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OK! Well past time to theorize on the capabilities of X-Com's air force. The Interceptor, the fastest thing humans can build in X-Com's 1998, has a maximum speed of "2100".

EDIT: The very intelligent Dumas has cleared up my confusion over the "nautical mile", which is the unit of distance a "knot" measures. A vessel traveling at 1 knot along a meridian, covers one sixtieth of a degree geographic latitude in one hour - that is, one nautical mile per hour. A nautical mile is 1,852 meters, 1.150779 English miles, or 6,076.1155 feet.

In dry air with a temperature of 21 °C (70 °F) the speed of sound is 1230 kilometers per hour, 770 miles per hour or 1130 feet per second. Thus, Mach 1 is roughly 669 knots.

Thus, in knots, the Mach numbers of your craft in X-Com: UFO Defense would be;

Craft Speed(knots) Speed(Mach)

UFO Speed(knots) Speed(Mach)
Small Scout22003.1
Medium Scout24003.6
Large Scout27003.9
Supply Ship32004.6
Terror Ship48007.2

Half my original totals. Hideously inflated indeed. But still the kind of thing I want to see in the next "alien invasion" blockbuster. Though those "Dual Pulse Detonation Engines" still make me wonder - those are supposed to be hypersonic. --Kalaong 13:58 29 March 2008

Pulse Detonation Engines can have another propose rather than hypersonic speed: efficiency in burning the fuel. Their proposed applications usually refer to their possible use in hypersonic secret aircraft but it is possible that the PDEs are simply used to increase efficiency in fuel comsumption, thus increasing range and loitering time Hobbes 12:25, 29 March 2008 (PDT)
Which would explain the insane operational ranges of both the Interceptor and Skyranger. Great point. --Kalaong 16:09 29 March 2008

Tempting as it is to say you know nothing about anything, I'm just going to say that you have a hideously inflated idea of how fast these craft should be. The [Blackbird] was pretty much designed purely for speed at very high altitude (80000 feet in round numbers). At that altitude,the speed of sound is much much lower than at sea level (Density and temperature effects) and its absolute speed was around 1900 knots.

Since the knot or nautical mile is rather longer than a statute or land mile, a speed expressed in knots is 'lower' than that speed expressed in mph. The speed of sound is closer to 669 knots than 2100. So even taking the Interceptor's listed speed as being in knots, it is faster than the Blackbird and the Skyranger is supersonic.

In any case, if we want to get away from the game's arbitrary units, the best method is to time various craft as they fly between two given points separated by a well-known distance. Say, crossing the USA from east to west at given latitude.--Dumas 20:34, 28 March 2008 (PDT)

I get all of my numbers from Wikipedia. But the description of nautical miles seems to have thrown me - not just a different unit of measure, but also a different unit being measured. And what do you mean "hideously" inflated? There's maybe one X-Com base per continent, yet interceptors chase UFOs clear across the planet. Hypersonic speeds seem to be the best way to define that kind of maneuvering - at the very least. Anyway, keep talking. Constructive criticism is why I started this discussion - I'm just a geek punching keys, and I wanted to visualize the kind of craziness these dogfights would be. --Kalaong 0:16, 29 March 2008 (EST)

The nautical mile is defined as 1852 meters, or one minute of latitude along any meridian (neglecting the funky shape of the Earth). A statute mile is somewhere around 1600 meters. For reference, moving at 2100 knots gets you about 35 degrees of latitude an hour flying north/south, which is rather more than a third of the distance from either pole to the equator.

You seem to be conflating speed and range. Sure, interceptors can go halfway around the Earth, but how quickly are they doing it? Unless we time a few of the buggers, this is just going in circles. The Skyranger takes hours to get anywhere and even the Avenger takes a while to get from, say, somewhere in China to Indonesia.

Edit: Just timed a couple short flights. A Firestorm takes one hour and fifteen minutes of game time to fly from Equator to Pole (I have a base in Africa that's close to the Equator). An Avenger makes the trip in one hour. 90 degrees of latitude (Equator to Pole) is 5400 knots, so I think that taking the craft speeds as being listed in knots is correct.--Dumas 23:02, 28 March 2008 (PDT)

