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Does the color of the sky mean anything special to you? It does to me. A hell of a lot. When I close my eyes, the sky in my dreams... is a deep, dark blue.

"Trigger, your call sign is Spare 15. Consider it your prisoner number for the air."
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Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is the twelfth note  (eighteenth overall) game in the Ace Combat series that's set in Strangereal. The first numbered title in more than a decade since 2007's Ace Combat 6, Ace Combat 7 is the first game of the series to feature PlayStation VR, with a noted focus on the use of volumetric clouds as a gameplay mechanic.

Three years have passed since the last major continental war and now the Kingdom of Erusea, formerly the Federal Republic of Erusea, has come into conflict with the Osean Federation. Princess Rosa Cossette D'Elise claims that Osea has violated her kingdom's sovereignty by forcing the construction of their Space Elevator on their territory, and has declared war in retaliation. You take on the role of Mage 2, codename Trigger. After a mission goes wrong, Trigger finds himself being thrown into the 444th Fighter Squadron— the Spare Squadron— composed of other prisoners. He must work off his crimes while keeping Osea safe. The game is set between May and November 2019 of the Strangereal calendar, taking place a year before the Leasath-Aurelia war in October 2020.

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Announced near the end of 2015, the first trailer, found here, shows an Osean F-22 Raptor chasing after an Erusean Su-30M2 as they approach a Space Elevator called the "Lighthouse." A second trailer, showcased at the PlayStation Experience 2016, provides more exposition, establishing that the two countries are at war. The game was released on January 18 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and February 1st for PC; the first multi-platform release since Ace Combat: Assault Horizon.

The Season Pass offers 3 DLC planes (The ADF-01 FALKEN, ADFX-01 Morgan, and ADF-11F Raven), 3 additional missions, and an in-game music player that is exclusive to the pass. Players who bought the game as part of the Strangereal Edition version have immediate access to the player. DLC 1: "Unexpected Visitor" was released on September 25th, 2019. It takes place 2 days after Mission 13 - "Bunker Buster" in the story. DLC 2: "Anchorhead Raid" released on October 23rd, and DLC 3: "Ten Million Relief Plan" on November 27th.

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See here for the E3 2017 trailer, and here for the Gamescom 2018 trailer.

The official DLC debut trailer is here in Japanese and here in English. The Season Pass trailer is seen here.

DLC Mission 01, "Unexpected Visitor," introduces OIA Agent David North, who has discovered the location of the Alicorn, a massive Erusean submarine aircraft carrier with the strike power of an entire fleet and which, most alarmingly, has WMD capabilities. Anxious to capture the Alicorn to use as a bargaining chip against the Eruseans in peace negotiations, Osean High Command tasks Trigger's squadron to assist the operation. But the captain of the Alicorn is much more than he seems...and may have an agenda of his own for his ship.

DLC Mission 02, "Anchorhead Raid," is, as the name suggests, a raid on the Erusean port of Anchorhead, with the goal of crippling Erusea's consolidated naval forces. Not only that, but they receive reports that Torres himself is bringing the Alicorn to Anchorhead, ostensibly to join the Erusean naval forces, providing another opportunity to stop the super-submarine before it causes even more damage. The LRSSG sets out once again, aiming to hobble the Erusean Navy and sink the Alicorn in one fell swoop, but treachery follows their every step, and their enemies lurk in places they least expect it.

DLC Mission 03, "Ten Million Relief Plan," serves as the conclusion to the three-mission DLC story arc. Torres is planning on using the Alicorn's weaponry to devastate the Osean capital city of Oured, last seen in Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War. The LRSSG conducts a desperate hunt in the waters off southwestern Usea to find and destroy the Alicorn before Torres and his crew can kill a million people with it, but Torres does not intend to go down without a fight. With time running out, the LRSSG desperately chases after the mad captain, but there's nothing more dangerous than a cornered lunatic...

The official DLC debut trailer for "Anchorhead Raid" is here in English and here in Japanese.

The official DLC debut trailer for "Ten Million Relief Plan" is here in English.


