The single most popular request in my inbox is for me to do a Stealth Bomber build. The allure is obvious - the ability to sneak up on an unsuspecting opponent only to pounce at the perfect moment is, indeed, appealing. However, as anyone who has taken them into combat can tell you, they can be devilishly tricky ships to fly, and arguably harder to fit. As a result, today I will be offering not one, but two builds for my favorite of the Stealth Bomber class - the Hound.
THE SHIP: THE HOUND
To do this ship justice, I will need to break my typical pattern of discussing targets and designing a ship to hunt them. The Hound - and its stealthy kin - is simply such an unusual beast that we need to fully understand its abilities before we can hope to forge it into a suitable weapon.
The most notable ability of the Stealth Bomber class is its unique ability to not only fit Covert Ops Cloaking Devices, but to ignore the 30 second target locking delay that is normally imposed on ships after decloaking. While cruisers like the Blackbird or Bellicose are also able to use these cloaking devices - and thus able to move and warp while cloaked from enemy sensors - when they deactivate their cloak, they have to wait half a minute (an eternity in a combat situation) until they are able to lock a target and meaningfully engage in combat.
The Hound and its ilk, however, can immediately lock and attack a target upon decloaking. This gives it a huge tactical advantage - it can stalk its prey, waiting to pounce until it is at its ideal range and the moment is right. Many targets which would be impossible for other ships to tackle - ratters kiting far from the warp-in point, miners aligned and ready to warp before a cruiser could start to lock - are easy pickings for the stealthy Hound.
The cloaking abilities of the Hound are an unqualified asset. Its second special ability - fitting medium torpedoes - is more of a mixed bag. On the plus side, medium torpedoes have impressive DPS (the Hound can potentially top 300 - very impressive for a frigate) and decent range (past 15km). This results in a fitting screen that can really take your breath away - the ship seems like the perfect weapon: frigate size and speed, cruiser DPS and a covert ops cloak! What's not to like?
The answer to that question reveals itself the first time you take the ship into combat and try to use medium torpedoes against another frigate. Turns out that the huge explosion radius and low explosion velocity makes using medium torpedoes against anything short of a battlecruiser is a bit like trying to swat a fly with a Howitzer: devastating in theory, pathetic in practice.
This puts the Hound pilot in a difficult position. If he fits torpedoes, he is effectively forced to hunt cruisers and battlecruisers to have any hope of dealing effective damage - but then cruisers and battlecruisers will often be too tough for a lone Stealth Bomber to kill. Or, the bomber can forego its most powerful weapons, and instead choose to fit, say, small missiles in order to deal effective - but far lower - damage against targets its own size.
This is hot garbage. Don't use it.
A TALE OF TWO HOUNDS
This decision of how to fit the Hound really comes down to the choice of weapon systems. You can fit torpedoes, in which case you need to hunt ships bigger and tougher than you, or you can fit missiles, in which case you should aim for smaller ships.
Here is how I would fit each:
HIGHS: 3x Caldari Navy Medium Torpedo Launchers
MIDS: 2x Interruptive Warp Disruptors
LOWS: Mk7 Cov Ops Cloak, 'Trapper" Shield Extender, 'Scout' Afterburner
RIGS: Warhead Rigor Catalyst x2, 2x Auxiliary Thrusters
The Torp Hound is relatively straightforward. I went with Caldari Navy Medium Torps, which are quite cheap. Dual disruptors in the midslots maximize our chance of catching our target (in the current meta, its almost a necessity). In the lows, I found an Afterburner to be the most effective - since you are hunting larger targets and have a cloak, you should be able to get in range and use it to speed tank damage. A small extender rounds out the package with some extra hit points. For the lows, Warhead Rigor Catalysts improve real-world DPS better than the standard DPS rigs, and for much cheaper.
HIGHS: 'Challenger' Rapid Medium Missile, 2x Caldari Navy Light Missile
MIDS: 2x Interruptive Warp Disruptor
LOWS: Mk 7 Cov Ops Cloak, Basic Damage Control, Mk 7 Afterburner
RIGS: Warhead Calefaction, Loading Bay Accelerator, 2x Auxiliary Thrusters
The Missile Hound is a less... traditional fit. Since we are giving up any skill bonuses by fitting non-standard weapons, I chose to fit a single Rapid Medium Missile beside 2 Caldari Navy Light Missiles. This gives a bit more DPS - valuable when you need to quickly finish off your opponent before they are able to escape.
That choice makes the rest of the fitting VERY tight - as you can see, my skills JUST BARELY let it squeeze in under the cap. We are forced to downgrade to a Mk 7 Afterburner and a Damage Control in order to cram everything in. This causes a slight decrease in both speed and survivability - but this ship isn't meant to hunt tough targets anyway. The standard DPS rigs round out the build.
WHICH SHOULD YOU FLY?
Well, that's the question, isn't it? Each has its own strengths - as well as a host of weaknesses. The Torp build has the potential to take down cruisers and even battlecruisers (provided they aren't particularly well fit). But taking on such large prey will almost certainly come with a high risk of death - run into a cruiser fit for combat with a couple of Stasis Webs and its all over for you.
The missile build will certainly give you more reliable results, albeit against much more modest targets. The main limitation of the build is its damage - 126 DPS will be able to kill industrials, frigates, some destroyer and trainer cruisers, but larger than that and your prey will be able to win the damage race against you and pop your ship before you pop his.
In effect, the Hound can be used to gank weak targets with minimal risk of dying (since they don't shoot back), or to pirate tough targets with a high risk of dying if you pick the wrong one. Which you prefer will depend upon tolerance your personality (and wallet) has for risk.
BETTER WITH A FRIEND
As much as I enjoy and advocate for solo PvP, my experience with the Hound - and other Stealth Bombers - is that they really coming into their own when flown in a fleet. They are fantastic tacklers - able to grab targets that no other ship could catch - but they struggle to seal the deal.
A couple friends hiding in system or just beyond a nearby gate quickly changes that equation. Now the Hound can signal the fleet to warp to him before decloaking, then decloak and grab the target just before his allies appear to pin the target down. Alone, the stealth bomber is in a furious race to finish the target before his own hit points are depleted. With a team, his job is just to get the fleet to the target and hold it down until the fleet can pin it down - any damage the bomber does is just icing on the cake.
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