We play Ace Combat for thrilling, high-speed aerial combat. A heroic pilot rushing into the heart of the enemy force, singlehandedly destroying entire squadrons with cutting-edge missiles and top of the line combat aircraft. Getting high completion ranks in Single player relies on destroying enemies quickly, and online PVP victories are decided by outperforming rival players from around the world. Doing something like willingly giving up a special weapon that can sweep a group of targets from the land, sea or air seems pointless. But we often forget that a keen defense is just as good as a relentless offensive.
The ultimate form of electronic countermeasures within the Ace Combat series would come with the release of Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War on October 21st, 2004. For the first time, players could equip a special weapon known as the Electronic Counter Measure Pod (ECMP).
The ECMP had a number of unsavory restrictions tied to it from the moment it was introduced. In comparison to other special weapons, it often has the lowest 'ammunition count' and the smallest effective range. Of these restrictions, the lack of aircraft capable of deploying ECMP continues to be a limiting factor, with the average number of aircraft available for use ranging between three to six per game on average. From 2004 to 2010, the electronic countermeasure pod was widely considered by many players to be nothing more than a defense system that fulfilled the role of the traditional chaff and flare dispensers found on real-world combat aircraft. The introduction of a chaff/flare game mechanic for players would not come until the release of Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (2011).
Though the limitations of the ECMP didn't change much with the release of Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation (2007), the introduction of widely accessible online multiplayer would deepen the understanding and deployment of the ECMP.
For the longtime fans of the series, Ace Combat 6 online multiplayer became a proving ground. A place where their skills and strategies they honed from every Ace Combat game they've played would be matched directly against one another. Within a year of Ace Combat 6's release, many individuals, and online squadrons (groups of players that formed long-term teams) sought new strategies to maintain their edge. The value of the seemingly restrictive ECMP had begun to increase once new multiplayer tactics were developed to utilize the few seconds of coverage it could provide. Some online squadrons would go as far as privately researching the capabilities of the ECMP in private online matches among their squad mates. The information they gathered would later be utilized to deploy and counter the ECMP in official squadron versus squadron matches.
The ECMP underwent many changes with the release of Ace Combat Assault Horizon (2011). Its improved default capabilities coupled with further enhancements with "Skill" upgrades made this special weapon a true squadron support tool. The most effective form of ECMP is seen in Ace Combat Infinity (2014) which combines elements of legacy ECMP with the Assault Horizon ECMP variant.
The data provided for ECM specifications in this article was gathered through multiple in-game research efforts focused on the electronic countermeasure pod special weapon. The first in-game study was done in 2008 by an Ace Combat online squadron known as 12th MNAT Ribbon. The week long study established baseline data for Legacy ECMP; including the identification of ECM emission time, effective range, shape of the ECM burst, weapons that could be jammed, flight characteristics of jammed weapons and the creation of basic tactics for ECMP deployment in a multiplayer environment.
Much of this data would be reconfirmed and multiplayer tactics were expanded upon in a second study by another online group, Strategic Military Services, in 2009 and 2011. The fourth study would be performed in 2014 by the Sphere Aerospace, a Ace Combat Infinity focused group of members from Electrosphere.info. For the release of this Lighthouse article, information for Ace Combat Infinity was expanded upon with other information being reconfirmed.
The first generation ECM pods for the Ace Combat series. This data is applicable for Ace Combat 5, 6, X, X2, Zero and 3DS (Assault Horizon Legacy/Cross Rumble). The exact jamming range of Legacy ECMP could not be determined easily due to the lack of a visual representation of jamming range, as seen in Assault Horizon and Infinity. During single player campaign for many of these games, the ECMP has no range and disrupts all incoming missile fire while it is active. Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation introduced a set maximum range for ECM. Much of the research for Legacy ECMP started with the Ace Combat 6 variant of the ECMP. For quick reference, Ace Combat 6 jamming range is the inner most circle of the in-game radar display shown in the bottom left corner of the heads up display.
