The Apocrypha patch introduced a multitude of new changes to stealth bombers. With ability to use torpedoes and bombs, the modern stealth bomber packs an enormous punch. The use of covert ops cloak has improved its defensive capabilities as well as given it a new role in intelligence gathering. Adding a few stealth bombers to a mixed gang provides for a lot of DPS in a small, highly maneuverable package. However, the modern bomber has to operate at closer ranges than its previous cruise missile version. It still lacks any sort of tank, exploding when anyone more than just sneezes at it. This combination makes flying the stealth bomber a risky, adrenaline filled experience.
Basic Stealth Bomber Operation
When fitting your stealth bomber, it is important to consider both its strengths and weaknesses and to anticipate what combat scenarios you are likely to encounter. Consider what types of fights you might get into and what your role in them will be. What will happen if you get targeted? What will happen if you start taking damage? Where should you positions yourself in a fight involving multiple ships? How should you positions yourself in a solo fight? Once you can visualize such scenarios, fitting the ship will be much easier.
Generally, stealth bombers are fitted to two slightly different configurations. One is a torpedo setup and the other one is a bomb launching setup. With a torpedo setup, the bomber is fitted to deliver high DPS to targets at close to mid-range. In a bombing role, the bomber delivers area-of-effect damage to targets and uses tactical evasion to survive. Because of its light tank, the bomber's viability depends on its ability to avoid damage through a combination of applying electronic warfare modules to targets, hiding from sight by activating Covert Ops cloak, careful positioning of the ship with use of bookmarks, and finally using the 'gtfo' tactic when danger level rise to critical. No matter which role the bomber assumes, the pilot's ability to execute evasion tactics will make the difference between life and death on the battlefield.
Since Apocrypha, the stealth bomber is capable of fitting a covert ops cloaking device, which allows it to enter warp while being cloaked. Nonetheless, the bomber pilot should be familiar with basic evasion techniques in order to escape bubble camps unharmed and to maneuver the ship into optimal position when preparing to engage. While you are warping around system or grid, the covops ops cloak can drop after being put into close proximity with other objects. When going through a gate you can always end up in a bubble camp on the other side. The stealth bomber pilot needs to be alert and react quickly in such situations in order to avoid losing the ship.
The most important thing a bomber pilot needs to know about cloaked evasion is that any ship or object placed or passing within 2000 meters of the bomber will make your cloak drop and you will not be able to reactivate it for 15 seconds. As you can imagine, accidentally decloaking by a gate camp or near a interceptor with very hostile intentions can get your ship wtfbbqpwned. Cloak reactivation delay is 15 seconds, which is more than enough time for small ships to get a lock on the bomber. Being locked will prevent you from activating your covert ops cloak. In this scenario your only chance at escaping will be to enter warp. So, watch your ship closely to make sure that it hasn't decloaked and have your warp-out escape planned just in case.
However, there may be circumstances where it is impossible or undesirable to warp the bomber out. The key to evasion is exploiting the trajectory and agility of the ships searching for the bomber or just flying about aimlessly. Usually, when an opponent is searching for a bomber, he or she will use a fast ship and often deploy drones to increase the area capable of decloaking. Cloaked bomber will have much lower speed, but it will have good agility and will be able to see the hunting ship's trajectory. The bomber can thus turn much faster than the hunting ships can, a fact that a skilled bomber pilot may leverage to his advantage. By making sharp turns that are perpendicular to the hunting ship's trajectory (90 degrees off), the bomber can evade the hunter, assuming the bomber can clear 2km before the hunter arrives. High-speed ships would take much longer to make a turn even if they knew which direction the bomber went. This makes it easier for the bomber to put distance between the hunter and itself.
Finally, when attempting to evade attackers even while cloaked, it is important to stay aligned to a celestial of some sort and be prepared to warp out at any time. This will allow you to instantly escape a situation cloaked or decloaked. In contrast, other ships that have to use prototype and improved cloaking devices will decelerate to 10-25% of their maximum speed under cloak and will have to accelerate up to 75% after decloaking to warp away.
