As an example, let's take a look at the Canaveral Class. Originally developed as a small civil vessel, the Canaveral was refitted by Starfleet to serve as a sensor specialist for reconnaissance missions or to assist fleets with their advanced sensor apparatuses. This role hasn't changed, but you will notice a number of differences. The first will probably be that Support Vessels no longer have an initial ability. Instead, now they all come with a unique passive. In this case, all Canaveral Class ships arrive with the Sensor Synergy passive technology, allowing them to link their sensors with nearby stations, greatly boosting the sensor range of an allied station. You don't have to manually activate or trigger this technology, it works completely automatically just by having a Canaveral near a station.
This was an important decision, made to reduce the amount of micro management required to get the best of your support ships - which was often one of the key reasons why new players decided to skip them. Another more subtle change is that the two remaining abilities you may research for a Support Vessel are no longer interdependent, which means that you don't require one of them to research the second one. Instead, they act more as alternatives, as they usually consume most of the energy a Support Vessel has available. This allows you to further adjust the usefulness of your ships to certain situations, without needing to research technology you don't feel necessary at the moment. So let's take a look what the abilities for the Canaveral are!
Sensor Blackout is a popular oldy from earlier versions of Fleet Operations. By performing this maneuver, the Canaveral overloads the targeting scanners of nearby hostiles, greatly reducing their rate of fire. While this process also overloads the Canaveral's sensor and weapon systems, it greatly reduces the incoming fire on your defensive or offensive base fleet. Fleet Operations veterans will note that the effect of Sensor Blackout is much more significant now, but it no longer allows for aiming at a target location. Instead, the overload is focused on the Canaveral itself and hostiles have to be near her to be affected. This leads to another interesting point: the base stats - especially defense - of Support Vessels have been increased, to allow them to also act as light combat ships and make the micromanagement to keep them alive less severe.
The second ability Available is a new one: Targeting Assistance. While Sensor Synergy allows the Canaveral to link its long range scanners to an allied station, Targeting Assistance allows her to link her targeting scanners to nearby combat vessels, allowing their phaser arrays to target an additional target! This gives a Federation fleet with Canaveral Support an amazing ability to deal area damage, especially when they are moving around and most direct fire is compensated by an opponent's Defensive Vessels.
We will take a closer look at the other Support Vessels of the Federation - and her foes - soon!
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