Pipebombing Campaign (Third Era)

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Operation Tindermoat

The 'Third Era' of Pipebombing took place between Autumn 2013 and Summer 2014. It is also known by the moniker, "Tigers in Winter".

Return to The East

The Second Era had seen the Pipebombing machine wreak destruction in the West of New Eden, during spring and summer of 2013 and including that year's Fountain War.

Meanwhile, in the East, Providence Bloc remained an ally of Rooks and Kings, following the events told in Clarion Call 4. Towards the end of the Second Era pipebomb campaign, news arrived of a 'Cvil War' in Providence. After a series of disagreements (documented here from the CVA perspective and here from the rebels), the alliance Of Sound Mind had begun to wage war with the region's holders. Moreover, Of Sound Mind had issued a rallying cry to larger null-sec entities, encouraging them to come and join the fray. This was not surprising, for Providence had often been a source of action for larger entities requiring combat sustenance in times of relative peace. With the Fountain War of 2013 all but over, groups like Goonswarm had considerable combat forces available, idle and hungry for action.

Helping from Afar

Remembering our assistance to Providence the previous winter, Rooks and Kings were contacted by CVA and VOLT Fleet Commanders (the region holders in Providence) with a view to bringing support to the 'loyalist' forces.

On the morning of August 2nd, the second day of the Civil War in Providence, we logged a spy into CFC/Goonswarm comms and discovered that a large Caracal-based fleet (then a common CFC doctrine) intended to form in Fountain and then head East through high-sec towards Providence, with the intention of aiding the rebel forces. Although we were too far away to assist Providence directly, it became a matter of principle that this fleet should never arrive at their gates. It must instead suffer the same fate that had befallen so many during the summer months:



The news of the fleet's destruction was received well in Providence. In a Twitch stream, we heard their Fleet Commander, Hidetoshi Rushd, relaying the news during a lull in the fighting:

Ostward Bound

With the action dying down in the West and the Providence Civil War raging, we began to consider drawing the curtain on a successful 'Second Era' of Pipebombing and returning to the East. The strike on the Providence-bound Goonswarm fleet had also reminded us that Providence was often a magnet for marauding null-sec forces. This gave seed to the notion of surrounding Providence with a sea of interdictors and Cyno's that would form a 'ring of fire' - Operation Tindermoat.

However, by the time Rooks and Kings had deployed back to the East, the Providence Civil War was over. An amicable settlement had been reached that allowed for the rebels to leave with their belongings, having made a very respectable stand, and for Providence to maintain all of its holdings, having mounted a fine defense.

Operation Tindermoat

Although the Providence Civil War was over, by late September 2013 we had returned to the East and staged in Catch. And thus began Operation Tindermoat.


An Act of Perfect Symmetry

Upon our arrival, our first order of business was to settle an account. A week earlier, Against All Authorities (-A-) had successfully executed a pipebombing on a CVA fleet as they warped to the V-3YG7 Gate in B-3QPD. A short clip from their effort is presented below:

The full clip of Against All Authorities pipebombing CVA is available on Youtube


Although pipebombing by other entities remained unusual, by late 2013 it was certainly not unknown to happen. However, the combination of a successful pipebombing and the fact of their target being our allies, Providence Bloc, meant that we felt a statement should be made. And so, a short time later, the same -A- Fleet Commander who executed their pipebomb was flying a fifty man Battlecruiser fleet through the same system, V-3YG7. And in that same system where their strike had been made, a cyno went up on the same gate, V-3YG7. The moment is preserved in a recording of -A- comms from the lighting of the cyno to the moment of impact:


(The -A- Fleet in warp to the same gate, in the same system, as their own pipebomb)


And so, in that same place as their own victims before them, the fleet was thoroughly routed.

As with other similar strikes, the news was well received by the Providence fleet of the moment:


(As ever, Providence FC Hidetoshi relays news of the strike to his troops)

Digging the 'Moat'

The manual orchestration of Tindermoat

Although the Providence Civil War was already over, the region retained the attention of null-sec. Many groups had relocated with the intention of feasting on the periphery of a conflict. Even though that conflict was no longer being openly fought, many assets of different alliances remained deployed close by. With the Fountain War over and the Halloween War yet to begin in earnest, null-sec forces had few alternatives to keep their troops sharp and their doctrines sound.

