The Orca is a mining support vessel, classified as an Industrial Command Ship. It is NOT a Capital Industrial Ship. Be forewarned: some people buy the wrong skillbook and waste over 400,000,000 isk. Unless you want to fly a Rorqual, save yourself the cash. Any confusion stems from the Orca being listed under “Capital Industrial Ships” in the market window. The proper book (Industrial Command Ships) costs 45,000,000 isk from NPC school stations.
- Industrial Command Ships I
- Mining Director I
What do you get when you buy an Orca?
Possibly the biggest selling point of the Orca is the huge amount of cargo space that it supports for a ship that “only” costs around 700 million ISK. The ship has 4 different areas for storage.
The first is the Cargo Hold. This starts off holding 30,000 m3, and can be expanded through modules, rigs, and an additional 5% bonus for each level of the Industrial Command Ship skill. Maxed out for hauling, you could fit over 90,000 m3 in the cargo hold. This is the ONLY hold on the ship that receives bonuses from mods, rigs, and skills.
The second is a 50,000 m3 Ore Hold that can contain only mined materials (unrefined ore, ice and gas). If you try to drag modules or anything else into the ore hold, you’ll get an error message.
The next area on the ship is called the Fleet Hangar, which holds another 40,000 m3. This hangar can be made available to other fleet members or members of the pilot's corporation for access in space. This is very useful for supporting mining operations, as mining fleetmates can then use the Fleet Hangar to store mined ore or ice. The Orca pilot can then move that ore or ice to the Ore Hold or Cargo Hold, or leave it in the Fleet Hangar, as space permits.
The final cargo hold is actually a Ship Maintenance Bay. This area holds 400,000 m3, which sounds like a great deal, but there’s a catch – the only items you can put into the bay are assembled ships. To give you an idea of what would fit in the bay, here are the sizes of some common vessels, when assembled:
- Hulk/Covetor – 200,000 m3
- Mackinaw/Retriever – 150,000 m3
- Skiff/Procurer – 100,000 m3
- Osprey – 107,000 m3
- Scythe – 89,000 m3
- Rifter – 27,289 m3
- Raven – 486,000 m3
So if you’re using this to support Hulks, you’ll fit at most 2 in the bay.
To allow access the ship maintenance bay, the Orca pilot must set access for fleet members or corporation members or both. If a fleet member wants to switch ships in space, they can open the ship maintenance bay, right click the ship they want to use, and choose either “Board Ship from Bay” or “Launch ship from bay.” The Board option is safer – it stores your current ship in the bay, and puts you into the new one in space. It’s only available if there is enough room in the bay to store the new ship minus the old ship. Otherwise, you have to choose the Launch option, which leaves your current ship abandoned in space, and puts you in the new one. As with any abandoned ship, this could potentially allow someone to steal your ship, so use the option cautiously.
Besides being able to swap ships, the Orca has a fitting service – so you can swap modules while in space. Right click on the Orca to choose to Use Fitting Service. You can swap fittings that are in the cargohold of the ship you’re flying, or you can pull fittings out of the Orca’s bays. Drones can also be swapped in and out of a ship's drone bay.
Tractor Beam Bonuses
The Orca gets 2 big bonuses to tractor beams. The first is a 250% range increase, and the second is a 100% beam velocity increase. While the velocity increase is nice to have, since you’ll usually only fit one beam at most, the range increase is really nice – if you’re supporting a mining op with multiple players, the ability to pull all the cans without moving is huge. Whether you pull them and loot them or pull them just so your industrials can have a single warp-in point, it’s a big timesaver. It’s also great for pulling in wrecks to a single location to be looted/salvaged.
Survey Scanner Bonus
Survey scanners on an Orca get a 500% range increase, so you can see how much ore is in every rock in over a 100km radius. This allows the Orca pilot to easily tag asteroids to mark those that are full or nearly empty, and better coordinate the miners.
You can equip and use 3 gang links on the Orca at the same time. However, the Orca only has 3 high slots so a tractor beam would have to replace one gang link. This is also going to depend on what you’re using the ship for – a mining support ship is going to have different high slots than an exploration platform (more on that later). Additionally, you get a bonus to mining gang links with each level of industrial command ship skill, on top of the bonuses you would get from the Mining Director skill, Warfare Link Specialist, and the Mining Foreman Mindlink implant.
Since the ship only gets bonuses to mining gang links, we’ll focus on those for now. The three mining gang links are:
- Harvester Capacitor Efficiency: cuts down on cap use for your mining lasers/harvesters
- Laser Optimization: cuts down on your cycle time for mining lasers/harvesters
- Mining Laser Field Enhancement: increases the range of your lasers/harvesters
The Capacitor link is the least often used, since a tractor beam is generally more useful. The Laser Optimization link adds a large bonus to miner's yield and forms most of the Orca's yield bonus. The Laser Field Enhancement allows a fleet to mine the whole of many asteroid belts without moving, which is a large convenience.
The Orca has a really nice tank. Out of the box, it has 10,750 shields, 6,900 armor, and 46,000 hull. Add your skills on top of that, like mechanic level 5, and this thing can actually be hull buffer tanked. In fact, doing nothing but adding a Damage Control II to the ship will give you a huge buffer to ward off attacks. With a DCUII in a lowslot and a shield tank in 3 or 4 midslots, over 170kEHP can be achieved. If you really want to go crazy, you can get the thing over 270,000 EHP with good skills. You cut into your tank significantly by going with 2 cargo expanders in the lows (granting over 90k m3 in your cargohold with rigs though) so a DCU is generally recommended.
Uses for the Orca
The obvious use for the ship is to support mining ops, but how?
