Black Ops

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Black Ops battleships (also BLOPs) are designed for covert operations behind enemy lines. For that they have the ability to jump, bridge, and conduit jump to any cyno especially covert cynos. Black Ops gameplay usually means: jump in, kill the target, get safe, jump out. Covert cynos help a lot with stealthy movements in hostile space as they are not systemwide visible like hard cynos.

To complement their special jump capabilities they have significant role bonuses to cloaking, even though they cannot fit a covert ops cloak i.e. they cannot warp cloaked. Black Ops have no targeting delay after cloaking, their cloak reactivation delay reduced to 5 seconds, and they have a 650% bonus to ship max velocity when using cloaking devices. The last bonus means that Black Ops move faster while being cloaked for a wide range of cloaks. This also means that they can fully prealign while being cloaked. Those cloaking capabilities help them to “get safe” after a drop as well as stay in hostile space while waiting for a target.

Their jump capabilities are further strengthened by a reduction to jump fatigue.[1] Their jump range of 4 lightyears without skills and 8 lightyears with max skills is relatively far as it’s more than for dreads and carriers but not as far as for Rorquals and Jump Freighters. Black Ops further have the ability to fit both covert and hard cynos. Hard cynos also get 50% reduction in cycle time.

Black Ops have an increased resist profile but don’t exactly follow the usual T2 resist philosophy. Their base hitpoints are a good bit lower than the T1 hulls they are based upon. But after resists and fittings the effect isn’t as big as you might think. Still they are not designed for prolonged battles but a quick in and out. Black Ops usually don’t die to their target because they can choose said target, the typical reason for a Black Ops loss is being baited into a trap.

Black Ops weigh roughly 150 kt; this is significantly more than other battleships which typically weigh 100 kt. This also negatively affects their speed with a propulsion module turned on. They have a relatively big sensor strength; they usually fit a cloak though and after the drawback of the cloak their sensor strength is normal for battleships.

Currently five Black Ops hulls exist, one for each empire plus the Marshal which belongs to CONCORD.

The empire hulls all have a total of 19 slots (high + mid + low slots). The Marshal has a total of 22 slots.

Black Ops can of course also jump and bridge from highsec just like Jump freighters, as they are not capitals and allowed in highsec.

Bridging and conduit jumps

See also: Jump Bridge and Covert Cynosural Fields

Black Ops are often only used for bridging or conduit jumps; for that they need to fit a Covert Jump Portal Generator.

The only other hulls which have the ability to bridge ships are Titans and Rorquals. Bridging Titans are nearly exclusively used while being tethered to an upwell structure or from inside a POS field. Using a bridging Titan in hostile space is incredibly risky and thus very very rarely done. This is where Black Ops shine as they were designed for that. (Also not everyone might be able to afford a Titan in the first place.) As the covert cyno doesn’t show up as a warpable beacon on the overview and only lasts much shorter you can usually bring in a Black Ops to a safe spot with a low but nonzero risk of being combat probed and tackled.

Black Ops Battleships can only bridge ships which are capable of fitting the Covert Ops Cloaking Device. (The ships do not need to have the module fitted in order to use the bridge.) This includes the Sisters of EVE ships, and Strategic Cruisers fitted with the Covert Reconfiguration subsystem.

As implied above, Black Ops often bridge from safe spots. In this case it usually stays cloaked until shortly before it bridges. The other ships warp cloaked to the bridging Black Ops. Often they have to get to an individual safe spot first to be able to cloak. Once cloaked they warp to the bridging Black Ops. It happens that people fail to warp cloaked to the Black Ops. Often they then land in range of cloaked ship and a decloaking chain reaction starts. This is more likely in big fleets. Let’s say the probability that an individual pilot fails is one in a thousand. The probability that at least one in a five man fleet fails is then about 0.5 %; but in a hundred man fleet it’s about 9.5%.

Once the bridge is up they have to decloak (as you cannot take a bridge cloaked), move a bit closer to the bridging Black Ops, and take the bridge. Note that the command to jump (take the bridge) lets you automatically approach the BLOPs. Do *not* give an approach command to a bridging ship as you might bump it and thus bump out of bridging range for the other fleet members. If you want to move closer, give a stay at 1 km command.

Conduit Jumps allow a Black Ops to take up to 30 ships in a 10 km radius with it. Like for covert bridges not all ship types are eligible. The eligible classes are: Black Ops Battleship, Blockade Runners, Covert Ops Frigates, Force Recon Ships, Stealth Bombers, and Strategic Cruisers (with the covert subsystem). The Black Ops needs a Covert Jump Portal Generator for the Conduit Jump. In contrast to bridges, fuel requirements for conduit jumps do **not** scale with the mass of the other ships but is with 1000 isotopes per lightyear only slightly more expensive than the 700 for a normal jump. This makes Conduit Jumps are a good option to move fleets of strategic cruisers.

It should also be mentioned that Black Ops bridges or conduit jumps are sometimes used with blockade runners for mundane logistics.

