Tanking refers to various measures taken to increase the amount of damage that a ship can absorb preventing or delaying a ship's destruction. Some tanks repair damage, and are able to sustain a certain level of damage indefinitely. When a ship sustains more damage than it is capable of repairing, its tank is said to be broken.
In EVE ships have three layers of defenses (shields, armor and structure). When a ship takes damage the damage is first taken by the shields. When shields reach 25% or less, the damage starts leaking into armor. When all shields have been destroyed, damage is taken by the armor. Once the armor is removed, damage is taken by structure until it reaches zero and the ship is destroyed.
Generally tanking is done by increasing the number of hit-points, the amount of damage which the ship can absorb and by increasing the ships resistance to damage. Usually tanking is done with shields or armor,
There are four ways of increasing hit-points:
Tanking on shields, armor and hull
Usually a ship will only tank with either its shields or armor. Tanking with both duplicates modules such as repairers hence wasting slots, and is therefore rarely done. Tanking with hull is uncommon because hull repairers have low repair rates and tanking on structure leaves little room for error.
Hitpoint buffer tanking
Hitpoint buffer tanking utilizes a ship's hitpoints to absorb damage before a hostile is destroyed or until it is possible to warp out. A hitpoint buffer tank can be improved by either fitting hitpoint boosting modules or by increasing the resistance of the ship to damage.
This technique is common in situations where the hostiles do a high amount of damage, but are not themselves heavily tanked. Thus it is possible to destroy enough hostiles to reduce damage to a sustainable level before the tank is broken.
Active tanking refers to the use of shield boosters, armor repairers, and hull repairers to actively replace hitpoints that have been destroyed by damage. Resistance modules can also be used in active tanking arrangements. This reduces the amount of damage taken and thus the amount of hitpoints that needs to be repaired.
As active modules consume capacitor, and this makes them susceptible to loss of capacitor. Some arrangements minimize exposure to damage, by warping to safety for example. This allows damage to be repaired over a long time. Other arrangements seek to permanently run repairers by providing sufficient capacitor. This may involve the use of modules which increase capacitor recharge rate. Other arrangements require the temporary use of a repairer.
Active shield tanking is capable of achieving hitpoint regeneration rates higher than any other self-repair tanking method, but it is also uses the most capacitor of all the tanking methods and having a good capacitor regeneration rate along with it can be difficult to do. Of the six equipment types that affect capacitor regeneration (rigs not included), only two of them - Capacitor Flux Coils and Power Diagnostic Systems - do not directly interfere with the shield tank itself, the Power Diagnostic Systems do not give a very strong bonus to capacitor regeneration and the cap capacity penalty of the Capacitor Flux Coils makes them rather ineffective. Of the other four systems, three of them are Mid slot items which are also crucial for shield tank equipment and the last one, Capacitor Power Relays, gives a penalty to shield boosting.
Active armor tanking is more difficult to get high hitpoint regeneration rates than active shield tanking but it is much easier to have a stable capacitor regeneration rate along with it. All armor equipment (rigs not included) are Low slot items only, which means that an extensive number of Capacitor Rechargers can be used in the available Mid slots of a ship without affecting the armor tank.
Remote repairing or spider tanking is a special example of active repairing. It uses remote repairing modules fitted to other ships to repair damage. Logistics ships and carriers both receive bonuses that improve their ability to remote repair other ships.
The use of large numbers of remote repairing ships in a gang is known as spider tanking. Using this method it is possible to obtain repair rates far in excess of what is possible with self repair. Spider tanking is also highly resistant to being countered, for example by energy neutralizing or by jamming.
Passive tanks can be improved by increasing shield hitpoints (e.g. by fitting shield extenders, or power diagnostic systems), or by fitting modules which increase the rate of recharge (e.g. shield power relays).
For a more comprehensive guide, please see Passive Shield Tanking.
Signature tanking is a method of reducing damage while mixing offensive modules with defensive modules. Signature tanking involves selecting a ship that is going to receive as little damage as possible due to a relatively small signature radius.
Small signature radii can be achieved through selecting small ships such as an Assault Frigate. Because the ship has a small signature, any incoming damage is reduced based on mixture of factors from resistances to speed. Often times there is HP recovery rather than HP buffer as the object is to keep your HP up so the incoming damage does not adversely affect you.
To actively reduce your ship's signature radius, you can either use the Skirmish Warfare Link - Evasive Maneuvers, ingest an X-Instinct Booster or employ the use of Halo implants. It is important to note that interceptors no longer give a signature radius reduction per level; rather they now give a bonus to the MicroWarpdrive penalty.
Meta tanking techniques
Meta tanking techniques involve avoiding damage altogether.
Speed tanking involves using a ship's speed to avoid damage. In extereme cases, fast ships such as interceptors can avoid damage from most ships. Although, even ships at conventional speeds can reach speeds sufficient to exeed the tracking of battleship guns, capital guns and pos guns.
Range tanking involves staying out of range of hostile weapons systems.
EW tanking refers to the use of various weapon systems to jam other ships targeting systems, reduce their targeting range or speed, or reduce the tracking of their guns in combination with speed tanking.
Cloak tanking involves the use of a cloak to avoid being detected altogether.
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