The Tempest is one of the premier frigates in Starsector, combining superior speed/maneuverability and firepower with utility in its Terminator Drones. It comes at a price, however, as it has the maintenance profile and deployment cost of a Destroyer. Armed with two Medium Energy and one Small Missile, the Tempest can be tailored to about any role, though it tends to excel in hit-and-run tactics where its blazing speed gives it the ability to strike and get out.
Boasting some of the best flux stats among Frigates, the Tempest can liberally use the Medium Energy mounts in its possession (unlike the more ubiquitous Wolf). In general, it can only support one "primary" Medium Energy weapon (such as a Pulse Laser, Phase Lance, Ion Pulser, or Ion Beam) paired with a "secondary" or lower-flux profile weapon such as a Graviton Beam or Small Energy Weapon. The Heavy Blaster is more difficult to mount, due to its extreme flux cost, but possible if the Tempest is built around max dissipation and venting. The Small Missile mount on the bow is versatile and can be used to complement or supplement the main armaments.
Finally, the Tempest is a Burn 11 ship: the fastest craft in the Sector. A fleet of Tempests, unencumbered by other ships, could theoretically cruise at Burn 14 (with Augmented Field Drive and the Navigation 3 burn bonus). Though this won't come into play often, know that the Tempest will rarely be the ship slowing the fleet down!
High Energy Focus
The Tempest's ship system is High Energy Focus, a 50% increase in Energy weapon damage for 3 seconds. It has 3 charges initially and each charge takes 20 seconds to renew. With this system, the Tempest can achieve a very efficient flux-to-damage ratio, which is useful when trying to defeat shields before maxing out your own flux. The Pulse Laser, for example is typically a 1.1 flux-to-damage ratio but with High Energy Focus, it drops to .733. Even the aforementioned Heavy Blaster has a marginally positive (i.e. better than parity) flux:damage when under High Energy Focus. For weapons like the Phase Lance or Ion Pulser which have longer-than-average reload times, High Energy Focus can be timed with their refresh rates for reliably high burst damage.
Surprisingly, the Tempest gets better with built-in Terminator Drones, a pair of autonomous free-roaming drones that provide excellent point-defense and moderate, if unreliable, fire support. Each drone is equipped with a PD Laser (with extended range) and IR Pulse Laser. Unlike true Fighters, the drones cannot be ordered to Engage targets so attempting to will only cause the Tempest to have a flux draw for no gain. Instead, the drones will seek out nearby enemies, prioritizing fighters and missiles, and due to its Terminator Core, the drones will enjoy perfect accuracy, ignore anti-PD flares, and deal 2x damage against said missiles/fighters. On the whole, it allows the Tempest to forego PD completely and focus on ship-to-ship warfare.
The drones themselves are not incredibly sturdy but are very elusive. Should one get destroyed, there is a 20 second rearm time for the next one (assuming 100% fighter replacement rate). It should also be noted that they tend to screen for the mother ship when the Tempest itself is overloaded.
Why not just fly a fleet of Tempests? For one, they are expensive Frigates to buy and/or maintain: the highest among the non-Phase, non-Hyperion Frigates. They are also not particularly easy to find, though the odd Tempest can be found on black markets and occasionally on Tri-Tach worlds. D-modded Tempests are very expensive to restore, costing upwards of 70,000 for one D-mod. Note that a Tempest with a Damaged Flight Deck will, for all practical purposes, have virtually the same performance as a pristine version since the Drones have high survivability.
The small Omni shield leaves much to be desired. In AI hands, the Omni shield does its job but in player hands, it can be burdensome and unforgiving. The Extended Shields hullmod helps with this somewhat but so does the Front Shield Conversion, which doubles the area and halves the cost at the expense of leaving the aft of the ship exposed.
And exposed is the term of choice for the durability of the Tempest. It is not a particularly fragile ship, though there are tougher options in the Frigate family, but against Cruiser-grade and even Destroyer-grade firepower (never mind Capital-grade!), frigates like the Tempest do not fare well. For such an expensive frigate, it can find itself in over its head easily. Massed fighters, even with Terminator Drones, can overwhelm Tempests and even its blazing speed is no match against Phase Ships like the Afflictor, which can outmaneuver and alpha-strike a Tempest easily.
Finally, due to the nature of Energy Weapons, the Tempest will undoubtedly be at a range disadvantage against Ballistic weapons and ships that can extend their range (i.e. Dedicated/Integrated Targeting Core). This will require the Tempest to take fire to get into range more often than not. Beam weapons can give the Tempest a range advantage but most "primary" Medium Energy weapons are in the 500-600 range.
Personally, I find the Tempest to be the best "standard" frigate in the game and is my frigate of choice even in endgame fleets because it gives the overall fleet a rare combination of speed and punch. It also screens for fighters regardless of its loadout which means assigning it as an escort is never a bad idea. At worst, it's above-average in every category but earns superior marks in its versatility and speed. A single Tempest will not sway the smallest battle, but 3-4 used in conjunction, are extremely useful for chasing down stragglers and overwhelming single Destroyers and even Cruisers.