Investigations into the Effectiveness of Carrier Bays

Here’s the noob trying to reinvent the wheel again…

I wanted to see if carrier bays were worth having and, if so, whether I could determine an optimum ratio of bays to fighters. After running a bunch of tests I can say that carrier bays are definitely worth the investment, provided that you field enough fighters. If you only field a couple of squadrons, then you might be better off not to have them at all.

First off, for the maximum of 1 or 2 other folks reading this who don’t already know all about carrier bays, here’s how I observed them to work…

A single fighter bay can hold a LOT of fighters at once. I don’t know what the upper limit is but it’s more than 100. If you click on the carrier to see its modules, you’ll see a white number in the top half of the bay’s icon. That’s how many fighters are in there. All but 1 of them are waiting in line, however, because a bay can only repair 1 fighter at a time. Once the fighter is repaired, it flies back out (and even attempts to rejoin its squadron if under Stick Together orders) and the bay starts work on the next fighter in line. It appears (although it’s very hard to tell) that the bay works on a 1st in, 1st out policy.

If the carrier has multiple bays, incoming damaged fighters will usually go for an open bay if available, otherwise the shortest queue. However, if the carrier has 2 bays, sometimes the fighters get confused and most will pile up into 1 bay, so it gets crammed with like 70 (maybe it sells cheaper fuel?) while the other bay has only 2 or 3 in it. This only seems to happen with 2 bays. WIth 1 bay there’s no mistaking and with 3 or more there’s no such confusion.

The actual repair process takes some time, which appears to be a function of the bay’s repair rate (constant) and how much damage there is to fix (variable). In general, however, for the typical LC fighter with just a few HP left and all modules badly damaged, it takes about 6 seconds of real time when the game is running at 1x speed. The repair uses some of the bay’s supplies, which I infer is 1 supply point per 1 hitpoint of damage but have no way of knowing for sure. When looking at the carrier’s modules, each bay icon has a white bar across the bottom. As supplies are used up, this bar gets shorter until it disappears when supplies run out.

When a bay runs out of supplies, there’s a pause of a few seconds as if the mechanics are rummaging around looking for parts stashed in far corners. When they finally realize they’re out, they push a button that immediately dumps all the fighters in the bay back out into space at once, with their damage unrepaired. This can sometimes be pretty cool to watch, especially if there are like 80 fighters in the bay. It’s like the carrier explodes in a starburst of burning, smoking fighters radiating out in all directions. The ejected fighters then struttle on as best they can. Given that they have Cautious orders or they wouldn’t have been in the carrier, they now usually join the “left hand column” of cripples. However, if the carrier has more bays, some of them might go in them instead.

OK, that’s the mechanics. What good are they?

Well, a lot depends on the fortunes of war. Carrier bays are like cruiser repair modules: if you don’t take any damage, you don’t need them. OTOH, if the Dice Gods are mad at you that day, nothing you do will help. Also, you have to consider the relative quality and quantity of your opposition. If your fighters are inherently better or have dominating numbers, you’re going to win the fighter battle anyway so don’t need carriers. If your fighters suck and/or are way outnumbered, carriers ain’t gonna save you. Where carriers help is when you’re out-numbered about 9% or less, or your fighters are very slightly inferior (however you define that) to an equal number of the enemy. Without carriers, you’ll lose such fighter battles most of the time. With carriers having an ADEQUATE NUMBER OF BAYS, you’ll win such fighter battles most of the time. And if fighter quality and quantity are equal, having even 1 bay will tip the scales in your favor more often than not, while 2 or more bays will ensure a costly victory, and the more more bays you have (up to the optimum), the larger your margin.

So, if your situation is one where carriers will help you, now you have to determine the optimum number of bays. The number of bays affects 2 things: turn-around time on repairs and total amount of repairs available. In general, I find that turn-around time is more important when considering the value of carriers. The longer a figher sits in the repair queue, the more it approximates being dead in terms of the outcome of the ongoing fighter battle, so the less value there is in repairing it when its turn finally comes. For this reason, I consider the optimum number of bays to be that which keeps queues at 1-2 fighters, no more. In practical terms, this means you need 1 bay for every 5 fighter squadrons you deploy. Any less and the queues start exceeding 3-4 and can easily go as high as 10 to even 80, depending on the fortunes of war. Any more and the excess won’t ever be used until some of the others run out of supplies. This is regardless of what type of bay you have because both the Carrier Support Bay and the Reinforced Carrier Bay have the same repair rate, which is what controls the turn-around time.

