For two consecutive nights on April 2 and 3 in USTZ, border skirmishes between PAPI and the Imperium in the O-EIMK constellation in Delve have consumed almost 150 billion ISK in losses. While nothing definitive was gained or lost on either side, fights of this kind may be a harbinger of a coming new phase in the current war.
Since the end of the M2 hellcamp a month ago, World War Bee has been in a slow-burn phase as PAPI continues to glass Delve structures largely unopposed (the Keepstar kill count is now 21), and Imperium insurgents and other third parties glass Legacy homelands, also largely unopposed. The next phase of the war centers on the Imperium’s last constellation in Delve (the constellation that houses the Imperial throne system): O-EIMK. If PAPI wishes to really conquer the Imperium, they must take O-EIMK, and the 1DQ1-A system in particular–and if the past progress of this war is any indication, any move will begin with sov fights over IHUBs.
Throughout this war, any serious attempt to take space that has been mounted by either side has begun with attempts to take IHUBs. IHUBs are a critical piece of sov infrastructure because they enable the placement of system-wide cyno jammers by the alliance that has held the IHUB for 35 days. And these cyno jammers are the key to preventing unwanted capital and supercapital drops (the Imperium uses to keep PAPI supers from attacking; PAPI uses them to keep Imperium supers from defending reinforced structures).
As PAPI forces have moved inexorably deeper and deeper into Delve, all eyes have been on the IHUBs in the Imperium’s last constellation, O-EIMK. PAPI’s only serious attempt to take them was in mid-February, and it was crushed by the Imperium.
But as the two recent engagements show, PAPI is willing to continue to commit probing fleets, and the Imperium must continue to field hundreds of pilots to keep them out, with both sides paying many billions in losses.
The fight on April 2 followed the typical pattern. The action started small with each side increasingly committing as the fight went on. By the end, the Imperium had committed multiple fleets, including Munins and Baltecs. Most of the action was in the border system of 3-DMQT, including a ferocious Munin brawl at close range. Imperium reinforcements–particularly the Baltecs–were slowed by bubbles, with PAPI feeding numerous Sabres to keep gates tied up. The Imperium held the line defensively, but came out worse in the ISK war, losing 67 billion to 44 billion.
The following night things unfolded in a similar manner, with multiple Imperium pings rallying homeland defense forces. This time, however, although the fleets undocked, the level of engagement was not as sharp, with only 36 billion in total losses, although once again the Imperium came behind in the ISK war–25 billion lost to 11 billion killed.
While the ISK losses for both sides are negligible given what has already been committed in this war, the fact that both sides are still able to consistently fill fleets is telling–and crucial. The Mittani has heaped praise on the Imperium’s USTZ line pilots in recent Firesides for the consistently good showing in terms of turnout and numbers. For both these fights numbers were close, with the Imperium having the edge the first night, and PAPI having about 70 more pilots the second night.
The next phase of the war hinges on sov fights over the O-EIMK IHUBs, and IHUB fights invariably require significant commitment of numbers as fleet must fight across multiple systems to capture the nodes necessary to destroy an IHUB. As the war turns towards its final chapters, these two fights are a harbinger of things to come and an indicator that both sides are prepared.