Use your thruster override and lateral thruster keys instead of the throttle for finer control, and use the roll function too.
Use the lateral thrusters to dodge missiles, which have limited side-ways manoeuvrability.
Addendum (by Jet):
The missile warning the sound cue (kind of little blip that goes along the missile icon on the HUD) can be heard faster and faster as closest missile comes nearer to you (really reminds you of a torpedo using active sonar closing on you :)). That gives you the cue you need to know when evading becomes a necessity.
As for the evasion maneuver itself, don't forget that the missiles are subject to inertia, just as you are, but they have a far greater speed (2800 m/s for the missiles that are usually fired at you), that means that you can modify your flying vector much quicker than they do. If you briefly switch off the flight assistant you can even use your full forward thrust on a new direction to radically modify your vector, with their limited acceleration capacities the missiles generally don't have time to adjust if they're close enough and just overshoot.
Remember that your ship has inertia. The braking thrusters will not be able to stop you instantly, so be careful not to fly too fast, and don't head directly at a target. Inertia is your ally as well as your enemy - use your inertia to help you strafe enemies as you fly past them, and to get onto their vulnerable rears.
Try to avoid crashing into objects, especially at high speed - they can really ruin your day.
Try to avoid crashing into objects, especially at high speed - they can really ruin your day.
You can skip the queue at L-point when going into Capsule Space by manually selecting the jump destination on the Starmap screen and flying through the green circle in the middle of the Lagrange point coming from the blue side of it (you can jump sideways, you don't have to align in the L-point axis).
Sometimes, a ship just stops at the exit of an L-point, don't forget to turn immediately upon re-entering normal space. These space accidents with reactor breach are real messy.
Autopilot (F6) is very usefull in combat in case you loose control of your vessel, engage it then disengage (F5) a second after and control's back.
We hear quite often that decoys (flares, ECM or Smart) are useless, or even that they're never launched.
First, even flares will lure missiles away from you (several missiles can even be lured by the same decoy).
Second, the higher the decoy class the lower the time they take to decide to launch against a missile. The problem here seems to be that missile threats are evaluated as they come within range of effective decoy deployment, switching from one missile threat evaluation to another the counter-measure system can't make the decision to launch and thus does nothing. This can be made more easy if you add a magazine or two of counter-measures in other launchers that you might have installed in your ship loadout. For each launcher that can fire decoys the system seems to be able to deal with one more missile at the same time (ie. with 3 launchers containing decoys, it can evaluate 3 missile threats at the same time and make individual decoy launch for all 3 threats).
Get close! Most energy weapons have a short range, and the closer to the target you are, the more damage you will do. An additional benefit is that the closer you are the better your chance of scoring a hit (good tactics you rapid fire weapons).
Use the right weapon for the right job; attack hostiles with the lightest weapon in your arsenal and you'll take more damage as you move to destroy them. Hit hard and fast.
The targeting impact prediction reticle shows little triangle facing inward when you stand a chance to hit the target, that means the target is inside the range of your select weapon and within the angle it can cover. You usually stand a better chance of hitting if you shoot while the target is in the centre of the HUD, especially if you're far away.
Note 1: while in zoom mode, you're far more accurate.
Note 2: the statement in the encyclopedia saying active sensors can be used for better targeting is unconfirmed.
With a weapon link you have two fire modes available - chain fire and salvo fire. Chain fire fires each identical weapon alternately, and is great for spreading heat build up over a longer time, and good against fighters where your shots often miss.
Salvo fire fires each identical weapon simultaneously, resulting in a big heat spike, but allowing you to hit a target very hard. This is most useful against slower moving ships. Without a weapon link you can only use chain fire, but with a weapon link you can not only use salvo fire, but your chain fire is faster.
Use F to change the weapon link fire mode.
Addendum (posted by Jet): The chain mode is the default mode, the advantage of the Salvo mode is your cannons hit as one weapon, which mean more force in a single shot that can make your target move (that's why you go spinning sometimes when hit by heavy fire).
Note: salvo fire mode also works for missile launchers (except when REM missiles are selected) so it's a good idea to balance the weapon mix in each launcher so that you can exploit this.
If overwhelmed, run away! Both the thruster override function and your LDS drive are very useful for quick getaways.
Choose your weapons carefully. Too many different weapons on your ship will not give you the advantage of linked firepower, and take you longer to cycle through. Two or three types of both energy weapons and missiles are normally all you will need.
Soften up enemies with missiles before you engage them, alternativelly fire a missile at a heavily damaged craft you just met head-on to finish it.
Don't leave damaged enemies alone. Destroy them before they repair and come after you!
Use the Tactical Resource Interface (TRI) shortcuts to boost power to the system category you need most, e.g. if you want to blast an opponent quickly, boost power to your weapons, but remember that boosting power to one system takes power away from the others.
Note: Did you know... that when maxing power to weapons you increase energy based weapons' range and damage by 50% and decrease their recharge time by 25% (except for beam weapons)? inversely, if you max shield or propulsion the range/damages of your energy weapons decrease by 50% and recharge time increase by 25%.
Watch these speed limits inside some station space; moving around at 250m/s is almost certain death.
