Squadron Unleashed, or Squadron Unleashed 2 is a Long War mod by szmind which greatly enhances the air game. In short: multiple ships can engage UFO's, they have two weapons equipped, they can go short/long range at user's request or automatically as defined. Pilots are separated from ships, they gain experience, choose career paths, and gain unique traits. They also get experience outside combat, in the Training Center. Basically, it should have been part of Long War in the first place, and you are missing a lot by not installing it.
You can download and also read some basic documentation here: https://www.nexusmods.com/xcom/mods/809. Current version: 1.08-beta.
It is probably true that the Mod overall gets the air game easier compared to vanilla, as you get multiple ships engaging single UFO, you get two weapons per ship, pilots get more powerful as they level up, and you get more control during the air combat. It is balanced somewhat by UFO's getting bonus Aim for Short range, ships getting Aim penalty for being damaged in combat, Credit costs for pilots (and Training Center, but you can choose to ignore that), pilots getting only +1 Aim per kill, and adding XP requirements for pilots to level up.
The Mod is highly configurable though, so for example setting UFO_HP_MODIFIER_GLOBAL=1.5 should get you roughly the vanilla difficulty.
New Aircraft Weapon
Vulcan Cannon - is available from the start, in an unlimited quantity, has stats of Phoenix Cannon but with only 75% damage and no Armor Penetration. It is a Short range weapon - it can't fire at Long range by default. This weapon is Secondary slot only, it can't fit in the Primary slot. Furthermore it is limited to 12 shots per engagement.
You start the game with 4 Interceptors, already equipped with Avalanche Missiles in the Primary slots and Vulcan Cannons in the Secondary slots, and 4 pilots already assigned to the Interceptors.
After the Mod is properly installed, the Hangar menu appears with 4 items.
View Aircraft List
View and edit all fighter craft owned by XCOM.
This provides access to the management of XCOM air forces (ships). Possible operations:
- Order new Interceptors Delivery time is 3 days, cost is 200 Credits (150 with NA continent bonus). It comes equipped with Avalanche Missiles and Vulcan Cannon, and no pilot assigned initially.
- Distribution of your ships by continent There are 5 continents, each of which can have up to 6 ships. You can also transfer ships under repair, but those on rearmament cannot be moved. Transferring a ship from one continent to another takes 36 hours.
- Selecting a specific ship opens its menu, in which you can:
- View performance characteristic of the ship's equipped Primary and Secondary weapon, and the ship itself.
- Re-equip both Primary and Secondary weapon - note that you cannot remove a weapon - all ships are always equipped with two weapons. Equipping Avalanche or Stingray Missiles takes 12 hours, Vulcan Cannon 6 hours, other weapons take 7 days to equip.
- Dismiss Ship - beware that the installed weapons disappear, but the pilot will just become unassigned. You should probably never do that.
- Change Pilot - you can assign new pilot from the Pilot Roster to the ship, or you can Remove the pilot from the ship. Note there is no rename option: ships have no names, only pilots do. All ships with no assigned pilot are just referred to as --NO PILOT ASSIGNED--.
View Pilot Roster
Manage your pilots, assign career paths, transfer between continents.
This is a list of your pilots, independent of your ships. Note there is a monthly costs of your pilots displayed in the upper part (by default each pilot costs 1 Credit per month) - this cost is NOT displayed in the View XCOM Finances menu. Possible operations:
- Order new Pilot New pilot appears immediately, but starts working after 24 hours. The cost for hiring 1 pilot is 10 Credits (configurable). The new pilot starts at level 0 (F.O.) with zero experience and kills, and has no ship assigned.
- Distribution of your pilots by continent There are 5 continents, each of which can have up to 10 pilots (configurable). Transferring a pilot from one continent to another takes 24 hours. Note that if you transfer a pilot which is assigned to a ship, he is first unassigned and then transferred, leaving the ship with no pilot assigned.
- Selecting a specific pilot opens its menu, in which you can:
- View the pilot's current stats, such as days of service, number of interceptions, total interception time, kills, experience, chosen career (at the top), current bonuses to Aim, Defense, Damage, Squadron Size (the number of ships he can command), Squadron Aim, Squadron Defense, and his Traits and their limitations if any.
- Rename the Pilot. The 4 initial pilots are named RAVEN-1 to RAVEN-4. After first rename, they gain real names such as "Serrano" Peppers. You can also create custom names for pilots just like for soldiers. New pilots get real names automatically. It would be a good practice to rename the 4 initial pilots immediately.
