In this AAR I will give my perspective on the whole strat-op. Firstly, I will discuss the preparation. This includes (but is not limited to) getting ships and people to WHC, pre-assigning specific roles and scheduling the strat-op. Secondly, this AAR will go deeper into the execution of hole control, the first fleet on Friday and the second fleet on Saturday. Lastly, I will elaborate a bit on the consequences, aftermath and resulting situation.
Disclaimer: at this point, I can disclose 95% of the information. Revealing the other 5% can implicate both the current strat-op, as well as future ones. There may also be some information we will never disclose, because of that. Furthermore, I love the involvement of all the Unistas who reached out during this strat-op to offer feedback. I always encourage constructive feedback and suggestions, either via DM or via other ways. However, do keep in mind the guide to commenting on AARs, please. I am also a human being with feelings, just like y'all <3
Also, no hamsters, cats, dogs or other pets have been harmed in writing this AAR. Except maybe Roxy. And Rufus. Oh and I totally did not drink alcoholic beverages. Except for that glass of wine. And the beer. And the bottle of whisky...
Approximately one year ago, Conci Furiram and Biwako Acami started talking about unanchoring Azmo's Large Innuendo (ALI) and Frood Processor (Frood), a fortizar and a raitaru. Why? Well, the reasons already mentioned in the introduction meant that we were dealing with a loot piñata. If a hostile entity would shoot down ALI and / or Frood, a huge amount of player hangars would be dropped on-grid. Roughly one or two months ago (when I started to get involved) I have heard estimates ranging from 10 - 4000 cans with a minimum value of 25 billion.
In other words; it was a honeypot for wormhole entities across the entirety of New Eden. This became even more clear when Hard Knocks (HK) paid us a visit in the middle of November. To defend, we successfully formed a Ferox fleet with more than 180 characters.
Therefore, we had to take both structures down on our terms. We decided to take them down on a Saturday evening. The advantages: 1) we do both structures in one go, reducing overhead and 2) it would be EU evening / US afternoon on a weekend day, which is prime activity time for EVE University and thus more help. More help means 1) decreasing the time needed to loot, 2) increasing the size of the defence fleet and 3) improving hole control (because of shorter shifts and more rollers). We could have unanchored Frood Processor earlier to gain some experience, but that was too much of an effort to ask (more on that under "Hole Control").
For hauling all the loot, we were a bit limited in our options. Freighters cannot go through wormholes, so bringing those in is impossible. However, a solution is to make them in WHC, which meant that we had a limited number available. Furthermore, DSTs and T1 haulers also help, depending on how many people fly them. Many hands make light work, so we asked the Hauling Department for help with DSTs. The plan was to 1) first let a specialised hauling wing loot all the high value, low volume items and ships (as well as the structure and the core) and then 2) let the combat fleet reship into T1 haulers if there was no hostile activity in WHC. There would be 4 hours between unanchoring the first and the second structure, which we thought would be enough time for the specialised wing to get the most valuable loot off the grid. NB: The 4 hour gap would also give us a timeframe to cancel the second unanchoring, if things would get spicy.
For the first part, Pink and Biwako made a spreadsheet. The process was for interceptors to warp to a can, put the content into an evepraisal, bookmark the can and put both the BM name and the evepraisal in the spreadsheet. The spreadsheet would do magic to sort the cans/BMs/evepraisals by isk per m3 so that the haulers (DSTs / Freighters / Bowhead / High-SP pilots in pods) could prioritise what they needed to loot first.
For the second part, we made sure there were enough T1 haulers available. At this point, WHC would be clear of hostiles and the most valuable loot should be already off the grid.
For defending the structures, loot and haulers we decided to form up the usual Feroxes. Most of the ships were still at WHC because of the HK defence. Just to be sure, we decided to plan a fleet on Friday evening to get a couple more reships in. Another reason for the extra fleet was to get characters into WHC. With hole control, it is very hard (if not impossible) to get back with a ship into a wormhole, if you get podded and you end up outside of WHC. To simplify this, we decided to also set our home clones in Jita. This meant that we knew where most of our Unistas would end up to reship, and it was a trade-hub which allows for easy and quick reshipping.
