Situation Awareness – Bombers

The third installment of my quick series how to live in EVE’s wormhole space.  It is not really a guide, more a personal journal.  Comments and corrections are very welcome.  

Its curious that I still get many google hits for “Nemesis Fit EVE”. I can only pity the fool desperately searching the interwebs for fitting advice of this unloved bomber and as last ditch end here.  I am not qualified for fitting advice – I tend to copy my fits from my lossmails  🙂

But lets talk bombers – my favorite ship in New Eden.

EVE University has a good general guide on bombers discussing the slot layouts and racial variants.  The guide does so from a empire and fleet perspective and misses the crucial role that these little boats play in wormhole space.  I’ll get to those in a bit.  First of all, lets re-cap:

Why we like Stealth Bombers:

  • Low SP requirements.  All Wormhole pilots need to fly covert operation frigates anyway which bombers technically are.  You can fly a Helios?  Great, go buy a Nemesis.  Of course, the pilot then needs torpedo skills but that doesn’t take long. And while torpedoes are not really used in Wormhole space as a PvE weapons platform, skilling it up is not wasted time – torpedoes qualify as “missiles” and hence benefit from the same secondary skills set a young wormhole pilot needs to build up to a site-running Drake or Tengu.  Oh, and at least initially, a Wormhole pilot doesn’t need bombing skills at all – see below.
  • Cost. A bomber hull is currently just over 20mil ISK and since its a frigate, many corps can easily build them in their hole at discount.  I buy mine from our industrial director who – since he knows my piloting skills  – keeps a handy stash of hulls just for me.  Thee of little faith.
  • Agility.  We’ll get to fits in a minute but wormhole transitions can be dicey for all pilots and nerve wrecking to the newbro.  The faster a ship gets away from the hole and recloaks, the higher its chance to stay unseen and alive.
  • Size.  Wormholes corps are (or should be) stingy with their ship storage space. Accumulation of  useless hulls is frowned upon since the Ship Maintenance Arrays are quite limited in size.  The new X-large SMA changes this of course for now but even those will fill up – it is inevitable.  Frigates are small to import, tiny to stow, fit into an Orca easily and no logistics director minds if active players has 5 or more differently fit bombers in storage.
  • Versatile.  I’ll write a little about slot layouts below but bombers have a fair amount of flexibility in their midlsots. High slots are pretty much all the same.
  • DPS.  Bombers are often disparagingly referred to as “Glass cannons” when discussing their fragility.  However, I like to stress the “Cannon” part of this. Torpedoes can do staggering amounts of damage albeit only to large ships – well, ships with large signature radii.  Basically, any hauler and any ship (other than the Venture) that ORE makes.  For hunting PI haulers, no better ship than Stealthbombers – my word on that.*

Race

I should probably write next on which racial bomber is best – Hallan Turek makes a big deal out of that.  But like they say for concealed firearms – the best weapon is the one that you are trained on and actually carry.  Piloting skills are vastly more important than slot layout until pretty much all Torpedo and advanced weapons upgrade skills reach V.   And while I love my Nemesis and swore that I would never fly anything else, only the Manticore can fit T2 launchers without compromising the rigs. I now have a couple of those but whenever I jump into my sensual Nemesis, I feel home.

A Manticore firing Torpedoes

A Manticore firing Torpedoes

Roles

Bomber.  While it would be natural to assume that bombers carry bombs, in wormhole space only a minority actually do.  Bombs work on big, stationary ships or large groups of uncloaked ships in close proximity.  One bomb doesn’t kill anything (maybe an untanked hauler, I have never tried) and therefore fleet bombing runs need to be fairly well orchestrated and executed.  The most common scenario is to make a perch at ~35 km range from a wormhole with a celestial exactly on the other side.  The bombing run then consists of aligning, launching the bomb and warping off – hoping that there is no bubble in the way.

