At 20:00 hours on July 6, Aslon Seridith of WINMATAR. Biohazard addressed the entirety of WINMATAR at an alliance meeting. The topics of the address were typical: determining individual corporation goals, strengthening activity levels, and general housekeeping. However, one topic of discussion immediately received everyone’s attention: Burn Huola. He noted that various systems in the Devoid region had been retaken through combined militia efforts, but Tarraran served as a litmus test due to Russian Minmatar pilots calling it their home. Despite Kronos patch changes that made defensive plexing much easier (and provides farmers with an incentive to D-Plex rather than O-Plex), the system of Tarraran fell in a few days. After presenting these facts, Aslon Seridith announced to WINMATAR. a bold new strategy: Instead of flipping the entire warzone (or most of it) and waiting for the tier to rise, the target would be the jugular of “Fortress Huola” from the onset. As he stated in the alliance-wide address:
More systems are going to get higher, and more systems will be flipped in Amarr favor. And, if you then look at the future, we’re looking at a warzone where we’ll be gaining a high tier again. Everybody will be relaxing again and will be enjoying their time in a high tier and high isk, fill our wallets with billions of isk, and when it’s over, everyone will go back to tier one again and we’ll do the whole cycle again. But one thing we always seem to lack in a high tier is that we always go for the most important systems last… At around 15:00 Eve Time, we will begin assaulting Huola.
Unofficial preparations began in earnest, with WINMATAR. logistics anchoring a POS in Huola as a secure safe and as a place to reship. Indeed, a pilot need only d-scan in Huola to see the vast number of ships assembled for the ongoing siege. Other Amarrian entities such as Team Amarrica and J4LP have followed suit to provide their own pilots a similar area for staging, with smaller corporations continually encouraged to do the same. Importantly, in these initial phases, WINMATAR. pilots were ordered to be as stealthy as possible as the plexing commenced and the structures were anchored. Around this time, coalition forces noted that X Gallentius of Justified Chaos was in system and that he could rally a number of Gallente pilots to the defense of Huola.
Attached as a frontline correspondent in the main WINMATAR. fleet aptly named “Burn Huola,” I can attest to the near-constant fighting that characterized the first day of the campaign. However, the initial phases of the campaign were unkind to Amarr forces. Attributed to this notorious reddit post, the 24th Imperial Crusade’s clandestine activities were blown into a full-scale operation once Minmatar pilots scrambled to the defense of the system.
The first major engagement that I saw firsthand took place at 17:55 EVE Time on July 7, when an Amarrian cruiser fleet was defeated by heavy Minmatar ECM presence at a large compound. At around 18:41, an Amarrian Navy Augoror fleet supported by 6 Guardians was defeated by a Minmatar fleet of nearly 80 pilots, supplemented by 8 Guardians, 6 Exequrors, and a massive Russian Hurricane fleet. Facing the realities of Burn Huola, but nonetheless prepared for them, Aslon Seridith ordered the WINMATAR.-led fleet to stand down until 20:00, gambling on the Russian and other EU players logging off, allowing Amarrian US presence to take the field. After reforming, the Amarrian forces received their first great morale boost at around 21:30, holding a small plex–the wreckage was the first of many to begin littering the system. In the six subsequent–and consecutive–engagements, the Amarrian militia fleet held plex after plex, underscoring the value of frigate-sized logistics in novice and small complexes.
By 00:21 of July 7, the makeup of the fighting had changed. Almost all major belligerents had put their cards on the table. Crusader forces had erected their POSes, neutral elements were flocking to the system like moths to a flame, and the Minmatar Huola defense coalition had onlined their mythical Erebus. As the Amarr militia forces from the US TZ reluctantly clambered off into the pains of necessary slumber, J4LP rose to the occasion and kept the system contested by expanding the Amarrian militia’s abilities to all plexes across the spectrum of size.
To give a battle report of Huola would be near-impossible. The losses on both sides have been staggering in terms of ships destroyed. FCs in the WINMATAR.-led fleet have instructed pilots to stop linking killmails in fleet chat, simply because the sheer magnitude of killmails prevents coordination of logistics and non-essential fleet commands. Indeed, as a logistics pilot, I have received hundreds of ship destruction notifications as the fighting rages on. I’ll let the statistics speak for themselves.
July 8 and July 9 have been difficult days for Amarrian pilots, but it is not without its victories. On July 8, Amarrian forces led by FC Mnemic001 of WINMATAR. Biohazard, though outnumbered, held a large plex against a massive combined force of Minmatar and Gallente pilots. A video of the fight is provided below:
No Amarrian crusader ever possessed delusions that Huola would fall after a plexing effort of a mere three days. However, morale has ebbed and flowed with the contested percentage. The Minmatar EU presence has been particularly strong, easily outnumbering the combined Amarr militia forces by roughly forty pilots in this timezone, with defense forces drawn from the major Minmatar alliances and corporations such as Late Night Alliance, Iron Oxide, Ushra’Kan, Smile ‘n’ Wave, and a host of others. Standing against them are Amarrian pilots drawn from across the warzone: WINMATAR., Amarrian Vengeance, I Whip My Slaves Back and Forth, Shirak Skunworks, Sons of Liberty, Loaded Dice, 24eme Legion Etrangere, only to give a short list of the many that have flocked to the system heeding the call to arms. By July 10, after a cruiser fight at 01:30, in which J4LP Guardian and WINMATAR. T1 logistics broke under the weight of Minmatar forces cramming into a medium complex, the Amarrian forces shipped down into destroyers, contesting smaller plexes. An influx of Australian pilots from Black Watch Guard and Loaded Dice took up the mantle, bringing the contested percentage up to 20%. By 17:43, tactics have switched to a delay-style, with Amarrian EU forces contesting plexes just to draw out the timers in order to provide more buffer for the US players. The constant fighting has taken a toll on many militia members, with nonetheless humorous situations arising. For example, when the WINMATAR. POS password was changed, ejecting dozens of ships into space.
Indeed, as the fighting grinds on in the trenches, neutral entities have begun to crop up in the system. For example, this Thanatos, although inexpensive for a ship of its class, was caught on the Huola-Kourmonen gate attempting to force a hotdrop. Minmatar coalition forces immediately deployed a mobile cyno jammer and even offered temporary blue status to Amarr militia simply to down the Pandemic Legion carrier. Huola shines as a beacon of destruction across New Eden and the only thing anyone can say with certainty, is that Huola Burns.