The problem with the Sabre is that the side armor and the shields were too thin for it to be effective as a torpedo bomber. If the side armor were 10cm instread of 5cm (which would bring it more in line with the front/rear armor of 16cm), and it had 12.0cm of shields instead of 8.0cm, it might be effective, but the default shielding is just too weak for torpedo runs.
As for the Rapier, I agree that it is great for any non-torpedo missions. Its stats are a match for the Hellcat, and it is available much earlier in the series. I just wish it had ITTS.
The Super Ferret (the version from SO1 that has two HS missiles on it) is great for what it does--if it had ITTS then I would prefer it over the Epee--it is slightly faster and more agile, and has slightly betterr shields and armor.
The Epee may be super-agile, but its shielding is so thin that three hits with any guns will be enough to tear you apart. Flying an Epee consists heavily of dodging enemy fire to ensure that you don't get hit even once. I am in favor of raising the Epee's shields from 6.0cm to 8.0cm and adding 50% to the armor thickness.
The Broadsword is heavy with tons of shields and lots of firepower with its turrets and three mass drivers. It makes up for its slowness by being a tortoise. However, I would like it if it had a bit higher turn rate, as it is nearly impossible to track enemy fighters and you must depend on your turret gunners too much.
The Crossbow is a great upgrade from the Broadsword without being too overkill. It sacrifices the side turrets, but the twin neutron guns up front make up for it and can kill a Drakhi in two shots when combined with the mass drivers, plus it has moderately upgraded speed and turning rate.
The Morningstar is the first of the Super Fighters (later on we get the Excalibur, Dragon, Vampire, etc.). The Mace is sort of an odd weapon with its huge blast radius that damages everything nearby whether friend or foe. I am in favor of replacing that thing with a pair of FF missiles myself. The three particle cannons make it strong without being over-armed, but its armor is surprisingly high for a fighter. All in all, the Morningstar definitely seems like the type of ship that Maniac would design.
The Arrow is pretty much fine as it is--a light, fast fighter great for taking on anything other than a capship (but watch out for those Paktahns!). The only thing I would change is to give it more missile decoys--I always seem to run out of those.
The Hellcat is pretty good too, but to me the loss of firepower over the Thunderbolt is too much of a price for the slight increase in speed and agility (a mere 40kps cruising speed and 10dps turning rate in exchange for losing 20% of the shielding and nearly 40% of the firepower). To balance this I would increase the Hellcat's cruising speed from 420kps to 440kps and its turn rate from 60/60/60dps to 70/70/70dps.
The Thunderbolt packs a mean punch while still having bearable speed and turning rates, plus its single torpedo is great for any mission where you're going to need just one--if you are going up against just one capship you're better off with a Thunderbolt than a Longbow in my opinion.
The Longbow is a good heavy bomber, its sixteen missiles making up for its lack of agility. No real problems here.
The Excalibur is overpowered not so much because of its quad tachyon guns and twin Reaper cannons, but because the guns are autotracking, which means that you don't even have to worry about aiming. I would take away the autotracking ability and balance this out by adding 50% to the armor thickness.
The Banshee is light and agile, but the four lasers take so long to make a dent in a target that the other enemy fighters have time to get behind you and blast away your rear armor. I would either increase the number of lasers to six, or replace them with Ion guns so that it would have firepower to match the Arrow.
The Vindicator has some power with its Tachyon guns and stormfire cannon, but the gun capacitor isn't big enough to get more than a couple shots with full guns active. With a bigger gun capacitor, the Vindicator would be a match for the Thunderbolt any day of the week.
The Avenger is good as a bomber, being a bit faster and more agile than the Longbow, but its eight missiles can't compare to the Longbow's sixteen. I would like to increase the Avenger's missile load to twelve. While we're at it, give the Vindicator eight missiles and two torps instead of six missiles and three torps--the missiles would probably be more useful and there are few missions that use exactly three torps--either you have the third left over, or you are despeately wishing you carried a fourth.
The Bearcat has lots of speed, lots of agility, and those quad Tachyon guns pack a good punch. The main drawback I see is that the guns are so widely spaced that they don't seem to hit anything--the bolts from them just pass on either side of the target.
The Dragon is overpowered as anything. I would take away the autotracking ability of its guns and enlarge the size of the gun capacitor so that you can fire longer.
The Pirhana is lightly armed but heavily armored. The Stormfire Mk. II cannon kicks ass, but runs out of rounds in a hurry if you use it, and the single laser and twin ion guns hardly damage a Manta at all. I would give it a second Laser cannon.
The Tigershark is fine as it is with good shielding and kickass charging mass drivers--one shot can destroy a Moray. All it needs is a little more speed to keep up with the Morays.
The Panther is a well-balanced fighter with guns that are powerful but not overdone, and a decent missile load. I would like to give it some Dragonfly rocket pods (or Mosquito pods if it's Secret Ops).
The Shrike has good guns too with the Charging Mass Drivers that I love, and plenty of torps. However, it has only four IR misiles and NO HS or FF missiles! It definitely needs more anti-fighter missiles--give it four HS or FF missiles to go with the IR missiles.
The Vampire has kickass guns with its four tachyons and twin particles (although I would love if it had four tachyons and four Chargin Mass Drivers instead). Three shots will obliterate a Moray, plus it has a shitload of missiles. Fortunately, it does not have autotracking guns, so this keeps it from becoming overkill.
The Devastator is like flying your own mini-capship. It is slow to move and slow to turn, and it has FIVE turrets to keep the lighter fighters off your back. All this would be bearable, however, if it had a decent amount of afterburner fuel. Whose idea was it to give the Devestator only 1/3 the afterburner charge of the Shrike anyway? If you use your burners to close with a capship to strike, there's hardly anything left to retreat afterwards.