Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza
SP-34R: Bold Project Wingman Design Choice
Updated: Sep 23, 2022
When your aircraft is carrying an excess of 60 or more missiles while casually afterburning well above Mach 2, you know it's flight arcade time. A genre defined by massive battles, constant dogfights, a heroic pilot that saves the day (you!), and most importantly, every flavor of missile possible. While Project Wingman unquestionably adheres to this, there's a single aircraft in this game's roster that goes against the grain.
From the start, Project Wingman (December 1st, 2020) was designed as a love letter to the over-the-top flight arcade games of the 1990s and 2000s. Those who remember those times, names like HAWX, Air Force Delta, and Ace Combat come to mind. Developed by self-proclaimed life-long Ace Combat fans, Project Wingman looks right at home in the flight arcade genre. Alongside the usual multipurpose short-range missiles that are effective against anything that flies, sails or drives, there's a rather generous amount of special/secondary weapons. Players are encouraged to play through the game, unlocking the next best aircraft to aid in their progress. Each aircraft becoming more advanced in performance and the quantity and type of weapons they can equip. It's the standard formula.
The prize for clearing the single-player campaign is often a real or fictional type of "super aircraft." The top-tier aircraft have the best flight performance, highest weapons capacity and often come equipped with devastating one-of-a-kind weapons. Players that beat the game are free to use these super aircraft to replay the campaign or tackle other game modes. While Project Wingman's all-around top "super plane" is the titular named PW-Mk.I, a second super plane does exist. Though, it may be better to view it as more of a "challenge aircraft."
SP-34R or "Spear" is one of three aircraft created by Aerospace Engineer tier backers from the Project Wingman Kickstarter campaign. Designed by Discord user Diabolus#6666 alongside developer Sector D2, in-game, it is referred to as an Icarus Experimental Ballistic Airframe created by Icarus Armories - a fictional company within the distant post-apocalyptic Earth future used as the game's setting. SP-34R appears to be roughly around the size of an F/C-16 (aka F-16C) when viewing it in the in-game hangar. When reaching supersonic flight, a significant portion of its wings, horizontal stabilizers, and canards retract into the aircraft rather than sweep. The aircraft shifts into a clipped canard delta wing configuration, which relies on thrust vectoring for pitch and roll inputs while in excess of Mach 1.
Its ultimate defense and offense are speed and maneuverability, coming equipped with either an angle of attack limiter release or countermeasures. This is further emphasized by its weapon selection. The aircraft does not carry any missiles and instead opts for five different types of guns:
GUN: The standard gun carries 12,000 rounds with a high rate of fire.
CGP: Canister Gun Pod. A shotgun-like pair of cannons that spread shells over a small area. 320 rounds.
MGP-1: Medium Gun Pod. 1200 rounds. A slightly lower rate of fire than the GUN with higher damage output.
HDP: Heavy Gun Pod. 320 rounds. The slowest rate of fire with the highest damage output.
RG: Rail Gun. 30 rounds. The most destructive weapon on the aircraft integrated into the airframe. Has the longest range. Capable of stripping a warship or reinforced land target of defenses in a single shot.
On a battlefield in which guided munitions from land, sea, and air make up at least half of the weapons deployed, players flying Spear choose to hinder themselves in that sense. With no guided weapons on board, the player must use speed, maneuverability, and sound judgment to survive. Slashing attacks are especially effective, fitting of an aircraft named "Spear." The sheer volume of firepower it can deploy within seconds is immensely destructive. Firing both the main gun and any secondary gun pods together can even shred large warships. The boss battle-style dogfights against Ace pilots can be over within minutes if a competent pilot can capitalize on a chance to bring all their cannons onto target.
The rail gun is an exception to this aircraft's need to get in close and is the most suitable weapon for destroying or disabling formidable enemies at safe distances. So long as the pilot has highly accurate control of their aircraft to aim the weapon.
The standard SP-34R combat sortie includes flying at dangerously high speeds and rapidly changing altitudes with a high volume of incoming fire at almost all times. With no guided weaponry on board, only the pilot's skill and control over the aircraft will be the deciding factor in every sortie. This design ignoring the variety of secondary air-to-ground and air-to-air ordinance available in Project Wingman is unexpected. It's a type of flying reserved for World War II or Korean War-era aircraft being applied to a futuristic, presumably 5th or 6th generation fighter. But it also feels like a nod to a vein of the flight arcade community, which prides itself on guns-only campaign runs as a demonstration of masterful piloting even in the face of the overwhelming enemy force. This aircraft is truly for those seeking a new challenge after completing the campaign.
In the past close-range air combat has been described as a knife fight in a phone booth. I doubt anyone was expecting a SP-34R to come flying through the window.
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.