I’m sure this isn’t an original idea, and may be impossible or impractical for any number of reasons. But I had fun imagining this and figured I’d lay out the ideas on paper. I’m a relatively new player and may be totally off with some of these ideas, and a lot of the specifics may be ignorant or unbalanced. I’m mostly just spitballing what could be a cool new feature.
Overview: A pilotable (Supercruise) XL ship capable of docking a limited number of player ships, suitable for use as a Squadron Flagship, or mothership for the “never coming home” explorer. Replaces the Anaconda as the endgame “end-all be-all” ship. Whereas a Fleet Carrier is essentially a mobile space station, but stationary within systems and indestructible, a Frigate could impact gameplay in a distinct and more active way (but without all the capabilities of a fleet carrier). Player organizations would want some of each for their distinct strengths and weaknesses.
Perhaps ½ Kilometer in length, with multiple landing pads that can each only hold one ship (capping the maximum number of ships aboard). These consist of perhaps 2 “large” pads, which can be substituted for a larger number of medium or small pads, or additional cargo space (perhaps 1000 tons by default). Alternatively, 1 large, 2 medium, and 3 small pads might make more sense.
Additionally, it would be armed with a number of turreted hardpoints, plus several fixed weapons for the pilot, and a number of fighters (maybe 2 or 4, which can be increased by replacing landing pads with SLF bays). This would enable it to be a formidable presence on a battlefield, but benefit from Multicrew (which I realize is kinda broken currently).
FSD: capable of Supercruise, though slower and more sluggish than any other ship, and with a visible signature distinct from any other ship in Supercruise. It would also be capable of 100ly jumps, powered by Tritium and with a 2.5 minute warm-up and cool down. This renders it slower over distance than a fleet carrier, or dedicated exploration ship, but more flexible than either.
Price: 5 billion, possibly without available insurance. Minimal upkeep costs.
Full destructible. Can log it out, but with a longer delay in dangerous situations (say 5 minutes). When logging, or not actively using it, it can transition to hover in witchspace (which takes several minutes).
Features: Refuel, repair, resupply, but no larger features (outfitting, shipyard, etc). Possibly Cartographics though.
Further thoughts: as I understand it, both the PvP and AX metas center around medium ships, as they offer an ideal balance of maneuverability and firepower. A Frigate class vessel could serve as a flagship for player groups, and a battlefield presence more powerful than a wing of Medium ships could handle, making Large ships situationally more viable. This has the potential to alter the PvP landscape, particularly with organized player groups. A Frigate and its support fleet could be a powerful presence in any system, and provide an alternative tool to fleet carriers.
If the Thargoid war ever expands, they may well unveil larger ships than Interceptors, ships that may require more raw combat strength than maneuverability. A Frigate could serve as an AX flagship and support ship for larger scale AX battlefields, providing more direct support than a fleet carrier. With the ability to transport a squadron long distances, engage in direct combat, and rearm both combat and support vessels, a Frigate could be critical in larger scale AX combat.
The capability of a Frigate would be matched by its expense and risk. As it is destructible, unlike a fleet carrier, the decision to deploy it might not be a small one. Every deployment and conflict would carry with it the possibility of huge consequences.
Naturally, such a vessel has numerous other roles. A Mothership for a mining fleet, capable of carrying the ships themselves directly to distant mining sites, and returning with vast amounts of ore. I imagine it would have a substantial impact on the BGS as well.
And lastly, it could be a mobile base for the explorer who wants to head into the black, never to return. A lone explorer could bring a small fleet with them: a miner for Tritium, a canyon racer for fun, an exploration ship for exploring systems around wherever you park your Frigate, etc. One of the only modules might be a Universal Cartographics option, to allow them to return data and discoveries.
That’s all I’ve got for now. I like the idea, and if its mechanically possible, could be a great addition to the endgame. There may be reasons it simply cannot work that way (can a ship with ships docked in it Supercruise? No idea). Or it might simply need to function like a smaller carrier than a player ship, and not actually be pilotable at all.