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My name is Hallan Turrek. This is my blog.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Guide: Stealth Bombers

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
Buffalo Springfield - For What It's Worth

A while back I did a fitting post for CrazyKinux's blog. I'd turned it into a sort of guide to stealth bombers, and for a while I was satisfied with it. But after a bit, I started to like it less and less, as it reflected how I fly, but with a number of tweaks unaccounted for. I've improved my style and performance since then, and it's about time I improve upon that guide.

Introduction

Most people are unsure as to the role of stealth bombers in a gang. What you have is a highly mobile and cloaked piece of artillery. You can hit at range and hit hard. You can have a light ewar platform that knocks ships completely out of the fight until you can get around to killing them. You can warp cloaked and wait out your timers cloaked . You decide when to engage and when not to engage. As long as you use it wisely, you will very rarely die.

Skills

I'm not going to go into previous skills or fitting skills for you. That's redundant, what I will do is list off the ship/weapons/ewar skills you need to get all of your modules working well.

  • Racial Frigate V
  • Missile Projection V
  • Missile Bombardment V
  • Rapid Launch IV
  • Warhead Upgrades IV
  • Standard Missiles III
  • Heavy Missiles III
  • Torpedoes IV
  • Target Navigation Prediction IV
  • Electronics Upgrades V
  • Covert Ops IV
  • Electronic Warfare III
  • Long Distance Jamming IV
  • Long Range Targeting IV
  • Electronics V
  • Sensor Linking IV
  • Signal Suppression III
  • Target Painting III
  • Weapon Disruption IV
  • Turret Destabilization III
  • Frequency Modulation IV
  • Target Painting IV
  • Signature Focusing IV
  • Mechanic III
  • Jury Rigging III
  • Launcher Rigging IV

It's up to you in which order you want to train them, but that's a bare minimum. You'll be rigging your bombers for range, so you'll be able to use them a little sooner than you might've otherwise. If your skills only let you shoot torpedoes from 30-55 kilometers, you need to get better skills. A bare minimum of 60 is preferred. My tech one torps shoot to 80 kilometers. Play with your ewar skills so that optimal+half of falloff falls near your max torpedo range. If you want better, go for it, that's great: again, that's a minimum, not a rule. For me, it's about 75 kilometers for all three Ewar I use, which works out well. This took some skill training though, but if you don't want to go all the way, that's understandable. You'll also need to decide between probing and bombing. It's up to you, but each will require some skill training.

The Ships

I'm just going to come out and say it, the Manticore is the best stealth bomber. It is, in reality one of the best reasons to train Caldari Frigate 5. However, if you had the option to train another racial frigate to 5, you probably should. I would argue that the Manticore is on it's own a good enough reason to train Caldari Frigate 5, but others might disagree. The Kitsune is ok if fragile, the Crow and Raptor are a lot more useful today than they used to be... but in the end they are mostly outclassed by better ships from other races. So what's a new player to do? Whatever you want. Just because the Manticore is the best bomber, doesn't mean it has to be your bomber. Most fits I have for the other three try to make it operate like a Manticore with different torps loaded. For me that means:

79 kilometer torp range, a targeting range to match that, three mid slots for ewar, and 450-500 DPS.

There are two different slot layouts for stealth bombers.

High slots don't change, it will always have 3 missile slots and two utility slots. One of those utility slots will be a cloak. That leaves you with another slot for something else, for most others, that will be a bomb launcher. For me, it's an offlined expanded probe launcher. So really the options are minimal here.

Mids slots is where it starts to get "optional". The Manticore and Nemesis each have four mid slots, while the Purifier and Hound have three. The Manticore has more than enough CPU to fill out it's slots, while the Hound also has more than enough CPU to fill out it's slots. The Purifier can be dicey, but usually you can make it work. The Nemesis is a nightmare to fit. If after I advise you to train for the Manti you do not, I will advise you not to train for the Nemesis. If you make that mistake anyhow, that's your problem. I will provide only this as fitting advice for the Nemesis, then let us never speak of it again: You'll find it easier to fit, but still tight, if you use Malkuth launchers.