Given 1 bay per 5 squadrons, the amount of supplies only becomes a factor in a very close fight (due to overall numbers or quality). The more you’re on the short end of the fight, the more fighters will come in for repairs, so the sooner you’ll run out. If you do, that’s a very good sign you shouldn’t have tried to run with the big dogs :). But if the numbers/quality thing is even, just having 1 bay regardless of the number of fighters will USUALLY allow you to squeak out a win. In cases where quality is even but you’re outnumberd by no more than 9%, 1 bay will USUALLY let you win anyway. In both cases, the bay will usually run out of supplies but it patches up enough of your fighters to turn the tide.


  1. All the above observations were made in Federation vs. Federation fights. The default “challenging” side had 25x16 Leopards with LC, E2, and PG1. Orders Attack Fighters at 200, Stick Together, and Last Stand. The “visitor” was a variable number of identical fighters except for Cautious instead of Last Stand. The visitors also had a carrier which had no engine, PG1, enough armor to make it immune to the LC, enough crew to support the power and up to 6 bays, and 1-6 Carrier Support Bays.

  2. I did not test Reinforced Carrier Bays because its repair rate is the same as the regular kind. Therefore, you still need the same number of them to keep the queues short and the only advantage is 600 vs. 500 supplies. But the supplies aren’t meaningful if you have keep a ratio of 1 bay per 5 squadrons and the situation isn’t hopeless to begin with. Therefore, I see no reason to invest in the Reinforced Carrier Bays unless you have money to burn and really need the extra handful of ship hitpoints.

  3. Carrier bays cost more than just money. They take up slots, consume some power, and (most importantly) require more than 40 crewmen. This all impacts the overall firepower and defense of the carrier itself. IOW, if you like lots of fighters and want to keep them alive, having a carrier with the optimum number of bays will make you field a cruiser with little anti-ship firepower and weak anti-ship defenses.

  4. It’s very important that the carrier have or be supported by strong AA fire. The Cautious order necessary to use carriers at all will thin your front line very quickly so the epicenter of the fighter battle will rapidly gravitate in the direction of your carrier, plus entire enemy squadrons will break away to chase your cripples home. But OTOH, the attrition inflicted by heavy AA fire around the carrier can also help tip the fighter battle in your favor, allowing you to get by with fewer bays and/or fewer fighters than the figher quality/quantity index would allow by itself (whcih is what I was testing). So, when I said that carriers will only help if you’re even on quality but outnumbered no more than 9%, that was in the absence of carrier AA fire. Depending on the nature of your flak, you might win with worse odds and just having 1 bay. IOW, the carrier can be bait for an AA trap. But note that Parasite carriers and their supports should avoid using Flak Cannon due to the “friendly fire” risk.

HOWEVER, note that unless you have strong AA at the carrier, your freshly repaired fighters will launch into the teeth of 1 or more enemy squadrons hanging around your carrier. On the surface, this is a good example of “why did I bother?”, but note that my results were in obtained from this very situation because my carrier had no weapons at all. Thus, I still think the results (tabulated below) show the relative value of bays.

5, As mentioned, my tests involved 25x16 squadrons. So the "outnumbered 9% means you have 23 and the non-carrier-using enemy has 25. With 25 squadrons, the optimal number of bays is 5, which keeps the queue at 1-2 throughout the battle and never runs out of supplies. With fewer bays, the queues get longer and the supplies in each bay often run out before the battle ends, but even 1 bay will USUALLY tip the scales with this number of equal fighters.

  1. If you turn on the red/green marker overly, you’ll see green icons of your fighters in the repair bays. Otherwise, they’re invisible while in the bays. There’s also a bug in this. If you move or zoom the POV, the icons for the fighters in the bays won’t move but the carrier will, so you’ll see the wad of them beside the carrier.

Good observation!
1 thing that I have personally discover.

First and the most important:
Fighter in carrier bay are not invincible! I don’t know how many time I’ve see fighter in carrier bay been destroyed…

Fighter will enter the carrier bay with the lesser number of waiting fighter until this number reach 10. If all the carrier bay have 10 fighter waiting, all the fighter who will enter the carrier after that will fill the first carrier bay of the list.

Now that you mention it, I think I was seeing that happen a lot, too, due to no AA fire at the carrier. This makes sense because the fighters seem to still be on the map while in the bay, they’re just drawn under the CV. They’re sitting there in a big wad spinning around in place. IOW, it’s like they’re held by a tractor beam instead of actually being inside the carrier. Thus, they’re outside exposed to enemy fire.

Ah, thanks for that. I was wondering why that happened.

