Dogfight: Rifter OUTMANEUVERS Atron in Hadozeko

Solo PVP Rifter In Factional Warfare

Despite the typical speed advantage of the Rifter-class frigate, Capt. Subwoof “Subie” Arjar encounters a rare ship that has more powerful engines and an even lighter frame. Such resulting speed disadvantages cause problems that lead to countless Minmatar  casualties in eve online factional warfare. As I tagged along on another patrol and reconnaissance mission with the crew of the Republic Frigate, I witnessed the Matari Liberation Front deal with an extremely fast, warp disruptor-fitted frigate on the front lines of eve online factional warfare using a technique that, although new to me, was apparently a commonly drilled maneuver among MLF crews.

Reports of another engagement have come in from the Eve Online factional warfare warzone. A distress call from the Tribal Liberation Force outpost in high orbit around Hadozeko IX was received by the Matari Liberation Force: the enemy militia had dispatched a small fleet of mixed ship sizes in system and were assaulting various assets in system. There were already casualties, but allied efforts to intercept this enemy squad were foiled by agility and superior numbers.

These reports indicated that the encroaching forces remained evasive to any direct confrontations, splitting up and spreading out to different locations at the first sign of Minmatar presence. This can be a difficult tactic to deal with; often, spaceship captains in eve online are much more comfortable in a group, taking orders from a fleet commander, without the responsibility of personally creating some change In the battlespace.

Skirmisher’s Tactics

The Lioness Division is a part of the MLF’s reconnaissance team, selecting members based on fearlessness and adaptability in the face of certain death. Thanks to the brutal training that MLF captains universally endure, these hunters of the void were entirely accustomed to 1v1 and 1v2 odds. The tactic employed by the enemy of splitting the larger defending forces played specifically to the advantage of the Matari Liberation Front.

If the Matari Liberation Front were a group reliant on close, tight knit command schemes and huge megafleets, this scattering of the enemy might have presented something other than the typical challenge. Since Captain Arjar was known among MLF ranks for taking and winning solo frigate pvp fights under seemingly impossible odds, it stood to reason that the Republic Frigate under her command would engage any valid targets within range of it’s patrol. Other frigates were a consistent staple of the Republic Frigate’s diet, with helpings of destroyers and a cruiser, every now and then. There was no reason to believe that another frigate would cause any new issue.

From the reaches of a seemingly infinite expanse, an Atron-class Gallente frigate appeared, slowly at first, but with seemingly impossible speed up close, flying the dreaded enemy colors of gold and white. Captain Arjar knew that the best possible move for the Republic Frigate would be to catch the speedy atron immediately, to sacrifice it’s own shields to stay in range if necessary, in order to split the atron in half with 200mm autocannon fire. Matching relative velocity with the outpost at a distance of about 10 kilometers, the crew of the Republic Frigate was poised with anticipation to pounce on the attacking enemy ship when it finally came close.

But before it could be locked, let alone engaged, it had changed direction so abruptly that it essentially vanished from view. The atron had managed to dart outside the range of the Rifter’s weapons, a plume of spent ionic waste in it’s wake the only betrayal to the atron’s otherwise obscured direction of travel. The battle would likely have been over much more quickly, had the Republic Frigate’s sensors been adequate to lock the atron before it’s nimble escape from the initial close pass. But instead, as the it’s scanners scrambled to isolate the signature, the atron’s thrusters blasted it almost instantly out to a distance of 20 kilometers, where it banked sharply starboard, safely out of range of the Republic Frigate’s turrets and electronic warfare.

Mad Methods of The MLF

Plenty of officers with affiliations to the Minmatar factional warfare effort are unimpressed with the configuration of the Republic Frigate, the argument being that the speed made possible as a result of the 5MegaNewton microwarpdrive isn’t useful enough to justify the undue burden on the capacitor that it causes. Coupled with the fact that the microwarpdrive is likely to be deactivated by the enemy in close range engagements anyway, the fit admittedly had limitations.

But in exchange for those limits, the Republic Frigate had the ability to chase targets that typically escape it’s electronic warfare due to a usually overwhelming speed advantage. Before my work as a correspondent on the Minmatar side of the war, I wouldn’t believe it myself; afterburners are almost universally more useful than 5MegaNewton microwarpdrives within engagement ranges at or less than 10 kilometers. But I’ve personally received reports of battles from some of the most courageous frontline grunts I’ve had the pleasure of documenting in my time covering the war; heroes that have been infuriatingly jabbed to death from a distance by the tap, tap, tapping of light missiles from 20 kilometers, or by glancing laser beams, or ricocheting railgun shots. Regardless of the light touch of the assault, the distance guaranteed that a typical brawler’s short range, high damage armament wouldn’t reach the quick but lightly armored kite. Without the ability to land any meaningful damage on an enemy at a distance, even the most heavily armored Rifter-class variants have fallen by the dozens to the mighty microwarpdrive.

