My frigates are pathetic?


#1

Hi all, this is my first post. I’m new to the game and have played through the first 5 or 6 battles and created quite a few ship designs variations with the same battle over and over to try to see what works. I’ve also read a few of the how-to threads here, but bottom line is my frigates are pathetic. (I’ve played 17 hours per Steam)

They’re almost always my least effective design. The only useful thing I’ve been able to do with them so far is to load them up with anti-fighter rockets and have them hang around behind the front line and engage fighters. I can at least see some use in that, but even then they’re still my least effective ship design on the battle summary page.

I’ve tried fast, slow, armor, no armor, shields, no shield, long range, short range… and I haven’t found anything satisfactory so far. I put a whole big bunch of them in a group behind the lines with hardly any engines or defenses and had them lob missiles from afar… I would’ve been better with just another cruiser. If I try to equip them and get them closer for damage they get wiped out before they get there.

I’m just starting so don’t have many options for my frigate designs yet - I’ve seen some mention of using tractor beams for anti-fighter duty, or EMP missiles from afar (both of which I guess I don’t have access to yet). I guess I’m getting frustrated because besides anti-fighter usage I’m having trouble building a useful frigate with anything I have currently. And I see some of my enemies seem to have frigates that can actually do some damage with some laser/beam looking weapons and have some survivability so I’m wanting to do that - but just not having luck yet.

Do I just need to wait to unlock more stuff for frigates to become more useful? It just seems my cruisers are effective (except for their tendency to get all clogged up in the battle and can’t seem to figure out how to fly around each other) and frigates aren’t. Are there some screenshots or builds I should try of something that might be effective in an offensive capacity? Appreciate any replies.


#2

I use 3 type of frigates. One is the anti fighter frigate you mentioned. About 6 of those escort the group of 2 carriers and the 3 AEGIS missile defense cruisers.
The 2nd type is the PT Boat, armed exclusively with frigate torpedoes. I built a spam fleet worth ~20.000 using that type as the main force. It was able to defeat a cruiser fleet worth over 40.000.
The 3rd type is the Vulcan frigate, which is armed exclusively with Ion cannons. The PT Boat can wear down shields rather well, but suck against tanks because of the rare at lucky shots. Also good missile defense can lower their efficiency. So the ion cannon, with its tremendous rate of fire is to the rescue. A bunch of those can tear even the hardest tank apart in no time.
So combine these and you should have a lot of fun with frigates.

Few attack frigates are useless. The point is to concentrate a lot of them in a small area and use them in cooperative mode. I usually use them on the flank. With this, they will concentrate on the 2-3 enemy cruisers on the flank. The enemy cruisers then turn toward the flank and form a column instead of a line. With this only 2-4 cruisers are firing at any given time while all of your frigates can fire back.

No matter what you do, the frigates pop quite easily against cruisers. I’d place the defenses to extend its life expectancy against fighters.


#3

I think Pendra covered quite a bit of it. If you look down the forum you will find frigates are rather useless silly creatures. If you want an offensive frigate - do your best to keep its speed up to .9 or more. It won’t be armed with much - empty slots left right and centre. Simply an ion cannon, a shield, enough power and manpower and engines. Its only defense is to swarm a cruiser and take it down quicker than a cruiser can take them down. Like a pack of rabbits taking out the fox.

All frigates fall prey to the evils of rocket fighters. No shields can withstand the continual bombardment, and it takes a lot of armour to get the protection above the armour piercing value of rockets. And then they’ll be so slow and cumbersome to be a nice target for cruisers.

Your best option it to leave them home and let them come out only when you see no fighters.

Berny
Hey - the world didn’t end?


#4

Thanks for the ideas. I’ll try some of these concepts. I’ve gotta find some other use than slow floating mounts for anti-fighter turrets. Seems they wouldn’t be in the game if there wasn’t some decent uses. I’ll try the spam concept mentioned above and see what happens.

I think part of the issue is I hate to see ships destroyed if I can keep from it - but maybe using the frigates means alot of them have to die to give the others a chance to do their thing.


