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The Kestrel

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The Kestrel
Cruiser Hull Kestrel A The Kestrel.png
Cruiser Kestrel A The Kestrel.png
Ship type Kestrel Cruiser
Layout Layout A
Weapons Artemis, Burst Laser II
Missiles 8 Missiles
Drone parts 0
Power 8
Augmentations None
Achievements The United Federation, Full Arsenal, Tough Little Ship
Door System
Weapon Control

Kestrel Cruiser
The Kestrel
Stealth Cruiser
The Nesasio
DA-SR 12
Mantis Cruiser
The Gila Monster
The Basilisk
Engi Cruiser
The Torus
The Vortex
Federation Cruiser
The Osprey
Slug Cruiser
Man of War
The Stormwalker
Rock Cruiser
Zoltan Cruiser
The Adjudicator
Crystal Cruiser

The Kestrel class cruiser was decommissioned from the Federation fleet years ago. After a number of refits and updating, this classic ship is ready for battle.


The Kestrel is the default cruiser in FTL and the only one available when starting the game. It starts with a crew of three humans, an Artemis missile launcher and a Burst Laser II. It's the most iconic ship of FTL and it's fit for many different strategies.

How to Unlock the Kestrel[edit]

The Kestrel is the first ship available to player, unlocked from the start of the game.


Ship Strengths[edit]

  • Starts with two fast and strong direct combat weapons.
  • Ship layout is simple and straightforward.
  • Generalized setup provides solid base to build own strategy.

Ship Weaknesses[edit]

  • Limited starting crew can't man every system on ship and challenge you with priorities.
  • A 100% Human crew makes offensive and defensive boarding very difficult, and provides only one blue option.
  • Generic layout with weak shields leaves ship susceptible to strong weaponry.
  • Oxygen room is far away from Med-bay and Door control, which makes ship vulnerable to oxygen room damages.
  • 4-men rooms are on sides of Door System. It makes door system vulnerable to fire and intruders. However presence of Med-bay in direct vicinity can help negate this.

Leaving the Hangar[edit]

Many consider the Kestrel great, because you can develop almost any strategy with it. Being weapon-focused, do not hesitate to target the enemy ship Weapon bay directly and improve your shields as first step. Boarding tactics should be left alone, until find stronger alien races, i.e. Mantis or Rock. Drones are possible, if you find the Drone Recover Arm and Drone bay early. Kestrel's human-only crew provide almost no blue options for events, thus chances losing the human crew are higher. However Humans also level up faster, increasing ship's survivability in the long run. When being boarded, consider venting all rooms, except Med-bay and Door-bay - at same time attacking the enemy ship Weapon-Bay.

Kestrel is a jack of all trades, master of none. Its balanced layout provides a solid base for developing any strategy. You'll unlock other ships which provide a much greater challenge soon enough!


  • Abuse your Burst Laser II and Artemis Missile Launcher to avoid damage in the early sectors. Hit the weapons first, then the shields while they are repairing them.
  • With only three crew, it is recommended you man the cockpit, weapons, and engines. Leave the shields for a 4th crew member as your initial shields are weak and you want to destroy enemy weapons before enemy destroys yours.
  • Consider purchasing or freeing a 4th non-human crew member to unlock blue options at events, Rockmen or Mantis being most ideal. A Slug member is useful for sensors and Engi for repair and blue options. Additional Humans or Zoltans are of use.
  • Ion, Beam and Fire Weapons also unlock blue options. If you find one, consider keeping it in a weapons slot, even if you can't power it. Blue options will work regardless if the weapon is powered or not.
  • Try to get your hands on Drone Retrieval Arm and Drone Bay early. Defense Drone Mk. It can secure your ship against missile damage. Anti-Personnel Drones can be used if you install the Teleporter-Bay. Boarding Drones are only useful if you are trying a boarding strategy. System Repair Drones are mostly useless, as Humans learn quick.
  • Other useful subsystems for blue options include a level 2 Med-Bay and Level 2 Sensor-Bay, if you can't find Slug member.

Recommended Upgrades[edit]

  • Shields level 2, due to your strong starting weaponry.
  • Drone Retrieval Arm, if you plan to install Drone Control Bay.
  • Additional multi-shot lasers or ion weapons to get through enemy shields.
  • More non-Human/Zoltan crew.
  • Medbay Level 2 to protect from boarders. Sensors 2 or Slug crew if you have a lot of nebulas in your game.
  • Cloaking Device for the Boss's power surges.
  • Teleporter to greatly improve Scrap income, blue options, quests and for the Boss battle.

Useful augmentations: Weapon Pre-Charger, Scrap Recovery Arm (until all slots are full), Drone Retrieval Arm (if you plan to install Drone Bay), Stealth Weapons (if you plan to install Cloaking Bay).


The United Federation: This is unlocked by having six unique aliens on the Kestrel at once. If you have a Human, Engi, Zoltan, Rock, Mantis, and Slug on your ship, you will unlock the achievement. A Lanius or Crystal crewmember would also count for the achievement, of course, though they are less common.

Full Arsenal: This will be unlocked when you have all systems on the ship at once. Purchasing the Cloaking, Teleporter, and Drone Control systems will unlock this achievement.

Tough Little Ship: This will be unlocked from repairing at a store with one hull point left. Try to find an auto-scout directly next to a store, let your hull get to one point left, jump to the store, and repair. Another good strategy is to let your hull get to 1 by standing in an asteroid field with your shields and engine unpowered, for your own safety, wait for your FTL Drive to charge before doing this, or/and get a defense drone ready in the event an asteroid hits your shields or engine.

Layout B[edit]

The second layout of the Kestrel is the Red-Tail. It looks more like a rebel ship than a Federation ship, and instead of having a Burst Laser II and Artemis it has four Basic Laser weapons. It also has a different layout than the Kestrel. It may be harder to use drones due to its starting weaponry.

Layout C[edit]

The third layout of the Kestrel cruiser is the Swallow, armed with a dual laser and an ion stunner I. The swallow is unlocked by reaching sector 8 with the Type B Kestrel, known as the Red-Tail, when advanced mode is enabled. The Swallow replaces the medbay with the cloning bay, meaning that the crew can only be healed by jumping or by replacing the system. Note that it also starts with level 2 sensors. The paint layout depicts pirate markings.

Note: The type C layout for the Kestrel, like all type C layouts, are only available in the Advanced Edition content.