|Owner:||United Federation of Planets|
In 2365, the captain of the Aries retired, and Starfleet Command chose William T. Riker to replace the captain. At the time, the Aries was in the Vega-Omicron sector, and had recently picked up indications of an intelligent lifeform, but nothing was yet confirmed. Riker was chosen, according to Jean-Luc Picard, "not for your military proficiency, but for your skill as an explorer and as a diplomat."
At the time of the offer, the USS Enterprise-D was on a twelve-hour layover at Starbase Montgomery. During its layover, the ship received a civilian tactical advisor, Cmdr. Riker's father Kyle Riker, to brief Riker on the Aries' mission. Riker was later visited by Lieutenant Worf, who requested to join Riker aboard the Aries, if he took the posting. The first officer of the Aries was Commander Flaherty, an officer that Picard highly recommended for the mission to sector Vega-Omicron. Later, when Riker consulted Picard, Picard put the Aries mission in perspective to the Enterprise mission, describing it as "a relatively insignificant ship, in an obscure corner of the galaxy. But it will be your ship." (TNG: "The Icarus Factor")
Ultimately, Riker turned down the position, for what he described as "Motivated self-interest. Right now, the best place for me to be is here." (TNG: "The Icarus Factor") Later, when Riker told his transporter duplicate, Thomas, about turning down the offer for the Aries, Thomas inquired what their father thought of his decision, Will explained "he couldn't understand why I did it." Thomas could not understand the decision either, stating, "for once he and I agree on something." (TNG: "Second Chances")
Former USS Victory crewmember Emilita Mendez served aboard the Aries in the late 2360s. Under the effects of an exotic virus from Tarchannen III, Mendez stole the shuttlepod Cousteau from the Aries to return to that planet. (TNG: "Identity Crisis")
In 2368, the Aries was rotated back to serve closer to Federation space, and participated in several border actions in the following years. The ship was assigned to Captain Picard's blockade of the Klingon-Romulan border during the Klingon Civil War. (TNG: "Redemption II")
In 2379, the Aries was assigned to Star Fleet Battle Group Omega, which was to rendezvous with the USS Enterprise-E when it was attempting to escape from Romulan territory and the Reman warbird Scimitar. (Star Trek Nemesis)
|Battle Group Omega starships|
|USS Archer • USS Aries • USS Enterprise-E • USS Galaxy • USS Hood • USS Intrepid • USS Nova • USS Valiant|
According to the Star Trek Encyclopedia, the Aries was named for the constellation of Aries (Latin, "Ram") and the PanAm moon landing shuttle Aries from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, which ferried Dr. Heywood R. Floyd to the Moon.
The class and registry were derived from the okudagram displayed in the observation lounge starting around TNG Season 4. This information appeared on the starship mission status screen. The registry could also be reason from the Okudagram in "Redemption II" and on the hull of the shuttlepod Cousteau in "Identity Crisis." Its registry could also be read on the Okudagram seen in Star Trek Nemesis, however the name was falsely listed as "USS Aires". This name also caused some confusion in the script  and closed-captioning for "The Icarus Factor" where the spelling varied from Aries to Ares.
In scene cut from "Chain of Command, Part II", where the Cardassians threatened to invade Minos Korva, the Aries, USS Sutherland, and USS Berlin were dispatched to the sector to assist the Enterprise-D. However, because the ships were three days away, the Enterprise was forced to find an alternative means of preventing the invasion. 
The Star Fleet Technical Manual by Franz Joseph listed a Template:ShipClass Aries with the registry of NCC-602. Many years after the publication of this technical manual, Mike Okuda assigned this registry to the USS Oberth in a starship status display for the movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.