As I mentioned, with my recent windfall I bought the Heavy Assault Cruiser (HAC) skillbook and I plan to buy one of the ships. The question is, which one?
They are two vastly different ships available in the Caldari line.
The Eagle is based off the Moa hull and is similarly designed for rails with four turret hardpoints and bonuses to optimal range and shield resistances, as well as further bonus to optimal range again and damage. That means in a sniper configuration of 4 x 250mm Tech II medium rails with Spike Ammo, 3 x Magnetic Field Stabilizer IIs, and 2 x Tracking Computer IIs (optimal range script) the Eagle can reach out to 177 km with a 14 km falloff, ranking it with fleet battleships for range.
Unfortunately, the DPS is not impressive at 131 and a volley of 484 won't scare off anything but the smallest frigates and perhaps destroyers. Quite simply its a fleet support setup, and a Ferox in sniper fitting can do the same DPS at 110 km for a quarter of the price.
However, the Eagle can be equipped with blasters which benefit from the ship bonuses as well. With 4 x Heavy Neutron IIs with Void ammo, 3 x Magnetic Field Stabilizer IIs, and a shield tank that has all resistances at 80%+, it can throw out 355 DPS at 7.1 km (and 3 km falloff) or 279 DPS with Spike ammo at 12 km optimal and 7 km falloff. Sadly, again a battlecruiser seems to do the job better with a Brutix with 7 x Heavy Neutron IIs outdamaging the Eagle even without Magnetic Field Stabs in the lows albeit at half the range, but when dealing with anything under 15km the range is not often the selling point.
To summarized, the Eagle has equal or slightly better performance than battlecruisers that are a quarter of the cost. While it has some attractive qualities (better range, high resistances) is it worth the price tag?
The counterpart to the hybrid based Moa is the missile based Caracal, and congruently the Caracal hull is the basis of the missile spewing Cerberus.
With my pitiful missile skills using best named heavy launchers and T1 non-faction missiles, I can get 259 DPS (1500 volley) and still have a tank twice as good as the blaster Eagle. Holy crap. Well, you say, the Eagle is more of a range vessel than the Cerberus. Oh yeah, I counter? The above setup for the Cerberus is throwing those heavy missiles out to 133 km!
I started writing this post on the fence but actually running the numbers for it has convinced me that the Cerberus is the only real answer, especially as I am currently on a Tech II missile training regime now that Recons (and soon HACs) are finished.
So let's extrapolate: assume my support skills for missiles are trained up and I now have access to Tech II heavy missile launchers and ammo, a training time of about 30 days from today. It means that fitting 5 x Heavy Missile Launcher IIs with:
Tech I Scourge Missiles = 294 DPS, 1570 volley, 154 km
Tech II Scourge Fury Missiles (aka high damage) = 342 DPS, 1832 volley, 74 km
Tech II Scourge Precision Missiles (aka frig killers) = 264 DPS, 1413 volley, 70 km
In other words, I can almost match the DPS of the blaster Eagle at ten times the range and twice the tank. At a range of 150 km the Cerberus out damages the sniper eagle by a three to one margin and has ten times the tank. In addition, facing some nasty enemy resistances to one damage type the Cerberus can change missiles to find their weakness, the Eagle cannot.
Cerberus it is!