Missiles are self-propelled projectiles intended for dealing damage to other ships. While they will all hit moving targets, they are classified as Guided or Unguided, and the damage they deal can be affected by the size, signature radius and velocity of the target ship. Caldari (and some Minmatar) ships favor missiles over other weapons, although many Amarr and Gallente ships have missiles available as a supplementary weapon.
Missiles are available in various sizes, for a range of ship classes and types, though in order to use them a ship must have at least one launcher hardpoint in order to fit the appropriate missile launcher. There are two missile 'flavors' available for each class of ship; one being a short-ranged, high-damage weapon, and the other longer-ranged but low damaging. The former is referred to as "Unguided", and the latter as "Guided".
Note: Both types will hit a moving target, but "Unguided" missiles are not affected by the Guided Missile Precision skill.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Missiles have a consistent and versatile damage output, and are capable of dealing single damage types. As such, missiles are valuable in PvP combat, as they allow a pilot to exploit a weakness in an opponent's tank. It is also impossible for a missile to miss a target, unless the target outruns the missile, moves out of range, or disengages and warps away.
However, missiles can be destroyed in flight (either with Defender missiles or with a well-timed smartbomb detonation), partially or completely nullifying the attacker's damage output. Missiles are also unpopular in fleet battles, as the missile's flight time can result in it arriving after the target has been destroyed.
Support Skills, Modules and Rigs
The following skills improve missile or missile launcher performance:
The following modules and rigs also improve missile performance (at the expense of increased missile launcher CPU usage in the case of rigs; see Missile Launcher Rigs):
Tech II Missiles
New players often find it hard to remember which missile deals which type of damage, as every single missile has a different name. The simplest way to tell is to look at the color of the missile's nosecone - EM missiles are sky-blue, Thermal missiles are red, Kinetic missiles are dark green, and Explosive missiles are yellow.
Unlike turrets, missiles will always deal damage to a target if they impact against it, regardless of the target's speed, radial velocity, or size (signature radius). Instead, the damage that the missile deals is affected.
As missiles do not have tracking speeds, a missile launched at a target will do the same damage if the target's speed remains the same. In other words, the damage dealt to a target orbiting the launcher at 300m/s and a target flying directly at the launcher at 300m/s will be exactly the same.
The important factor in this scenario is the speed of the target ship. When a missile hits a target, the speed of the target is compared to the Explosion Velocity of the missile. For example, if when a Scourge Heavy Missile - which has a base Explosion Velocity of 81m/s - is fired, the Explosion Velocity is much lower than the target's speed, then damage is significantly reduced as the target is outrunning most of the missile's damage.
The other factor that will decrease missile damage is Signature Radius. The Scourge Missile previously used has a Explosion Radius of 125m - if this missile is fired against a target with a smaller Signature than its Explosion Radius, damage will again be reduced, as only a small portion of the explosion is affecting the target. Although if your missile hits a target whose signature radius is greater then the explosion radius of your missile then the explosion velocity of your missile is increased by the same multiple.
While these two rules are merely generalizations, a more complicated calculator that will aid in calculating damage output against various targets is available here.
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