#5

I’m of the same mind, although that’s part of why I like GSB (and why I haven’t delved into the campaign add-on): There are absolutely no negative ramifications from losing or sacrificing ships in scenarios or challenges. Lose a bunch of ships? You can always go back and try it again with a different loadout. And sometimes sacrificial ships or lures make for a decent tactic when you don’t have to worry about using that ship later. Like the old commercial said: Crunch all you want, we’ll make more. :slight_smile:


#6

It’s like in real life I wouldn’t intentionally want to send a crew with a bait ship off to it’s death if there was another way - and I really don’t want suicide missions to be part of the strategy. It almost seems like an AI exploit in that a single ship way over here can divert much of an entire fleet.

I was messing around with frigate builds and built some fast ones (1.22 speed) I think with 1 frigate laser, set on keep moving and vulture. They’re good at running around and shooting up other frigates - getting shot up a bit, but they’re not smart enough to know to stop attacking when their lasers aren’t doing any effect and just bounce off cruiser shields. So they keep circling in range of the cruisers and shooting when there’s nothing they can do until my cruisers knock out the shields. I wish the ships would notice when their attacks are futile and would select another target or pull back until they had a chance to do damage again. (I set them 100% to attack other frigates, but when the other frigates are gone they just become cannon fodder. They keep shooting and shooting and their laser just keep bouncing off…) Same thing with the remaining opponent cruisers shooting at my cruisers in this battle. They have some kind of laser that just keeps reflecting off of my shields to no effect, but maybe they have no other options.

I may try a similar strategy of fast cruiser, but instead with just a few really fast fighters buzzing around at range and see how that works for distraction.


#7

A frigate Rapid FIre Laser should have enough shield pen to get through any vanilla cruiser shield out there - perhaps you were using the pulse laser instead? Anyhow, I would switch to an Ion cannon for your frigates, they will get through any shield and have a decent enough rate of fire. Or try a moderately fast frigate with an EMP launcher and an Ion Cannon - i have rebel design that still goes .87 and they are great for stun blocking cruisers.

And I wouldn’t worry about real life and decoys - its probably the most common and oldest strategy around. And with the fixes in GSB supposedly decoys will not be as effective.

Berny
Mmmm Yoghurt


#8

thanks for the tips Berny - I’m new to game and just trying different things right now and it’s hard to keep frigates alive. It might be pulse laser. I’ll check. Visually I can see the laser hitting shields and reflecting off - and it’s not showing any damage stats at all. I just recently realized I could visit the place where I can buy new weapons and didn’t even have EMP as option on a frigate previously, so will try that. I was wondering what it was that the other fleets were shooting at me that kept messing up my ship’s defenses. I kindof like that weapon - want to see how it works. I bought a whole bunch of new stuff to try and will do so.

I do still wish the ship AI was good enough to know when it was futile to attack a target and back up out of harm’s way before giving a retry - or if there was an order type “futile” to command ships to momentarily withdraw for a while if their weapons are ineffective on a target


#9

With armor you get the occasional “Lucky Shot” that will still take a few points off. Over time, a few dozen laser fighters can lower the armor on a ship enough to start doing real damage if it doesn’t have a self-repair module. A “futile” command would keep them from doing this.

I’m not sure if the same effect applies to shields.


#10

Shields do not suffer from lucky shots, but weapons with sufficiently short minimum ranges can be fired from beneath the shields of a vessel, which bypasses the defenses the shields provide. Fighters armed with laser cannons or pulse lasers are ideal for this purpose, though they have a hard time ducking beneath frigate shielding. Frigates and cruisers can also be made to do this, though they have fewer available weapons that can fire from beneath an enemy ship’s shield bubble. Moreover, it seems to me that larger vessels prefer to keep some amount of minimum distance between themselves, and do not frequently maneuver so that one or more turrets are beneath the shield bubble of the ship being targeted. If you face a ship with multiple shield generators and knock one out before the other, you can start doing hull or armor damage before the shields fall; also, if you use lots of fighters and destroy all the shield generators without damaging the shield bubble, the shield bubble loses its resistance value and begins to take damage from any shot that hits it - if this happens to a ship, that’s usually an indication that the ship will blow up very, very soon.

There are a couple of solutions to this problem, some of which have already been mentioned.

One, you can select frigate weapons with shield penetration greater than or equal to 27, which will guarantee that any non-mod cruiser or frigate shield can be penetrated by a frigate so armed.