Low slots are a bit more simple. You'd think that trading a low for a mid slot would be an even trade, but apparently CCP decided that a low slot was worth more than a mid slot, and gave the Purifier and Hound much lower targeting ranges. 10k less. That puts the hound at aproximately 69k, and the Purifier at 72. My fits, having a 75k+ range, have to make up for that somehow, and my solution is a signal amp in the lows. So outside of that, it's got the same two other low slots the Manticore has, only one less midslot.

To me that makes the Hound and Purifier inferior to the Manticore, but they do provide a diversity of damage types, which in a gang is pretty much required.

Manticore

Lets lead off with the Manticore fit, since it's the prototype the other bombers come from.

[Manticore, Death]
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II

Phased Muon Sensor Disruptor I
Phased Weapon Navigation Array Generation Extron
Balmer Series Tracking Disruptor I
Catalyzed Cold-Gas I Arcjet Thrusters

'Arbalest' Siege Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Juggernaut Torpedo
'Arbalest' Siege Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Juggernaut Torpedo
'Arbalest' Siege Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Juggernaut Torpedo
Covert Ops Cloaking Device II
Expanded Probe Launcher I, Core Scanner Probe I /OFFLINE

Small Hydraulic Bay Thrusters I
Small Hydraulic Bay Thrusters I

Hound

Next up, the Hound, which I prefer over the Purifier for fitting.

[Hound, Famine]
Ballistic Control System II
Amplitude Signal Enhancer
Ballistic Control System II

Catalyzed Cold-Gas I Arcjet Thrusters
Phased Muon Sensor Disruptor I
Phased Weapon Navigation Array Generation Extron

'Arbalest' Siege Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Bane Torpedo
'Arbalest' Siege Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Bane Torpedo
'Arbalest' Siege Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Bane Torpedo
Covert Ops Cloaking Device II
Expanded Probe Launcher I, Core Scanner Probe I /OFFLINE

Small Hydraulic Bay Thrusters I
Small Hydraulic Bay Thrusters I

Purifier

The Purifier which I prefer for it's damage type.

[Purifier, Pestilence]
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System I
F-90 Positional Signal Amplifier

Phased Muon Sensor Disruptor I
Phased Weapon Navigation Array Generation Extron
Catalyzed Cold-Gas I Arcjet Thrusters

'Arbalest' Siege Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Mjolnir Torpedo
'Arbalest' Siege Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Mjolnir Torpedo
'Arbalest' Siege Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Mjolnir Torpedo
Covert Ops Cloaking Device II
Expanded Probe Launcher I, Core Scanner Probe I /OFFLINE

Small Hydraulic Bay Thrusters I
Small Hydraulic Bay Thrusters I

Nemesis

And for completeness sake, the Nemesis:

[Nemesis, War]
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System I

Balmer Series Tracking Disruptor I
Phased Weapon Navigation Array Generation Extron
Phased Muon Sensor Disruptor I
Catalyzed Cold-Gas I Arcjet Thrusters

'Malkuth' Siege Missile Launcher I, Caldari Navy Inferno Torpedo
'Malkuth' Siege Missile Launcher I, Caldari Navy Inferno Torpedo
'Malkuth' Siege Missile Launcher I, Caldari Navy Inferno Torpedo
Covert Ops Cloaking Device II
Expanded Probe Launcher I, Core Scanner Probe I /OFFLINE

Small Hydraulic Bay Thrusters I
Small Hydraulic Bay Thrusters I

The Equipment

One of the reasons I chose to use range increasing rigs is that it increases my survivability. I have ample time to run away from anything chasing me. I'm near the edge of point range for even the longest range overloaded points. I'm outside immediate targeting range of most of my targets, and those that can get me targeted get a face full of range dampening. If no one's targeting me... I can cloak at will.

The sacrifice is DPS. Compared against a similar ship rigged for damage you won't get top DPS, but you're doing between 450-500 anyhow, at an extreme range. No one will complain that you can stay on the field while other bombers warp in and out, I assure you.

