Han Solo Wishes He Was This Cool
Out of all the Elite ship designs, the Faulcon Delacey Cobra MKIII is perhaps the most iconic. Debuting in the original -84 Elite as the player’s first (and only) ship, this wedge-shaped wonder is to many fans the Elite ship. Coming in at a fairly affordable (relatively speaking) 250,918 credits, it’s also a ship that’s readily accessible to the new player – if a fresh player can earn their way out of a Sidewinder and into an Eagle or a Hauler in a few hours of play, they’ll likely be able to hop into the cockpit of a Cobra after a weekend or so.
The first thing you’ll notice when you look at the Cobra in your hangar is how big it is – one of the first ‘medium’ class vessels in the game, clocking out at 257 tons with a full fuel tank and an empty cargo hold, the Cobra absolutely dwarfs the more common ‘light’ ships. It’s kind of telling about the scale of the game that the Cobra is, in fact, rather comparable in size and bulk to the iconic Millennium Falcon of Star Wars fame!
The Cobra comes from the same manufacturer that makes the Sidewinder, and in all honesty, it shows in the basic aesthetic. The Cobra’s basic shape is a distinctive wide, flat arrowhead or wedge shape with a slightly blunted tip, broken up in places by slightly raised armor panels. It seems to work out better for the Cobra than the Sidewinder, however – the general impression I get from the Cobra resembles a stealth bomber or a manta ray. The basic paintjob is a simple cool neutral blue with white highlights and the occasional black utility panel. The ship’s thermal dissipation panels form a gill-like series of darker slats on the ship’s rear top surface, around a subtle ‘hump’ near the center of the hull that I’m going to assume is the main reactor bay. When the ship runs hot in combat, these radiator slats form a distinctive set of glowing stripes on its back. All in all, I quite like the Cobra’s looks – it’s simple but very distinctive, deadly but functional.
Stepping into the Cobra’s cockpit, you’re faced with plenty of dark faux-leather upholstery, rather like on the Sidewinder – if noticeably less dingy. The control console is blocky and sturdy-looking, geometric shapes covered in dark gray, leather-textured plastic casing. Gray metal trimmings and supports gleam among the dark muted colors, broken up in a few spots by lighter gray-brown fabric pads. Many of the surfaces hold small supply or maintenance compartments, and strapped-down supply containers make a reappearance, along with strategically-placed handles to make maneuvering around the space easier in null gravity. The Cobra is also the first ship implemented to feature a two-man cockpit (The Adder currently being the cheapest two-seater ship), with the pilot in the left-hand seat – the right-hand one is currently unoccupied, but it’s rumored that in the future, you can carry passengers or even invite your friends to share the bridge with you. The general feeling of the ship is functional, comfortable, and somewhat spacious – the back of the cockpit even has a couple of video screens for a ‘DeLacey Systems’ computer with access to newsfeeds and entertainment channels, presumably to whittle away the long quiet hours on interstellar voyages.
As for the ship’s canopy, the Cobra has a nice wide view directly forwards, but your peripheral view is more limited – it’s not quite as bad as the Hauler or Adder but is a step down from the canopy bubbles of the Sidewinder and the Eagle. The panel does extend some way above the pilot seat, as well, giving you field of view directly up, but the sheer bulk of the ship behind the cockpit does give you a big blind spot directly below and behind you. The canopy struts are thin and positioned well to not interfere with your field of vision. All in all, your field of view is perfectly sufficient for most purposes, but nothing to write home about.
The Cobra is, as previously mentioned, big – with a dry weight of 241 tons in stock configuration (and a 16-ton fuel tank to boot!) it’s literally three times the mass of an Eagle and six times the mass of a Sidewinder. (It is, in fact, also so wide it just barely fits on the ‘standard’ landing pad). Unsurprisingly, it also feels like it. The thruster array on the ship is beefy enough to maneuver well enough, but you certainly feel every ton of the ship’s mass in a tight curve – and for all its agility, the Cobra does suffer from a turn radius wider than any of the light ships. The stock configuration’s maneuverability is perfectly sufficient for dogfighting, but particularly nimble targets like Eagles will be difficult to keep in your sights for any length of time. Outside of combat, the ship does handle fairly well – the thruster array is powerful enough to let you neatly maneuver yourself in rather tight spaces, although the increased size and inertia of the ship does mean you have to be a little bit more careful when fitting yourself through a station’s docking aperture. The Cobra being especially wide compared to the smaller ships in the game means it’s easy to scrape a wingtip on something if you’re not paying attention, particularly if you’ve just ‘graduated’ to the Cobra.
