Spider tanking is a fleet tactic in which ships mount remote armor repair modules so they can repair each other. Properly managed, this can be extremely powerful. However, there are counter-tactics that can be used by a prepared and thoughtful opponent.
A group of ships, equipped with remote repair units, attacks another fleet in the usual manner. When one of their own ships is attacked, some or most of the group targets that ship with the remote repair units. In this way, the repair power of the whole group can be focused on the one vulnerable ship. When the opposing force switches targets, the repair target also switches.
This is more powerful than having a self-repper ('local tank') on each ship, since for (n) ships, you can get the repair power of (n-1) repping units focused on one ship. Remote reppers also have a faster cycle time, which can make a big difference in combat.
For a discussion of fitting remote repair battleships, with some example fits, see Spider Tanking: Battleships.
Limitations of Spider Tanking
- Buffer needed -- the method works best with battleship groups, since each ship will need sufficient buffer to stay alive while the rest of the group targets them for repairs. Battleships will typically carry at least one 1600mm plate.
- Sub-optimal fits -- Obviously, some high slots on the ships are occupied by repair units. Less obviously, the capacitor requirements of the remote reppers require either a cap booster unit, with limited bulky charges, or other cap-enhancing modules. All this takes away from the offensive capability of the ship. Also, if cap boosters are employed, repair is only available until you run out of booster charges, which are incredibly bulky. (A battleship might fit 15 cap 800 charges in its hold).
- Resists are vital -- A high-resist ship will have a higher sustained defense under repair than a low-resist ship with more buffer.
- Mobility -- A remote repair unit has a very limited range (under 10km). All ships in the group will have to stay together for mutual support. In practice, this means that the ships don't usually move at all. This makes remote repairing gangs briefly vulnerable when they jump through a gate, since they are unlikely to all arrive on the other side within remote repair range of each other.
- Locking limits -- every friendly ship you've targeted is one fewer enemy ship you can target.
- Coordination -- all gang members need to keep track of broadcasted requests for repairs and/or orders over TS or Vent, respond to them by targeting the right allies and activating their repairers, all the while still shooting at the enemy.
- Domino Theory -- any ship you take out of the group weakens it, so once you destroy one of a group of RR ships the remaining ones are easier. It's common for an RR group to end a battle with either no losses or almost total destruction.
There are a number of tactics you can try against a spider-tanked battleship gang.
- ECM, plus lock-time-increasing sensor dampening.
- Widely spread ECM is the best way to mess up a remote repair operation -- you want to spread the ECM out over the whole RR fleet for best effect.
- Increasing lock time with sensor dampeners obviously increases the effect. In a perfect world, every ECM ship would be paired with a dampener buddy to damp ships that had just been jammed -- but that kind of coordination is tough.
- Note that RR gangs often fit ECCM to try to counter this counter -- though this further gimps their fit, using up a valuable midslot.
- RR gangs often also carry flights of ECM drones themselves, to try to jam enemy RR gangs.
- Neuts -- Heavy energy neutralizers on the non-primary target can shut down their remote repair. If they use cap boosters, you'll force them to use up their booster charges.
- Massive firepower -- If your fleet can switch targets and do enough damage to a ship to destroy it before its friends can target it (probably with high alpha), you can pick them off one by one.
- Persistence -- since many fits of this nature rely on cap boosters, force them to use up those boosters. No more cap, no more remote repair.
- Movement: try to control the range of the battle. If they're fit with blasters, fight 'em at 30km. If they're fit with long-range guns, get close. They have to coordinate their movements, and if you're lucky, you might pull one BS out of RR range of the rest of its gang. You can also try to take advantage of of the RR gang's need to stick together by attacking them just after they've jumped through a gate.