Carrier Basics

Carrier Builds

Last Modified: December 2023

While carriers can be a lot of fun, swarming your enemies with a ton of fighters and other summons, we need to start by changing your mindset a bit. Having a carrier is like letting a bunch of 5 year olds loose in a room and hoping for the best. They might be pretty good at smashing spacebar, and maybe flying in a direction, but don’t expect them to actually fly well. The key piece of equipment on your carrier build is the Hangar Pet, and then all of the gear you use to support that. You'll find a lot of crossover with Support builds and Energy Builds. Be warned, carriers are in a weird place where it's easy to fit two bays and a bunch of hangar consoles and do okay but if you want to truly excel with a carrier it'll get expensive fast.

So what is a carrier? We define a carrier build as a build of at least one hangar bay doing somewhere around 40% or more of the total damage sourced from the Hangar Pets themselves. Even some of our top carrier builds are not more than half the damage from hangar pets. This means that you can’t just disregard your own weapons and skill selections. As such, I want to classify this as an “Advanced” build. You should understand the basics of Energy DPS builds before you venture into Carrier DPS builds.

Your goals when making a carrier build are:

Career and Species

Doesn't matter. Okay, there are small differences as you min-max more, but unless your goal is to chase the very top of the DPS leaderboards, any captain career, faction, or species can fly any type of ship and any type of build and do very, very well in any map in the game.

A common question on carriers concerning careers is “What about Science Captains?” Science captains get Photonic Fleet, but it is a minimal contribution to overall damage, even on a carrier build. Science captains do have 2 powers that buff hangar pet damage output: Sensor Scan and Scattering Field, so they're noteworthy. Likewise, Tactical captains have abilities that can also enable hangar pets and have the highest ceiling for DPS overall. That said, career is not a significant factor.

Ship Basics

The way which you view hangars on your build are broken down into four general categories, each with their own nuances of construction. You’ll also see these categories on our Hangar Pet Tier list. Importantly, I’ll be referring to the ship you fly as the Primary Ship. The pets in your hangar bay are the Hangar Pets. Clickies, summons, other pets that are not in your hangar bay are your Secondary Pets. There are builds that focus on other damage sources, but happen to have a hangar. Reading through this can give you an idea of the potential of your hangar pets, but you probably won’t hit the rough threshold of 40% of overall damage from pets. These builds are more adequately covered in Exotic, Projectile, Energy, Support, or Tank Basics since for this type of build, the hangar is a bonus rather than a focus. 

Since this is Carrier Basics, we're going to focus more on the following types of builds that are focused on hangar DPS. Just as energy builds can be defined by their primary firing mode, we can sub-categorize pet builds by which firing modes your pets are using:

If a pet has innate firing modes like Fire at Will at rank III,  it's not advisable to give them firing modes since Coordinated Assault and Superior Area Denial only grant rank I and will overwrite the innate firing modes. While niche due to being ship-locked, Lost Souls of Grethor do not benefit from granted firing modes, and other frigate pets like Elite Romulan Drone Ships or Elite Mirror Shuttles with strong firing modes can even lose DPS when replacing their rank III firing modes with rank I from the two starship traits listed above.

Coordinated Assault (Starship Trait)

The C-Store Alita Heavy Strike Wing Escort comes with a starship trait Coordinated Assault (CA), which simply states:

Beam: Overload and Cannon: Rapid Fire apply to your Hangar Pets. 

To extend this out, using any rank of Beam Overload on the Primary Ship will activate Beam Overload 1 on your Hangar Pets. Same is true for Cannon Rapid Fire; using any rank of Cannon Rapid Fire on the Primary Ship will activate Cannon Rapid Fire 1 on your Hangar Pets. However, some Hangar Pets come with energy firing modes built in. Coordinated Assault will override these built-in firing modes, and as such choosing Coordinated Assault generally limits you to choosing pets that do not have a built in firing mode. That is because Coordinated Assault only grants the rank 1 of the power, whereas the innate power can be a higher and therefore better.

Coordinated Assault is a weaker trait compared to Superior Area Denial because Beam Overload and Cannon Rapid Fire are single target powers. Pets have a hard time consistently staying on target so single-target abilities are less useful for them than Area of Effect, and the limiting nature of this trait to pets without innate firing modes that won't lose DPS from slotting it makes it rather narrowly useful. 

The new Targeted Excision trait functions almost identical to Coordinated Assault. Anywhere you see Coordinated Assault (CA), Targeted Excision would also work, although at a higher price point. 

