Whether you're taking part in faction warfare, pirating, fighting a dirty corporate war or defending your homeland in 0.0, chances are you'll be engaging in a lot of fleet warfare. Although a lot of newer fleet commanders prefer all fleet members to be in ships that deal a lot of damage, the optimum setup makes better use of a variety of ship types. A strong fleet in EVE Online is typically composed of three main groups. First you have the tacklers who intercept and warp-scramble enemies, then the damage dealers who kill the enemy and finally you have the electronic warfare crew.
What is electronic warfare?:
Electronic warfare involves the use of modules that debilitate the enemy indirectly rather than attacking them head-on. This includes using target jammers to cause the enemy to lose his active target locks, sensor dampeners to decrease his lock range and energy neutralisers to deplete his capacitor. A good electronic warfare ship has the potential to remove several enemy ships from the battle, cutting the effectiveness of the enemy fleet down significantly. For this reason, a good electronic warfare wing in your fleet can be seen as a force multiplier, allowing your fleet to engage much larger forces and succeed.
In the first part of this guide, I cover the basics of electronic warfare in EVE and show just how important this often underused portion of a fleet is.
Electronic Counter Measures:
Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) is a type of electronic warfare that causes the enemy to lose his acquired target locks and makes him unable to acquire new targets for the module's duration. The chance of successfully jamming your target with each activation cycle depends on the signal strength of your ECM jammer module and the enemy ship's sensor strength. For example, if an enemy Caracal has a gravimetric sensor strength of 16 and your jammer has a gravimetric signal strength of 8, there's an 8/16 chance of success. This means that each time your module cycles, it has a 50% chance of jamming the enemy until that cycle ends.
The two main types of ECM jammer used in the field are multispectral and racial jammers. The multispectral versions have equal signal strength in all four of EVE's sensor types, making them equally good at jamming any race's ships. Racial jammers, on the other hand, are those which are specialised to jam a particular race's ships. They feature an increased signal strength to one race's sensor strength but a lower strength in the remaining three. It's generally a good idea to use multispectral jammers if you don't know what type of ships you're coming up against and racial jammers if you do.
Energy neutralisers are modules which deplete the enemy's capacitor at the cost of your own. Unlike other forms of electronic warfare, energy neutralisers are split into three different size categories. Small versions have a short 5km range and have a very low neutralising amount but will fit on small ships like frigates. Medium versions are intended for cruiser sized vessels or larger and have a 12km range and higher neutralising amount. Finally, the large versions will really only fit on battleships and capital ships but their range is over 25km and they neutralise as much as 600 capacitor every 24 seconds.
Since almost all ship setups require capacitor to run modules, ships are dead in the water once their capacitor is depleted. Without capacitor to boost their shields or repair their armour, your enemy's tank will rapidly fail as they struggle to even keep their hardeners online. Because neutralisers use a significant portion of your own capacitor, they can be dangerous to use on a ship that's not appropriately fitted for it. It's recommended to create dedicated neutralising ships which are specially set up to handle the large capacitor requirements of a full rack of neutralisers.
The most effective method of deployment is to use a neutraliser on ships of a smaller size class than itself. A single large neutraliser won't do much against a battleship, for example, but it will completely empty a frigate's capacitor in one shot. Energy neutralisers are effective against the majority of ships but are largely useless against a select few. Ships like the Drake that primarily use completely passive tanks and missile launchers don't rely on capacitor and will not be debilitated by neutralisers.
Remote Sensor Dampeners:
When used without a script, remote sensor dampeners reduce the enemy ship's scan resolution and maximum targeting range significantly. One of two scripts can be loaded into the module to affect its operation, each having a different effect. The "scan resolution dampening" script will double the dampening effect on the enemy's scan resolution at the cost of removing the targeting range reduction entirely. This script is recommended for use against large ships like battleships as it will increase their lock times against your own ships significantly. This provides a form of protection to your fleet's smaller ships such as interceptors and tackling frigates because it may take the enemy battleships over a minute to lock them.
The "targeting range dampening" does the reverse, doubling the targeting range dampening effect but removing the scan resolution effect. This script is recommended for use against long range ships like sniper battleships, missile ships and enemy electronic warfare specialists. Although they won't directly cause the enemy to lose his target locks like ECM does, any active targets under their new maximum targeting distance will be lost. Since remote sensor dampeners can function effectively at over 50-100km from the target, he will be unable to lock your ship and retaliate. This gives a degree of safety to your own fleet's long range support, sniping ships and electronic warfare wing.
Unlike other forms of electronic warfare, you won't see many tracking disruption specialists on the field. This niche form of electronic warfare affects only turret-based weaponry, decreasing the optimal range, turret falloff and tracking speed of your target's guns. Although they aren't as general-purpose as remote sensor dampeners or ECM jammers, tracking disruption can still be used to great effect as part of a group. However, since their target lock remains in tact, the enemy can still use other modules against you like warp disruptors, stasis webs and energy neutralisers. Additionally, since the tracking disruptor only affects turrets, missiles and drones remain just as deadly to you.
Like sensor dampeners, tracking disruptors can be fitted with a script to modify their operation. The "tracking speed disruption" script will double the turret tracking speed penalty but remove the optimal range and turret falloff penalties. This is very useful against enemy close range ships which rely on high tracking speeds such as blaster-based gallente ships. Using one or two tracking disruptors with the tracking script against an enemy turret ship and then orbiting him is likely to make all of his weapons miss. The "optimal range disruption" script will double the optimal range and turret falloff penalty applied to the enemy turrets but will remove the tracking speed penalty completely. This is best used against enemy sniper ships which rely on their massive optimal range.
Electronic warfare is an often overlooked portion of a standard fleet configuration, as important as tacklers or even damage dealers. In part 2 of this guide, I look at the skills and equipment you'll need to be an effective electronic warfare specialist.