Anyway, this happens because you don’t have enough bays. And when this happens, the bays you do have are doing more harm than good. This is because most of the fighters in the overloaded bay might as well be dead. Due to the time it takes to do repairs, the game will end before very many of them get fixed, and the bay will surely run out of supplies and eject them all. So, you get no benefit from the bay but still have all the disadvantages of fewer non-carrier modules and your fighters being less effective due to having Cautious orders.

So the lesson is: use the optimum number of carrier bays, or use none at all.

Since bringing carrier bays to a fighter battle is going to cause your fighters to eventually cluster up around your carriers, you may want to consider just having a carrier bay on every cruiser that gets a reasonably large fighter escort. It will probably keep the escorting fighters alive a little longer, and may turn the tide of the fighter battle (or at least protract it long enough that the opposition loses anyways). It does suffer the problem of not really allowing your fighters to respond to threats anywhere on the battlefield, and may cause problems if the fighter battle packs up around one ship. Probably better off just bringing one or two dedicated carriers (if you’re going to go to the effort of bringing carrier bays) than to have a bay on every cruiser.

A carrier bay on a cruiser with a torpedo fighter screen might be interesting - any torpedo fighter worth bringing is either heavily armored or high health (or both), and this would just keep them in the field a little bit longer. I think, though, that Last Stand is probably generally a better choice.

GATC’s insights into the operation of carrier bays gave rise to another question, which I just got done testing:

Question: Is it better to have a single, dedicated, multi-bay carrier or 1 bay each scattered over a number of separate, more manly ships?

Answer: A single, multi-bay carrier is unequivocably better than spreading the same number of single bays over multiple more manly (as in more guns and armor) ships.

The determining factor here is the simplicity of the AI. Crippled fighters will make a beeline (and having a few beehives myself, I know what a beeline looks like) for the closest single bay to the battle area, regardless how many fighters are already waiting in line there, and no matter that 6 empty bays are just 1 grid square further away, as was the case in my experiments. Fighters will completely ignore the 6 empty, fully stocked bays until the overcrowded but marginally closer single bay runs out of supplies and they’re all ejected back into space.

So, say you’ve determined that your optimum number of bays is 3. If you put 1 bay in 3 different ships, you will have a cascade of overloaded bays. Whichever bay happens to be an RCH closer to the fighter battle will attracted ALL the wounded. It will soon have a huge, nearly stationary queue. Eventually, it will run out of supplies while it still has a huge queue, and eject all the cripples back into space. At this point, the next marginally closer bay to the fight will become the exclusive destination of all crippled fighters and the process repeats.

Bottom line: when it comes to carrier bays, put all your eggs in 1 basket.

Since it has been pointed out that fighter battles tend to end up swarming around a carrier have you ever thought of using a carrier solely as a fighter trap? With the exception of the campaign I usually don’t use fighter bays except for that sole purpose. Having an initial screen of decoys returning to the carrier suckering in the opposition while the rest of your fighter force without the cautious orders continue relatively unmolested to do their dirty work as needed?

Yes. 9 straight hours of a movie marathon.

Yup, I’ve given that much thought. And you’re definitely correct: carriers are great bait for AAA traps. But if you’re a Parasite, don’t use flak cannons.

What movies? I hope they were suitably violent :slight_smile:

By and large where Parasite are concerned I use no flak. Friendly fire is just to prevalent.

Trying to remember - RockofAges, HungerGames, TheLuckyOne, HereComestheBoom, MirrorMirror. Left before Mirror Mirror, I think I did my duty to the UnitedWay.

I know you’ve posted some of your fighter tests up do you ever post your ‘normal’ fleets to see how they compare to other fleets?

Can’t think of something for this space.

@Bullethead: That’s what I was trying to avoid by stating that the fighters were ‘fighter escorts’. I.E., they’d have an escort order that keeps them reasonably close to home. It still probably wouldn’t work out that well, since probably your fighter escorts would manage to either clump up over one or two ships or your fighter squadrons would be picked apart one at a time, but if all you’re looking for is something to keep the opposing fighter force busy and slowly attrition them down to nothing, then maybe. I do agree with you that keeping just one or two dedicated carriers is almost certainly better over-all, though, especially if used as bait for an AA trap.

The reason why I test things is to learn how to build fleets. I’ve only had GSB about 1 week so I know nothing! As it stands now, my fleets are quite boring. They look a lot like Kaiser Bill’s fleet: lots of big iron and not a lot else. I have yet to find an overriding need for frigates so I almost never have any. And the main use I can see for fighters is to keep your frigates from being eaten alive by enemy fighters. So, without frigates, I don’t normally employ fighters, either.