Some smart EFTer will look at those builds and note that you can get slightly increased range from mixing a flight time rig with missile speed rig. I prefer missile speed rigs because it increases the range of my torps while still allowing mine to hit at the exact same time as the bomber that shoots at 60 kilometers.

Why a range damp? With this setup it is absolutely a must. The benefits of using one range damp at normal bomber range is minimal, but at this range you'll be able to remove a threat.

Why a painter? Easy enough, a painter increases the signature radius for the ship you're shooting it at. Torps were meant originally for Battleships to use, and as such do horrible damage to smaller ships. Stealth Bombers get a bonus to make them do a bit more damage to smaller ships, but you'll still run into some problems. Using a painter works wonders in increasing your damage.

Why a tracking disruptor? You know how many sniper ships there are, flying around, just waiting for you to decloak? Let the answer be known as "a lot" and leave it at that. Beyond that, you may be aware that when your gang is engaging a Vagabond, lowering his range can be a boon to pointing frigates. And when you're engaging most frigates or even some cruisers, screwing with tracking speed can turn the tide of a close match, even if you can't do any damage.

Why a microwarp drive? If I kick that on and get hit by missiles I'm toast, right? Yeah you will, so don't do that. If someone shoots a bomb, or lets missiles of any kind fly at you, just move. Fly in a direction, preferably aligned to a planet. Do not activate that MWD. On the other hand, if you've warped to a gate at 70 kilometers expecting a fight, but the guy jumps through and your fleet is in pursuit, it's easier to just burn hard to the gate and go through(and once through, easy to burn away from the target). It's easier to set up your safe spots off gates. The MWD should almost never be used in combat unless you've landed way to close to something and it's decloaked you.

Why best named torp launchers instead of tech two? Skill requirements to start with. Also fitting requirements. You'll note that tech two torp launchers take alot more CPU than the Arbs. Unless you're flying a Manticore, they're almost not even an option. Just remember: if you have to drop a Ballistic Control Unit to fit tech two launchers, it might not even be worth it. The DPS of the faction torps is very nice.

These fits use best named ewar, but the fresh Bomber pilots need to keep costs down. You will lose this ship sometimes. It's best to understand that now. I've lost it to a smartbombing gatecamp and warping down on a friendly bubble while a battle was already engaged. It stung. Lower costs whenever possible. The next best named modules are literally almost as good. Use them instead if you want and save ten million(If you're not flying a Manticore you'll have to use an implant to get it to work though).

Why an offline expanded probe launcher? This was not something on my original fit. I used a core probe launcher for a bit, then switched to a small armor rep for 0.0 work. But sometimes we needed a combat prober. If you're doing 0.0 work, you want an out, and core probes will find you a wormhole eventually. That makes you a mobile resupply point. Find a WH to highsec and let your corpmates know. You'll have to offline a lot of stuff to get it working, but once it's online probing a logoffski is a snap. Your gang will love you when you just happen to have this at the right time.

Strategies

Establishing your range.

In null and high sec: When you use a bomber in familiar territory, you should have safes, tacticals and bounces set up around every gate and every station. So when someone asks you to warp to a gate, and you're unsure of what they mean(is the target on this side, or the other side? Is he tackled or not?) you can warp to a safe 200+ kilometers off. That way you can see what's going on, what bubbles exist, and still easily warp to the gate/station inside ten seconds.

If the area is unfamiliar, try to be more careful. A warp to a hundred means you only need to burn 50 kilometers back out to warp to the gate. Mostly you'll just have to warp at ranges and hope you're where you want to be, or at least far enough away that you won't be messed with while you decloak and MWD to range.

In Low Sec: Assuming you're a pirate, don' t ever engage on a gate or station. You'll have to wait for your torps to hit before you can warp out, and you never know when the guns will switch to pop you. Just warp to any safe or belt at 70 kilometers and work you way into or out of range, depending on the situation.

Ships to Watch Out For.

