About fighters and bombers - as rebel, I am now finding that they have no sane place until all the tartans is killed, so I almost never bring them to an offensive fight at all.
Before you get to larger ships, I seem to play with mostly frigates (all of them) and corvettes. one thing I like is to use a frigate with shield boost to soak damage while using rear ships to do damage. I almost never (as reb) use bombers against a station since they get devastated by the tartans, but instead hit the hangar with missile frigates.
I would REALLY like to be able to select my initial force, since then I would not choose any fighters/bombers that the AI:s charging tartans could kill. Now it seems if I bring fighters to a fight, they always die before you can say "mincemeat".