(Author's note: Much of this summary was assembled using Elise Randolph's excellent battle report, which can be read in full here. Warning, Kugu comments within)
Today marked the largest single clash in the Halloween War, with forces from PL/N3, the CFC, and their respective allies from across New Eden going head to head (rather appropriately) in HED-GP.
Setting the stage
The Halloween War, as it has come to be known, had been raging for months past its namesake holiday, with neither side gaining a decisive victory in terms of ships destroyed or systems taken. Seeking to change this, PL chose HED-GP as a proving ground for the "Wrecking Ball" doctrine. The system of HED-GP is one of the few hisec-nullsec connections, but that wasn't the determining factor for being PL's battleground of choice. HED-GP has an unusually low number of moons, a mere six. According to Elise Randolph, this distinction was important for one reason: cyno jammers. Over the course of the war, the CFC forces have tended to prevail when fighting in cyno-jammed systems due to superior subcapital numbers, and PL/N3 not being able to utilize their powerful (and occasionally controversial) slowcat fleets, or any capitals for that matter. Attempting to ensure that this would be a capital fight, PL and allies set about destroying and replacing every POS in system in the days leading up to the battle. When the system was eventually reinforced, Against All Authorities (the sovereignty holders) followed the standard procedure of anchoring a cyno jammer in system. Or at least they would have, had they controlled any starbases at which to anchor one. Without a system-wide cyno jammer in place, HED-GP was going to be in for a long day.
Wrecking Balls to the walls
With the system ready, PL/N3 forces formed up hours in advance of any opposition in what they call the Wrecking Ball doctrine. This "doctrine" is more akin to a formation, with the fleet positioned in a protective bubble around the Titans and Supercarriers in the middle. This layout helps protect the supercapitals from being bumped out of range of the friendly repairs, a leading cause of supercapital destruction. The CFC plan was simple, bust the ball with a combination of subcapitals and close-range dreadnoughts. This beautiful diagram tweeted by The Mittani himself illustrates the desired disruption of the PL/N3 plan:
The fighting began with a vengeance when the CFC and RUS subcaps warped to the Wrecking Ball. PL/N3 feared the bumping and killing power of the 500 close-range fit dreads, and anchored a Cyno Inhibitor on their fleet, creating a sphere of relative safety. The first 30 minutes of fighting (in 10% time dilation, of course) saw the combined CFC/RUS forces destroy the Inhibitor with relatively light losses. With the Inhibitor down, there was nothing to prevent the massive dreadnought fleet from landing directly on top of the bubbled PL/N3 supercapitals.
a million smoldering hamsters
Nothing, that is, except Soul Crushing Lag. With local already hovering around 2700 pilots, the addition of some 700 CFC/RUS capitals and supercapitals was enough to kick the server from "strained" to "strange." Dreads began to appear on the battlefield sporadically. Some remained invulnerable, some took hits and vanished back to the systems they had supposedly jumped in from. From the dreadnought perspective, many never left the jump tunnel animation. Meanwhile on the battlefield, drone assist broke, and crippling 25-minute module lag reminded veterans of the days before Time Dilation. Many dreads were killed before their pilots could load grid, doomsdays being one of the few weapons that still functioned somewhat reliably. Killmails show dreadnoughts taking massive damage from these weapons despite most of them being tanked specifically to survive up to 3 coordinated hits, giving the impression that their modules never registered as being turned on. Despite this, the node struggled on, allowing the fight to continue in this rather lopsided fashion.
"In Space, no one can hear me sobbing about tidi"
As ships continued to die, many people took to Twitter to comment, including CCP Explorer.
As is the case with most fights of this size, killboards are hard-pressed to compile and make sense of the information. With ships logging out only to be killed upon logging back in, there were still kills to be had as of this writing.
Currently, there are no reports of supercapitals being killed. Dreadnoughts, however, were not so lucky. Estimates range from 85 to over 350 dreadnoughts killed, along with countless subcapitals. Until the data can be better compiled, an ISK estimate of the damages is impossible to make. However, assuming dreads are worth about 3 billion a piece, the number could easily top 500 billion ISK. What this means for the rest of the war remains to be seen, although it will be some weeks before that number of dreadnoughts can be created to restore CFC/RUS numbers. With the BoTLRD Accords being ratified, it could be quite a while until the next (planned) fight of this magnitude.