All recons have a ridiculous targeting range, and will often throw a target lock on you simply so you cannot cloak. Ironically, most force recons are particularly vulnerable to bombers, a Falcon can be done in with 3 volleys from a Purifier. If he tanks it, 4. Combat recons are a different story, they can be a scary opponent, if it's just you. If it ain't though, he'll often have other things on his mind. Use that to your advantage, and remember, he'll be at a range from the combat more often than not, so be on the opposite side of that by the time his team has won the battle. Or alternatively, watch him die after his friends do.

Missile boats like the Drake, Nighthawk, or Cerb can hit you at the ranges you fly. However, if you're moving and don't use that MWD often, you'll take minimal damage. You'll have more than enough time to switch a targeting range damp on him, or warp out. The Drake and Nighthawk will almost certainly be taken out by a single range damp, the Cerb can be fit to hit you even if damped, and if it is, you'll need to warp out and back in. That's not an absolute, most Cerbs aren't fit with that kind of targeting range. Some are though, so be aware.

Snipers come in all flavors. You need to learn to watch for them. Listen to the intel where people look at ships and find out what kind of guns they're using. Do it yourself, you can warp cloaked, get in there and find out what kind of guns they're using. Are those arties or autocannons? Beam or Pulse lasers? The most commonly used ships that fit to sniper are Minmatar and Amarr ships.

That isn't to say that the others can't, but a Caldari won't kill you before you get away, and the Gallente snipers suck in comparison to Amarr and Minmatar(not to mention in comparison to how much damage Gallente snipers could do if they fit close range, so they usually do).

Avoid Muninns and Zealots like the plague, unless you're certain they're fit for close range. The Zealot is a wild card, he can be pretty effective as a sniper or as a closer range brawler. The Muninn is a sniper, every time. If you want to use a Minmatar Heavy Assault Ship for close range fighting, you'll go with a Vagabond. There isn't much else the Muninn does well.

But it does that job very well. Sniper Muninns and Zealots can kill you in one shot. You will go from full speed aligned to a celestial, full shields, full armor, full hull, and happily shooting to dead. Immediately.

The T3 Loki, by the way, is another ship that can be fit as a very effective sniper, and often is. Be careful.

Minmatar and Amarr BS's are also a complication, as either can be fit to do the same things, even more effectively. Of special note is the Apocolypse, one of the few ships you can be confident in assuming is sniper fit. Among the two races battleships' it is the one that actually gets a bonus to it's optimal range. Watch out, but any of the two races BS can be set up this way, and you will die if you engage it without preparation.

So what do you do to combat this? Well there is a reason why you've got two different sets of ewar on your ship. The targeting range damp will work on most cruiser sized snipers, and the optimal range damp will work on most battleship sized snipers. This is only true if you're operating in the 75km range. If you're closer than that, you're better off not engaging a sniper at all. Most snipers that don't have a naturally long targeting range have a targeting range just barely outside of their best gun range. Damp that down and he likely can't hit you. With best skills though, he likely can. One bomber can't usually damp down a sniper with perfect skills alone, but two bombers can damp two such snipers easily, by stacking one type of Ewar on each target. Use your gangmates.

And know what fleets you're facing, and if they're heavy on snipers, you shouldn't engage. If the FC insists you go in and lose your ship, well I can't tell you what to do, but ideally you let him know he'll be short on some DPS until the snipers are cleared off the field, or he'll be short that DPS permanently.

Oh, and pro tip: Be careful that a smart sniper is trying to get out of YOUR targeting range. Once your lock drops, so does all of your ewar, and you can be dead very quickly.

The last ship type to really watch out for is the interceptor/dramiel, and to a lesser extent the Vagabond/Cynabal. These are ships that can come up on you quite fast, and point you quickly.

Sort your overview by range, with the closest ones at the top. Pay special attention to any fast ship that's closer than 60k to you. If it gets any closer and you can cloak, do it. If you cannot, warp out.

