Hardpoint: QAAM in Ace Combat
Updated: Sep 12
Designated as Quick Maneuver Air to Air Missiles (QAAM) thanks to their incredible ability to turn on a dime. These highly advanced missiles possess superb tracking thanks to their advanced seeker head that features off-boresight capabilities. In this article we will be looking into the story of this weapon throughout the Ace Combat franchise while also looking into the history of the real world missiles that are labelled as QAAMs inside of Ace Combat.
Ace Combat Overview
These missiles tend to have double the damage than a standard missiles, but their actual damage varies from game to game. For example, you need still need to get two shots with the QAAMs to down aces on Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War but they inflict way more damage to regular enemies. First appearing in Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies (2004), these missiles were infamous for their almost surreal maneuverability and their capability to provide an almost guaranteed hit. If they failed their target they would go around for another pass keeping this attitude until the motor ran out of fuel. They were the ultimate close quarter weapon, bordering the overpowered spectrum. On all subsequent entries the QAAMs were tweaked towards a more balanced state or at least they tried to. Starting with the two other PS2 titles, Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War and Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War. The weapon behaved very similar if not identical on both games, feeling a bit more balanced and fair while still being a very powerful weapon. Their ability to pursue enemies through multiple turns was noticeably diminished.
The missiles behaved almost in the same way on Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception as they did on Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies; this is due to the similarities between the two in a technical level as they shared the same engine. In Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation the QAAMs were a very good weapon capable of shooting down enemies upwards of 80° off boresight. This is one of the more wide reaching versions of the the QAAM seen throughout the Ace Combat series, but also representative of their maximum capability. The QAAMs were one of the top tier weapons available on Ace Combat: Assault Horizon due to its usability inside of Dogfight Mode. On the other side, the weapon performance inside of Ace Combat Infinity was pretty good, but it depended on the parts you had equipped, the level of your plane and the level of the weapon. Its performance in Ace Combat 7 is to be determined, but now that we have knowledge that the Aircraft Tuning system will be similar to the one used on Ace Combat Infinity, you can expect them to be a formidable weapon choice for air-to-air engagements and multiplayer.
AAM-5 Manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, this missile is the successor of the AAM-3 missile. Being a very new platform, having entering service on 2004. This missile is cosmetically similar to the IRIS-T, but internally they are completely different weapons. This missile is only operated by the Japanese Air Self Defense Force on the F-15J and the F-2A.
AIM-9X Sidewinder Created as a Joint Effort between the US Airforce and the US Navy, the AIM-9X is the most advanced variant of the long running series of AIM-9 missiles, a line of infrared guided missiles that dates back to 1953. This advanced variant of the AIM-9 uses the same motor and explosive charge from the AIM-9M variant, while changing the seeker head and adding thrust vectoring nozzles for improved maneuverability.
IRIS-T Created as the result of an international collaboration between Germany, Italy, Sweden, Greece, Canada and norway, the IRIS-T is an advanced IR guided missile that is at the same level of the AIM-9X and the R-73. Manufactured by Diehl BGT Defence, this missile is more than capable of giving their operators good fighting capabilities.
R-73 (AA-11 Archer) Created by the Vympel NPO Bureau, this missile development line is the Russian produced equivalent of the AIM-9 and other IR counterparts. Dating back to 1984, the R-73 is one of the most advanced IR missiles currently deployed with Russian aircraft. Featuring thrust vectoring nozzles and an advanced seeker head, it offers great combat capabilities. While there are more advanced variants of the R-73 family (K-74) the ones portrayed inside of the Ace Combat franchise are limited to the R-73 - they are primarily found onboard Russian designed aircraft.
In the real world the missiles are just known as highly advanced IR (Infrared) guided missiles, the QAAM designation for them is an in-house description of the missiles inside of Ace Combat. While they work on a similar manner as other IR guided weaponry there are some big differences between an older missile (i.e. AIM-9C) and a more advanced missile (i.e. AIM-9X). Stuff like the software that it carries, the motor system and more importantly, the guiding optics.
Early missiles (i.e. AIM-9B) had a very poor Field of View (FOV), being limited to only being capable to follow targets that went at ~11°/sec of it and could only guide itself into the target if it had direct line of sight to the exhaust of the enemy’s engine (Rear Aspect); meanwhile modern IR missiles have a very high FOV thanks to their advanced seeker heads that possess off-boresight capabilities allowing the missiles to shoot at targets with head mounted displays (i.e. JHMCS.) These missiles also are equipped with thrust vectoring nozzles that allow the missile to pursue targets going upwards of 125°/sec. These missiles are also All Aspect, meaning that they can target a plane from any angle, not being limited to the exhaust.
Minimize Lock-On Time The off bore sight range that makes the QAAM a lethal close range dogfight missile can also work against it. Letting the missile attempt to lock onto targets on their own take longer than turning nose towards the target, as is needed with Standard Missiles. Continuing to maneuver to get nose onto the target will greatly reduce QAAM locking time. Manual Multi-Targeting Though designed to engage one target at a time, the QAAM can be utilized as a type of 'crowd control' weapon in local and online multiplayer game modes. While engaged in close range combat, rapidly switching targets while firing one QAAM at each target is a noteworthy tactic. By not pursuing a single target for a long period of time, the QAAM carrying aircraft can instead maintain pressure on multiple aircraft, providing distraction for other allied players to execute their own strategies with somewhat distracted enemies opposing them. Defensive Fighting Utilizing the wide lock on ability of the QAAM when being pursued by the enemy is a unique part of deploying this weapon. Performing sudden sharp turns in an attempt to both force the enemy to overshoot but bring them into the firing envelope of the QAAM can allow the defensive aircraft to fire back at their pursuer. Occasional missile fire like this can force the attacker to focus on evading, letting the defending aircraft successfully break their pursuers attack.
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