Thus it was deemed that Tindermoat was still a viable concept. The plan called for dozens of pipebomb traps to be seeded in every possible route, waiting for hungry null-sec fleets that might (opportunistically) join the battle against the local forces. Given the considerable number of bridging Titans that had been seeded around Providence and Catch by the larger groups, it was also deemed essential to cover key infrastructure within systems (I-hubs, stations, etc.) to catch fleets as they warped between objectives after arriving via Titan bridge.

Such grand designs require gesticulating Generals, map rooms and good cigars. And so, a White Board was ordered and Lucky was put in charge of keeping track of the movements of our many cynos and interdictors.

Freeport 9UY

Not long after our arrival, the key Providence system of 9UY4-H was attacked. This initiative was spearheaded by Insidious Empire (EMP), who were aiding NOIR. and Of Sound Mind. Although the civil war was over, a new objective appeared to be in their sights: an attempt to capture the central system of 9UY4-H and turn its station into a 'Freeport'.

Freeport stations allow any entity of any standing to dock and use the facilities. In a region like Providence, rife with roaming gangs and fleets, such an action would be both a significant logistical boon for the region's enemies and a bold statement in itself.

Naturally, the Sovereignty Blockade Units (SBUs) in 9UY-H presented a fine opportunity for a pipebombing.

The Fateful route taken by EMP forces


From their base in nearby Assah, Insidious Empire (EMP) set out with a large (if unorthodox) shield Brutix fleet to defend their SBUs and continue their assault on the system for the next round of timers. Providence's defense fleet was already in place for the timers presently exiting reinforced mode, and so the pressure was on EMP to hurry to the battle. Despite having only four jumps to fly, during the journey disaster struck them in the form of Eldareth's bubble trap.

The subsequent pipebomb routed the fleet, with even the heavy tanked Vulture Command Ship of EMP's FC, Phreeze, melting in the fire.

Indeed, the searing impact on the server was so intense that it unintentionally also destroyed a second fleet: for whilst the strike was unfolding, Of Sound Mind had attempted a bombing run on Providence's forces in preparation for the primary assault by EMP. We later learned that the net-code aftershock of the nearby pipebombing had left their stealth bombers unable to fire or cloak at the key moment, leading to their demise.

The moment of impact as the EMP fleet hits the bubble
Providence forces formed up early and strong to kill an Of Sound Mind safe tower placed into reinforce the night before, which they successfully killed before turning their attention to the onlining SBUs. SOUND and NMG bombers provided harassment while EMP subcaps formed, but the subcaps were pipe-bomped by Rooks and Kings on their way into the system. The resulting time dilation killed half the bombers, who were mid-run at the moment - TMC

Onlining SBUs were killed and the timers were reset. The conflict continued in the weeks that followed but Providence held fast and resisted attempts to 'Freeport' the station of 9UY.

Too Short a Storm

Taken as a whole, the strategic situation did provide opportunities for pipebomb strikes. As expected, these actions were often against third-party groups who were drawn to the sound of conflict and consequently pipebombed. This particular period saw a prevalence of shield doctrines (Ishtars, Moas, Brutix) which had an EM damage hole, meaning that the EM-flavoured smartbombing Abaddon was the hull of choice. An exception was the shield tanked Muninn, which was best cut down with pipebombing Rokhs. This was the case when Razor Alliance brought a Muninn fleet to Providence. Their last moments are recorded below:

Pipebombing of a Muninn Fleet


(Recording of Razor comms during the pipebombing of their Muninn Fleet)


However, before Tindermoat could be fully realised, the general activity in the region had already begun to recede. Providence Bloc had secured 9UY and the looming Halloween War (encompassing battles such as B-R) occupied the attention of Null-Sec. This left the region in a state of relative peace-time and we looked further afield in the Catch region for potential targets.

