Air Combat (Long War)
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UFOs are tougher, faster, and much deadlier in Long War. Along with that, your crafts and armaments are significantly less potent, at least at first. You' will need to cycle your craft regularly like your soldiers. UFO kills will grant experience to your pilots and provide a bonus to accuracy. Your pilots will learn UFO flight patterns and movements and therefore will become much better at shooting down alien craft. Interceptor experience provides +3% to hit per kill (up to + 30%) and +1% damage per kill (with no top limit). Also, you will find that both your craft and UFOs may sometimes get 'critical hits', with UFOs being downed in a few hits, or your undamaged Interceptor immediately going into near-full red damage indicator.
At the start of the game your fresh pilots are equipped with Avalanche Missiles, which now have an abysmal 40% accuracy. While it is still possible to down the first Scout with one Interceptor, this is an incredibly unlikely event. It's more probable that it would take two, or even three interceptions to bring down even the most basic alien craft. It is also a good idea to switch some of your aircraft armaments to Stingray missiles at the game start, details on that below.
Players should exert caution and pick and choose their air battles carefully. You will not be able to bring down every single enemy UFO. Sometimes attempting high risk interceptions against tough targets would be detrimental to your campaign due to the highly unpredictable nature of the engagements at the start of the game. Your early game goal should be to get experience for some of your pilots and advance your air-warfare technology in order to keep aliens at bay on the battleground for the Earth's skies. In case you overreach too early, you might quickly find yourself crippled with long repair times and unable to stop alien operations.
There are Research and Engineering projects that will assist in aerial sorties. There are multiple foundry projects to improve your interceptors. There are also three consumables that remain from Vanilla.
As you progress, each type of UFO's statistics also increase, from general 'health' to firing rates, as to keep you on your toes; so don't expect to ever truly dominate the skies. Plus with the added variables to air-interception, there is no clear-cut "UFO X can be brought down by Interceptor Y" table. As such, the Long War's UFO page will be your general guide for how--- or if-- to attempt to engage these potent UFOs.
It is not necessary to shoot down enemy UFOs in order to prevent them from completing their mission. Doing damage to them is sometimes enough to spoil their plans or reduce their effectiveness. The damage that UFO sustains is stored between interceptions, therefore multiple interception attempts is a good idea to limit the damage to your own Air Force. When a player does more than 50% damage to a UFO, you will start seeing explosion effects around it.
Some UFOs will wander about a country's airspace before zooming off. For these, it is sufficient to get the yellow effect described above. Those effects signify that UFO sustained enough damage to prevent it from completing its mission, such as an Anti-Satellite hunt. Note however that you still have a chance to prevent the UFO's mission while doing less than 50% damage, which works as an increasing percentile chance (UFO abort mission chance: 0% at full health, 100% at 50% health). Otherwise, when they leave detectable airspace (whether you have a satellite over the target country or not), there will be a notification of the damage they did in the minor notices that play alongside the Hologlobe during in-game time progression.
Other UFOs will have a set flightpath, and a narrow window of opportunity to intercept: to disrupt these missions entirely, these need to be shot out of the sky. Cases like this include Terror ships and Abductors.
Long War mod brings back a mechanic from previous generations of XCOM: UFOs can now have full DOA crashes (with minimal Alloy recovery, and no corpses or other artifacts), so in some cases you may want to pull your punches. To compensate, the Council will give cash rewards for UFOs obliterated in flight. The harder hitting weapons have a greater chance of reducing UFOs to a pile of smelted alloys.
Interceptor Weapons and Stances
Air-to-air weapons now have three main damage statistics - Damage, Rate of Fire, and Armor Penetration. UFOs have different armor levels, which reduces the damage done by a weapon if its armor penetration isn't high enough. For example, you start with a choice between Avalanche missiles (medium damage, low armor penetration) and Stingray missiles (low damage, medium armor penetration). Avalanches will be better against unarmored and very lightly armored UFOs, while Stingrays will be better against more armored UFOs.
When launching you can set a combat stance for your interceptors as they launch on a mission:
- Aggressive gives +15% to hit for both you and the UFO. You may not use the dodge consumable when aggressive.