As a contingency, some Rifter configurations eschew the typical 200mm autocannons, donning long range artillery cannons instead. Such a substitution has it’s own set of advantages and weaknesses. But, MLF engineers insist, the Republic Frigate was designed specifically with cost and utility in mind, although not necessarily ease of use. Through the most brutal of trials and the scant lessons gleaned from each error, hundreds of families learned suffering from the awful casualty notices. Eventually, certain patterns emerged, too late for those that died to retrieve this priceless data. The families are always compensated heavily, although never enough to fill the void of their losses, while the fruits of this terrible labor were passed along to current freedom fighters and decorated heroes.

As the Republic Frigate gave chase to the nimble atron,  it immediately became clear that the reports from the outpost’s distress call were woefully accurate. The atron was extremely fast, and equipped with a long range warp disruptor for it’s electronic warfare. Even approaching it at full speed, the Rifter’s distance to the atron grew at an increasing rate nonetheless. In an attempt to stretch the capabilities of the enemy’s equipped electronic warfare, the Republic Frigate jerkily accelerated in a new direction, expanding the distance by just a few kilometers. In reply, the atron’s velocity rocketed to an unexpectedly quick straight line velocity exceeding 4,300 km/s.

Speed Kills In Factional Warfare

A white-knuckle duel of navigation officers ensued. There was no outrunning the atron, clearly. For the Republic Frigate, escape could only be achieved through the destruction of the atron, as opposed to fleeing it. Orders were given and hastily carried out, compelling the Rifter to dive once more into the expanse between the two fighting frigates. As they approached, the atron’s shiny, contoured shell glimmered in the starlight as it slid in a circular path tangential to the pursuit of the approaching rust-specked Rifter-class Republic Frigate. It had retained most of it’s shocking speed throughout the maneuver, easily maintaining it’s safe distance from the Republic Frigate, despite the over-driven use of it’s own 5MegaNewton microwarpdrive and the skill of the maneuvering officers aboard.

It started to become clear to the crew of the Republic Frigate that although the atron was overtly uninterested in any direct engagement with them, they were also curiously unwilling to open fire from any distance at all. Among those aboard, grumblings and suspicions grew that there was some other ship on it’s way, to reinforce the atron, one that would be able to cause real damage to the Republic Frigate, as opposed to this hesitant atron, which was mysteriously content with just holding them in place. Preemptively sensing the danger of an ambush on the assault behind enemy lines, Capt. Arjar had chosen the Novice Outpost to defend when presented with the choice prior to this engagement. She could’ve opted for a larger outpost, with potentially slightly better pay; but the vulnerabilities endured for such advantages can sometimes be insurmountable in situations such as the one she found herself in.

The atron was not alone, but luckily the other members of the atron’s fleet were larger ships, incapable of using the warp gate to the specifically contested pocket of space due to limitations of the gate technology. It’s likely this was a factor in allowing the extended length of time of the engagement. Often in eve online factional warfare, solo frigate pvp battles are interrupted by opportunistic interlopers. Capt. Arjar’s suspicions were that she’d successfully isolated the atron from it’s kikimora fleet-mate, due to the constraints of the eve plex gate.

Although there was plenty of time bought by this tactic with which to engage the enemy atron, the sheer velocity of the ship was simply overwhelming to the Rifter’s outmatched thrusters. Straight line pursuit was completely out of the question; the atron had demonstrated the ability to sustainably hold a velocity almost 30% higher than the Republic Frigate’s maximum sustainable cruising speed. As multiple contingencies to catch this nimble prey were explored and attempted, each were nullified by the atron’s astronomically high speed. The additional armor plates welded to the hull of the Rifter had added weight, and even with a microwarpdrive activated, it was starting to seem to the exhausted propulsion crew that the ship was now too heavy to come close enough to the maximum velocity of the enemy to be effective in any strategy.

Over the next tense minutes of desperate posturing, it became clear that the atron’s backup was delayed. It’s speed never waned, and it’s range rigidly hung at 20 kilometers, regardless of repeated attempts to close distance by the Republic Frigate. That indicated that the strain on the atron’s propulsion system was easily sustainable for the ship, as opposed to some extreme temporary speed reached by pushing the propulsion system past it’s recommended load. Although the speed was a disadvantage, there was still time, and plenty of room to make a change. By this point, it had become clear to the propulsion crew that there was clearly no point in pushing the engines beyond their mechanical limits any further; the atron was much too fast to catch in a dead straight at this point.