Narrative Strikes

In the months that followed, pipebombing targets were increasingly selected for their 'narrative' value.

Battleships versus Bombers

One of the major developments in Eve during this time period was the near ubiquitous presence of swarms of Stealth Bombers during any large engagement. Several of the battles in 9UYH-4 involved more third-party bombing wings than actual protagonists. This limited the use of traditional Battleship doctrines of RnK such as the 'Golden Fleet'. Although extreme EHP via Slave Sets and faction hulls mitigated the outright damage, and Micro Jump Drives sometimes allowed for its evasion altogether, the fact remained that enough bomber wings could wear down even the heaviest tanked battleship fleet given enough time and numbers (and especially whilst the battleships were engaged with other targets).

However, pipebombing is, of course, a doctrine that also utilises a 'battleship hull' and therefore pipebomb strikes against Stealth Bombers allowed the battleship some measure of 'revenge'. Such actions had occurred relatively often during the Second Era of pipebombing and a fresh opportunity presented itself in the form of a growing Catch conflict around E-YJ8G.

"..N3 sent a 'Gokufleet' (sig-tanking stealth bombers) to the battle, which was intercepted and pipebombed by Rooks and Kings en route, sending 66 ships and associated pods down in flames. This is the first major Rooks and Kings pipebombing in this conflict thus far. R&K repeatedly pipebombed both sides in the recent Fountain conflict, so their presence now means that each bloc must be more careful about inline fleetwarps." - Ostfront report, TMC

A recording of the engagement is available below. Those who wish to avoid the preamble should skip to the 10:00 minute mark, shortly before the fleet meets its doom. The encounter is especially notable for the fact that the scout has his game-sound playing through speakers (or else very loud on headphones). As he arrives in the pipebomb, the thundering noise of the explosions almost drowns out his warning. The result a little akin to a runner charging into the artillery of No Man's Land and disappearing into the fog.

"Uh-oh, I'm dead, I'm dead! Goodnight!" - a forlorn scout of J6QB-P

(Skip to 10:00 for the beginning of their last warp)

However, there was little appetite for a persistent role in this specific Catch conflict. The search continued instead for strikes of a narrative value.

Bait and Switch

A fleet with two scouts watching every out-gate and a Fleet Commander using a freshly made bounce spot on each warp. The hunt for elusive prey --> Coming soon.

The Little House on the Prairie

The final strike of the Third Era. See The Full Page Here: The Little House on the Prairie

'This Is Eve' Video

Until the spring of 2014, HERO Coalition remained the only coalition not to have been targeted by pipebombing at some point. This was partly due to the fact that HERO was a relatively new force in the game and specialised in bringing 'fresh blood' into Eve. We reasoned that using such an oblique weapon against them might be somewhat unfair.

However, by this time Pipebombing had - paradoxically - become something of an alluring experience for new players, many of whom had watched videos featuring the tactic. The idea that at any moment their fleet might end in a sudden, brutal fireball, intrigued them. And so we began to wonder which part was more unfair: to target them or to deprive them of a spectacle? Naturally, the latter won out. To allay concerns of excessive force, a fairly narrow window of time was assigned to the hunt. And thus on April 15th, April 23rd and April 24, HERO Coalition were pipebombed.

This flurry of action might well have been the end of it. Then, a month later, a HERO fleet was seen undertaking Sov work in Catch. As it happened, we were keeping tabs on the fleet. The purpose of this was to assess the viability of a small collection of alts (to be called 'Brave Police') for RnK to hunt with in Catch. Although that project never came to pass, our presence in the fleet allowed us to witness them extensively speculating that Rooks and Kings were no longer watching and that the skies were now safe. In the second point they were not wrong but to the first, RnK was indeed watching. Adding to the 'narrative call' for a strike, there was also the allure of a challenge: the fleet required to make only two warps to reach safety, first a warp to the HED-GP gate and then a warp to the Jump Bridge within HED-GP.

The first of these warps proved to be their last.