You have seen the term "hole control" a couple of times in this AAR now. Hole control means that you control the wormholes leading towards/from the system you live in. One way to do it is like this: roll all static connections until it reaches CRIT with a doorstop (rolling battleship) sitting on the other side waiting to collapse the wormhole. Next, also roll all wandering connections completely. There are more things you can do to improve hole control, depending on how much effort you want to put in (e.g. bubbles). For strategic reasons, I will not disclose that here.
The goal behind hole control is to keep other entities from bringing ships into WHC. During hole control, the wormholes are closed for any traffic, unless it is necessary for hole control. Keeping hole control is the top priority in a strat-op like this; if the enemy can't get in, you don't have to fight them.
Keeping hole control is mentally and physically a very demanding task. The doorstops have to watch D-scan and local continuously and the hole control FC needs to be alert continuously. The longer you want to maintain hole control, the higher the chance you will lose it because of the burn-out of members keeping hole control. That is the reason why we decided for two days (a rough 48 hours) of hole control. Longer than two days would lead to too much burn-out and shorter would mean that we gave hostile entities one more day to bring ships into WHC.
Welcome to knowledge warfare. The bain of every FC's existence. The elephant in the room. Everyone hates it. Why? Because it is a trade-off. For the fleet to work together as efficiently as possible, they need as much information as possible to make informed decisions. Furthermore, being an F1-monkey is boring. However, if the enemy knows exactly what you are doing, they can prepare for it. Because of what was at stake (see also the earlier estimate of cans and value), as well as intel reaching us that there were multiple entities watching us, we decided to go quite extreme on the OPSEC.
This meant that we gradually started spreading information to persons on a "need to know" basis. Most FCs and staff members were informed in the week leading up to the strat-op. Most Unistas and WHC members knew that we would have this strat-op on Thursday when hole control started and the uni-wide announcement went out via discord and on the forum.
Next to that, our forum- and calendar posts were initially set up to be regular Null-/LowSec roams with Brawly Cruisers / Longbow Cormorants. We also didn't let every other content creators know that there would be strat-ops during this time. It is no secret that there are spais in EVE University. Despite how much I detest misleading Unistas, this was the reason why I felt I had no other choice than to do it like this.
With all these moving parts, you need a lot of ships. Some of them we planned to bring in on the Friday fleet, but the majority we brought in during the weeks / months before that. In total, we had more than 350 ships ready to go. Ship classes ready to go include (but was not limited to):
- T1 Combat Battlecruisers
- T2 Logistics Cruisers
- T1 Logistic Cruisers
- Command Ships
- Recon Ships
- Heavy Interdiction Cruisers
- Rolling Battleships
- Pure Scanners
- Deep Space Transports (DSTs)
- T1 Haulers
As mentioned, we started hole control on Thursday evening. It was kept relatively low-profile and the fact that WHC was in hole control was only visible on the WHC Discord channels (in the first 24h). In general, hole control went smoothly, as far as I know. There was a small incident with a DST which got rolled out, as well as a suggestion in the FC debrief to only assign more experienced Unistas / WHC members as a doorstop or dedicated scanner. Furthermore, it was not 100% clear for every hole control FC (especially lower activity hours) what to do when things would get spicy. Lastly, all entertainment was impromptu, which is fine, but content creators love a heads-up. I think all these issues will improve the more often we go into hole control.
The hours before the first fleet, hole control started rolling for a wormhole relatively close to Jita, to reduce travel time. This was one of the more risky moments of our hole control since we now had a fresh wormhole without a single doorstop. If any hostiles would know the location, this was their moment to bring in scanners or even a full combat fleet.
Therefore, OPSEC for the first fleet was even more critical than usual. As mentioned, the purpose of the Friday fleet was to 1) bring more reshipping ships into WHC, 2) set the home clone to Jita for easier reshipping when podded and 3) get Unistas of other campuses in WHC to help, without compromising hole control multiple times. I would have loved giving this information to every fleet member at the start of the fleet. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be and thus we kept our intentions and destinations a seekrit.
