ECM: Electronic Warfare For Newbies

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What Is ECM?

ECM is an abbreviation for electronic countermeasures, one of the four major kinds of electronic warfare in EVE, and is sometimes abbreviated as ewar. It is the most popular form of electronic warfare for PVP in EVE. It enjoys this popularity because when used correctly, it always makes a significant difference in battles. Other kinds of electronic warfare often have too narrow a target group or are not effective enough to enjoy such widespread use.

How it works: Each mid-slot ECM module has a percentile chance of succeeding at jamming a target, based on what kind of ECM module you are using, what kind of ship you are flying, and the sensor strength of the target. Sensor strength is a special value that each ship in has, that determines how resistant that ship is to being jammed. Sensor strength can be augmented by defensive modules. There are different kinds of ECM modules, including a group that specializes in jamming each of the four races in EVE, and two kinds with more general applicability.

Newer players often choose ECM modules because they can level the playing field with more skilled players by keeping those player's ships jammed and unable to function during battles. Nothing is more frustrating than being jammed for an entire fight. It's like being a spectator, except there's a good chance of getting blown up.

There's a certain delicious schadenfreude to using a month-old character to electronically castrate a four-year veteran of EVE, and I recommend ECM to any newer player seeking to get his feet wet with PVP.

What Ships Use ECM?

Because ECM is so powerful, it is balanced to only be effective when used by ship that is specialized for that purpose. All ECM ships are Caldari. This is because each race specializes in a kind of electronic warfare, and Caldari luck out with the best kind.

There are several ECM-using ships that are relatively easy to train into: the Griffin frigate, the Blackbird cruiser, and the Scorpion battleship. Tech two ECM ships require more advanced skills to use. They are: the Kitsune electronic attack frigate, the Falcon recon cruiser, and the Rook recon cruiser.

The blackbird is recommended as the most balanced, accessible ECM-using ship. Flying a blackbird will give you a good idea of what ECM is like, without breaking the bank or putzing around in an all-too-fragile frigate.

Help, I'm Jammed!

When a ship is jammed, it unlocks any targets that it has previously acquired, and cannot lock new targets until the jam wears off. Jams normally elapse after twenty seconds, but ECM modules can continue to be used against a jammed ship, potentially reseting the jam timer so that the targeted ship will need to wait another twenty seconds before it is able to lock again.

Even if they are able to function somewhat while jammed, the vast majority of ships lose the greater part of their effectiveness when jammed. This is why ECM is so amazing.

The Many Flavors of ECM

There are six basic kinds of ECM. All are mid-slot modules. The first two kinds are Multispectral ECM and ECM Burst.

Multispectral ECM: Multispectrals are not specialized in jamming any particular race. They have a mediocre chance of jamming any particular ship, but are better than using the wrong kind of ECM against a ship. Multispectral ECM is usually eschewed in favor of the more specialized varieties. This is because it is better to have a good chance of keeping two ships of the right race jammed, than to futz around with only possibly jamming a given ship. ECM ships will sometimes fit a single multispectral as a contingency, though this is a very real performance trade-off over a racial ECM variety.

ECM Burst: ECM burst modules have a very high chance of jamming ships, but only do so in a 6500 meter radius. They also jam without distinguishing friend from foe, potentially jamming nearby allies. On the plus side, they are able to function even while the ship using them is jammed. These are the one ECM module that is powerful enough to be used with ships that are not specialized in ECM. Unfortunately, ECM bursts are notoriously capacitor-intensive, making them unsuitable for use on frigates and many cruisers. Because of their limiting range and the high amounts of capacitor required to use them, these are the least common variety of ECM.

The other four kinds of ECM are each specialized in jamming a particular race. Against that race they have a very high chance of effectiveness, but are almost useless against the other races. The naming scheme for these jammers is somewhat confusing. For example, the jammers used against Amarr ships are found in the market browser under "radar jammers" because Amarr use radar for their sensors. But the actual modules in that category are named with variations of "White Noise". The races, their ECM category, and the associated modules are shown below.

Amarr: Radar ECM, White Noise modules.
Caldari: Gravimetric ECM, Spatial Destabilizer modules.
Gallente: Magnetometric ECM, Ion Field modules.
Minmatar: Ladar ECM, Phase Inversion modules.

These jammers have a much higher chance of jamming their particular race, but are almost useless against other races. The module images are color coded by race to make them easier to keep track of in-game. When a ship is locked, a small icon appears along the upper edge of the screen. That icon is color-coded according to the race of the locked ship. With a little bit of practice, players shouldn't have too much trouble matching the correct ECM variety to targets.

Using ECM

When selecting ECM targets, you want to target ships that you have a good chance of jamming and that you think will most hurt the enemy fleet by being jammed. Common targets include other ECM ships, battleships of the appropriate race, and enemy frigates that have ships in your fleet tackled (targeted with a warp disruptor to keep them from leaving). For this last kind of target, some coordination with your friends may be necessary.

