Monthly Archives: November 2011
ECM104 is going to be presented in multiple parts and will take a detailed look at the ECM specific ships available to the aspiring specialist including fitting options and tactics. The next ECM dedicated ship in the series is the Caldari force recon ship “The Falcon”.
We are now entering the rarefied stratosphere that is the Force Recon and Combat Recon ships. Just the mere mention of the name “Falcon” conjures various images and emotions, for anyone that has faced one it is generally fear. In the initial implementations of the Falcon it developed a deserved reputation as a nigh-on invincible long range jamming platform. With a bonus to optimal range in addition to ECM units at the time having a higher base optimal range and jamming strength, they could apply effective jamming at ranges up to 200km.
Apocrypha 1.1 (16th April, 2009) removed the Falcon’s optimal range bonus, increased the jamming strength bonus and adjusted a number of other nuances. This made the Falcon more vulnerable by bringing it in range of retaliation and offset it by increasing its chances to shut the enemy down.
The Falcon is now generally seen as the ECM ship ‘of choice’. This ship is a true ECM specialist if ever there was one, with the bonus ability of being able to fit a covert ops cloaking device that allows warping and movement whilst cloaked.
As is befitting of the ‘elite tier’ of Electronic Warfare platforms, the requirements for a capsuleer to control one of these is quite high. Caldari Cruiser V and Recon Ships I (in turn requiring Covert Ops IV, Signature Analysis V and Spaceship Command V) mean a fairly long and dedicated training queue for any prospective pilots.
As mentioned above the Falcon is pure Electronic Counter Measures. It makes no pretence of being able to provide DPS, nor be able to defend itself in any way other than its jamming ability. They retain the usual ECM ship bonus of 10%/level (Caldari Cruiser) to ECM jammer capacitor use and supplement it with a 5%/level (Caldari Cruiser) to Medium Hybrid turret damage. In addition it improves on the sister Blackbird and little brother Kitsune jam strength bonuses with +30%/level (Recon Ships) to ECM jammer strength and also provide 95% +1%/level (Recon Ships) reduction to CPU need for cloaking devices. Together with the Rook and Widow, the Falcon has the highest pure jamming strength bonus available.
They also have the ability to fit a covert/standard cynosural field with role bonuses to reduce liquid ozone consumption (for cynosural fields) by 80% and reduce cynosural field duration by 50%.
As such it can be used as a scout, a point to launch capital and black ops assaults and of course to provide Electronic Warfare support
Clearly with these bonuses the Falcon is designed to be stealthy in its approach, select its targets and utilise the element of surprise to further improve the already strong force multiplier effect. Utilising the ability to fit a covert ops cloaking device the Falcon can warp to engagements under the cover of cloaking and survey the situation, choosing whether or not to engage and providing valuable intelligence to the fleet. It can also remain cloaked whilst the main body of the fleet arrives and the enemy obtain their targets. This fractional delay allows the Falcon to uncloak and apply jams before the enemy can change their targets and obtain a lock.
As with the most ECM ships, due to their relative frailty it makes sense to have alignment to a nearby celestial to ‘bounce’ once an enemy target lock is achieved. A Falcon in warp and alive to return is a much more valuable asset than a pod in space!
An alternative is to fit the Falcon to jam at range. This is a viable option, with the ability to extend the targeting and jamming range out to 126km at 50% strength. It does not however put it in the league of the Scorpion (or even Blackbird for that matter) for pure ECM range, however combined with it’s inherent strength bonuses it is a possibility.
The Falcon boasts a massive seven mid slots, in addition to four high and three low fitting slots. This provides a great deal of flexibility should alternative fittings be the goal. However as already noted the primary focus is ECM support and this is the focus of these fittings.
As with the Kitsune, if a pilot is capable of controlling a Falcon they should also be able to provide it with the appropriate Tech 2 (or better) fittings. As such I will provide a Tech 2 standard fleet fit:
A fleet Falcon can provide truly massive jamming potential. Even with a mid-slot sacrificed for manoeuvrability six ECM jammers can still be fitted! Combined with the largest available ECM strength bonuses from any ship, rig and fitting bonuses (not to mention the pilot!) the resulting jamming strength and subsequent potential to shut down the opposition is frightening.
