The carrier is one of the most versatile ships in Eve. It is one of the most powerful combat ships, as well as your own moving truck for deployments. They are expensive and difficult to use properly, so this guide will help avoid you losing your carrier in a ball of fire.
A carrier is a capital ship and works differently than most ships you've flown. You cannot use Jump Bridges like a sub-capital ship. To make up for this, carriers have a jump drive that allows them to jump to any system in range.
In order to jump to a system, you need:
Cynosural Fields consume Liquid Ozone and are active for 10 minutes. You can light one using only Recon and Black OPS ships, as you cannot move, warp or dock for 10 minutes and show up on everybody's overview. You must be in fleet in order to jump to somebody's cyno.
Cynosural Field Generators is a POS module that creates a permanent Cynosural Field usable by the alliance. All available cyno generators will show up in your “jump to” list, even if they are not in range. Jumping to an unscouted cyno generator is one of the easiest ways to lose your carrier.
Your maximum jump range is based on the Jump Drive Calibration skill. Carriers have the same base jump range as the other “regular” capitals (Dreadnoughts and Force Auxiliaries), and a noticeable range advantage over supercapitals (Supercarriers and Titans).
Capitals use isotopes to jump, the amount based on the Jump Fuel Conservation skill. Each race has their own type of fuel: Helium Isotopes for Amarr, Hydrogen Isotopes for Minmatar, Oxygen Isotopes for Gallente, Nitrogen Isotopes for Caldari.
The alliance provides the fuel for capital ops.
Jumping uses roughly 75% of your maximum capacitor. You cannot jump if you don't have enough capacitor.
You should have your own cyno alt(s) on a separate account from your capital ship pilot. This should be a character you don't mind being podded because you're going to need to do that a lot to move around. While your 50M SP tengu alt may be able to light cynos, it is not a cyno alt because it probably has implants too.
The best cyno alts are have cyno 4 so they can light noobship cynos, and they are not Amarr because CCP hates the Imparior and refuses to expand its cargo bay by 5m3. Bonus points for cyno alts who can fly interceptors/stealth bombers to get survive any camps that may be along your route.
As of September 2019 you can light cynos only from Force Recons Ships and Black Ops Battleships. Because of that, CCP also decided to add a third cyno type - Industrial Cynos - which can only be fitted on Tech 1 Industrial Ships, Blockade Runners and Deepspace Transport Ships and are used for Jumpfreighters and Rorquals.
Carriers have some special abilities, making them highly versatile.
Carriers allows any ships in fleet to refit if they are in range (5km). This avoids having to dock up to change your fit, allowing ships to refit based on the situation. This might be the most powerful function a carrier has in a fleet.
Carriers can carry a number of assembled ships in its Ship Maintenance Bay. This means you don't have to repackage a ship (and lose the rigs) when moving. The bay can also be configured to be accessible by alliance or fleet members. It should be noted that the ships carried within the bay can only contain ammunition or charges in their own cargo bays.
In addition to a normal cargo bay, carriers have a large Fleet Hanger for holding modules and items. Same as the ship maintenance bay, the fleet hanger can be opened to alliance or fleet members and opened in space.
Each race has their own carrier with different strengths and weaknesses. However, virtually all of the content covered in this guide applies to all of the carriers.
The Archon is the Amarr offering and the most heavily armored carrier. Home Defence Capital and supercapital fleets are usually armor tanked so the armor resists will increase survivability and staying power during a prolonged engagement compared to the Thanatos over which it has an additional base 13,500 Armor HP and 4-20% additional resist depending on Amarr Carrier skill level. It shares the Armored Command boost bonuses with the Thanatos for increased fleet survivability and also has bonuses for Information Command for EWar/Anti-Ewar needs.
The downside to the Archon is the Cenobite Support Fighters (Energy Neutralizing) are currently not used as part of doctrine fits at this time so the bonus is wasted. Compared to the Thanatos the raw fighter damage is also lower making Anomaly running slower than it's counterpart.