I am, however, seriously tempted to ape Redd13’s “Diary of a Space Tyrant” and have a round robin series. If I ever do that, I’ll post up my fleets because under his rules, they’d be more interesting.

doffs cap Thank you sir.

When it comes to frigates, I’ll point you towards one weapon: EMP missile. Frees up your cruisers to carry proper guns, while annoying the hell out of the enemy…but frigates are another topic.

To follow up what others have said and offer my own opinions as well, carrier bays are nearly useless if the enemy fighters are all on escort orders clustered around their own ships, while yours are free roaming. In that situation, what happens is your fighters head off for a rumble miles away from your own carriers, take a hit (which generally means slowing them down) and then try to crawl all the way home for repairs. Being slower than your other fighters, they’ve basically painted a bullseye on their back and attract every AA gun in the enemy fleet. If they do make it home, they get repaired, ejected into space to fly solo into the teeth of the enemy fleet. If they’re lucky, they get to turn around and come back for more repairs. All you’re doing with carrier bays in this case is lessening the impact of your own fighters by having them all try escape in a situation where they have little chance of doing so, and they’d best go down fighting.

Try this test and see what I mean: Take two identical fleets of fighters and single carrier. Have one fleets fighters on escort 600 orders, and the others free to attack. Keep the carriers as far apart as possible. With a smaller distance to travel for repairs, i think the escorting fighters should win nearly every time. You should definitely see the free roaming fighters carrier doing very little in the way of repairing it’s own fighters.

It’s also a problem with having a single carrier. If fighters have too far to go, they don’t make it, or if they do, fly solo into such heavy AA fire that a single fighter is basically a flying coffin.

An enjoyable way is to look under the challenges labled SAC or NEC, they were tournaments that were posted way back when (hopefully they still exist) and you can see the evolution of tactics, formations, and ship design. They were designed so the next posted fleet should be able to destroy the 3+ (rules depending) fleets around it.

As for frigates. Think of them as world war II Corvettes - purpose built with one exceeding mission. A Frigate is too small to be mult-purpose. I either use them en masse where they simply overwhelm the enemy. A frigate with a speed of 1+ avoids most weaponry. Or tucked in a cruiser formation spitting out ECM missiles or using their own tractors for AA defense (but they are always vulnerable to fighters).

Since you can generally pump out more frigates than cruisers, as someone pointed out, you can stun block a set of cruisers making them temporarily nothing more than a target.

On the other hand, a purpose built cruiser can fill a frigates defensive role, be almost as cheap, and have a much greater sustainability vs to fighters. The Rebel Fenrir cruiser can fit 6 MWM launchers and still be made under 2K, costing about 3 times as much as a frigate but falls in the same crew count.

Come on out and- Fight.

Good observations, Redd. I’ll have to test that when I have a chance in a couple days.

Wait what? There’s a use for carrier bays now? I thought they ALWAYS and UNCONDITIONALLY hurt you because it takes some of your fighters OUT OF BATTLE prematurely which leave the rest of the fleet to be slaughtered.
Plus, being forced to put a Cautious tag on them makes them wall hug and useless once your bay runs out/dies. The price you pay for Caution tag is whatever value you put in. You put in Retreat at 75%, that means they became useless at 75% total health.

It’s not the crew, it’s not the power, it’s not the cost, it’s that you have to employ cowards to drive those ships instead of heroes who would Last Stand to take a hit for another ship that still has a weapon available to fire.

Unless it involve the use of this new… direct control feature… which kinda kills the point of posting fleet challenges. The attacking side really shouldn’t lose more than once to begin with. You already have the most advantage in the world by knowing exactly what they have and where they have them, while the host has to design it blind to account for every possible fleet.

As stated, carrier bays do confer an advantage in certain situations. These situations are rather limited, however. The following factors apply:

  1. The fighter battle has to be more or less equal in terms of numbers, fighter quality, and the abilty of each side to kill the other. In these situations, carrier bays are decisive just between the fighters, without taking into account the “AAA trap” nature of the carrier and its escorts, and the more bays you have (up to the optimum number), the fewer losses you take in the process. However, if the numbers and/or quality of fighters is already significantly in your favor, you’ll win anyway so spend the big ship slots/crew/money/power on big ship weapons and defenses instead of bays. And likewise, if the numbers and/or fighter quality are significantly against you, carrier bays won’t change the fact that you’ll lose the fighter battle, although they will make the enemy take more losses in the process of killing you than without and this, again, is before you factor in the “AAA trap” posed by the carrier.

