The Citadel Exploration Fleet (or CEF, for short) is the first official Council-administrated exploration fleet in the last two thousand years of Citadel history. Functioning much like the military defense-oriented Citadel Fleet, CEF is comprised out of ships contributed by multiple Citadel species. Though currently far smaller than the Citadel Fleet, in the years that followed its establishment after the end of the Reaper War, CEF came to be one of the Council's most important assets. Its prime purpose is to engage in long-range FTL trips, away from what remains of the relay network and into deep interstellar space, for the purposes of restoring contact with securing vital resources that were lost after the destruction of the relays, and reconnecting isolated colonies and stations back to galactic civilization. Exploration itself, though still one of the fleet's objective's by papers, poses only a tertiary priority for the fleet command. Given the relatively quick progress of the galaxy's recovery, though, this may subject to change; even as soon as the following decades.
Following the destruction of the relay network during the final events of the Reaper War, countless of colony worlds as well as systems vital in supplying Council space with resources, were completely cut off and isolated. As the galaxy began the long and hard recovery process, very soon it found itself in need of some reestablishment of the old supply lines or at least the seizure of new resources. This required venturing into deep, unexplored, interstellar space, something that hasn't been actively done by the Citadel species in millenia. Knowing that, given the circumstances, no government could manage such an endeavour alone, the Citadel Council initiated the assembling of a joint exploration fleet that would conduct deep space exploration and reconnaissance on behalf of every government, esuring the equal distribution of newly secured resources according to everyone's need.
Each govermemt willing to participate in the initiative, was required to make a contribution to the fleet in order to have a say in the Fleet Command's agenda and rights to exploit any of the resotred or newly found resources. The contribution could be in various of forms, randing from entire ships to sharing of star charts and technical data or providing trained staff. The turians, closely followed by the asari, ended up providing the majority of the ships, whilst the more technical aspects of the initiative, such as upgrades to sensor arrays and installation of telescopes (see bellow), were taken care of by the salarians, who in the meantime were attempting to restore some of their credibility by showing good will and willingness for cooperation. The Alliance, though still a relatively minor contributor to the fleet, is attempting to increase its participation and play a bigger role in the fleet's command. Though unconfired as of yet, there are reports that mention talks for a possible merger of the Alliance Corsair with the CEF but given the difficulties would arise with such an event, this is rather unlikely.
The CEF initiative also posed as an oportunity for the quarian race to make a come back in galactic affairs. The Council is currently engaging in talks with representatives of the quarian government to share countless of valuable star charts that the Migrant Fleet put together over the three hundred years of its interstellar voyage. Quarian technicians have already been assisting the fleet with engine and environmental modifications to facilitate long-term travel as well as the installation of better shipboard resource management systems.
The elcor government was keen to be involved, and the Citadel Council launched the Naruwafon Telescope Array in the elcor home system, as part of the Fleet initiative; this was one of 20 arrays scattered across key Citadel systems.
Structure and Operation.
The fleet's ships usually operate on their own or in small groups. CEF uses the clusters that have been reconnected to the relay network as 'jumping points' for travelling deeply into previously unexplored interstellar space. In each of the fleet's 'Jump Point' Clusters, telescope arrays have been installed. These arrays play a very vital role in CEF's operation as they used for routinous surveillance of unexplored interstellar space surrounding their respective cluster. The data gathered from each region by the arrays is then channeled to the central fleet command where it is thoroughly processed and analysed. CEF command flags every potentially valuable system in the star charts and finally carves a mission route through them for fleet ships to follow. In the end, a ship is assigned to every exploration path and sent away. Every ship remains in constant contact with the fleet command on the Citadel via light-grade QEC communicators. The flagged systems along a set exploration path can be marked due to a variety of things, ranging from isolated colony world that are in need of reestablishment of communications with the Citadel, new mining targets and even stranded refugees as a result of the destruction of the old relay network.