It is important that you keep in mind several rules when it comes to using a cloak.
- You cannot activate your cloaking device when you are within 2,000 meters of any object, including asteroids, wrecks, cans, corpses, gates, stations, and other uncloaked ships.
- Objects that will decloak you:
- Wrecks, cans, corpses, rocks in asteroid field.
- Other ships decloaked or cloaked. Currently there is a bug with the game such that cloaked ships will decloak one another if placed too closely together.
- Being within 2,000m of station docking perimeter. Notice that it is not the actual model that counts, but the station's docking perimeter. Some stations, such as the Jita 4-4 model, have docking perimeters that extend well beyond the station model.
- Being within 2,000m of gate model. You can sit cloaked within gate activation perimeter if you place yourself between 2,000 and 2,500 meters from the gate.
- Being within 2,000m of a POS shield wont decloak you, but bouncing off the shield will.
- An errant missile flying within 2000m will decloak you. This can happen when a target finishes killing a rat and the missiles fly off randomly.
- Cloaks never expire and you should never run out of cap while using them because they use so little energy.
- Most things, such as reloading, off-lining modules, and so on, cannot be done while cloaked, but modules can still cycle while cloaked without breaking the cloak.
The Gank Bomber
A gank bomber is designed to provide a lot of DPS against ships with large signature radius, such as battleships and battlecruisers. A typical setup will include siege launchers, a target painter, agility and/or speed enhancing modules, and possibly a weapon upgrade or two in the lows. Since there's really no way to fit a worthwhile tank on a bomber, your survival is going to depend on suppression of your opponent's range with sensor dampeners. When fighting slow-locking opponents, such as battleships, with ECM backup you can also use scan resolution scripts to significantly prolong their targeting times. While torpedo-bombers can deliver a lot of damage to larger targets, they present little danger to smaller ships. A torp-bomber has significant difficulty killing interceptors, AFs, and even T1 frigates with torpedoes.
Stealth bombers have no sensor re-calibration time allowing the bomber to lock onto target right after decloaking. This adds significantly to the surprise factor of the bombers. This also means that the only reason you should be fitting a sensor booster to your stealth bomber is if you are using T2 torpedoes and have to be firing from outside of your locking range, which on stealth bombers ranges from 55km on Hound up to 70km on Manticore unbonused.
Like all stealth bomber fits, you will need to have a covert ops cloaking device on the ship. For your high slots use the best siege launchers that you can use and afford. If you have Torpedoes V skill use T2 siege launchers that have ability to load T2 torps. If you are using regular ammo, faction torpedoes are highly recommended as they will yield the maximum damage. Make sure to match your torpedoes to the damage type that your steath bomber gives bonus to. With Covert Ops level 4, your bomber will receive +60% bonus to particular damage type (explosive for Matari, EM for Amarr, etc.), so don't waste this bonus.
For your mid slots, you will want a named target painter as it will improve your damage (and your gang's damage) against smaller opponents. Note that T2 target painter is no better than best named one (Phased Weapon Navigation Array Generation Extron also known as PWNAGE). Additionally, you will want to fit a remote sensor dampener to help with your survivability. There's no practical way to fit a shield tank on a bomber, one exception being the Manticore that can fit Medium F-S9 shield extender, giving it roughly double the EHP. While T2 damps are nice and cheap, your best bet is to go with a meta 3 or 4 dampener. Best named dampener will save you 14 CPU, and it is just as effective as T2 one.
You will want to bring both scan resolution and targeting range dampening scripts. Which one you choose to load in combat will depend on several factors. Against small and medium sized opponents, if you're sitting at range, a targeting range script may be your best bet, especially if there are several remote damps in your gang. On the other hand, if you're sitting closer to the fight against a larger ship, a few scan resolution dampeners can prolong its lock time and provide you with a good bit of safety, especially when combined with ECM support and warping in and out of the engagement.
