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Damaging an enemy ship's systems in a battle reduces their capabilities, the same as them doing damage to your ship's systems does. However, unlike everything else on a ship, the only function Sensors have in battle is providing you with more information about the two ships.

Does damaging an enemy ship's Sensors have any effect on their ship, aside from giving its crew something else to repair? Given that enemy ships never seem to be selective about what they target on my ship (e.g. uselessly attacking empty rooms with ion weapons), it's not at all obvious to me what use, if any, enemy ships actually make of Sensors.

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I believe they target specific rooms for a reason, so destroying the sensors should affect their decision making. –  MapCavalier Mar 6 '13 at 17:43
    
Wish I was fighting your enemies! My FTL enemies always send the missles right for my weapons/shields/O2. No lazy shots at all. ;-) –  Shaderach Mar 14 '13 at 1:40
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Some commenters seem to be missing what sensors actually do for you. Sensors don't tell you what system is in which room on the enemy ship - that's just always available. You can see that even if your own sensors are busted. Sensors let you see the exact location of people on your and the enemy ship. So a test would be to see if they could still properly use a bio-beam, or how quickly they find you after you board them. –  user2640 Apr 29 '13 at 14:47
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2 Answers

Well, I guess there's two answers to your question.

  1. In general, it's always more useful to target shields, teleporters, weapons, drones, life support in roughly that order. If your target is escaping, priority would be engines and bridge obviously after taking down shields. There's never really any practical need in a battle to take down the enemy's sensors

  2. As to whether they confer any kind of noticeable ability on the AI that would be removed with their loss, I can't say I've ever noticed anything like that. A drone with no sensors is equally capable of targeting specific critical systems with pinpoint accuracy then missing and hitting hull for the next 6 shots or so.

So, overall, no I wouldn't say there's any noticeable benefit, and possible no benefit at all in damaging enemy sensors.

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It's possible it could affect their decision on where to teleport people onto your ship. Although it would probably a bit hard to test, I've never noticed a pattern to the boarding location. –  Dracs Mar 14 '13 at 1:08
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Yeah, I was thinking that too, but the problem is there's no particularly easy way to test it without playing the game for a ridiculous amount of time to get enough encounters with ships carrying teleporters. Then you'd obviously have to be in a position to disable the teleporter long enough to disable the sensors without destroying the ship at the same time and... well, you get the idea. It's safer to just assume that the sensors aren't used by the AI, they really aren't important enough to care about. –  Topperfalkon Mar 14 '13 at 1:44
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Also, most ships don't have sensors at all. It might be that only the Rebel Flagship has them at all, in which case you'd think there might be some reason for them to be there instead of leaving that room empty. –  Paul Kuliniewicz Mar 15 '13 at 0:01
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Overall, there's no real benefit to disabling sensors. However, there is one particular edge-case that can be useful: enemy Mind Control.

If you've ever had Mind Control on your ship, you would know that you can only target a room that you have visibility in. This can be from Level 2 Sensors, or by having your own crew on board their ship, or even by dropping a Bomb on their ship (very briefly - you'll need to pause to take advantage of this).

If you disable the enemy sensors, they no longer have vision of your ship, and therefore cannot engage Mind Control against you.

However, they can still activate MC on any of your crew if you have boarded their ship - if their sensors are only damaged, they'll still see you on board. If the sensors are destroyed, they'll see you if the crew comes to find you and MC can then be triggered.

Additionally, if they board your ship, any crew in the same room as them (or adjacent rooms in the case of Slug boarders) are vulnerable to MC too.

So all things considered... you're better off disabling their Mind Control if they have it. Sensors are almost never worth targeting, except maybe to give them something else to fix as you mentioned.

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Note that if you do not have Level 2 sensors, temporarily manning them to gain visibility for mind control is an option –  Robotnik Apr 13 at 14:23
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