Hot dropping

Hot drop describes the practice to light a cyno directly on a target to then destroy said target. This is where Black Ops shine. The targets are usually PvE ships but it can also be a hauler/freighter or a short escalation in a PvP fight. The act of searching for targets and then dropping on them is often called “BLOPsing” (not to be confused with “blobbing”). It’s not clear if BLOPsing only refers to the pure use of Black Ops or also when Black Ops are only used for bridging and mixes of those.

As you can choose which targets you engage or not, BLOPsing should rarely lead to losses. The biggest risk lies in being baited and this is also the best strategy to fight hot drops. Therefore the challenge of the fight isn’t the motivation for BLOPsing. It’s rather about hanging out on coms, hurting a specific hostile group, getting isk from expensive modules which might drop, or the thrill of the hunt.

BLOPs hunters

The hunters are ships which are supposed to tackle targets and light a cyno. They are decisive to the success of a hot drop. The hunter also usually decides if the fleet takes a target. As the hunter has to be able to fit a (covert) cyno, the number of suitable hulls is limited. Let’s quickly discuss the common options.

  • Strategic Cruisers have the advantage that they can be fitted to be nullified to be highly mobile in hostile nullsec space. They also have bonuses to probes which means they can combat probe a potential target.
  • Force Recons have a shorter cyno duration to leave grid after lighting the cyno. The Arazu has a bonus to tackle range which is nice if the target moves so that the hunter doesn’t loose tackle until a jumped in ship takes over. Similarly a Rapier can be nice with a point plus web combination.
  • Stealth Bombers have the advantage that they don’t have a targeting delay after decloaking. This makes a successful tackle more likely. They are also pretty likely to die as they don’t have a lot of tank. As they are one of the cheaper options this isn’t tragic.
  • Covert Ops can combat probe, are unsuspicious and cheap. But like the bombers, they don’t have a lot of survivability.
  • The Prospect is also popular to light covert cynos. But maybe rather in a baiting way than active hunting.

Use as a cyno platform

Black Ops hulls are also sometimes used to light hard cynos for bringing capital and supercapital ships into battle. Though more fragile than other battleships, Black Ops are tougher than Force Recons which is the other ship group that can light hard cynos. Also recons struggle to fit a good armor tank. Therefore a Black Ops might be the choice when the rest of the fleet is armor based. As Black Ops are far more expensive than Force Recons, it is rarely considered worth the cost.

Fitting

While the exact fitting obviously varies for the different hulls and also for every pilot a bit, there are some general fitting principles for Black Ops. All Black Ops have two utility high slots. It’s obvious that one of them is used for a cloak. Commonly a faction cloak is used to provide a bit more speed than a T2 cloak. If the Black Ops is used for bridging, the second utility high is used for the Covert Jump Portal Generator. As jumping costs a lot of capacitor, essentially all Black Ops fit a Capacitor Booster. You can already activate it while being in the jump tunnel so that you land combat ready. Further it’s not unusual to have a Large Standard Container in cargo as you can bring more cap charges this way. Most Black Ops also fit an MJD as a get away option.

Combat fits

Combat fits refers to Black Ops which are supposed to jump in and deal damage as opposed to pure bridging fits.

A combat it would obviously fit guns/missile launchers to deal damage. They are commonly the short range variant as the cyno is usually lit very close to the target and the short range variant has more DPS and you want to destroy the target quickly. Instead of a bridge you usually fit an energy neutralizer preferably a heavy if you can make it work. The Sin also often fits a full rack of neuts instead of any guns. Even though the Redeemer has a neut bonus it usually rather focuses on its guns. The neuts helps to crack the tank of the targets.

If you drop in bigger groups, you rather fit a buffer tank. In this case armor tank is more common and you might bring some remote rep Sins or T3C with remote reps. If solo or very small groups, you often fit an active tank. People rather tend to shield tanks then if the hull allows it.

No matter the group size it’s common to fit scrams or points on all Black Ops. Grapplers or webs are also very common. MWDs are also common for general placement and to move/escape potential bubbles. MJDs have already been mentioned in general. Sensor boosters with scan resolution scripts are also sometimes used to lock the target faster i.e. take over tackle from the hunter faster and deal damage sooner (the fitted cloak hurts the scan resolution). In bigger groups one ship might also fit a ship scanner to check on the fit and more importantly the capacitor of bigger targets such as Rorquals or other capitals.

Bridging fits

Bridging fits obviously have to fit a Covert Jump Portal Generator. Often you just slap it onto a combat fit. But people also often use dedicated bridging fits. Dedicated bridgers usually fit expanded cargoholds to carry more fuel with them. Sometimes they even fit cargo rigs. Further they often fit modules to increase the sensor strength such as sensor boosters with ECCM scripts so that they are harder to scan down i.e. harder to catch. Burst jammers are also an option so that in case the bridger get tackled he can get free.

Implants

Black Ops are relatively expensive hulls and it makes sense to have your Black Ops pilot dedicate a clone to it. Especially since implants can increase the performance a lot.

