I think T7 is inevitable. I could be wrong, but previously we were told by 'reliable sources' that T6 was never going to happen, until we got T5U and stopped believing that one. So, there are some things I'd like to see in a T7 vessel, one of which is hardpoints on the sides of the ship. This would, of course, be a huge bonus to cruiser types which tend to use wide angle weapons. But it could also be very beneficial to other vessel types.
I will begin by defining the Broadside Firing Arc: a centerline set at 90 degrees from the ship's axis of travel, set on the horizontal plane of the ship, (the Y axis of an x/y/z coordinate system.)
On the ship's layout this would be from 1-3 weapons slots on either side of the ship, in addition to the usual fore-and-aft weapons. The default for a typical T7 would be one additional weapon slot on each side, (total 2,) but some designs may move additional slots from fore or aft arcs to the new Broadside slots.
Weapons which could be slotted in the new Broadside hardpoints would come in three types, Broadside, Normal, and Point Defense:
Broadside weapons are heavier, and include Dual Heavy Cannons, with a new category of Broadside Weapons which are more powerful weapons with a longer recharge rate and a higher power cost. The Broadside Weapons could only be slotted in a Broadside weapon slot.
The firing arc for Broadside Weapons would be an arc 45 degrees fore and aft of the Broadside axis, and 45 degrees up and down, (90 degree arc of fire.)
Because Broadside weapons are more powerful, they can acquire targets at longer range: up to 15km. This would only apply to weapons which can only be mounted in Broadside weapons slots, so your usual DHCs retain their 10km range while Broadside Cannons gain the extended range, but cannot be mounted in any slot other than a Broadside slot.
Normal weapons which can currently be slotted fore and aft can also be slotted in the Broadside slots. Arrays, cannons, turrets, and dual beam banks would all have their listed firing arcs, with the exception that any 360 degree weapon slotted in a Broadside weapon slot will be reduced to a 270 degree arc.
Point Defense weapons would be created which do not fire except upon small craft and destructible projectiles, and they attack these without need for the player to target or fire them. It is a wholly automated function: when an enemy small craft or torpedo enters their firing arc within 5km, they open fire until the target is destroyed, then attempt to acquire another target.
I would advocate the Point Defense weapons be allowed to be slotted on lower tier ships in any fore or aft weapon slot. In such a position the PD weapon would have a 360 degree firing arc, as it would when placed in a fore or aft slot on a ship built with Broadside Weapons Slots.
Another idea would be to limit Carriers, Escorts, and Raiders to PD weapons only in Broadside slots, and to limit Science Vessels and Raptors to normal or PD weapons. This would leave the big guns to cruisers and battlecruisers. In this case, I would advocate four types of Broadside Weapons Slots:
Broadside Main Weapons Slots = capable of mounting any weapon type, including the Experimental Heavy Weapons.
DHC Weapons Slots = capable of mounting any weapon type, excluding the Broadside and Experimental weapons.
Normal Weapons Slots = capable of mounting all current weapons plus PD weapons, excluding DHCs.
Point Defense Weapons Slots = capable of mounting the proposed PD weapons and turrets and 360 degree arrays, with the latter two restricted to 270 degree firing arc.
Weapons restricted to Aft weapons slots, (mines,) would still be restricted to aft weapons slots. So I guess that makes five kinds of weapons slots.