- You'll pretty much need to always take this stance early on, just in order to score hits. Any time the UFO is a satellite hunter, the damage to your craft may be less important than risking losing the satellite-- at least until you get the UFO to 50% health, as described above.
- Balanced plays out like normal.
- Once you have an established airfleet, you'll probably most often take this stance, in order to use both the Aim and the Dodge modules, particularly against larger UFOs.
- Defensive gives -15% to hit for both you and the UFO. You may not use the auto-hit consumable when defensive.
- This is for when you want to soften a target with armor penetrating weapons before sending a craft with high-damage weapons.
- Or, to pester and do just enough damage to get the aforementioned 'wandering' UFOs to abort their mission. You may want to do this if you cannot afford to let your craft get too damaged, or you have insufficient troops (from them being dead tired... or just dead) to do the ensuing assault (if you cannot get a DOA result).
UFO Flight Patterns
UFOs can fly at three altitudes: "High", "Low" and "NOE" ("Nap of the Earth,"). The altitude is a clue of what mission the UFO is going on - UFOs flying at NOE altitude are most likely to land, are performing bombing runs, or will generate an Abduction or Terror mission immediately upon arriving at their destination. UFOs at high altitude are most likely to be hunting satellites. Unless playing in Ironman, you may want to see if a UFO will land before shooting it down (and reload if it does not): while a landed UFO is always more dangerous, an intact UFO and it's material components is a valuable prize, given how fragile Power Sources and Flight Computers are from being shot down in Long War.
Once you successfully raid a UFO type, either landed or crash landed, you can research that craft for a damage bonus against it in future.
- You start with the Avalanche and Stingray missiles. These will work for small and medium craft for a while until Aliens research better upgrades for their craft.
- After some time sticking with conventional weapons will leave you totally outgunned. Next you'll want to upgrade to Laser and Phoenix cannons. Laser Cannons are built for accuracy, so a pilot can still reliably hit UFOs on Balanced or Defensive stance. The Coilgun is built for armor penetration and higher rate of fire. You would likely need multiple interceptions with frequent use of boost modules to reliably bring down larger UFOs.
- The Plasma Cannons need to be built from Alien Rifles. Once the Mutons start fielding them, you would want to build up a cache of those items to convert to plasma cannons for your Interceptors. The EMP Cannon is built from 1 Sectopod wreck each. It has a higher rate of fire and lower damage than Plasma which increases the chance of UFOs not being destroyed outright. It also increases the chance for more resources to remain intact for UFO crash-site missions.
- Last, but certainly not least, the Fusion Lance is the most powerful air to air weapon that can only be used by Firestorms. They're built from Fusion Cores, and the only way to get Fusion Cores is to take down Battleships and Assault Carriers... or save the cores from Slingshot mission. Though once you do get them set up, you would have a good chance to disrupt even the Terror missions.
- Choose an appropriate stance based on your equipped weapon, researched upgrades, and UFO type.
- Always be prepared to cancel an interception if the engagement is not going well for you. Losing an aircraft with an expensive weapons can be devastating to your resources.
- Consider aborting interception if your first shot hits while UFO misses. You can refuel within an hour and try again or send another bird out with the same hit and run tactics.
- Consider aborting when a satellite hunter displays explosion effects. You have prevented the destruction of the satellite, so you might not want to risk additional damage.
- Use modules in tough situations when you need an extra boost to get the job done.
- Have an idea of how many interceptions are possible before UFO completes its mission or attempts to escape. For example Scouts usually can only be engaged twice with Ravens.
- If/once you get enough EMP Cannons to be distributed throughout each continent's squadron, remember that higher damage weapons have a greater chance to outright destroy enemy craft. Plan your engagements around that fact and consider which ground tactical missions you would rather go on.
- Consider saving craft equipped with more damaging weapons to go against larger UFOs, while EMPing the smaller craft may be a better risk/reward scenario, given that their full compliment of aliens won't be much larger than if shot down with other weapons.
