Hardpoint: SOD in Ace Combat

The term "standoff", in reference to military use, indicates the ability to strike a target while keeping the aircraft that launched the weapon outside of the range of the enemy's defensive weaponry. The Stand-Off Dispenser (SOD) is a special weapon that can strike ground and naval targets at mid-range using bomblets or other submunitions. This analysis article presents information about this Ace Combat special weapon, including detailed deployment notes. ​The SOD first appeared in Ace Combat 04 (2001) on the Dassault Rafale M, the only aircraft in that game capable of equipping it. The number of aircraft that could equip the SOD gradually increased and decreased starting with the release of Ace Combat 5 (2004). The highest amount of variants of the SOD was seen in Ace Combat Zero (2006) with six different models of the weapon appearing. ​ ​Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (2011) included an important new visual upgrade, giving it a visible impact area on the Heads-Up Display (HUD). Much like the visual cues for Unguided Bombs (UGB) and Guided Precision Bombs (GPB), a set of circles are displayed on the HUD which show where the bomblets will impact on the surface. ​The introduction of Aircraft Tuning in Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception (2006) would have little to no impact on the SOD until the release of Ace Combat Infinity (2014). The modifications available to the SOD in Infinity were extensive, capable of increasing the dispersal area and overall attack power of the weapon. A new variant of the SOD that could only be carried by strategic bombers, known as the Modified Stand-Off Dispenser (MSOD) was also introduced in Ace Combat Infinity.
​ Weapon Animation The Ace Combat 04 version has the most unique animation for its bomblet dispersal. The missile body of the SOD leaves behind a small contrail while the bomblets, when deployed, hang in mid air for few seconds before glowing orange, then flying downward to the surface. The glow emitted by the bomblets is similar to that of rockets from the Rocket Launcher (RCL) special weapon.  ​

​Starting with Ace Combat 5, its animation was more standardized as it shared the same bomblet explosion effects as the Self-Forging Fragmentation Submunitions (SFFS) and the Bomblet Dispenser (BDSP) special weapons. Clouds of dirt appeared as the bomblets hit the surface. ​​The animation for Ace Combat 5, Ace Combat Zero, Ace Combat X, Ace Combat: Joint Assault (2010), and Ace Combat 3D: Cross Rumble (localised as Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy) (2011) were similar with the weapon's explosion animation being somewhat subdued. In Ace Combat 6 (2007), the SOD received a small animation upgrade making the impacts more visible. A new animation featuring even larger explosions was introduced with Ace Combat: Assault Horizon and was carried over into Ace Combat Infinity and Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown. The new animation also included new Heads-Up Display cues which showed where the bomblets of the weapon would impact on the ground. The video below was created by Armored Core Network to demonstrate the differences between the MSOD and SOD in Ace Combat Infinity. Though the test itself shows the weapons at different levels and is considered flawed by its uploader, the video does show the HUD cues for each weapon clearly. SOD Models AGM-154A JSOW The AGM-154 JSOW (Joint Stand-Off Weapon) is the product of a joint weapons development program between the United States of America Air Force and Navy. The AGM-154A, the first variant of the JSOW, uses over 145 BLU-97 sub-munitions to strike its targets. In Ace Combat, the AGM-154A JSOW is the model frequently seen on American designed aircraft. The MSOD for strategic bombers in Ace Combat Infinity are also JSOWs with improved range, more submunitions and higher accuracy. The size of the MSOD is somewhat larger than the SOD overall. Bombkapsel 90 Also known as the DWS 39 Mjölner, this weapon is manufactured by DaimlerChrysler Aerospace in Germany in a joint project with Sweden. It deploys a classified submunition system which differs from traditional cluster bomb munitions by being able to prevent ordinance from exploding without receiving a specific launch indication. In the real world, this is an important feature following the introduction of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in an effort to reduce civilian casualties caused by unexploded ordnance. In the Ace Combat series, the JAS-39C Gripen uses the BK-90 as their SOD model. MBDA APACHE The APACHE AP is a anti-runway air-launched cruise missile proposed by France in 1983. The Arme Propulsée ÀCharges Éjectables (APACHE) program was to be completed by France and Germany, but the company MBDA finished its development after 1988. APACHE deploys ten KRISS runway penetration submunitions to attack its targets while the body of the missile passes over said targets. ​In the real world, France deploys the SCALP-EG cruise missile, with other nations in Europe and the Middle East deploying the MBDA Storm Shadow. Unlike the MBDA APACHE, the SCALP-EG and MBDA Storm Shadow use a single large warhead rather than submunitions. That being said, the SOD model commonly used for the Dassault Rafale, Tornado GR.4 and Eurofighter in the Ace Combat series would have to be the MBDA APACHE rather than their single warhead counterparts. Unidentified SOD 1 An unidentified standoff missile design. It may be an original design created using common characteristics found on existing standoff missiles in the real world. This model of SOD is used for all compatible aircraft in Ace Combat titles on the PlayStation Portable and Nintendo 3DS. Unidentified SOD 2 An unidentified standoff missile design. It may be an original design created using common characteristics found on existing standoff missiles in the real world. ​​ Unidentified SOD 3 An unidentified standoff missile design. It may be an original design created using common characteristics found on existing standoff missiles in the real world. ​​ Weapon Deployment It’s best to think of the Stand-Off Dispenser as a cross between the Bomblet Dispenser (BDSP) and Long-range Air-to-Surface Missile (LASM). ​The length and width of its effective area varies somewhat between each Ace Combat game, not including any modifications that could be made through Aircraft Tuning. The SOD’s flight path has it fly over the target it was launched at, rather than impacting it directly. Dispersal of the bomblets begins shortly before the weapon passes above its target, then proceeds in a straight line following the flight path it was fired from. ​For the Effective Deployment section of this article, diagrams will be provided to explain basic concepts. The image below explains the symbols shown in these upcoming diagrams: Land Targets ​​The Stand-Off Dispenser is most effective against light and medium armored vehicles such as tanks, armored personnel carriers, anti-aircraft guns, SAM sites and similar units; buildings and non-reinforced structures can also be destroyed relatively easily. When launching the SOD, positioning the aircraft so that the weapon passes over the highest amount of targets is vital in maximizing their effectiveness. Though they do have a guidance system, their ability to handle being fired from high dive angles or from horizontal offset towards a target is not as high as other air-to-ground missiles (XAGM, LASM, LAGM). The SOD will be even more effective if the player lines up with the target and places the aircraft onto an optimal attack course. The diagrams below show examples of attacks against a cluster of land-based targets. Diagram A
An ineffective deployment of the SOD. Using it on a single target is a waste. A single target can be handled by the aircraft's gun or Standard Missiles (MSSL). ​

