Before continuing with a discussion about the Porpoise and the Orca, I should mention a couple of very important changes. First, Mining Director V is no longer required to fit tech 2 mining foreman links. The requirement drops down to Mining Director I. The second is the merging of the capabilities of the Harvester Capacitor Efficiency link into the Mining Laser Optimization link. The merging of a reduction in both the cycle times and capacitor use of mining lasers, strip miners, ice harvesters, and gas harvesters allow the introduction of a new mining link, Mining Equipment Preservation. I don't know how much boosting charges will wind up costing, so seeing a savings in a reduction of wear and tear on tech 2 mining crystals might come in handy.
The reason for the change is the new ORE mining support ship, the Porpoise:
The Porpoise-class Industrial Command Ship is the most affordable and mobile mining foreman platform ever released in New Eden. This new ship fills the hole at the bottom of the mining foreman ship progression line. Although it shares a group with the larger and more expensive Orca, the Porpoise is as cheap as a tech one battlecruiser.The description of the Porpoise describes the ship as a tech 1 battlecruiser equivalent. The comparison even goes down to the ship's warp speed (2.7 au/sec). Defensively, the ship is much weaker with only 4 mid slots and the standard Primae-hull resist profile. Some of that deficiency is made up for with the ship's raw hit point amount rating out someplace between a regular and faction navy battlecruiser.
Thanks to ORE’s tireless work advancing hull materials technology to reduce mass, the Porpoise is light enough to travel through small-ship wormhole connections.
This new ship should be perfect for mining operations in more dangerous space where lower cost ships minimize exposure to loss for the operation. It’s improved agility and warp speed also make it the best choice for providing coverage of mining groups at multiple locations with one ship.
The ship can standardly fit 2 command burst modules in its 4 high slots, meaning that the merging of the two mining links will give the Porpoise similar boosting capacity to the current Orca. The pilot of the Porpoise has an option to fit either bonused remote shield boosters (400% bonus to Remote Shield Booster optimal range) or tractor beams (100% bonus to range, 50% bonus to velocity). The ship also receives a 2% bonus to Mining Foreman burst strength and duration per level of Industrial Command Ships trained.
I should note three final items of interest. First, the Porpoise receives mining drone bonuses, meaning that the maximum mining yield is similar to a mining barge, while using a flight of medium drones could result in a max dps of approximately 400. Second, the ship has the 50,000 m3 ore hold the Orca currently possesses. With a fleet hangar of only 5,000 m3, a miner cannot just dump a cargohold full of ore into the Porpoise like a mobile container. However, unlike the Orca, the ore hold of a Porpoise is affected by skills, growing 5% per level of Industrial Command Ships trained. Finally, the Porpoise, can fit into shattered wormholes, finally providing ice miners a support ship with boosts and an adequate cargo to haul the ice out.
The Orca is a ship I already use in high sec. I'm glad I already have one as the ship is receiving a major buff. The ship is gaining 3 high slots along with a 400% bonus to remote shield booster optimal range, 250% bonus to tractor beam range, and 100% bonus to tractor beam velocity. The devs also increased the maximum number of locked targets from 2 to 7 in order to allow for pre-locking of multiple targets.
The drone changes to the Orca are a bit crazy. Not only does an Orca receive a 10% bonus to drone hitpoints, damage, and mining yield and a 10% reduction in drone ice harvesting cycle time per level of Industrial Command Ships, but also a role bonus of 100% bonus to drone damage and mining yield and 25% reduction to drone ice harvesting cycle time. The drone bay is also increased to 200 m3, meaning the ship can hold several flights of light and medium drones. The dev blog indicates the ship can obtain mining yields similar to an exhumer or approximately 800 dps in a combat role.
Defensively, the Orca received a big upgrade, with a 176% increase in base shield hitpoints as well as gaining a 5th mid slot. In addition, the ship receives a 1% bonus to shield command burst strength and duration per level of Industrial Command Ships trained. The shield command bursts come into play as one of the changes to boosts is that a boosting ship can always give boosts to itself. What that means is that a Orca can run 3 command burst modules and give itself bonuses, thus making ganking attempts even more difficult.
For support, the Orca maintains the ability to standardly fit 3 command bursts with a 3% mining foreman burst strength and duration per level of Industrial Command Ships trained. The ship also has a 50% bonus to command burst area of effect range. Perhaps the biggest change, though, is in the ship's hauling capacity. The ore bay is increased from 50,000 m3 to 150,000 m3. Also, like the Porpoise and unlike today, the Orca receives a 5% ore hold size increase per level of Industrial Command Ships trained. That might even hold all the ore from a high sec belt.
All in all, I expect a lot of miners are happy to see these changes. I know I am. I don't think I'll use any of the ships in low sec, but I'll feel more comfortable moving the Orca around high sec. I have the feeling that CCP foresees players needing massive amounts of minerals in the year ahead. I have the feeling we will need to wait until Fanfest next year to find out why.