Posted: 11/10/2017 | Languages: English
Within Ace Combat there is but one weapon designed for defense, unable to cause damage to hostile forces on its own. This is the first part of a two-part Hardpoint analysis article on Electronic Countermeasures in Ace Combat. Part one focuses on Non-Player Controlled ECM.
HARDPOINT: Anaylsis Series
Part 01: Non-Player Controlled ECM
We play for thrilling, high-speed combat. A heroic pilot rushing into the heart of the enemy force, single handedly 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.
Within the Ace Combat series electronic countermeasures (ECM) has exclusively been a non-player character (NPC) feature since it was first introduced. NPC ECM is commonly deployed by enemy forces in an effort to increase the difficulty of single player missions. Electronic countermeasure support is not usually deployed in favor of the player or their allies. Though the presence of ECM cannot be specifically confirmed in Air Combat (1992/1995), mission 6 of Ace Combat 2 (1997) is the first mission to introduce electronic countermeasures within its briefing. A pair of E-767 Vigilante AWACS aircraft disrupted or "jammed" the player's radar, making it harder for them to track the enemy units using their radar. By hindering radar detection from all ranges, it forced the player to rely more on small pieces of information they could glean through breaks in the enemy jamming.
From Ace Combat 2 to the release of Ace Combat Infinity (2014), NPC ECM would become a reoccurring factor in a limited amount of missions for Ace Combat releases on PlayStation 1, 2, 3, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS and Xbox 360. As the series advanced in regards to graphics and game mechanics so too did ECM. The basic forms of NPC electronic countermeasures are primarily focused on disruption of navigation systems and communications. More advanced types of ECM are capable of tricking and denying player controlled weapons systems. Often times enemy NPC units will use multiple types of ECM at once to effectively disrupt the player.
In Ace Combat 5 Electronic Counter-Countermeasures (ECCM) were also introduced but was closely tied to the plot of the story. It wasn't used much outside of in game plot points which used ECM coverage to drive the story forward. As such, allied ECCM wasn't really a factor in game play. A second form of ECM is enemy deployed Electronic Support Measures (ESM). ESM acts differently than ECM in a few different ways, but ESM that is deployed by enemy forces reduces the homing performance of missiles fired by the player or their allies while they operate within enemy ESM range. In that sense, it is a electronic countermeasure.
Types of ECM
NPC ECM Platforms
The electronic countermeasure platforms used by non-player character allies and enemies are usually aircraft or land-based installations. Aircraft are the most common ECM platform used. NPCs frequently use the same aircraft players have access to (e.g. Su-24MP, EA-18G, Tornado ECR, etc), but also use transport sized aircraft. Some examples of these aircraft and land based facilities that utilize ECM are presented below:
Notable Usage of NPC ECM
Morganite ECM System
The ADFX-02 Morgan, constructed by the South Belkan Munitions Factory before the events of Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, featured a set of highly specialized weapons. Among them was the Morganite ECM system which was powerful enough to physically deflect incoming missile and gunfire from any angle and any range. The only weak point was its inability to cover the area around the ADFX's engine intakes. This meant that the only way to shoot down the Morgan was to fire at it from its direct front. From the point of view of game design, it's clear that the Morganite ECM system was created to enable the iconic joust style final dogfight of Ace Combat Zero.
The Belkan Air Force 22nd Air Division, 4th Tactical Fighter Squadron "Schnee" flew F-14D Super Tomcats supported by an EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft. On May 28th, 1995, Schnee squadron was deployed to reinforce Belkan forces during the large scale air battle in Belkan strategic priority one airspace B7R. Upon their arrival they engaged the Ustian 66th Air Division, 6th Air Force Unit "Galm" in an effort to stop the Allied Forces from securing the airspace. The air battle ended with Schnee being shot down and the Allied Forces secured a major victory in the Belkan War by seizing B7R.
Ace Combat Zero, mission 10 (Soldier) was the first time within the Ace Combat series that an ace squadron utilized ECM in such a way. While the EA-6B Prowler remained at high altitude and suppressed radar, the Schnee F-14s engaged the player with close range weapons and long-range XLAAs (AIM-54 Phoenix). Being unable to track targets with radar, the player was much more vulnerable to XLAA fire as they were unable to identify which direction they should maneuver to fend off the incoming missiles.
A U-2 Dragonlady spy plane with the Independent State Allied Forces (ISAF) was damaged by air defenses from the Federal Republic of Erusea. Mobius One of the ISAF 118th Tactical Fighter Squadron would be dispatched to Gnome Ravine to destroy a network of airships carrying ECM jammers. It was vital for ISAF that the jammers be destroyed since their U-2 was forced to fly at low altitude due to damage from Erusean air defenses. After the successful destruction of a large amount of jammers and the interception of Erusean fighter aircraft attempting to destroy the spy plane, the vital data the U-2 gathered was recovered. Evidence of Erusea preparing Megalith as a replacement for the recently destroyed Stonehenge STN.
This is the first time such a vast network of ECM was used against the player in the Ace Combat series. The mission maintained a decent level of difficulty without relying on enemies actively pursing the player. With the radar heavily jammed the player is forced to visually spot the airships they're attacking.