Diagram B
An effective deployment of the SOD. With the aircraft lined up to strike a row of targets. The targets within the effective range will be destroyed and the target on the right edge of its range will most likely be damaged.
​ Naval Targets ​​The common shape of naval vessels makes them longer than they are wide, which benefits the SOD dispersal area. This makes the SOD an effective anti-ship weapon if deployed correctly. Due to the SOD releasing its bomblets into the ocean there will be no splash damage caused to the ship by bomblets exploding around it. Diagram C and Diagram D further explain SOD anti-ship deployment: Diagram C
To ensure that the SOD inflicts maximum damage against ships, attacking them along their length is most effective. When deployed this way, there is a far higher chance that all of the bomblets will impact and destroy all of the ship’s weapons with the possibility of the bridge being left intact or destroyed, the latter sinking the ship in the process.

Diagram D
Damage can still be caused if fired horizontally, but fewer of the bomblets will impact the ship because the weapon will not fly over the full length of the ship. Horizontal attacks primarily target the center of the ship. Usually, destroying the bridge results in the ship itself sinking. However, the chances of the bridge being destroyed are lessened when attacking the ship horizontally. Terrain Warning
The SOD does not handle mountains or tall hills well. Due to its flight path bringing the weapon close to the ground as it travels, the risk of the SOD impacting terrain is higher than most other guided air-to-surface weaponry. Remember to factor in geography when deploying this special weapon. Altitude and Dive Angle
The altitude and angle that the SOD is released from can affect its dispersal pattern. Launching this special weapon in a steep dive at lower altitudes will cause it to disperse its bomblets in a smaller, more circular area, similar to the SFFS bombs released at low altitude. ​Against Elevated Targets
Elevated targets such as oil platforms and towers may escape damage or only receive minimal damage due to the bomblets having a lower chance of impacting these targets while they free fall to the ground. A majority of the bomblets released by the SOD will miss the target with only the central portion of its effective engagement area having a chance to hit. Rather than waste an SOD on these targets, use of Standard Missiles and the aircraft gun are recommended. 

Against Hardened Targets
Deploying the SOD against hardened targets, such as bunkers, fortresses, and heavily armored ground targets, is not recommended. These targets, that take more than three standard missiles to destroy, would require multiple SODs to destroy them. As this weapon is more effective at destroying groups of targets, firing two or more of them to destroy a single high-value target would be a waste of firepower. Using Standard Missiles and the aircraft gun, alongside no more than one SOD is recommended. Clearing out air defenses around the hardened target will make it easier for Standard Missiles and the aircraft gun to be used. About the Author Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza The Director of Operations for Skyward Flight Media. A lifelong aviation enthusiast with a special interest in flight simulators and games. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating aviation related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He continues to explore past and present flight sims with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. | Twitter | Discord: RibbonBlue#8870

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