The Ishtar is a Gallente heavy assault ship that makes an amazingly good pirate hunting (ratting) platform for 0.0. When many people think about killing the dangerous pirate battleships for profit, they think of the Caldari Raven or Drake. At least, they think of using a battlecruiser or battleship. The Ishtar, however, is the perfect example of how a heavy assault ship can make an excellent ratting platform. The two things that distinguish this ship from the rest is it's ability to tank an amazing amount of damage, as well as it's ability to maintain a good amount of dps while doing it.
The Ishtar is a tech-2 ship, and so, requires a little higher skill investment to be able to fly it. ( Gallente Frigate IV and Gallente Cruiser V ) However, this investment isn't exceptionally large, since you would need Cruisers to level 4 in order to fly Battleships. In addition, it can be said that the Ishtar is a better ratting platform than many Battleships, and Battlecruisers out there. The best news is, if you fit your Ishtar well, you can out-tank and out-damage a Drake, and give the Raven a run for it's money. The only downside to the Ishtar is it's cargohold size. with a cargohold of only 460m3, you will be limited to the amount you can loot at once. However, this is a good 100m3 larger than the Drake's cargohold.
It should also be noted, that the Ishtar can also be used for running missions, since its tank can absorb a large amount of damage, and it has good DPS against all ship sizes. While it is possible to use the Ishtar on level 4 missions, it would be best to have good skills, and a good knowledge of how the ship works before attempting to do so yourself.
Principles of Fitting Your Ishtar
Here, we will talk about the principles that should guide the fitting of your Ishtar. While using the Ishtar can be done relatively simply, it can not be understated how good it is to have good fitting, shield, and drone skills. Obviously, these skills will improve your ability to use your ship, and can make the difference between an average and a great ship.
What Kind of Tank?
While most Gallente vessels lean towards armor tanking, the Ishtar has amazing shield tanking potential. This may be a problem for some, who have spend their skill points on armor skills, versus shield skills. This does make the Ishtar an easy vessel to 'switch over' to from other races, however.
The tank that best fits the Ishtar is Passive Shield Tanking. Passive Shield tanking is allowing the natural recharge rate of your shield to mitigate the incoming damage of enemy ships. It is important to note, that shield recharge rate is related to current shield health. (for example, the recharge rate on a shield is higher for a shield at 55% health, versus 70% health.) So when you are testing out your tank, keep in mind that your shield may need to go down, possibly below 50%, before it stabilizes with the damage you are taking. (ie: shield health stops dropping) This is important, especially if your shield skills are low, since you will probably have a lower shield stablization level. With a tier 2 fitted Ishtar, and good skills, you can easily expect your shield to be stable above 50% with two one-million ISK bounty battleships attacking you.
When constructing your tank, you want to generally have three module types, power relays, shield extenders, and a shield recharger. This tank varies with the standard Drake passive tank, since the Drake focuses more on resistances. (the Drake resists more damage, but can not repair damage as fast, where as the Ishtar resists less damage, but repairs damage much faster)
In your low-slots, you should fit at least four shield power relays, with five if you need a stronger tank. (note: this is an exception to the usual stacking rule.) In your Mid slots, you should fit four large shield extenders. if you do not have the fitting skills, or the module quality to do this, fit as many large, and then medium, as you can. In addition, you should reserve one spot for a shield recharger. When done with this process, you should have a shield with 10k+ HP. It is also a very good idea to fit two shield rigs to your ship, the recommended being the core defense field purger, to further boost your shield recharge.
If done right, you should be able to tank a very large amount of damage, and enemies will have to out-DPS your shield regeneration in order to take your shields down (a very hard thing for NPCs to do). Your shield recharge time should be under three minutes, with two minutes being optimal. (this means that you can tank at least 350 damage per second, a hard feat for an enemy to accomplish. My fitted Ishtar tanks approximately 450dmg/second above 50% shield HP)
In this setup, drones will be your main source of damage. Fortunately, the Ishtar has the capacity to hold a large variety of drones for all situations, with a large drone bay. (375m3 at Heavy Assault Ships level V). You should be able to keep five heavy, five medium, and five light drones, in order to attack different size ships, as well as reserve drones to replace those that may accidentally get destroyed. Fitting a drone link augmenter is a great idea. Obviously, your drone skills will have a lot to do with how quickly you kill enemies. Use better drones if you have the skills, but be aware that if you're incautious, you may lose some. And of course, pick drones that do the damage your NPC enemy is weak against.
Looting Devices and Weapons
Since your drones are your main source of DPS, you are free to use most of your high slots for a drone link augmenter, salvagers, and tractor beams. Being able to have two salvagers and a tractor beam can make looting much quicker . It is important to note that you still need to have at least one weapon, I typically use a medium railgun with a decent optimal range, but this choice is up to you. (see the tactics section for information on why you should have this weapon.)
This is a series of basic tactics on using your Ishtar for ratting. Being familiar with using drones, as well as ratting, will make this a really easy process. It is a good idea to be familiar with the area you rat in. Make sure you know the local alliance in control of the space, and follow their rules while in their space. While some of their rules may seem silly, it's better to follow a silly rule than to potentially lose a ship. Also, it is important, no matter where you are in low-sec, to keep an eye out for player pirates. Many player pirates like to hunt in asteroid belts where players are already already dealing with the NPCs there. (This makes their job easier) Keep an eye on your overview and local chat, it can save you some expensive losses. If you do see a hostile player coming at you, don't hesitate to run away. Don't worry about your drones when you leave. While they may be expensive, it is better to potentially lose some drones, than to lose your ship. In addition, your drones may entice the pirate to stop and pick them up, making your escape easier.
Scanning for battleships. It is important to note here that many alliances and zones have rules, suggestions, et cetera, for how you kill rats. This is usually to help increase the spawn rate of valuable battleship rats.
Since your ship prefers closer range, you can feel free to warp into each asteroid belt at 0km, or whatever range suits your preferences. See guides pertaining to ratting ( pirate hunting ) to learn more about this.
After finding your targets, lock on to the relevant enemies. Orbiting your enemies is a good strategy to increase translational velocity. (thereby reducing the damage you take) and it also serves to keep you in range of your enemy. After locking on, and starting your maneuvers, you want to ensure that all the rats have aggroed you. This is where your turret comes in. start shooting at your targeted battleship to gain the aggro of all the rats. Do this so that none of the rats aggro to your drones. (Thus, your drones are mostly safe from damage, since you are doing all the tanking.) Once you have gathered all the aggro, release your drones to attack your target. At this point, it should only be a matter of time before the target is dead, and you can move on to other targets and/or start looting and salvaging the wreck of the now-dead rat.
Looting is pretty straight-forward. But it's worthy of notice that you can use your tractor beam to keep the wreck close to you while salvaging, and be attacking and orbiting the enemy. and don't forget your drones when you warp out! This will probably be the biggest reason you'll have for drone loss while ratting in your Ishtar.