It gives research_level * 8.3% credits and resources. I suppose you gotta destroy 20 or so structures (depending on what you hit) before it pays back, unless you kill a capital ship which is probably very hard to plan. I read in an old thread it would only pay back in games you would be winning anyway
Average research cost per rank: 900 credits or so.
Salvage % per rank: 5%.
Meaning for it to pay back the initial investment: 18000 credits worth of structures/capitalships.
Which is a pretty tall order to be fair- 6 capitalships or 18 "large" buildings such as research labs, trade posts, culture structures, or hanger bays.
It is worth noting the first rank is a bit more effficient requiring only 16000 creidts in destruction. Certainly no something to grab all that often, butI could see a few uses:
1). A successful orky rush(accompanied by a capship for autosalvage to work) to homeworld could easily result in 4000-5000 of the 18000 needed. Moreover does anyone knwo for sure whether it works for structures? If so, skuttling the orky when the opponent eventually manages to marshal a force capable of destroying it could result in another 5000-7000 towards your goal
2). Wiping out the Pirate base with a low level titan. That's easily 5000-7000 in structures that won't be defended by a player controlled fleet
3). Again, depending on whether or not the tech works on destroyed starbases, researching it before assaulting a heavily upgraded starbase coul very quickly put you a long way towards paying back the investment
Allt hings considered it may be mroe risk then the benefit is really worth, but I could imagine a few situations in which it would likely take large leaps towards paying back the investment, even without having to kill enemy player's capitalships & orbital structures en masse.
Realistically probably not usually worth it- but i's been and enjoyable mental game trying to think of times when it would pay off faster.