Get the Most out of Fighters (SEIV)

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By Stone Mill


  1. Use Fighters for early system defense
  2. Design good Fighters; with or without special tech
  3. Gain the battlefield advantage using massive mount on carriers
  4. Use Carrier mounts for all ships until Light Cruisers are reached
  5. Surprise can be deadly


So you think that fighter tech just gives you cool spacecraft with short lives? Think again. There are a number of strategies for using fighter tech that may help you get the edge on your opponent. Fighters are easily countered, and will usually have a limited window of effect, depending on your opponent's skill. When I know I'm facing a very tough opponent, I usually spend research on more vital techs. But fighters can be very fun and unbalancing when they first show up in a game.

System Scramble!

Fighters are excellent for early defense. They may be constructed and launched from a planet in 2 turns, making them the most ferocious system defense in the early game. A small fighter stack is inexpensive, maintenance-free, has superb range, and will usually burn through any early scout or colony ship (without sufficient point defense). This will give you a strong edge in obtaining control of a system.

Try these strategies early in the game when you are competing for a system with another empire:

  1. Launch fighters from your planet to attack enemy colony ships and newly colonized enemy planets
  2. Block the warp points quickly. Remember, fighters can't warp, but they do get first shot on whatever comes through.
  3. Add extra engines to your designs for long range interception in a system

Residual Effects

Deploying fighters causes your foe to waste valuable space on point defense. Knowing this, your next wave of ships may have an advantage in component efficiency, using less point defense, (if he is not also using seekers).


Your fighters have eyes. Launch them in a system to keep an eye on things. Have them sit on some mines. Building a ship with a small amount of fighter bays is nice for this job. Also, two ships with cargo in the same sector allows you to transfer a single fighter for launching for this purpose.

Fighters are awesome for cheap intel; once you engage the enemy in combat, you acquire his ship designs for sacrificing a single fighter. What a Bargain!


Fighters bring a great degree of variation, depending on your needs. Across the board, the more you can increase the amount of damage resistance (shields, armor) and defense (ECM), the better their survivability. Try some of these variations:

Standard Tech, Small

  1. Kamikaze: explosive warhead + engines.
  2. Rocket Pods III: (requires missile tech III) packs a serious wallop
  3. Long range: one weapon + all engines; fast strike but weak
  4. Short Range: reduce engines to keep fighters on pace with advancing ships
  5. ECM: makes them tougher to hit; remember only one fighter with ECM applies the bonus to all ships in the stack!

Standard Tech, Medium

  1. armor, shields, ECM + weapon (Arkcon)

Standard Tech, Large

  1. 2 x shields III + weapons (jim)

Special Tech

  1. Organics Small Electric Discharge III: OUCH!
  2. Temporal: Time Distortion Burst III
  3. Psychic: Small Telekinetic Projector III

Mid-Late Game Deployment

Generally, fighters do best in large quantities, in a trained fleet (alone) in warp point defense, combined with supplementing ships/units (outside of the fighter fleet):

Warp Point

  1. In large quantities, they can be quite powerful. A pile of satellites or fighters, stacked full of defenses and weapons, sitting on the right side of a warp point, can do a lot of damage, and can tip the scales of a battle (PVK)
  2. IMHO fighters and sats keep their use even in late games. The key point as you said is "large numbers". 50 fighters are completely useless against a fleet of 20 or 30 ships but if you have 1000 large fighters with shields in Groups of 30 or even 50 you have a tremendous firepower and won't lose too many fighters. Sats are great as quick defense for warp points when you expand. Just move the sats with your sat layers to the new front line (Q)
  3. Fighter Base w/ ship yard at key positions can build tons of fighters, and is self-sustaining.

Fleet Combat

  1. Big Wing: Basically, you need the largest fighters you can build with the best shields and strongest weapons. Build them and launch them in massive Groups. 100 is optimal if you can do pull it off. Since each group acts as one vehicle for combat purposes you will have in effect a vessel that can deliver a respectable amount of firepower with each shot. And the large size of the group and heavy shielding will allow them to withstand more than a few shots form the advanced PDC cannons and other weaponry you are likely to face (Geo)
  2. Draw Fire! Fighters perform much better with shields. Also, try matching their speed to your fleet so they do not outrun your warships. Otherwise your enemy will pick them off with beam weapons while waiting for the big targets. If they arrive with the warships, they will either be ignored and hit or targeted first, drawing fire (LGM) They also pull ships/ fleets set on maximum range into closer range. This confounds some long range strategies set to sit back and pick you apart.