Better if you make a separate page discussing the real-life issues regarding X-COM's craft than to be adding/changing measure units to the craft's pages. Since the original game does not mention anything regarding which measure applies, extrapolating into reality should be kept separately, otherwise you're adding things to the original game. And my 2c for this discussion: Dumas's in game observations regarding the equator to pole travel time pretty much resolve the issue of which measure should be used. The fun thing is to try to figure out why X-COM would use subsonic interceptors. Several points could be made: dogfighting takes place at subsonic speeds, supersonic burns a lot of fuel (decreasing range), etc. Hobbes 07:18, 29 March 2008 (PDT)
Dumas, now that you've explained the concept of a "nautical mile", I just realized that using knots to define craft speed allows them to be mapped right onto the Geoscape, so it makes even more sense. Equator to pole in an hour - passenger jets take fifteen to get from LA to Hong Kong! I still think some mach numbers would be neat though - everyone has a good mental image of superjets trailing sonic booms. Hobbes, I've linked this page to the Realistic Equivalents page. And as for dogfights taking place at supersonic speeds? I direct you to the book "Speed is Life, More is Better" By John M. Scanlan. --Kalaong 13:19 29 March 2008
I mentioned dogfights, not air to air combat in general. Quoting from the Wikipedia's article: (...)Superiority in a dog fight can depend on a pilot's experience and skill, and the agility of his fighter when flown at minimum air speeds approaching loss of control (causing a danger of stalling)(...)Dogfights are generally contests fought at low airspeeds, while maintaining enough energy for violent acrobatic maneuvering, as pilots attempt to remain within air speeds with a maximum turn rate and minimum turn radius: the so-called "corner speed" that often lies between 300 and 400 knots, depending on conditions(...) Interceptors and UFOs don't actually engage in actual 'dogfights' since they simply fire at a distance in the game but my mention to it was merely a hypothesis to justify why the Interceptors are slow (i.e. they were designed with an emphasis on maneuvering rather than speed because it was previously thought that most air to air combat regarding UFOs would consist of dogfights, but operations revealed otherwise - a classic case of pre-war expectations by planners not corresponding to reality. Hobbes 12:15, 29 March 2008 (PDT)
Oh, MAN this is cool. Glad I started this up. OK, back to it. The Kiryu-Kai's failed attempts to capture UFOs should have given everyone involved a hint of what they were dealing with. You seem about as sharp as a Vibro Blade, so I'll get right to what I was hoping to find out in this discussion. All anyone gets in the game when they send an interceptor after a UFO is some cool theme music and a few windows.
What do you think the air-to-air engagements in X-Com: UFO Defense would be like IRL? Total otaku here - I was visualizing crazy hypersonic dogfights that can span continents; the human pilots sweating and grunting under multiple Gs, the UFOs making right-angle evasions with their gravity drives. In your opinion, what would an UFO interception be like? --Kalaong 16:09 29 March 2008
One factor crucial to figuring that one out is to determine first the maneuverability of the UFOs. The anti-gravity proporties of their Elerium engines allow them not to be impeded by factors such as the atmospheric pressure or the need to counteract the gravity's effect like jets do. Taking a bit of physics into account, what causes their movement and how it is controlled. From the game there isn't much to imply that UFOs are capable of changing the course 180º all of a sudden with no care for inertia and momentum, simply that they are capable of high-speed accelerations when attacked by a human craft. Instead, they just fly to their target areas and when attacked never move to engage/approach the attacker. This could also lead into a discussion of if they consider human craft nothing more than a nuisance and inconsequential for their grand strategy, but that's another discussion.
If they were capable of that unrestricted movement it would be easy for them to avoid any shots fired by human craft, since they would be most likely be able of outmaneuvering anything human fired at them. In that case, no interceptions would be possible, which is not the case. Assuming that the shoot down of an UFO affects their operations (enough for a Battleship to be sent after it happens a few times) to be hardly considered a trivial matter and the UFO crews likely orders only to respond an attack if it the human craft is in range (from seen in the game) then the initial phase of the engagement is pretty much what happens:
Human craft moves to reach weapons range and engage, UFO only fires back when it's in range. Then battle is pretty much reduced to a BVR fight, although if it were at hypersonic speeds the human missiles might have a hard time catching a retreating UFO. If both craft aren't shot down, them there would be a dogfight, but the speeds would be greatly reduced.
If you wanna have an idea, I wrote one such fight in my X-COM faction, you can read it here. It's the entry for April 7th - Hobbes 13:43, 29 March 2008 (PDT)
Lots of conspiracy lore says UFOs are supersonic at least, and regularly make right-angle turns at speed. I imagined that Interceptors would develop something similar to Age of Sail tactics("Near, near, near, far, bracket!")- hitting something that can corner like that would be impossible unless you force them into a shot. And you've gotta do it without getting hit yourself.
As for the scene; really cool, but I'm reminded of something I read somewhere, what was it... "Instants of terror separated by long periods of boredom". You spend a lot of time chasing the target, but the engagements themselves last seconds. --Kalaong 18:08 29 March 2008

After thinking about it, I suspect that the UFOs have really really lousy radar systems. They hardly even respond to your presence. In fact, a Terror Ship will confidently allow any X-com craft to blast away at it with Plasma Cannons until it is forced to crash land, without even considering the possibility of retreat. No, scratch that, I've got it. The UFOs are preprogrammed before they even leave Cydonia. The crew of the ship are unable to reprogram the computers at short notice, they can only do so if you interrupt a landed ship.

