An Overview of the Flanker Family in Ace Combat
Updated: Sep 13, 2020
An article which focuses on all variants of the Sukhoi Flanker family of aircraft as portrayed in the Ace Combat series.
This article covers all members of the Flanker family with information on how their combination of special weapons and aircraft stats affect their overall performance throughout the series. Since the start of the franchise, the Sukhoi family has been present in various forms, expanding between the Su-27 to the Su-37 and the more specialized Su-34; no matter the type, they have always been some of the more lethal aircraft at the player's disposal.
We start with the oldest brother in the family. The Su-27 is the original Flanker, so you can expect a lower performance in terms of maneuverability, acceleration and in weapon carriage capacity than the rest of the family line, but it's still a formidable mid-tier aircraft capable of defending itself throughout an entire play through without that much difficulty. In Ace Combat 1 (1992) and 2 (1997), the aircraft behaves good, being one of the more balanced planes in terms of stats (possessing 3 Defense, 4 Attack, 4 Mobility, 4 Offense, 3 Stability), making it a master of none but a worker of all. The Su-27 behaves a little sloppier than the aircraft of its tier in Ace Combat 5 (2004). Thanks to the one-special-weapon-per-plane system made during AC5, it is stuck with Semi-active Air-to-Air Missiles (SAAM) which force it into an air to air role with a somewhat limited performance special weapon. In Ace Combat Zero (2006), the Su-27 is remarkably similar to the F-15C in terms of stats and performance, even weaponry. It is a mid-tier fighter with the possibility of turning into a multirole if you choose one of its two air-to-ground weapons: Unguided Bomb-Large (UGBL) or Self Forging Fragmentation Submunitions (SFFS). It continued to perform as a multirole aircraft utilizing an identical special weapon selection in Ace Combat X (2006) and Ace Combat: Joint Assault (2010). The Su-27 made an appearance as a non-player character unit in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (2011). It’s primarily seen as an enemy aircraft at the height of the single player campaign but is also used by allied forces. Its addition in Ace Combat Infinity (2014) would designate it as the Su-27 Flanker-B and return it to being a strictly air-to-air combat platform. Its selection of SAAM, Quick-air-to-Air Missile (QAAM), and 4-target Air-to-Air Missile (4AAM) place it on equal footing with its F-15C Eagle rival in terms of available special weaponry.
Su-35 'Super Flanker' & Su-35 Flanker-E
The next member of the Flanker family is the Su-35. As a direct evolution of the original Flanker, the Su-35 uses the lessons learned during the Su-37 program as it employs trust vectoring nozzles and canards; said canards are only on the Su-35 "Super Flanker" as seen in Ace Combat 2, Ace Combat 04 and Ace Combat 5, But in reality this aircraft is known as the Su-27M. The actual Su-35, known as the "Flanker-E" as of NATO designation, is only presented to us from Ace Combat: Assault Horizon and the ones that came after that. In Ace Combat 2, the Su-35 flies like a charm. It possesses the third largest missile count in the game, with 80 missiles, stat that is tied with most of the high tier attacker platforms, while being an extremely maneuverable and agile aircraft with high statistics (90 PWR, 80 MOB, 70 STB, 90 CLB, 60 DFS, 80 A2A, 80 A2G). This makes it better than other aircraft in its price range (200.000 cr), giving it the position of a top tier destruction machine. The Su-35 is a mid to top tier fighter in Ace Combat 04 (2001), capable of multirole by using Unguided Bomb-Medium (UGBM) if the situation presents itself. The player will soon unlock the much better Su-37, making the Su-35 an aircraft that lives under the shadow of its big brother. The Super Flanker performs a different role from the Su-37 in Ace Combat 5, due to the unique special weapons system. Thanks to it having the Advanced Long-range Air-to-Air Missile (XLAA), it serves in more of an air superiority role over longer distances. This distinguishes it from the Su-37 and its limited combat. The Su-35 has its first somewhat high profile role in the series serving as the primary aircraft of the Ofnir squadron, one of the antagonists of the story.
It is in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon that the Flanker-E plays a starring role in the story. The aircraft is not only the aircraft of choice of the primary antagonist, Akula, but is seen extensively in the final, cinematic missions of the story. The well known “Shark Mouth” paint scheme that Akula uses is featured in Ace Combat Infinity as well. The player-controlled Su-35 removes any air-to-ground special weapons for the first time in the series. This trend is continued in Ace Combat Infinity, with its weapons being 6-Target Air-to-Air Missiles (6AAM) and QAAMs in both titles.
