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Battlegroups, Squadrons and Fleet Combat

by Noctum

 

This guide will help you understand how to create, maintain, and operate a battlegroup and squadrons. As a starting point, read and understand ‘HELP BATTLEGROUP’, ‘HELP SQUADRON’, ‘HELP NAVCOMMANDS’, ‘HELP FLEETRADAR’, ‘HELP CAPITALRULES’, and ‘HELP ACONFIG’.

 

Not everyone is suited for naval fleet combat. It requires excellent attention to detail, and tolerance of extreme periods of boredom punctuated by alternating brief moments of terror and elation. Try it. See if it’s for you. Don’t get your clan’s battlegroups (BGs) thrown away.

 

Definitions

A battlegroup is a group of three capital ships linked together.

A flagship is the ship you command your wingships from, and must be cruiser-class or larger.

A wingship is a ship that is linked to the flagship, and must be frigate-class or larger.

A squadron is a unit of one or more linked starfighters that moves and engages targets together. You can also use squadrons to conduct unmanned recon of various locations that may be too dangerous to move a battlegroup into.

 

Setting Up Your Battlegroup

Setting up your battlegroup is straightforward. Pick which ships you want to be your flagship and two wingships. Board your first wingship, move to the pilot seat, and type, ‘BATTLEGROUP JOIN (FLAGSHIP’S NAME)’. Move to your flagship’s pilot seat, then enter, ‘BATTLEGROUP (WINGSHIP’S NAME)’. Type ‘BATTLEGROUP’ to verify it is now in your battlegroup. Repeat the process for your other wingship. While setting up your battlegroup, you will need to set the positions of each ship in your battlegroup.

 

A suggested positioning for your group’s ships is: Flagship set to central, wingship #1 set to midguard, and wingship #2 set to outer. We will cover the effects of positioning later. To do this, you must set the position from the pilot’s seat of each ship, using the ‘BATTLEGROUP POSITION (#)’ command where the # is ‘1’ for outer, ‘2’ for midguard, and ‘3’ for central.

 

Let’s set up three aliases for positioning. First one will be named ‘bgin’ with the command ‘BATTLEGROUP POSITION 3’. Second, ‘bgm’ with the command ‘BATTLEGROUP POSITION 2’. Finally, ‘bgo’ with the command ‘BATTLEGROUP POSITION 1’.

 

Let’s quickly create two more aliases that you will use constantly. First is ‘bg’ returning ‘BATTLEGROUP’, and the second is ‘fr’ with returns ‘FLEETRADAR’. The first will display the status of your battlegroup, and fleet radar shows detailed information on all ships in the sector not associated with your battlegroup.

Finally, verify that each of your battlegrouped ships autopilot configuration is properly set and its squadrons are configured. Squadron configuration will be set up later.

 

Rules Governing the Use of Capital-Sized Ships

Before we get too far into the nitty-gritty of fleet operations, you need to understand the rules governing capital ships, as violating these rules is the fastest way there is of getting you in trouble – and having friendly ships destroyed and enemy ships restored because you screwed up. Read and understand ‘HELP CAPITALRULES’. Ask ICly or OCCly if you require clarification.

 

Battlegroup Positioning

Mastering the positioning of battlegrouped ships is one of the most basic but most essential components of successful fleet engagements. Positions may only be changed from the pilot’s seat of each ship. Ships in the outer position may be engaged by the enemy. Ships in the midguard and central positions may not if there is still a ship or squadron in the outer position. Ships must remain within 1000 units of the flagship to keep this protection – straying outside of this limit means that ship is vulnerable to destruction. Starfighter squadrons also count towards this layering, so your squadrons can be set to outer, and prevent the central and midguard ships from being targeted.

 

Battlegroup Commander and Wingship Pilot Roles and Effective Manning

Not every required task in a naval engagement can be completed by the battlegroup commander, so it is highly recommended that each wingship be manned by AT LEAST a pilot. The following guidelines may differ based on clan or battlegroup commander Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) so ensure that everyone is on the same page prior to fleet battles.

