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The Blackbird: Death By Electronic Warfare

Updated Mon, Feb 08, 2010 by Space Junkie

Why Fly The Blackbird?

The blackbird is an electronic warfare specialized Caldari cruiser that fills a support role in PVP fleets. It tends to cost around two million isk in an area with a healthy economy. In addition to the excellent tactical advantage that it offers for such a low price, it is also one of the best PVP options for new players to pursue. This is because the skills needed to fly it effectively take weeks rather than months to train. The nature of the ECM electronic warfare used by the blackbird is such that it acts as a force multiplier when used to obtain ewar superiority against enemy fleets, allowing otherwise outclassed fleets to obtain victory.

Blackbirds are especially appealing to newer players that are interested in making a difference in fleet fights, but have not played for long enough to get into bigger or more specialized ships.

This is a very newbie-oriented guide to the nuts and bolts of fitting and flying the blackbird. I have tried to include as much exposition as possible so that the reader will understand the rationale underlying various decisions.

Fitting The Blackbird

As with all ship fittings, a blackbird pilot must make several choices, and every choice involves a trade-off. There is no one "right way" to fit any ship, and it is always better to custom-tailor a ship fitting to the exact circumstances that it will be facing. With that in mind, I present the following general fitting outlines and the explanations for those choices.

-3 Assault Missile Launcher I
-1 Salvager I

In the high-slots should be missile launchers, as they do not require capacitor or much attention, and they are usually the weapon system of choice for Caldari ships. The choice is between the following three missile systems (weapon ranges are skill-based and approximate):

•Heavy Missile Launcher: A heavier, longer-range (~37km) launcher for shooting cruiser-sized or larger targets.
•Heavy Assault Missile Launcher: A close-range (~9km), high damage launcher for shooting cruiser-sized or larger targets.
•Assault Missile Launcher: A medium-range (~20km), low damage launcher that specializes in shooting fast frigates. Because this is also the optimal weapon system for shooting at the ships that are most likely to "tackle" a blackbird and turn it into a pretty explosion, this is what I recommend fitting. It is also the best system for dealing with drones, which are a significant threat to blackbirds even when their enemies are jammed.

If one really is not worried about a blackbird's longevity, a pilot may opt for heavy missiles in order to add a very small amount of damage support that will be able to reach out to a decent enough range to perhaps hit an enemy. In reality, a blackbird is not going to dish out enough damage to turn the tide in any battle, so my advice is to view the missiles as a last-ditch tool for self-preservation, rather than a contributor to the total damage output of a fleet.

That Extra High-Slot

The "extra" high-slot that cannot be used for missiles may be used for whatever a pilot likes. Consider it a bonus. Depending on skills and how much room for fitting is left over once everything else is in place, the module may need to be offline. Believe it or not, this is all right. If the module is only going to be used outside of combat and danger, a combat module or two can be off-lined to free up enough CPU and grid for its usage, and then re-onlined once the need has passed. Options for fitting this extra module include:

Salvager I: Newer players often have income flow problems. Salvaging the debris leftovers of a huge battle can provide a delicious isk infusion for even veteran players, making this a strong choice.

Cynosural Field Generator I: If a blackbird pilot is in a corporation or alliance large enough to have capital ships, this rather pricey module can be used to allow allied capital ships to jump to the battlefield. Extra "cynos" are always appreciated by groups that use capital fleets. On the other hand, if there are not capitals waiting on stand-by, this module will not be useful.

Medium Remote Armor Repair System I: "Armor reps," as these are sometimes called, are always in demand after a fight. They save money and time, depending on where one is fighting, and allow a blackbird pilot's friends to prepare for the next fight. Note that these cannot be used to repair the ship that is equipped with them, they are an entirely teamwork-oriented module. In areas that have safe stations to dock in, these are less important.

-1 10mn Microwarpdrive
-5 ECM modules of various types

The Microwarpdrive, or "MWD" as it is commonly called, is the single most prevalent module type in PVP. It increases ship speed to five times what it normally is, but at a tremendous cost of capacitor, fitting space, and increased signature radius. Signature radius is a rough estimate of how big a ship is. The larger a "sig" the more damage a ship will take from missiles or turrets, and the faster other ships lock onto it. Despite these drawbacks, the MWD is essential for getting ships into position for fighting, escaping enemies, and approaching targets.

On a blackbird, the MWD is needed for getting to proper ranges around a gate before a fight, running away from potential threats that are getting too close, and maintaining the desired distance from a battle so that it can jam as much as possible without being too close to the action. Because of the high cost of using the module, blackbird pilots should take care to only use it when necessary. The technique of occasionally turning on and off a Microwarpdrive (or its lesser cousin, the Afterburner) is called "pulsing," and is a valuable technique for saving capacitor. Alternatively, an Afterburner (a.k.a. "AB") may be used. This module only doubles ship speed, but does not carry any of the penalties that MWDs do

The ECM modules are the most important part of the fitting. It is recommended that a blackbird be fit with only two races of jammers. If a pilot fits one or two ECM modules for each race, he is likely to get confused. If a pilot fits all multispectral ECM modules, he is crippling his effectiveness. But if he picks two races to victimize, fits accordingly, and manages his jams properly, he is likely to keep two or three ships of those races jammed more or less constantly for an entire battle.

I usually choose to jam Minmatar and Amarr ships, because the former are so popular in PVP, and the latter is presently undergoing something of a renaissance. Many ECM users will fit Caldari for the purpose of disabling enemy ECM ships and gaining electronic warfare superiority. There is no wrong choice here, really, just preference.

If at all possible, use tech two or named versions of the jamming modules. Pilots using tech one ECM modules will likely find themselves having capacitor problems, and making due with less range.

Optionally, this fitting may be altered by swapping out an ECM module for a Sensor Booster I (or better). This will increase the speed at which targets are locked, and also the maximum range at which they may be targeted. These bonuses are useful because blackbirds need to jam targets before too much damage is inflicted, and to switch targets as quickly as possible amidst the chaos of battle. The targeting range bonus is useful because when used with decent skills, ECM modules can actually be effective at distances farther than the Blackbird can normally lock. Sensor Boosters may also be used with scripts, which specialize the module in solely lock speed or targeting range. The targeting range script is particularly useful if a Blackbird pilot wishes to jam from as far away from a battle as possible, in order to decrease the amount of risk to which it is exposed.

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