Can you hear me, tropes with the three strikes:

  • Accidental Murder: Trigger is accused of shooting down Harling's plane while going after some drones which were harassing him, which gets him sent to a penal squadron. However, it's later revealed that Trigger didn't fire the missile which killed Harling. Unbeknownst everyone at the time, Erusea had gained the ability to hack into the Osean satellite-based IFF systems, allowing them to make their drones appear on radar as Osean allied fighters. One of said disguised drones was deployed into the battle around the Space Elevator and managed to shoot down Harling before making its retreat, leaving Trigger (the allied unit in closest proximity to Harling at the time the drone took its shot) to take the fall.
    • Count shoots down Full Band due to his IFF designating him as an enemy. It's implied that Bandog did this on purpose.
  • Ace Custom:
    • An inevitable result of the plane customization system is that your plane will significantly outperform its baseline specs. Insofar as aesthetics, Trigger himself has two: The first is his custom emblem of a wolf clutching a revolver in its jaws, and the second, gained during his stay with the 444th, is three white "strikes" across his tail, which are later appropriated into a set of three jagged claw marks when Trigger joins the LRSSG, and earning him the enemy nickname "Three Strikes."
    • Mihaly's Su-30SM is heavily modified, eliminating the second seat in favor of a system that automates most of the Guy in Back's tasks and records his flight data in great detail and the plane diplays extreme maneuverability. His two-seat X-02S Strike Wyvern boasts similar automation and flight recording enhancements.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The drones utilized by the Erusean military begin to go rogue following the collapse of Usea's satellite network as the strategic AI that controls them does not know when to cease its function. Schroeder first notices this when the F/A-18 drone escorts of Cossette's transport stopped obeying his orders over Anchorhead Bay. They're also patterned off of Mihaly's thought processes, and his primary goal throughout the drone training project was simply to keep flying and fighting. This was accidentally imprinted onto the program, creating an AI that would never surrender when operating autonomously.
    • ALEX, David North's AI assistant in the three DLC missions (Unexpected Vistor, Anchorhead Raid, and Ten Million Relief Plan) appears to be completely benign though, capable of sassing North when his train of thought strays into "trash" territory, and even coining her own variant of the game's oft-repeated refrain of "Stick with Trigger and you'll make it."
  • Airborne Aircraft Carrier: The two Arsenal Birds built in concert with the Lighthouse are a more thought-through example than most. They are entirely uncrewed and only carry shorter ranged Unmanned Aerial Vehicles instead of conventional fighter jets. They stay aloft perpetually, given thrust by sets of propellers with giant blades powered by electrical engines that are remotely fed power beamed from the Lighthouse itself. As the top of the Lighthouse terminates in geosynchronous orbit, this effectively gives the Arsenal Birds a range covering approximately half the planet if they ever interpreted their programming to send them elsewhere beyond Erusea.
  • Airstrike Impossible:
    • As usual for the series, though it's taken Up to Eleven here. The 444th Fighter Squadron which Trigger is a part of is composed of expendable convicts that the Osean Air Force does not hesitate to send them into suicidal battles, hence most of their missions pit the squadron against impossible odds with almost zero hope to survive, including an intense air-to-ground operation in a series of cloudy valleys while under the watch of a powerful satellite-based anti-air defense system.
    • As part of Strider Squadron, Trigger has to perform a high-speed canyon run while dodging searchlights.
    • The final mission features the most intense tunnel run in the series' history, engaging in a supersonic chase through a tunnel that makes the tunnel under Sudentor from Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War look positively spacious. The tunnels are barely wider than some of the larger planes, even small bends become hard to correct for, and gates close in front of you. Finally, after you finish your mission in there, you have to fly upward through the corridor in the space elevator itself to escape. You need to pull a tight bank in an enclosed circular underground chamber before quickly pull your plane upward to avoid crashing into one of the pillars to even get into the elevator shaft in the first place. Afterward, it's basically a tunnel mission vertically, where your plane will be affected by the wind and gravity as you try to maintain your plane through the long corridor, avoiding elevators and walls until you finally reach the exit, ascending over 12 kilometers completely vertically.
    • There are a number of short tunnels and underpasses in the game. Flying through them nearly always spawns a named ace.
  • A.K.A.-47:
    • Erusea's ubiquitous MQ-99 UCAV is an exact copy of the EADS Barracuda.