 

  1. Battlegroup Commander (BGC) Responsibilities
    1. Understand the tactical situation and react appropriately.
    2. Order Wingship pilots to adjust their positions as necessary.
    3. Move the fleet.
    4. Simultaneously control targeting of enemies for his ship and the battlegroup.
    5. Simultaneously fires weapons of his ship and for the battlegroup.
    6. Changes their ship’s position.
    7. Control squadrons of his ship.
    8. Recharges his shields.
    9. Fires chaff of his ship.

 

  1. Assistant Battlegroup Commander (ABGC) Responsibilities
    Note: This position is optional, but aids in cross-loading some of the task saturation from the BGC. If the ABGC is active, the BGC does not have to do the following.

    1. Simultaneously control targeting of enemies for his ship and the battlegroup.
    2. Simultaneously fires weapons of his ship and for the battlegroup.
    3. Changes their ship’s position.
    4. Control squadrons of his ship.

 

  1. Wingship Pilot (WP) Responsibilities
    1. Change their ship’s position only when ordered.
    2. Recharge shields.
    3. Fire chaff.
    4. Control their squadrons.
    5. Monitor ship status and provide updates to BGC.
    6. Report changes in enemy ship positions.

 

Ideally, the BGC will also have an assistant aboard the flagship to split his responsibilities with. Additionally, all ships may also have repairmen available, to repair battle damage or to constantly repair weapon systems, which resets the ship’s weapons capacitor, allowing for continuous fire of the ship’s weapon systems.

 

Take the time to drill your pilots. In the case of a deliberate mission (i.e. you have the time to prep before engaging,) take the time to fully brief the mission plan to all pilots, brief position orders, and have the pilots adjust the positions of their squadrons prior to launch. Have the pilots run through the position changes a couple times before departing.

 

Basic Do’s and Don’ts for Battlegroups

  • DO keep calm. Take a deep breath once and a while. Fleet combat is stressful with the pure amount of information you must process.
  • DO keep battlegrouped ships a minimum of 500 units apart.
  • DON’T engage the enemy with less than optimal fuel.
  • DO create a lot of aliases for the most common maneuvers and operations.
  • DON’T completely rely on aliases. Know how to issue commands to your battlegroup manually with the ‘BATTLEGROUP NAV (SHIP/ALL) (COMMAND)’ syntax. Be familiar with ‘HELP NAVCOMMANDS’.
  • ALWAYS keep an escape jump plotted as soon as you exit hyperspace.
  • NEVER manually enter navigational commands as a Wingship Pilot. You will get all friendlies killed.

 

Moving Your Battlegroup

Got all that? Good. Now, you need to learn how to maneuver your fleet to crush those evil foes. Your battlegroup should be in orbit of a planet. Now, planets don’t keep you from jumping to hyperspace, but other ships will. So, all the ships in your battlegroup must simultaneously be at least 500 units away from each other before you can jump. First, set up an alias to enable and disable the autopilots across your battlegroup. Start with ‘bgaon’ commanding ‘BATTLEGROUP NAV ALL AUTOPILOT ON;AUTOPILOT ON’ followed by ‘bgaoff’ commanding ‘BATTLEGROUP NAV ALL AUTOPILOT OFF;AUTOPILOT OFF’. Set up an alias named ‘bgsplit’ with the following commands: ‘BATTLEGROUP NAV ALL SPEED (MAX SPEED OF SLOWEST SHIP);SPEED (MAX SPEED OF SLOWEST SHIP);BATTLEGROUP NAV (WINGSHIP 1) VECTOR 50000 0 0; BATTLEGROUP NAV (WINGSHIP 2) VECTOR 0 50000 0; VECTOR 0 0 50000’. This will get all your ships leaving orbit on opposite vectors as quickly as possible.

 

Next, you have to be able to see how far away you are from each other, so go ahead and create another alias named ‘bgp’ with the command, ‘BATTLEGROUP NAV ALL PROXIMITY;PROX’. This will trigger a prox command from each ship in the group, so you can see how far away they are from each other.

 

Note: It is a best practice to always order your own ship to perform commands last, for ease of verification of command acceptance.

 

Now, start calculating your jump. Create an alias named ‘bgcalc’ (I’ll leave this one up to you because syntax varies so widely between clients) to calculate wingship 1 to X+600, wingship 2 to Y+600, and flagship directly to XYZ.

 

Finally, enter jump with an alias named ‘bghyp’ that issues the commands, ‘BATTLEGROUP NAV ALL SPEED 1;SPEED 1;BATTLEGROUP NAV ALL HYPERSPACE;HYP’.

