The battle was fought over a League of Unaligned Master Pilots’ Astrahus citadel deployed on the SF-XJS gate in the system. The structure was set to finish its deployment stage that night and become operational. The DRF was not willing to tolerate a hostile structure in its own territory and formed to eliminate it. Taking a lesson from the bitter fighting in Tenal, the DRF reportedly gathered 460 pilots in 3 fleets; A Machariel battleship fleet, a Proteus strategic cruiser fleet and a Cerberus heavy assault cruiser fleet.
First in the system was the Proteus fleet. It had set up on a perch above the SF-XJS gate, as this was League of Unaligned Master Pilots’ only point of entry. Residents had also anchored large mobile warp disruption fields around the gate itself so as to trap the hostile fleet once it jumped in. League of Unaligned Master Pilots and its allies formed a joint 150 pilot Gila cruiser fleet in response. The force bridged to the SF-XJS system and jumped in. The Gilas quickly uncloaked and anchored up, moving away from the gate and unleashing their drone swarm to remove some of the mobile warp disruption fields.
At this point, DRF stealth bombers descended upon the Gila fleet, launching a mixed payload of void and electron bombs. The void bombs hit the cruisers, draining the capacitor of many while the electron bombs detonated, unleashing a potentially deadly electromagnetic wave that damaged many of the ships. In the aftermath, though, the bombing run proved ineffective and only claimed a couple of casualties.
With the Gila fleet “softened” by the bombing run, the DRF Proteus fleet warped down from its perch, landing 70 kilometers away from the cruisers and opening fire. Beam laser batteries and railguns started hammering away at the LUMPY cruisers who retaliated, sending their swarm of drones after the strategic cruisers. The horde of drones took a while to travel, but once it arrived at its designated target it tore it apart with great ferocity. The cloud of drones kept traveling, swarming strategic cruiser after strategic cruiser and devouring them whole with the logistics wing simply ignored.
In contrast, the strategic cruisers were having a hard time tracking the Gilas. Using 100MN afterburners and staying out of the optimal range of the Proteus fleet’s guns, the Gilas were a hard target to hit due to their small signature and great speed. Before the battle could become a one sided slaughter, though, DRF reinforcements arrived on the field.
The Machariel and Cerberus fleets both landed on the grid and got into optimal range of the Gila fleet to begin adding their firepower to the mix. The flights of missiles and artillery shell barrages soon overwhelmed the cruisers, taking a toll on the defenders. With DRF bombers swooping in again with fresh payloads, the Gila fleet started losing mainline ships. Artillery shells penetrated shields, crashing against the vulnerable hulls beneath. Missiles exploded in firestorms to incinerate ships. Regardless of this hail of fire, the Gila fleet continued to fight, focusing on the Proteus fleet.
The trade between the two sides continued for a few minutes, mainline ships from both sides disappearing from overviews only to emerge as wrecks a moment later. Yet if in the beginning the Gila fleet had commanded the field, as the battle progressed it found itself losing ground. The exchange grew uneven, this time favoring the DRF side as the Gila fleet lost 2, sometimes 3 mainline ships for each of the strategic cruisers it managed to destroy. The Machariel fleet in particular was able to keep pace with the nimble cruisers, its artillery cannons quite adept at tracking and dispatching the cruisers.
With losses mounting, the Gila fleet decided to re-group and warped to a ping below the gate. Once all ships managed to withdraw from the direct line of fire of the DRF, the fleet itself warped off, leaving the gate grid behind and headed to a deep safe in the system.
Yet the DRF had little time to breathe. Only a few minutes passed before the conflict flared again, this time with Pandemic Legion [-10.0] joining the fray. Pandemic Legion had knowledge of the timer and decided to form for it, bringing a 75 pilot Proteus fleet with several titans and super capitals in tow. The alliance brought its fleet to SF-XJS and jumped into HB-5L3. It was soon confronted by the DRF Machariel and Cerberus fleets, the two sides opening fire immediately and starting their fight.