When it comes to straight lines, however, hoo boy, what the Cobra loses out on agility it gains in sheer thruster power. Coasting along with two pips in your engine system gets you up to 211 meters per second – at full power, you get to about 281 – and when you hit your boosters, you’ll find yourself temporarily breaching the 400 meters per second mark. That is, for further reference, well over the speed of sound (340 meters per second) – which the Eagle has trouble even reaching, let alone breaching. While an Eagle is perfectly capable of outmaneuvering you (your turn radius at top speed is pretty wide) the sheer speed you can put out in a straight line can be a rather nasty surprise.
For long-range travel, the Cobra’s class 4 frameshift drive can propel it – in stock configuration and on a full fuel tank – up to 10.46 light years in a single jump. Loading up the spacious 18-ton cargo bay full will only drop it down to 9.78 LY. It turns out that the frameshift drive is scaled so that the Cobra actually stays 5 tons under the optimal tonnage limit when fully loaded up – solid and reliable performance that’s unlikely to strand a commander for picking up that last ton of cargo. On the downside, the Cobra’s expansive fuel tank (16 tons!) is also quite necessary – the Cobra’s sheer mass means the drive will hork up a whopping two tons of fuel per jump at maximum range (obviously, meaning you can handle a maximum of eight jumps at max range before you run dry; a respectable range). A trip of three or four frameshift jumps – not even draining the tank entirely – will frequently net you four-digit fuel bills. Mounting a fuel scoop is very much recommended, especially if you intend to do exploring.
Meanwhile, Frontier Development has worked hard to ensure that all each ships have an unique soundscape. The Cobra’s engine sound is a deep throaty vibrating drone-hum, kind of like the classic sci-fi ‘hoverboard’ sound effect. It’s certainly softer than you’d expect from a ship the sheer size of the Cobra, but it still seems to fit the feel of the ship; distinctive without being distracting, and the low bass vibration is surprisingly satisfying when you punch the throttle.
When it comes to armament, the Cobra carries a most respectable set of fangs on it. The ship actually has four hardpoints – two medium hardpoints and two small ones. That’s right, the Cobra carries as much firepower in its secondary mounts as you can cram onto a Sidewinder. Meanwhile the medium hardpoints can accept powerful class 2 weapons. Most of the time this means similar weapons as you’ll see on an Eagle or Sidewinder, but (hilariously) upscaled.. along with unlocking the class-2 ‘small’ plasma accelerator, a heavy energy cannon intended for cracking open light capital ships, and the class-2 fragment cannon, essentially a giant anti-ship shotgun.
The two ‘main’ hardpoints are positioned much like on the Sidewinder – the weapon bays sit at the very nose of the ship, directly below and to the sides of the cockpit canopy. Their line of sight is very good – again, if you can see your target, you probably can shoot at them with your main weapons. The secondary (small) hardpoints, however, are positioned oddly – they sit a good distance apart from one another quite far back on the belly of the ship, nearly at the rear corners. This positioning makes them somewhat awkward when tracking – when shooting at forward targets you really can’t hit anything that’s even a little bit above the ‘waterline’ of the ship, and non-gimbaled weapons in these mounts will have a hard time converging on a smaller target – although should you choose to mount turret weapons on them, they will likely have quite good fields of fire, particularly towards the back of the ship. If you decide to carry all turreted weapons, you likely won’t have many blind spots in your coverage.
For utility equipment, the Cobra comes equipped with two utility mounts – both sit underneath the ship, a little bit forwards and towards the centerline of the ship from the secondary mounts. Two utility mounts is enough to carry along some interesting equipment, but the mounts’ positioning makes them awkward for point defense – you’ll be well-covered on the bottom of the ship, but have practically zero coverage towards your top half.
