Lowlife: Attrition WarfareNiden
Water breaks stone. Entire continents are eroded and shaped by its patient and endless determination.
An artist chips away slowly, revealing his masterpiece. One strike of the hammer and chisel at a time; never ending, never resting. The end result is ever in his mind.
The attrition army uses its main advantage: numbers. A never ending stream of troops into the breach will break even the most well equipped and trained force. Eroding and chipping away until nothing but a desolate wasteland remains.
“You can’t stop me. I spend thirty thousand men a month.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte
The world got a taste of the horrors of true attrition warfare during World War I. On the western front, a life was not measured in hours, days or years. It was measured by the few yards it would purchase – only to be lost the following day. As the troops perished in the killing fields, more were brought in to take their place. Armies ground each other to dust with dreadfully cold certainty. By the time the war was over, hundreds of thousands had shuffled off this mortal coil along the front.
The principle of attrition warfare remains very much alive in EVE Online. Especially in Faction Warfare. Veteran militia strategists have long learned the value of flying cheap and relentless. Hotly contested systems often see kills in the hundreds daily. Unlike those poor infantrymen of the Great War, capsuleers don’t pay with their lives however.
Null security space entities tend to deploy on campaigns, in between which they return to their pastures and restock. Highsec wars are often short lived affairs, fought by amateurs. When compared with these conflict types, FW lowsec is war without end. As such it is far more barbaric and practical.
What exactly is attrition warfare, and why is it done?
It is often said that undocking is half the battle. A derp Atron (fondly referred to as the Derptron) on grid is better than a fleet of Ishtars docked up. This is the main problem the attrition warfare doctrine attempts to solve.
Attrition fleets in Faction Warfare are almost exclusively composed of cheap frigates or destroyers. Budget fit with low-meta modules that virtually anyone can fly. As such it is an incredibly flexible and reliable strategic tool. Unlike fleets that are comprised of more extravagant ships, a fleet of the economic variety can be assembled and undocked at the drop of a hat.
The nature of the ships flown allows the ranks to be filled with speed. The ability to draw from a wider pool of pilots allows rapid forming and an unmatched ability to react to strategic opportunities as they present themselves in the war zone. Veterans accustomed to HAC’s fly alongside green recruits barely able to fly cruisers. Because the ships are so easy to come by, the fleet can easily re-ship in the time it takes to make the jumps to the closest staging system.
The end result is a flexible force that can be materialized at a moments notice, recouped just as fast, and able to promptly move where it is needed.
Head of the hydra
“I am more afraid of an army of 100 sheep led by a lion than an army of 100 lions led by a sheep.”
Every force needs a commander. It is not always easy to find an FC willing and able to command, even though the force itself is there. One of the main reasons for this is the sense responsibility.
Losing a fleet of cruisers is not something every budding FC out there is prepared to do. Even those that are used to that sort of pressure are not always up for it. Commanding a fleet with a substantial ISK value attached to it can be a stressful ordeal, doing it too often leads to burnout.
To put it in perspective; two full squads of properly fit Derptrons cost less than what a single typically fit cruiser is worth. This quality takes a lot of the aforementioned pressure off the FC. It also allows creative commanders to try daring new tactics that they would otherwise not have risked. Thirdly, the nature of the ships makes acquiring an FC a much easier task, thus getting the fleet mobilized and moving.
Charge of the light brigade
An attrition fleet behaves differently than a standard one. When a person invests very little in something they are also prepared to take a lot more risks with it. As such a cheap fleet is far more capable of reckless risk-taking and aggression, a gamble that pays off more often than most people think.
The capability to quickly reship means that the fleet can on occasion engage the same enemy multiple times. If the fight is in the staging system or one jump away it is even possible to continuously re-ship, applying relentless pressure on the enemy – while still being able win the ISK war. A clever FC will use the intelligence gathered to adjust the behaviour of his fleet between engagements.
One noteworthy tactic is to go up against opponents not to hold the field, but to cripple. A ‘derp’ fleet can engage and take out expensive or vital components of the enemy fleet using kamikaze tactics. Done right, the ‘losing’ fleet can take out their ISK value tenfold. Initially sabotaging and enemy fleet in this way is an ideal way to preempt an full attack using more expensive craft.
Cheaper by the dozen
Typically attrition fleets come in two flavours; frigates or destroyers.
Frigates have the ability to quickly maneuver and can tackle and apply damage to a tactically valuable target at amazing speed. A micro warp drive equipped frigate fleet in the hands of an experienced FC is a very powerful tool. Their warp speeds also mean they can be readily applied to any developing situation within a few jumps.
Attrition destroyers are some of the most successful ships seen in Faction Warfare. Their ability to output damage is unmatched for the amount of ISK they cost. The insta-locking Thrasher (famously known as the Cockbag Thrasher) is an excellent example of this. The alpha-strike from a fleet of these throwaway ships is staggering.
Many variations exist, suited for a myriad of combat roles. Many of the fits are thoroughly ingrained into long-standing combat tactics and intimately known by the pilots that fly them and the FC’s that command them.
Gears of war
At the root of attrition warfare there is the manufacturing and import of these ships en masse. Many established corporations and alliances keep themselves well stocked with fitted ships ready for action.
This ensures the most basic principle of warfare; troops ready to fight. From the lowliest grunt, to the highest echelons of leadership, everyone can always undock something. The ability to always apply pressure on the enemy is invaluable.
Cheap ‘n’ dirty
It may not be the most glamorous part of Factional Warfare, but it is an integral one. Being proficient at attrition warfare is maximizing the use of forces at ones disposal. It also puts the individual pilot where they need to be – undocked and fighting. Unlike those poor souls on the western front in WWI, this is, in the end, to the benefit of the community as a whole.