Bombing tactics :: bubble-less bombing
Before I get into the specifics of bombing runs let's first review some bombing basics. Bombs are unique weapons in eve that can only be launched from stealth bombers using the bomb launcher module. They also can only be used in null security space. A launched bomb will travel for 10 seconds at a speed of 3km/s with a 15km explosion radius. As such a bomb after getting launched will travel 30km and then hit everything in a 15km radius. So if a bomber uncloaks and launches a bomb and it is 15-45km's from you you might get hit by that bomb depending at what direction he launches it.
The damage of a bomb is influenced by the ship skill bonus giving a 5% bonus per level for a specific bomb type. At max level the bomb will do 8000 raw damage of any of the 4 resistance types. The damage is applied based on the signature radius of the target getting damaged. The explosion radius of the bomb will get compared to the signature radius of the ship and damage diminished by the result. A bomb itself will have an explosion radius of 400.
This formula is dmg = 8000 / (400/target sig). As such if for instance a ship with a sig radius of 200 is hit the raw damage done by the bomb will be 4000. This is why turning off MWD's is so stressed when getting hit by bombs, since a MWD increases a ships signature by 500%. Where normally a frigate has a signature of about 30, with a MWD running that becomes 150. In terms of bomb damage that's a difference between 600 raw damage and 3076 raw damage.
A bomb itself is highly resistant to it's own damage type but doesn't have a lot of HP. As such if you do the math you will find out a bomb can survive 6 max skill blasts of it's own type. Which means that in max-skill bombing runs only 7 bombs would survive. It however doesn't hurt to have more bombs in the run, you will always have people in non-ideal racial ships doing less damage or people without covert ops V. So anything between 7-10 pilots for a single run should be good for doing near maximum damage.
It should be mentioned that there are advanced bombing formations where by playing with the overlap of the launched bombs you can squeeze in more bombs into a single run. Think for instance of the shape of a 2 circle ven diagram where each circle represent a 7 man bomb run each. It would create a 14 bomb explosion in the overlapped section of the formation.
One important final note is that a bomb does not go off if the ship it launched gets destroyed. The bomb will do damage regardless of whether you are on grid or not, so not being on grid is certainly the safer of the two options.
So now that we've reviewed the essentials of how bombs work let's look at how to deliver these bombs to target ships.
Generally when you want to bomb a fleet moving around you want to setup a bombing run on a gate, you will typically setup a bubble around 20 to 50km's in-front of the gate in line with the expected in-gate of the target fleet. Normally for stop bubbles you want to position the bubble 70-100km's from the gate, but by positioning the bubble much closer to the gate you tempt the enemy fleet to burn to the gate given that it's only 20-50km's to burn. Because it's a stop bubble this will mean the fleet will actually burn trough the bubble with MWD's activated to cover grounds quickly. At that point you launch bombs appropriately leading the fleet for maximum damage.
Any half-decent FC will however recognize this setup and avoid it with ease. A scout will report the bubble and the fleet will simply bounce via a tactical bookmark on the gate or a bounce provided by the scout in question.
As such we get to the more evolved form of bombing, by not using the bubble and as such hiding the impending bombing run.
The trick of this technique is bombing the fleet as they land on grid, but before they go trough the gate. In this time there is a short window of opportunity where they can get hit by area of effect damage in the same way smart bombing gate camps work.
About 2 years ago I re-invented this bombing strategy where you bomb a fleet from absolute cover. I say re-invented because by no means did I actually invent it, it has been in existence for quite a while but is a very niche strategy so isn't often seen. So far I've only ever seen of sound mind apply this technique, but I'm sure it's a known technique for quite a few people.
The trick of it is to get setup on a gate 35-30km's away aligned to a warpable celestial like a belt, moon or planet or even an on/off-grid bookmark. The gate you setup must ideally be as far away as possible or at the very least a few AU away from the in-gate of the enemy fleet.
Then you have one person in fleet watch d-scan on long range and the FC watch d-scan on a specific distance. This closer distance is essentially the distance at which a ship in warp will take about 10 seconds to land on grid. Then when a scout checks the outgate he will report it clear of bubbles and ships and hopefully the fleet will warp to 0 on the gate. When the fleet appears on longscan you decloak the bombers, then when they appear on short-scan you launch bombs and warp off. Receive bacon.
There is however a downside to this technique. No microwarp bloom. The ships in warp will obviously not have their microwarp running, so damage will be much lower then if they had. Below graph shows some rough damage numbers. Obviously there is a lot of variance between fits and ship types so the signature and EHP listed per class is only the most simplest of indications.
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However as we can see in this chart, the only real viable targets are frigates, destroyers, lightly tanked shield cruisers, recons and attack battlecruisers. Because of this it is always important to consider resist holes of homogeneous fleets. Generally speaking EM or TH is the best damage type for this setup because these are generally the worst on shield fit ships and lightly tanked shield fleets are the target of choice for this strategy. If however your entire fleet can fly Manticores but not purifiers or Nemesises then you might want to go for kinetic bombs regardless.
This strategy however worked by virtue of the warp deceleration being the same for all ships. No matter if it's a frigate fleet or a battle cruiser fleet a single d-scan distance worked for all. With Rubicon this has now changed so I went to SiSi and did some science.
After launching about 70 bombs at various classes of ships I've gotten the data to determine the d-scan ranges that will work per ship class type. The below graph shows the result of those bombing tests, with the Y-axis showing the d-scan distance used and the X-axis being the warp speed of the target ship.
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From the results we can see that we can reliably hit ships traveling between 3 and 4 AU at a d-scan distance of roughly 1,000,000 km's. That more or less covers battlecruisers and cruisers. Then for frigates and destroyers we should extend the range to 100,000,000 km's. Then to hit interceptors and covert-ops ships we extend it again to 500,000,000.
I hope this information can prove useful to people. Feel free to use the content of this blog post in whatever way you want.