The sheer virtue of having four hardpoints – and the ability to mount medium guns on the better-positioned ones – makes the Cobra powerfully flexible when it comes to its loadout. The ship’s sheer speed paired with auto-tracking turret weapons would make it a powerful ‘point defense’ light ship hunter, and the ability to carry a pair of powerful directfire guns, paired with decent speed and mobility, would also enable the Cobra to seriously threaten larger ships. This flexibility, most of all, is the Cobra’s defining trait – given any imaginable target profile and enough funding, you CAN build a cobra superbly fit for the task – or stick with a more generalist loadout for threatening a wider variety of targets.
One thing to note is that while the Cobra has an equal number of hardpoints as the Viper, the actual positioning of the mounts leads to some key differences. The Viper’s C2 under-wing hardpoints make the mounts feel better matched with hard-mounted and missile weapons, using the craft’s innate speed and maneuverability to benefit in high-speed strafing runs. Meanwhile the Cobra’s heavy gun mounts, fit on the nose, are very friendly to most types of ‘traditional’ weapons, fixed or otherwise – the Cobra feels more like a ‘heavy gunship,’ with a pair of big guns like C2 multicannons or beam lasers on the nose and a pair of smaller guns complimenting those on the wingtips.
The twin utility mounts, meanwhile, highlight the flexibility on the rest of the Cobra. A ship invested in heavy combat and heat-intensive weapons (or smuggling under the radar) will have no problems carrying a heat sink launcher (or even two!) to help dump waste heat, and maybe a chaff launcher to mess around with an opponent’s gimbal/turret weapons. One of these can easily be paired with a cargo scanner or kill warrant scanner for pirates and bounty hunters, respectively. Having two utility mounts means you have enough space for interesting options, while still being forced to consider carefully which of those options will be the most efficient for a given task.
The same theme of flexibility continues when it comes to the Cobra’s interior spaces. The Cobra has a whopping six internal compartments – three class 4 compartments and three class 2s. These are, respectively, filled with two 8-ton cargo racks, a class 4 shield generator, a 2-ton cargo rack and a basic discovery scanner, leaving one of the class 2 compartments empty. This gives you a lot of space for playing around with to further build the Cobra of your dreams – an aspiring smuggler or merchantman can easily upgrade the class-3 racks to class 4s for a total of an impressive 34 tons of cargo space – should you choose to remove the discovery scanner, you can expand that up to 44 tons of cargo space by simply adding class 2 cargo racks. (Replacing the shield generator as well would bring you up to 60 tons, but at that point you’re better off getting a Lakon-T6). A more combat-oriented pilot can easily fit all sorts of interesting extra equipment – like shield cell banks, field repair systems, limpet controller modules and the like – into those same internal compartments while retaining a healthy amount of cargo space for salvage and the occasional light cargo haul mission. An explorer can fit a most impressive scanner array to the same slots and head out into the black in search of new worlds to exploit.
Thankfully, the Cobra is also built to handle all that extra kit. The default power generator on the ship puts out 10.4 MW of power – out of which only 7.8, about 75% – is actually put to use. This gives a new Cobra Commander plenty of power to play around with for loadouts, and means you actually have the chance to use all those slots before having to burn credits on a power plant overhaul. In the same vein, the ship’s frameshift drive, thruster array and shield generator are all fairly well-fit for its mass – while improving on them most definitely will not hurt, there’s no single screaming weakness in the Cobra’s stock loadout, either.
Of course, all this utility and flexibility has to come with a price – and in the Cobra’s case, it is, well, price. The Cobra’s power plant, thruster array and frame shift drive are all class 4 equipment, while the life support, power distributor and sensor suite are class 3. This makes them fairly big and weighty pieces of kit – and expensive to upgrade, as well. Paired with the Cobra’s sheer mass and an energy-hungry frameshift drive, and the Cobra’s greatest sole weakness seems to be not its equipment, but its operating cost – upgrading the ship’s armor or equipment can be a costly proposition, to say nothing of the fuel and ammunition costs. While you’re well-equipped to tackle larger challenges, you’ll also be operating on more narrow profit margins than somebody who’s settling for a smaller ship.