In reality, once you're caught you're a goner, but there are plenty of ways to get out of the situation if you play it right, at least with an interceptor/dramiel. Remember the fact that each of these ships has an incredibly low targeting range, and the best pilots have trained themselves to sit on the edge of that range, rather than risk something scramming them. Align out, and wait until they settle into an orbit, then targeting range dampen them. If it works, get the heck out of dodge.

Oh, and if you get caught by a Vaga/Cynabal that's it. You're going to die.

Bomb Runs.

So despite the fact that I prefer not to use them, and do not fit my ships with them, a Stealth Bomber guide would be missing an important component if I didn't mention bombs at all. First of all, lets talk about the Launcher.

You can fit two bombs inside the launcher itself, and bombs are both big and expensive ammo. It isn't that hard to fit, but if you want it online all the time(which is optional, by the way), you'll need to sacrifice some of the things mentioned earlier in this guide. What and how is up to you, but lets assume you fitted it and are ready to use it.

The bomb you carry does a damage type specific to your bomber, generally. If you get a bunch of people together before hand, you can decide on a particular type of bomb to carry. This is important because each bomb has a huge resistance to the damage type it deals, and bombs can take damage and be destroyed before they explode. So 4 kinetic bombs will all blow up and deal full damage, while 1 of each damage type will only deal whatever damage explodes first, the rest of the bombs will die in the first blast.

A bomb will deal damage over an area of 15 kilometers. It will fly 3 kilometers a second for 10 seconds. Those numbers never change(unless you're in a wormhole, apparently). It will fly out of the front of your ship. If you're aligning while it fires, it will not fire at what you were aligning too, it will fire at whatever you were pointing at when you hit that button.

Oh, and the only piece of information that matters with regards to how much damage you do with a bomb is the signature radius of the target. His speed means nothing, if he's going full speed or no speed, he'll take the same damage. A MWD blooms his signature radius, so he'll take more damage if he gets hit, and a target painter active on him will do the same thing.

I'm going to list off the type of bomb runs you can do, from least safe, to safest.

First off is the drop and align. You make your way to where you want to be, while cloaked. You point in the direction you want, decloak, drop a bomb, and warp away. You're vulnerable to a point for the entire time, which can last up to 6 seconds. A good 'ceptor pilot will get you. Bad ones will MWD towards you and die. Some will MWD towards you, take damage, but NOT die, and keep going to kill you.

Second is the drop and warp. You set up your position so a celestial, or a safe you've made is directly behind your target. Align to that celestial, wait until you're in range, decloak, drop bomb, and immediately warp. Almost no risk, but requires you to take a long time to set up your position.

Third is the warp and drop. Very simple, especially if there are no bubbles on the gate you're warping to. Have someone watching the gate, or take a look yourself. If people are in jump range of the gate, or aren't moving at all but have a definate position, warp out, decloak(and wait a few moments until you can recloak), warp to the gate at 30k, drop bomb, cloak. Then warp away. Anyone trying to nail you down will immediately stop in his tracks, and likely have put himself right in the area your bomb is about to explode in. It's a fun way to screw with experienced 'ceptor pilots.

Most of the time, a single bomb will not net you a kill. You have to depend on the stupidity of others. Given the risk you present, and the cost and time it takes to drop a bomb, I advise against doing so unless you have at least one partner with the same bonus to his damage, or two partners with random bonuses(but the same bomb).

Avoiding Gatecamps.

Among the things that Bombers do best, avoiding gatecamps is at the top of the list. It's a very situational thing. If the system you're warping in has no one in local, just warp to the next gate. If it has even one guy, assume he's waiting on the next gate to kill you.

Always check a planet before going directly to a gate. If you cannot do that, use what I call "stutter warp" to get a scannable safe.

Simply get to a celestial while cloaked, or alternatively a safespot. Then start warping towards whatever gate you want to scan, and then cancel it. Now keep doing it until you have no capacitor left. Now you cannot make that warp all at once. A warning will pop up telling you as much. Do not assume you've done that, sometimes you'll get "lucky" and have just enough cap. Look for the message telling you that you don't have the cap for it. Then let the warp continue. If you have to do it again, do so, but once you're inside 14 AU's use the directional scanner to check the gate. Assuming there is no planet(and that's what we're doing since you didn't warp to one) everything that shows up will be at that gate. If there is a planet, it's very unlikely that anything will be on a 15 degree from the planet to the gate. Same rule applies, anything on scan is waiting for you.

