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'Sniper' is the term used for a ship, most commonly a battleship or HAC, fitted in a way that allows it to engage and destroy targets at long ranges. It is generally used in PvP setups, although engaging NPCs at long range (a tactic usually referred to as 'kiting') can be effective too.
The Rokh and Apocalypse, fitted with large railguns and beam lasers respectively, are commonly considered to be the best sniping battleships due to their range bonus, with even a Tech 1 fitted Rokh being able to engage at ranges that other snipers require Tech 2 modules to reach. The Megathron, Maelstrom and Tempest are also common sniping ships. The Raven is also sometimes used due to the long range of Cruise Missiles, although the delay between a missile launching and its arrival at the target puts it at a disadvantage compared to the instantaneous damage dealt by turret snipers.
Sniping HACs follow a similar pattern, with the Eagle, Zealot and Muninn all popular choices due to the optimal range bonus granted to these hulls by the Heavy Assault Ships skill. Like the Raven, the Cerberus has the range to be used as a sniping missile HAC but suffers from the same problem of delayed damage.
While less common, there are other classes of ships that can be use as sniping platforms. Sniper-fit Battlecruisers can perform a similar role to HACs, but with the exception of the Tier 3 battlecruisers (particularly the Naga) and to a lesser extent, the Ferox, are generally not capable of engaging at the same ranges. Destroyers are theoretically intended as a sniping ship, as they have a 50% optimal range bonus built into the hull, but only the Cormorant has the range to hit much beyond 60km and the low DPS and EHP of the destroyers mean that they are generally regarded as a poor ship class for PvP.
Tactics and Strategy
Sniping Battleships are most commonly used in large-scale battles, and most large alliances regard the Tech 2-fitted sniping battleship to be the core of their sub-capital fleet, commonly encouraging their members to fly them above all other shiptypes. Fleets of sniper battleships can often reach into the hundreds of players. Range is of critical importance in fleet combat - a fleet of ships capable of hitting opponents 150km away has a vast advantage over an opposing fleet which is only capable of hitting to 100km if it can maintain that distance for the duration of the combat. Acquiring precise warp-ins for a sniper fleet using probes and covert ops frigates is therefore an important aspect of sniper fleet combat, as it enables the snipers to preserve their optimal range advantage.
A typical sniper will fit all of its available highslots with Tech II long range turrets or launchers, due to the fact that their optimal range can be further enhanced by long-range Tech II ammunition. Tech I or named weapons are not uncommon, but snipers fitted with Tech I have a range disadvantage compared to Tech II. Sniping ships will commonly feature one or more sensor booster modules and (in the case of turret-based snipers) tracking computers in their free midslots to increase the optimal range of their turrets and locking range, and two or more damage modules in their lowslots to increase the effectiveness of their guns.
Any remaining slots not required for fitting modules will commonly be fitted with Shield Extenders or armour plates and shield or armour hardeners, to increase the effective hitpoints of the ship. Snipers do not usually have active tanks, instead relying on their effective hitpoints buffer or remote repairs from logistics cruisers to keep the ship alive long enough to warp out.
Carriers and other drone-based ships such as the Ishtar can also be used as snipers of a kind by deploying sentry drones, and in some dedicated setups fitting modules to increase their engagement zone and optimal range, although as sentry drones are immobile this means that they risk being left behind if the drone ship has to align or move during the course of the battle. Sentry sniping also has the disadvantage that, unlike turrets fitted to the ship itself, sentry drones can be individually targeted and destroyed by return fire in order to reduce the damage output of the sniper.
Sniping can also be used as a means of ratting by warping to pre-set bookmarks in an asteroid belt, or by warping into asteroid belts at range and warping between asteroids in the belt to keep hostile NPCs at range. This practice is not very popular due to the much lower DPS of sniper fits over short range fitted ships, and because even at short range NPC belt pirates generally inflict relatively low rates of damage which can be handled by tanking modules, but it does work.