- Change Career. As pilots gain experience and UFO kills, they earn levels (level 0=F.O., level 1=Lt, level 2=Cpt, 3=Maj, 4=Col, 5=Cmdr). From the Lieutenant level, their air combat skills differ based on chosen career. Pilots can choose to pursue one of the three different careers: ACE, GUNNER, or LEADER. ACE is the default career. Each career focuses on different aspect of air combat: ACE focuses on Aim and Defense, GUNNER on Aim and Damage, and LEADER on Aim and Defense of the whole squadron, and squadron Size. Changing a career at Lieutenant level or later is possible, but it will mean the pilot will be unavailable for 7 days plus 7 days per level already obtained. More details on careers later.
- Dismiss Pilot - Simply removes the pilot from the roster, saving 1 Credit per month. You should probably never do that.
Air Force HQ - Combat Tactic
Adjust combat tactics.
Here you just define how the ships behave in air combat, based on selected stance (Aggressive, Balanced, Defensive) as selected before each air engagement.
Auto-back off, Auto-abort. By default, ships will Auto-back off at 67/50/25 (DEF/BAL/AGG) percent of their HP. Backing-off means going Long range if the ship was Short range. Now this is ill-advised if the equipped weapon is Short. See later Short vs Long range discussion. Ships will Auto-abort (disengage from combat) at 33%/25%/10% of HP (DEF/BAL/AGG). You can define any values here, my recommendation is being a little more cautious, as well as to just abort instead of backing off: DEF: 40 BAL: 30 AGG: 20.
Start Combat Close. This means go Short range immediately at the start of combat. It is by default ON for AGG and BAL stances. Now this should definitely depend on equipped weapons DPS, not stance. Fortunately in 1.08, you can choose starting distance before engagement. This setting might get removed in future versions of Squadron Unleashed, when the Auto-behavior would depend on DPS, not stance. I recommend to turn this OFF for all stances, if you value your ships, as UFOs always prefer ships at Short range as their targets and even have a big bonus to hitting your Short range ships.
Air Force HQ - Training Guidelines
Adjust training guidelines.
Here you define the Training Center parameters. It has 4 parameters:
- Training Cycle XP Bonus defines how many XP does a pilot gain per training cycle spent in the Training Center.
- Training Cycle Duration defines how long in days the training cycle lasts.
- Training Center Capacity defines how many pilots can train simultaneously.
- Upper Limit of XP defines the upper XP limit a pilot can be trained to. For example, if the limit is 200 XP, bonus is 20 XP and the pilot already has 190 XP, he can train but will only gain 10 XP at the end (up to the limit) instead of 20 XP.
The first two parameters are defined by Training Programs; Training Facilities determine the Capacity, and finally Training Staff determines the XP Limit. Increasing Training Programs (level 0-4) cost Credits, increasing Training Facilities (level 0-5) costs both Credits and monthly Credits, increasing Training Staff (level 0-5) costs only monthly Credits. This can also be downgraded to save on monthly costs. Note that the total monthly Credit costs is displayed in the View XCOM Finances menu next to the Hangar item (the first item in the list).
|TRAINING CENTER||Level||Upgrade Cost||Monthly Cost||XP Bonus||Duration||Capacity||XP Limit|
It is best to do any changes to the Training Center in the last day of a month, since all changes are applied only from the beginning of the next month. Also note that any ongoing training cycle uses old levels even in the new month. Only new training cycles in the new month use the new levels.
Sign-up pilots for additional training when idle.
Here you finally sign-up pilots for training. Pilots on training can engage in air combat normally, their training will just be paused. Their training is also paused when they recover after combat (by default 1 hour only), when they are on transfer to another continent, or when they are injured.
You can remove pilots from training, but no XP is then gained. Usually there is no reason to do so.
Before Air Combat
On UFO Contact Screen, you can choose which ship or ships would engage the UFO. If the selected ship has no pilot assigned, you are given a choice to assign a pilot, otherwise the ship cannot be used. The maximum number of ships for current engagement is defined by the best Squadron Size parameter of selected pilots.
