Use the left-hand side of the Air Operations screen for putting together strike forces and giving them their orders. The top box lists all of the strike forces presently formed. The first time you enter this screen for a particular carrier or base, this box will be empty. Next to this box are two mouse buttons. Left-clicking on the Form Strike button is the first step to launching a strike on the enemy. If you make a mistake or just want to disband a strike force, use the Cancel Strike button. Obviously, an offensive strike intended to destroy a base or ship should include bombers. These bombers should be escorted by at least an equal number of fighters, preferably more. Many fighters have some limited bombing capability, but you cannot expect them to do any critical damage to surface targets. Sometimes it will require more than one strike to destroy a target.
It is often prudent to send out a preliminary strike consisting exclusively of fighters. This is called a “fighter sweep”. If they are successful, the fighters will “sweep the deck”, clearing much of the enemy’s air strength out of the way. When the slow, vulnerable bombers and their escort arrive at the target area, they’ll have a much easier time completing their mission. Planes out on a strike are advised of their “return point”. This is the area where the carrier should be, calculated from its course and speed at the time the strike is launched. If you change the course or speed of the carrier while a strike is out, there is a very real risk that you will lose the entire strike. Returning planes rely on visual detection to find the task group and the carrier, so you have some leeway. Depending on the weather and visibility, a difference of less than forty nautical miles should not be a problem. Any more than that, though, and you’ll be writing letters to the families of quite a few lost pilots. Having created a strike force, you have two more duties, which you can perform in any order. Let’s take them in the order they’re listed.