Laser tactics

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Laser combat tactics

Lasers are the most common kind of combat equipment. There are four kinds of laser - pulse, beam, military and mining. Although mining lasers pack a powerful punch, their cycle time is too slow for combat use and so will not be discussed here.

The different kinds of combat laser

The Pulse Laser is the cheapest and most basic kind of combat laser; they are really only any good for ships that never go to dangerous systems. They are just about powerful enough to discourage opportunists from robbing you of your cargo, but that's about it. They have a very slow cycle time which only compounds the problems of being low powered. Pulse lasers have a maximum range of 12,500 metres. The only advantage of pulse lasers is they don't heat up very quickly, so you can almost fire them all the time without worrying about heat build up.

For a serious combateer or a trader who visits more dangerous worlds, the Beam Laser is more appropriate. This laser is not much more powerful than the pulse laser, but instead of firing in short pulses followed by a long quench time, the beam laser fires in a continuous beam as its name suggests. Beam lasers have a maximum range of 15,000 metres. The weapon itself is made up of 150 laser tubes which are fired together. A power pack augments the ship's power and keeps a continuous flow of high wattage current running to the laser tubes so there is no risk of fade out when other demands are made on a ship's main power unit. They do generate more heat, and when a certain limit is reached must be allowed to cool. The thermal cut-out is automatic, and will degrade the weapon to 'pulse' mode when thermal limits are reached so the weapon is still of some use when hot.

The Military Laser, despite the marketing hype, is nothing more than a beam laser with additional laser tubes. Consequently, its wattage is much higher - and so is its propensity to overheat. Like the beam laser, the thermal cut-out degrades firing mode gracefully to pulse mode when the weapon nears thermal limits. Military lasers have a maximum range of 30,000 metres. The military laser will destroy small ships like the Adder in less than two seconds - small ships have very little defence against a ship wielding this powerful weapon.


Lasers are extremely simple to use - line your target up in the targeting box, and fire. However, to be effective you need finesse. Follow this advice to get the most out of your laser, regardless of type:

  • Don't pull the trigger (particularly with joysticks, trackball controllers or mice), squeeze it instead. This will make you less likely to jerk the controls and move the targeting reticule off the target.
  • Combat is stressful, but take care to breathe evenly - again to reduce the chance of jerking the targeting reticule off the enemy ship.
  • Only fire when you are sure your target is in proper position - especially with military lasers. Heating your lasers up firing into empty space is guaranteed to result in your laser overheating when you really need it and you actually have the target properly lined up. As soon as you see the target drift out of the sights, stop firing.
  • For controllers that support precision mode (joysticks, and keyboards since v1.77), use it - especially for distant targets. You should normally be in precision mode when firing.
  • Consider fitting aft lasers and practising combat with your aft view. An aft laser can help you out of a sticky situation when your main weapon overheats.
  • If you are making a pre-emptive strike on another ship, make absolutely sure the ship is properly in the target reticule before firing. Nothing gives away the element of surprise like a shot across the bows when you really meant to hit.

Tips from an old, bold pilot - and there ain't many of them

If you can't hit your targets consistently with a Beam Laser, you'll probably be worse off with a Military Laser. You can't afford to fire a Military Laser into deep space. Finish your training at Lave before setting off and make your old Pa proud.
Get good with the Beam Laser before upgrading. And although I intend to leave you a tidy sum, don't do the dumb-rich-kid mistake of putting a Military Laser in a small ship. The power you need for shield regeneration will be running the laser and you've got to remember your target's pals are going to be shooting at you too.
Rear lasers are not an option. When you're running to save your skin - and you will some day - you'll be glad of scaring off or even taking out one of that gang of pirates that's chasing you. You won't do that unless you've learned how to aim and fire using the rear laser. There's no shame in running away, boy. No shame at all.
Believe it not, you too can shoot and destroy missiles, with practice. I've even seen these cute blue slimy frogs shoot the tail-fins off a hard-head - that's an ECM Hardened Missile to you son.

Found in a pile of notes marked "Advice to send young Timmy" in a burned-out Fer-de-Lance drifting off Ceenbion.