Assault Horizon ECMP
For a time, the ECMP seen in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon was capable of covering an area large enough to support a squadron of aircraft in co-op and multiplayer game modes. When utilizing the ability to apply multiple ECM related Skill upgrades to enhance its performance, the ACAH ECMP had the largest jamming range in the Ace Combat series. It did not completely disable incoming hostile weaponry in Player vs Player game modes, but it did increase the time it took for enemies to gain a lock onto the ECM emitting aircraft or any allied aircraft within the emission range. With the introduction of compatibility packs (game updates) following Ace Combat: Assault Horizon's release, the ability to stack Skill upgrades was removed and overall performance was also reduced. The special weapon was forced to return to a level similar to that of the Legacy ECMP in which it had a short range and emission time, but successfully disrupted incoming guided missile fire.
This version combines characteristics of the Assault Horizon and Legacy jamming pods, making it the best version of the ECMP in Ace Combat so far. The effective range is visible on radar, represented with a large blue circle or a white circle if a friendly aircraft from a different allied flight is emitting ECM. It is important to remember that ECM from a different flight does not protect all aircraft from both flights (i.e. if the friendly jammer aircraft is on Bravo team, aircraft on Alpha team will not receive ECM coverage).
In single player and online competitive co-op mode, the ECMP has a significantly extended emission time in comparison to all past versions of ECMP. Its performance can be enhanced by leveling up the special weapon and equipping Aircraft Tuning parts designed for ECM. By equipping a specific combination of parts, it is possible to maintain consistent coverage over an extended area, allowing allied aircraft to operate with minimal concern for incoming air-to-air or surface-to-air missiles.
In player vs player game modes (Team Death Match (TDM), Naval Team Death Match (NTDM) ) ECMP performance is restricted. The emission time is reduced to the shortest emission time of all player controlled jammer pods in the Ace Combat series. All aircraft parts that enhance the abilities of the ECMP are rendered ineffective during team death matches.
F-4E Phantom II
F-16F Fighting Falcon
BOZ-101EC with Sky Shadow
Nosferatu ECM System
Tornado Self Protection Jammer
Effect of Active ECMP
While the Electronic Countermeasure Pod is active, any hostile guided weapon that enters its effective range has its guidance system disabled. After it is disabled it will proceed flying in a a straight line along its flight path until it times out or impacts another object (ground, ocean, building, etc). The effects are immediate and do not require that the enemy weapon(s) remain within jammer range for a set amount of time. One second of contact with an active ECM is enough to jam a weapon guidance system. It is important to remember that while the ECMP is active, any guided weapon that enters its range will become unable to guide onto targets. Even after the weapon has left the emission range its guidance system has already been disabled.
This is the area that the ECMP effects. The exact range varies depending on game, aircraft tuning parts and aircraft level. The ECMP range is recorded using the in-game radar which displays objects in two-dimensions. Through testing, it has been verified that the effective horizontal range is also applicable vertically, which gives the ECM field a sphere shape. If the emission range of the ECMP is 10000ft, it is effective at 10000ft in every direction around the aircraft.
Unguided but Dangerous
It is not recommended to proceed flying in a straight line, directly at the weapon that has just been jammed. A minimal amount of movement (yaw, altitude change, rapid change in speed) is required while emitting ECM. After a weapon has been disabled it loses its guidance capability but this does not mean that its explosive charge is disarmed. An unguided weapon will still inflict the same amount of damage to the player's aircraft. Any weapon with a blast radius will still cause damage across that blast radius even after being jammed.
An aircraft providing ECM support can utilize basic suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) tactics to ease the level of difficulty when attacking enemy land and sea forces. Using the ECMP to block out incoming missile fire while targeting enemies firing Surface-to-Air Missiles at them.
In Ace Combat Infinity's online competitive co-op mode, activating the ECMP over a large cluster of enemies or near large, well-armored enemies was ideal. Suppressing the area with ECMP and specifically targeting enemy surface-to-air missile launchers in highly defended areas allow allied aircraft to focus on striking a large amount of surface targets in a short amount of time.
The ECMP is also effective on guided air-to-surface weaponry (weapons designed to attack buildings, vehicles, ships, etc) launched by enemy aircraft. This is the most uncommon use of ECMP which requires more effort and planning in comparison to defeating air-to-air weaponry. Attempting to jam air-to-surface weaponry requires that the player deploying the ECMP keeps the enemy aircraft firing air-to-surface weaponry within their range. By utilizing the radar or visually confirming a weapon being fired, the player can activate the ECMP before it can guide onto a target.