Amarr Carrier Skill Bonuses:
The Chimera is the Caldari carrier, sporting shield resist bonuses it is the most heavily defender shield carrier and also sporting bonuses to the Scarab fighters providing ECM. Fleet boosts for the Chimera are Shield Command (shared with the Nidhoggur) and Information Command for EWar and anti-Ewar use As with all Shield Carriers the Chimera is expected to be deployed at the front line and not in Esoteria. Its lack of Drone Damage bonuses and incompatibility in tank type to home Defence FAX make it the worst carrier to use for ratting
Caldari Carrier Skill Bonuses:
The Thanatos is the Gallente carrier, specializing in fighter damage and having a unique bonus for fighter hitpoints. The extra damage and compatibility with armor capital doctrine in home defence make it the ideal ratting carrier. Its main disadvantage is poorer armor defences compared to the Archon as it lacks both a low-slot and the armor resist bonuses. It does however carry bonuses to the Siren Support Fighter which does warp disruption and its bonuses to Skirmish Command boosts can provide great support to friendly subcap fleets on grid. The tankier fighters will also survive better against hostile subcap assault. It also has a larger structure buffer (83,500 vs. 76,300) which combined with a Capital Emergency Hull Energiser can provide a last gasp lifesaver
Gallente Carrier Skill Bonuses:
The Nidhoggur is the Minmatar carrier, using Shield tank and bonuses to fighter damage and velocity. Like the Thanatos it doesn't have a resist bonus giving it a weak tank, and its drone damage bonus makes it seem more suited for ratting rather than its designated role in forward deployment. The Nidhoggur is probably the most versatile carrier in its roles as it can be Armor or Shield Fit depending on if it's being used for Home Defense/Ratting or on the front lines. It of course is weaker than the Thanatos or Archon in armour roles but is still capable. The Dromi Support Fighter (Stasis Webifier), for which the Nidhoggur has bonuses is also the most commonly used Support Fighter in doctrine fits For boosts; the Nidhoggur provides Shield bonuses and Skirmish Command for support of subcap fleet maneuverability
Minmatar Carrier Skill Bonuses:
Because of the refitting ability of carriers, you should have every possible useful fit in your cargohold. You're expected to know the fits by memory and be able to switch on the fly, sometimes without the FC saying.
Since the removal of Drone bays from Carriers and Dreadnoughts, the Fighters used by Carrier and Supercarrier class vessels were split into 3 primary groups and further specialised roles:
Heavy Fighters are not available to standard Carriers so will not be covered here. Fighter damage types are determined by their race. There is no bonus for matching racial fighters with their parent carrier, instead choose the right fighter to apply the damage most suited to your opponent. In PvE this is simple while for PvP it makes sense to keep a selection of fighters.
Attack Light Fighters are designed for anti-subcapital combat, basically anything from Frigates to Battleships. They have decent health speed and a special heavy bombing run ability for applying heavy damage on a cooldown.
Space Superiority fighters are specifically designed for anti-drone and anti-fighter combat due to their unique ability to shut down the microwarpdrives used by those targets. For player subcaps this ability does nothing and while these fighters could technically be used for anti-frigate warfare they are hampered by lower hitpoints and damage application
Support Fighters are the Electronic Warfare focused fighters with each racial drone sporting the EWar used by that race. Each Carrier has a bonus to the range of the Support Fighter of their race. It is still recommended to keep a mix to use as situations dictate especially Sirens and Dromis for anti-subcapital combat
Okay, so you've got your rusty new Nidhoggur and just gotten into the capitals group, WAT DO?
First thing is to check the stickied capitals forum post and make sure you are fit right for the current tactics. Make sure you have all the relevant modules and get yourself fueled up, that includes stront for a few cycles of triage. You should try to keep at least 40k isotopes on hand so that we don't have to wait around fueling people up when a happens.
When a broadcast does go out, join the fleet, stay docked, and read the MOTD. The MOTD contains important information like how many isotopes you will need, what kind of fits we are leaving with, etc., For scheduled ops, this information will often be in the op posting and broadcast, but the MOTD is always the most accurate and up to date version.
The most important thing to make sure of during an op is that you stay within refit range (5km) of another carrier. The ability to swap modules is truly the most powerful aspect of a carrier. Get used to the fact that EVE sometimes has a mind of its own with regards to navigation instructions and its your job to keep the game in check. So if the FC has everyone aligned you need to periodically verify that you are still aligned. If the FC has everyone in a tight cluster around something, periodically verify that you are not drifting away from the group.
You don't need the fits memorized, but you should have some idea of what “tank fit”, “cap fit”, and “slowcat fit” are for your carrier. They are all described above. Don't be afraid to have EFT/pyfa open with the fits for reference during an op. Don't worry about things too much for your first op, but one thing you will want to get used to over time is the idea of tweaking your fit without the FC telling you to.
Let's go through an imaginary op (that might really just be a vague AAR of last week's 1-S IHUB fight) as an example.
You're flying a very expensive ship, and everybody will want to kill you. Here are some simple steps to avoid losing your big boat.