A Frigate is a small warship, smaller than a destroyer and larger than a corvette. Frigates are generally used for in-system patrol, escorting convoys and larger ships, and general small tasks. They are not really supposed to be able to stand up to a larger warship, but their small size makes them speedy and maneuverable enough to outrun most destroyers and cruisers... but of course, being far too small for a Gravity Drive, they are nowhere near as fast as a capital ship. Still, they all carry Fusion Cannons whose nuclear warheads will kill all but the largest warships with one good hit... provided they can get close enough to get that one hit. So Frigates and all smaller warships are often compared to "eggshells armed with sledgehammers," and they tend to return from battle completely unscathed or not at all. Some even go so far as to say the main purpose of having small warships is to give promising junior officers a chance at command or other first-rank responsibility on a starship early in their career, so they can be judged worthy or unworthy to move up the ranks towards Admiral. The worthy ones are of course those who return with their ships unscathed, while the unworthy tend to not return at all.
Human Frigate Classes
- Barclay-class (generally classed as a corvette, but occasionally referred to as a frigate, so listed here as well)
Behind the Scenes
Frigates were originally the age-of-sail predecessors of Cruisers: medium ships designed for solo patrol on the high seas, as privateers and commerce raiders, or chasing down privateers and commerce raiders, depending on the situation, and not really supposed to stand up to major warships in battle, but rather to be faster and thus capable of running away from anything bigger than them. As sails gave way to steam, the term fell out of use, until after World War Two, as all classes creeped upwards in size and destroyers grew to the size of cruisers, they needed a new name for smaller warships designed mainly to hunt submarines. Frigates thus made a comeback, although early confusion over exactly what sort of ship should be called a frigate led to several classes of Frigates suddenly being re-classified as Cruisers. Later the terminology settled down, and Frigates became warships designed to hunt subs rather than other ships, and generally without much air defense of their own. In space, there's no place for submarine-equivalents to hide, but sci-fi authors stubbornly keep pretending that space is not only an ocean, but an ocean in the late 20th century.