The Orca has some disadvantages in a mining op. First, it's a pilot that could be mining, assuming they have the skills. For example, if the Orca pilot has the skills they would need to fly a Hulk, they would need to be boosting 4 miners to be worthwhile in terms of yield over mining themselves. This is because an Orca with full bonuses (Industrial Command Ship 5, Mining Director 5, Warfare Link Specialist 5, Mindlink Implant) would have roughly a 25% bonus to each activated mining link.
Secondly, the cargo space isn’t enough to support 4 or more hulks mining a belt. Even if you fit it for max storage, it holds about 180,000 m3 of ore (remember, the ship bay only holds ships) between the cargohold, orehold, and fleet hangar. That’s about 6 and a half full cans worth of ore. Not bad, but a large mining op will fill up 6 cans quickly. And if the Orca has to warp back to a station to keep dumping ore, that negates the link bonuses, as they deactivate in warp. Losing a range bonus halfway through a strip miner cycle can waste a lot of ore if the asteroid drops out of range. Not to mention that the inertia and warp speed modifiers, while faster than a freighter, will still make your hulk feel like a frigate in comparison, so constantly moving the ship isn’t a real option. A dedicated hauler is still required.
However, the Orca has many bonuses on top of mining yield. The range link is invaluable, as it cuts down on how often you have to move your mining ships to new targets, considering the speed of most mining vessels. Someone who is out of range is mining zero ore.
Second, the range of the tractor beam on the Orca makes it great for pulling in cans to a central location, rather than having haulers slowboating around belts to scoop them up with pitiful range tractor beams. Or even worse, requiring mining ships to haul their own ore back to station. The orca can also tractor the rat wrecks to a central point as well. Many mining ops have more than one hauler. If one of them is in an orca, not only do miners get the bonuses, but the haulers can be reduced in number since they have a single warp-in point to keep offloading ore. The orca pilot can also use drones to destroy and salvage belt rats allowing miners to equip only mining drones and removing the need for someone to have a salvage module in a high slot. Another advantage of the huge range on the beam is that the orca can pull in cans when a can flipper is in the system. Don't forget that if the Hulks / miners remain within 2500m of the Orca then miners can drop the ore directly into the fleet hangar completely removing the risk of theft.
Additional functions that you can provide are:
- Repair ships with drones as needed
- Store a wide variety of spare mining crystals
- Store combat ships in the hangar, should the op be working in a lower sec area with tougher rats.
- Use a survey scanner to find and mark the biggest asteroids in the belt, so that people can focus on the most profitable rocks first.
The Orca is a wonderful shipping hauler - the capacity of the Cargo Hold, with sufficient skills and rigs, gives the Orca one of the largest shipping spaces in the game, exceeded only by freighters. For more information about how to use the Orca to earn ISK as a speculative hauler, see this class syllabus: Hauling 101
Flying your expensive ship into a wormhole, assuming you’ve got one that can support the mass of the ship, requires serious nerve, but it can provide you with a mobile platform for refitting, swapping ships, storing loot, and repairing. Many corps set up POSs for this sort of thing, but the orca doesn’t require all the logistics that keeping a POS fueled and online would. Plus, in the Uni, the chances of you having the proper permissions to set up a POS are slim to none.
Fit remote reppers / repper drones, and a cloak. Stay cloaked and aligned in a safespot until needed. Uncloaking should only be done when there are no ships in the system outside of your fleet.
Running two accounts in missions, one of which is flying an Orca, can be helpful. In combat missions, you can provide non-mining link bonuses to your other character, and tractor the wrecks to a central point while the other character fights. Clear the room, and then head back to the orca to get your salvage ship, or refit your combat ship right in space. Since all the wrecks are already together, you can fit 8 salvagers instead of the usual 4 salvagers + 4 tractor beam configuration, and quickly salvage everything. For mining missions, the benefits are obvious. You can semi-afk your way through the mission and never be in danger of your can expiring. Occasionally you may get a courier mission that requires a huge amount of storage for hauling, particularly some of the storyline courier missions. Instead of needing a freighter, or making multiple trips, the orca can fit the bill.
Less Reputable Uses
Suicide gankers, canflippers and ninja-looters can use Orcas as mobile bases. They can hold all the loot that they’ve gotten through suicide ganking or other means, and they can provide a nearby platform for switching and refitting ships when needed - even during combat, and often as a bait-and-switch tactic. Outlaws, meanwhile, can enter highsec in a pod to avoid NPC aggro and just pull a ship out of an Orca's bay. If you’re in an industrial ship and you see an Orca with a bunch of non-mining ships, be on your toes. Canflippers and ninja-looters with Orca support are to be especially avoided.
Maximum boost skills
(In no particular order)
- Mining Director V - Boosts the effectiveness of mining foreman link modules by 20% per skill level.
- Warfare link specialist V - Boosts effectiveness of all warfare link and mining foreman modules by 10% per level.
- Industrial Command Ships V - 5% bonus to cargo capacity per level and 3% bonus to effectiveness of mining foreman links per level
- Cybernetics V for the Mining Foreman Mindlink - 25% increase to the command bonus of Mining Foreman Link modules. Replaces Mining Foreman skill bonus with fixed 15% mining yield bonus.
When looking at time to train vs. benefits received, Industrial Command Ships (ICS) V can be saved for last, behind Warfare Link Specialist (WLS) V. Depending on mapping and implants, ICS-V requires more than 30 days to train from ICS-IV and amounts to only 3% bonus to effectiveness of mining foreman links. WLS-V requires more than 20 days to train from WLS-IV and grants a 10% bonus to link effectiveness.
Additionally, at least 1 level of Wing Commander can be helpful, depending on the size of the mining fleet.
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