Commonly referred to as Tech 3 ships, strategic cruisers ('T3s', 'stracs') are the evolution of Sleeper technology into the currently known technology base. In practical terms, they are expensive, powerful and extremely customisable cruiser-sized ships.
Each race has their own adaptable strategic cruiser, with their own particular racial traits (weapons, defenses, sensors, etc).
Strategic cruisers have five subsystem slots designed to create a single ship, each holding a part of your ship's basic layout. No strategic cruiser can be fielded if it lacks a single subsystem. Each race has developed their own set of subsystems for each ship, and these subsystems are not interchangeable between different races' strategic cruisers.
It takes a lot of effort to build a strategic crusier, and they consequently cost a lot. Most primary components of Tech 3 production are found in Wormholes, and some of the rarer gases and components do not become available until you are deep within wormhole space.
The following are the strategic cruisers, by race:
Each subsystem slot allows the choice of four subsystem modules, and you need one of each of the five subsystems, and one strategic cruiser base hull, to make up the whole ship.
As you may have noticed if you looked up a strategic cruiser in-game, they have very few attributes. The slot layout, hardpoints, hitpoints, dronebay &c of a strategic cruiser are all determined by the combination of subsystems you choose.
Every subsystem has an associated skill. If you lose a T3 ship, you will lose one level of your highest racial subsystem skill (if they're all at the same level, the game will pick one at random).
The defensive subsystems give your ship its base cargohold capacity, armor hit points, shield hit points, shield recharge rate, signature radius, and armor and shield resistances. They generally give low and/or high-power slots as well. These modules also offer a bonus to a defensive aspect of your ship (resistances, HP, command bonuses, repair effectiveness, etc) based on the module.
The electronics subsystems give your ship its base CPU, targeting range, scan resolution, and sensor strength. They also generally give you medium-power slots. The bonuses provided by these modules include the attributes the modules grant your ship.
The engineering subsystems give your ship its base powergrid, capacitor, and capacitor recharge time. They often give you high and/or low power slots, as well as turret and/or missile hardpoints. The bonuses provided by these modules include the attributes the modules grant your ship.
The offensive subsystems give your ship its primary weapon slots, whether missile or turret. They always give high slots, and on occasion medium and/or low slots as well. The bonuses provided by these modules include weapon rates of fire, weapon optimal and falloff ranges, drone control and drone bays, and cloaking ability.
The propulsion subsystems give your ship its base in agility and speed. They may give you low slots, but not all of them do. The bonuses provided by these modules include speed or agility bonuses, afterburner bonuses, reduction in microwarp drive penalties, and even the ability to be immune to warp disruption bubbles.
Capabilities and Uses
So, what are these expensive ships good for? Before discussing practical in-game uses, let's review some potential T3 capabilities:
- Tough tanks. All T3s can have very high resistances and very tough buffer or active tanks (the Loki is probably the most fragile, but then again its ability to shield or armour tank keeps the enemy guessing).
- Covops-style cloaking. All T3s can be fitted to warp while cloaked like a covops or a force recon ship.
- Bubble immunity. All T3s can be fitted to ignore warp disruption bubbles.
- Difficult to probe. The difficulty of probing a ship down is based on the ratio of its signature radius and sensor strength. Although they must make fitting sacrifices, T3s can achieve very high sensor strengths and small signature radii, and thus become possible to probe only with the highest of probing skills.
- Fat command bonuses. The dedicated Fleet Command ships come with a hull bonus of 3% per level to the effect of racial warfare links. The T3s can't fit as many warfare links at once as a Fleet Command ship, but with the right subsystem they can have a 5% per level bonus to the effect of racial links.
- Slow-cooking. All T3s have a per-level reduction in the heat damage you take when overheating modules, which lets them overheat for much longer than most other ships.
Achieving any of these requires trade-offs and sacrifices, of course. But that point itself touches on what might be T3 ships' strongest point: since they're so customisable, when the enemy see one on scan it's hard for them to know what it's fitted to do.
Now let's see how those capabilities work out in in-game uses for T3s:
T3s can combine a tough tank with (relatively) high speeds and small signature radii, plus the ability to deal decent damage. This makes them capable of taking on L4 missions. They may not complete L4s as fast as well-fitted and well-flown battleships, but their agility and difficulty to probe makes them suited to mission-running in dangerous low- or null-sec space.
T3s can combine the ability to quickly and accurately probe things down with the tank and DPS required to do many quite tough exploration sites solo.
Heavy Scouting/Surprise Tackle
Fitted for covops-style cloaking and probing, a T3 can be an effective PvP scout, with enough of a tank to tackle a target and (hopefully) survive long enough for help to arrive. Cloak-fitted T3s can dispatch weaker targets solo.
T3s can mount fairly ridiculous buffer tanks, pushing over 300,000 effective hitpoints with the right subsystems, skills and implants. In this configuration, they make great (if expensive) bait.
With their 5% bonus to racial warfare links, T3s can give a gang very substantial bonuses.
Fitted with an interdiction nullifier subsystem, warp core stabilisers, and a covert ops cloak, a T3 can cheerfully stroll through most camps. This is useful for scouting, travelling through dangerous nullsec or moving small, high-value items which don't justify a jump freighter through nullsec.
It's a bit boring compared to some of the other potential uses, but a T3 can just slot into a PvP gang as a tougher, more expensive HAC which can overheat for longer.