Superior Area Denial (Starship Trait)

This trait either comes from a Lockbox (expensive) or a ship in the C-store 12th-anniversary bundle (also expensive): the  Mirror Engle Strike Wing Escort. Superior Area Denial (SAD) has the following effect: 

Activating Beams: Fire at Will or Cannons: Scatter Volley causes your weapons to debuff foe's armor resistance for a short duration, as well as activating Fire at Will: I and Cannons: Scatter Volley I on your hangar pets.

Unlike Coordinated Assault, activating either firing mode of any rank on the Primary Ship will activate both firing modes on your Hangar Pets. Like with Coordinated Assault, Superior Area Denial will override these built in firing modes. Fire at Will (FAW) and Cannon Scatter Volley (CSV) are multi-target and have a higher damage potential. Also, since the firing modes cross-activate each other, you can get 100% uptime without too much trouble. Just activate FAW and CSV 10 seconds apart and your pets should have 100% uptime. At worst, you won’t have any less uptime than Coordinated Assault provides. 

The armor debuff is only from the weapons of the Primary Ship, not the Hangar Pets, but it still broadly useful for the Primary Ship and the Hangar pets since the resistance debuff leads to greater damage from all sources. It's also valuable for use on Supports. The real reason this trait impacts carrier builds is the application of FAW & CSV to your pets. The other item to consider is that Superior Area Denial has some unexplainable interactions specifically with Hangar Pets that use Pulse Cannons, significantly amplifying their damage. Ironically, since many pets lose pulse cannons at higher ranks, this makes basic hangar pets with Pulse Cannons significantly better than the Elite versions. The cheapest and most effective pets with Superior Area Denial are thus the Normal To'Duj Fighter Squadrons. Elite Alliance Fighter Squadrons do substantially less damage but also are more supportive for the Primary Ship as they have Focused Assault III.

Carrier with no Firing Mode

If both of the previous categories are considered the major Carrier categories based on their primary starship trait for hangar pets, then there is also a category that applies if you don’t use either SAD or CA but are still building around the hangar bay. It should also be stated that using both is unnecessary since Superior Area Denial overwrites the effects of Coordinated Assault regardless of the activation order. Pets that have solid energy weapon firing modes on their own perform well in this category. For example, Fek'Ihri ships with Lost Souls of Gre'thor don't benefit from firing modes but can be highly effective on their own. Romulan Drone Ships are another example of strong pets that don't need a firing mode added from a Starship Trait as they come with their own Rank III firing mode.

Ship Selection

There's a large combination of things that interact to evaluate a ship's suitability for carrier builds. Here's our list:

After that, your budget will really limit you. A good carrier really boils down to a short list: 2 hangar bays and 4+ Engineering Consoles. There are only a dozen 2-bay carriers in the C-Store, and if you remove faction duplicates, that number drops to 7. 4+ Engineering consoles leaves you with 4 ships (skipping faction copies again), so if your budget is Fleet/C-store ships you're picking from the Cardassian Ghemor, the Support Carriers like the Atrox, the Seneca, the Jupiter,  or the Pralim/Blackguard/Sillik Flight Deck Carrier choices. Outside of those, you make sacrifices or change your budget. 

Bridge Officers

Rather than walking through every possible combination of bridge officer skills, let's prioritize what we need: 

As space allows, follow the Energy Basics to help cover gaps. There are few Bridge Officer powers that apply to pets. This includes topics of debuff and survivability. A few differences are noted below:

Part of what makes a carrier a difficult proposition is that very little of your actual Bridge Officer powers have an impact on your Pets’ damage output, and primarily focuses on your Primary Ship’s output. Therefore, priority is placed here on the Primary Ship, and as such similar to other Basics sections. 

Do I need other cooldown help?

Three other easy methods of help with cooldowns are the Readiness skills, Krenim bridge officers from the Fleet Research Lab, and the reputation trait Chrono-Capacitor Array. The question is do we need them?

The answer is it depends and the best way to find out is to take your chosen cooldown scheme and bridge officer powers from above and put it into the cooldown reduction calculator (make a copy) and see what you need. We recommend the following for carriers:

Adding The Boimler Effect trait (expensive) on top of these will help fill gaps and allow swapping out Chrono-Capacitor Array.

Advanced reading on cooldown mechanics


While the full implementation of keybinding is outside the scope of this guide (and not applicable to console players anyway), PC players should consider using a keybind file or an app like the STO keybind for more efficient usage of abilities. Further discussion and links to the app can be found here.


