Cloaking Technology Update I
On Stardate 1709.1 the Bonhomme Ri Romulan Space. Suddenly, it vanished from the sensors, reappeared directly in front of the outpost and fired what later came to be called a "plasma torpedo". The torpedo obliterated the outpost's deflector screens, nearly destroying it. A second shot finished the intruder's job. Then the ship simply disappeared from view.
That was the first encounter with the Romulans after almost a century since the battle of Cheron. The vessel that destroyed S-4023 (and also S-4024 and S-4025) was a Romulan P-1A Bird of Prey with a first generation cloaking device.
Later, a third generation cloaking device has been obtained by the U.S.S. Enterprise in an espionage mission.
The Klingons gained the technology from their alliance with the Romulans in exchange for their D-6 Raxor and D-7 Klolode battle cruisers. Thus the three major powers in this part of the galaxy came to posses what proved to be one of the most formidable weapons ever.
Star Fleet, which used the cloaking device on its vessels in the late 2200's and early 2300's, has decided that the peaceful (mostly) mission definition of the Explorer type of starships precludes its use. Further- more, the overall shape and hull materials used in the Galaxy, Ambassador, and Oberth class starships would interfere with the cloaking device. Although it is still possible to cloak them, the energy necessary increases beyond reasonable limit. Today, only specialized scouting, stealth, and battle ships use cloaking devices.
The Klingon Empire has used the cloaking technology ever since their technology exchange with the Romulans in 2263, and continues to do so. Nearly all of its Bird of Prey type ships are equipped with it as are the D-6, D-7, D-8 (K'T'Inga), and the new K'Vort class battle cruisers.
The Romulan Empire naturally still uses the cloaking device. Although much about them is now unknown due to the fifty-year contact breach after the Tomad incident, it is certain that their newest vessels, the D'Deridex class warbirds, are equipped with a new generation of cloaking devices which have so far defied all Federation attempts at detection without the use of tachyons.
The events surrounding the Khitomer conference, classified until recently, have brought to attention the fact that one of the main disadvantages of the cloaking device, the inability to fire a photon torpedo, has been nullified by the renegade Klingon vessel Dakronh. Although it was destroyed, and it's schematics have not survived, it appears that the cloaking device would be useless today due to the vast improvement of sensor devices used by Star Fleet. The vessel was designed reduce the cloaking power shortly before firing, just enough to fire a specially designed high-velocity photon torpedo thorough it. However, this resulted in a momentary emission of radiation from the ship and the leak of impulse engine products (plasma) through the cloak. The vessel was destroyed by homing a photon torpedo on those plasma traces. The momentary radiation burst from the ship as the cloaking power was reduced was too small to be detectable by the instruments of that era, but would be sufficient to pinpoint the ship's location today.