Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza
Hardpoint: Electronic Countermeasures in Ace Combat
Updated: Oct 9, 2022
Within the Ace Combat series advanced forms of 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 interference 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.
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 known military electronic jammer aircraft like the Su-24MP, EA-18G, Tornado ECR, along with larger aircraft like E-767 Vigilante, IL-76 and similar platforms.
Land based jammers come from specific types of radar vehicles or military installations. Certain notable super weapons like the Excalibur Anti-Ballistic Missile System and Stonehenge Spaceguard Turret Network utilizes electronic counter measures to ward off attacks from close and long ranges.
Types of ECM
Experienced in single player missions, frequently used in plot related events. Communication between in game allies is disrupted by ECM causing confusion. Static on the radio and missing words within subtitles are common characteristics.
False targets appear on the player’s heads up display and radar. This type of ECM can lead to the waste of mid and long ranged special weapons fire. Visually identifying targets before firing in necessary. By closing into visual range or using the in-game camera to zoom, the actual target can be located.
Radar Suppression Jamming that blocks out radar. Its severity can range from the disruption of localized areas to complete radar black out in the mission area. The most common visualization of radar suppression appears as a green circle which emits waves of interference at varying intervals of time. The design of the green circle varies in each Ace Combat game.
Weapons System Jamming
This type of ECM is designed to deny the guidance capabilities, causing guided weaponry to lose lock mid-flight and disabling the heads up display so it cannot show the position of enemy units. The visual effect of weapons system jamming includes scan lines on the HUD and the disappearance of all enemy target indicators for varying periods of time.
Notable Uses in Ace Combat Series
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 series that an enemy 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 missiles as they were unable to identify which direction they should maneuver to evade 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 emitters. 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.
Pawns in the Game
After the death of the General Resource LTD. CEO Aldair Carlos Nascimento, two factions within the mega corporation began to fall into a power struggle. Sensing that one of the two factions could incite a war with Neucom Inc. the Special Armed Response Force of the Universal Peace Enforcement Organization was dispatched to strike a General Resource armory as a measure to remove that possibility. Utilizing ECM coverage provided by the UI-4053 Sphyrna and new R-211 Orcinus aircraft, the armory was destroyed.
After the mission's success it was discovered that the facilities were actually corporate housing. The UPEO raid using Neucom marked aircraft had caused the deaths of many civilians and employees. Full on armed conflict between General Resource and Neucom would start shortly afterwards.
Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere [JP], UPEO Mission 14 "Pawns in the Game" was the first time ECM coverage had been provided in favor of the player, rather than against them. A second interesting note is that the airship which had deployed the electronic countermeasures would become an enemy.
Next Form of ECM
The ultimate form of electronic countermeasures within the Ace Combat series would come with the release of Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War on October 21st, 2004. For the first time, players could equip a special weapon known as the Electronic Countermeasure Pod (ECMP) to disrupt guided weapons fired by enemy units.
See our article, Hardpoint: ECMP in Ace Combat, for its history, hardware, specifications and more.
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.