even after the Nemesis refit, the Sovereign's salvo is only equivalent to 40 photon torpedoes. The Galaxy could easily have been refit with greater torpedo capacity, especially during the Dominion War, and could also be equipped with Quantum torpedoes
Hull Endurance: The Galaxy's hull thickness is ~16 inches, compared to the Sovereign's 10-12", and the Galaxy has demonstrated tremendous hull endurance, with comparable armor types to the Sovereign
Warp Speed: The Sovereign has not demonstrated superior warp speed per se, but the indications are that it was built for warp speed
Impulse Acceleration: Undetermined; cases of impulse acceleration are hard to measure and compare; the Galaxy is a larger ship, but also has larger and more powerful impulse engines
Maneuverability: The Galaxy has demonstrated a notably superior turn rate to the Sovereign
Construction/Maintenance: At 2.5 times the size of a Sovereign, the Galaxy will logically be much more resource-intensive to build and maintain
Advancement: The Sovereign has a very slight edge here, but only very slight. It is 8-9 years newer, but the Galaxy was bleeding-edge technology at launch and was routinely upgraded in her first decade+ of service, including multiple extensive upgrades.
More specific detailed comparisons to come in later posts.