Add-on (posted by Bobko): In ports, you may use F7 on a far target, no more speed limits.
Check your position, it's vital to know where you are in a battle, you don't want to slide into a freighter or asteroid at several thousand metres per second if you can help it.
Thruster override is a great way to run if you've been hit by an LDSi missile and have enemies in pursuit, many give up and leave before you hit full speed if you just head in a straight line and don't turn back.
Disabling the Flight Assistant mode in combat gives you more freedom, you can then exploit the use of lateral and overide thrusters to their full potential.
At low speeds the distance you overshoot a ship, when you bypass it, is much smaller, and with good piloting you can pull a 180 degrees turn much faster than the other, thus giving you high damage rear shots.
Note: You also regain forward momentum much faster.
Note (by Jet): if you can, rolling your ship can help you to change direction without completely loosing momentum, but it's a tricky one to perfect.
If you have two shields mounted on your ship, rolling on yourself heading in the same direction will alternatively present each shield toward incoming fire and thus manually spread the damage and help to recharge your shields.
Shields do not cover the engines, so try to get behind your enemy and shoot it in the vulnerable rear. The same goes for your ship - don't let an enemy get behind you. Present a strong face to the enemy!
Each shield can only defend against one enemy. Your ship has a maximum of two shields, so be careful not to be attacked by more than two ships simultaneously. Try to split enemies up, and take them one-on-one.
If you have wingmen, use them! Remember that each shield can only defend against one enemy. If you and your wingmen attack a target simultaneously, you will rip through their shields and destroy them very quickly.
Some items can be expensive to manufacture but resource points are pretty easy to come by. Find yourself an L-point near to some mining operations and simply pirate as much common ore as your heart desires. Transports with little or no escort loaded down with max cargo pods of ore and occassionaly rare metals, gold, silver, platinum and neutronium. In 20 minutes of combat I managed to score so many cargo pods it took over an hour to collect them all.
Typical escorts were patcoms and tugs, which are really no match for even your Tug. This works equally well for gas mines when you need hydrocarbons to purchase some necessary items.
It's easy to see at a glance how valuable the cargo on a freighter is by the number and size of its escorts. If four heavy corvettes defend a freighter with a single pod you can be certain it's high value cargo! Conversely a freighter fully loaded out with 20 pods and no escorts is unlikely to be carrying anything valuable, but will be easy to steal from.
You can find out what a freighter is carrying by sub-targeting it and cycling through its cargo pods (5km and under).
Using the Imaging program (i.e. zoom) you can sub target components on a ship from up to 30km away. This makes it easy to select a prey from afar or just to observe what's kind of cargo is passing through the part of space you're in without having to go under 5km to be able to cycle sub targets.
If you know what you want to make a trade back at base, try going to stations that may possibly be likely suppliers of the cargo you're after (i.e. if a trade wants livestock, try hunting around agri-orbitals for your goods).
Observing the traffic going to or through a station can be rewarding as you can spot regular deliveries of some goods to the station or ships containing specific cargo transiting by this station on a regular basis (which doesn't mean you wont have to wait for it).
When you target a freighter watch where you fire; you could inadvertently destroy cargo pods on the freighter that you wanted to collect. Or hit something potentially dangerous (i.e. antimatter has a very large blast radius, if you see a white shockwave starting to expand get out of here ASAP).
Mega containers are huge cargo pods that Jaf can't pickup (identified as being empty when you try to tag them), however they contain smaller usual cargo pods (seen up to 8 in a megapod) the known way to get to these is to shoot the megapod, most of the time while exploding it opens its door an release some pods before vaporizing.
Jafs will refuse to come and pickup pods if there are hostiles on your scanner, that means that in areas where reinforcement keep coming, you can't do a pickup... except if you manually tag the pods that interest you, manage to loose your pursuers for a few seconds at that time you can call Jafs who will happily collect what you tagged. You may loose some pods but it's better than loosing all of them.
Addendum: Jafs will only complain about hostile ships if they are within the ID range of your sensors. Base ID range for passive sensors 1 to 5 respectively are, 25 km, 38 km, 50 km, 20 km (no typo) and 100 km. If you have active sensors installed and activated, these values are increased depending on the active sensor grade).
LIFE ON THE FRONTIER
Usually other ships will ignore you even If you're in the middle of a shooting battle right beside them (that counts for stations too), so long as a stray shot doesn't hit them or their escorts...
When first starting out, try to pirate from undefended Lagrange points where you won't be attacked by security forces or police.
When you start out pirating, pick on ships with fewer/weaker escorts. If you start small, you'll be able to get a few upgrades on your ship, allowing you to take on harder (and more profitable) targets.
SNRV pilots are low paid, and will surrender if you shoot them a couple of times, making it very easy to steal from them.
Try not to destroy freighters when pirating them, as this could destroy valuable cargo docked to them and also set off a shockwave that could destroy anything nearby, including cargo and you!
Go for the escort first, get close, let hell lose on them (use allies and attached T-fighters on defend self and fire at will setting), a well-planned surprise attack can usually blast 2 or 3 escorts in the first seconds [don't try this with interceptors they react too fast].
Upgrade your ship as and when you can, the more heavily armed you are the more juicy the convoys you can attack.