Two, you can set your attack orders to a range such that the frigate is likely to pass under the shield bubble of the ship being fired upon, allowing its weapons to bypass enemy shields. Note that this requires the use of a weapon with a low minimum range (as a rough estimate for which weapons will work, the minimum range should be less than two-thirds the length of the target vessel), and is more likely to work against large cruisers than small cruisers or frigates. It also requires some luck with AI maneuvering choices.

Three, as I understand the ‘Keep Moving’ order, it sets the driver AI to attempt to keep the ship within a set of ranges of the target vessel. The upper bound is the engagement range set in the attack orders, while the lower bound is one-half of that range. If you want ion cannon-armed frigates to duck into and out of range of cruiser weapons, then you can set the attack orders up so that the frigate is supposed to engage from beyond the range of the cruiser weapons, but with the engagement range being not more than twice the maximum range of the ion cannon. This isn’t particularly worthwhile when facing beam or missile armed cruisers, as most cruiser beams and cruiser missiles have a relatively low likelihood of hitting fast frigates and also have significantly more range than ion cannons and rapid-fire laser cannons. It can, however, be used to keep your fast frigates out of range of cruiser lasers, or to have them dancing into and out of range of cruiser pulse lasers while whittling away at the shields. It can also be used on fast long range frigates (frigate beams, frigate plasma, frigate missiles/torpedoes) to try to give them a little time to recover from occasional hits on their shields from cruiser beams and cruiser missiles. Remember, though, that this also makes your frigate’s weapons less effective, as the frigate may stay beyond the maximum range of its armament for some time, and will not always be a particularly effective defense - just because you told the ship that it should stay between 350 and 700 range from the target doesn’t mean that it will always stay within those bounds, and even if it does, it might be close enough to another enemy ship that that enemy ship can keep firing on your frigate despite the frigate’s maneuvers to stay away from its chosen target.


#11

Fellow new player here… I’m still building up an Order fleet, and I’m using an EMP missile frigate. I scatter a few of them throughout the frontline, behind my cruisers, and sometimes their effectiveness surprises me when they miraculously survive (i.e. I shot down the enemy fighters) and they lay down a decent EMP lock.

Very rarely, when I post challenges, people don’t realize that I deployed a couple of frigates. Order frigates, when overlapped with cruisers, can be very hard to spot on large maps, since their silhouettes are already very small and it’s all too easy to hide them among a tight cluster of cruisers.


#12

Next time I play I’m going to mess around with the EMP weapon on frigates. I just realized I had Fleet HQ where I could buy new toys, so that’s one I’ve picked up to 'speriment with. :wink:


#13

If you’re going to experiment with frigate specialty weapons, another one which can be useful is the Disruptor Bomb. With three to four hits in succession, the Disruptor Bomb can temporarily disable the shields of any ship - even ships equipped with modded shield generators with unreasonably high strength (eg, 10,000+ total shield points), or ships with the most shield strength you can achieve with unmodded shield generators (about 1200 - but this takes about 9 shield generators, so you don’t see it very often at all). Just remember if you use it that the Disruptor Bomb doesn’t do any actual damage, so you need something else to kill ships whose shields are offline, that the shields will come back up eventually, and that the Disruptor Bomb is a missile (meaning it’s vulnerable to Guidance Scramblers and point defense weapons). Since most ships outside of mods use only one to three shield generators, Ion Cannons are generally more useful, but Disruptor Bombs can be interesting and are thematically appropriate in my opinion to a frigate whose role is causing disruption in the enemy fleet (frigates armed with EMPs and Disruptor Bombs).

Edit: One more thing, the EMP Missile II is better than the EMP Missile I, assuming you can afford the honor costs.


#14

I used to have a Federation frigate with one Disruption bomb and filled the rest of the hardpoints with EMPs, but the analysis consistently ranks it as the least effective weapon somehow… I’ve stopped using them for a while, partly because I usually run an Order MWM fleet so breaking shields usually isn’t a problem. But I agree that the Bomb is very flavourful, just that I’m not sure how to fully exploit it. After all, I find it easier to take down an EMP-locked fleet (it’ll be a matter of time before their shields fail) as opposed to a shieldless fleet still capable of retaliation.

Can’t remember how much it costs… but it should be rather affordable. I always unlock the best version of each module first (armours, weapons…), so I actually have quite a lot of modules not acquired yet, but I won’t be using them anyway.


#15

The analysis takes only damage as consideration - since neither of these weapons do actual damage they’ll never be show as effective. It doesn’t mean they don’t have an effect.