Yet, in death, the HERO fleet achieved an unexpected measure of immortality, for the killing later formed a centerpiece of CCP's "This Is Eve" trailer. Even the buoyant "Op Success!" proclamation, uttered moments before disaster, later became something of a catchphrase:



Understandably, the events as presented in the official trailer were somewhat sanitised. A full version of the pipebomb, and all the swearing associated with it, is available below:



The third episode of CCP's 'O7' show contains a section (starting at 14:10 in the video below) that details the reproduction of the pipebomb in the trailer footage:

Tigers in Winter

Campaign Artwork by Nozaj

In pipebombing, recognition is often specifically directed on those pilots performing the Interdictor and Cyno roles. Early strikes in the campaign were primarily executed by the traditional Eldareth & Lord Maldoror combination and the 'Next Generation' pipebombing force of Skrubs, Marillio and Skuggan (all of whom had destroyed fleets extensively in the Second Era of pipebombing).

The strikes around the winter of 2013/14 involved a wider cast of those who were learning the techniques. Skrubs, Skuggan, Egosession, Lucky, Princess Aricia, John Caffeine, Marillio and Korhag were the 'Tigers in Winter'. Their names were added to a piece of artwork created for the occasion. Four categories were recognised:

Snare - The Interdictor/Bubble role
Spark - Lighting the Cyno
Hunter - Dual-boxing both Snare & Spark roles.
Scope - Tracking a Fleet

Skrubs achieved the largest number of notches on his virtual gun barrel, with eight 'Hunter' counts. He was followed closely by Skuggan.

In addition to the pilots mentioned above, who were tasked with crafting the traps, the usual core of Mesh, Agent Xer0, Eelm and John were on hand to oversee proceedings and help in the smartbombing roles. The era also saw the return of Linkeleo to active service.

As in the campaigns before it, all pipebomb fleets in the Third Era were FC'd by Lord Maldoror, who speculated in Autumn 2014 that it might be the last time that he would take exclusive command of a lengthy initiative.

Assessment

CCP Facebook meme on Pipebombing

By the standards of most Eve campaigns, 'Third Era' pipebombing was successful: it operated at an extreme efficiency, achieved both strategic objectives and narratives strikes, spawned its own Eve memes ('Op Success!'), scaled the heights of /r/Eve and other social media and created memorable moments for both hunter and prey alike. Server performance and extreme Time Dilation remained an obstacle. As before, every now and then a pipebomb would simply fail to ignite due to the impossibility of lighting more than one or two (of eight) smartbombs per ship, under certain instances of extreme lag. Equally, though, in such situations the targeted fleet was unable to inflict significant damage on the pipebombers and usually still look a larger number of losses than we did. As such, lag simply had to be accepted as an operational hazard of pipebombing, which occasionally would lead to an aborted or imperfect strike.

Two pipebomb threads simultaneously topping /r/Eve (and a third at no.6)

Despite its successes, however, the Third Era of pipebombing faced challenges that previous pipebombing campaigns had not. For much of the time period covered by the Third Era, New Eden found itself in an unprecedented stalemate between coalitions. Pipebombing thrives on chaos and conflict. Such an environment ensures the presence of large fleets to hunt. Conflict also entails the reinforcement of infrastructure and this generates structure-timers, which in turn provide a time and a place for those large fleets to be. The absence of these conditions was coupled with increasing time restraints for the members of RnK, who faced both increasing responsibilities in life outside Eve and exhaustion from years of pipebombing. This favoured short bursts of activity rather than long stretches of sustained destruction.

Another consequence of this was that not every fleet pipebombed in this period would previously have been considered suitable 'pipebomb fodder'. A mid-sized roaming Ishtar fleet, for example, might previously have been dealt with by other means. But the combination of being the only prey 'on the table' on the chosen evening of the week for hunting (that fact itself being the pressure of time constraints), and the elusiveness of the nano-Ishtar doctrine for a small group to thoroughly rout by conventional methods, meant that some groups were probably rather harshly pipebombed.

Nonetheless, the pipebombing weapon remained a bright, burning beacon of violence against a backdrop of political agreements, standings and blue-lists in the New Eden of the day.