    • The MQ-101 drone carried by the Arsenal Birds is a barely-modified recreation of the X-47B. The only difference is that the wingtips of the MQ-101 are slightly canted upwards.
    • The Weapons UAVs deployed by the Final Boss are tiny copies of the X-45 experimental drone.
  • All There in the Manual: Several instances:
    • The 2019 edition of the Aces at War: A History book included with the Aces at War physical edition of Ace Combat 7 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One show that AWACS Argus was fed false information about Osean Captain Karl being an impostor which he believed, causing him order the destruction of the helicopter containing the Reverse Mole Erusean General Labarthe and Captain Karl. An Osean F-16 complies with said orders and shoots down the chopper, killing both men, causing Operation Gorgon to fail and become a radical Erusean victory.
    • It's implied in-game that Spare Squadron's missions have an additional motive, as several convicts note the 444th is always encountering drones during missions. In addition, Mission 11's briefing officer mentions the loss of many pilots in order to find an opening in Erusea's auto-intercept drone network. A section of Aces at War: A History on the Lighthouse War confirms this was part of Osean strategy, which established both the LRSSG for long-range strikes at Erusea's capital and used Spare Squadron to test the auto-intercept network for weaknesses.
    • The "After the Blue Dove" short story in the Aces at War book explains what exactly Nagase was doing on the Pilgrim One space mission. Osean astronomers detected a second asteroid on a collision course with the planet, so they arranged for a secret mission to send a team of astronauts to destroy or divert the asteroid, which ended up being the Pilgrim One mission, and Nagase was selected to be the ship's pilot.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The Space Elevator gets occupied by the Eruseans at the outset of the war. The nearby city of Selatapura, which seceded from Erusea, is also taken.
  • Alpha Strike: During the climax of Operation Daredevil, Osean and Erusean forces fire everything they have at the final Arsenal Bird, from bombers to warships and every squadron available. The attack fails because the Arsenal Bird activates its APS barrier and neuters every single warhead coming at it, before crippling the navy and most of the air force. It's only when Cossette shuts down the shield that Strider Squadron has a real chance at taking down the airborne carrier once and for all.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: Allowing Erusean bombers to destroy the airbase (and thus kill McKinsey) in Mission 5 earns you a mission failure, but also makes everyone in Spare Squadron cheer. Given that McKinsey is ostensibly the most hateful character in the game, it comes as nothing short of cathartic.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • Checkpoints retain your score, and if you haven't taken any damage prior to a checkpoint, retain that information as well if you go down afterwards (or manually restart from them), making them a huge frustration-saver on a No-Damage Run, a machine gun only run, or when going for S ranks. As an added layer of frustration relief, restarting from a checkpoint restores all of your ammo. The only drawback is that your overall mission time keeps ticking when you restart from a checkpoint, even if there haven't actually been any yet.
    • There is a significant first time completion bonus on missions that helps make sure that you can afford a high-end plane on your first time through the game, even if you're struggling to get rank bonuses and thus offsetting Unstable Equilibrium.
    • There is an option to reduce Collision Damage resulting from low-angle/speed impacts with the ground.
    • If you run out of standard missiles and go to fire again, your plane will reload 2 more that you can then fire off. You technically have infinite ammo, but the reload time is even longer than it would usually be.
    • Any medal that does not specifically state a difficulty requirement can be done on any difficulty, even easy.
    • Mihaly's EML can't take you down in a single hit. So long as you have taken less than a certain amount of damage, it will take you to 99%, no matter how much damage you had taken before.
    • Using the target designator in Mission 13 does not violate the requirements for the machine guns only medal, so long as it is only used to destroy the ballistic missile silos. Though, alternatively, they can be ignored entirely, which just results in more missiles to shoot down in the second stage of the mission, rather than an immediate failure.
    • In Missions 16 and 17, holding down the target button to use the zoom feature will help identify unknown targets much faster and from further away. Your allies will eventually identify unknowns on their own if given enough time.
  • Anyone Can Die: This game noticeably has higher major character body counts than previous games in the series, which is especially evident when you joined up the expendable 444th Fighter Squadron. By the end of the game, you and Count are the only survivors of the original squadron, and casualties among other allied squadrons aren't pretty either. President Harling returns only to be killed off, and even Princess Rosa's adorable dog is killed!