Berny_74
Fungeon time


#16

gasp! I have been cheated~! I shall try them on a few frigate types and see how well each design does in various situations.

As a side note… I finally got around to unlock the Alliance (after playing as the Order exclusively since I bought the game). Not quite used to having fast frigates, but it does open up a whole lot of new tactical choices.


#17

There’s also that the Disruptor Bomb has a shorter range than the EMP Missile (650 on the Disruptor Bomb, 800 on the EMP Missile), meaning that you might also have set your orders up in such a way as to prevent the Disruptor Bomb from being able to fire. Additionally, using the Disruptor Bomb means your ships need to get closer to the enemy fleet, which opens the frigates up to more enemy fire.

Also, when using a disruption frigate (EMP Missiles and Disruptor Bombs), it is better to have a lot of them than a handful of them, especially if there is heavy point defense in the target fleet.

And if you want to see the effect of the Disruptor Bomb, I’d suggest finding a battle or a challenge where the primary opposition is made of cruisers with decent shields (anything that whatever primary cruiser weapon you bring cannot penetrate), and bring along a bunch of disruption frigates to support a handful of cruisers armed with beams. That way you can more easily see how often the disruptor bombs bring down shields, as you don’t have anything else capable of bringing down ship shields. When shields are taken down by disruptor bombs, they don’t play the collapse animation or any sound effect that I’ve noticed, the shield bubble just disappears, so it can be difficult to notice unless you’re watching the ships or start seeing hull hits on a ship. The tutorial mission is useful for this - no fighters to worry about, and the two cruisers count for more than the three frigates in terms of winning the battle.


#18

That explains why the bombs never seem to look like they’re working… arigatou~!


#19

Based on advice here - I built me a little EMP frigate and kindof like him. I gave him 2 green shields, he’s not to fast so he doesn’t tend to get all out there by himself too much, and ordered him to throw in EMP’s at range w/ rescuer orders and found him kindof useful. I’m not sure if he’s better than putting EMPs on the cruisers, but when the heavy lead is flying he tends to not attract as much attention as the cruisers do so he can sneak in close enough without taking too much damage and cause problems for ships that are firing on my ships (usually one of my cruisers w/ targetting beam).

Another question for those of you who use frigates for anti-fighter duty. What kindof orders do you like to use? Right now I’m using formation orders and kindof connection each anti-fighter frigate to a cruiser that I want to help protect, and kindof string the AF frigates up and down the formation. I’m using anti-fighter missiles (or rockets? can’t remember - the orange dot unit) and watching I have a tough time seeing how effective they are. I assume since they have the highest speed they’re best for anti-fighter shooting, but honestly I see more of the green lasers taking out fighters than I see impacts from my AF missiles. The most obvious strikes are when the target painters light up a fighter and missiles take him out, but it doesn’t exactly seem efficient given how many missiles go chasing after one fighter that way. Anyhow - if anyone would share - what is your preferred anti-fighter “orders” and anti-fighter weapon setup for frigates for defensive use? (I’m not using them to go after the fighters really, but more to defend my fleet from fighters). I still have trouble with my anti-fighter frigates going on suicide missions once the cruiser they’re put into formation with gets killed, but can’t figure out how to tell them “hang out here around the cruisers and don’t let the enemy fighters chew up a cruiser.”


#20

With antifighter frigates, the orders I use depends on the opposition I expect to face. If I’m facing something that I think my main combat ships can clear out before it can hurt my antifighter frigates too badly, I might just let the antifighter frigates fly off the leash, with ‘engage fighters 100%’ at a range that is reasonable for the weapons that I gave the frigate (if I’m using Antifighter Missiles, I go for the maximum range on the missile), and I might leave the ‘engage frigates’ and ‘engage cruisers’ orders on, albeit at low percentages (not more than 20%, probably more like 10%), to try to control the exposure of my antifighter frigates to enemy frigates and cruisers. In this situation I will probably also put ‘keep moving’ orders on the antifighter frigates. Other orders (like last stand, vulture, or retailiate) depend on whether or not I feel adding them will improve antifighter performance for subsequent attempts on the challenge or battle.