A mixed frigate and/or destroyer fleet can augment its damage and surprise factor significantly against larger targets by incorporating stealth bombers into the mix. However, since bombers have nothing in a way of tank and get easily primaried for being one of the main damage dealers in small fleets, you need to utilize your covert ops cloak, range, and remote sensor dampeners in order to keep your ship alive. In group situations featuring multiple ships fitting sensor dampeners, each ship can be assigned a different target to suppress. With multiple dampeners per target, your fleet can reduce the opponent's targeting range to the point where they won't be able to target your bombers. While this was easier to accomplish with the previous incarnation of the stealth bomber, it should be noted that pilots with Torpedoes V and good missile skills can reach surprisingly long ranges with T2 javelin torpedoes (maximum theoretical ranges of 91km unrigged and 120km with 2 range rigs).
Alternatively, scan resolution scripts may be used against larger ships. Using 2 dampeners with scan resolution scripts and mid-level skills on a battleship will effectively change its targeting time from 18 seconds to 37 seconds. If your fleet has ECM support, using scan resolution scripts will make your target unable to obtain lock for most of the time even if the ECM ship doesn't get a jam in the next cycle.
In any event, the bomber pilot must keep in mind that it is a very fragile piece of internet spaceship hardware, and so the pilot should be ready to warp out at a moment's notice. Knowing this, a bomber pilot should always be moving & aligned towards a predetermined warp out point. Hovering your mouse over 'warp to' and watching your overview like a hawk to see if a ship is aggressed is the difference between flying out with your ship or coming home in a pod. In addition if you are to return to the fray, it is best to come back to the fight via a different vector in case your targets got a line on your warp out point. Since the effective range on bombers has been reduced drastically, situational awareness is even more important.
A good way to reenter the fight after warp out is using strategic BM's. One technique to make an off grid BM is to drop a BM 1-2 AU from the engagement while your initially warping to the fight. This lessens the amount of time spent warping out and back in, because you will be warping a much shorter distance.
The Bomb Bomber
In addition to using torpedoes, stealth bombers can use bomb launchers which launch bombs. Bombs are area-of-effect weapons that, when launched, fly out at velocity of 3000 m/s, travel for 10 seconds thus covering a path of 30km, and then detonate hitting everything within 15 km of the explosion center. Bombs like missiles have explosion radius and explosion velocity and their damage is attenuated exactly like that of a missile. Damage is decreased if target ship picks velocity as well as if target ship is small in comparison to explosion radius of the bomb. Also alike missiles, if your ship gets blown up shortly after you launched a bomb, your bomb will not do damage (i.e. it will not detonate).
Bombs, unlike missiles, are not self-navigating. They will fly out straight in direction that your stealth bomber was facing when you activated the bomb launcher. This means that you do not need to gain a target lock to throw a bomb at someone. The target then only has 10 seconds to react.
Bombs have a base damage of 6400 points. Training up Covert Ops skill increases their damage output by 5% per level. Thus a raw bomb damage of 7680 is possible with Covert Ops level IV. Their explosion velocity of 750 meters/sec is five times greater than base explosion velocity of light missiles; and explosion radius of 400 meters is just a bit smaller than 450 meter explosion radius of torpedoes (unlike with missiles, these parameters do not get affected by any missile skills you might have). This means bombs are of greatest danger to small ships that are running a microwarpdrive. They will insta-kill mwding light interdictors and most mwding interceptors. They can also kill assault frigates that has a mwd active, as well as untanked recon ships with mwd on and haulers. Multiple bombs are needed to kill more heavily tanked ships.
The bombs themselves can be destroyed before they detonate. It is very important to keep this in mind when preparing a gang to throw multiple bombs at a target, as multiple bombs can destroy each other. If you have a Purifier throwing an EM bomb and a Manticore throwing a kinetic bomb, whichever bomb gets launched a bit ahead will kill the other bomb. The way to work around this problem is to throw bombs of the same damage type. If you look in bomb info, you will see that each bomb has 99.5% resistance to its own damage type but no resistance to other three damage types. This means that if all of your stealth bombers are throwing EM bombs at the target, the bombs will all detonate successfully. However if you are mixing bomb damage types, some of the bombs will end up getting destroyed before they can successfully explode. This also means that there is a limit on how many bombs you can launch concurrently and this limit is equal to 5 bombs. A 6th bomb or a single bomb of another damage type will be destroyed by the first 5 bombs.
