if you are reading this guide you are probably new here or just have some questions about the Aircraft Carriers (CVs). This guide will try to explain the basics of the CVs gameplay and help new players with few advices, so if you think that "clickers" only ruin the good game you are in the wrong topic.
In WoWs we have CVs from tier 4 upwards. Climbing on the CVs tree you will gain you access to bigger Aircraft Carriers holding more planes and you will be commanding more squadrons. Of course the planes will get faster and harder to kill, but the enemy Anti Air (AA) defense will also get much more deadly for your planes! You should always keep that in mind, because you have only limited amount of planes avalible for the battle. After they are gone you are nothing more then a big target and best you can do is to try and ram someone.
In the port you will be able to research new modules for your CV making it even better. The most important upgrade (from tier 5 upwards) will be the "Flight control" as it will modify your squadrons and choose your role. Depending on the nation you select you can focus on attacking ships with all bombers setup (strike CV) or you can pick the support role and cover your fleet with air superioriy focused CV. There are also "universal" jack of all trades flight deck configurations that feature both fighters and bombers.
The next important upgrade would be the the main aircraft for your CV - TB (for strike CVs) or fighter. The other upgrades are secondary and can even be missed sometimes.
Now it's time to finally enter the battle! Right after the cooldown you will notice how different the gamaplay will be compared to other ships. You have your "satellite view" and your weapons are your planes. You will be using the following key a lots: 1,2,3,4,5...9, "Alt", "LShift", "F", and "Space".
Alt - order manual attack for the TBs or DBs
LShift - to change the camera view (of the ships or the selected squadron) / holding LShift and clicking on the map will create waypoints;
F - to order your planes to take off or land on the carrier. By right clicking on the squadron you can cancel that order and remove this squadron from the queue;
Space - to center the view on the ship or the selected squadron (clicking twice the number of that squadron will do the same);
1. is your ship - click on it and after that click somewhere on the map to set course. Auto pilot will engage and you can focus on the planes without thinking about the movement. Hold "LShift" while clicking on the map to create (up to 5) waypoints. The auto pilot is not good at avoiding obstacles so make sure the way is clear. It will also move at 1/2 speed, so if you want full speed set it manually with W. When under attack by enemy bombers it's always better to swtich the view (with LShift) and command your CV just as any other ship.
The next keys (2...9) are for your squadrons. In this case:
2-5 Fighters - they can attack only enemy planes. Use them to engage enemy carrier's planes, enemy scout planes or just scout the map when the enemy CV is out of the picture. They have limited amount of ammo (displayed on their icon) and after it's depleted they will head back to resupply. Always try to intercept enemy bombers before they attack friendly ships or engage enemy fighters so your bombers can pass and attack their target.
6-7 Torpedo Bombers - they are your primary damage dealers. They are so scary that everyone is running away from them and is hoping that they are intended for someone else. Each plane carriers 1 torpedo and of course they deal much less damage then the destroyer's torpedoes of the same tier and the range is smaller.
8-9 Dive bombers - they don't cause as much amount of damage as the TBs, but they can start fires that deal a lot of damage over time. They are also perfect for reseting the cap.
On that picture you can also see how many planes you currently have. Each squadron has number top right that shows how many aircrafts are in this squadron right now and on the right you can see how many reserve planes you have in the hangar. They will be used to replace the destroyed aircrafts during the service time on the carrier. On the picture we have 32 planes in 8 active squadrtons and 68 more planes in the hangar (100 planes total, Hakuryu).
Now it's time to attack someone! New players will prefer the auto attack and the veterans will choose manual attack for better effect. To use the auto attack you just have to select the TB squadrons and left click on the target you want to attack. After that you can change from which side to attack by moving the attack point with the mouse and the AI (Artificial Intelligence) will do the rest for you.
After playing few battles you will notice that the torpedoes are dropped too far away and the target can evade them. That's why you should attack from multiple directions and create torpedo net that can't be dodged.
Attacking with DBs is the same, you just have to select the target and move the attack point. You should predict the enemy turn, because the bombs are dropped in ellipse. In order to score more hits (or any in most cases) you should set your attack right, so that this ellipse is covering most of the enemy ship.
Eventually everyone will understand that in oder to inflict maximum damage and make the enemy fear your planes you will need to set manual attacks, because they allow to drop the torpedoes much closer to the target and score more hits with the dive bombers.
Here comes the skill and experience that are making the CV deadly so I will try to explain how it works. It's easy to learn, but hard to master. It takes some time to get used to it and during that time you will make epic fails and I personally spent some time playing PvE for target practice before using it in randoms as the bots are pretty good at avoiding torpedoes.
You can attack the target by dropping manually the torpedoes in the area you want. To do this select your TBs squadron and press Alt. You will see the minimum attack distance and the torpedoes patch projected in front of your planes. There are few numbers on the picture and they are:
1) The direction your planes are moving right now.
2) The point where they will start the attack run and you lose control over them, so you need to target before they reach that point (the white circle). If you set the attack after they've entered this white circle they will turn back and start new approach to the target.
3) From the attack point they will fly in a straight line and drop the torpedoes at that point. Note that you can't control them after they start the attackt, so you can't abort it anymore!
4) The torpedoes need some time to arm and if they hit the target before they are armed (have the green triangle over them) they won't explode and won't cause any damage. This point I've selected with 4. is not ingame so you need to predict it in your attacks!