So what is the safest thing to do? Wait. If you spot a bubble camp ahead of you, it's best to just wait it out, if you can't, pick a random celestial that isn't really important, and use that to warp to the gate. Then slowboat through the bubble under cloak, avoiding anything they've set up to decloak people. If you do get decloaked, hit the MWD, you're already approaching the gate, and you should make it anyhow. If not, well you shoulda waited.

Now you're through to the other side, and there's a camp here too. What you do consists of what is there. No matter what you do, assume there is a cloaked interdictor here. He can decloak and bubble you immediately, which may or may not give him or someone else time to point you.

Assume you're bubbled.

So first off, look at your surroundings. Find a celestial(not another gate) that is AWAY from the gate, from your vantage point. If you can't find one, you'll just have to deal with clicking in space at random(but in a direction that takes you AWAY from the gate, like before). Once that's done, in tandem, hit your MWD, and then cloak. Now pray. Once you're out of the bubble, assuming nothing decloaked you, warp. Now be fortunate that out of the 50 jumps you've gotta do today, only 2 or 3 will involve that level of excitment.

Conclusion

And that's that. I can't think of any other facet of stealth bombers I've failed to cover. I've let you know my fitting preference, but if you have your own, there are many strategies to work with in this guide as well. Most importantly, unless you're a god of some kind, I strongly advise against you trying to "solo" in a stealth bomber. Fitting a point, going in close and messing something up sounds fun, but even the best tanked stealth bomber is paper thin. You will die.

"But I fly with a squad of bombers, and we kill things fast." Ok, but each bomber could fit another Ewar(not to mention won't have to be in point range themselves), and one bomber pilot switches out to an interceptor. Done deal. You're good to go. Just have some other shiptype point for you, and you'll be fine.

The whole idea is to not get shot. That's your defense. It's served me well for over a year, yielding an almost 100:1 kill to death ratio in stealth bombers. It's an enjoyable, cheap, safe, and useful ship to fly and I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn 0.0 combat.

Most of all, have fun.

10 comments:

  1. Fantastic guide, thanks. I bought a Hound specifically for our wormhole expedition, but after 2 months I've not had a chance to use it in anger. Now that we're back in K-space, I'm going to head out to the fringes and go bombing.

    One thing you might mention is that certain wormhole effects (e.g. black hole) do affect bomb range, e.g. a C2 black hole will give you 0.81 x 30km or just over 24km bomb range. I proved this with practice bomb runs on jetcans.

    ReplyDelete
  2. WOW!

    A very impressive guide mate, well done on putting it together.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Concise and thoroughly explained fittings. Very impressive write up.

    ReplyDelete
  4. As a Nemesis pilot, I see that my fitting issues aren't in my head or in a borked EFT. Good guide, mate.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great guide and now theres something else to add to my 'want to have' list.

    This is getting out of hand...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Linked to this from http://gallenteexile.blogspot.com/ as it is well worth reading.

    Good Job.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great guide!

    But could you rephrase this?
    "If people are 0 bubble on the gate, or aren't moving but have a definate position,"

    I cant understand it :x

    ReplyDelete
  8. Let me explain it to you here: There is a difference between being 0k from the gate and being 0k from the center of that gate's model.

    It's not that important a distinction to make, and I'll simplify the line.

    ReplyDelete
  9. nice guide! i just have a couple more skills to train before i buy myself one :D

    Fly safe,
    Serenity one
    http://captainserenity.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  10. You rock, steady and hard. Stealth Bombers, Directional scanners, Safespotting.

    All explained clearly so a EVE newbie can understand. If Hallan Turrek is on once I renew my subscription look for a couple million ISK training bonus.

    ReplyDelete