7 April 2013

Hookbill Speed and the End of a Dream

Starwalker wanted to fly in a faster afterburner ship as he still had dreams of catching MWD kiters in an afterburner frigate. He liked the Caldari Navy Hookbill with its inherent speed of over 1.2km/s without any speed modules and also its five mid-slots, as they gave many fitting options.

The Hookbill itself was mainly used as a scram range kiter and those mid-slots could be used for all sorts of electronic warfare with modules like stasis webifiers or tracking disruptors. Starwalker had fitted it with rockets, web and a little extra tank as part of his ongoing experiments with favouring tank over gank.

That extra tank proved extremely useful against this Incursus that itself tanked very well, however, Starwalker recognised that he had the range control and had pulled sufficient range to mitigate the incoming damage. It was only a matter of time before the dual repair Incursus would run out of capacitor and finally it exploded after tanking 5,761 damage points.

The next target, a Tristan, was much easier prey and seemed to have hardly any tank or damage despite launching its array of drones. Starwalker established a simple orbit of 7km and peppered the Tristan with rockets whilst ignoring the drones. The ship soon exploded leaving him to collect the drones and loot. This Hookbill was doing very well and Starwalker journeyed on looking for his next target.

He arrived at a gate and there was a flashy red Catalyst jumping through, he followed and the Catalyst was waiting on the other side. He seemed ready for a fight at around 16km away and fighting a destroyer would be more challenging. He was not totally convinced about fighting on the gate due to interference from random traffic but he also knew that the gate guns would not interfere. He decided to show his interest to fight and so he aligned the Hookbill towards the Catalyst and engaged. He locked up the target and started firing his rockets, the Catalyst returned fire and a DPS race was on.

Starwalker noticed from the logs that the Catalyst was railgun fit and so he moved in to close range to mitigate the damage. He had range control and thought that he would win the fight having got under the railguns but the task was made even easier as the Catalyst pilot burnt out his guns. The Catalyst was soon the next victim of this triumphant Hookbill.

The majority of the time Starwalker entered a complex because a ship was already there, however, this time he decided to be the one waiting in a complex at the warp-in point. Whilst he was idling in a Novice complex a Merlin jumped in and his Hookbill immediately engaged and set orbit to 7km. The problem was that the distance remained around 1km.

Starwalker checked his speed and noticed that he was only going just over 0.2km/s and realised that he must be double-webbed. The two ships seemed to be having a very even fight and Starwalker overheated his afterburner to get some range and it slowly, very slowly, started to increase. The damage race though was becoming clearer as the Hookbill entered armour but the Merlin entered structure and soon it exploded to become yet another victim.

The Merlin pilot, Jamie James, had fitted a dual web but no propulsion module. The tank in that configuration was around 8k EHP and Starwalker was quietly impressed with the unusual build and the attempt to generate some surprise value. It had nearly won and the only reason the Hookbill had survived was due to its extra tank.

What was less of a surprise was the fight with a Maulus. Starwalker knew that this was an ideal opportunity to test whether he could slingshot the Maulus in to scramble range and so he went in. He knew the Maulus itself was no real danger but it might bring in friends or simply hold point to be annoying when it was clear the fight was over.

As expected the Maulus established a manually piloted range of around 18km - 20km and released its drones whilst Starwalker attempted his first slingshot. It failed and so he decided to despatch the drones before making his next attempt. He then tried for a second and third time to slingshot into scramble range but the closest he got was 15km away. This experience was something of an epiphany for Starwalker, he finally decided in that moment that he could not reliably slingshot a MWD frigate into range with an afterburner frigate and he would no longer try.

He aligned to the sun and simply burnt towards it, hoping the stalemate would encourage the end of the fight or if someone came in they would have to burn a long way. The Maulus pilot, Varell Jast, did bring in a friend to finish the job and some few minutes later another Hookbill jumped in but he was now nearly 350km away. It started to MWD to Starwalker and he had no doubt that it was there to kill him.

He waited for an opportunity to overheat his afterburner again as the enemy Hookbill rapidly closed the distance. When the closing Hookbill was around 250km away, Starwalker looked for the opportunity to escape point and as the distance increased to 21km he overheated and started to spam warp.

His patience paid off as the distance increased to 25km and as soon as the Maulus point dropped his warp drive was engaged. The enemy Hookbill though was paying attention and he too warped to the sun but Starwalker had no intention of getting caught and made good his escape.

Starwalker left the system with a firm conviction that he could not reliably slingshot a MWD kiter with an afterburner. The dream had ended, he might catch a MWD kiter due to a pilot error or landing close at a celestial or warp-in location but not because of manual piloting alone. Starwalker might still experiment with a fast, afterburner fit ship like the Condor or Slasher but that would be to fly in a different ship and style and not specifically to catch MWD fit frigates.

Whilst he had a great deal of respect for the Light Missile Condor going around 4km/s he had no real desire to fly it himself or similarly fast ships, like his earlier flirtation with the Crow and dual propulsion Taranis. He liked a ship to have a reasonable tank and it seemed a defining characteristic of those types of MWD frigates was the paper thin tank and the reliance on speed and/or signature to mitigate damage. Not Starwalker's style.

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