5) Torpedoes maximum range, they will disappear after that point.
So in order to hit the target you first need to position your planes right before the attack, because you can aim and drop only in the direction where your planes are heading now. You should also predict your target's speed and your planes position in order to score a hit. Also leave some space if the target will start turning towards them, otherwise they won't be armed when they hit. As you see they travel few seconds before arming (getting triangle over them).
To maximize your chances against more agile targets like cruisers or destroyers you should also attack from 2 directions and predict the enemy's evasive actions to attack that position with the second squadron.
Sometimes when you see that the enemy won't be able to evade (he is engaged in combat and is not paying attention, he is stuck or moving slow) it's better to group your TBs squadrons together and attack from one direction. This will allow you to score multiple hits at once and kill that target.
The most important thing is not to drop the torpedoes too close, because they won't have enough time to arm and that's just a wasted attack as they won't exlode when hitting the target. That's also the best way to neutralise close drop (turning toward the torpedoes before they are armed).
Dive bombers have manual attack too where the ellipse is smaller and you can score more hits. It's best against battleships and other carriers as they are slower (easier to aim) and bigger so the bombs will score more hits and start more fires.
Also your planes can sometimes "panic". That will happen when they are under attack by enemy cruiser with his AA barrage skill engaged or when they are under attack by enemy fighters. In this panic mode they move 25% slower slower (only if attacked by fighters) and drop the torpedoes in a huge spread.
We've covered the attacks, but what to do during the rest of the time? Well you should use your fighters (if you have them) to scout the map and intercept enemy bombers. You should also protect yourself by moving to the parts of the map that is secured by your team. You should be on the move most of the time, because you don't know when enemy destroyer or bombers will visit you and when you see them you don't have time to accelerate anymore. Planes however land faster if you don't move, so sometimes it's wise to stop if you have lots of planes to recover. You should avoid being spotted, but also don't hide on the edge of the map, because your planes will have to fly longer and your dpm (damage per minute) will drop significantly.
The role of the CV is clear, but sometimes in the battle you should set priorities. You shouldn't attack the first ship you see and keep the fighters to defend your squadrons only. Sometimes it's more important to save teammate from the enemy bombers, because that's a team game and you can't afford to be selfish. If you don't help your team you will either die, because you will be left alone at the corner or you will be the last one alive with many damage caused, but you will still lose. And that's not always team's fault, but yours, because it's up to you defend them from the other CVs and help killing dangerous targets.
Your priority is the enemy CV, but it's hard to get him, because he is far far away protected by his team. That's why you should focus on rambo stype battleships (without cruisers escort) and damage or sink them while protecting your own battleships. When there are no battleships left OR the game has developed and you see free passage to the enemy CV you should attack him, don't leave him for last, because while you are killing the enemy battleships he is doing the same! Don't lose time on alone targets that won't harm anyone soon or agile targets you won't hit - take care of the enemy CV.
If you've actually spent some time reading this whole Wall of Text you deserve a medal, but all I can give you is few useful tips.
1) When engaging enemy squadron don't kill it, leave 1-2 planes alive. They will have to fly back and land instead of forming new squadron aboard the enemy CV and taking off again. Don't spare him that flyback time!
2) If you can choose where to start the air battle ( the enemy is chasing you) look for some friendly ships nearby and fly over them. Their AA fire will help you win this encounter and you will lower your losses.
3) If you still don't see the enemy bombers after your first attack they are probably going for you hugging the edge of the map. Recall your fighters and start sailing with full speed to make it harder for them to hit you. Also ask for cruisers escort in the chat.
4) Try to stay alive at all costs. Even when you are the last just run and hide so the enemy team will have to cap. The repair costs are huge and it's not so hard to stay alive as CV.
5) After your planes are out of ammo they will head back using the shortest way. If enemy bombers or enemy ships are following them and there is no one to cover you direct your planes to another position, away from you. That will give you time to escape or for someone to get back and help you.
6) Always utilise fire and flooding damage. Don't attack with everything you got. if the target is unescorted and with weak AA you are free to torture him. Attack with 1 TB and start flooding. wait him to repair and hit with others (if you have more then 1 TB) or use the DBs to start fires.
And now the main question that will probably come from the new players - which line should I start with?
Well he have 2 CV lines right now - USN and IJN with with their pluses and minuses. The main difference is that USN CVs get bigger more powerful squadrons (6 planes each), while the IJN CVs have more smaller ones (4 planes each) with 8 squadrons on tier X compared to 5 americans. Their fighters are not really weaker, but they are always outnumbered and can't win against american fighters.
In the mid tiers (5-8) the japanese carriers are focused mainly on sinking enemy ships and can field 3 squadrons of TBs + 1-3 DBs. The USN CVs can field only 1 TB squadron and they are forced to use the fire damage from the DBs or focus on fighters with the universal decks. The IJN CVs have faster torpedoes that also arm a bit faster, but they have very big spread, so it's impossible to hit many of the torpedoes. The USN CVs have much tighter spread and can land all of their torpedoes.
They kinda switch places on the high tiers (9-10) where the USN CVs get 2nd TB squadron and have better strike setups that pack more damage, while the IJN CVs get nice universal flight deck configurations with many fighters, so they are no longer outnumbered.
I hope you will find something useful for yourself in this guide.
See you on the Battlefield