June 6, 2010

Strafing 101

Before the days of spaceflight and wars, strafing was a tactic in conventional warfare in which an aircraft would fly low over an entrenchment and bombard it with bullets or bombs. That's not exactly what I'm going to be talking about here. What strafing means today is closer to a more obscure definition in the warfare of old. A more obscure definition of strafing from the time describes it as "high-speed firing runs by fast boats or other high-speed naval craft using smaller-caliber weapons and targeting other craft or the shoreline". That's what I'm talking about.

Remember the tactic I proposed in my last entry for fighting a Punisher using a Rifter? That was an adaptation of the strafing tactic to a frigate fight where one had the clear speed/tracking advantage. However, that was only an adaptation because there is a harder and more common aspect to strafing which is most often performed by interceptors against bigger ships. Let's take the example of the Claw interceptor vs. the Rifter frigate.

The Claw is one of the fastest ships of the Interceptor class, and it is built to bonus its weapon systems in damage and tracking. The setup I will be considering today is the fastest/most agile fit with the Claw:

  • High slots: 3x 200mm Autocannon II, Republic Fleet EMP, Phased Plasma, or Fusion small ammo
  • Mid slots: 1MN Microwarpdrive II, Warp Disruptor II
  • Low slots: 2x Overdrive Injector System II, 2x Nanofiber Internal Structure II
  • Rigs: Small Auxiliary Thrusters I, Small Low Friction Nozzle Joints I
 With my skills, this fit hits 4.7 km/s speed, and is able to keep the speed up at that level for 2m 22s of constant use of the microwarpdrive and warp disruptor.

For the Rifter, I will just use the "cheap and dirty" fit I described here.

We could even give it 150mm guns since we know it does not need to be concerned about drones. Now, this Rifter is quite a big concern to some interceptors. Why? Interceptors rely on the speed provided by their microwarpdrives for staying safe. The trouble is that this Rifter sports a warp scrambler, which shuts down microwarpdrives. It also has a stasis webifier, which slows down its target drastically. This means that, if an unwary interceptor gets caught by the scrambler and web, it is slower than this Rifter with an afterburner, has less tank, and is, more importantly, dead.

So, how can the Claw overcome this? Let's look at a graphical representation of the ranges involved.

The ships are very out of scale to the ranges of these modules. So out of range, that if the ships wanted to shoot each other and be within the optimal+falloff range, they would practically be touching using the scale used here. This means that, for the Claw, it is not an option to disrupt the Rifter, then orbit around it, shooting it.

Not even close. The Rifter's velocity isn't shown because it is pretty insignificant to that of a Claw.

So, what can the Claw do?  Not this:

Orbiting closer to the Rifter would get the Claw murdered painfully, since the Rifter might deal slightly less DPS, and have worse tracking, but it has more hit points in armor than the Claw has in its entire ship, and an armor repairer on top of that. Plus, it moves much faster than a completely scrammed and webbed Claw.

So, the claw can try to strafe!

Just as a Rifter can do to a Punisher, the Claw can pass by the Rifter at a close distance, getting a couple of shots before getting away again. Losing its microwarpdrive in flight does not make it lose all its speed instantly, so it can still get out, drifting with the remaining speed. The difference here is that if the Claw slowed down to get a few more shots, it would die because it would lose all its speed. So, why can't any frigate do this to another? After all, interceptors are not that much faster.

The answer is: agility. And yes. They do. The agility of a ship determines not only how fast it changes direction, but how fast it can slow down or speed up. On top of that, a ship with a higher agility also gets affected by Stasis Webifiers less. All together, this means that an interceptor headed to strafe another ship has a much higher chance escape out of the scrambler and webifier range out the other side than a Rifter would.

Against a Rifter, this is still somewhat of a gamble, because if the Rifter sported a microwarpdrive instead of an afterburner, and did something like this:

It would be able to keep the web on the Claw long enough to not allow it to escape. It is much safer to try this on bigger ships, like cruisers, until you get the hang of it.

Remember to improvise, too. It is much easier to strafe in a dual-propulsion (microwarpdrive and afterburner) ship, since you can fire up the afterburner after the microwarpdrive gets cut off because of the scrambler, and get away much more easily.

And, lastly, remember to improvise to the situation. Generally, strafing through a scrambler/webifier can only be done with expensive ships. If the enemy ship only has a scrambler (like a Punisher) or no scrambler (a stupid Punisher, or a Retribution), it is much easier to make it across at a higher speed. If, however, the enemy has a fast ship (like a Firetail) that is likely to have both a scrambler and webifier,  it may be safer to forgo the encounter. No sense losing an expensive ship to a fight you are not equipped to fight.

That's what Rifters are for!

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