If I expect more serious opposition (large groups of rocket fighters, or significant frigate or cruiser forces), I usually use escort orders (when I think enemy fighters will arrive first, and thus cause my antifighter frigates to stop and allow my heavier frigates or my cruiser line to pass through the frigate screen before they take too much fire from the enemy fleet), or, less frequently, I use formation orders (to keep the antifighter frigates behind something that I expect to be a more tempting target for enemy frigates and cruisers). Alternatively, since destroying enemy frigates and cruisers is more likely to win me the battle than destroying enemy fighters, I might arrange the formation or escort orders so that several antifighter frigates absorb the first several volleys from the opposing fleet, thus costing me ships that I may not care as much about as, for instance, a torpedo platform.

Escort orders will normally keep frigates mostly ahead of the ship that is being escorted, while formation orders allow you to mostly control the relative position of several (or all) ships in your fleet. Formation orders can be too restrictive, though - on occasion I’ve made mistakes where I chose a formation that resulted in half my fleet stopping out of range of the enemy the lead ship chose to target, or where the ships I wanted them shooting at were inside the minimum range and they couldn’t do anything about it because the tank I chose for my fleet’s centerpiece isn’t dying anytime soon. As a result, I prefer to design my ships to have roughly the same speed as one another and leash particularly fast vessels (usually intended to operate in the cruiser line for antifighter duty) to a couple ships I expect to draw fighter attacks by means of an escort order. I tend to set escort ranges at roughly 300-400 range, though I don’t have any real reason for doing so.

If you right-click on an order, it removes it from the order list for the selected ship(s) (this can also be done by left-clicking the order as if you were going to modify the priority, range, or other settings, and clicking the ‘delete order’ button). If you remove an 'Attack ’ order from a particular ship or set of ships, these ships will ignore any ship type for which there is no active attack order in favor of closing to the set engagement range of an enemy vessel of one of the remaining ship types (to a lesser extent, this behavior holds true even when you leave all attack orders active on a ship, but greatly increase the priority of one target type over one or both of the others, but the driver AI selects targets based on proximity and priority, not just priority - a frigate at range 100 is a more tempting target even at 1% priority than a fighter at range 10,000 with 100% priority, and this may or may not be behavior acceptable for your fleet plans). Note that the vessel will still select enemies for which it does not have attack orders as valid targets for its gunners if no enemy for which the vessel has attack orders is in weapons range, and if all surviving enemy ships are of a type that your ship has no attack orders for, it will select one of the surviving enemy ships as a driving target (though I don’t know what the default engagement range values are in this case - which is one reason why I prefer to leave all attack orders active on my antifighter vessels, so that I can keep them at a relatively safe distance from ships intended for antiship duties).

An antifighter frigate that moves at 0.2-0.3 speed when your cruiser formation moves at 0.15-0.2 speed isn’t likely to get too far ahead of the main body after the ship it was supposed to escort dies, and if its highest priority targets (or the only ship type for which it has attack orders) are fighters, it should head for the closest enemy fighters. If that happens to mean flying into the concentrated fire of the enemy cruiser group, unfortunately there isn’t any way to prevent that (unless you have the Direct Control option enabled and don’t have difficulties with instability, since this allows you to change some of the orders on your ships during battles). Still, if enemy fighters are leashed to enemy cruisers or frigates, you’re probably better off using your own fighters to clear out the enemy fighters, or ignoring the existence of fighters and use the money you would have spent on fighter defense for cruiser-killers (and perhaps frigate-killers, but cruiser-killers often do well enough at the frigate-killer role).

One thing you might consider is combining the EMP frigate and the Antifighter frigate designs you have, assuming you either are not facing very large fighter forces or are willing to spring for the extra frigates. That way, you can give the frigates high-priority ‘Attack Cruiser’ or ‘Attack Frigate’ orders with a sufficiently high engagement range that your antifighter weapons will usually be unable to shoot the cruisers or frigates and the EMP missiles will occasionally or usually be in range. This works slightly better for antifighter frigates armed with frigate pulse lasers and tractor beams than for those armed with antifighter missiles, though, as it’s easier to keep the frigate in EMP range but out of pulse laser range than in EMP range and out of antifighter missile range. However, it does compromise the frigate’s antifighter capabilities, and using frigate pulse lasers instead of antifighter missiles compromises the frigate’s ability to defend multiple ships, so it depends on your needs. Plus, with higher priority on killing cruisers, the frigate may not be in position to engage enemy fighters. This can work well with escort orders, though - ships under escort orders will stop moving when they are within the specified engagement range in their attack orders unless it would cause them to violate their escort orders, which means that an antifighter frigate with ‘Engage Cruisers 100% at 800 range’ will stop when an enemy cruiser is within 800 range and not closer than 400 range, and as long as fighters are the next-highest priority target any antifighter missiles on the frigate will prefer to target fighters that are within firing range as long as no enemy cruisers close to within 550 range (or whatever the maximum is for antifighter missiles - I think 550 is the right range, but I’m not sure), but will also not remain further from the target of the escort order than the range specified when you gave the ship the order.