  2. The above said, as Redd pointed out, there’s the distance factor to consider. The further your fighters have to travel to reach the carrier, the less valuable the bays are. The point of bays is to get damaged fighters back into the fray and the longer this takes, the closer they approximate being dead to start with. Also, the further they have to limp home, the greater the chances of them being finished off en route.

  3. If your carrier has or is surrounded by lots of AAA, your crippled fighters limping home will lure quite a few enemy fighters to their doom. This also has to be taken into account.

Bottom line is, if the figther battle is important enough to you to stock up on them, carrier bays will probably help you. But otherwise, no.

No, it will NEVER help you, even if you escort it at 100 range. You are idealizing the situation too much here.

In a real fight, the other guy also have AA, the other guy can also kill your cruisers. If the other guy actually get in close, that means it’s either a CL spam or a frigate spam, and stuff tends to die REALLY fast in that range and repair rather than firing means you lose. Otherwise you are fighting a long range spam, and it’s gonna be a long draw out fight where both side would have fighters on escort and won’t really be hitting each other.

And of course, if you don’t use escort in those long range fights, your fighters will just fly in and get pulse laser/tractored to death. Your fighters alone stands no chance against an escorted fighter fleet with cruiser AA support.

Bottom line is, if the figther battle is important enough to you to stock up on them, then you better escort them on a ship with tractors, fill the rest of your cruisers with 1 pulse laser each, and make sure you put the last stand tag on all your ship so they stick around to tank hit instead of going back to repair leaving the rest to die. Because you see, I don’t lose DPS when “some” of your ship retreats, but you do. And the repair doesn’t come close to making up for that.

Fighter’s primary function are anti rush/anti frigate spam/anti aggressive fighters. You better make sure your rocket fighters stick around while your cruisers are being stunlock/slaughtered by frigate spams, or against those laser fighters who prioritize your cruisers with the vulture tag.

But except battles, where cruisers are disabled (what makes also bays disabled) the only purpose of having fighters is to protect cruisers from being distracted by enemy fighters. In most battles enemy comes with large numbers of strongly armored cruisers and then fighters have ni other purpose than taking attention of few of these cruisers weapons, just for few seconds before gunners change their targets, which doesn’t make a big difference to their overlay dmg.

No it doesn’t work like that.

The amount of damage your fighter pull out is game changing, especially if you are Tribe. You can slaughter an entire frigate spam with just dual rockets/painter, and they will at least deal 1/3 of your close combat damage against a CL spam if you use the vulture tag (which means shoot at cruiser that took hull damage, which means the one that already have shield/armor broken by your cruisers). You don’t want them to wall hug leaving the rest of your fleet to die because your bay got destroyed. Besides who rush with armor on every ship anyway? How are they planning to get close with those reduced speed, or win up close with those huge overhead cost?

I mean, if you don’t believe me, you can always find some of my fleets online by using the “sort by name” function, or “sort by difficulty”. Most of which are equipped to handle the fighter war so you can see just how well your fighter strategy really is.

Well 123stw, what are your thoughts of Carrier bays as traps? I often just have a carrier bay defense cruiser (flanked by pulsed cruisers) for the sole purpose of rescuing decoy fighters (and being escorted by a squad of fast decoy fighters) to try and keep enemy fighters off the tail of the actual fighters.

They also work for me when I employ rocket fighters that are pinned at the front of a cruiser fleet whose sole purpose is to launch twin rockets at the broken hulls smoking twisted wreckage of the opposing fleet that is closing in. They don’t have far to go and end up right back in the formation. One of my methods of anti-rushing.

What does 123stw stand for? It does not roll off the tongue lightly.

As a decoy exclusive it will work great, providing that

  1. The enemy fighter sets priority to fighters
  2. The enemy fighter isn’t set to escort

I admit while I do have the attack fighter tag there, I set it to the lowest priority. Although the idea of lure fighter does not require a carrier bay. Simply putting like a few fighters with engine, no weapons and all the way in the front at start with 1000 engagement range, and it will lure a whole fleet of fighters into chasing after them for the whole match. Or you lure them to some corner with an anti fighter tank that can tank 1000 fighters until the match is over.

But you know, tactic involving the use of lures often offends a lot of people, especially when you start doing cruiser lures. While they are quite necessary for participate in NEC by the time it hit 10+ fleets, people outside would call such tactics cheating.

That’s why most guys keep their fighter leashed unless it’s some gimmicky rush thing. That way they stay with your cruisers and doesn’t fly off in the middle of nowhere.

As for my name, STW stands for Save the Whales… it’s an inside joke.