The question is certainly one of importance because there has been a sizeable market for Sniper HACs, particularly Muninns and Zealots. The concern over this has caused somewhat of a stir in the Eve Community and bloggers have gone to the internets to voice their opinions. Ripard Teg makes some of the clear points as to why this is the case here in his blog: http://jestertrek.blogspot.com/2011/12/thought-experiment-eagle.html.
So, are Eve pilots right to be concerned?
Well, let’s analyze the problem first, because the answer may be more convoluted than informative. The release of the Tier 3 battlecruisers was in response to the need to be able to participate better against capital and supercapital ships in combat fleets. This move was combined with changes to supercarriers, titans, fighters, and bombers. The resulting plan was to give new pilots the capacity to join major fleets and not get immediately erased or have to bow out because they couldn’t bring anything of note.
The Tier 3 Battlecruisers thus have the following advantages:
- High DPS due to the use of Battleship class weapons and bonuses.
- Low Skill requirements for the Tier 3 BC which allows a new pilot to be useful in about a month.
- Lower cost of manufacturer means that new pilots won’t have to expend as much isk to be combat ready.
These advantages were to be countered by some pretty strong disadvantages:
- Lower PG and CPU causing the ships to have smaller than BC typical tanks
- Battlecruiser sized Signature radius
- Battlecruiser class Scan resolution
- Battleship Class weapons maintain tracking levels and signature resolutions
- Battlecruiser mass and speed making it more difficult to move and escape
Technically, the advantage/disadvantage ratio still allows for Sniper HACs to have a role in combat field operations. Ships like the Muninn, have a similar sized tank but have smaller signature radius and fly faster. Their base ship hulls also give them better tracking and better locking options, which in turn, make them more viable against a wider variety of targets. The weaker tank of the Tier 3 Battlecruisers also make them vulnerable to non-typical fleet ships like Assault Frigates, Sniper HACs, Short Range HACs and Cruisers. So definately on paper this looks like a very balanced addition to the EVE.
But is it? That is the harder question and one that really can’t be answered until more time has passed. The reason for this two fold: First, Sniper HACs do have some significant advantages over the Tier 3 that aren’t often utilized in Fleet battles. For example, one such advantage is the Sniper HACs ability to lock and fire sooner and quicker than the Tier 3 Battlecruisers, while having similar BS level damage. The other reason is based on how fleets and individual pilots move within those fleets. If you have two contending fleets, a pilot well knows that at long range, your ability to go fast isn’t going to do you much good, but at close range it could be a vital aspect. The reverse is also true in that just because you have a high rate of transvelocity to one enemy ship, another ship on the other side of the enemy fleet may see your transvelocity as almost nil, allowing you to be hit even by large Battleship turrets.
Now, going on a bit of theorycrafting here.. I will say that I do not think the Tier 3 Battlecruisers actually take the Sniper HACs role, but I will say that the definitiveness of the Sniper HAC will not be seen clearly until FC figure out tactics that can seperate them. Oddly enough, I don’t think it would be all that hard because Sniper HACs can do what Tier 3 Battlecruisers do and more, and it isn’t the other way around. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if FCs kept the two groups seperated though, mixing the Tier 3 BCs with Battleships and keeping Sniper HACs as an entity of their own, for use in taking out enemy Tier 3 BCs quickly.
But again, that is just theory. We’ll see what the truth of combat will bring.