Thanks a lot for answering my questions, its good to hear that the Fleet escort is competitive, as it saves me having to spend cash on c store points and I actually prefer the Fleet Escort models!
Sorry if this is a bit off topic, but when a new player hits lvl 50 and is looking to get geared up, what should I be doing? Is it a case of buying some semi-decent equipment from the Galactic Market and then running STF? Just a few general guidelines would be good, then I can read more on the STO wiki.
My advice (to anyone first stepping into STFs - vets obviously have their own strats) is to do one of the following options, or a combination of them depending on your resources.
1) Buy from the exchange; there are a lot of good bits to be had on the exchange at VA level - it's actually easier to get solid deals on VA stuff (depending heavily on what you're buying) than it is to get it on lower end stuff. This is because most VA gear comes from sources that never go to market: Crafted Gear, STF Gear & FE mission rewards.
2) Craft: If you're rolling in Dilithium, the Aegis set and Purple weapons loadout is a solid option. You can also buy ship weapons from the NPC vendors using dilithium.
3) Scroll through FE mish rewards and re-run missions for the gear at max level: choice items such as the Paratrinic Shield Array & the Borg Console - the best way to do this is to hail the first NPC in the Klingon series and scroll down to the rewards then, DO NOT close that window, simply hail the next mission in the series and the rewards will display in the window already open (saves you scrolling time, in what is a fairly tedious process)
4) Take your chances and just start running STFs, on Normal. Ultimately MK XI gear is really not far off in terms of stats from the MK XII stuff. The MK XII stuff exists for the hardcore gamers, those with "nothing else to do at 50", obsessed completion, etc. If you already gave have the Borg console, you are 10 STF missions away from having a three piece bonus from the Borg Engine & Borg Deflector.
Before you step into Elite play, I would highly recommend you are running one of the space gear sets at MK XI as a set, or mix/match with the Borg bits as well as a full load out of Anti-[Borg] weapons. And then all of the trimmings, like +damage consoles, etc.