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Because of the strong connotations with the real world United States Navy, the producers of Star Trek: The Original Series had imbued Starfleet with, (The Making of Star Trek; These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One, 1st ed, pp. 28-29; see also in this respect: Aircraft carrier) it came hardly as a surprise that the US Navy ship class naming convention was also followed for the vessels of Starfleet. This convention has it that a class is named after the first, or lead, vessel authorized by US Congress, which is not necessarily the one first laid down, launched, completed or commissioned (formally taken into service), and after which the British Royal Navy for example name their ship classes. While not canon, it can serve as a potential real world rationale why there are Constitution-class vessels with lower registry numbers than the lead vessel USS Constitution. Nonetheless, in his influential "The Case of Jonathan Doe Starship" article, Star Trek alumnus Greg Jein has postulated an alternative theory for the discrepancy, albeit equally non-canon.
Additionally, while it is highly unlikely that all alien races follow the same naming convention as Starfleet does – even on present-day real world Earth, the US Navy convention is far from being universal – there is a real world counterpart for this as well. The defense organization NATO uses a variant of the US/British class naming convention for ship types of their adversaries, particularly those of the former Soviet Union, who themselves classified their vessels according to project number.