Normally I take the ships I test out to try out the default configuration, first – but let’s face it. The Cobra’s stock configuration is a pair of standard (small)loaner pulse lasers in the main (medium) mounts. We’ve already established that even a pair of standard pulse lasers can be a threat to other ships. So I yanked those out – and dakka’d the Cobra up, going with a pair of medium gimbaled multicannons and a pair of small gimbal beam lasers (The power plant could, in fact, comfortably handle such a loadout, though I imagine it would’ve been different had I chosen to go with, say, a twin C2 rail guns in the main mounts). Next I headed out to a resource extraction zone to try my toys out.
The results were.. most satisfying.
While the Cobra’s turn radius is more limited compared to smaller ships – the Sidewinder and Eagle most prominent comparisons – you’re still mobile enough to keep things from getting frustrating. Of course skilled human pilots will be a different thing entirely, but the Cobra is definitely agile enough to keep up with most AI pilots – only the Eagle’s mobility and small turn radius make it fairly hard to latch onto one, but once you have your target in your sights.. oh, sweet kee-rist, the DAMAGE you can do. Just a pair of C2 multicannons with no frills will absolutely decimate small NPC ships. I did find the twin lasers a bit hard to keep on target, but honestly, as much firepower as the dual C2s can put out, I felt more than alright in this. Sidewinders and Eagles simply cease to exist when you lock onto them; Cobras can take a bit more punishment, but the sheer hail of ordinance is more than capable of dealing with them, too. What the Cobra loses out in agility, you get back in sheer absolute overwhelming firepower – and endurance, a glancing hit from an enemy Cobra’s railgun failed to even penetrate my shields, where the same impact would’ve seriously threatened to wreck a smaller craft. However, you shouldn’t get carried away – there’s always some pilot more skilled than you, and a more agile craft can be very difficult to shake, unless you get creative. All in all, I consider the Cobra a very fun, very powerful ship to fly in combat – as long as you know what the hell you’re doing, anyhow. (It’s also the first ship I felt comfortable enough in to start hunting down those elite pirate Anacondas – with success!)
On the flipside, comparing the Cobra to the Viper, the Cobra suffers from being a noticeably larger hull – that vertical silhouette is an absolutely fucking massive target compared to the smaller, sleeker Viper, meaning that while the Cobra’s hull is tougher, you’ll likely be taking more damage in the first place. The sheer size and mass of the ship hull itself makes your shields somewhat less effective – meaning the Cobra tends to rack up more hull damage (and repair costs) in the long run.
Putting It All together
The Cobra is what the Sidewinder hopes to be – a flexible multipurpose workhorse ship that can easily be kitted out and modified to perform whatever role you wish of it, in and out of combat. I honestly believe there is no pilot who will not find a use for some aspect of the ship – should they be willing to face the price of upgrading and operating it.
Falcon DeLacy ‘Cobra MKIII’ Medium Multipurpose Ship
Price: 142,931 credits
Hardpoints: 2x C2, 2x C1, 2 utility mounts
Internal Compartments: 3x C4, 3x C2
Mass: 241 tons (180 t hull, 106.5 tons fully laden)
Cargo Capacity: 18 tons (60 tons max)
Fuel Capacity: 16 tons
Jump Range: 10,46 LY unladen (9,78 LY fully laden)
Top Speed: 310 m/sec / 388 m/sec boost
Power Plant Output: 10.40 MW (7.80 MW / 75,0% used)
2x class 2 weapon mounts: 2x C1F Fixed Pulse Laser
2x class 1 weapon mounts: Empty
2x utility mount: Empty
Power Plant (Class-4): C4E
Thrusters (Class-4): C4E
Frameshift Drive (Class-4): C4E
Life Support (Class-3): C3E
Power Distributor (Class-3): C3E
Sensor Suite (Class-3): C3E
Fuel Tank (Class-4): C4 (16 tons)
3x Internal Bay (Class-4): 2x C3 Cargo Rack (8 tons), C4E Shield Generator
3x Internal Bay (Class-2): C1 Cargo Rack (2 tons), C1E Basic Discovery Scanner, Empty
This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by CMDR Zhor.