Frigates are the smallest and fastest ships in Eve. New pilots begin by flying frigates, and the Tech 1 frigates only cost a few hundred thousand ISK. Don't be fooled by the low cost of frigates and the fact that they're used by novice pilots, though: frigates can play an important role in battle, and in numbers or with skilled pilots even Tech 1 frigates can be deadly.
There are a number of classes of Tech 2 frigates, which have advanced abilities and are also much more focused on a particular role: tackling interceptors, cloaking and scanning covert ops frigates, surprise-attack stealth bombers, electronic attack ships for electronic warfare, and assault ships, which are designed purely to deal and survive damage.
Little more than slower, armed shuttles, rookie ships (or "noobships") are the basic frigates that new pilots start with. You can acquire a new noobship (together with a civilian weapon, a civilian mining laser and one unit of Tritanium) for free by docking your pod in a station where you don't already have any ships. On their own these are not much use for anything other than basic errand-running. Eve University has, however, been known to field fleets composed entirely of noobships, more for their comedy value than for their effectiveness in battle.
All four rookie ships can carry at least one light drone in their dronebay. The Gallente Velator can carry two.
Shuttles are a cheap and fast way to travel between systems. They are cheap to construct and buy off the market and they move fast for their price, thus making them an excellent choice for travel. While shuttles have been known to be used as scout or survey ships, their most common use is to travel to pick up other, more expensive ships. They have very limited cargo space and cannot fit any modules. Note that you can fly any race's shuttle.
Besides shuttles and rookie ships, each race has around six frigates which can be (unofficially) sorted by their roles. One is a logistics frigate, which has bonuses to tools that help repair other ships, but is very weak in combat. Then there are two damage-dealing frigates, one which uses gun turrets to fight (although the Gallente have two turret frigates) and one which has bonuses for missile launchers (the Gallente don't have a frigate with missile bonuses, though the Tristan can fit missile launchers). One further combat frigate uses electronic warfare. Each race's frigate lineup is completed by an unusually fast and nimble scouting/courier frigate (which can sometimes be a cheap alternative to a shuttle), and an exploration frigate with a bonus which helps it to use probes to scan for PvE exploration sites or PvP enemies.
In fleet PvP Tech 1 frigates are generally used for tackling or electronic warfare, two roles in which they can have a significant impact. Tech 1 frigates are also flown for solo PvP: their speed and small size helps solo pilots to pick their targets, and their low cost makes them comfortably expendable.
In PvE the more combat-focused frigates are used to complete Level 1 missions, though once new pilots are a little wealthier and better-trained they often begin to use destroyers instead.
Along with that, the Retribution patch has added a Mining Frigate, replacing the old race specific mining frigates with a more focused one any race can use. The old Mining frigates have become new logistics frigates, or in the case of the Tormentor, a new damage frigate
Electronic Warfare frigates all have bonusses to EW modules, such as the Target Painter, ECM modules, Remote Sensor Damper and Tracking Disruptor. In a small pack, and with some support ships to deal damage, they can be formidable.
- Crucifier Tracking Disruption, nice ewar support. Little to no tank/damage so dies fast.
- Griffin ECM. Nasty, high-priority target. Little to no tank/damage so dies fast if you can lock and hit it.
- Maulus Damps, decent ewar support. Little to no tank/damage so dies fast.
- Vigil Target Painter. Offensive ewar. Good support against small targets, but next to useless against BC/BS sized hulls.
Geared toward exploration and scanning, the 'Exploration' class of T1 Frigates all have bonuses to aid in scanning. Fitted with a Core Probe launcher, they can make a good cheap alternative to the Tech 2 Covert Ops variants.
Fast Frigates, sometimes refered to as 'Tackler Frigates' (and to CCP as 'Attack Frigates'), are built to align and reach their top speed quickly. Although their base speed, agility, and scan resolution would seem to make them good all-round PvP ships, their lack of slots and low fittings make them worse for that role compared to some other frigates. These ships have received significant buffs in Inferno 1.2, with the stated aim of making them into T1 versions of Interceptors. They are still somewhat fragile compared to the 'standard' tackle frigates, but they are capable of higher speeds and many of the slot issues have been addressed.