- Late-game, you may find that the aliens favor sending more and the larger UFOs to one continent in particular (such as the continent that got the first Alien Base, or the one with XCOM HQ), meaning that you'll remained burdened by repair times: simply cycle out damaged fighters with fresh fighters from other continents.
- Transit time puts repair times on pause, but transfer time will almost always be far less than the days it'll take to repair a single fighter.
- This will also help you by evening out experience between your pilots, and spreading them out between each continent, so you don't get blindsided by, say, a Battleship appearing in a continent with an inexperienced squadron.
- The modules are much more worthwhile-- nearly essential-- in Long War. As said, Dodge cannot be used in an aggressive stance and Aim cannot be used in a defensive stance. And as they do take time to build, it pays to maintain a stock of them.
- The Aim module is fairly cheap, and is useful throughout a campaign. Keep a large stock of Floater corpses to make these. While an aggressive stance means that all shots have more accuracy, using an Aim module early in a normal stance dogfight means drawing first blood while being a little harder to be hit yourself-- and nicking off a UFO's armor, so that any followup shots of yours that hit are that much more potent.
- The Boost module can be used in any stance, and only extends time (as all air-to-air weapons now are counted as 'long range', approach reduction time no longer is affected). More useful in early game, when you need more time to do enough damage with the weaker weapons and less experienced pilots.
- The Dodge module is exceedingly useful, and still hard to make, due to the necessity of Cyberdisc wrecks needed to construct them.
|Low||None||The speedy Scout-class UFO is fortunately within Earth's native capabilities to shoot down ... on occasion. It appears to be used for general reconnaissance, resource-gathering and research.|
|Low||Light||The alien Fighter, while similar in outward appearance to the scout, is much better protected. Armor-piercing weapons like our Stingray missiles will be helpful in bringing these craft down. This class of craft is used primarily for air raids and anti-satellite operations.|
|Moderate||Very Light||The Raider class of UFO seems to be a multirole craft that thus suffers in combat power. The aliens appear to use it for reconnaissance, research and resource-gathering operations.|
|Moderate||Moderate||The deadly Destroyer present a much greater threat to our aircraft than its sister class of ships. Armor-piercing weapons are required to defeat this craft. It appears to primarily be used for air raids and anti-satellite operations, although we may see it conduct reconnaissance missions as well. Our analysts note the presence of unused hardpoints on some images of this craft, so we should look out for upgraded versions with even more killing power.|
|High||Heavy||Abductors appear to be much better protected than other ships of this size. Perhaps the aliens particularly value the abduction and research missions they are used for.|
|High||Moderate||The Harvester class of UFO seems to have one role -- to recover important biological materials and minerals from Earth in support of other alien operations. We should try to interdict alien harvest operations whenever possible to slow the alien advance. These craft may be vulnerable to a concentrated attack.|
|Very High||Heavy||This ponderously slow craft will be a tough nut to crack. It appears to be primarily used in alien terrestrial resource-gathering but could also be used in support of other major alien operations.|
|Very High||Heavy||The rarely encountered Terror Ship appears suited for rapid deployment of alien shock troops. They appear to presage alien terror missions, but they may be used for alien research on XCOM as well.|
|Highest||Heavy||The assault carrier, while built on a battleship hull, lacks some of its sister's firepower and may be easier to shoot down. Nevertheless, we expect to see the aliens use this craft only against high-value targets, so it should be taken seriously whenever it is detected.|
