Elite Dangerous Wiki

Combat is one of the three archetypal pilot roles recognized by the Pilots Federation. Combat encompasses multiple sub-roles, such as Assassin, Bounty Hunter, Mercenary, and Pirate. Increasing Combat rank requires destroying other ships, and defeating pilots with higher Combat ranks rewards a greater amount of experience. Combat pilots typically use Hardpoints equipped with weapons to disable a target's shield, and then deal damage directly to the hull until the target is destroyed. Combat can be undertaken alone, in a Wing, or in Multicrew.


Combat Elite icon

Combat Elite icon

Combat rank is earned through ship kills. Every ship destroyed rewards a number of experience points that contribute to increasing Combat rank, and the amount of experience points that a ship is worth depends on the pilot's rank relative to the rank of the targeted ship. For example, a pilot with the rank of Harmless who kills an Elite ship will gain a large number of points, but a pilot with the rank of Deadly who kills a ship with a rank lower than Expert will receive no points at all. Furthermore, a Deadly pilot who kills an Elite ship will receive fewer points than the Harmless pilot who kills an Elite ship. Under this system, low-ranked pilots can climb ranks faster by destroying challenging opponents and accepting the risk that entails.[1][2]

Rank Total EXP Required Cosmetic Unlocks
Harmless 0 "Harmless" Ship & Suit Decals
Mostly Harmless "Mostly Harmless" Ship & Suit Decals
Novice "Novice" Ship & Suit Decals
Competent "Competent" Ship & Suit Decals
Expert "Expert" Ship & Suit Decals
Master "Master" Ship & Suit Decals
Dangerous "Dangerous" Ship & Suit Decals
Deadly "Deadly" Ship & Suit Decals
Elite "Elite" (Combat) Ship & Suit Decals
Elite Dangerous: Odyssey required to progress
Elite I "Elite I" (Combat) Ship & Suit Decal
Elite II "Elite II" (Combat) Ship & Suit Decal
Elite III "Elite III" (Combat) Ship & Suit Decal
Elite IV "Elite IV" (Combat) Ship & Suit Decal
Elite V "Elite V" (Combat) Ship & Suit Decal

The table below lists the amount of experience points towards Combat rank that is earned depending on the Combat rank of targeted ships.

Target Rank
Player Rank
Harmless Mostly Harmless Novice Competent Expert Master Dangerous Deadly
Harmless 1.00 0.75 0.5 0.25 ? ? ? ?
Mostly Harmless 1.25 1.00 0.75 0.5 0.25 ? ? ?
Novice 1.50 1.25 1.00 0.75 0.5 0.25 ? ?
Competent 1.75 1.50 1.25 1.00 0.75 0.5 0.25 ?
Expert 2.00 1.75 1.50 1.25 1.00 0.75 0.5 0.25
Master 2.25 2.00 1.75 1.50 1.25 1.00 0.75 0.5
Dangerous 2.50 2.25 2.00 1.75 1.50 1.25 1.00 0.75
Deadly 2.75 2.50 2.25 2.00 1.75 1.50 1.25 1.00
Elite 3 2.75 2.50 2.25 2.00 1.75 1.50 1.25

Combat Tips[]

Learning to use thrusters, keeping the throttle in the blue, situational awareness, good pip control and learning to anticipate rather than react to a target's actions are valuable skills and habits.

Flight Assist[]

Flight Assist (FA) is a tool that is very useful especially to newer players, but disabling it opens up many new abilities for a pilot in combat. Turning Flight Assist off ("FAOff") allows pilots to make sharper turns and more agile movements, and most importantly it allows pilots to decouple their flight vector from where they are aiming, which allows for much more unpredictable and evasive combat maneuvers.

Flight Assist Off is essential for more boom and zoom style combat where the attacker needs to turn and gain distance at the same time so that the bad pitch rate is less of an issue. Without mastering FA-off, even something small like an Eagle MkII can be troublesome when flying with a sluggish ship if it is equipped with nothing but gimballed weapons.[3]

Pip Management[]

Pip management (SYS, ENG, and WEP power management) is an essential skill. Know when energy is needed in shields and when it is safe or advantageous to divert it elsewhere. Assign macros if possible, such as by using the two 4-ways on a HOTAS to quickly switch pip settings. When fighting several enemies at the same time, keeping SYS at a full four pips at all times might be the way to go, but when fighting just one or two enemies, performance can be noticeably improved by using that energy elsewhere.[3]

Thrusters and Utilities[]

Using vertical thrusters properly can also be very helpful. They can make a substantial difference when trying to stay out of an enemy's frontal view and thus to avoid incoming damage, while still keeping weapons on target. Also know how to use the throttle's blue zone, and when to leave it and when to return to it.[3]