It is also possible to setup a Falcon to operate at range as noted earlier:
A solo Falcon can be a mixed bag of effectiveness. In most circumstances it is like the Kitsune and struggles to be effective. Whilst it has the ability to surprise its prey, more than likely jam them (given it can also warp away, refit and warp back with the target none the wiser!) it lacks the ability to pack the punch to take down heavier targets. So whilst it may be able to take down a cruiser and below, it will be unable to crack anything with a decent tank. Of course it does have the advantage of being able to pick and choose its prey which is a non-trivial ability in this scenario. A potential fitting for the solo Falcon follows:
In addition to the propulsion module, it fits the required warp scrambler and also a webifier to help hold the target in place. The remaining 4 modules provide more than enough ECM ammunition to shut down most of the potential targets it will prey upon. And with a fitting of maximum damage blasters (which the Falcon has damage bonuses for) and two Hobgoblin II’s it can put out 180 DPS which should be enough to take out frigates and potentially some cruisers.
Unlike the Griffin vs Kitsune comparison, the Falcon does actually up the DPS over the Blackbird. Despite an exponential increase in cost, the Falcon comes to the party with a hybrid turret damage bonus and a 10m3 drone bay over the Blackbird. This is also in addition to the addition of a low and mid slot and most importantly, a doubling of the ECM strength bonus.
Truly the Falcon represents one of the elite ECM ships. Its style is quite different to that of the Rook (as will be contrasted in that article) and it performs its assigned role well. A well trained Falcon pilot is always welcomed in fleet operations!
ECM104 is going to be presented in multiple parts and will take a detailed look at the ECM specific ships available to the aspiring specialist including fitting options and tactics. The next ECM dedicated ship in the series is the Caldari electronic attack frigate “The Kitsune”.
The Kitsune is the entry level Tech 2 ECM platform. It is more skill intensive that it’s Tech One cousins with entry level skills being Caldari Frigate V, Electronic Attack Ships I, Spaceship Command III and Electronics Upgrades V. It will take a more dedicated pilot to take one of these out, with Caldari Frigate V and Electronics Upgrades V taking in the order of 10days each.
The concept of the electronic attack ship class is decentralization of the electronic warfare role. Where a single Scorpion or Falcon pilot can jam more of the enemy at a longer range/jam strength, they can also be nullified relatively easily (either by jamming, ECCM or being primaried). By replacing the single larger ship with multiple smaller ships the ECM is distributed and makes it harder to counter. Whilst you can take out a single Kitsune relatively easily, for the same price you will have another 3 or 4 Kitsunes that then also need to be taken down and during this time they are performing their roles.
And the role of the Kitsune is as you would expect, pure Electronic Counter Measures. Being a frigate class vessel, it is most easily compared to the Griffin. The Kitsune retains the Caldari Frigate bonus of 10%/level to ECM Capacitor use and improves the 15%/level ECM strength to 20%/level. It also adds bonuses for the Electronic Attack Ship skill of 10%/level to ECM optimal range and 5%/level to maximum capacitor capacity.
As can be interpreted from these bonuses, this ship improves the overall jam strength and range of its ECM jammers, whilst making its capacitor remarkably efficient. As such it can jam from further out in the battle and maintain these jams for longer in keeping with its ‘decentralized ECM’ role.
Kitsune’s are generally recognised as a threat due both to their Tech 2 heritage and also their relative scarcity in general fleet battles. As such they need to utilise every scrap of advantage they have if they are to survive long enough to apply their force multiplier effects.
This involves utilising their tiny signature radius, relatively high speed and range bonus to ECM. If the Kitsune keeps moving (generally transversally to the opponents), refrains from utilising MWD’s at inopportune moments and remains at its maximum targeting/jamming range then it can be a very annoying opponent. However of note is the terrible targeting range of the Kitsune. It rolls off the production line with a maximum targeting range of 42km, compared to the Griffin’s 60km. OK, what gives? Did the engineers just screw up? Did they get to the end of the design phase, realise they were over budget and something had to give? This seriously hampers the Kitsune’s effectiveness and impacts the majority of fitting options as will be noted in that section.
Another tactic worth mentioning is the well known ‘bounce’. If an ECM ship is called primary or jammed, if it survives long enough (!!!) it will call ‘bounce’ and warp out to a nearby bookmark or celestial and then back to the fringe of the battle. This allows it to clear enemy jams and target locks, re-enter the battle and re-apply its ECM. In the interim the enemy will have switched to a new target and have to reacquire target lock. Due to the Kitsunes agility and speed, this tactic can be employed quite successfully.
It should be noted that the defenses of the Kitsune are comparable to the Griffin, with exactly the same shield capacity and marginally better resistances. Bottom line…it is still paper thin!