The most obvious choices are hardwiring implants to increase the DPS and generally the performance of the turrets/missiles. Some fitting implants can also often make quite a difference on a Black Ops.

If you want to commit more, you can use implant sets which increase the local reps i.e. crystals (for shields) or asklepians (for armor) (obviously only if your Black Ops is active rep fitted.)

Another option is also to use a geno set. Pretty much because you can never go wrong with a geno set and the additional fitting space opens up a lot of options.

Frigate escape bay

Black Ops have a frigate escape bay like all battleships. When choosing a frigate there is the question if you should try to save your pod or provide fighting utility. If you want to save your pod, the Astero is noteworthy for Black Ops as it is the only hull which can both take a Black Ops bridge and is allowed in the frigate escape bay. Thus it’s a good option to get bridged home by other fleet members. Even if there is no bridge available an Astero has a fairly easy time to escape due to its cloak. The other popular option to save a clone would be a Succubus with a 10mn afterburner fitted as it is fast and can’t be scrammed. If you don’t care about your pod (i.e. you don’t use any expensive implants) you might look towards EWAR frigates like the Griffin or Kitsune as you then can help your friends. If you work solo, you could use a more DPS focused ship like an assault frigate.

Skills

Black Ops are expensive ships which already have a high skill requirement to just sit in them. Thus it’s not surprising that your relevant skills especially the general support skills should be pretty good which means mostly level five. The Black Ops skill itself should be at level four. Level five isn’t immediately necessary in accordance with the 80/20 rule. But it’s importance depends a bit on the hull.

You already need good jump skills to just sit in a Black Ops. Jump Drive Calibration is ‘only’ required at level four but if you fly with others they will certainly implicitly assume that everyone has it five when planing for jump ranges. Thus train it to five. Jump Fuel Conservation isn’t required for Black Ops but you should train it to four in accordance with the 80/20 rule. In the long run level five is certainly advised as the skill allows you to stay out hunting for longer.

As have to train a lot of jump skills and ideally also to level five, it suggests itself to train Black Ops on a character which already has (very) good jump skills. This means you would rather train it on a capital alt than a subcap character. You have especially good skill synergies with the dreadnought or titan corresponding to the given empire. If you plan to fly your Sin without guns (thus with neuts or remote reps), you also have a good skill overlap with carriers or FAXs.

PvE

Black Ops Battleships are not usually considered good PvE hulls, as other T1 and faction battleships fight better and cost less. However, they do still see some use in running escalations in null security space, as they gain enormous safety advantages from their jump drives. By using alt accounts in covert cyno ships, a Black Ops can jump directly in and out of the escalation system, without risking travel through potentially hostile systems along the way; because jump drives can be activated while in combat, the Black Ops can immediately jump out of the system at the first sign of danger.

Beyond this, some pilots have taken to using the Marshal as a more general-purpose PvE ship, relying on its CONCORD-unique bonus to local repair modules to give it a defensive edge. Unfortunately, more often than not this only results in extremely expensive Marshal losses, as the ship's extremely high price does not directly translate to high effectiveness or high piloting skill with it.

History

The number of kills by Black Ops nearly doubled from July 2021 to August 2021 and remained high since then, see zkill stats. This was due to a number of explicit and implicit buffs to Black Ops (even though there was also an implicit nerf).

The industry changes in 2021 made capitals and faction ships much more expensive while it barely affected Black Ops. Thus cost to performance away from capitals and towards Black Ops.[2]

The patch Enter the Portal on 2021-06-22 did a lot of changes to Black Ops.[3] Not only were the ships bonuses overhauled and they gained extra cargo and targeting range. They most importantly gained to ability to conduit jump.

A bit earlier on 2021-06-08 mobile observatories were introduced which were a severe nerf to cloaky camping and indirectly to Black Ops.[4]

In the "Rolling Thunder" patch Black Ops gained significantly more fuel bay and their resists were increased.[5]

Black Ops got a minor buff in the "Surgical Strike" Update as their scan resolution was increased by 30%.[6]

On 2019-09-10 cynos got restricted to Force Recons and Black Ops and industrial cynos got added.[7] This was an implicit buff to Black Ops as capital ships got nerfed while the capabilities of Black Ops stayed the same. Thus shifting the preference to Black Ops for hot drops.

See also

References

  1. ^ The jump fatigue consists of a base term per jump plus a term proportional to the distance jumped. The distance term is reduced by 75% for Black Ops.
  2. ^ A significant update to Industry dev blog and patch notes
  3. ^ Version 19.05 - Build: 1913030 - 2021-06-22.1 - Enter the Portal (Patch Notes)
  4. ^ https://www.eveonline.com/news/view/patch-notes-version-19-05#2021-06-08.1
  5. ^ 18.09 Release - Build: 1810288 - 2020-09-22 - "Rolling Thunder" Update (Patch Notes)
  6. ^ 18.04 Release - Build: 1706308 - 2020-04-15 - "Surgical Strike" Update (Patch Notes)
  7. ^ https://www.eveonline.com/news/view/patch-notes-for-september-2019-release