There are a wide variety of skill trees out there depending on how general or hybridized your build is, but here are the important skills:


Engineering - Impulse Expertise (x2-3) - Carriers are known for being slow, they need all the help they can get

Tactical - Coordination Protocols/Offensive Protocols/Defensive Protocols (x2 or x3, possible to skip Defensive) - This applies to your hangar pets and is one of very few skills in the tree that does

The rest of the choices are the same as an energy focused build. Regardless of career, taking 25-26 points in Tactical is valuable to pick up the tactical enhancements Focused Frenzy, Frenzied Assault, and Team Frenzy. This “Ultimate” unlock applies to your pets, especially if you get Team Frenzy.

Skill Unlocks

There are two Hangar Pet unlocks very early in the skill tree, and both are typically outclassed by the alternative choices. 

5 Engineering Points: Battery Expertise doubles the duration of most batteries and even a couple consoles, and is an extremely rare skill. 10% Hangar hull capacity is a poor choice even on a Carrier. Many pets have such low hull capacity that 10% more will not help survivability. Battery Expertise is the better choice here. 

5 Tactical Points: Threat Control decreases your threat passively, and increases your threat if you use Threatening Stance. Threat is such an ambiguous skill to really quantify, so use your judgment. If you are using other builds on your character that don’t have hangar pets, consider Threat Control over Hangar Weaponry. 10% damage in the overall damage output is pretty small, and on builds that have no hangar pets, you get no benefit. Even on your carrier, having more threat directed at the Primary Ship rather than Hangar Pets will be beneficial (if you use threatening stance). Reducing your threat so your Tank can take more damage is also beneficial regardless of build. 

Beyond what is stated here, refer to other guides on Skill Trees and their decisions as other skills will not affect Hangar Pet performance, only the Primary Ship. 

Power levels are a basic but very important way to boost your ship's effectiveness. If you want to know the why behind the power level suggestions, check out our advanced reading on this topic.

Setting Aux power higher is used to decrease the hanger launch recharge time, which is needed to retrigger various traits and Duty officers faster


Our intent with this suggestion is to offer a number of viable gear choices, not to dictate cookie-cutter builds. If you want to use something else, be our guest. For those of you who want a narrowed-down menu from the dizzying array of choices out there, this one's for you. 

Ground rules: only fleet, reputation, easily-crafted, or mission reward items will be considered along with low-tier Phoenix Box rewards. Finishing out reputations is essential to completing an endgame ship. A quick refresher on what those are:

Fleets: Fleets are player groups that allow players to contribute resources (fleet marks, energy credits, refined dilithium, common duty officers, etc.) to various holdings, which unlock a variety of stores carrying fleet-specific items. Fleet holdings with more tiers and unlocks open up more items. Joining a fleet is not essential to succeeding in Star Trek Online, but it can be highly valuable to join a fleet at least temporarily to go shopping even if you don't intend to stay long term. Fleets are the only way to obtain Elite Hangar Pets other than Elite Scorpions.

Reputations: There are 13 reputations that reward players for playing specific pieces of content, either battle zones/adventure zones, or task force operations. Fighting against certain enemies will improve a player's efforts with the associated organization devoted to countering them. Reputations must be advanced, typically through daily projects, and takes 70 days of daily projects to fully level to the highest tier (tier 6) for the first time on an account. Starting the reputation climb and advancing through the ranks is a top priority upon reaching level 50. Reputations have both a series of items that combine into sets with bonuses for multiple pieces as well as reputation stores that sell Mk XII items for dilithium. The Romulan Reputation is the only source other than fleets for Elite Hangar pets. 

Mission Rewards: Come from playing particular missions. It may be desirable (if grindy) to replay a certain mission multiple times. We'll only be recommending items at Mk XI Rare or better because Mk XII Rare should be pretty cheap on the Exchange. 

Phoenix Boxes: Are available from the dilithium store and should generally be purchased in lots of 10 for 40,000 refined dilithium. While some consoles and duty officers are useful and easily available from a rare or very rare token, ship rewards at the Ultra Rare and Epic level are exceedingly unlikely and restricted to a single character. The most frequent choice from the Phoenix Box is the Phoenix Upgrade, which helps upgrade gear items. Phoenix Upgrades are best applied on special upgrade weekends to double their efficiency; it takes about 200 Phoenix Upgrades on an upgrade weekend to take a ship with gear at Mk XII-XIII to Epic Mk XV. 

The Exchange: Allows players to buy and sell a variety of items. Many items are enormously expensive due to their rarity and are thus priced out of the reach of a new or semi-casual free-to-play player; however, they are not needed for this guide. Some items, if cheap on the exchange, may be accessible, like a Mk XII Rare Beam Array so their use may be recommended sparingly.