  • The Alliance: The International Union Peacekeeping Force, which consists of Osea and countries in South-East Usea.
  • Arc Welding: While most Ace Combat games have standalone stories with some Continuity Nod here and there, Ace Combat 7 is the one that has plot points connected to many games in the series, mainly Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies and Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War. The countries Erusea and Osea, two major countries from the two games finally interacted with each other, and the motivation of the leaders of both factions are tied with the aftermath of the conflicts that happened in their own games. Princess Cossette wants to protect Erusea's sovereignty from a potential threat posed by Osea's Space Elevator because she does not want to see her country fall for the second time. The Space Elevator itself is also the brainchild of former Osean President Vincent Harling, who envisions the tower to be a symbol of unity and a bridge for mankind to reach into outer space after Circum-Pacific War ended, and a replacement for the fallen Arkbird (which was built for the same purpose). Belka is once again revealed to be the root behind the conflict, with some Belkan individuals still looking to avenge their country after it was fallen in Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, and manipulates Erusea into going to war with Osea by providing them with advanced AI technology to create a drone army derived from the Zone of Endless project from Ace Combat 2 (and slightly expanded upon in its Video Game Remake, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy ). Said drone army proved to be so advanced, it's implied that it paved the way for the rise of A.I. pilots in Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere as well. Mihaly's advanced G-suit that he gets halfway through the game to assist him with flying shares a lot of qualities with the COFFIN system utilized in Electrosphere, making it a likely predecessor to COFFIN.
  • Arc Words:
    • In this game, it seems to be: "Can you hear me?".
    • According to a Famitsu interview with the project leads, "dark blue", both as actual spoken words, and as a color motif. If Avril is in a scene, there are good odds that she'll say the words. Furthermore, the game is functionally Bookended by the term, with Avril's opening monologue introducing the concept, and the final mission is entitled "Dark Blue".
    • "Maintain element." Almost exclusively said by squadron leaders to keep their wingmen in formation. Planes that separate from the squadron are often hunted down by predatory opponents.
    • "Stick with Trigger and you'll make it" becomes a recurring line. The SP Missions hammer it home with ALEX pointing out that, for every mission where Trigger was present and where his fellow pilots stayed near him, the survival rates of allied pilots skyrocketed compared to HQ's predictions.
    • "Dumbass." The moniker is used by and appended to numerous characters in the story, most prominently Trigger. It's even one of the unlockable nicknames the player can use in multiplayer mode.
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: Osea's 444th Fighter Squadron — otherwise known as Spare Squadron — is a penal unit whose members have been convicted of severe crimes, with their leader indicating that he can decide whether they live or not. Heck, even their AWACS insults them!
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "I wonder… which path will you choose, when looking at Harling's Mirror?" Said by Cossette to Dr Schroeder.
  • Arrow Cam: As is the norm for the Ace Combat series, missiles can be watched in flight by holding the missile button.
  • Artificial Brilliance: Invoked with the Arsenal Bird. Any attempt to destroy it from long distance is met with swarms of drones Taking the Bullet. If you fly in closer, the drones will simultaneously target you.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Invoked - The autonomous drones have fittingly inhuman agility, but their systems aren't as flexible as a real pilot and they have exploitable quirks to their behavior. (And this is integrated into the actual gameplay: almost every drone encountered has a nasty habit of flying straight ahead after firing on you, making them much easier to hit if you can keep track of the drone.) As a result, as the war goes on, Erusea's drones start to suffer higher and higher loss rates, which leads Mihaly, who provided flight data for the drones, to take back to the skies and provide newer and better data.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Although PLSL under player control are Hitscan weapons, enemy PLSL fire beams with visible travel time that can be dodged and traced back to their origin. An acceptable break from reality, though, seeing how it falls squarely under Anti-Frustration Features.
  • Artistic License – Ships: During the mission "Fleet Destruction", if you sink the Erusean aircraft carrier Njörðr, her crew mentions the catapults becoming inoperable, despite Njörðr being a Kuznetsov-class carrier, which is a STOBAR design with no catapults in the first place.