Form-up went a bit more chaotic than usual since 1) the ships were spread out over X-Sense and HSC, 2) we had to account for wormhole mass and 3) we planned to move a set number of ships, initially. Furthermore, unstable unit requested some PEWPEW. Of course, we can't decline that invitation. ^^
The fleet itself went smoothly, there was some impromptu entertainment, drinks, tipsy people and banter. The only major flaw was, as became clear at the end of the fleet, our communication about setting your clone, the consequences of that and preparing fleet members what to expect once ending up in WHC with hole control. I totally get why this was very frustrating and unsatisfying, especially with the hype we generated. You have let us know in many ways that you felt unappreciated and undervalued. We will definitely change the way we do that for next time.
Then, the main event. We started forming up at 18:15, which gave us over an hour to get our combat wing up, as well as our hauling wing. Most high-SP pilots were in the hauling wing, which meant we were a bit short on Loggie pilots and other special roles. However, hole control was still going strong and went smoothly. Furthermore, we had [DELTA-SQUAD] ready to go for when it would get spicier.
First, ALI unanchored. We still had hole control and the hauling wing started looting. The combat wing undocked to show what we had ready for defending the hauling wing, as a show of force and deterrent. Our doorstops and scanners saw some hostile activity, both inside as outside of WHC, but our hole control was on point and rolled out a hostile scanner which was safe-logged, as well as the scouts of the fleet outside of WHC.
After roughly two hours of looting and a class by the infamous, "just a small town girl", Pro Bear Teaching Manager Mike Kingswell - who showed his skills the Camel Way - we were pretty sure that hostile acitivty stopped. The combat wing reshipped into T1 industrials (which were ready to go in the Flight Deck) and pods to help with looting the rest of the cans.
After another 4 hours, we decided to also proceed with the unanchoring of Frood. The specialised hauling wing started looting the fresh cans and the combat wing proceeded with looting the ALI cans. Eventually, everything was done after a grand total of 6 hours back-to-back looting. We moved some of the Ferox fleet back to HSC and called it a day.
Only after a well-deserved rest, we realised what happened in the chaos of the second fleet. It was an even bigger success than we initially thought, because (in the words of doomed House Cat Conci Furiram);
- The enemy didn't even know when the unanchoring started
- The enemy didn't know Frood was going down too
- The enemy panic formed an hour after we started after their spai started pinged when we landed on grid (5 min before the unanchor)
- The enemy tried using seeds but our HC was so on-point (after the reflections from the HK Op) that we rolled them out and we never lost HC
Lastly, we learned a lot from the whole process of unanchoring the two structures. A lot went well. Some things were going a bit less well. The things that went less well, we learned the most of, which is what EVE University is about.
I want to thank everyone who helped in any way during the strat-op. This success would not have been possible without you. It keeps amazing me how much time and effort my fellow Unistas are willing to spend on EVE University, both during fleets as in the preparation and after it. I love you all and can only hope seeing you flying dangerous again soon!
- ✔ (Positive stuff)
- Strategic objectives: great success!
- Unanchoring both structures on one day meant significantly less overhead
- Very strict opsec was the main reason for this strat-op being very successful
- Hole control was on-point (only one small incident where a DST got rolled out)
~~ (Meh stuff; but positive are the learning points!)
- Leaving a structure up in a wormhole for multiple years results in a loot piñata: prevent this by regularly unanchoring structures
- Most high SP pilots were in the hauling wing on Saturday, which meant that we were short on some special roles in the combat wings.
- There was some entertainment during hole control, but it can be planned out better + a heads-up could have been given to some people to prepare stuff to do in WHC.
- The trade-off between OPSEC and expectancy management is very challenging, which especially showed on the Friday fleet. Our communication during and after that fleet about the situation was poor and the hype generation was too high. This resulted in Unstas from campuses other than WHC to feel frustrated, unappreciated, undervalued and unsatisfied.