Below is my own take on the Heavy Escort Retrofit - which is a hot topic on the forums at the moment. Many people have expressed their desire to have a Tier 5 version of the Akira (and its hull variants, the oslo and zephyr) available via the c-store - for most this is a matter of aesthetics, and I agree on that point, the akira and its variants hold an aesthetic value that the current advanced escort, fleet escort, and tactical escort retrofit lack. The Akira in particular is an extremely popular ship design, and the fact that we cannot effectively use it past Tier 3 (Commander Rank) is frustrating to a lot of players.
My suggestion takes things a step further: originally the Akira was designed to function as a support vessel (a psuedo carrier), and though this concept was more or less abandoned for the canonical version of the Akira in the series it is still a potential role for the ship in STO. Federation players have been requesting an equivalent to KDF Carriers for a very long time now, and while even the Klingons often agree that the amount of pet spam KDF Carriers present is an issue, I think a Federation Carrier can be added without issue by limiting the overall numbers of pets available to the ship. Considering that all three variants of the Heavy Escort (Akira, Oslo, and Zephyr respectively) have clearly visible hangar bays/shuttle bays, I think they would fit this role quite well.
Finally, many players are requesting that a ship which represents a hybrid - or halfway point - between cruisers and escorts, having more survivability than an escort but less manuverability and speed. With a Heavy Escort Retrofit (referred to hereafter as the 'Carrier Escort') this hybridization makes sense both in name and in the models used for the hull variants.
Now, on to the specific stat suggestions for the vessel:
Impulse Modifier: 0.17 This puts the Impulse Speed of the Carrier Escort slightly lower than that of other escorts, and equal to the deep space science vessel and galaxy retrofit. For reference, the Impulse modifier of T5 escorts is 0.20, while the modifier for T5 cruisers is 0.15
Inertia: 50 For reference, the Inertia setting for the Advanced Escort is 70, inertia for the Fleet Escort is 60, and inertia for the Assault Cruiser is 30.
Turn Rate: 12 degrees / second This puts the manuverability of the ship lower than T5 escorts, but higher than T5 cruisers. For reference, T5 Escorts have a turn rate of 15 deg/sec for the advanced/fleet escorts, and 17 deg/sec for the tactical escort retrofit. T5 Cruisers range from 6 to 8 deg/sec turn rate.
Hull Strength: 32,000 This gives the Carrier Escort 2,000 additional hull strength over T5 escorts, but this amount is still significantly lower than T5 cruisers (at 39,000). I have decided that a minimal increase in survivability over T5 escorts would be best for a vessel capable of launching support combat craft, which will give the ship additional potential firepower over an escort or cruiser. Additionally, the suggested bridge officer positions below would give the ship access to additional repair abilities over a fleet or advanced escort.
Forward Weapon Slots: 4 Aft Weapon Slots: 3 This keeps the vessel's weapon hardpoints the same as the other T5 escorts, but it doesnt gain the extra rear firing weapon that T5 cruisers have to make up for lower manuverability. Theoretically the Carrier Escort's ability to launch support combat craft should help make up for the weaker rear firing arcs.
These suggested bridge officer positions result in the loss of a commander-level tactical ability and ensign-level science or engineer ability, but the gain of lieutenant commander and commander level engineering abilities. This results in access to additional self-healing, increasing the vessel's overall survivability, as well as access to abilities such as boarding party which improve the carrier-like feel of the vessel without actually affording the ship additional fighter/pet craft.
This console setup gives the Carrier Escort an extra engineering console - which may provide additional power, armor, turn rate, or shielding - but sacrafices a tactical console compared to the T5 escorts, resulting in lower firepower potential.
Below are my suggestions for shuttlecraft able to be equipped and launched by the Carrier Escort, as per its special ability of 2 Shuttlebays. The Carrier Escort is given two shuttlebays to provide customization of pet craft - allowing for multiple types to be equipped as the captain sees fit. However, each shuttlebay is severely limited in the number of vessels it can maintain compared to KDF carrier hangar bays - meaning that the Carrier Escort will never field more than 8 'pet' craft (compared to the potential 24 pet craft of a Vo'Quv, soon to be 18). Essentially the pets are there to provide the extra firepower that the ship loses by sacraficing a tactical console and manuverability.
Launches a pair (2) of Type-9 Shuttlecraft to attack your target. Each Shuttlebay can support a maximum of two deployed pairs (4) of Type-9 Shuttles.
Maximum number of Type-9 Shuttlecraft that can be deployed: 8 - this would be the closest the Carrier Escort gets to "pet spam", at its maximum number of deployed pets. COnsequently, the Type-9 Shuttles are the weakest available.
Launches a wing (3) of Peregrine Fighters to attack your target. Each Shuttlebay can support a maximum of one (1) deployed wing of Peregrine Fighters.
With two Peregrine Shuttlebays, the maximum number of deployed fighters would be 6. Peregrine fighters gain additional firepower over Type-9 Shuttlecraft, but fewer can be maintained in the field - Essentially this bay offers a cannon-based alternative to the Type-9 Shuttles for those players who prefer cannon weapons.
Launches a single (1) Runabout-Class Shuttlecraft to attack your target. Each Shuttlebay can support a maximum of one (1) deployed Runabout.
A maximum of two Runabouts can be deployed if both shuttlebays are equipped for it. The Runabouts are intended to be a tank-like pet that can survive incoming fire better than any other available pets (even on the KDF side), but with lower damage potential and manuverability than the others. These are the types of attack craft you send to fight a target you want to keep occupied for a while, rather than one you want to kill quickly.
Launches a single (1) Delta-Flyer Attack Craft to attack your target. Each Shuttlebay can support a maximum of one (1) deployed Delta-Flyer.
2 Forward Dual Heavy Phaser Cannon
1 Forward Quantum Torpedo Launcher
Abilities: Cannon Rapid Fire 1, Torpedo High Yield 1, Attack Pattern Omega 1, Emergency Power to Weapons 1
The opposite of the Runabout, the Delta-Flyer pet craft is designed to deal heavy amounts of damage at the cost of personal survivability. A maximum of two may be deployed if both shuttlebays are outfitted for Delta-Flyers.
As a final note, this vessel would of course be acquirable through the same means that any other T5 Retrofit ship is: either through the C-Store for 1200-1500 Cryptic Points, or at the shipyard for 500 Emblems.
Would be nice, I've always been a big fan of the Akira and of the school of thought that A) found fifteen torpedo tubes more than slightly ridiculous and B) felt like those shuttlebays looked like there might be a runway right down the middle of the saucer. And after two cruisers and a science ship. I suppose we are about due an escort on the C-store.
Question is, is there any chance this gets by Cryptic's sort-of-promise to the Klingons that the Federation won't get carriers? I may think this is sufficiently different from what I'd consider the definition of a carrier - mainly in that it'll be a lot easier to kill - but if that definition's to include anything with launchbays in it, all bets are off...
Either way, with or without the carrier bits, I'd like to see a cruiser/escort hybrid Akira make it to T5.
Failing that, a Rhode Island refit of the Nova might be good too. Considering the way ships are put in not-quite-the-right-role in STO, maybe a case could be made for that refit as a T5 escort. As in it's small, maneuverable and it drove off two Klingon ships in Endgame, whereas its 24th century predecessor in Equinox excelled pretty much only at running away and hiding. Of course, the science guys won't like this...