  • Attack Drone: The presence and threat of unmanned aircraft is the central theme of the story. The Arsenal Bird and its 80 UCAVs are only the tip of the iceberg.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • 8AAMs - they can lock multiple missiles onto a single target, which looks cool, but is incredibly wasteful, as very few targets can survive a single SP weapon missile of any sort. Since they generally don't come with larger reserves than 4 or 6AAMs, much of their use involves fighting against your automatic lock-on systems or accepting extreme waste. They also have very poor lock on range even with upgrades, so by the time you're close enough to a large group of enemies to lock on and fire, said group will have scattered. The only time where it could actually be useful is against a large airborne enemy with lots of targets on it, namely the Arsenal Birds.
    • The F-104 Starfighter's Guided Rocket Launcher locks onto ground targets and fires an entire salvo of homing rockets that strike with pinpoint accuracy no matter how much you're moving around. The weapon is quite powerful at destroying ships and the support pillars in the Fleet Destruction mission, but long range air-to-ship missiles are more efficient and generally have a higher ammo count. The toughest ground targets in the game are tanks and air defense tanks, which both take only two normal missiles to destroy, making this a strong case of No Kill Like Overkill.
    • The ADFX-01 Morgan's Integrated Electronic Warfare System disrupts enemy missile accuracy while enhancing your allies. In the campaign mode, there are very few instances on any difficulty where you would need such defenses, and it doesn't affect your allies at all. Multiplayer is a different story altogether.
    • The Tactical Laser System packs a powerful punch, but it's strictly bore sighted, denying you the ability to lead your target like a conventional gun, and you have to remain facing your target while you fire, which means you can't maneuver away from enemy missiles.
  • Back for the Dead: Former Osean President Vincent Harling, who is initially rescued by Sea Goblin, who are both killed trying to defend the space elevator from being destroyed, in the very mission that is the Call-Back to the mission that introduced him in Ace Combat 5, no less.
  • Badass Boast:
    Mihaly: There are pilots like you in every generation. And I've felled every last one of them.
  • Bad Boss: Col. McKinsey, who runs the 444th, and to a lesser extent Bandog, the AWACS contact who serves as their Mission Control, certainly qualify. McKinsey is an open Glory Hound who plans to ride to victory on the sweat (and corpses) of his pilots. Bandog will actively discourage Spare Squadron from accomplishing mission objectives if doing so would yield lower casualties.
    • During the mission "Transfer Orders", should you fail the primary objective Bandog doesn't even care you failed, saying something to the effect that nothing of value was lost. But of course, you still have to complete the objective to progress.
  • Balkanize Me: By the game's third act, with everyone having lost central communications and mapping, national borders are thrown into disarray. At least one long-defunct kingdom declares itself independent, and it's heavily implied that even if Erusea doesn't completely cease to exist, it'll only ever be a shadow of its pre-war self.
  • The Battlestar: The Arsenal Birds are gigantic Airborne Aircraft Carriers that carry an insane number of AAM batteries and laser weapons on top of their scores of UAVs. Taking one of these beasts on in direct combat is a monumentally dangerous task no matter how you approach it, and their sheer amount of firepower pretty much guarantees heavy casualties among the attacking forces.
  • Becoming the Mask: In an odd, non-character sense, the 444th Air Base, originally established as a complete fake to draw Erusean bombers, gradually became more and more realistic to make sure the Eruseans remained fooled. First, it was just balloon vehicles and painted runways with empty shells of airplanes, then they started having the convicts run jet engines to fool Erusean thermal imaging, then they started actually flying rebuilt planes and making dry runs at Erusean bombers, and then eventually, shortly after Trigger's arrival, started actually shooting back, turning a decoy air base into an actual, functional air base with its own fighter squadron.
  • BFG:
    • Osea's plan to neutralize one of the hijacked Arsenal Bird hinges on the reactivation of the lone Stonehenge cannon that was spared by Mobius One due to being non-operational at the time. It ends up being the only superweapon still available to Osea that can outright shoot through the Arsenal Bird's impossibly powerful APS barrier, and promptly stops functioning once it fires the shot that splits the Liberty in two.