I won’t be spending much time on bomber fits.  Firstly, we rarely use bombs and hence I don’t really have the experience. Secondly, its pretty straight forward (the complexity comes in setting up the perches and orchestrating the fleet).  The high slots are taken up by Meta Torpedo launchers and of course the Bomb Launcher.  The mids are not that relevant for pure bombing runs, some pilots use target painters but it is dicey – the target painter needs to be active when a bomb hits – which in turn means that the bomber has stay on the field with his target.  At 30km bombing range, that requires some balls and heavy, heavy ECM or Damps.  Low slots are likely Nanofiber or even Expanded Cargo Hold (bombs are big) and for pure 100% bombing runs, some people even fit warp stabs into the low slots.  Rigs really don’t matter as far as I know.

Fleet DPS.  Bombers are incredibly useful DPS platforms in a short fleet if other ships can provide tackle and damps.  A Heavy Interdictor in the middle of the fight with some brawlers and Falcons and bombers outside makes a great team.  Other than the HIC, everything can be cloaky so, roams are straight forward to organize.  The biggest issue is to keep the bombers alive.  With 50km range (T1, medium skills), bombers are on the ragged edge of wormhole-site running PvE ships and blow up after 3-4  hits from a PvE Drake. Remote sensor dampening is by far the most effective way to limit the exposure but site runners often have drones which can hurt like hell.

My Manticore now fits T2 launchers allowing me to switch to the very long range Scourge Javelin torpedoes.  Their flight range (>90 km) is more than my targeting range (87km) and so I can stay far away to do my job.  The downside is that it takes 15 seconds for the torpedoes to land – a very long time in Wormhole fights (***).  But that range – in combination with 2 Sensor Dampeners gets me nearly invulnerable from direct fire of a tackled target.  I am still exposed to drones and other support ships, of course and since a bomber is not actually that fast compared to many other ships it is easily chased off the field.  Scourge Javelin’s also have pretty low damage – with 746 / salvo on my site running, stationary Drake its not even close to what the Caldari Navy Scourge Torpedoes can do (952) from 60km on the same ship.  The other T2 variant – Scourge Rage Torpedoes are really designed for close-up hammering of large targets. Fired onto my Drake, they do less damage (632) than the T1 versions are therefore useless.  But I pack a few just in case we run into an industrial, battleship or bigger****.

With respect to slot layout – Highs are torpedo launcher and core probe launcher, mids are 2 sensor Dampeners (both with range script), an afterburner (or MWD) and maybe a target painter (at that range it doesnt do much).  Rigs are up for discussion, I currently use a Small Warhead Rigor Catalyst and a Small Warhead Calefaction Catalyst but it is a matter of taste.  In the lows, I fit one Ballistic Control Unit and a Nanofiber Internal structure (both Tech II) – I would like to fit 2 BCUs but I can’t make that work.

Overall, as fleet DPS ship, the bomber is excellent but very squishy and its lack of survivability also means that newer (=poorer) pilots may be hesitant to engage even if they could.  I know, I have done this, I stood down if the situation looked badly.  In a uncloaked PvP ship, this is not possible, of course.  Click “warp” and one is committed.

Solo Hunter.  This is where the boat really shines.  Its stealthy, small, crafty and lethal.  The pilot can carefully pick his targets and chose to engage – or not – as the situation demands.  It absolutely murders industrial ships with such a speed and efficiency that sometimes warp stabilizers  – the common defense for PI site runners – don’t really matter, they are dead before it can align.  As such, the bomber is most commonly used as a fleet scout since it brings almost the survivability of a Covert Operations frigate paired with some real offensive capability.  But one can’t stress enough, a visible and targeted bomber is as good as dead.