Because the chance of successfully jamming a ship reduces significantly if the target is outside of your ECM modules' optimal ranges, you should pick targets within or as close to your optimal range as possible. Like using turrets, the farther a target is from one's optimal range, the less effective the ECM module will be.

Time the activation of your ECM modules so that you do not waste them. If a ship is jammed for fifteen more seconds, you should wait until just before the jam ends before activating another batch of jammers against him. You may be able to juggle a secondary target, and send spare ECM jams his way whenever you get lucky with your primary target.

Always have at least two or three spare targets locked in case you jam your primary target and have some spare ECM to spread around. Make sure these are of the appropriate race for your jammers!

Learn the names of the most commonly encountered PVP ships, and what race they are. This will allow you to more easily find targets when jammed. You may want to make a list of battleships or battlecruisers of the races you prefer to jam, and keep it handy when fighting.

How Screwed Is A Jammed Ship?

Turret ships -that is, ships that use lasers, blasters, rail guns, autocannons, or artillery- are almost completely unable to function while jammed. They need to lock a ship in order to shoot it. Many turret ships will be able to release flights of drones even while jammed, but these will not be nearly as effective as if they could use their turrets.

Missile ships are similarly screwed, but have recourse to F.O.F. missiles. F.O.F. missiles, also known as friend-or-foe missiles, are an unpalatable alternative to normal missiles that exist for each missile launcher type. F.O.F. missiles do drastically reduced damage, but can fire without being locked onto a ship in particular. Unfortunately, this means that they are not particular about their targets. In fact, the missiles are fired randomly, dispensed without rhyme or reason amongst ships and drones that have recently attacked you. This means that if you fire five missiles, you have no guarantee that they will hit the ship that is jamming you. Rather, some will hit that ship, some will hit drones, and some will hit other ships.
However, some damage is better than none, and responsible missile-users carry a small amount of F.O.F. missiles, just in case. Each in-game missile description includes the name of the F.O.F. missile equivalent.

Drone-using ships fare somewhat better against ECM, as drones will continue attacking a target even if their controller becomes jammed. A jammed ship can still release drones and they will automatically attack one of the ships or drones that is attacking the controlling ship. However, a jammed ship cannot pick and choose his drone targets, and may suffer some difficulty getting them to attack the desired target. If drones are already released and attacking, jamming that ship will not get rid of or scatter them. Rather, it will only prevent him from ordering the drones to attack a different target.

What Prevents Jamming?

Because most offensive modules require a lock in order to function, ships that use them are usually nullified by being jammed. This includes tackling gear like warp disruptors and stasis webs, as well as other forms of electronic warfare (including ECM). The notable exceptions to this are as follows:

Smartbombs: Smartbombs are high-slot modules that work by causing damage in an immediate radius around the ship that uses them. This does not require a lock, and can cause serious damage. It is avoided by staying more than 6500 meters away from the ship that is using them.

Bombs: Bombs are launched from a high-slot bomb launcher that can only be used by stealth bomber ships. They do not require a lock in order to function. These bombs are very dangerous, and most ECM ships will want to warp away if they see a bomb appear on their overview within twenty kilometers. If you warp away before they detonate, you will be safe.

ECM Burst: As mentioned above, this module functions normally even on a ship that has been jammed.

ECM-Related Modules

There are several modules that can help protect against ECM, and one module that improves its function.

Signal Distortion Amplifier: This low-slot module increases the range and effectiveness of your ECM weapons by 10%. This means that it improves the strength of each ECM module successfully achieving a jam, as well as increasing the range at which your ECM is effective. These are must-fit modules for most ECM-using ships.

ECCM: Each of the ECM types has a counterpart of ECCM, which is an abbreviation for electronic counter-countermeasures. These are mid-slot modules that increase the sensor strength of the ship that uses them, thus decreasing the chance that an ECM module will achieve a jam. There is a generalized ECCM - Omni module that is usable on all ships, an ECCM Projector module that bolsters a targeted ship's sensor strength a great deal, and four racial kinds of ECCM that correspond to the four categories of racial ECM (see The Many Flavors of ECM, above). Each of these significantly reduces the chance of a given ECM module cycle achieving a successful jam (usually by about 50%), but uses valuable mid-slots.

Backup Arrays: These are low-slot modules that increase sensor strength in a manner similar to ECCM, but their bonus is somewhat more modest. The more limited protection offered by these modules is balanced by being fit in the low-slot, because they are usually less precious than mid-slots. There are racial and general flavors of these, as with ECCM.

In addition to these, there is an entire category of Electronics Superiority rigs that can modify ECM-using ships to be more effective. Because using these penalizes your shields, you should carefully weigh the pros and cons of each rig before buying it and modifying your ship.

Go Forth And Conquer

ECM is an essential part of every fleet, and by using it you increase a fleet's overall effectiveness. ECM pilots are always in demand by PVP corporations, though more elite organizations may prefer pilots that fly the more advanced ECM ships. Nevertheless, once you have the hang of ECM, you are a PVP commodity that most corporations would be happy to have.

Next: Flying The Blackbird

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