While the first ship-launched takeoffs, and subsequently airborne attacks, were made in the early 20th century, the then-immature development of heavier-than-air aircraft prevented them from having any major influence in World War I. During the interwar years, ongoing research resulted in the development of several converted and purpose-built ships that could not only launch aircraft, but eventually recover them as well. In addition, carrier-launched aircraft (or rather, air power in general) began to have longer ranges, superior flexibility and greater precision than naval guns of any size and make. Although fierce resistance from "big gun" battleship admirals initially limited carrier assets and development, it was in World War II — amply illustrated by the battles of Taranto, Pearl Harbor, Coral Sea, Midway and Operation Ten-Go — that the aircraft carrier clearly demonstrated its overwhelmingly superior ability to project naval power and took over the reins as the flagship of a navy from battleships, a trend that continues today.
Playing an aircraft carrier differs quite a bit from playing the regular warships. Aircraft carrier captains can, for the most part, keep their vessel far from the main action of a battle and instead participate in the battle with individual squadrons of strike craft. You do not directly participate in combat, but are able to influence the flow of battle from a safe distance like no one else can: Scouting, reinforcing a crumbling flank, providing additional presence to a sector that your team has committed fewer ships to, or even breaking up entire battleship formations to tip the scales in favor of your team. Despite this, stay on the look out for flanking enemies as a single stray destroyer may slip through your team's defenses and hunt you down if they spot you. The ability to strike anywhere does tend to make you a priority target for the enemy, especially since you tend to leave your carrier to its own devices.
All carriers hold a limited number of aircraft of various types on deck, each specialised to a certain role, so careful usage and proper target selection is vital to ensuring a fast and consistent turnover of strikes on the enemy team. Although there is no limit to the total aircraft reserves of a carrier, long aircraft rearm times and large squadron sizes at higher tiers can make reckless loss of an entire squadron of aircraft a significant handicap to the team.
Aircraft carriers start off at Tier IV with a limited complement of fighters: attack aircraft (rocket planes), dive bombers and torpedo planes, all of which are used to take out the opposing team's surface vessels; While the limited number of fighter consumables are used to provide temporary air cover for yourself and allies, or to provide passive scouting of an area when the carrier is spotted. Attack Aircraft are fast and armed with HE Rockets; They excel in attacking Destroyers and some light Cruisers. Torpedo bombers are better suited against heavier ships such as Heavy Cruisers, Battleships and Carriers; Their slow torpedoes should be aimed at the enemy's broadside to maximise the chances of a hit. While Dive Bombers are good at causing fires, they should generally go for the bow to stern of an enemy ship to maximise the chances of a hit. Carrier captains should take the speed of their planes' attacks into account and aim in the direction of their target.
In Tier V battles and over, Carriers carry a fourth squadron armed with Depth Charges due to the inclusion of submarines. When a submarine is exposed, they are automatically deployed and flown by the AI to hunt it down.
Although carriers have reasonable concealment, speeds and, at higher tiers, a modicum of self-defensive secondary armament, great care should still be taken to maintain a good balance in the distance from the fighting; too far and the carrier will be unable to provide timely and constant aerial presence; too near and the carrier will be vulnerable to long range battery fire and torpedoes from enemy vessels. All aircraft carriers have access to an automated version of the Damage Control Party that activates when a fire or flood has started. Fighter aircraft are deployed when the carrier is detected by aircraft and ships, respectively.Tier X aircraft carriers of the US and Japan however feature "armored" decks, allowing them to sustain more from both AP and HE damage at long range.
Information on the website
- The New Aircraft Carriers: How Best to Use Them? (Update 0.8.0; Section "Ship AA Defenses" is outdated.)
- Aircraft Carriers: How Best to Tune Them? (Update 0.8.0; Skill "Manual Fire Control for AA Armament" was later replaced with "Massive AA Fire")
- Update 0.8.7: French Destroyers – Part 2 (AA Defense, Massive AA Fire)
- About Japanese and American Carriers and Graf Zeppelin
- British Aircraft Carriers: Unique Characteristics
- German Aircraft Carriers Review - 5 Aug 2020
- Soviet Aircraft Carriers Review - 11 Nov 2021
- Some numbers of planes were later increased in Update 0.8.7.