It looks like you concentrated on Firepower.
I've only started playing 4 days ago and have 5 Victories so far (3 easy, 2 normal) In my Kestrel wins I made sure I had either (2 combat drones + 2 respectable firepower + 1 shield disabler Ion) or (Cloaking + Weapon Preigniter Augment + 2 good firepower). I'd say don't buy firepower (for the Kestrel at least because the starting gear is sufficient) unless it's something really good like the Glaive beam or Ion III blast but live off what the game gives you and spend the extra cash on either Cloaking or Drones and that extra augment.
For the drones strategy all 3 forms of the Flagship didn't last 2 minutes so I suggest doing that for your first victory.
I didn't know how to use cloaking until I started playing the Nesasio.
Today I started playing advanced content for the first time and went with Hard mode.
I got my Nesasio to the 3rd form but I was unfortunate enough to have had one of my Mantises brainwashed and destroy my Bridge. I was a sitting duck.
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