Waste time with a masterpiece, don't waste time with a masterpiece
You should be rolling with me, you should be rolling with me, ah
You're a real-life fantasy, you're a real-life fantasy
But you're moving so carefully; let's start living dangerously
DNCE - Cake By The Ocean
One of the most popular posts on this blog is my Stealth Bomber Guide
(64k views!). I wrote it back in 2010, and outside of the fittings (which are outdated due to module changes in the last 6 years) it's still, if I do say so myself, fairly valuable advice.
I've been giving some thought to how I'm going to update it. I'd like to ensure that it remains useful going forward. While thinking about that, I had to give some thought to what keeps a Stealth Bomber safe in combat. Then I realized that I'd thought it out so much it probably deserved its own blog post.
Really there are 4 things to keep in mind. Each has different applicability depending on the circumstances of the fight itself.
Your own ability to recognize and respond to threats.
This is an easily overlooked skill that most pilots need. If you're flying a Stealth Bomber any ship that's 30k or closer to you is a threat. But it goes beyond that. Threat recognition is not an instantaneous thing, even to the best pilots. So there should be a hard range that, once an enemy enters, you know to GTFO or cloak.
With a fragile ship like a Stealth Bomber, it's going to depend heavily on your range. That's why my Bomber guide talks about maximizing range. For one it gives you the longest period of time on the field, but beyond that, it gives you time to react to threats and make decisions.
Hastily made decisions can, with training, be often the correct ones. But sometimes you'll screw up, so the more time you can give yourself to work out the best course of action, the better.
The defensive capability of your ship.
This is less important to a Stealth Bomber. But not
unimportant. If you get tackled, you're almost always gonna die unless you're lucky with how the engagement goes. Your tank is just too poor to keep you alive for very long.
But still, getting caught by a bomb run, or shot a little as you're re-approaching a gate can become a problem if your tank can't handle a little damage.
There are bomber fits with medium shield extenders and damage controls that try to give you longer periods of time on the field but it's really a losing battle. You're not playing to the Bomber's strengths, which are Range and Stealth.
That isn't to say these are necessarily terrible fits. Bombers have a wide range of uses, arguably moreso now than ever before. But it all depends on how you plan to fly it.
The threat you represent to the target and/or enemy gang.
It's usually safe to say that bigger ships will see you as a huge threat, and the enemy gang will want to clear you off the field quickly if they're facing a gang of stealth bombers. If, every time you decloak, an interceptor burns your way, you're going to have serious difficulty staying on the field and applying damage.
But this is situational. Are you the only Bomber in the gang? Are there others? How far away are you from the fight? It ties in strongly to point one.
If there's a bunch of DPS ships on the field and you think you have a shot at winning the engagement, the ideal solution is to take out the DPS that is easiest to kill first. A good FC will play it that way. Now that may be a Stealth Bomber at 60k away, or a blaster cruiser that has you tackled.
But threat also comes in things that aren't DPS. Perhaps it's a jamming or neuting recon. Perhaps the target or gang thinks they can extricate themselves if they take down the tackle. Take a look at the enemy gang or target, and keep your own gang's composition in mind. Figure out what a reasonable person would think is the greatest threat. Then keep and eye on who targets you or burns for you.
Always do the best to understand what threat you represent to an enemy.
The damage a doomed target or gang can do before they die. And the ease by which they believe you can be dispatched.
So, just because a gang is going down doesn't meant that they're not a threat. I've seen so many Stealth Bomber pilots lose their shit as a target enters structure. They lose an orbit, or they stop paying attention to their own hulls.
Don't do this. Remember that the guy or gang you're burning down is likely going to shift their tactics when they realize they're about to die. Where previously they focused on the threat the various ships represented the shift now goes to "what can I kill before I die".
A good pilot will know when to do this the moment they're tackled. No help is coming and they're gonna die. Time to bloody the enemy. Some pilots might figure it out when their tank breaks, others might never figure it out.
The important thing is that you are watching for this shift in tactics. And, as per point one, you have both the time to react to this, and a way to negate the threat (be it leaving the field, ewar, or cloaking).
The biggest problem you'll run into is that all these points assume rational actors with perfect understanding of the game. Maybe the target thinks they're dead when they actually have a decent shot at winning the engagement. Maybe they think they have a decent shot despite having a gang of 20 ships burning them down.
You can't know these things before hand, but you can understand their behaviors in a way that allows you to know how to react to the problem they represent to your survivability. The longer you live the more use you have to your gang. The more kills you get. The more fun you'll have.
But hey, if you die, just reship and start over. In EVE nothing is forever.