A Scout is a type of Starfleet Ship. It is a light ship, and lightly armed. Scouts are intended to flee from conflict rather than resolve it by force.
The scout is not a contemporary ship. A "scout" is usually a person, not a vessel. They do the job that at sea a frigate and later a destroyer is sent to do, look go see.
These are the rough divisions of scouts
- A light fast ship for gathering information about unknown space or enemy action. Often things that scouts see at a distance will have a cruiser sent to explore in detail.
- A light ship for utility purposes, courier and transport work but can be used as above.
- Fleet Scouts were specialized Space Warning and Command vessels with heavy sensors replacing weapons - these ships were the eyes of the fleet, detecting enemy ships and military movements from great distances. Fleet scouts were superseded by advances in technology. Any modern Starfleet ship can perform these functions now.
- Science ships - older ships taken off frontline patrol duty and now used to support long term science missions in relatively safe areas. These can be referred to as scouts.