There are 3 buttons on a ship card:
- Stance: DEF, BAL, AGG. As in vanilla Long War, this defines whether the ship prioritizes UFO destruction (AGG) or safety (DEF). Basically, DEF means -15 Aim but +20% Dodge (20% chance to change hit into miss), AGG means +15 Aim but 25% chance to change miss into hit (recommended to change to this to 20% in the configuration (AGG_JET_FORCE_HIT_CHANCE) to keep symmetry). Stances have also defined maximum hit chance that can ever be achieved - this is 75%/85%/95% DEF/BAL/AGG.
- Weapons used. Use both, only Primary, or only Secondary. Well, the author says that disabling a weapon might lead to longer engagement leading to more XP, or that disabling high damage weapon would increase the chance of UFO not being destroyed but shot down, or that by going EMP Cannon only means less alien artifacts will be destroyed. While all this is true, the main goal in every engagement is to outgun and destroy the UFO as fast as possible while suffering ideally no damage to your ships. So you should definitely always use both your weapons, no exceptions.
- Distance. Select the ship's starting distance. Can be Short, Long, or Auto. Auto currently (1.08) gets the distance from stance configuration in the HQ, but it would set it according to DPS in future versions.
Ship type, equipped weapons, stance, and Defense stat all contribute to the ship's Aggro stat, which is also displayed on the ship's card, next to ship's other stats like DPS, Aim, Defense. How exactly is Aggro computed is explained in the documentation and tutorials. The UFO will target a ship that is close (=Short range), then one with highest Aggro.
One of the pilots in the squadron may be designed as Leader, indicated by a golden star. This pilot then provides bonuses to Aim, Defense, and possibly also contact time to the whole squadron. If you select another pilot who can provide better bonuses, then this pilot will become the new Leader. However, even without a designated Leader, the squadron works just fine, only there will be no squadron bonuses. Unlike Squadron Unleashed 1, the UFO will not target the Leader particularly, as it has other preferences (distance and Aggro). If the Leader aborts or is shot down though, the bonuses are lost. Note that despite there may be another pilot who allows for bigger squadron size, the Leader will be the one who provides best squadron bonuses.
UFO also picks a stance, randomly. You are informed about the UFO's stance on UFO Contact Screen, along with other UFO information (size, type, altitude, etc.) Aggressive UFO is more dangerous - expect higher than normal risk of getting damaged. It increases the engagement time by 50%. Defensive UFO has lower damage potential but is also harder to shoot down. The engagement time is reduced by 33%.
After everything is set, press the Launch Fighter(s) button to start engagement.
During Air Combat
In vanilla Long War, the only thing you can do during Air Combat is to use Modules or Abort the engagement entirely.
In Squadron Unleashed 2, you can also manage the ship's distance. Select the ship by clicking it, then double click to change distance from Long to Short or vice versa. Alternatively, use Up/Down keys to select ship then Left/Right keys to change distance. Ships will also change distance automatically (basically just go Long) based on the settings in Combat Tactics. Space or Enter keys abort. Aborting is valid for the active ship only; the engagement continues until either party is destroyed/shot down or if all ships aborted. Modules are used by all ships.
If a ship is shot down by the UFO, it is destroyed together with both its weapons. However, the pilot can survive. The chance is 50% at F.O. +5% for each pilot level, but Cmdrs survive always. If the pilot survives, there is another 50% chance that he will be injured - thus unavailable for both training and combat - for 14 days.
Generally you should avoid losing you ships, especially if equipped with expensive weapons. It is always better to Abort the engagement and let the UFO go, than risk losing your ship. Beware that especially large UFO's can critically hit and almost one-shot your Interceptors, so losing one is sometimes unavoidable.
In Squadron Unleashed, by default all air weapons are hugely rebalanced. They get somewhat random bonuses or penalties by going Short or Long distance, can fit to only Primary or only Secondary weapon slot, or have limited ammo.
Long vs Short Distance
In vanilla Long War, you have no control over the distance, as it plays almost no role there. It is selected automatically based on the equipped weapon.
- Short Range Weapons are: Vulcan Cannon, Phoenix Cannon, Laser Cannon, EMP Cannon.
- Long Range Weapons are: Avalanche Missiles, Stingray Missiles, Plasma Cannon, Fusion Lance.
- UFO Weapons do equally well at both ranges.
Now distance is of critical importance in Squadron Unleashed. By default, UFO's get huge +20 Aim bonus toward Short range ships, making Short range weapons severely disadvantaged. Not only that, but also the fact that Short range weapons cannot shoot Long range at all (hardcoded), while Long range weapons can always shoot Short: they either get a penalty to Aim or sometimes even a bonus Aim. With the default setup, you might quite often see your ships playing sitting ducks not shooting at all, just taking damage. You don't want this to happen at all. I think the weapons are pretty well balanced in vanilla LW - no need for such drastic changes.