 

Go ahead and set up one more alias named ‘bgc’ with the commands, ‘BATTLEGROUP NAV ALL COURSE %1 %2 %3;COURSE %1 %2 %3’. (This assumes your client uses ‘%1’ type designators to capture arguments after an alias.)

 

 

This is a good time to address the most important aspect of battlegroup command: Energy conservation. Energy is life. A ship that runs out of energy will be destroyed. SOPs should state a minimum acceptable energy level to engage a hostile battlegroup with. Also, keep in mind that you will refuel (very, very slowly) in neutral deep space, and quickly in friendly space. You do NOT need to be in orbit of a planet to fuel, so if you are only stopping to refuel, stay away from orbit. Orbit of a planet is a fatal funnel, and very easy to end up getting pinned there by an enemy fleet.

 

Enemy Fleet Engagement Tactics

Go ahead and setup a couple more aliases. First one named ‘bgt’ with the command, ‘BATTLEGROUP TARGET ALL %1;TARGET %1’. (This assumes your client uses ‘%1’ to capture the first argument after an alias.) This alias will have to be performed from your weapons control station. (This is where an ABGC becomes highly helpful.)

 

Next, setup an alias named ‘bgf’ with the commands: ‘BATTLEGROUP NAV ALL FIRE;FIRE;BATTLEGROUP NAV ALL FIRE LASER; FIRE LASER;BATTLEGROUP NAV ALL FIRE ION;FIRE ION;BATTLEGROUP NAV ALL FIRE MISSILE;FIRE MISSILE;BATTLEGROUP NAV ALL FIRE TORPEDO;FIRE TORPEDO;BATTLEGROUP NAV ALL FIRE ROCKET;FIRE ROCKET’.

 

Your scouts have identified the enemy, and you are planning to engage. Ideally, your scout should be able to report the exact location so you can drop directly on top of them, so you can engage with all weapon systems. However, you only want to do this when you have an energy advantage and you are highly confident that the enemy will not be reinforced, as retreat will likely not be an option. The other alternative is to move to an engagement from in system, by jumping at 2k out, and closing. This allows you to engage with only turbolasers and squadrons first. Movement to contact allows you the option of retreating if the enemy is suddenly reinforced. You should always consider an exit strategy. Maintain 500 units separation, and destroy any enemy squadrons that comes inside that. Also, your own squadrons can fix you. Be ready to scramble or course your squadrons away from you at max speed if you need to quickly escape. A sample target prioritization list follows, however SOPs may contradict this:

  1. Enemy squadrons. (Squadron damage is considerable as it piles on quick and can more easily fix your battlegroup in a grav shadow.)
  2. Known manned enemy small craft within range.
  3. Outer enemy ship.
  4. Escape pods. (These are lower priority only due to them not actually being a threat, however it is guaranteed they are manned.)

Always focus all squadrons and ship fire on a single target. The goal is to destroy a target as quickly as possible. Spam the heck outta fire, and the outer ship should be spamming the heck out of recharge and chaffing as needed. Chaff is finite, so don’t waste it.

 

As your outer ship’s shields get dangerously low and the pilot recharging can’t keep up with the damage, go ahead and order position changes to rotate them in and have your other wing soak damage.

 

Define escape parameters prior to the battle, i.e. “if I lose 1 capital, I am going to retreat.” WPs should not abandon their ship until ordered to do so by the BGC.

With any luck, you will have destroyed all your enemies’ ships. Mop up all hostile smaller ships, and move your fleet to a new set of coordinates to prevent enemy reinforcements from dropping in on you.

 

Blockading and Bombarding Hostile Planets

A common method of blockading planets is to jump into a planet at 2100 units to remain outside of weapons range of the orbital and establish the blockade. This will typically also draw the targeting lock of the orbital, allowing pirates to pirate the planet, helping you take over the planet quickly.

 

If you wish to bombard the planet, use your outer ship to get close to orbit and draw the projectile fire from the orbital. Have it recharge and chaff until the orbital is out of munitions. At this point, it is relatively safe to move to orbit and commence bombardment using the ‘BATTLEGROUP BOMBARD (PLANET)’ command.

