The essence of fleet warfare is that using more ships is usually better. By focusing all attacks on one enemy at a time, a larger fleet has a very high damage potential. It also allows a more diverse range of ship types to take part in the fight such as an electronic warfare wing or sniper squadron. Forming a large fleet usually requires some planning and co-ordination, making them less suited to casual PvP and more suited to organised assaults on specific targets like POS.
Read on as I tackle the question of how to make a fleet effective from the perspective of both the fleet's individual members and the fleet commander.
One of the main differences between a small gang and a fleet is in the tactics and strategies employed. It's much harder for a large fleet to stay hidden and sneak behind enemy lines, for example. Large fleets are particularly useful in 0.0 where they can lock down star systems and engage in POS warfare but are impractical in ineffective in guerilla war environments like empire wars or roaming piracy.
Player tips: Being in a fleet:
The number 1 rule in fleet warfare is to do exactly what your fleet commander tells you to. Even if the order seems to be a bad idea, your fleet's commander is relying on you to execute it swiftly and without argument. Rather than concentrating on the individual ships in his fleet, the commander will be overseeing the entire battle and making high level strategic decisions. Challenging his orders in the midst of combat could put your whole fleet at risk or cause a missed opportunity to make a good kill. Any criticisms of your commander's performance should be brought to him after the fleet has disbanded.
Player tips: Fleet tanking?:
Something players may not be used to in fleet warfare is the idea that tanking just doesn't work. When you're facing off against a large enemy fleet who are concentrating their fire on one target at a time, your ship is going to explode fast when they attack you no matter what's fitted to it. The battle then becomes a matter of attrition and individuals are killed very quickly. In medium-scale fleet battles with 30-50 per side, buffer tanks with high resistance and hitpoints are preferred and will let you survive longer than an active tank with armour repairers or shield boosters.
What's a little more bizarre is that when the fights start to get into the realm of 300 per side or more, even a buffer tank won't help that much. The time it takes the enemy to target you and fire will be a much larger factor in a battle of that scale than the time it will take their collective firepower to tear through your hitpoints. Anything smaller than a capital ship will be better off switching most of its tank for damage or turret tracking modules and electronic warfare.
Read on to part 2 where I talk about the role of the fleet commander.