Remember that any stealth bomber can launch any type of bomb. You are not restricted to launching only your racial bombs, albeit you won't get the 20-25% damage bonus. When gathering a group of stealth bombers to throw multiple bombs, see which race's bombers are most prevalent and make everyone switch to the damage type of bombs that these bombers get bonuses to.
Unlike with gank bombers, success of bomb bombers in PVP depends most on their speed and agility rather than weapons, weapon upgrades, and electronic warfare modules. While a bomb bomber may still fit siege launchers, the main components of the gank-bomber fits are the bomb launcher and speed enhancing modules. The goal of a bomb-fitted stealth bomber is to sneak in on a target, launch the bomb and then escape quickly. For such a ship, torpedoes and gang DPS are only a secondary priority, so you may forgo fitting ballistic control units for example. In addition, a bomb bomber may consider fitting shield resist mods specific to their damage types in case they get nicked by their own bomb.
Another point to keep in mind is that throwing bombs does not require a target lock. However it does require that you get dangerously close to your targets (within 35km range). In case things go very wrong, for example an enemy interceptor survives your bombing attempt and manages to get within point range, you can choose to fit a warp core stabilizer on your ship. Warp core stabs will improve your chances of getting out with your ship intact when the bombing run doesn't go so well.
The problem with warp core stabilizers is that they significantly cut both your scan resolution and most importantly your ship's targeting range. This will make it useless for throwing torpedoes. However you can fit sensor boosters or even signal amplifiers to counteract these penalties. The Minmatar stealth bomber, Hound, has the lowest base targeting range out of the four bombers (55km). Fitting one best named stab (halcyon) decreases its targeting range to 39.8km with Long Range Targeting V. With unscripted T2 sensor booster its targeting range can be bumped to 51km, with targeting range script loaded - to 63km. Thus your stabbed up stealth bomber can still be made useful for applying dps with torpedoes.
In a typical bombing, the stealth bombers crawls into position while being cloaked. It aligns to the warp out point and decloaks about 30-35km away from intended explosion nucleus, decloaks, throws bomb, then warps out.
It is important to be hovering your mouse over the warp-out point at all times. The pilot should have both the warp out point and default distance-to-warp-to set prior to decloaking such that he or she merely has to click the mouse once to initiate the warp. The cloaking device and bomb launcher should be activated via keyboard shortcuts (F keys for example) which are pressed nearly simultaneously. You may also choose to have a tactical bookmark made near by your warp out point. This decreases chances of any pursuers landing on top of you when you arrive at the warp out point.
Utilizing 15km Radius
Typically the pilot aligns and then decloaks 30 to 35 km off the target, drops the bomb and instantly engages warp. However if the target is on a station you might find getting into that distance impossible. This is where you can use the blast radius of 15km to add distance to your launch point. Explosion radius of 15km means that the explosion sphere measures 30km from edge to edge. Thus you can drop your bomb a bit further off than 30km from target, say at 40-45km. Since the explosion doesn't need to travel past the target into the station, you will thus actually cover a greater area that the target will try to cover to escape.
While not everyone agrees that the stealth bomber is better after Apocrypha, it certainly has been given a more focused role and some additional tools and flexibility. Like any ship in EVE, the new stealth bomber has a niche and can be a very powerful ship if you used correctly. Siege-fitted bombers are frigates capable of warping in cloaked and dishing out some serious DPS at their opponents, while retaining all the advantages of a frigate hull (great lock time, maneuverability, etc.). Bomb fitted bombers can bring a great deal of consternation to your enemies and can cause havoc when launched into large groups. And like everything in EVE, knowledge, creativity, and perseverance are the most important factors for being an effective stealth bomber pilot.