Mastering the Chaff Launcher, Shield Cell Bank, and Heatsink Launcher can also mean the difference between victory and defeat.[3]


It is recommended take a small ship, such as a Viper MkIII or Imperial Courier, and use it to practice combat and gain practical experience before tackling larger targets and bounty hunting for profit. Learning how to avoid mistakes in a cheaper ship can help a pilot to avoid mistakes in a more expensive one and pay for them at the rebuy screen. This can also help when flying larger ships, since pilots who start learning combat in larger ships tend to rely on their shields and firepower alone to overwhelm a target, and have no experience in avoiding incoming damage. This can be fatal in battles against well-armed foes.[3]

Thargoid combat[]

For tutorials and guides about Thargoid combat we recommend the Thargoid Combat and Xeno Hunter pages as well as the in-depth wiki of the Anti-Xeno Initiative.


Fighting Thargoid Interceptors requires the use of specific weapons that deal Anti-Xeno damage, as Interceptors have special resistances. Thargoid Scouts have weaker resistances and normal weapons are viable against them.


Thargoid Scouts were originally Elite-ranked NPC units, and rewarded the highest possible amount of Combat rank experience when destroyed. Given the relative ease and quickness with which large numbers of Scouts could be destroyed compared to other Elite-ranked ships, this made Scout hunting the most efficient method of rising in Combat rank. Frontier Developments reduced the rank of Thargoid Scouts on December 8, 2020 as part of a series of balancing changes, ending their dominance of the Combat rank meta.[4]

PvE Combat[]

There are roughly 4 important parts for PvE (Player vs Environment): ships, outfitting, money making and flight.[5]

Ship progression[]

The general ship progression goes something like this:

  1. Viper Mk III
  2. Vulture
  3. Chieftain
  4. Krait Mk II or Python (Python Mk II)
  5. Big 3 (Anaconda, Corvette, Cutter)

The list is optional. Almost any ship can do combat from the Sidewinder to the Type-10 so just do what you prefer, but if you need a new ship, this is a good progression. It's easy to underestimate the difference between flying a nimble small fighter and a less nimble medium ship with a greater surface area that catches more stray fire. Don't rush to the big ships, because clearing a Conflict Zone (CZ) and Resource Extraction Site (HazRes) will be less efficient if you're unskilled. Then you have to repair and rearm after a few targets.

If you are already rich do not buy a big ship with a ton of outfitting, because the rebuy will be unnecessarily high and you won't have a good grasp of your skill. People tend to overestimate themselves and under estimate NPC’s-Even in a fully A’d out Anaconda, an Elite Fer-de-Lance will tear down your shields faster than you can think. Just start with a Viper Mk III or an Eagle (you will die often in one though) to learn combat and only then should you move on. As a general rule: Harmless or Mostly Harmless CMDR’s should stick to small ships only. Novice or Competent can move onto cheap (>20,000,000 CR) ships. Medium, Expert and above should be where you buy your first Krait Mk II, Fer-de-Lance, Python etc.

Alternative PvE ship progression is e.g. Sidewinder > Vulture > Mamba > Krait > Chieftain > Imperial Eagle. When you have billions of credits it can be more fun to fly circles around a large ship that can't get its weapons pointed at you. However, destroying a ship takes a lot longer.


In general, a PvP ship should have weapons that don't use much, if any, ammunition, do good sustain damage and are easy to use. However, if you do missions which require assassinating a single powerful target, other options are more viable.

Recommended is no more than 2 Module Reinforcement Packages (MRP). Hull Reinforcement Packages are required for all combat ships, even shield tanks. And Military Grade Armour. If your shields go down, you want to survive to finish off the current ship or to escape. A-rating sensors enable you to see and find targets at longer ranges.

Resource Extraction Sites[]

For long runs in a Resource Extraction Site or killing 5+ targets in one run:

  1. Multi-cannons: will be your best friend
  2. Burst Lasers: pair great with Multis to have the best sustain damage of any laser
  3. Beam Lasers: best when paired with Multis, very high damage, but comes with high heat and capacitor draw
  4. Pulse Laser: best for starters, easy to use, high efficiency.

Notable mentions: Plasma Accelerator : High skill-high damage weapon with a low fire rate. It is extremely system and coolant hungry. This is really good on ships that stick close to targets while keeping a bead, like the Vulture. It is worse versus ships with high maneuvering and mobility due to the slow shot velocity. The Plasma Accelerator is not suited for new PvE commanders though. While its technically not optimal, other weapons are more fun than lasers.

A downside of Multi-cannons is the requirement of ammo. If you have enough mats then the premium ammo with an engineered MC is a lot of fun. For example you can have a fixed beam (long range / thermal vent) and gimballed (overcharged / corrosive shell) MC on a Vulture.

