The role of assault ships these days is to provide the firepower and durability of a cruiser in a frigate sized package. In other words, decent DPS and tank while fast and agile.
The changes to stasis webifiers and warp scramblers a short while back really boosted their ability to survive against cruisers. Now an afterburner fitted assault frigate can get in close and not be brought to a standstill by a single web; in fact they can maintain enough speed to continue to avoid the tracking of medium and large guns. And with the missile damage formula changes around the same time, their small signature and fast speed allow them to negate damage from larger missiles as well. In other words, they found a niche (finally!).
For Caldari, they have two ships based on the Merlin hull. The hybrid specialized Harpy and the missile specialized Hawk. Although Caldari hybrid vessels are built to favour the railgun, most pilots agree that the Harpy is a decent ship when fitting railguns for range or even equipped with blasters for damage. The Hawk however is not a widely liked ship. Why you ask? Its because its damage output is pathetic.
Its damage bonus is a measly 5% to kinetic missiles only per level of Caldari Frigate (so effectively 25% total) and with four launchers and only low slots for two Ballistic Control Units (BCUs) its DPS is low, lower than 100 with perfect skills and tech II standard launchers according to EFT. (This is without an unbonused hybrid in the fifth high slot.)
Now it does get a bonus to flight time giving it nice range of ~60 km, and it get a nice shield boosting bonus so it can tank like a son of a bitch, but most Tech II combat frigates can easily surpass its damage. A Harpy with railguns and antimatter can get 150 DPS. Even a Crow with three launchers and its 10% bonus per level can exceed the DPS of the Hawk if outfitted for max damage. The worst insult of all: The Tech I Kestrel has a higher damage bonus and four launchers meaning it out-damages the Hawk with all missile types.
Note: Yes, the Amarr Vengeance also suffers from anemic DPS but at least it has four low slots for BCUs if you're desperate for damage. The Hawk has 2.
With Rockets the situation does not improve much, boosting DPS to around 115. That is in part due to the suckiness of rockets themselves compounded by the poor bonus of the hawk. In contrast, a Haryp with blasters can reach 232 DPS with antimatter ammo.
So what do I propose? Let's look at a comparison of the Caracal to Cerberus for guidance. Both ships have the same damage and velocity bonus but the Cerberus follows it up with a rate of fire increase which is another damage bonus and a flight time increase. Further to that the Cerberus has 4 low slots for damage mods as opposed to 2 of the Caracal. The end result is a damage increase of 100 pts or more over the Tech I version.
So I would make two changes to the Hawk.
1) Move the fifth high slot to a low slot to give the option of a third BCU. With stacking penalties the bonus is reduced by a significant amount but it still gives some increase.
2) Change the 10% bonus to flight time per Assault Ship level to a 5% bonus to rate of fire. Without a double range bonus like the Harpy gets, the concept of a sniper missile frigate is ridiculous.
These would allow the Hawk to approach damage levels of other Assault ships without making it overpowering.