The last of the main Flanker family is the Su-37. Known as the “Terminator”, this aircraft was the father of the Su-35 in the real world. Featuring thrust vectoring engines, canards and advanced avionics, this aircraft had an incomparable performance when it came to maneuverability and close range air combat potential, but never made it to mass production due to the fall of the USSR in 1992. The Su-37 was present in Ace Combat 2, but as a non-player character aircraft. In the hands of the Usean Rebel Forces, the enemy Su-37s present the player with a first in the Ace Combat series. In close range combat, these aircraft would perform Pugachev's Cobra and Kulbit maneuvers to quickly turn the tables on the player. Though these aircraft were only seen in limited numbers near the end of the campaign, they left a memorable impact.
In Ace Combat 3, a fictional, futuristic version of the Su-37 is operated by the Universal Peace Enforcement Organization. Known as the Super Flanker, it is the plane of choice not only for the player but also for two of the ace pilots that accompany you throughout your journey, Rena Hirose and Erich Jager. From the player´s side, it is a pretty formidable plane, but falls short in comparison to the more outlandish aircraft that may be at your disposal depending on your allegiance. Aircraft like the Su-43 Berkut, XFA-36A Game and R-103 Delphinus III for example.
In Ace Combat 04, this plane is not only available to the player, but also serves as the aircraft of choice of the infamous "Yellow Squadron", Erusean Air Force, 156th Tactical Fighter Wing. This puts the Terminator in the spotlight in cutscenes and poses as a power ceiling to the player.
After having a series of successful missions early on, suddenly having this new enemy presented as such a massive threat that it fades away the feeling of success the player has been experiencing until then. Seeing all allied aircraft ordered to retreat shortly after the Yellows arrive makes the player feel like they are a true foe. This feeling of their lasting superiority makes combat against the Yellows have more of a lasting impact as they are encountered throughout Ace Combat 04. The portrayal of Yellow Squadron, their iconic Su-37s, the addition of Pugachev’s Cobra and other post stall maneuvers may be the most effective use of the Terminator or of any other antagonist aircaft in the Ace Combat series.
The Su-37 that is available to the player is a complete improvement over the Su-35, capable of multirole missions without losing any maneuverability or speed in dogfights. It feels snappy and reactive to every control the player inputs into it. It is just a joy to fly. In Ace Combat 5, the aircraft receives the QAAM as its only special weapon, forcing it to a close range dogfighter role. While being quite maneuverable and fast, this handicap limits its potential drastically. In Ace Combat Zero, this aircraft also serves a role aside from being at the player's disposal. It is the aircraft of choice of the Belkan Air Force 5th Air Division, 23rd Tactical Fighter Squadron “Gelb”. They were present during the battle for the recapture of Ustio's capitol recapture operation. By this time, on their first play through, the player does not have access to many aircraft. Due to the focus being on defeating Belkan ground forces, most players would have probably chosen an air to ground loadout. Gelb are fierce opponents, having the “magical” ability to launch missiles from behind their planes once you are at their 6 o'clock. Interestingly enough, this ability is based off of real word tests done by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
As for the playable version of the ACZ Su-37, it's a thing of beauty. It has within its arsenal the Fuel Air Explosive (FAEB), a weapon of incredible power only available to a few select aircraft in the game. This gives the Su-37 the capability of living up to its nickname: “Terminator”. Equipping it with FAEB makes you a pilot to be feared, as you are capable of disposing of clustered enemies with ease, dealing massive amounts of damage. This is a desirable choice if you want to speed run the game.
Each version of the Su-37 in Ace Combat X, Joint Assault, and Cross Rumble also features the FAEB as part of its special weapon line up, alongside more specialized weapons such as Long-ranged Air-to-Surface Missiles (LASM), Omnidirectional Multi-purpose Missiles (ODMM) and a variety of long-ranged air-to-air missiles. The Terminator, as seen in these PlayStation Portable and Nintendo 3DS titles, is the most flexible version of this aircraft seen in any Ace Combat game. Ace Combat: Assault Horizon and Ace Combat Infinity ditch the air-to-ground and unusual weapons for a proven combination of 4AAM and QAAM, along with the High-Velocity Air-to-Air Missile (HVAA). This mixture of weapons capitalizes on all strengths of the Su-37, arguably making it the pinnacle of all Flankers as seen in this series.