Crafting: Allows players to create items through leveling their research & development schools (typically via another series of daily projects). R&D unlocks personal traits at level 15, which are particularly valuable in the Beams, Engineering, Projectiles, Science, Ground Gear, and Kits and Modules. Crafting items below level 15 is not efficient as higher crafting skill will lead to greater rarity on first result.

Picking Hangar Pets and Hangar Pet Types

After choosing your Primary Ship (Carrier) and your desired Pet Firing Mode, picking your Hangar Pets has a huge impact on your damage output. Just choosing between Class 10 shuttles and Peregrine Fighters doubles your Hangar Pets’ damage output. You can refer to the Hangar Pet Tier List, comprised of empirically-collected data to find the one that works for you. You can also keep reading to get an idea of the guidelines you should follow. 

Best Value Pet

Elite Scorpion Fighters are the best bang-for-your buck pet, and are even usable in any Hangar bay. Unlocked without a fleet, and half the dilithium of other pets, these are the stand-out low-cost winner. The only requirement is Romulan Reputation tier V. 

Scorpions are even compatible with CA and SAD, so even if you eventually grow into one of those, the pets will still be a solid choice. With a cannon, turret, and torpedo + High Yield I, they make a good middle-of-the-road option when compared to loadouts of other Hangar Pets. As such, let’s use this as a baseline for other choices. 

Choosing the right pet loadout

Tooltips for pets don’t include an actual damage output value, so it can be tough to make the right choice just based on tooltip alone. While not a hard and fast rule, there are several factors you can look for to choose the best pet. 

Front-runner Pets

For each type of Carrier build, I want to highlight some top choices. Generally, I will not be referring to ship-locked pets as we generally have less data on those (we aren't buying a Jupiter to test Jupiter pets on a Jupiter). 

No Firing Mode or Incidental Hangar - Elite Class C Shuttles, Elite Mirror Shuttles, Elite Romulan Drone Ships (Limited Selection but not totally ship-locked)

Coordinated Assault - Elite Scorpion Fighters, Elite Aeon Timeships (Lobi ship unlocked)

Superior Area Denial - To'Duj Fighter Squadron (Rare blue, not Advanced or Elite)

Picking Weapons and Weapon Types

Your Primary Ship still needs weapons, beyond the choices of your hangar pet. While not a hard and fast rule, you’ll find better synergy with Energy Weapons than Projectile Weapons on a carrier. Several hangar consoles buff Destructible Torpedoes, but in general the Primary Ship weapons have little overlap with Hangar Pet choices. Having one energy flavor on your pets and another on your Primary Ship makes little difference - your gear won’t increase your Hangar Pets’ damage (IE: Antiproton Mag Regulator won’t enhance Elite Aeons that use Antiproton Beams). As such, you should refer to the Energy Basics for further choices on your weapons type. Just keep in mind that many carriers that can slot dual cannons don’t have the turn rate to support such a decision. 

Other Gear for F2P/New players

For this section, you have to decide if you are after Primary Ship damage or Hangar Pet damage. If you are after the Primary Ship’s damage, refer to the Energy Basics guide. Otherwise, keep reading to enhance your Hangar Pets. 

The Iconian Reputation 3-piece is a teamwide boost for more supportive builds, including your Hangar Pets and Secondary Pets. You can even go so far as to pick up the 4th piece of the set. Just be aware you’ll be doing a lot of Iconian Reputation missions to get this many marks and Probe Data Cores. 

The Gamma Reputation set of a similar situation does not enhance your Hangar Pets or Secondary Pets, and as such makes no difference in this situation. However, the Gamma Deflector will reduce Kinetic DRR on targets you hit with torpedoes from your Primary Ship, but the Iconian Set 4pc is still going to be preferred over this. Hangar Pets are heavily energy damage. 

There is a lot of interactions between pets and Primary Ships, here is a table summarizing our findings so far:

On the left, we have a list of effects that you might expect to affect your pets. This is by no means exhaustive, but it is what I could get ahold of. A key one that is missing is the Obelisk 3pc, but since that costs an entire lobi ship it's out of my current budget. I tried to group them by the general slot that it fills, such as trait or equipment. 

* - Super Charged Weapons requires firing a torpedo. Pets that do not have a torpedo cannot gain stacks of Super Charged Weapons. Target That Explosion (Starship Trait) does not allow you to circumvent this requirement. 

** - The Swarmer Matrix console has two passives. The passive that enhances pets does not apply to mines. The passive which is +50 Projectile Weapons Training does enhance mines since mines are projectiles. For reference, Armed Loitering Munition is not a projectile so it's impact damage is not affected. 

