Elite: Impressions – Lakon Type-7

2015-03-03

Trucking Intensifies

The Type-7 Transporter is Lakon Spaceways’ mid-range transport vessel. This is a new model, released in 3290. It’s slow, but moves a lot of tonnage for its size. -In-Game Description

Don’t be fooled by the ‘mid-range’ part – the Type-7 is a considerably larger and heavier vessel than its little brother. A relative newcomer to the game, the Type-7 fills a niche between the ‘cheap’ Type-6 and the absolutely massive Type-9 Heavy.

Appearance

Alright. I get the appeal of utility and efficiency over aesthetics, but come on. The Type-7 isn’t a ship – it’s a giant cargo hold with thrusters welded on in one end.

The general shape of the ship is a simple boxy bricklike form, with bulging thruster pods and stubby wings protruding from the main hull. The front ‘face’ of the ship is slightly sloped, with the distinctive Lakon cockpit bubble jutting from the front end – however, unlike with the lighter Lakon-T6 and the Asp, the cockpit sits at the very lower edge of the ship, with the main cargo hold protruding above it. The arrangement gives the whole ship a distinctive hunchbacked look, not helped by the multiple thruster pods jutting from the sides of it. An interesting little detail is that the already short wings – one pair at the middle of the hull, the second slightly smaller set at the back – seem to be hinged to fold up against the hull when necessary. All in all, the long shape with the distinct hump and the short finlike wings of the ship remind me of a hunchbacked whale. Or perhaps a pregnant bass. If this was Pokémon, the T7 would be what the cute little T6 evolves into – bigger, uglier, more pragmatic and industrial.

Irregular in shape, covered in slabs of armor, painted a dull gunmetal gray and undecorated save for glowing thermal ports near its rear and a couple of white stripes running along its sides, the ship is far from a pretty vessel. It’s big, it’s hulking, it’s crude in an industrial sort of a way – very distinctive, though whether that’s good or bad depends on the viewer themselves.

Cockpit

Eeeeyup, it’s a Lakon ship, alright. Keeping up the traditions established with the Type-6 and the Asp, the Type-7 has a distinctive wide bubble cockpit jutting out of its front end. Sitting in the seat, you’re greeted with the familiar crescent-shaped Lakon instrument panel in the middle of an expansive bubble of armored transparencies. Looking around, you have a wide field of view to your sides. Upwards, the front part of the cargo module above the cockpit does hinder your view to the back, but the paneling does give you a good forwards-and-above view are. The cockpit is considerably smaller than the Asp’s, though – a single seater, like on the T6.

Aside from the view, something about the shape and arrangement of the cockpit gives me the impression of an older, utilitarian model – instead of the usual round, hemispherical bubble, the Type-7’s cockpit is more half-cylindrical. The support struts for the canopy are thick and stout, festooned with grip handles, bereft of lights or secondary screens, with exposed cables running along the lowest primary horizontal struts. Dark, utilitarian, and.. probably not very comfortable.

Handling

The Type-7 is basically the T6’s big brother, and feels like it. Actually controlling the ship feels quite the same as it did with a Type-6 – you’re basically driving around a giant cargo crate with engines bolted on, and it feels like it. Empty on cargo, it handles…well, not well, but manageably. Fill it up with cargo and.. If the Type-6 flies like a pig, the T7 is a cow – while your maneuver thrusters are fairly responsible, your sheer inertia makes your turn radius quite wide. Consider your trajectory before you commit to it, and don’t even think about sudden maneuvers – you’ll often end up overcorrecting yourself, leading to a ‘wobble’. Also note that the T7 is the first cargo ship that’s classed as a large ship – and therefore is unable to dock at smaller outposts.

Speed-wise, the T7 is about on par with other dedicated freighters. Cruising along with two pips to your engines will have you floating on at a stately 120 meters per second – going for full engine power will push that on onto 180 meters per second – and hitting your boosters will punch you out to a fairly impressive (for a freighter) 300 meters per second. With a full load, you’ll also be bearing that inertia for quite a while – though you must be aware that a fully loaded Type-7 is not fast enough to halt itself quickly. Make sure your coast is clear before you hit the booster, or be prepared to scrape other ships off your windshield. Sadly, hitting your boosters does drain your engine cell nearly completely, and it does take considerable time to fully charge as well.

Sadly, when it comes to frameshift capacity, the Type-7 is quite limited. In its default configuration, with 100 tons of cargo, you get barely over nine (9.06) light-years out of a single jump. Even unladen, the situation is hardly better – 10.68 LY won’t quite get you to the stars. And seeing as you can easily refit a Type-7 to carry 200 tons of cargo at once – your frameshift range can become very restricted indeed, unless you know what you’re doing. In practice I’ve found that an ‘optimal’ trading loadout (200 tons of cargo, fuel scoop, shield generator, A-grade FSD and D-grade everything else) will get you a maximum laden jump range of about seventeen and a half light-years. It’s not absolutely terrible (hello, Viper), but plan accordingly – many trade routes that are easy and fast with a trade-fit Asp can become three- or four-jump slogs through off-the-beaten-path systems with a T7. Furthermore, the ship seems to be very prone to overheating – the ship runs fairly hot at stock configuration, and activating your frameshift drive can easily add 40-50% heat to your gauge during its warmup period, triggering heat alarms. It’s also very easy to accidentally hit that 135% heat limit – if you, say, activate your frameshift drive immediately after dropping into a system, or directly after an engine boost.