Thus I recommend to change the defaults, so that all weapons are defined as Long range, making sure they can fire. Short range weapons will get -15 Aim penalty at Long range though, and similarly Long range weapons will get that penalty for going Short. Now you can manually go Short with Short range weapons, or even turn on the Start Close option for all stances.
For Vulcan Cannon though, as it was added and it will never be the only weapon, let's make an exception and leave it as the only "truly" Short range, so it doesn't help the Long range starting missiles - but the player can decide to go Short to see the Vulcan Cannon in action.
iAimMod is an Aim modifier under all circumstances. iAimModClose is Aim modifier when the ship is Short range. So at Short range, these bonuses stack.
In the recommended settings, basically all weapons Aim remains vanilla LW, with -15 Aim penalty for going the wrong distance. Thus all Short range weapons get iAimMod=-15 and iAimModClose=15, meaning they get -15 Aim penalty at Long range and no change at Short range. Long range weapons except Fusion Lance get iAimMod=0 and iAimModClose=-15, meaning they get no change at Long range and -15 Aim penalty at Short range. The exception is Fusion Lance, which gets no penalty at Short range (but no +20 bonus!), which feels right, as it is rare late game powerful weapon. UFO's don't get +20 Aim bonus towards Short range ships, but just +5. It can surely even be 0, but since they always prefer Short range ships, they thus probably deserve a small bonus there, though surely not +20.
Primary vs Secondary
In the default settings, some weapons fit only Primary slot, while others fit only Secondary slot, with the exception of Plasma Cannon, which fits both slots. There is no reason for such restrictions, with some exceptions:
- The Vulcan Cannon is hard-coded for Secondary slot only.
- The starting Avalanche and Stingray Missiles should go to Primary slot only, otherwise the Vulcan Cannon would serve no purpose - why not go double Avalanche then? The early game would then be unbalanced.
- The Fusion Lance is Primary only; it's a very late game and also very rare weapon which would be a waste to fit into Secondary slot and also way too powerful to fit both. It is so large that a ship - Firestorm only - can only carry one such weapon, that makes sense.
- All other weapons should fit both slots, as there is no reason for them not to.
There are two configuration parameters worth mentioning here: XCOM_DMG_MODIFIER_GLOBAL and SECONDARY_WPN_DMG_MOD. As now all weapons can fit Primary slot (except the added Vulcan), the Secondary slot can be thought as simply unnecessary additional weapon, doing only half damage. You may as well leave the Vulcan Cannon there for the whole game for all ships not using the Secondary slot at all. Or use it only when you can afford it. The advantage is, you can then go Long/Short range depending solely on the Primary slot. After all, the weapons are quite expensive for all ships to have two. To balance this out, we leave the global modifier at 1.
So, you can run out of ammo now. Then what? One would expect an automatic Abort, so the ship is not a sitting duck. We really don't want that. But no, we get a sitting duck. I think the concept of air weapons ammo is really an unnecessary addition. Now some weapons have limited ammo, some unlimited. The weapons were already well balanced, we don't want to unbalance them further with ammo. So all ammo to unlimited, right?
Let's make an exception for Vulcan Cannon though, as it's not present in vanilla, it's never the only weapon equipped, so we can live with its 12 ammo.
Recommended Config Settings
So here is the recommended weapons table. You can copy-paste it to your config file (DefaultSquadronUnleashed.ini).
