can it compete with "heavy" Fed T5 escorts like a Fleet Patrol or an Armitage?
Look at a Fleet Advanced Escort if you want a good comparison ; enjoy the 5th tactical console and the ability to use a Gravity Well 1 in order to keep your targets in pack...
If you want something close to a carrier but effective for a tactical captain, the Jem'Hadar Heavy Escort Carrier is a wonderful option (38K of hull, the same as some battle cruisers). If you want something close to a battle cruiser, consider the Tal Shiar Adapted Destroyer (39K of hull, more than some battle cruisers). If you were a Romulan, I would point out at the Mogai retrofit, less expensive...
Pick up the Mirror Vo'quv off the Exchange to give carriers a try before dropping zen on anything. Its a much cheaper to try before you buy (some people adore carriers, some never get the hang of them), and the Mirror Vo'quv even just own its on is a nicely solid ship.
Pick up the Mirror ships (Vo'Quv, Vor'cha and Qin) before spending Zen.
The Mirror Vor'cha isn't bad in a Tac role.
I do NOT want to use ARC to play STO
"Far as I see it, you people been given the shortest end of the stick ever been offered a human soul in this crap-heel 'verse. But you took that end, and you - well, you took it. And that's - Well, I guess that's somethin'." - Some Random Guy's Epic Quote
Fleet Tor'kaht should be right up your alley. It tanks well, hits hard and turns way better than any "cruiser" has any right to.
The Bortasqu' is a bit more of a challenge. If you set it up right and learn how to fly it, it will hit like a runaway train. The problem: it turns like a runaway train. But that's why God gave us Aux2Dampeners.
It's nice to see this. Even if it's rare. Or maybe because it is rare.
I know I'm reinforcing what everyone else has said here but really, you cannot go wrong with a Fleet Tor'kaht, Kar'fi, or Mirror Vo'Quv. But while I'm at it, if you want a ship with a bit more maneuverability, the Mirror Qin Raptor is also very nice.
Well, my Lvl 50 Tac has the following: Fleet N'Orgh, Fleet Torkaht and Fleet K'Tinga. They're all great in their own right.
The little N'Orgh is, IMO, the best, toughest and hottest BOP in the game. It delivers a staggering Alpha strike and generally has incredible burst damage. Running STF's I can usually sweep in on something that 2 or 3 cruisers have been whittling on and chew it to bits on the first pass. I used to be all about my Hegh'Ta before I got the N'Orgh. Just wish they'd give us a B'Rel skin for it... won't happen but would be nice as that's the iconic BOP look.
The Torkaht is the one everyone loves. It's fast and nimble enough to qualify it as an assault cruiser. Some run cannons or DHC on theirs and I've done it but have found that a beam boat with beam arrays aft and beam arrays/DBB's fore is what works best for me. That allows me to run FAW and BO. It's tough, durable, hard to kill and packs a tremendous wallop. In the unique Fleet skin it looks, to me, like a giant beaked turtle...
The Fleet K'Tinga is a true assault cruiser. Not as tough as the Torkhat and certainly not as nimble as a BOP it's the best marriage of cruiser and raptor. Great for most things short of PVP (but I have seen them in PVP). I've run mine with cannons and beams... works well either way. In fact the Fleet K'Tinga can take just about any layout you wanna go with.
A lot of it depends on your style of play and what you want to do with your Tac. Right now I'm favoring BOP's (KDF) and Escorts (Fed). Next month I'll probably be back in cruisers heheheheh.
ZOE: "Sir! You paid money for this?... on purpose??"
KIRK: "Excuse me... what does God need with a starship?"