The Lakon-T7 comes by default with a 32-ton fuel tank, the same size as the Asp; this tends to be quite sufficient for most purposes, although the naturally shorter frameshift range of the Type-7 does make it less fuel-efficient than its explorer brother.

Meanwhile, it’s easy to tell the Type-7 came from the same shipyards that forge both Type-6es and Asps – in fact, the engine sound of the Type-7 is a distinctive mixture of each. Powering your primary thrusters and lifting off, there’s a familiar whooshing jet-whine of big thrusters, paired with a more subtle, muted version of the Asp’s mechanical churn-gurgle – lifting off from your docking pad, 200 tons of gold in your cargo hold and hitting the maneuver thrusters, the engine sounds suspiciously like you’ve got a big potful of thick pea soup happily burbling in the back. It’s distinctive, yes, while fitting neatly among its two cheaper brethren.

Hardpoints

Its little brother cost 1.6 million and came equipped with two light hardpoints. At over 17 million, the Type-7 has to come with more, right?

Four light hardpoints.

Four.

Yeah, for 17 million you’re getting precisely the firepower of a pair of Sidewinders duct-taped together, on a big, slow, clumsy hull. I’m beginning to see a pattern here.

So, yeah. Your massive clumsy transport freighter comes with a whopping total of four light hardpoints. Two of these are nestled immediately on both sides of the cockpit bubble, and are mostly suited for fixed or gimbaled weapons – these do, in fact, by default hold a pair of basic fixed pulse lasers. Placed right next to the cockpit, relatively close to one another, they have a fairly good convergence to support fixed weapons – but with the sheer bulk and slowness of the ship itself I’d really recommend gimbals here.

The two other mounts, meanwhile, are located on the back and belly of the craft. The top mount sits on the spine of the ship, perhaps two-fifths down the length of the ship – laterally speaking it has a very good arc of fire, but the amount of hull ahead of it and the sheer height of the ship give it a hard time traversing low enough to actually hit a target that your forward guns are aiming at. Honestly, the top gun seems best placed with a turret weapon in mind, or perhaps a mine dispenser.

The last hardpoint sits at the belly of the ship, roughly halfway down the length of the hull. Interestingly enough, it sits somewhat off-center of the ship, to the left of the spine. Actually, a more close examination indicates that there’s a second hatch on the belly of the ship, placed symmetrically with the first – it’s possible that Frontier originally intended the T7 to have two belly guns, but decided to disable one of the belly mounts for balance reasons. Either way, considering the low positioning of the cockpit, the belly gun actually has a fairly good convergence with the front mounts. Still, the mount sits fairly far along the length of the hull (behind the cargo hatch, actually!), which limits its capacity to traverse upwards – again, I’d recommend turreted weapons or mine dispensers in this mount.

In addition to the gun mounts, the T7 comes with four utility mounts – with capacity for a respectable amount of extra equipment, rather akin to the Asp. They’re arranged in symmetrical pairs – two above, two beneath the ship.

The top mounts actually sit fairly back along of the ship’s hull – roughly two thirds down the length of the ship, behind the hump of the main cargo compartment. The height of the hull in front of them does limit their arc of fire directly ahead some, but all things considered they’re fairly well positioned for point defense purposes.

The second pair of utility mounts, meanwhile, are located more to the front of the ship – about a third of the way down the length of the hull, at the very edges of the bottom of the ship, on each side of the cargo hatch. Paired with the top mounts, you end up with a near-total coverage around the ship – obviously the rear mounts can’t fire too much forwards and down or the bottom mounts rearwards-and-up, but the two sets do complement one another well.

Note the unused starboard underbelly mount point – visible above the highlighted port mount in the right-hand picture. Shoutout to CMDR Soricidus for helping me with the screenshots!

Fitting

Right. Actually looking at the internals of the Type-7, a certain theme established with the T6 begins to appear. Looking at the equipment on the ship, I get the feeling Lakon purposefully designed the T6 and T7 with cheap, perhaps even slightly underpowered internal components in order to save up on production costs and cram as much cargo space as possible on the hull – which makes sense for a dedicated freighter, but can make for a real headache for a commander aiming for something more flexible.

First off, the ship is running a class-5 thruster array and frameshift drive – on a class-4 power generator. Furthermore, the ship’s power distributor is class-3. That means that for a ship its sheer size, it’s rocking a power generator and distributor intended for the Cobra, along with a much, much more powerful thruster array and frameshift drive. This does save up on tonnage, upgrade and operating costs – but does complicate things a bit.

