In an impressive show of coordination and determination, an allied force of L A Z E R H A W K S [HAWKS] and Hole Control [HOLE] under the leadership of Hard Knocks Citizens [HKRAB] destroyed ships from inPanic [-INP-] valued at about 156 billion ISK while suffering only minimal losses of about 200 million ISK value. The bulk of the inPanic losses were the 12 Rorqual Capital Industrial class ships that were the target of the original ambush. New Eden Correspondents had the opportunity to talk to both involved Fleet Commanders (FC).
It was on YC119.11.19 that a force of 64 Sleipnir class command ships and 26 Legion class strategic cruisers along with two dozen logistic and tackle ships prepared for a quick incursion into CHP-76 under the command of Hard Knocks Citizens' FC Braxus Deninard.
Hard Knocks Citizens, L A Z E R H A W K S and Hole Control live exclusively in wormhole systems and use the ever-changing, chaotic connections through wormhole space to engage opponents whenever and wherever they can.
inPanic lives in nullsec and claims sovereignty over 29 systems.
When a wormhole to a system in inPanic space opened, Braxus Deninard realized he had the opportunity to continue the hunt in inPanic space that he had been conducting on and off over the past year. But rather than trickle into the space and look for targets, Braxus relied on his past experience from similar incursions and kept his ready fleet in wormhole space, hidden from the watchful eyes of local intel channels that would alert potential targets to a hostile presence. Braxus soon located a potential target of a dozen Rorqual class capital industrial ships focused on a mining operation in CHP-76, a system in Cobalt Edge which is governed by inPanic alliance. At 20:08 Evetime, Braxus kicked off his assault.
About a dozen Sabre class interdiction destroyers entered K-space along with several interceptors and made best speed to the target area, completely swarming the surprised fleet of Rorquals that were quickly covered in Warp Disruption Bubbles and unable to flee. The main Hard Knocks fleet was very close behind them, but slower due to the warp speed of battlecruiser hulls. "From the initial tackle to bringing the fleet it was probably one minute.", Braxus Deninard remembers. "The guy had very little time to respond and this was very intentional by me.", he continues, referring to his opponent that day, the inPanic “Fleet Commander K.” [name withheld at request]. While the main fleet engaged the first Rorqual, Braxus was confident that their quick strike would secure them at least a few kills this day - and he also decided to wait for a response fleet for additional kill opportunities.
“Fleet Commander K.” received the notification about the attack within moments. Although he was not in his pod at the time, he frantically started a call to arms for pilots and got into a pod himself. After about three to five minutes, he had assembled a fleet of 21 Sleipnir class command ships, seven Hurricane Fleet Issue class battlecruisers and seven Basilisk class logistics ships. The fleet gathered on a Titan configured to bridge directly into the system and only then received detailed intel about the enemy fleet.
Facing an enemy with superior numbers on the same platform, “Fleet Commander K.” had to make a snap decision, believing that the composition of his reaction fleet was compromised; "Hard knocks does not suspect. They have spies." A visual recording of the fight seems to bolster the suspicion that Hard Knocks was well aware of inPanic's fleet composition before they even entered the battle.
Despite the possible handicap, “Fleet Commander K.” knew he had no choice stating that; "The math is simple: One Rorqual has a value of 11 Billion ISK. The Sleipnir fleet one of ~30 Billion ISK. So if I can get 4 Rorquals out of the belt with our fleet, it was worth it.”
Despite their best efforts to rescue even one Rorqual, Hard Knocks quickly decimated the inPanic fleet and continued to fire on the Rorquals. During the battle, only one of the Interdictors that held down the Rorquals and one Interceptor could be killed - not enough to free even one of the Rorquals. The fight was decided very quickly and the imbalance only got worse when a Hard Knocks supercarrier moved onto the grid as well, launching relentless waves of fighter-bombers against the remaining Rorquals.
After the fight, both FCs assessed the situation.
Braxus Deninard admits: "Their formup was very fast", but quickly adds "which was a significant part of why they failed to save their Rorquals. I felt like if they had taken another 5-10 minutes to form up a much larger home defence fleet including a strong capital force, they would have had a much better chance of saving their Rorquals. Instead they came very quickly with a relatively small fleet which was never going to win." In addition, he admits that: "I was hoping for a much larger response fleet from inPanic, leading to a much larger fight."
“Fleet Commander K.” felt that they would have had a better chance with improved positioning from the very start. He explains: "The struggle we had was, that Hard Knocks Citizens did headshot seven FCs from us in a row. When we still loaded grid, they were already targeting us. Warping in at range would have been better, even if it takes longer to get in position." Losing seven essential pilots out of about 30 in the first few seconds was a hard hit, but “K.” was calm and realistic and felt a lot of respect for the level of competence Hard Knocks Citizens regularly presents: "Our alliance might be relatively big compared to them, but there you can see that skill, dedication and intel can give you the upper hand even if you're outnumbered on paper."
Though there was no specific target that day, preparation and careful planning for assaults such as this had paid off handsomely. We will see how the relationship between these two alliances develop in the future. This was surely not their last engagement.