If you want to do a long massacre mission stack (e.g. 60 ships) in one HazRes, then you'll either use materials to rearm them or return to base (station) to rearm. Laser builds are more convenient for sustained combat. It's slower to melt a hull, but you don't have the fuss of rearming, the spin up time and the downtime when rearming a mag.

Combat ships with military grade armor are expensive. However, if you cannot afford it yet then you're not ready for combat.


For quick assassinations, weapons with more ammo and ease-of-use are less important, because ammo count doesn't matter if you are dead. These weapons will also serve you better in PvP if that interests you.

  1. Railguns: high damage, high skill. It will tear through shields like a hot knife through butter or, if you're a bad pilot it will make your ship hotter than a star.
  2. Frag cannons: while multi-cannons are generally better, they wind up and if you only see your target for a few fractions of a second, the frag cannon make the best use of it. They have extremely high burst damage,
  3. Multi-cannons: as mentioned have high sustain and require low skill

Internal Modules[]

For internals, the following A class modules are recommended: Power Distributor, Shield (if possible), Power Plant, and Thrusters.

In PvE there’s nearly no threshold for agility. A heavy Anaconda can sit there all day long and keep up with any other type of ship. The A rated modules can soak up far more hits if your shield goes down than D rated equivalents. Certain modules, like sensors and life support can be sacrificed to be lower tier parts but, the FSD, power plant, armor, etc should always be the best they can be.

Newbies shouldn’t see a rebuy more than a few times in any sense aside from when they test new limits (like going to a HasRez the first time, or their first few assassinations) that teach the limits of what their ship can currently do.

A new player shouldn’t be involved in PvP because serious PVP players have extremely modified ships so newbies would be outclassed. In PvE activities you don’t need a massively maneuverable ship, you need a ship that can take and inflict damage. Outside of Team assassination, Xeno Hunter, and some combat zones that’s the entire point of engineering on PvE ships.

While small ships can glide around and are more maneuverable than NPC ships, the big ships are considered superior for PvE, because they can sit there and keep shields up while firing massive weapons into an enemy ship’s face.

For a shield tank; get Shield Cell Banks and Shield boosters. Hull tanks should grab HRMs and MRMs. Adjust as needed if your modules are getting destroyed first or your hull goes first it might take a bit of playing with the ratio.

FSD should be want A rated to get your ship to various locations, particularly engineers.

Money making[]

This is usually done via bounty hunting. Stacking pirate massacres pays more money than individual assassination missions.

You should always try to get missions that ask you to kill wanted. Get the bounty on top of the mission which is basically free money. There are essentially 2 types of missions; kill a bunch of “X” faction pirates or kill 1 pirate for a lot of money. Either is fine, just do what you find fun. Follow the instructions on the missions outline. If all else fails use your Discovery Scanner and look for blue signals on the navigation tab which will usually lead to your target. You also will most likely need an FSD interdictor as it significantly speeds up the process of catching targets. Make sure you aren't doing missions for Independent or Alliance aligned minor factions, because they don't have Navy ranks. This is a very long grind that you can start early by doing missions that increase your rank to unlock a Corvette or Cutter.


The best way to increase your flight skill is by playing. Here are a few tips: learn Flight Assist off early. Press Z on the keyboard to toggle flight assist. Having it on increases stability by using computers to cancel inertia so that it feels like flying a plane Earth. Flight assist off removes this luxury. For newbies FAS off will be very hard. Get accustomed by starting small, try to dock and undock with FAS off (all pips to SYS) and use it while making straight, flat turns in combat to speed up your turns a bit. Once you feel comfortable enough, try watching videos on more complex maneuvers with FAS off. By making a conscious effort it will greatly increase your skill. In general, stay in the blue region of thrust, don't go too fast and imagine the tip of your ship is tied to the rear of the other ship with an invisible cable: don't go too far or it will break and don't let the other ship flip on you or it will snap. Beyond that, it's just a learning process of what works.


  • It takes approximately 2,225 experience points to go from Deadly to Elite Combat ranking. This equals 1,780 Elite kills, or approximately 2,400 kills based on a more average distribution of ships.[6]
  • If a player has crewmembers (including AI crewmembers), combat experience points will be evenly split between them. Having one AI crew member roughly halves the experience points gained, doubling the number of kills required in order to rank up.
  • All ranks above Elite (Elite I-V) were added in ED: Odyssey.
  • The Odyssey release version notably "removed the zeroing out of Rank Progression points for Combat and Mercenary Rank when killing an enemy a given number of ranks below you."[7] It remains to be tested how much experience those rank differences give and if this is also applied to the base version.


See also[]