So in my opinion the best way to solve PvP balance is to follow the principle of chess.
Chess only work when both players have exactly the same set of pieces.
Give one player 5 extra Queens and the game makes no sense for both side: the first one looses automatically, the second receives a false narrative of beeing good.
Dreadnought's PvP is far more complex then chess, but it doesnt follow the basic balancing principle.
You are allowing players to equip objectively better ships, not only better equipped, but also with more health and DPS.
The game is automatically rigged against you, treating you as cannon fodder.
Now the guy in fully researched T2 in recruit is going to have fun, but the guy who just started will be heavily encouraged to not play the game.
Whats the point if the only thing youll be doing for the first 10 games is loosing?
Not just looseing yourself, but craping on your team perfomance as well.
And not because you are bad or do not know the game, but because you are supposed to lose.
In Vet the number of missions you will be flying a starter ship is 100+ because of the grind.
All players who will suffer through the Recruit and visit the Vet missions will see the ropes and quit the game.
Bareing with Recruit is hard enough, you just have to loose 10, 20 games right?
In vet you have a whole season ruined. Weeks and months. By default. Nothing you can do about it.
Well you can not play the game. Hide and wait for the battle to be over.
Or you can not give a cookie and go die a miserable death 10 times loosing the game for your team.
Most players will see that, understand it and decide this is not fir them.
You are a free to play title. You NEED "most players" active in the game.
And if you are a PvP only title, balancing is key. It is priority above all.
I recommend rethinking progression, ship balance and dividing community into recruit, vet and legendary.
Or the game will loose active playerbase and barely survive supported by the most devoted fanbase. If youre lucky.
You already have a problem with players finding a match to play. So assume it is worth thinking about.