First off, the only reason the reactor can support the ship is that it’s not running powerful weapons – in fact, the likely reason for the ship’s anemic loadout is that the ship’s unable to actually run much more! While the actual power output on the reactor is relatively sufficient (only roughly 80% of it is used) the cooling on the slightly-undersized unit is woefully insufficient. Just firing up your frameshift drive comes dangerously close to melting things if you’re not careful. Also, a class-3 power distributor means the ship’s capacitors tend to drain quickly.

Adding insult to injury, the ship comes by default with a class-4 shield generator – designed for an optimal hull mass of 280 tons, the generator is woefully undersized and overstrained with T7’s 420-ton hull. It’s functional, but in practice, it’s only good for avoiding damage from minor dents and dings and the occasional glancing hit – anything halfway resembling a competent assault will just rip straight through your shield bubble.

Anyhow. Other misgivings aside, the T7 is designed for carrying cargo – and this, it manages well. The unit comes by default with an impressive complement of internal compartments – two C6 internal bays (with C5 cargo racks in them), two C5s (with C4 cargo racks), two C4 internal bays (with the shield generator and a basic discovery scanner) and two C2 bays (which are empty). Just the basic configuration can carry 96 tons of cargo – with a couple of upgrades and tweaks, you can easily hit around 200 tons of cargo space while maintaining your (nominal C4) shields. Also, having a handful of smaller-scale slots would allow you to fit fuel scoops or refinery units without compromising the majority of your carrying capacity. (Assuming, of course, that Frontier makes mining actually worth it in the future).

Moving on. Actually arming the ship is a fairly straightforward process – the Type-7 isn’t a combat ship and you shouldn’t really try and treat it as such. The forwards weapon mounts are good for gimbaled or direct fire weapons of your liking – with the ship’s limited heat capacity, I’d recommend basic pulse or burst lasers, or perhaps multicannons – while the top and bottom mounts are well suited for turreted weapons. Note that the relatively low-grade power distributor makes high-intensity thermal weapons like beam lasers slightly less of an auto-pick than usual. Alternatively, a pair of mine launchers might be good for discouraging pursuit while you’re trying to get into position to jump the hell away from an attacker.

For the utility mounts, honestly, a dedicated trader has little need for most utility units – go with point defense turrets. A heat sink launcher might not be a bad idea if you like trying to smuggle, but honestly, smuggling in something the size of a Type-7 is a questionable effort at best.

Something that bears noting is that despite the ship’s not-inconsiderable purchase price, most of the equipment on the Type-7 is relatively low-class – and therefore cheap and easy to repair and upgrade. I’ve ended up coming back to dock at about 25% hull integrity, and still ended up with repair costs of maybe 5000 credits; for a big ship, the Type-7 is quite cheap to operate.

Combat

I reiterate myself from the T6 review:

Don’t.

The T7 is big, slow, and clumsy as hell – all the grace of a pregnant cow. Despite its size, the ship’s armor and shields are minimal at best – for being so much larger, you can actually take less damage than the Asp. Paired with a near-nonexistent weapon loadout and persistent power and heat issues, the Type-7 is best flown far, far away from anywhere halfway resembling combat. Again, if you want to fly combat in a big ship, there are many ships cheaper than the T7 that are much, much better at it; go for those and leave the freighters for the merchants to play with. Meanwhile, if you do use the T7 to trade – fly with friends, and be ready to boost and jump the hell away from danger.

Putting It All Together

The first large-scale freighter ship, the Lakon Type-7 is a (relatively) low-cost bulk hauler that sacrifices firepower and flexibility in favor of low operating costs and superior cargo capacity. Perhaps a less inspiring, unexciting choice, the T7 will still make for a valuable tool for those commanders looking to work their way up into the more expensive ship classes.

Numbers

Lakon Spaceways ‘Type 7’ Transporter

Price:  17,472,252 CR

Shields/Armor:  120/120

Hardpoints:  4x C1 light hardpoint, 4x utility mount

Internal Compartments: 2x C6, 2x C5, 2x C4, 2x C2

Mass: 506.0 tons (420 t hull, 634 t fully laden)

Cargo Capacity: 96 tons (232 max)

Fuel Capacity: 32 tons

Jump Range: 10.68 LY unladen (9.06 LY fully laden)

Top Speed: 180 m/sec cruise / 300 m/sec boost

Power Plant Output: 10.40 MW (8.22 / 79.0% used)

Default Loadout

4x class 1 weapon mounts: 2x C1F pulse laser (fixed), Empty

4x Utility Mounts: Empty

Power Plant (Class-4): C4E

Thrusters (Class-5): C5E

Frameshift Drive (Class-5): C5E

Life Support (Class-4): C4E

Power Distributor (Class-3): C3E

Sensor Suite (Class-3): C3E

Fuel Tank (Class-5): C5 (32 tons)

2x Internal Bay (Class-6): 2x C5 Cargo Rack (32 tons)

2x Internal Bay (Class-5): 2x C4 Cargo Rack (16 tons)

2x Internal Bay (Class-4): C4E Shield Generator, C1E Basic Discovery Scanner

2x Internal Bay (Class-2): Empty

This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by CMDR Zhor.

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