ECM104-05: The Falcon
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!