Kitsune’s provide some flexibility over their little brother the Griffin, with the addition of a single low and mid slot. On an electronic attack ship the usage of these is somewhat limited, although I’m sure imaginative sorts can come up with many variations on the themes.
However for its primary purpose of fleet ECM these additional slots allow it to further enhance it’s jamming capability. Fitting an additional jammer in addition to the +5%/level jam strength improves the chance of shutting down an enemy. The low slot provides for the additional of a second Signal Distortion Amplifier which again improves the jam strength in addition to range.
Rather than the usual Tech One fitting which can be upgraded, with the Tech 2 ships I will present a full Tech 2 fitting. By the time you get into these ships, you really should have the skills to equip appropriately and items can be downgraded to Meta4 etc where required:
And this is where we examine the impact of the restricted targeting range of the Kitsune on the fitting. With an elite certified commander and additional items such as a Signal Amplifier II and Small Ionic Field Projector I rig, the Kitsune targeting range be extended to 83km. With its bonus to ECM optimal range a racial jammer will have it’s optimal range at approximately 79km. This means that whilst the Kitsune can orbit a fight at 80km and apply its ECM at 100% strength, it has the following issues:
i) 80km is not a large distance to cover for fast ships such as interceptors;
ii) The ability to shoot to 80km is not out of the realm of possibility for many common deployed ships; and,
iii) In the midst of a large combat, maintaining 80km from threats whilst still remaining effective against other targets (which will be further than 80km) is difficult.
In order to overcome this limitation and provide greater flexibility and survivability it is necessary to sacrifice additional low slots or another rig slot to improve targeting range. This can be done through the Signal Amplifier I in the low slot (+25% max targeting range, +1 max locked targets, +10% scan resolution bonus) or a Small Ionic Field Projector I (+25% Targeting Range Bonus, -10% shield capacity). Alternatively ECM can be sacrificed and a Sensor Booster I can be fitted to the mid slot (+25% Max Targeting Range, +25% Scan Resolution Bonus). Note that the Sensor Booster can have a script fitted (in the case of the Kitsune the targeting script will double the range bonus to +50% and remove the scan resolution bonus).
This improves the targeting range to a point where the ship can better fulfil its role, however it adversely effects the ability to jam at a level superior to that of the Griffin in comparison to its price.
Whilst I have yet to discover an ‘alternate’ fitting for the Kitsune, I am sure they can be created/found. With such examples as the “Battle Buzzard” I’m sure it’s only a matter of time!!!
As for solo work, this will suffer less from the restricted targeting range. As such, it can extend upon the previously presented solo Griffin as follows:
It retains the propulsion module, webifier and ECM modules and provides an additional ECM to improve jamming chances against larger ships. The additional SDA also further improves jamming strength and range.
However the DPS of the Kitsune is less than that of the Griffin! Both ships have 3 high slots for weaponry and neither has a bonus to any form of weaponry. However the Griffin has 5m3 of drone bay which provides for the addition of a single light scout drone. The additional fitting slots and bonuses of the Kitsune allow swapping out for Ballistic Control Units to address this difference, however to push Kitsune DPS above that of the Griffin…both ISK and bang for buck in a solo situation, the Griffin is a clear winner!
It should also be noted that in Faction Warfare (FW) it is further limited to medium size complexes and above. Its inability to enter a small complex can significantly reduce opportunities and will tend to increase the size of ship it will face in these situations. With appropriate jamming strategies the ship will have high survivability against these targets, but is unlikely to be able to significantly threaten them.
The Kitsune is intended on being an improvement over the Tech One Griffin and a natural stepping stone into the ‘next step’ of Tech Two ships. It also has a highly specialised “distribute electronic countermeasures role”. It is my belief that through a focus on the latter, the former has been hurt.
In my experiences (Note: not the biggest/most extensive body of knowledge for sure) the Kitsune is no more effective than the much cheaper Griffin. It’s signature, speed and agility are all comparable to the Griffin and whilst it improves the overall % chance of jamming marginally, it generally compromises some of this to extend it’s targeting range. The big downfall when comparing the two is the intangible…when an enemy see’s the Kitsune it registers as a) a bigger threat and, b) a bigger ISK kill on the corporate killboard! As such the Kitsune’s life expectancy is considerably shorter.
So to wrap up it is my opinion that if a true de-centralised EW fleet is in place (multiple Electronic Attack Ships), or ISK is no objective and you wish to squeeze every extra jam % out of a frigate platform, the Kitsune is the ship for you. Otherwise leave it parked and take out the trusty Griffin!