Torpedo! Torpedo! Torpedo! With the Aegis release we will see missile boats get their own version of the tracking enhancer and the tracking computer. On the forums there have been calls for new 'missile defence eWar' to counter these new modules. Is this needed? Are smartbomb 'firewalls' enough? Do defender missiles need an overhaul to make them actually worth using? Do we need the missile version of the remote tracking disruptor? Or do we go all Star Trek and have Point-Defence Phaser Banks? Banter on!
Effect of the new modules
I've always found missiles to actually be the best weapon system... with a caveat attached to it.
Now, I understand that on paper they don't compare with the raw firepower of turrets, nor the engagement range of drones. There's the issue of travel time, which I only consider an issue for large fleets and their insta-pop philosophy.
The caveat is that I nearly only use frigates and small weaponed ships, and most of my missile fits tend to be rockets. Travel time is rarely an issue when you're within spitting distance of who you're unloading at.
And missiles are intensely reliable, and the new "tracking" modules make that even more so.
Provided you can maintain lock and range, you will always be putting out the same damage onto your opponent. This gives you great wiggle room in engagement range. You can go point blank, or kite out to scram range without changing ammunition. This little Rifter-style trick is a lot easier to pull off with missile boats.
They will also keep firing without capacitor. Neuts are fairly redundant against missile boats, particularly if they're running buffer or ancillary booster fits. Again, this makes missiles reliable under cap warfare.
It doesn't end there though. One of the most underused ammunition types are Friend or Foe missiles. FoF missiles are great to keep in your hold for the annoying jammers and sensor dampers out there. They'll keep pumping out missiles even under ECM, meaning your kiting Condor still has a chance of taking out something, even if you can't target back. Just, er... be careful if you're in a gang.
That reliability in most situations is balanced out by the middling damage output. Caldari compensate for the fairly low firepower by massive hull bonus or lots of launchers. Minmatar balance them with drones. Khanid ships balance it by being bricks.
These new modules... aren't really going to do much to affect that balance. They're going to make a slight difference in firepower application, making them even more reliable than ever, and it'll be nice to finally get the full damage application out of the Talwar running a target painter. More important than that, it'll give an extra option for the lows rather than a full ballistic control unit. That'll be nice, considering how tight CPU fitting usually is on missile boats.
Of course, this is spoken as a small ship pilot. I'm sure someone driving bigger boats will get more mileage out of these new modules. But as far as little ships go, I don't see much changing in the way we will fit or fly. I don't think we'll need a missile specific E-War to counter them.
That said, Defenders could do with a more general use. Right now they're too niche. I've seen a few suggestions thrown around, and one I think has the most merit is giving them a role of shooting down drones too. Seeing as how a number of frigate hulls now carry one or two drones as a secondary, it might see a bit more use, particularly on Rifters with their utility high slot. That would go a long way towards addressing the Tristan dominance, and balancing the advantage kiting drone users enjoy.
It would also make the idea of escort frigates/destroyers more viable. A single frigate with Defender missiles in its highs could support cruisers by picking off drones, all while still contributing in the usual way of tackling and applying firepower. Since all cruisers carry at least a few drones, this would be quite significant... assuming they simply aren't primaried off the field. In which case at least one salvo is wasted on a frigate popping drones.
I don't see much wrong with that, unless programming them to target drones is a problem. If a ship simply loads only Defender missiles to exclusively counter drone boats, they'll still need to spend the time reloading back to normal missiles to apply firepower again. Even a Tristan without drones can do significant damage in that 10s reload time. And if that Tristan has Neuts instead of turrets, well, that's just the fitting roulette we all play.
Actually, having written it out like that, Defenders targeting drones seems like a really good idea...