    • The Alicorn is equipped with two powerful railguns that can vaporize ships in a hurry, but they're not significantly bigger than the ship guns found on most capital ships. What instead qualifies the submarine for this trope is the hidden 600-mm/128 caliber rail cannon whose barrel length exceed 70 meters and makes up part of the runway for the Alicorn's fighter complement. It is also its most dangerous weapon, being able to fire projectiles over a distance of over 3,000 kilometers, and among the projectiles are two tactical nuclear shells that allow Torres to carry out his grim plan of killing a million lives in Oured in order to terrify the world into stopping the Lighthouse War.
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence: Mission 19 is the culmination of all that transpires during the cutscenes following the midwar crisis of Erusea's Enemy Civil War. Here you join up with the Osean air force and some rebel Erusean squadrons in an attempt to free the Space Elevator from the radical Erusean government forces and bring down the last Arsenal Bird. A massive furball between the combined Osean-Erusean alliance and the Erusean government drones then ensues over the sea surrounding the ISEV, topped by the Arsenal Bird's appearance and the alliance's massive Alpha Strike on it, which fails due to its APS barrier. Princess Rosa manages to disable the shield permanently, allowing you to strike the Arsenal Bird unimpeded as the triumphant One-Woman Wail of "Daredevil" hammers on.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Lighthouse War has ended, but many people have died on both sides. Erusea has lost another war, its military and air force have been utterly decimated a second time and its future as a country (and as a kingdom) is uncertain. In addition, many of its conquered provinces used the chaos of the IFF network's destruction to declare their independence. Osea did not escape the war unscathed as well; its naval power took a serious blow early in the conflict, it lost both Arsenal Birds, and the revelation that Belka was once again responsible for instigating a conflict will no doubt cause issues among Osean officials.
  • Book-Ends: The game begins with Avril staring out to the sky, and ends with Cossette staring out at the space elevator, both of them in the same pose.
  • Boss-Only Level:
    • The final mission, "Dark Blue", is home to only 2 hostiles: two ADF-11F RAVEN drones, nicknamed Hugin and Munin, provide the Final Boss fight of the game, duking it out with Trigger and every Osean and Erusean ace still available over Gunther Bay. It is notable in that the boss fight prolongs itself by way of the UAVs detaching themselves from the base aircraft, with one continuing to engage you in battle while the other attempts to escape through the space elevator's underwater tunnels.
    • The third DLC mission, "Ten Million Relief Plan", is populated by nothing but aircraft and equipment fielded by the Alicorn, which is saying a lot considering you end up fighting about 20 SACS Rafale M and up to nearly a hundred SLUAV launched from the submarine. And this before taking into consideration the flock of barrier drones deployed after half of the ballast tanks are destroyed.
  • Bragging Rights Reward:
    • The special skin for the F-104 Starfighter requires earning an S-rank in every mission on the highest difficulty.
    • Beating the game's most difficult challenges, like attaining the coveted S-rank in all campaign missions on Ace difficulty, doesn't actually get you anything except unique skins for some high-end planes to show off in multiplayer. Some also unlock additional nicknames, which is just as inconsequential for actual gameplay.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece:
    • Downplayed with the 444 Squadron - they're equipped with until-recently mothballed planes hastily recommissioned to make their base seem more "authentic", including ancient F-104 Starfighters and MiG-21s and an eclectic mix of Su-33s, F/A-18Fs, Mirage 2000-5s, and MiG-29As. However, it's not because newer planes are strictly unavailable, but because the 444, being a penal squadron, isn't considered worth Osea's time or effort to equip with anything better, and the original intent didn't even call for the planes to be able to do more than run their engines to fool Erusean thermal imaging. It's only thanks to the efforts of Avril Mead, the "Scrap Queen," that their planes are fully functional and able to keep up with those used by proper squadrons.
    • The Osean Army moved in to capture the abandoned Stonehenge and put effort into repairing the only cannon that wasn't destroyed by Mobius One in order to use it to destroy one of the Arsenal Birds. The cannon, which is now two decades old in the Strangereal timeline (it was built in the late 1990s), still proves to pack enough firepower to one-shot the Arsenal Bird in half even with its shield active.
    • The nickname that comes with the F-4E is "No Plans to Retire", alluding to how the Vietnam-era fighter still sees plenty of use today due to its sheer reliability.
  • Call-Back:
    • A somber female chorus rendition of the Leitmotif of Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War mourn when Harling is killed at the end of Mission 04, with the song titled "Tears of Razgriz".