Damage Dealer frigates are typically split into two sub categories, Launcher and Turret, as they have slightly different focuses. In general, they tend to have the ability to take a little more damage than their counterparts and deal out a little more damage in return, but they are little match for a larger ship when alone. Interestingly, the Gallente have two turret-focussed ships, as they do not tend to use missiles - although the Tristan can fit launchers, it receives no bonus for them.
- Punisher Heavily tanked, good dps (for a frigate). Pulses give it a nice range variation. Slower. 2 mid slots make it a poor tackler.
- Merlin Four midslots. Can mount big tank, or full tackle plus a sensor booster for fast lock-ons.
- Incursus Nice DPS when close up wtih blasters but short range. Lack of low slots.
- Tristan Unhelpful split turret/launcher hardpoints. May be dangerous with good, well-skilled pilot
- Rifter High DPS, fast and effective frigate. Primary role as tackle or frigate DPS. Buffer tanked usually.
New in the retribution patch:
- Tormentor 10% bonus to Small Energy Turret capacitor use and 5% Small Energy Turret damage per skill level.
With the retribution patch, several of the mining frigates have been reworked into other niches, now these frigates have bonuses to logistics kits, a 10% boost per level to one type of Logistics systems, and a 500% range boost to that system.
- Inquisitor Bonus to Remote Armor Repair Systems
- Bantam Bonus to Shield Transporter boosters
- Navitas Bonus to Remote Armor Repair Systems
- Burst Bonus to Shield Transporter boosters
- Venture A new mining frigate introduced in Retribution expansion, requiring its own skill (x2 training time multipler).
Tech 2 Frigates
Electronic Attack Ships
These are basically frigate-sized version of the combat recon ships, but their proportion of usefulness to cost varies from ship to ship. Each race's electronic attack ship is based on the hull of that race's Tech 1 electronic warfare frigate.
- Amarr Sentinel: Bonuses for energy neutralizers and tracking disruptors, and a good dronebay (for a frigate). Can be used for solo pvp.
- Caldari Kitsune: Long range, powerful ECM jamming.
- Gallente Keres: Bonuses for sensor dampening and for the range of warp scramblers and warp disruptors.
- Minmatar Hyena: Bonuses for target painting and for the range of stasis webifiers.
Interceptors ("'ceptors", "inties") are the primary tacklers everywhere but nullsec (where interdictors and HICs take over). They have the highest base scan resolution of any ship class, and only the Vigil (the Minmatar electronic warfare frigate) can match their sub-warp speed. While their main purpose is tackling, many interceptors can also be fitted to be effective combat ships. Their firepower and tank will be low compared to other ships, but they have the advantage of very high speed (even when combat fitted) and awesome agility.
Each race has two interceptors, one designed purely for tackling, with a bonus to the range of tackling modules, and the other designed more for damage-dealing. Both interceptors are based on the hull of the race's Tech 1 fast courier/scouting frigate. For more information about using interceptors see the Interceptors Guide.
- Malediction: Amarr tackle interceptor.
- Raptor: Caldari tackle interceptor rather overshadowed by the Crow despite having a longer-ranged point.
- Ares: Gallente tackle interceptor.
- Stiletto: Perhaps the best tackle interceptor due to its slot layout.
Damage Dealer Interceptor
- Crusader: Damage-dealing interceptor. Commonly kites enemies from beyond web range, firing Tech 2 small pulse lasers loaded with Scorch crystals.
- Crow: Kiting ranged missile spam.
- Taranis: Slower interceptor, great DPS, one of the best dogfighting frigates.
- Claw: Fastest interceptor, decent dogfighter.
The Covert Ops class is split into two sub classes, which have significantly different roles, both of which have the ability to warp while cloaked.
