The Eastern Frontier
The Drone Regions have served as a stronghold of the Russians and their rental empires throughout the history of New Eden. The 2012 Drone War between xXDeathXx/Red Alliance/Pandemic Legion/NC. and SOLAR Fleet/Against ALL Authorities/Gypsy Band had left SOLAR Fleet the undisputed master of this frontier. This was the state of play when in the winter of 2012, a N3 lead force including Pandemic Legion, Red Alliance and several smaller groups laid siege to SOLAR Fleet's holdings and laid them low after a prolonged campaign. SOLAR Fleet, however, are no untested alliance that can be broken by simply taking their sovereignty away from them. Falling back and basing out of the NPC station of Konara, they regrouped and waited for the forces aligned against them to splinter.
First to vacate the region would be Pandemic Legion. With their mission complete they quickly established a rental empire of their own in Malpais and departed for a rapid deployment to Delve. Red Alliance and a loose coalition of Russian powers including Gypsy Band, Gorgon Empire and Darkside. had been the catalyst for the assault on SOLAR Fleet. However, during the long months of conflict, Red Alliance had given many of these allies a reason to turn their backs on their Russian brothers. Now, Red Alliance finally had the sovereignty it desired, but had no real allies to back them up. After several embarrassing engagements with SOLAR Fleet they were revealed to be a paper tiger. N3 and several allied groups quickly noticed this fact. No longer brothers in arms against SOLAR Fleet, Red Alliance was literally torn apart by their N3 comrades and their new found holdings were quickly divided up. During this period SOLAR Fleet began minor operations, roaming through rental space causing issues for the locals, attacking the odd undefended tower and making probing attacks on sovereignty timers to test N3's resolve to defend their northernmost holdings.
Call to Arms: Fountain
When N3 declared they would be deploying to Fountain to defend TEST against the CFC's invasion, this opened a window of vulnerability that SOLAR Fleet would surely exploit. During the N3 SOTA prior to the deployment it was stated that alts would be left behind to defend the space, with a backup of slowcat fleets to be used if needed. To many, this bold statement simply did not ring with any truth. Defending against an extremely capable PvP alliance such as SOLAR Fleet, capable of fielding a large supercarrier force, with alts left behind was never going to work.
As soon as the carrier fleets of N3 moved out, carrying with them most of N3's martial might to a foreign war in the west, SOLAR Fleet began to siege their old home region of Cache. Within the week MACTEP, leader of SOLAR Fleet, had reclaimed his throne in the Station System P7-45V, with more holdings to follow. Several N3 Fleets did form to contest timers, and when they were too large to be engaged SOLAR Fleet would simply melt away, allow N3 to roam around killing SBUs and repairing stations uncontested. A few well-timed ambushes of defending Rokh fleets were sprung to reasonably good effect, drawing back N3 slowcat fleets from Fountain to bail out their beleaguered subcaps.
The Fleet Returns
This game of siege-and-repair continued for the first few weeks of June, until N3 seemed to adopt a change of tactics. The Cache region appears to have been completely written off, with NC. losing two stations, WhySoSerious another and Pangu a fourth, all almost uncontested and lost in a matter of days. Cache now stands divided between the Russians of SOLAR Fleet, Red Alliance, and xXDeathXx. Rumors of an arrangement between SOLAR and Red Alliance have been thrown around, but I cannot confirm or expand upon this hearsay at this time. The CFC-aligned Russians of xXDeathXx, however, have been engaged in constant skirmishes with SOLAR Fleet in Cache, a somewhat curious situation considering their links with Goons and the CFC. Surely slowing down SOLAR siege operations against N3 is directly working against the better interests of their allies? Should they not be working with SOLAR Fleet to put as much pressure on N3 in the Drone Regions as possible? Apparently old grudges between these two groups remain, and since the Mittani has publicly announced in a State of the Goonion that he has no real desire to meddle in the internal affairs of Russians, I doubt they will be asked to get along.
Onwards Comrades, reclaim the Motherland!
With Cache purged of dirty capitalists, the SOLAR war machine has begun to siege the Spire. The Drone Regions have an odd celestial positioning, with regions stacked upon one another more than is common in New Eden. At the heart of this configuration lies the aptly named Spire. This unique setup allows SOLAR Fleet dreadnoughts basing from 1I5-0V to hit no less than nine target regions without a midpoint, with a good coverage of five of them. When you are trying to stop dreadnoughts, it is all about timing. Over in the west Goonswarm dreadnoughts must undock and jump to a midpoint, wait several minutes while they cap up and then jump onto their target. This extra time is extremely important for anyone wishing to drop on those dreadnoughts while they are vulnerable. In contrast, the SOLAR Fleet dreadnoughts can undock, jump, and siege, taking no more than five minutes from the start of the op to extraction. The ease of operations for these dreadnoughts has yielded 68 N3 and N3/PL renter towers destroyed since the beginning of June, with no dreads lost in action. Add to this all the SBUs SOLAR Fleet has destroyed and the stations and ihubs they have reinforced, and you have significant gains for the Russians.
Drop all the TCUs!
When S2N Citizens disbanded and sovereignty was dropped across the drone regions, SOLAR Fleet attempted to snatch up vast amounts of space with a rapid TCU dropping campaign. This failed miserably when several supercapital fleets from N3, NC. and PL returned to the region. In a night of impressive resilience they brought the situation under control. SOLAR Fleet wisely made no attempt to contest this operation, since there was little that could be done against the combined supercapital forces. SOLAR also clearly understood that the sooner things went back to normal, the sooner the N3 supers would return to Fountain and SOLAR could get back to business in the Spire.
State of Play
The defence of the N3 Drone Regions appears to rest in the hands of smaller N3 groups like WhySoSerious, Darkspawn and Cult of War, with some questionable assistance from IRC. It is the opinion of this writer that this task is far beyond them, even if they had to deal with SOLAR Fleet alone. But in Wicked Creek/Scalding Pass, an alliance of Gorgon Empire and Red Alliance appears to be giving Darkspawn more than enough trouble, so that they are unlikely to be able to assist their allies. Recently, a WhySoSerious Dominix fleet attempted to engage SOLAR Fleet with a predictable ending, raising the question of how much pain these smaller N3 groups can take before they break. And for that matter, how much of the drone regions are N3 willing to lose while they fight the CFC in Fountain?