Typically, this only should be done if you know the enemy’s battlegroups are not active, or their location is known. You do NOT want to be caught in orbit if a hostile battlegroup decides to engage.

 

Battlegroup Tips, Tricks, and Ideas to Explore on your own

  • You can place your wingships as various planets orbitals, and use your ‘bgp’ alias to simultaneously keep track of incoming/outgoing traffic in each sector.
  • If you are on the defensive, you can dock with your orbital and transfer fuel to your ships.
  • It may be possible to dock with your outer ship and transfer fuel to it, however this is not typically advised, since if your outer ends up going down regardless, the entire battlegroup will fall like dominos.
  • Never willingly fight an even fight. Always overmatch your appointment. It may not always be ships that tilt it in your favor, but skill, quality of ships, skill of WPs, etc.
  • Strive to only engage the enemy with a fully manned fleet.
  • Always use your squadrons in a fleet engagement. They deal a lot of damage and, used correctly, can tip a battle in your favor.
  • Don’t be afraid to use your tractors to halt enemy fighters and escape pods to engage them easier. If you are SURE they are not manned, and you have no friendlies on your hanger deck, you can even capture them with the tractor beams.

 

Setting Up Your Squadrons

Let’s start by creating our basic squadron aliases:

  • sq’: ‘SQUADRON’
  • ‘sqs’: ‘SQUADRON SCRAMBLE 1;SQUADRON SCRAMBLE 2;SQUADRON SCRAMBLE 3’
  • sqr’: ‘OPENBAY ALL;SQUADRON RECALL ALL ON’
  • sqroff’: ‘SQUADRON RECALL ALL OFF;CLOSEBAY ALL’
  • sqin’: ‘SQUADRON POSITION 1 3; SQUADRON POSITION 2 3; SQUADRON POSITION 3 3’
  • sqout’: ‘SQUADRON POSITION 1 1; SQUADRON POSITION 2 1; SQUADRON POSITION 3 1’
  • sqt’: ‘SQUADRON TARGET ALL %1’
  • ‘sqaon’: ‘SQUADRON NAV ALL AUTOPILOT ON’
  • ‘sqaoff’: ‘SQUADRON NAV ALL AUTOPILOT OFF’

 

Next, you should rename your squadrons. I prefer to rename them with ship related prefix (i.e. the Valor’s squadrons would be “Val”) followed by their squadron (i.e. 1-3), and designator (i.e. 1-6.) This would appear as, “Val11” or “Val32”.

 

Add each ship to a squadron as required using the ‘SQUADRON ADD (SQUADRON #) (SHIPNAME)’. Squadrons are currently capped to 3 squadrons of 6 for a max of 18 starfighters per capital ship.

 

NOTE: It makes squadron resupply much easier to have the entire squadron landed in the same bay. You may not have time to do so in combat, but you can re-scramble them, then land the squadrons appropriately once your battlegroup is secured from combat stations.

 

Squadron ships autopilots should be configured with the following parameters: ‘ACONFIG -SENTINEL; ACONFIG +AUTOTRACTOR; ACONFIG +AUTOSHIELD; ACONFIG -NOCAPTURE; ACONFIG -PIRATE; ACONFIG +USECHAFF; ACONFIG +USELASER; ACONFIG +USELAUNCHER; ACONFIG +CLANPOST’. This may change based on clan SOPs.

 

Adjust position to central or outer as your clan SOPs direct, scramble them, and then recall them. (‘sqin’/’sqout’)

Ensure all squadron autopilots are set. (‘sqaon’)

Ensure each squadron starfighter is manually refueled and reloaded with munitions between engagements.

 

Effective Squadron Utilization

You have decisively engaged the enemy, and need to launch your squadrons. Quick, let’s make sure their autopilots are set with ‘sqaon’. Now scramble them with ‘sqs’. As soon as all squadron ships are launched, go ahead and match them to your ordered target with ‘sqt (target)’. Do not forget to ‘CLOSEBAY ALL’ as well. After the battle is complete, activate the recall order with ‘sqr’. Once all ships have landed or if you need to reengage, deactivate the recall with ‘sqroff’. Don’t forget to manually refuel and rearm each starfighter between engagements.

 

Play with the ‘SQUADRON NAV (SHIP) (COMMAND)’ syntax. You can use individual ships as unmanned scouts.

 

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