The hard part is not what you think it is. You could do lvl 5s in a lvl 1 carrier with lvl 1 fighters, the missions themselves are easy af. The hard part is the faction standing and other pilots.
For the ideal setup you want two characters, one to fly the carriers and pull missions and one to just pull missions. If you want to be safe and do this correctly and not lose carriers you gotta buy 3. Go to your agent and start pulling missions. You will notice that most missions (other than rogue spy part 1) send you to one of 3 systems. The system you’re in, and usually two neighboring systems. Figure out which systems they are and put a very cheap fit carrier in each system. Put the carriers in stations with large docking rings and create instadock bookmarks inside the ring.
Next buy a dramiel or similarly fast ship for both characters. The dramiels are for jumping gates. You pull missions until you get one you can do in a carrier and then you run the mission in one of your 3 carriers. To pull the right missions you need to decline a lot of bad missions. To do this you need faction standing and good social skills. Faction standing is less pliable than corp standing so it can tolerate more declines.
You can receive missions from an agent as long as you have either 7.0 faction or corp standing, but when you decline you take a large hit to corp standing and a miniscule hit to faction standing. When you complete a mission you get a huge boost to corp standing which translates to about 3-4 declines. You can decline until your corp or agent standing htis -2. At that point the agent will no longer give you missions. If you were to do this on one character you would eventually hit -2 in agent or corp and you would be screwed. The second toon, who is in fleet the entire time, took half of your corp standing increases, so he has some declines left in him. You then pull missions with the faction puller alt and rebuild your corp standing on your carrier main.
As far as the missions themselves there are plenty of small guides which are old but still valid. The missions take 1-5 minutes typically aside from operation wyrmslayer (the best mission) which can take up to 10. Basically all the missions follow this pattern: undock, warp to mission at 100km or 10km depending on the mission, do the mission, warp to your instadock and dock. That’s it. Easy right?
The next challenge is other players, this is what keeps most people away from lvl 5s–that and the massive initial investment. The reality is, most of the time when I run lvl 5s I’m either completely alone in system, or I know every single pilot in local. The use of a local checker tool such as https://localthreat.xyz/ is absolutely essential. You need to adopt the mindset of collecting intel and knowing everything there is to know about every pilot that comes into local. Use the in game standing tool to mark the baddies red or orange, and mark the other lvl 5’ers grey.
In 3 years of doing lvl 5s I’ve never lost a carrier. Most of my success is attributed to intel. Sometimes I put my alt in an astero and I spy. I fly around the pocket and see whats going on and whos around. I also know who hunts lvl 5 carriers. There are really only two groups that do it. Within those groups there are really only like 2 pilots that know how to do it, but make no mistake, these pilots are some of the most clever, and most dangerous in the game. I can tell you who they are but I can’t post it in here because I used to fly with them and I don’t want to blow up their racket.
Another thing that I find to be hugely helpful is mid grade nomads. Mid grade nomads and a few inertial stabilizers and an evasive command burst can get your align time down to just under 9 seconds. This allows your carrier to warp sideways and it never ceases to give me satisfaction.
Another tip: there’s a mission you may or may not have depending on which faction you choose to work for–it’s called breeding facility and it’s the absolute balls. I use a tornado for this mission and I can literally complete the mission in under 45 seconds including warp. Fit out a buffer fit tornado with artillary and split the guns into two groups. When you land on grid (10km) immediately pop the two closest breeding facilities and warp out. It’s less than 1 minute of work for like 40-80 mil depending on how high the LP store value is currently.
That’s the other thing. The rewards for doing lvl 5s are basically garbage. However you get a ton of it. So if you are able to cash in at the right time, in the right way, with the righty quantities you can certainly make 1 bil an hour, however these days it seems like more people are running them so you’re looking at more like 500-700 mil. The best hour I had, which was atypical, I made 3 bil because a high grade snake omega dropped from an officer wreck and I was getting really good pulls, but again–highly atypical. I believe they shadow nerfed the rewards for operation wyrmslayer after that.
Lastly… I’m not sure If I’ll leave this comment up. I’ll leave it up for a bit so some people could read it but I would suggest deleting this whole thread once you get the information you need. The competition is too fierce and if the hunters figure out where you’re at that will try to catch you.
As a side note if you do the math on a proper setup it ends up being a lot. So don’t do this unless you have about 20 bil you can invest into your setup. Having 3 carriers is essential, having a faction puller is essential, having good social skills, all of it. This activity is not worth doing if you don’t do it correctly. When done incorrectly (with a group instead of solo in a carrier) like I’ve seen countless times with people complaining that the rewards suck, you can maybe make 100 mil an hour. Do it the way I described and you will be make good isk… but don’t be a shmuck. If anyone new comes into local you dock up and figure out who they are. Death will come in the form of an new toon in an npc corp flying a bomber.