There is a small unknown feature for mixed fleets with fighters and ships, the ship supplies decrease quickly, so avoid mixing fighters with ship fleets ! (PsychoTechFreak) the game is splitting the supply pool of the fleet evenly between the ship and the fighter, even though the fighter can't hold half the pool. (Ed Kolis)

Legendary Defense: Let me be "Crystal" Clear

The Crystalline Shield Facility definitely does help fighters. The Crystalline Restructuring facility does add to "shield kT", either to each individual fighter or to a stack of fighters. And it gives those points to every fighter in the stack. I think they still work out as hitpoints, rather than shield points (S.J.)

Just about the toughest configuration I can think of is a Legendary fleet (+50%) of a massive stack of large fighters (ECM, Shields III, and one of the nastier weapons) as warp point defense in a system with the Crystalline Shield Facility. Even Scarier: use combined with Temporal Event Predictor III (+30% to combat in system). This should be a legendary buzz saw.

Defending Against Fighters

Unfortunately, once you show your hand and use fighters, your opponent will research and implement point defense (PD)on his ship designs. There will be a short window where your fighters continue to do some damage, but they will be eventually be no match for point defense, even in great numbers (against a seasoned opponent).

  1. Ships. Many players will evenly distribute point defense, including one, two, or three PD on each ship. This is a safe practice which spares a fleet from complete embarrassment when encountering seekers. I personally like to deploy point defense ships, especially if my foes are using lots of seekers. IMPORTANT Remember to give your PD ships at least one direct fire weapon, so they engage the enemy, and not run away.
  2. Units. Mines launched from an enemy planet will "kill fighters, dead!" Also, weapons platforms with point defense can ruin your fighters' day. Satellites are unreliable.

But the edge goes to fighters early, and throughout the game as long as you maintain numerical superiority.

  1. Weapons. Direct fire weapons can hit fighters, but have an abysmal hit percentage due to the fighter's small size and defensive bonus. You will need training (ship, fleet) as well as combat sensors (I, II, III) to hack down fighter stacks.


Use Carrier mounts for all ships until Light Cruisers are reached. With the 800 ton hull, you will get (nearly) the same amount of space for components that a light cruiser offers. The benefit of this is that you will essentially get the jump on an opponent that is using escorts, frigates and destroyers. The bad part is that the early advantage is usually lost when Light Cruisers are prevalent. LCs designs offer more cost/space efficiency. Unless you have struck early, you will eventually have to catch up with the ship construction research tree.

Cargo Space

The fighter bays on carriers are cargo spaces. This means you can use them for:

-- moving population

-- transferring units such as mines, sats, and troops

-- Tip! Troop Transport for invasions; remember to assign it to "Troop Transport" class during design, and ship and fleet strategy, of course, must be "Capture Planet"

General Use

Don't forget to use them for sweepers, repair, and supply ships.


Early Game Strategy Tip: A nice design for bashing through light minefields with a threatening presence is using Breachers. It has mostly minesweeping components (10); it's attack power comes from the fighters it carries. In the early game, the Breacher can tear through light minefields and terrorize systems. Even a seasoned player will have to adjust their research and strategy to deal with them. With Mines II, 5 Breachers will give you the sweepers you need, plus fighter attack power!

Massive Mounts: Hunter-Killers

Hot Tip! Use those massive weapon mounts to rule the battlefield early. That's right; you will get the leverage of battleship mounts (increased range and strength) with Fighters I. Use Carriers as your main attack force and watch them whittle away escorts, frigates and destroyers while deploying fighters to boot! Even if your opponent has sufficient defense against fighters, you will find that the fighters tie up a few ships while you move in for the kill.

Shanghai Surprise

If you have the patience, a vicious tactic is to not reveal that you are using fighters at all. Defend yourself with anything else, but don't tip your hand and allow your opponent to compensate. When you feel you are ready for a substantial attack run, unleash your Breachers and Hunter-Killers. Chances are, your foe won't know what hit them. Press the attack and go for the end game while you have the advantage. It is very tempting to use the fighters and carriers as discussed above, but if you are in a position to hold off the enemy without them, do so and you shock the average defense fleet!


This concludes my article on Fighters and Carriers. I hope you enjoyed it, and, if you are new to the game, I hope you have taken something away. Any questions, clarification, or comments are most welcome.

Preceded by:
Managing Your Economy
Manual (SEIV)
Section 17.4
Followed by:
Combat Strategies