• Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza

Yukikaze: DIY CIWS

Updated: Sep 22

That's not a fluke, that's a feature.

Since the beginning of the genre, combat flight simulators of all difficulties and complexity have consistently taught us one thing: evade the incoming missiles. There are different methods to achieve this. Use advanced electronic countermeasures, deploy a panacea-like cloud of chaff and flare, or expertly maneuver to physically evade them. Even for daredevils that can deftly slide and backflip past incoming missiles with only a few feet to spare, they go in with a plan for how to get out of harm's way.

There are plenty of examples of Non-Player Character allies and enemies with the ability to intercept missiles. Defensive units like Close-in Weapons Systems (CIWS) are the most common with other surface-to-air missile units capable of launching interceptor missiles to strike down incoming guided missiles. This makes sense, they were specifically designed in the real world to fulfill this role. The more uncommon, story plot-driven examples center on highly advanced technologies capable of deflecting even bullets or an opposing pilot being so skilled they are capable of shooting missiles out of the sky themselves. But that's typical "plot armor" advantage. What are we human players going to do? Shoot the missiles down ourselves?

...well...


In Battle Fairy Yukikaze: Fairies Dancing in the Sky (2002, Xbox Original, Personal Computer), any aircraft can shoot down missiles with the onboard aircraft cannon or underwing gun pods. The important addition that makes this possible is how missiles launched by allies and enemies are visually represented on the aircraft's Heads Up Display (HUD) with their own specific symbology. With missiles being tracked through this method, being able to visually discern a missile's location is possible.

With the incoming missile on the HUD, players come head-to-head with the threat to put their cannon on target. As soon as it is in gun range, there are only a few seconds left to complete the intercept. A single, well-placed burst can then be fired to destroy the missile before it impacts the aircraft. Any hit on the missile results in it immediately exploding. Though if the player misses their shot, the result in extensive damage to the their aircraft with a guaranteed loss of flight ability or systems - if not instantly exploding.


A firm understanding of the characteristics of the internal cannon of each aircraft is required. Knowing the cannon's maximum range, the attitude the gun is fired at, the rate of closure between the aircraft and the incoming missile is necessary. There are minor discrepancies in the firing angle of these cannons, which vary between aircraft. Some have an attacker style gun, which fires at a slight downward angle in comparison to the nose. Unfortunately, the aircraft gunsight in the HUD is not always completely accurate for each aircraft, so firing while visually tracking the tracers that leave the cannon is the one way to understand its actual trajectory.

This "do it yourself" CIWS isn't explained in tutorials, so you may be wondering how I can say this with confidence. It began during a poor personal choice to commit to a pair of JAM aircraft attempting to chase me down. Rather than accelerate and escape, I turned to fight and found myself just a few seconds away from meeting a missile face first. I panic fired the gun while fumbling to cycle to my active radar homing medium range missiles, hoping I could at least throw a missile to force the bandit to also go defensive. Instead of my aircraft exploding, the enemy missile disappeared in a fireball with my own missile eventually shooting down my pursuer. I then went out of my way to test this in various game modes with every aircraft available. The success rate was high enough to confirm it was a reliably reoccurring result. That's not a fluke, that's a feature.

Still, this working in game doesn't justify its existence. Why did Aqua System - the developers of a few other Japan-only civilian and RC flight simulators - add this in? Looking at other combat flight sims available on PC and game consoles in 2002 and years before that, it's a rather unusual addition. The reason for its inclusion may be in the story itself.

In both the Yukikaze novels and animated series, there is a high profile incident where one of the most advanced aircraft in the series, an FFR-31MR/D Super Sylph, shoots down a "JAM "anti-air missile" with its internal cannon. Though it is done by the artificial intelligence within the aircraft and not its human crew, this seems to be the origin of this game mechanic.


Screenshot from episode 1 of the OVA series showing an aircraft flying backwards attacking the missile with its cannon.

In this game, aircraft have a decent supply of countermeasures against guided missiles. Between 6 to 10 countermeasure volleys can be deployed depending on aircraft. With skilled flying, some of this supply can be retained. Players using energy management and generating good angles against threats can force the close range merge with enemies to deny them advantageous BVR engagements. Allowing the players to save their limited chaff and flare supply so quickly. But with the aircraft cannon and gun pods now a factor, the risky third option is on the table. Sniping missiles from the sky can be used to handle the JAM in Single Player or surprise friends in split-screen versus, but it is an absolute necessity in Extra Mode.

In Extra Mode, the player enters an arcade survival style scenario against multiple waves of enemies. Each enemy destroyed counts as points that are tallied up by the end of the player's playthrough. During a playthrough gun ammo, missile ammo, health and damage do not replenish. A solid run in Extra mode could net decent points, but seeing the high scores set by the generic CPU players make you realize the math doesn't add up. Even if every missile the player fires destroyed an enemy, they would be hard-pressed to get anywhere near the top three scores.

But it's a lot easier if you use the gun to shoot down missiles, which do award points for their destruction and help reserve countermeasures for impossible to outmaneuver attacks. With aircraft worth 100 points and missiles worth 300 points, breaking into the top of the scoreboard is much easier. In no place does Extra Mode explain this to the player, so consider this an inside tip.

In Battle Fairy Yukikaze: Fairies Dancing in the Sky the path to success looks like a lone aircraft going nose-to-nose with a supersonic missile. For more information on this game, see our review of its Xbox Original port.


 

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.

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