Inverted Corkscrew

There are contingencies for so-called “helpless” situations; in this case, the survival of the crew and the achievement of the objective all weighed on the shoulders of the captain. Recalling a lesson from MLF Flight Academy, Capt. Arjar initiated a multi-axis turn as the atron swung wide, thrusting across the sky 18 kilometers behind the Republic Frigate, slicing brightly through to port. To counter, the Republic Frigate’s twin noses tipped up, in a direction leaning increasingly starboard. To maintain it’s  distance of 20 kilometers, the atron predictably began to follow in this twisted climb.

It’s retention of transversal velocity while maintaining distance during the climb resulted in the atron bleeding inertia about the horizontal axis of travel. While this subtle leaking of speed simultaneously forced it to increase it’s rate of climb to catch the Republic Frigate, it’s turn became tighter as the atron pushed harder and harder to match vertical velocity. After just a few minor adjustments in heading, the atron’s angular momentum had built, and was all but the same transversal velocity in relation to the Republic Frigate; but the Atron was using most of it’s agility to maintain distance throughout the maneuver, whereas the Republic Frigate’s path was improvisational and free. It was only a matter of time before an opportunity emerged.

As the two ships blasted ever upward, dancing and rolling in this vertically inverted corkscrew, the Rifter managed to draw closer and closer to the atron. Eventually, the speed of the atron actually became a disadvantage, launching the atron unevenly across the multiple axis’ of this ascending corkscrew with greater and greater velocities than the freely climbing Republic Frigate. At the worst possible time for the atron, Capt. Arjar had precisely given the order to rotate the spiral of the Republic Frigate’s ascent, by just a few degrees, all the while maintaining x-axis maneuvering velocity, compelling the atron to slide across the rear of the Republic Frigate to port, all the way this time, coming closer than it had ever come to the straining Rifter-class frigate’s left wing.

To Catch A Kiter

And just like that, the atron’s range to the Republic Frigate dipped just below 13 kilometers. The overheated Fleeting Compact Stasis Webifier sprang forth, distorting space as water swirling about a drain, the bottom of which rested just beneath the propulsion system of the Republic Frigate in it’s modular compartment. Seconds later, the atron’s velocity dipped from a seemingly insurmountable 4.3km/s to a much more manageable 1,800 meters per second. The Republic Frigate’s webifier enabled Captain Arjar’s flabbergasted crew to slow the atron enough to deactivate it’s equipped propulsion upgrades, executing exactly the maneuver required to catch a kiter, effectively ending the chase.

It was quickly evident that the atron was much less equipped to compete in the close range fight that ensued after the pursuit. The Republic Frigate’s 200mm autocannons made quick work of the atron’s upgraded shields and voraciously chewed quickly through thin layer of armor, digging directly into the ship’s hull in seconds. In an attempt to mitigate the sudden burst of overwhelming incoming damage, the atron appeared to frantically initiate it’s own orbit, from a distance of about 500 meters. Although disorienting at first, the tight, high speed orbit was tracked successfully by volley after volley of the Rifter’s 200mm autocannon I’s. Neutron blasters tend to struggle at close range in comparison to even the heaviest autocannon systems, and the atron’s weapons in this case were no exclusion.

Despite the sacrifice of it’s tracking in this tight orbit, the atron’s blasters belched forth energized tangles of charged ions, a few of which did violently split the Republic Frigate’s shields in rapid, energetic volleys. But upon making contact with the armor, these balls of hybrid energy were much less effective. To exacerbate the atron’s defense issues, the Republic Frigate’s 200mm autocannons are bonused to allow good application while closely orbiting a target. With the right ammunition, landing square hits on even the quickest moving enemies from ranges well over 10 kilometers are no challenge for the Republic Frigate.

With no window of respite from the crackling volleys of Republic Fleet Fusion rounds, the atron’s frame buckled and eventually yielded to the fire of the Republic Frigate’s guns-just as an enemy succubus come within range. But within just a few coordinated moments, Capt. Arjar’s crew had collected all of the valuables they could from the wreckage and managed to escape with enough loot to fund plenty of upgrades to the Republic Frigate. Indeed, the upgraded weapons, modules, and ammunition purchased would be put to good use on Captain Subwoof Arjar’s next deployments.

As the battered propulsion system of the sturdy, iron Minmatar vessel limped forth to initiate it’s escape thrust into warpspeed, the long and treacherous route to a friendly station began. Although victorious in battle, Captain Arjar’s mission was incomplete until the transport of certain onboard personnel was carried out. Given their survival on the journey back from so deep beyond enemy lines, the exhausted crew of the Republic Frigate would take a needed rest. There would be no letters to the surviving families of these brave Minmatar fighters today.

Battle Footage Below

Written by Bill Reeves

Bill Reeves is a reporter for evilonline.co documenting stories in EVE Online. Bill actively reports on factional warfare and current events and graciously accepts in-game donations of EVE plex and ISK. Bill is always looking for tips and checks his emails often.

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