So, how to fit it the solo hunter?  It comes down to an assessment what the target is.  First of all, it needs warp scrambler.  An untanked bomber like this can tackle only defenseless ships like haulers, salvager or miners and whether I tackle them from 20km or 5km makes little difference to the fight – they can’t run away, they can’t outmaneuver me and they can’t shoot back (*****).    So, a short point is as useful as a long one and many industrials indeed fit at least one warp stabilizer for their PI runs since they don’t have to target anything.  But I have seen the laziest hauler fits (no defensive mods whatsoever) which makes me think that some players just calculate the cost and hassle of getting blown up into their PI spreadsheets.  An Iteron Mark V with an Invulnerability Field II represents about an average tank for PI runners and my little T1-torpedo Manticore (Caldari Navy Scourge) hits it with 1655 damage / volley.  With target painter, 1840.  On an untanked Iteron Mark V without target painter 2360, with target painter, my torpedoes hit the hauler for nearly 2700 / volley.   For a frigate, this amount of damage is unreal.  Add to this that there is no decloaking delay and the bomber becomes easily the best available ship to clobber a large, unarmed target like an industrial.  My Proteus is slower to take down a hauler, that much is for sure.  My then again, the T3 has a tank. My bombers dont…

Summary

Overall, Stealth Bombers are awesome.  They fragility, their ability to work as intel as well as DPS platforms and their low cost / skill point requirements mean that they are a staple in wormhole life and core to many defense and offense doctrines.  But they are not easy to fly and pilot errors will result in a insurance claim.

_______________________________

* Evenstar and I went hunting, me in my cloaky Tengu (R.I.P.), he in his pimped Torpedo bomber.  I spotted a PI runner and called the planet.  We landed about at the same time but by the time my cloaking and targeting delay was finished, Evenstar had already scrammed him and blown him into structure.  I was very lucky I got onto the killmail at all.

** We watched a hole-closing team jumping fat battleships in/out their static hole.  Battleships make great bombing targets, Evenstar led 4 of us for this run and our bombs flew straight and true.  The battleships jumped back through the hole before the bombs went off but we caught a Covert Ops frigate that sat near the hole as their scout.  We had no idea that he was there until I saw the mail icon with a bounty message blink 🙂

*** I once found a miner in Nullsec, Razor Alliance.  The system was occupied and active so we fully expected a trap and set up a very careful ambush.  I was at my maximal range in the bomber, our tackling BC was to be at zero km.  If this was a trap, we would fly in a bigger team from our hole and I could damp / do damage from my safe perch 80km away.  Problem was – it was no trap, the miner blew up before my torpedoes hit.

**** Skip and I once contemplated to jump a Thanatos – its a long story.  It was just us and we decided not to – one reason, we only had ~200 torpedoes on us and were cut off from our home system.

***** Careful though, haulers are sometimes used as bait and sport a scram themselves. I have avoided them so far (they are pretty obvious, a fast tackler somewhere buzzing in a POS etc) but if that happens, my afterburner should get me out of range reasonably quickly.

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7 responses to “Situation Awareness – Bombers

  1. I will confirm that some of us assume a found pi hauler is a dead hauler regardless of tank. Why spend isk on a tank that makes zero difference?

    Not normally my personal view, but I understand it.

    I dont think I have ever survived because I fitted a tank to a PI hauler.

    • I am not sure. While most haulers explode nicely, I have had two experiences so far that made me think otherwise. Once, I caught a Badger at a POCO and put 4 salvos of torpedoes in him, his shield was still half full and I saw on short scan a Wolf inbound from the POS. I couldn’t risk staying and warped off. Another time I caught an Itty 4 at a hole with a disruptor (1 point) and he warped away in armor. I never reached him to bump but he was gone. Without tank / warp stabs he would have not lived. Bottom line, an Invuln Field, some shield extenders and a warp stabilizer cost next to nothing and I cant see how they hurt.

