Developed as a response to the Borg threat after the Battle of Wolf 359, the Akira-class project had combat readiness as its main focus of design, a large departure over Starfleet cruisers of the past 80 years. The class was thus heavily armed, equipped with ablative armor, and presented a small sensor profile for its size.
Thunderchild was one of the early testbeds for the Akira-class design. Under the command of Captain Evelyn Hoffman, its first few years of service were spent patrolling the edges of Federation space, mapping two worlds inhabited by pre-warp civilizations and surveying 6 new star systems during this period.
3 years after the ship was launched, a Borg cube was intercepted by Starfleet on its way to Earth, in what would become known as the Battle of Sector 001. Thunderchild's heavy ablative armor resisted several direct impacts of Borg energy weapons, and even managed to dissipate a tractor beam attempting to lock onto the ship. Thunderchild survived the battle, and was the starship to score the most direct hits on the Borg cube during the encounter, thanks in no small part to the Akira class having an unprecedented number of torpedo launchers.