|Highest||Very Heavy||An unbelievably dangerous piece of hardware, these UFOs never appear to land but are used in bombing, anti-satellite and air superiority roles.|
|High||Very Heavy||This class of ship appears to be used as a airborne command center for the ethereal race of alien. Only our strongest weapons will be able to penetrate its armor.|
|Heavily modified and augmented fast attack fighter. Armor and frame durability will be a major issue when engaging any but the smallest UFOs.||1500||5||§40||N/A||None||200||0||0||0||0||N/A|
|Alien alloy-based airframe and adapted energy shielding let the Firestorm absorb dramatically more punishment than its predecessor. With upgraded armament can engage even the most dangerous enemy craft.||3500||25||§50||75||Alien Propulsion||750||90||60||10||28||4 UFO Power Source |
8 UFO Flight Computers
|Item||Hit Chance||Range||Fire Rate||Damage||Armor Pen.||Prerequisites||Cost|
|25/40/55%||Long||Slow (2.0)||Medium (340)||Low (0)||N/A||None||N/A|
|25/40/55%||Long||Slow (1.5)||Low (200)||Medium (10)||N/A||None||N/A|
|40/55/70%||Long||Medium (1.0)||Medium (290)||Low (5)||25||Advanced Beam Lasers||160||15||0||0||10||N/A|
|25/40/55%||Long||Rapid (0.75)||Low (225)||Medium (18)||40||Gauss Weapons||160||20||0||0||10||N/A|
|25/40/55%||Long||Medium (1.0)||High (650)||High (22)||95||Vehicular Plasma Weapons||500||25||30||30||14||1x Alien Rifle|
|15/30/45%||Long||Rapid (0.55)||Medium (310)||High (30)||100||EMP Weapons||575||30||80||0||20||1x Sectopod Wreck|
|15/30/45%||Long||Medium (1.25)||High (1200)||High (26)||120||Fusion Weapons||800||35||60||200||25||1x Fusion Core|
|First 2 enemy shots always miss.||50||Cyberdisc Autopsy and Xenogenetics||25||0||1||1||5||2 Cyberdisc Wrecks|
|One time use increased combat time when interceptors are in combat with UFOs.||12||Alien Materials||15||1||1||1||5||2 Drone Wrecks|
|First 2 shots always hit.||35||Floater Autopsy||20||1||1||1||5||3 Floater Corpses|
- To unlock all three you have to research first the Foundry project Aircraft Boosters
|Advanced Repair||Faster repairs.||250||40||0||4||0||4 Heavy Floater Corpses||45||Foundry||Heavy Floater Autopsy|
|Aircraft Boosters||Unlocks modules||300||15||5||60||0||0||10||Foundry||Alien Materials|
|Armored Fighters||Adds 1000 hp to all interceptors||§400||95||30||20||0||20 Floater Corpses||30||Foundry||Advanced Aerospace Concept|
|Elerium Afterburners||Increases combat time by 5 seconds.||200||15||15||0||0||2 UFO Power Source||45||Foundry||Alien Propulsion|
|Improved Avionics||Increases interceptor aim by 10.||400||5||0||0||35||3 UFO Flight Computers||20||Foundry||Advanced Aerospace Concept|
|Penetrator Weapons||Increases interceptor armor penetration by 5||§200||20||0||0||0||20 Cyberdic Wrecks, 2 UFO Flight Computers||20||Foundry||Advanced Aerospace Concept|
|Supercapacitors||Increases Laser Cannon damage by 10 and armor penetration by 6. Rate of fire increased to 0.75||250||10||30||0||15||2X UFO Power Sources||50||Foundry||Advanced Pulse Lasers|
|Super Skyranger||Adds 2 spaces to the roster on Alien Base and EXALT HQ raids, and 4 on the Temple Ship Assault||200||20||0||0||0||0||35||Foundry||Advanced Aerospace Concept|
|UFO Analysis||Research of each of the UFO types gives a 10% damage boost when fighting that type again.||N/A||0||0||0||0||0||N/A||Research||Alien Materials|
|UFO Countermeasures||Reduces UFO aim by 15||300||5||20||0||35||3 Seeker Wrecks, 3 UFO Flight Computers||30||Foundry||Seeker Autopsy|
|UFO Tracking||Improved Interceptor detection and tracking UFOs. Detects suborbital UFO:s regardless of Satellite coverage. Reveals info about UFO on anti-satellite missions.||§400||20||20||0||0||2 UFO Power Source, 2 UFO Flight Computer||40||Foundry||Alien Power Systems|
|Wingtip Sparrowhawks||Adds a weaker type of Stingray Missiles to Interceptors in addition to the loaded weapon. Each missile does 1/2 stingray damage.||§500||50||10||0||50||0||55||Foundry||Advanced Aerospace Concept|