  2. You wanna see the proof in the pudding for bombers? Try this…

    Basically, “The fight was looking fairly even when Brave Newbies finally showed their hand, decloaking approximately seventy bombers all at once and launching a titanic wave of bombs at CVA, wiping out much of their fleet in one run. CVA retreated to reship into Potatos, and TEST and DNS got set up on the 9U gate. When CVA came back in, we suicide-bubbled them with a cloaky dictor and Dirt Nap caps went to work; again, when it looked like DNS caps were likely to be swamped under CVA subcaps, Brave Newbies landed a brilliant run with a dozen or so bombers, which killed a lot of drones but not a lot else… and was immediately followed by a Surely You’re Joking bomber wing hitting the same spot, killing nearly half the CVA fleet again and driving all the untackled ones off the field, leaving the tackled ones to be mopped up by DNS blap dreads.” PLEASE read the whole report and watch the videos… =]

    Oh, and don’t fall asleep at the wheel…. or you miss out… =\


    http://www.reddit.com/r/Eve/comments/1jjtf0/battle_report_4bnqn_station_shield_timer_20130802/

  3. When I woke up after my accident I sometimes felt as if things were not quite real. Now that I read this post I am sure I am still in a dreamworld. Splatus has sworn off the Nemesis and is flying Manticores!

    Impossible!

    To be serious: I hope the whole “rebalancing” initiative gives the Stealth Bombers a onceover. If you look at the slot layout, it is obvious that the Purifier and the Hound are better suited for high DPS setups while the Manticore and Nemesis are stronger on EWAR.

    All of the bombers work if fit with that in mind (you might need some good fitting skills but still) except for the Nemesis. It simply does not have the CPU to make a sensible fit possible, no matter how hard you try.

    I hope that gets fixed one day.

  4. A couple of thoughts:
    1. A tanked PI hauler and a Blackbird or Griffon work really well together. I can — and have — lasted several minutes against a stealth bomber in a tanked hauler, long enough to log in my alt in a Griffon, warp to the customs office with him, and jam the stealth bomber so my hauler could retreat. If the SB pilot is good at bumping this won’t work as well. I’ve also had that stealth bomber in turn call in reinforcements, too.
    2. Stealth bombers make GREAT ratting ships in deep 0.0. With so many battleships present in ratting sites, a Purifier just needs a medium shield extender and decent manual piloting skills (watch your speed & transversal) to make a lot of cash very quickly in bounties, and it has a decent cargo hold for loot. It’s nicer in a duo with something that deals with frigates faster, but torpedos and decent skills still make quick work of them if they slow down. I’ve done it many, many times, and for most standard spawns it’s Easy Mode. Clone Soldiers in lowsec kick my bomber’s butt, though. I skip them!

    Here’s my ninja ratting fit. It’s fun watching people on D-scan trying to probe down my ratter in systems with dozens of belts. Note that because I only have Electronics IV, I currently run with a cheap EE-602 implant and keep the core probe launcher offline. But I can testify this works GREAT all the way down to -0.8 systems, the lowest nullsec I’ve ever found with an inbound K162 or roaming null in our home wormhole. The lack of a point makes it less useful for PvP, but that’s a very quick refit. I keep a scram in my hold at all times so that I can quickly refit at the POS or station; the scram replaces my MSE.

    [Purifier, Ninja Ratter – Shield]

    Ballistic Control System II
    Ballistic Control System II
    Ballistic Control System II

    1MN Afterburner II
    Medium Shield Extender II
    Phased Weapon Navigation Array Generation Extron

    Prototype ‘Arbalest’ Torpedo Launcher, Caldari Navy Mjolnir Torpedo
    Prototype ‘Arbalest’ Torpedo Launcher, Caldari Navy Mjolnir Torpedo
    Prototype ‘Arbalest’ Torpedo Launcher, Caldari Navy Mjolnir Torpedo
    Covert Ops Cloaking Device II
    Core Probe Launcher I

    Small Processor Overclocking Unit I
    Small Ancillary Current Router I

    • Oh I will. Problem was – this was a C5 wormhole, we jumped in just before the Thanatos closed the hole behind us. We were 1 Bomber and 1 Flycatcher against the Thanatos without bookmarks or way out. But yes, next time – batphone…

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