top of page
  • Writer's pictureAaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza

Ace Combat: Beyond Visual Range Engagements

Few things in this series make me happier than landing a max range BVR shot.
Ace Combat F-14A Tomcat launching AIM-7 Sparrows (SAAM).

This is going to sound far-fetched to those not in the know, but the Ace Combat series does have beyond visual range combat (BVR). Since 1992, within visual range (WVR) combat has been and probably always will be a part of the series' "proven formula". From the usual combat engagements to the more memorable battle set pieces, there is a reliance on the fighting being up close and possible. In this flight arcade series, even aircraft like the F-104C and MiG-21bis can keep up with advanced aircraft like the Su-57 and fictional super aircraft in close range dogfights if players work hard enough to make them effective. With a majority of the aircraft roster in each game capable of holding their own in a dogfight, the thrill of turning and burning against computer or human adversaries perseveres in each title. But it's not all close range missiles and aircraft cannons.


BVR Engagement Overview

In Ace Combat, beyond visual range can be defined by the maximum launch ranges of certain "Special Weapons". These are specialized secondary weapons that have higher capabilities, but limited inventory compared to the large quantities of Standard Missiles and onboard aircraft cannon each aircraft has. These weapons are capable of hitting targets at least one and a half times more the distance of Standard Missiles. For this article, we're focusing on air-to-air missiles that can strike multiple aircraft, high velocity air-to-air missiles specialized for surprise attacks, long-range air-to-air missiles and similar weapons.


MiG-31 Foxhound with R-37 long-range air-to-air missiles (LAAM).
The MiG-31 Foxhound with long-range missiles has been one of the best BVR platforms in the series for a long time.

Since the introduction of Special Weapons in Ace Combat 04 (2001), BVR air-to-air missiles have been part of the weapon inventory players have come to expect. Some titles saw these missiles become more potent with the increase of their base performance through in-game modification systems.


Unlike combat flight simulators, these missiles do not have a limited rocket motor burn time. In a simulator, a missile rocket motor burns for a few seconds before the missile becomes a high speed glide weapon, gradually losing speed as it pursues its target. In Ace Combat, the missiles are constantly propelled by their rocket motors, allowing them to fly at maximum speed throughout their flight time. But even with this advantage, launching them from longer distances does not guarantee a hit. Taking into account the flight path and behavior of enemy aircraft increases the chances of a successful attack. Launching on aircraft flying towards or away from the BVR aircraft is a more ideal for missiles as they will have to do less maneuvering in flight, whereas launching on a fast aircraft that is flanking (travelling horizontally across the nose of the aircraft) makes missiles work harder to strike their targets, decreasing their effectiveness.


An F-22A Raptor with external weapons pod launching a volley of AIM-120 AMRAAMs.
F-22A Raptor with external weapons pod launching a volley of medium-range missiles.
Single Player

From 2001 to today, special weapons that target multiple aircraft are great for speedily dispatching groups of opposing aircraft from distance. With objectives spread across the map, players are tasked with travelling from one hot spot to another. While fulfilling pre-briefed tasks and addressing pop up targets along the way, frequent air battles against opposing aircraft are frequent. However, getting wrapped up in constant one-on-one engagements during timed missions can be a distraction when trying to finish as fast and thoroughly as possible to gain the highest mission score result. The benefit of BVR special weapons is their ability to thin out flights of hostile aircraft or completely neutralize them before a potential multi-minute dogfight begins. Against particularly tough individual aircraft, like ace pilots or sturdy attackers, launching multiple missiles can be especially effective by overwhelming them with volume of fire at distance. Furthermore, when engaging the iconic massive aircraft that Ace Combat is known for, their air defenses and engines can be targeted by BVR missiles, letting players destroy multiple parts of these aircraft in a single volley.


Player Versus Player (PVP)

While certain Ace Combat games on the Sony PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable did have a limited two player versus mode, BVR engagements in large scale online multiplayer game modes started with Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation (2007), then continued other main line entries in the series like Ace Combat Assault Horizon (2011), Ace Combat Infinity (2014) and Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown (2019).


As expected, long ranged engagements against other players are decidedly different from singleplayer. Human players actively close the distance against players using BVR weapons at their maximum weapon range. Even missiles modified for better maneuverability are still at their most vulnerable while the target they're engaging is rapidly closing distance and evading. The nature of Ace Combat gameplay makes closure from BVR distance to a close range dogfight happen within seconds in this scenario. When faced with an aggressive player like this, the options are to either commit to a defensive dogfight, attempt to fly away towards allies for assistance or defend against their pursuer while still obtaining BVR missile shots.


F-14A Tomcat firing a pair of AIM-7 Sparrows (SAAM).
F-14A Tomcat engaging aircraft with semi-active medium range missiles (SAAM).

There is an easy to exploit aspect that can only be taken advantage of against other players. With the series encouraging high energy dogfights and fantastic post stall maneuvers during combat, players frequently get wrapped up in tight turning battles. While engaged in the dogfight, these players are focused on adversaries within 100 meters of themselves. Their situational awareness of the entire airspace is heavily reduced. Players with beyond visual range weapons can take advantage of what are now slower, distracted targets. By attacking from maximum range and from unexpected angles, like firing from high altitude towards low altitude targets, the aircraft occupied by dogfights are less likely to prepare for a long range attack. They will not have the opportunity to safely regain speed to dodge incoming missiles while other friendly aircraft are pursuing them at close range. This effectively makes BVR engagements an effective support asset for the frontline fighters slugging it out.


With communication either in text or voice, teams of players can reliably use BVR tactics by having some players intentionally wrapping up their opposition in dogfights, then calling in for friendly long or medium range missiles to destroy the now slower opposing aircraft. While this may not be great for the kill scores and scoreboards for individuals, these more team focus tactics are better for the chances of secure wins in team deathmatch and similar game modes.

 

Effectively performing what would be considered beyond visual range engagements takes some minor planning to predict what computer enemies may do in single player and serious evasion skills when taking on other humans. Being the sneaky stand off fighter that slips missiles into a dogfight when it is least expected will always make me crack a smile.


A MiG-35D Super Fulcrum with R-77 missiles beneath its wing.
MiG-35D Super Fulcrum with multiple medium range missiles (6AAM) beneath its wing.
 

About the Writer

Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza

Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. Read Staff Profile.

Wings_Over_the_Rockies_Air_&_Space_Museum_Logo.jpg

Skyward Flight Media is a corporate member of this organization.

OnBlack.png

In 2021 and 2023, Skyward Flight Media was a proud media partner for Flight Sim Expo, North America’s community-driven flight simulation conference. Read more of our content on this event.

HEADS UP VIEW

HUV Logo (Photoshop).png

Heads Up Displays

for Flight Simulation

Sponsor of Skyward Flight Media

RedCard.png

Sponsor of Skyward Flight Media 

Fully Managed Turn-Key Servers for Digital Combat Simulator

  RECENT

  FEATURED

twitterlogo_1x.png

Follow us on Twitter

Flight focused content, short videos, screenshots and more

Screen_211224_091329.png
bottom of page