Much as I like the idea of Carriers as a ship type, I don't think there's a need. I like the ideas regarding viewing fighters as an ability option, as it gives a pilot the option of keeping a hybrid loadout. I imagine something along the lines of Drone Bays in EVE, if they took up an equipment slot rather than simply being a part of the ship.
How I see a possible setup is:
- You have a certain number of fighters per bay, with each bay replacing an ability slot.
- You have your AI fighter component, which gives you a default COP around the ship.
- These can then being dispatched against specific targets or assigned to act as COP around friendly ships.
- If your fighters are damaged or partially destroyed, you can returned them the your ships fighter bay for repair/re-arm (which I imagine would operate similarly to the cooldown on abilities or weapon reloads).
- However, if you lose a fighter wing completely (ie. you sent them to attack a Destroyer without support like the clever person you are), they that's it. Your fighter wing stays dead until your ships is destroyed and you respawn.
Fundamentally, this makes "Carriers" a potentially powerful, but vulnerable ship in a division. They have the ability to project persistent firepower over a wide area, but by doing so they sacrifice a lot of the core abilities that defines their ship class, and requires them to manage their fighter assets carefully to prevent them from ending up as a fighter-less and defence-less target.
Risk vs Reward. You have a massive amount of firepower that can be potentially split against multiple targets, but you require support to keep you protected and have to manage your fighter assets to maintain combat effectiveness.
Exactly like a real Carrier.