This article covers the execution of a balanced air strategy. It is applicable to any faction, though faction specific notes are included.
Build order is very important when going for air superiority, as getting enough planes out early enough to be able to counter any early land attacks is essential to it's success. Remember, even though early land attacks may lack significant anti-air, it also can take your bombers a while at first to kill land units (due to having few upgrades and low dps). This means that while you are bombing their units, they can still be attacking your base or commander. You aren't going for an air rush so you need to get bombers out fast without sacrificing your economic startup, especially considering the high cost of planes.
- Commander builds 2 mass points, each engineer builds 1 mass point.
- Commander builds 2 research centers. 1 engineer builds a mass point.
- Commander and engineers build power plants until you have 4.
- Commander builds 4 air factories. As soon as you have an air factory immediately begin by building a fighter. Continue to expand out to as many mass points as you can with your engineers while your commander starts building these factories.
- Continue to build research centers and air factories as you can afford.
Illuminate: If you are Illuminate, it is highly advised you start by putting ALL of your research into your commander resource upgrades before researching air upgrades. If you do this, you will only need to build 2 power plants, allowing you to use the extra 140 mass towards other structures like a mass point, as well as giving you the equivalent of 2-3 extra mass points.
After you have your initial base set up and as soon as you have a fighter, use the fighter you built to scout the enemy's base. Don't worry about losing the fighter, you just want to know what they are building. If they are building air, then have all of your air factories spam fighters or fighter/bombers. If they are going land, build bombers or fighter/bombers, and as soon as possible, gunships. It is imperative for this strategy to succeed that you never allow your enemy to have more fighters then you. You should have the leg up as even if your enemy started building fighters earlier then you, it's unlikely that they will be able to keep up with your production for very long, with 4, 5, or even 6 factories spamming planes.
If they are accumulating planes in their base, try to lure them out using a smaller number of planes near their base, and then when they come out to kill your planes, hit them with the larger blob of planes you have and have the dogfight away from their base. Once you have shot down all their planes, remember to spend your research points upgrading your bombs if possible and move in on the enemy air factories if they have minimal aa. If they have substantial aa, then delay your attack and switch to building just bombers and gunships. If they start building more air again make sure to wipe it out before it grows large enough to threaten your air (though this is unlikely to be successful as long as you continue to dump all your research into your planes.
If you scout them and they are going land instead if air, build bombers and work towards gunships asap. Switch to gunships as soon as you have them unlocked. Building bombers in the mid-late game can still be useful, as they excel in precision strikes against critical targets, such as an ACU, a nuke defense, or a Space Temple, but at first you need enough gunships to hold off any land attacks. Be aggressive with your bombers and gunships and try and go for an early victory if you can. Bomb mass points by splitting your bombers up and luring their aa away with one group while bombing with the second. Try to take out factories wherever possible to reduce their ability to build troops (and mobile aa). This is imperative as they will switch to building nothing but mobile aa very quickly if they are any good at all.
USE THIS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE! Retreat your planes and gunships if they face insurmountable mobile or static aa and move in your commander and 1 engineer to the enemy base, using an air transport if available though walking works as well. Use your commander to capture enemy structures and units in their base and/or build point defense or tactical missile launchers. This will force them to stop focusing on anti-air for a while to deal with your now land based assault. Continue to build gunships at this point until you have enough to overwhelm their no longer growing number of anti-air. If that fails, consider turning off all your air factories and building 5-6 land factories outside their radar range. Then use the air units you have remaining as a mirage army, doing careful strikes and flyby's to create the impression you are continuing to build and attack with air. When you have a decent number of land units (should not take more then 25-30 in most cases, often less), you can attack their almost completely undefended base with your land units. Go straight for the commander if possible, and let the explosion kill the aa. If that is not possible, just kill the aa with your land units and then reinforce the attack with what remains of your air force.
Illuminate: If you are playing illuminate, you have access to the extremely powerful flares upgrade which will allow your aircraft almost complete immunity to land based aa if fielded in sufficient numbers. Getting this upgrade as soon as possible will allow you to launch devastating bombing runs and gunship attacks much earlier and with fewer losses then either of the other factions.
This is a very powerful strategy that can be difficult to counter effectively without considerable skill and experience. Spamming anti-air is often simply not enough to counter the extreme mobility an all air army enjoys. The best way to defeat this strategy is often with air of your own, but games that go this route can be short, as one player will quickly gain the advantage over the other by wiping out the other's fighters, then freeing them up to attack the base.
If you see someone going for all out air superiority, you have to immediately make a decision: Do I try and fight for the skies or do I cede the air and go all out land? If you choose to do the second option, it is strongly advised you go with a unit that has both anti-land and anti-air capabilities, such as the upgraded rockhead or harvog. Due to the expensive nature of planes and cheap cost of tanks, you often can acquire enough bots or tanks to be able to launch an attack against their base large enough that it has to be destroyed to save the base. This will force their air to engage your bots, all of which are armed with aa. This should at the very least weaken their airforce, if not destroying it outright. Even while the bots are being attacked they can continue towards the enemy base with the hopes of doing some damage before they are all destroyed.