The Fullback sees little to no action during the single-player campaign of Ace Combat: Assault Horizon as there is only one mission it can be accessed. However, it shined as one of the top attackers used on Capital Conquest In Ace Combat Infinity . As an attacker in Assault Horizon, the Su-34's high speeds and maneuverability allowed it to defend well against enemy aircraft while still being able to activate Air Strike Mode to dole out considerable damage with its Guided Precision Bombs (GPB) and 4 Air-to-Ground Missiles (4AGM). With extra stat buffs granted by Pilot Skills, its attack power and armor can be maxed out, making it a tenacious attacker.
Thus far, the Su-34 Fullback has seen its most successful apperance inside Ace Combat Infinity; especially during online competitive co-op and team death match game modes. Its set of special weapons features multi-target striking 4AGMs, extended reach striking Long-range Air-to-Ground Missiles (LAGMs) and heavy hitting GPBs. With extensive Aircraft Tuning available in Ace Combat Infinity, both its special weapons and baseline high performance elevated it to one of the best attackers available in the game from the time of its introduction. The crux of its success being its damage output capable of destroying a majority of ground vehicles with no more than one or two Standard Missiles. Another factor that contributes to its lethality are its guided special weapons which allow it to maintain high speeds when engaging clusters of targets with a salvo of 4AAM.
Last but not least, we have the Su-33, the naval version of the Su-27 with added canards more powerful engines to help it take off and land on carrier operations. Its NATO reporting name is "Sea Flanker". This aircraft first appeared in Ace Combat 6 (2007), being featured as the platform of choice of the elite Estovakian Air Force, 370th Precinct, 9th Tactical Fighter Squadron 'Strigon'. They used the aircraft carrier capabilities not at sea, but onboard the heavy command cruiser “Aigaion”. This was a flying aircraft carrier that housed the Strigons throughout most of the Emmerian-Estovakian War. Though they did take losses, the surviving members of the original Strigon squadron, along with replacement members from their sister squadron known as Vampire, continued fighting until the end of the conflict.
The playable version of the Ace Combat 6 Flanker-D is a formidable 'dogfighter', which could utilize the High-G Turn system in AC6 to make abrupt, sharp turns. Though it would lose all airspeed in just a few seconds, it's High-G turn rate allowed it to quickly get a shot on opposing aircraft it entered close range combat with. Being able to get its nose onto a target within a few seconds opened up many chances for quick attacks on opponents that were not watching it closely. In a sense, it is a master of head-to-head engagements in online multiplayer. It should be noted that the AC6 version has an unusual ace up its sleeve. It can equip Rocket Launcher pods (RCL), capable of destroying clustered enemies without that much trouble, assuring at least a couple of burning piles of ash each run. In the right hands, the RCL could also be used against other players in online multiplayer modes when in gun range combat situations. The Su-33 in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon was used by enemies during the height of hostilities seen in Assault Horizon's campaign. In the player's hands, the Su-33 maintains its above average performance. However, with the more capable Su-35 and the Su-37 adquired via downloadable content which boast better performance and special weapons, the Flanker-D can be quickly overlooked in terms of aircraft stats. This aircraft falls into a similar situation in Ace Combat Infinity. With a lower speed than most aircraft in the Fighter tier but with a higher maneuverability, the Flanker-D can be considered an aircraft only true fans of the Flanker family would invest time in. This is reinforced by the fact that unlocking the Flanker-E and Terminator is can be done by just unlocking six other aircraft parts. The special weapons of the Su-33 not only restrict it to an air-to-air role, but also to targeting a single aircraft at a time using High-Powered Air-to-Air missiles (HPAA), High Capacity Air-to-Air missiles (HCAA) and Hyper Velocity Air-to-Air missiles (HVAA).
Towards Ace Combat 7
The Flanker family has always accompanied the Ace Combat franchise ever since its conception back in Air Combat. It has passed through every form and shape the platform has taken over the years, even taking spotlights in the franchise in the form of the Yellow, Strigon, and Akula. Now, from the trailers of Ace Combat 7, we can see that yet again, Flankers will take a major role in the plot. Though not much is known at the time of this article being published, the Su-30SM is the aircraft of choice for a high profile enemy known as Mihaly. It’s paint scheme and livery show that it belongs to the Erusean Air and Space Administration (EASA) and features cutting edge, most likely experimental aviation technologies. One can only hope that the Su-30 variants and the other marvelous machines of the Flanker family will keep being featured in many games to come.
About the Author
Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos
Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as a writer and content manager ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034