;Vulcan Cannon: short range - will NEVER fit primary slot (ignores bPrimary setting) - this is hardcoded to avoid CTDs and overall bugs with "none" primary weapon ShipWeapons=(iWeaponType=0, bPrimary=FALSE, bSecondary=TRUE, bClose=true, iAmmo=12, RearmHours=6, iAimMod=0, iAimModClose=0, iCritChanceMod=0, fDmgMod=0.0, iDmgMod=0, fCritDmgMod=0.0, iCritDmgMod=0) ;Phoenix: short range ShipWeapons=(iWeaponType=1, bPrimary=TRUE, bSecondary=TRUE, bClose=false, iAmmo=-1, RearmHours=0, iAimMod=-15, iAimModClose=15, iCritChanceMod=0, fDmgMod=0.0, iDmgMod=0, fCritDmgMod=0.0, iCritDmgMod=0) ;Stingray: long range ShipWeapons=(iWeaponType=2, bPrimary=TRUE, bSecondary=FALSE, bClose=false, iAmmo=-1, RearmHours=12, iAimMod=0, iAimModClose=-15, iCritChanceMod=0, fDmgMod=0.0, iDmgMod=0, fCritDmgMod=0.0, iCritDmgMod=0) ;Avalanche: long range - will ALWAYS fit primary slot (ignores bPrimary setting) - this is hardcoded cause new ships have this as starting weapon ShipWeapons=(iWeaponType=3, bPrimary=TRUE, bSecondary=FALSE, bClose=false, iAmmo=-1, RearmHours=12, iAimMod=0, iAimModClose=-15, iCritChanceMod=0, fDmgMod=0.0, iDmgMod=0, fCritDmgMod=0.0, iCritDmgMod=0) ;Laser: short range ShipWeapons=(iWeaponType=4, bPrimary=TRUE, bSecondary=TRUE, bClose=false, iAmmo=-1, RearmHours=0, iAimMod=-15, iAimModClose=15, iCritChanceMod=0, fDmgMod=0.0, iDmgMod=0, fCritDmgMod=0.0, iCritDmgMod=0) ;Plasma: long range ShipWeapons=(iWeaponType=5, bPrimary=TRUE, bSecondary=TRUE, bClose=false, iAmmo=-1, RearmHours=0, iAimMod=0, iAimModClose=-15, iCritChanceMod=0, fDmgMod=0.0, iDmgMod=0, fCritDmgMod=0.0, iCritDmgMod=0) ;EMP: short range ShipWeapons=(iWeaponType=6, bPrimary=TRUE, bSecondary=TRUE, bClose=false, iAmmo=-1, RearmHours=0, iAimMod=-15, iAimModClose=15, iCritChanceMod=0, fDmgMod=0.0, iDmgMod=0, fCritDmgMod=0.0, iCritDmgMod=0) ;Fusion: both ranges ShipWeapons=(iWeaponType=7, bPrimary=TRUE, bSecondary=FALSE, bClose=false, iAmmo=-1, RearmHours=0, iAimMod=0, iAimModClose=0, iCritChanceMod=0, fDmgMod=0.0, iDmgMod=0, fCritDmgMod=0.0, iCritDmgMod=0) ;UFO Plasma I ShipWeapons=(iWeaponType=8, bPrimary=FALSE, bSecondary=FALSE, bClose=false, iAmmo=-1, RearmHours=0, iAimMod=0, iAimModClose=5, iCritChanceMod=0, fDmgMod=0.0, iDmgMod=0, fCritDmgMod=0.0, iCritDmgMod=0) ;UFO Plasma II ShipWeapons=(iWeaponType=9, bPrimary=FALSE, bSecondary=FALSE, bClose=false, iAmmo=-1, RearmHours=0, iAimMod=0, iAimModClose=5, iCritChanceMod=0, fDmgMod=0.0, iDmgMod=0, fCritDmgMod=0.0, iCritDmgMod=0) ;UFO_Fusion ShipWeapons=(iWeaponType=10, bPrimary=FALSE, bSecondary=FALSE, bClose=false, iAmmo=-1, RearmHours=0, iAimMod=0, iAimModClose=5, iCritChanceMod=0, fDmgMod=0.0, iDmgMod=0, fCritDmgMod=0.0, iCritDmgMod=0)
Career means different bonuses as pilots gain levels. They are detailed in the following table. To get a level, the pilot must gain both the required XP and kills. There are 3 careers defined: ACE, GUNNER, and LEADER. Though careers can be changed, it is best to choose the pilot's career at F.O. level and leave it at that for the entire game.
|Career||Title||XP Req.||Kills Req.||+Aim||+Def||+Damage||Sq.Size||+Sq.Aim||+Sq.Def||Trait|
To compensate for these bonuses, pilots only get +1 Aim per kill (down from +3) with a +20 Aim maximum (down from +30).
