Strategic cruisers (also 'Tech 3 cruisers' or 'T3Cs') are the evolution of Sleeper technology into the currently known technology base. In practical terms, they are expensive, powerful, and extremely customizable cruiser-sized ships.
Strategic cruisers have four subsystem slots designed to create a single ship, each holding a part of the ship's basic layout and carrying its own set of bonuses. No strategic cruiser can be fielded if it lacks any of the four subsystem slots. Each race has developed their own set of subsystems for each ship, and these subsystems are not interchangeable between different races' strategic cruisers. Each subsystem has an associated skill, which when combined provide Strategic Cruisers with many more bonuses than any other ships. However, all this comes at a price: if a Strategic Cruiser is destroyed, its pilot will lose one level of a randomly chosen subsystem skill from it.
To further improve their flexibility, strategic cruisers are also the only ships capable of having Rigs removed from them without destroying them, allowing a single strat cruiser hull to completely refit and change its role in a matter of seconds. To encourage on-the-fly reconfigurations (using a Mobile Depot for example), they also come with an extra cargo bay specially for storing subsystems. And to further encourage pushing the ships to their limits in the field, the main strategic cruiser skill itself does not provide direct combat bonuses, but in stead reduces the Overheat damage sustained by the ship's modules, and increases the speed of using Nanite Repair Paste to repair overheat damage.
It takes a lot of effort to build a strategic cruiser, 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 are not available outside of Dangerous or Deadly Unknown systems.
The following are the strategic cruisers, by race:
- 1 Subsystems
- 2 Capabilities and Uses
- 3 History
- 4 See Also
A Strategic Cruiser is built out of the hull itself and four Subsystems. Each of the four subsystems has three variations. One subsystem of each of the four types is required to complete the ship. Subsystems can be exchanged and replaced at will either in a station or via a Mobile Depot. (And, to this end, all Strategic Cruisers have an extra cargo bay that can hold three subsystems for field refitting.)
As you may have noticed if you looked up a strategic cruiser in-game, they have very few attributes. The slot layout, hardpoints, hitpoints, drone bay, and cargohold of a strategic cruiser are all determined by the combination of subsystems you choose.
Every subsystem has an associated skill. If you lose a Strategic Cruiser, you will lose one level of your racial subsystem skill at random (note that this is the only way to lose skill points in the game).
The offensive subsystems give your ship its primary weapon slots, whether launcher or turret hardpoints. They always give 7 high slots. The bonuses provided by these modules include CPU and Powergrid capacity, weapon rate of fire, damage, tracking, range, and fitting, drone control capacity, and drone bay size. All Strategic Cruisers have one Offensive Subsystem option which provides bonuses to either Remote Armor or Shield repair systems (or both, for the Loki) and allows fitting Command Bursts.
The defensive subsystems can give either High, Mid, or Low slots. They also give your ship its armor, shield, and structure hit points, and its signature radius. These modules also offer a bonus to a defensive aspect of your ship (HP, shield regeneration, local repair effectiveness, etc.) based on the module, and improve the effects of Overheating some type of defensive module. All Strategic Cruisers have at one Defensive Subsystem option that gives one extra High slot, allows the hull to fit a Covert Ops cloaking device, and provides bonuses to Scanner Probes and hacking modules.
The core subsystems generally gives Mid and Low slots. They also give your ship its base CPU, PWG, Capacitor, and Sensory capabilities such as scan resolution or targeting range. All Strategic Cruisers have one Core Subsystem option which improves some form of their electronic warfare capabilities, and (further) reduces the heat damage sustained by Overheating their modules.
The propulsion subsystems give your ship its base in agility and speed. They generally give you mid slots, and 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 microwarpdrive penalties, and warp speed. All Strategic Cruisers have one Propulsion Subsystem option that penalizes the ship in various ways, but increases its warp speed and allows the ship to ignore the effects of non-targeted interdiction.
Capabilities and Uses
So, what are these expensive ships good for? Before discussing practical in-game uses, let's review some potential T3C capabilities:
- Tough tanks. All T3Cs 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). They can be as tanky as T1 Battleships if fit properly.
- High DPS. Compared to other Cruiser hulls, T3Cs can put out battleship-level DPS if fit properly.
- CovOps cloaking. All T3Cs can be fitted to warp while cloaked like a Covert Ops or a Force Recon ship.
- Bubble immunity. All T3Cs 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, T3Cs can achieve very high sensor strengths and small signature radii, and thus become possible to probe only with the highest of probing skills.
- Fleet Command bonuses. The dedicated Command Ships come with a hull bonus of 3% per level to the effect of two racial warfare links. The T3Cs can't fit as many warfare links at once as a Command Ship, but with the right subsystem they can have a 2% per level bonus to the effect of three racial links.
- Slow-cooking. All T3Cs 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. They also have bonuses to module repair speed using Nanite Repair Paste. This allows for significantly longer overheating time for less drawback.
- EWAR. Each of the T3Cs has a subsystem that gives them a bonus to some form of electronic support. (Neutralizers for Legion, Webs for Loki, Warp Disruptor/Scrambler for Proteus, ECM for Tengu.) This lets them work as either electronic warfare vessels or long-ranged tacklers. These bonuses are not as strong as the bonuses for the Force Recon Ships, however they can often be added on to a T3C's other abilities, rather than forcing the entire ship be built around them.
Achieving any of these requires trade-offs and sacrifices, of course. But that point itself touches on what might be T3C ships' strongest point: since they're so customizable, 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 T3Cs:
T3Cs 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.
T3Cs 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 T3C 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 T3Cs can dispatch weaker targets solo.
T3Cs can mount fairly ridiculous buffer tanks, pushing over 300,000 effective hitpoints with the right subsystems, skills and implants. Alternatively, they can mount similarly ridiculous active tanks, able to shrug off several thousand DPS and resist all attempts to neutralize their capacitors (short of literally dropping full neutralizer-rack battleship on them). In these configurations, they make great (if expensive) bait.
With their 2% bonus to racial warfare links, T3Cs can give a fleet very substantial bonuses.
All T3Cs can be fitted for either remote armor or shield repairs (racially dependent, or both for the Loki), and can output comparable remote repairs to a regular logistics cruiser, while maintaining greater capacitor stability (with no cap chain involved) and effective hitpoints. And because logi T3Cs are fitted with 7 Medium remote repair modules, rather than 3 or 4 Large modules, they have much greater flexibility in shifting target and repair priorities.
Fitted with an interdiction nullifier subsystem, warp core stabilizers, and a covert ops cloak, a T3C can cheerfully stroll through most camps. This is useful for scouting, traveling through dangerous nullsec or moving small, high-value items which don't justify a jump freighter through Nullsec. T3Cs are the only ships that can ignore bubbles AND covert ops cloak.
It's a bit boring compared to some of the other potential uses, but a T3C can just slot into a PvP gang as a tougher, more expensive HAC which can overheat for longer.
That said however, these T3C fits can often easily be combined with the EWAR subsystem to turn a Legion into a HAC with neutralizers, a Loki into a HAC with extremely long-range webs, a Proteus into a HAC with long-range tackle, or a Tengu into a HAC with high-power ECM jammers.
Keeping the Enemy Guessing
Because a T3C can fill so many different roles, a fleet containing many T3Cs can be very difficult for an enemy to read, and key members (EWAR, command bursts, logistics) must be manually identified, rather than just looking at the ship type. This can cause the enemy to waste time on inefficient targets while trying to determine who their actual priorities should be.
Strategic cruisers have been rebalanced in the July 2017 expansion which was released on July 11, 2017.