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The Probe is large compared to most Minmatar frigates and is considered a good scout and cargo-runner. Uncharacteristically for a Minmatar ship, its hard outer coating makes it difficult to destroy, while the limited weapon hardpoints force it to rely on drone assistance if engaged in combat.
Minmatar Frigate bonuses (per skill level):
The Probe is the Minmatar Exploration Frigate. Like all Tech I exploration frigates, the Probe receives skill-dependent bonuses to scanner probe strength. The Probe excels at locating cosmic signatures in all security levels of space. The Probe also receives a role bonus (independent of pilot skill level) to relic and data analyzer virus strength, which helps the Probe pilot crack exploration sites. With these two bonuses, the Probe is a strong starter frigate for Minmatar pilots interested in Exploration. And while Probe pilots eventually skill into Tech II Covert Ops exploration ships (like the Cheetah), there isn’t much exploration content that the Probe can’t complete.
The Probe has four mid slots available for exploration and propulsion modules. Like any exploration frigate, the Probe’s mids are usually fit with a microwarpdrive and a data and relic analyzer, which leaves one slot free for an additional assistance module—typically a Scan Rangefinding Array. (You might be tempted to put a shield extender here for defense, but a tackled explorer is a dead explorer, and shield extenders make you easier to tackle by increasing signature radius.) Low slots are best fit with inertial stabilizers and/or a warp stabilizer for faster escapes. Keep in mind that warp stabilizers reduce lock range and speed; having more than one makes locking exploration sites uncomfortably slow.
The exploration Probe is also commonly fitted with a Compact or Improved Cloaking Device, so that the ship can cloak while probing signatures in unsafe space. The Probe cannot, however, fit a Covert Ops Cloaking Device. So, when cloaked, it cannot warp and suffers a significant penalty to speed.
Tech I exploration frigates have the largest cargo capacity of any frigate. This makes the Probe a speedy freight courier and distribution mission runner. By fitting the ship with expanded cargohold modules and cargohold optimization rigs, it is possible to build a Probe that can carry over 1200 m3 of cargo. Or, by exchanging some of these for warp stabs, the Probe can be made into a low-sec courier that can evade insta-pointing gate camps.
The Probe can be fit for combat probing, by using an Expanded Probe Launcher in place of the standard Core Probe Launcher. However, combat probing requires considerably greater in-game and pilot skill than site probing. Successful combat probers need to be able to locate targets in a single quick scan, or at most two. Pilots that have the Astrometrics skill levels required to do this, and have the experience necessary to use D-Scan intelligence to pinpoint those targets before scanning, are typically already trained into Covert Ops frigates anyway.
While it is possible to explore with very minimal skills, having at least Astrometrics III, Astrometric Rangefinding II, Archaeology II, and Hacking II will make exploring much more enjoyable. Power Grid Management III and Jury Rigging I will help with getting a basic functional fit. The author does not recommend a serious attempt at exploration without these minimum skills. Also keep in mind that training the racial frigate skill will significantly improve your probe scanning strength.
New exploration Probe pilots should read the UniWiki guides to Exploration and Bookmarks, as well as attend Bookmarking 101 and Exploration 101 practicals, to learn tips and tricks from veteran explorers.
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