I think that's what they refer to as "Cannon Fodder" in military terms. It's the lowly crap ship that they send in to the front lines, in hopes the enemy will shoot at it, giving the attackers a chance to do some real damage.
There was in an old Ask Cryptic I believe. One of the cloud-castle things they constantly put out.
I believe what they were talking about at that time was the ability for people to have limited customization of their ships via Crafting, but I don't believe that had anything to do with re-tiering ships. I could be mistaken, though. And that was a year ago, before FTP.