Pets fall into one of two general categories: Hangar Pets and Fleet Support. Hangar pets are pets that occupy the Hangar slot, but also Armed Loitering Munitions and Reinforcements Squadron. Things that make these stand out is that they rank up with Hangar XP as well as benefit from Coordinated Assault and Pet Rank such as Wing Commander. Fleet Support includes Fleet Support, but also Distress Calls and Photonic Reinforcement. While these don't get all of the benefits of Hangar pets, they still do benefit from the majority of the same bonuses as your regular Hangar Pets. 


There are many options for consoles, especially in Tactical or Engineering consoles depending on whether you're using Spire consoles (Locators/Exploiters), Advanced Engineering (Hangar Craft Power Transmission) consoles, or something at a lower budget. This guide will list some options but the ALICIA tool was created to provide a tailored console recommendation for your budget and build. 

Upgrading and Rarity

For the majority of items in the game, a build filled with Mk XII+ gear at Rare+ rarity and flown well is capable of tackling Advanced content reasonably well. Some maps are harder than others and some builds will do better at certain maps than others, but it's certainly possible to quite well with Mk XII and Mk XIII on a F2P/new player build. I've done it while building up my builds. Elite Scorpions will have a solid impact in carrier damage and make a great baseline even if you can’t get anything else. Hangar pets are not upgradeable, but you can buy them at up to Elite rank, and they can be made for an Elite-capable ship.

If you do want to fly Elite regularly, you will need to strongly consider having the rest of your gear Mk XV gear, as the difference between Mk XII and Mk XV is about as big as the one between Mk I and Mk XII. Enemies are much harder to kill; while there are a few maps that are relatively easy on Elite that could be completed with Mk XII gear, it would be a slog. Upgrading Hangar Craft Power Transmission consoles in both quality and mark will apply to your pets as well, no other gear upgrades will apply to your pets. 

Epic'd and re-engineered gear is never "necessary" and is only for optimizing builds and/or DPS-chasing. 

Lastly, let's go over things we aren't going to worry about.

Things That Do Not Matter Much

Traits for F2P/New players

See our tier list for starship and personal traits and look for the ones that are free, a mission reward, or from R&D schools. Some traits can be enhanced at the Fleet K-13 holding for marginal gains; those are options as well. If you're looking to exit the F2P world and pick up your first C-store (Zen) ship, the one you want is the Arbiter or its cross-faction equivalents. The Emergency Weapon Cycle starship trait is worth around 20% final DPS on most energy builds even if you don't end up flying it longterm. 

For carriers, the consoles are just as impactful as the traits at a low-entry cost. The Terran Hydra Intel Destroyer has a great console for carriers as well as a good trait for carriers, even though the ship itself is not a carrier. After the Hydra, other C-Store ships are either a good trait, a good console, or neither for Carriers. You should probably avoid unlocking a specific C-Store ship just to unlock a specific pet as cheaper Fleet versions exist if the only thing you need is the pet. 

Superior Command Frequency can take some legwork to unlock, but is technically free. Just be aware that it will share a cooldown with other reinforcements beacons which don’t take up the trait slot, but may not quite have the same damage output.

In general, the high-impact traits and gear for Carriers is costly. SAD is either a full C-Store ship bundle or lockbox ship. Scramble Fighters is a rare Starship Trait and often fetches just about as much of a price as other Lockbox ships. Many other traits are Lockbox or Promo. The traits on ships from the C-Store are low-impact, even Coordinated Assault. If you have C-Store ships to pick up, Super Charged Weapons and Strike Group Command Authority are the only ones of note. Super Charged Weapons applies to your pets with torpedoes as well, which is another reason to run pets with torps. Strike Group Command Authority is one of the few sources of damage, applying bonus damage to pets based on the strongest pet you have active, up to 50%. Other Carrier powers just simply lack impact. Coordinated Assault is mostly obsoleted by SAD, and editorially, we struggle to recommend a ship purchase that is low impact that is completely obsoleted later. 

Reputation traits

List is sorted top to bottom in terms of priority:

Active Reputation Traits:

These all have 5 minute cooldowns and most of them don't matter much.

Duty Officers for F2P/New players

See our tier list for duty officers and look for the ones that are free, from mission rewards, from the fleet holdings, or from colonization chains.

Flight Deck Officers with Hangar Cooldown are objectively the best Duty Officers for Carriers. Greens and blues are impactful, and it can be worth it to slot 3 Green or Blue versions rather than having nothing. There are a select few Duty Officers that impact Hangar Pets, and they are generally low impact.