Covert Ops Frigate
Cov-ops frigates can warp while cloaked, and have several uses. As scouts they can stealthily gather intelligence and use their scanning bonus to probe out enemy targets. They can watch enemy targets while in cloak and provide a warp coordinate for a much larger gang of heavy hitting ships in an organized surprise attack. In exploration they can use the same scanning bonus to probe down PvE exploration sites. Due to their extreme fragility, cov-ops frigates should not generally be used in a tackling role, and are typically invisible at all times. In E-Uni Covert Ops are mainly used as a forward scout or rear scout. For more information for using a Covert Ops and Scouting: Scouting.
Stealth bombers are very specialised ships which can warp cloaked and don't have a sensor recalibration delay preventing them from locking targets after decloaking. They can fit torpedo launchers and bomb launchers (although bombs -- devastating area-effect weapons -- can only be used in nullsec). Stealth bombers put out extraordinary alpha damage and die very fast if anyone manages to put some damage on them, so will typically fire a single salvo then recloak. They are the bane of large ships, especially in nullsec. In groups and flown well, stealth bombers can take down a capital ship.
Each race's stealth bomber is based on the hull of that race's missile frigate (the Gallente Nemesis is based on the Tristan hull) and has a damage bonus for bombs and torpedoes which do its race's associated damage type.
For discussion about fitting and flying these ships in the University, see this wiki's dedicated stealth bomber page.
Assault ships (commonly called "Assault Frigates" or "AFs" to distinguish them from HACs) have good tanks and usually high DPS. If you get tackled by an assault ship, you're generally not going anywhere: they're a pain to get rid of when properly fitted. Their disadvantage compared to interceptors is that they're slower, and often sacrifice their MWD and fit an afterburner instead to survive longer after tackling a target. Some assault ships make decent tacklers, and they can provide decent damage in a fleet of small ships. If the fleet has larger damage-dealing ships assault ships can lack a role, though they may still be a good defence against other small targets.
In PvE assault ships can take on missions and combat sites which would normally be too difficult for a frigate-sized ship.
Both assault ships of each race are based on the hull of that race's primary Tech 1 combat frigate (the Punisher, Merlin, Incursus or Rifter), and again are split into two sub classes, those with damage dealing bonuses, and those with tanking bonuses.
- Vengeance Uses rockets. Tough ship with three midslots.
- Hawk Uses missile launchers. Limited use in PvP, helpful in PvE.
- Ishkur Drone boat. Superb. Potentially 50m3 drone bay.
- Jaguar Projectile turrets. Decent DPS, fastest assault ship. Four midslots, usually shield tanked, sometimes successful solo.
Damage Dealer Assault
- Retribution Uses lasers. High DPS, however (like the Punisher on which it is based) it has only two mid slots, precluding the prop/scram/web trinity.
- Harpy Uses hybrid turrets. Commonly fit with railguns as a mini-sniper.
- Enyo Uses hybrid turrets. Commonly fit with blasters for face-melting point-blank DPS.
- Wolf Uses projectile turrets. Very high DPS.
Faction, Rare and Unique
- Imperial Navy Slicer Commonly used to kill other frigates with MWD-kiting and extremely long-ranged small lasers.
- Caldari Navy Hookbill
- Daredevil Potentially very high DPS.
- Dramiel High DPS and fantastic speed and agility help the Dramiel kill things and then get out of trouble; good solo or as a (very expensive) small-gang tackler.
- Federation Navy Comet
- Republic Fleet Firetail
- Worm Very like an Ishkur (see above) with an extra midslot and a potentially very large shield buffer tank.
Rare and Unique Frigates
Rare and Unique Shuttles
- Apotheosis Awarded to every character on the 5th anniversary of Eve.
- Goru's Shuttle
- Guristas Shuttle
- Interbus Shuttle A rare shuttle awarded with every new account created via the retail release of Eve.
- Zephyr One presented to every active account, Christmas 2009.
- Echelon One presented to every active account, Christmas 2010.