My general notes for antifighter frigates:

  1. If you expect there to be large numbers of rocket fighters, getting the average armor on the frigate to above 12.0 is more important than having an extra shield generator, though I’d still prefer to have at least one shield generator than having only slightly more than 12 armor, and if for some reason I cannot get the armor above 12 but can carry two or more shield generators, I’ll try a different frigate hull or put two or three shield generators on the frigate. Alternatively, leave slots empty and deploy lots of the frigates - but fighter rockets rapidly destroy unarmored or lightly armored frigates.

  2. Frigate tractor beams are great for antifighter frigates, whether you’re relying on Antifighter Missiles or Frigate Pulse Lasers or Ion Cannons, or on the guns of nearby cruisers, for killing fighters. I would sooner have 1 antifighter missile and 1 tractor beam than 2 antifighter missiles, though I wouldn’t put more than two tractor beams on a given frigate (and I’d usually only put one tractor beam per frigate, because there aren’t many frigates with more than five hardpoints, and one tractor beam is plenty for four antifighter missiles).

  3. If the enemy fighter force doesn’t include rocket fighters, a single shield generator with resistance greater than 8 is a sufficient defensive investment for the frigates, unless enemy frigates and cruisers are set to prioritize frigate destruction. But if that’s the case, your frigates won’t live long anyways. The smaller the frigate, the less likely fighters are to slip beneath the shield bubble, which means your antifighter frigates can in some cases outlast cruisers when attacked by fighters, even if you don’t put a single armor plate on the frigate but load the cruiser up.

  4. If you have four or five hardpoints available for antifighter weapons, consider using two antifighter missiles, a tractor beam, and a Frigate Pulse Laser, with any fifth weapon module left to your discretion.

  5. If there are significant enemy cruiser or frigate forces on the battlefield, keep the antifighter frigates close to (or behind) a larger frigate or cruiser, preferably one which has better defenses than the antifighter frigates, since the larger ship tends to attract more fire (note that if enemies are prioritizing frigates, a large frigate is better for protecting your antifighter frigate than a cruiser is, unless the cruiser can kill any enemy ships that come close quickly enough to prevent your antifighter frigate from being badly damaged, disabled, or destroyed - this may be the case when the threat is enemy frigates, but it’s unlikely if the threat is enemy cruisers).

Protection is a two-way street - the antifighter frigates likely cannot deal with heavy warships, be they frigates or cruisers, and your own heavy warships aren’t that good at dealing with fighters, but they can probably take a lot more punishment than the frigate can. Alternatively, if the antifighter frigates are more of a luxury than a necessity in the particular battle, switch the roles around - have the heavy frigate be the small ship, and let the antifighter frigate be a big target. While the antifighter frigate draws enemy fire, your heavy frigate can blast away at whatever is shooting the antifighter frigate in relative safety.

  1. Several minimally armored and shielded, cheap antifighter frigates have a decent chance of providing better fighter defense than do a smaller number of heavily armored and shielded antifighter frigates, especially if the enemy fighters are set to prioritize cruisers or your own fighters over frigates. Just keep something nearby to take the fire from heavy weapons for the antifighter frigates. If the enemy fleet is focusing on your cruisers and doesn’t bring many rocket fighters to clear out frigates, but does bring enough laser, pulse laser, painter, or torpedo fighters to justify dedicated antifighter platforms, going for the cheapest shield that can resist fighter lasers may be a better idea than going for the best frigate shield. Just keep it behind the cruiser line and close enough to hit strafing fighter groups (this an example of a situation where formation orders work better than escort orders - escorts tend to get out in front of the ships they escort unless they are for some reason slower than the ship they escort, while ships in formation tend to lag behind their set position relative to the leader).

Edit: sorry for the huge wall of text. I hadn’t previously realized how much I’d written.