Kiting in Sovereign Nullsec
This article serves as a basic introduction to kiting with small cruiser-size fleets while travelling through sovereign nullsec. In particular, this article addresses fleets formed with the intent of catching ratters, and provides guidance on kiting (and escaping from) response fleets using high mobility.
Small kiting gangs are characterized by fast-paced, agile, hit-and-run tactics aimed at engaging superior forces, in contrast to the jumping and baiting tactics utilized by slower, larger fleets. Kiting gangs require active decision-making from each individual pilot, and can thus be more skill-intensive than other fleet types.
Mindset and Piloting
In sovereign nullsec, small kiting fleets can be at a distinct disadvantage, especially if those fleets originated outside of sovereign space. Nullsec entities, even those that control large areas of space, are generally able to field large, powerful fleets on very short notice. These fleets will almost always win in a brawl, so kiting allows smaller fleets to pick their targets and destroy what they can, while avoiding what would otherwise destroy them.
During an engagement, avoiding warp disruption is each pilot's top priority. Every pilot is responsible for managing their own range individually, depending on position and ship speed. Even for pilots with little fleet experience, it is usually obvious when an enemy force is too large for the friendly fleet to handle. For slightly more experienced pilots, certain ship types (such as Lokis or Rapiers) will signal that the tide of battle may quickly turn in favor of the enemy fleet.
Because of this, fleet members should be prepared to receive commands to disengage at any time. Being able to make these calls is a matter of experience and practice on the part of the fleet commander, but what is most important for fleet members is the mindset of "flying on your own". even in small fleets, there is too much happening for fleet commanders to micromanage individual fleet members - members must listen to primary targets or orders to retreat, but are otherwise responsible for being an effective fleet member.
Ships and Fitting
- See also: Kiting in Sovereign Nullsec/Fittings
In general, ships in kiting fleets should be capable of traveling at 1.7km/s or above, and be able to apply good dps out to overheated point range, (~28 km). Some tank is useful, but ship should not sacrifice too much speed or range for it. Oftentimes, tank only becomes relevant once a ship has been tackled, and at that point it will most likely be destroyed regardless.
In kiting fleets, maintaining fleet speed is paramount, both when warping between locations as well as on-grid. Giving all necessary commands to align and warp a fleet around will slow the fleet down considerably. Staying in one place gives hostiles time to form up a counter or prepare a trap. If the fleet doesn't achieve anything within a minute, move on.
Leave skirmishers to their responsibilities - don't try to micromanage them. Keep them updated with the distance to the main fleet, and discuss interesting destinations with them.
Kiting fleets' strength is in their speed and agility. If hostile fleets don't bring a sizeable amount of scram tackle, feel free to take on a vastly superior fleet from a good position - stay out of their scram range, slaughter frigates and run if it gets too hot. Even when caught in a bad spot, kiting fleets are capable of keeping sizeable portion alive if pilots are on their toes.
During actual engagements, positioning is key. Always avoid engaging enemies at 0km, and use gate mechanics to your advantage. Hostile fleets will often warp or jump into smaller fleets as they have numerical advantage, but if pilots are already aligned and in comfortable range, a kiting fleet has the advantage. Always keep an eye out for long range webbers and scram/web frigates: these should be destroyed first, or kept at range so the fleet can disengage.
Killing ratters is more appropriate for the skirmishers than for the main fleet; use the NPC delta stats on Dotlan to plan a route. Once a ratter has been caught, it is just a question of whether the fleet can kill whatever was caught.
Catching ratters in null can be an excellent source of fun and killmails, but it is almost impossible to catch a ratter that is paying attention and doesn't make mistakes. However, not all nullsec ratters are careful, and when flying effectively, kiting fleets leave them little time to react. There is always luck involved, but there are also plenty of targets to be found. As mentioned above, use the NPC delta stats on Dotlan to find the interesting and active ratting systems.
Groups living in sovereign nullsec have intel channels where they announce every non-blue they spot. As soon as a skirmisher encounters another pilot in local, the fleet's element of surprise should be considered lost, and ratters in the area will be extra careful. It is tricky to not get spotted when travelling long distances, but small fleets can also operate out of a wormhole. With this method, it is possible to jump into a ratting system without being seen in an adjacent system.
Using Dotlan, skirmishers should keep an eye on the distance of the main fleet, but move about on their own. Keep in mind that while you are immune to bubbles, your fleet needs to burn through them, so calculate the extra time in. If there is a combat fleet about, an experienced skirmisher can make the call whether it is engageable or not on his own and act accordingly.
As soon as a skirmisher or other fleet member jumps into a system, ratters will usually dock up or retreat to a POS. Speed is crucial here, so skirmishers will need to be quick to d-scan around for ships and wrecks, and check what sites ratters will most likely be in - this is a matter of practice, and every second counts. Sometimes skirmishers just have to make an educated guess - if they are unlucky, simply move on.
It is helpful to d-scan with the system map up and anomalies showing as this allows skirmishers to directly scan the anomalies. Alternatively, have the "Sensor Overlay" active, which shows anomalies in space.
In systems with ice belts, don't bother waste time with checking d-scan at all. Refresh the display of the anomalies in system and immediately warp to the belt. Some systems have more than one ice belt. In fleets with more than one skirmishing tackler, it is advantageous to communicate who goes to which belt.
Promising systems with active ice mining show up in Dotlan as moderate NPC delta numbers.