As for dogfights... It has been stated that dogfighting is getting more and more rare, as weapon ranges continue to improve. In any case, the UFOs themselves seem to be pretty much sitting ducks, and I am now imagining the little sectoid leaders screaming at the navigators and engineers as their ship refuses to budge from it's preset course, and my Plasma Cannons are steadily turning it into Swiss Cheese.

X-com would be in a LOT of trouble if the Alien ships could dogfight... it would render Avalanche missiles much weaker, as an enemy ship would just close into point blank range... or worse, the aliens just RAM all X-com craft. That would end X-com's interception efforts pretty swiftly... Jasonred

Please sign your posts! But yes, that's a good thought. Even X-COM dogfights start pretty far away. Most of the weapons have ranges in double-digit kilometers, which is a fair bit of range. It's also possible that the aliens don't consider X-COM a major threat worth jeopardizing the mission for in an aerial dogfight. Arrow Quivershaft 22:48, 26 February 2009 (CST)

I sometimes forget... anyhow, fanfics might make the dogfights sound glorious and exciting, but in actual gameplay, 95% of the interceptions consist of the UFO just sitting there and letting X-com craft pummel it like a helpless punching bag until it crashes. The aliens would have to be EXTREMELY cocky and stupid to let this happen to their ships over and over again on a regular basis... Tried writing a fanfic which was "pure" and "true" to an actual X-com game... the actual intercept missions really threw me for a loop, as the fight sequence consisted of "Captain Johnson cautiously moved into Plasma Cannon range and let off a volley. It hit, doing considerable damage to the UFO, which just sat there. He let off a second volley, which missed. The UFO continued to ignore his craft. The captain continued firing and the UFO continued to ignore him, until it took too much damage and crash landed, without even firing off a single shot" "I thought you said these things were FAST?" "They are VERY fast" "So why didn't it at least try to escape?" "... I don't know... some sneaky alien strategy maybe?" In the end, the only explanation I could come up with was that it wasn't that the aliens didn't WANT to respond... it was that they COULDN'T respond. Jasonred

Good points. Of course, early on, the aliens can fry your craft(Battleships can one-shot interceptors if they're lucky, as I recall). Arrow Quivershaft 23:44, 26 February 2009 (CST)
They may not be completely helpless, but perhaps had very intricately designed a system that they assumed we'd never take advantage of. They may be used to races that aren't nearly as intelligent as they are, mercilessly harvesting them for food and research, and taking their land and resources without a real fight. Perhaps their Mars base is coordinating everything, because the central "overmind" has all of the pertinent information stored in one small area where it can be accessed quickly, and complex strategies can be developed in mere hours. The weakness here is that any craft which have a sudden change of plans (such as getting attacked) may have to make spot decisions. They seem capable of making fairly quick decisions, often they will play tag with your interceptors for a long time. I get the impression that they just think differently than we do, and have different values perhaps. Maybe the craft and personnel are considered expendable, while the mission is of utmost importance. That would explain why craft seem more apt to try to escape when their mission involves flying; however when they are about to land, they pretty much ignore your presence. I'll bet they simply weren't prepared for retaliation when they left home, and so now they have no choice but to allow some casualties because they have no idea what to do in this situation. Also take into consideration that we react based on our biological instincts combined with a lifetime spent learning from the wisdom of millions of people before us who would show us what to do in similar situations. If the aliens have never fought war the way we do, they may be like infants with technology. Re-customizing their strategy has to start from the very basics: figuring out WHAT we're doing and WHY it's working.
Another thing that they may not have expected is the extent of our technology. Of course they bring in powerful armor and weapons; they have it sitting around, so better safe than sorry, no matter how much they don't expect us to have any real offense anyway. But I think if they had expected us to be able to attack them with incredible destructive force accurately from distances in excess of 50km, they probably would have brought different equipment. I'm willing to bet that when they put 35+km range plasma beams on their craft, they figured it would never be used, and they only put one that powerful on it because they had those to spare. And of course, they do have warships. That was probably their worst-case scenario contingency plan: have some warships hiding back at base juuuuuuust in case. I mean it's not like they can afford to lose, right? But what could go wrong, anyway? The last they checked, we were so busy throwing rocks and explosive chemicals at each other that they could accidentally be seen by us and we'd try to forget it ever happened. From their perspective, it may not have been apparent that our warfare technology was improving at a fantastic rate. Perhaps their society evolved in a completely different THEY weren't prepared for US. The Reaver of Darkness 16:47, 8 July 2010 (CST)