It didn't quite make its "first week of March" release target, but the Elite: Dangerous 1.2 "Wings" update is now live. The patch makes a number of changes to the game, foremost among them facilitating cooperative gameplay through the use of beacons that simplify the process of forming up into groups—"Wings"—that can share information and bounties on kills.
"Players will be able to share lots of feedback across the wing—who is targeting who, hull and shield statuses, etc.—and more easily follow each other in and out of Super Cruise," Lead Designer Sandro Sammarco explained in our preview from last month. But counterbalancing that increase in firepower will be "larger, more dangerous signal sources, where single ships would be at serious risk," he added. "Those signal sources will be perfect battlegrounds for coordinated squadrons, and they’ll find the rewards—in terms of bounties and cargo—will be suitably elevated in line with the challenge."
The update also adds two new ships, the Fer-de-Lance and the Vulture, overhauls the comms interface, adds AI groups and the ability to reboot destroyed sub-system modules, and incorporates a "flyable debug camera with limited range."
There's also an extensive list of somewhat less headline-worthy fixes and tweaks, like "let the player get much closer to the event horizon of a black hole." Although that actually sounds pretty cool, so try this one instead: "Show the player a warning if they are changing power distributor and that power distributor does not have an engines capacitor large enough to facilitate boosting."
Community Manager Edward Lewis wrote that the update process was taking a little longer than expected, but would likely be finished by 6 pm GMT, which works out to 2 pm EDT/ 11 am PDT. An instructional video is on the way, and in the meantime a more detailed breakdown of how Wings work has been posted in the Frontier Developments forums.