At the same time, the Proteus fleet of the DRF was tied down over the Astrahus of League of Unaligned Master Pilots. The fleet had set up on the citadel, only to find itself under attack by the Gila fleet which came to defend the structure. The two fleets clashed once more, with the Proteus fleet finding itself again at a huge disadvantage. A repeat of the start of the previous fight occurred, as the Gila drones flew into the ranks of the strategic cruisers, shredding them while the Proteus fleet was unable to offer much resistance.
At the SF-XJS gate, the Pandemic Legion Proteus fleet anchored up and started burning towards the DRF Machariel fleet, ignoring the Cerberus fleet. The Machariels opened fire on the strategic cruisers, their artillery cannons spitting shell after shell into the hostile formation. The strategic cruisers attempted to withstand the bombardment, but one after another caved in and exploded in bright flashes of orange. The Pandemic Legion fleet fired back throughout its charge, but was unable to inflict similar losses on its opposition.
As time wore on, the fight on the Astrahus became dire for the DRF. Its Proteus fleet had suffered heavy casualties, inflicting only minor losses on the Gila fleet in return. The Gilas showed no mercy and pressed their attacks, forcing the DRF Cerberus fleet to the strategic cruisers’ aid. The Cerberus fleet warped off the gate, landed near the citadel and joined the fray.
Even with 2 fleets, the DRF was unable to combat the Gilas effectively. The loss of strategic cruisers continued uninterrupted, further diminishing the firepower at the DRF’s possession. At the same time, the Pandemic Legion Proteus fleet had stopped its attempts to fight the Machariel fleet, instead clearing out of the remaining warp disruption fields and warping off. The force intended to land on top of the Cerberus fleet. This left the Machariel fleet to harass the Pandemic Legion super capitals on the gate. The Machariel fleet focused on a Rorqual industrial capital ship, hammering into it with its entire force. The ship quickly lost its shields, the artillery shells exploding against its armor. As the ship started to lose structure, it activated its Pulse Activated Nexus Invulnerability Core (Commonly referred to as PANIC mode) module, becoming impervious to the Machariel fleet’s attacks.
The Pandemic Legion Proteus fleet in the meantime landed on the Cerberus fleet, snagging a few stragglers as the entire force warped off. The DRF Proteus fleet itself also retreated, the majority of its force destroyed in the fighting on the Astrahus. This left the Machariel fleet to contend with the Pandemic Legion and League of Unaligned Master Pilots’ forces. The Machariel fleet warped to the Astrahaus grid, landing at long distance of the fight but then decided to withdraw after firing a few rounds. This allowed the Astrahus to finish anchoring and become operational without a problem. The structure entered its scheduled invulnerability period, securing the strategic objective for the defenders.
With the field seemingly won, League of Unaligned Master Pilots and Pandemic Legion extracted their forces. The two jumped back to the SF-XJS system and warped their fleets off the grid. Pandemic Legion also started warping off its super capitals when DRF interdictors decided to make a play for them. The interdictors managed to deploy warp interdiction probes over a group of super capitals, and were soon joined by the DRF Machariel fleet.
Before the DRF could have its revenge, Pandemic Legion forces warped back to the HB-5L3 gate. The Pandemic Legion titans started firing their Boson fields, damaging many of the battleships and forcing the entire fleet to jump back to HB-5L3 or be destroyed. With the Machariel fleet gone, the rest of the Pandemic Legion super capitals were safely extracted, bringing the fight to a close.
The Battle from the Perspective of the Drone Regions Federation Machariel Fleet
Battle report for the HB-5L3 and SF-XJS systems can be found here.
All told the battle lasted an hour with Time Dilation not reported and the system hosting an estimated 600 pilots at the peak of the fighting.
The DRF lost a total of 202 ships in the fighting, including 20 battleships, 54 strategic cruisers and 13 heavy assault cruisers for a total of 62.75 billion ISK damage.
Pandemic Legion and League of Unaligned Master Pilots lost combined 61 ships including 4 strategic cruisers and 24 cruisers for a total of 16.73 billion ISK damage.
Salivan Harddin is a member of V0LTA, WE FORM V0LTA, and covers battles across New Eden