Traits are unique bonuses pilots gain at Captain and Commander levels, depending on chosen career. The two traits stack - the combined bonuses are displayed in the table. By default, certain traits are very powerful, but with many complicated limitations.
|Maverick||+20 Dodge, +10 Def||Firestorm, DEF stance|
|GUNNER||Slash||+20% Crit Dmg||none|
|Hammer||+40% Crit Dmg, +20% Crit Chance||Firestorm, AGG stance|
|LEADER||Maestro||+5s contact time||none|
|Wingman||+10s contact time, +5 Sq.Aim, +5 Sq.Def||Firestorm, BAL stance|
Just copy-paste this trait table into your config file to have cleanly defined and only moderately powerful traits, as in the above table.
;career ACE ;NINJA - gains extra +10 dodge (stacks with DEF_JET_DODGE_CHANCE) m_PilotTraits=(iTraitType=2, iBonusDodge=10) m_TraitReqs=(iTraitType=2) ;MAVERICK - requires FIRESTORM and DEF tactic: gains +10 def and +10 dodge (for a total +20 dodge) m_PilotTraits=(iTraitType=4, iBonusDef=10, iBonusDodge=10) m_TraitReqs=(iTraitType=4, bFireStorm=TRUE, iTactic=2) ;career GUNNER ;SLASH - gains +20% crit dmg m_PilotTraits=(iTraitType=1, iBonusCritDmgPct=20) m_TraitReqs=(iTraitType=1) ;HAMMER - requires FIRESTORM and AGG tactic: grants +20% crit chance and +20% crit dmg (for a total +40% crit dmg) m_PilotTraits=(iTraitType=6, iBonusCritChance=20, iBonusCritDmgPct=20) m_TraitReqs=(iTraitType=6, bFireStorm=TRUE, iTactic=1) ;career LEADER ;MAESTRO - gives +5s contact time always m_PilotTraits=(iTraitType=3, iBonusTime=5) m_TraitReqs=(iTraitType=3) ;WINGMAN - requires FIRESTORM and BAL tactic: grants +5s contact time (for a total +10s contact time), extra +5 aim and +5 def for the squadron m_PilotTraits=(iTraitType=5, iBonusTime=5, iBonusTeamAim=5, iBonusTeamDef=5) m_TraitReqs=(iTraitType=5, bFireStorm=TRUE, iTactic=0)
Other Config Changes
;VulcanCannon=(eType=eShipWeapon_None, iDamage=45, iArmorPen=0, iToHit=25, iAvionicsBonus=10, iCooldown=40)
Don't forget to comment out this line. The default setting (Phoenix Cannon stats but with 0 ArmorPen and 75% of Phoenix' damage) is just much better.
This allows for longer battles with less damage to both ships and UFO.
Slow the battles down so you can actually influence anything during them.
To keep symmetry with DEF_JET_DODGE_CHANCE. These is no reason for this to be higher. Then we also get the lone bullets back.
AGG_UFO_AIM_BONUS=15 AGG_UFO_SPEED_DOWN=0.67 AGG_UFO_FIRERATE_BOOST=1.0
To keep things rather symmetric. The double fire rate for AGG UFO is just too much, causing you to ignore all such UFOs.
LONE_BULLET_CHANCE_BAL=10 LONE_BULLET_CHANCE_AGG=20 LONE_BULLET_DMG_MOD=0.5
The lone bullet mechanic was abandoned from Squadron Unleashed 1. I like it back, however toned down, to balance things out. So now AGG/BAL ships have 20%/10% chance to be hit by a missed UFO shot for 50% damage. I believe only 1 ship could be hit like that.
15 is little too much. There is no reason to make battles against large UFO so much easier compared to vanilla LW.
This is not to add damage (0.0001 is nothing), but for display purposes. So 1 kill gets displayed as +1% dmg, not 0.
With 25 Aim penalty, damaged ships are basically unusable. If ships damaged during combat also get this penalty, it should definitely not be that high. 15 is just the standard bonus/penalty, so we keep it simple here.
Make sure to set this to 1 to avoid any bugs.
Makes it more realistic. Pilots needs some rest after combat.
Losing experienced pilots is very painful. This translates to 100% survival at Cmdr.
XP_PER_ENGAGMEMENT_SECOND=1 XP_FOR_KILL_SHOT=50 XP_FOR_WIN=20 XP_FOR_HIT=5
With the default settings, often the kills was the harder to achieve requirement for a pilot level-up. So probably toning down the XP gains is the way to go, making sure the pilots don't level up too quickly. Also making sure the Training Center investments serve any purpose at all. The XP_FOR_HIT benefits low damage rapid firing weapons, but then the Vulcan Cannon is almost always equipped anyway.