Aegis Ashore: Ace Combat 7 Air Defense Boss
A relatively unknown bastion of air defense
If there is one thing that Project Aces does not get enough kudos for, it is the addition of the latest technology or real world concepts to its Ace Combat series. Even the most outrageous anti-asteroid weaponry and energy weapons are based on real world concepts, existing technology or in development projects. Heck, even backwards firing missiles were real!
From a gameplay point of view, anything that complicates the player's ability to reliably deploy weapons can be a welcome challenge. Rather than every weapon with a target lock reliably guiding to a target, having occasional interference caused by electronic warfare interference or missile interception systems adds a temporary layer of difficulty. To players, it makes interacting with the unit responsible for the complication a notable experience. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown (2019) has a relatively unknown air defense system with overwhelming capabilities that comes to mind.
In the perceived final mission of Ace Combat 7, the time to storm the opposing nation's capital city puts players in the leading force. As they fly throughout the airspace, dogfighting and bombing forces ahead of the allied amphibious advance, an Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system (AABMDS) activates. So threatening is this system that even allied non-player controlled units call for bombardment from the invasion fleet to knock the system out of action. And for good reason.
In the real world, Aegis Ashore was proposed by the United States Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency. The project utilizes the well known Aegis combat system deployed on warships and places its components in land based facilities. These include AN/SPY-1 passive electronically scanned radars and vertical launching system cells carrying various types of interceptors (made only to knock other missiles out of the sky) and missiles (can either intercept other missiles or be used to destroy aircraft).
The idea is to protect especially important areas on land with this system. A single AAMBDS can free up a few Aegis equipped naval vessels for operations elsewhere. It can track more than 100 targets at a time, with the ability to intercept flying objects across a wide range; from sea skimming missiles to low earth orbit satellites. Even a hypersonic missile interceptor is under development as of 2022.
The first Aegis Ashore system began testing in Kauai, Hawaii in 2002. The first operational site was constructed in Deveslu, Romonia in 2016 with a secondary site planned in Redzikowo, Poland. The site in Poland was planned for completion by 2018 but was delayed multiple times; its new completion date is the end of 2023. Japan also had planned to construct two AAMBDS, but these plans were cancelled in 2020.
In Ace Combat 7, the first Aegis Ashore system is seen in mission 15, "Battle for Farbanti". Two other systems are in downloadable content mission 2, "Anchorhead Raid". It should be noted that the two systems in Anchorhead Raid can be taken out of action before they activate due to the surprise raid conditions. Though there is a short window of a few minutes to do this in.
In the game, the central control building of the installation controls multiple surface-to-air missiles units and Phalanx Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS). No VLS missile cells are present. This is unlike the real world version of it. When active, these sites are able to put up waves of 20mm cannon rounds into the air to shred incoming guided missiles, while launching medium range air-to-air missiles at all aircraft in range. Unlike lone air defense tanks that can be overwhelmed by a few missiles, Aegis Ashore can swat down multiple airborne weapons while deterring incoming aircraft from following up on attacks with its own missiles.
The two methods recommended by the game itself are either to approach the AAMBDS at extremely low altitudes to make the player's aircraft harder to track on radar, or to launch a large quantity of weapons from higher altitude and long distance. Flying at short-range within the firing envelope of its CIWS does reduce the window of time interception is possible, but this also places the players within the firing arcs of four or more radar guided autocannons.
Bold players that are willing to close distance and use large blast radius unguided weapons like dumb bombs and rocket pods will find that their weapons cannot be intercepted. Alternatively, things like lasers and rail guns are always effective since they cannot be physically intercepted by live munitions. Destroying the central control building of this site knocks out all of its capabilities immediately; it is the most efficient way to do it, but certainly the most risky way.
I have always appreciated the small ways Ace Combat has interfered with player launched guided weaponry. It does not consistently appear in each title, but Ace Combat 7 leaned into it the most with various anti-aircraft interception units. Seeing a somewhat unknown but now more relevant than ever Aegis Ashore installation in game is a welcome challenge and an interesting nod to the initiatives of real world militaries as the focus on missile interception over a large area is once again en vogue.
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.