Carrier Air Wing is a side-scrolling shooter with power-ups and special weapons. You can buy the special weapons and things like energy and shields at the beginning of a stage. You gain money by shooting enemies. You can choose from three different aircraft the F-14, the F-18 or the A6-E, each with their own special abilities. The F-14 has more air firepower, the A6-E has better ground weapons and the F-18 has a better mix of the two. Your main weapon fires straight ahead only, but you can get special weapons that range from homing missiles to ground napalm. Most weapons can be bought at the beginning of a level but quite often you can pick them up during a level. You can buy extra energy -- called fuel -- or a shield. You only get one plane, so if the energy bar runs out, your game ends.