As you may already know, ratting in nullsec is one of the fastest ways to gain security status. However, for those not in a nullsec alliance, nullsec ratting can be quite challenging, as not only must they have enough DPS and tank to kill NPCs, but they must also be able to stay (relatively) safe while doing so.
Several ship classes can meet these criteria to greater or lesser degrees, but one greatly neglected type is the stealth bomber. Stealth bombers are cloaky T2 frigates that have battleship class firepower but less EHP (effective hit points) than rookie ships. The cloakiness and impressive firepower clearly are desirable traits, yet the paper thin hull poses quite a problem.
The most obvious way to attempt to solve this is to speed tank: simply orbit the NPC battleships at around 50 km, fire torpedoes at them, and use a microwarpdrive to stay away from the battleships’ smaller escorts. However, this method is very ineffective, as NPC cruisers hit MWDing bombers quite easily, and one mistake will put a stealth bomber in armor or hull (and repairing can be difficult while deep in nullsec).
So at first glance, this lack of tank appears to make stealth bombers unsuitable for ratting. But the stealth bomber has a special method of tanking that few others have: stealth tanking (yes, I coined the term). Stealth tanking is strategically using your cloak to prevent enemies from getting a chance to even target you (obviously this does not work against Sleepers, who can see through cloaks). This takes advantage of the fact that stealth bombers have no module/targeting reactivation delay after uncloaking, and can recloak after fifteen seconds. The concept is quite simple, but some quirks in NPC targeting behavior make this more complicated than it appears. Here is how to ninja rat.
Choosing an appropriate ship. Select a stealth bomber with damage bonuses against the NPCs that you plan on killing. For example, use a Purifier on Sansha rats and a Hound on Angel rats. Fit a target painter to increase DPS and a MWD to help you escape bubbles and increase your mobility.
Warping. Once you have reached a suitable nullsec system for ratting, set a custom warp distance of 10 km (do this by right clicking on your “warp to” button and changing the default from 0 to 10,000). Why 10 km? Warping to 0 can be dangerous, as everyone lands at that range. Warping to 100 km is another favorite warp range, and it places you too far away from the rats. And warping to anywhere between 20 and 70 km will usually land you amidst the asteroids, causing you to decloak and start bouncing off of asteroids. Warping to 10 km, on the other hand, places you just inside the asteroid belt’s circle while staying clear of the very center.
Landing in a belt. If you get decloaked upon warping in at 10 km, move away and recloak as soon as possible. If the belt has scrambling frigates (“loyal” frigates for Sansha), then move on to another belt. If you get scrambled, you will die nearly instantly. If you arrive at a belt and find that you are too far away, you can decloak, MWD closer, and recloak after 15 seconds before getting targeted (I will explain why in an upcoming blog post).
Attacking. Once you cloaked are in a belt with battleship rats, you can begin attacking. Uncloak, fire two volleys, and recloak right after the second volley is fired. Wait 15 seconds before repeating the process. You can cloak while your second volley is still en route to the target because your launcher and painter still finish their cycles after recloaking. However, you will need to get to within around 30 km of the rats, because if the launcher and painter finish their cycle before your torpedos hit, the torpedoes will simply vanish without inflicting any damage.
Ninja ratting is a fairly exacting art, as you cannot simply warp in, activate all your modules, and wait for the NPCs to die. But what benefits do stealth bombers have in comparison to other ships? Here are a few:
Safety. Stealth bombers, like their covert ops cousins, are among the best ships for getting through gatecamps. In addition, if you are jumped while ratting, it is quite easy to get to safety by cloaking and warping off. You can also scout out areas while cloaked, which other ships cannot do.
DPS. Stealth bombers can kill most NPC battleships in 6 volleys. In addition, NPCs do not repair damage taken while you are cloaked.
Speed. Being frigates, stealth bombers can outrun larger ships both in and out of warp.
Low cost. First, cheaply fit stealth bombers cost a mere 30 mil ISK, a price comparable to T1 cruisers. Second, they only use three torpedoes per volley; at 6 volleys per battleship and 100 ISK per torpedo, you only spend 1800 ISK per battleship on ammo. And third, repair costs for stealth bombers are extremely small, around 40,000-80,000 ISK to fully repair hull and armor damage.
In conclusion, if you are planning on ratting in hostile nullsec, consider using stealth bombers, as they are safe, powerful, fast, and cheap.
I hope this guide has been helpful; please leave any thoughts, suggestions, and questions in the comments below.