    • The player is associated with Mage Squadron. This wouldn't be the first Osean squadron named after a term for a magic user, as shown by Wizard and Sorcerer Squadrons. During the Battle of Farbanti, radio chatter also mentions an Osean Wand Squadron.
    • Mission 12 is entitled "Stonehenge Defensive, a role reversal of Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies's twelfth mission, "Stonehenge Offensive". In Shattered Skies, Mobius One destroyed the seven operational Stonehenge cannons (the 8th one had been put out of commission before the ISAF attack, after Ulysses fragments hit its power supply), and in Skies Unknown, Trigger and Cyclops and Strider Squadrons fly cover for Osean forces repairing the eighth gun. The musical accompaniment for the mission, "Stonegenge Defensive", is also comprised of elements from the track "Stonehenge Offensive" from Shattered Skies only played in reverse. Slipped into the song as well is the first three notes of the ISAF trumpet leitmotif, though the back four notes that would complete the theme are different, highlighting the blend of the familiar and the new.
    • The Arsenal Birds take more than a few design cues from the Arkbird. Stark white paint, sweeping upwards wings, a large number of small control surfaces that evoke the image of feathers, bird-like frontal area; the craft is essentially a successor to the legendary spaceplane. They also boasts a similar armement to the Arkbird and the musical cues that accompany their presence on screen sounds like a more menacing version of "White Bird" at times. Their shape evoke also a more streamlined version of the P-1112 Aigaion and it's ancestor, the XB-0 Hresvelgr.
    • The Arsenal Birds' Helios long-range airburst type missiles is similar to the Nimbus missiles used by the Aigaion.
    • President Harling's plane is once again code-named Mother Goose One, and the mission that you met him is very similar to the mission that he first appeared in Ace Combat 5, namely with you flying through the hole in the enemy's anti-air radar system and escort his plane out of there. When Harling is killed at the end of the mission, the music even briefly plays a version of Ace Combat 5's theme.
    • Belka is once again involved in a plot that manipulates two superpower countries into war with each other in the name of revenge. This time, they sold their advanced AI technology to Erusea so they can develop a large drone army, then manipulates Princess Rosa into declaring war on Osea. Just like how Lorenz Riedel/Gault 7/Feniks sold the Hresvelgr technology to Estovakia and the Grey Men, Hamilton, Grabacr and Ofnir squadrons baited radical Osean and Yuktobanian politicians and higer-ups with Belkan nuclear weaponry. Schroeder even mentions how this trend seems rampant among all Belkan powerful people.
    • The drones at the focus of the latter part of the narrative, specifically the ADF-11F Hugin and Mumin, are a part of the restarted Zone of Endless AI fighter project from Ace Combat 2 and its recent remake Assault Horizon Legacy. The underlying plot of those games centered around Grunder Industries taking advantage of a war on Usea to create the ultimate AI pilot and next-generation super plane for it to fly, the ADF-01 FALKEN. In Skies Unknown they attempt the exact same gambit resulting in the ADF-11F RAVEN. The ADF-11F also sports the ZOE "squadron" logo on its cockpit just to hammer the point home.
    • The latter half of Mission 13 has the Eruseans launching ballistic missiles out from an underground silo hidden in a reservoir behind a dam. Where have we heard that before?
    • The "trash can with wings" drone that Avril sees in the opening cutscene looks very similar to the Yuktobanian drones used in the second mission of Ace Combat 5. Several pilots in 7 make note of the Erusean drones' odd evasive maneuvers, something that Chopper comments on in 5 in reference to the Yuke drones' evasion tactics.
    • The first DLC "Unexpected Visitor" takes place only two days after Mission 13- "Bunker Buster". The briefing begins with members of the LRSSG wondering how Fencer's condition is doing, with the confirmation that he's out of the hospital but not yet cleared for duty. Fencer ended up getting injured in Mission 12- "Stonehenge Defensive" and had to pull out of the battle.
    • The submarine Alicorn, a major feature of the first three DLC missions, is explicitly stated to have been sold to Erusea by Yuktobania, whose previous super-subs Scinfaxi and Hrimfaxi were bosses in Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War. The Alicorn is even classified as a Super-Scinfaxi class sub.
  • Call-Forward: Several to Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere :
    • Dr. Schroeder refers to having a young female assistant named "Massa," which is a mistranslation of the middle name of Yoko Martha Inoue, the researcher who perfected Sublimation with Abyssal Dision as her test subject. Suppleimetary materials also suggest that Simon Orestes Cohen (the crerator of Nemo) was a part of Scheoder's team alongside Inoue.
    • Jaeger repeatedly mentions his plans to tell his war stories to his son confirmed to be Erich Jager, who would be 3 years old at the time of the Lighthouse War.
    • After Neucom in Ace Combat X, General Resource Limited returns, having played an important part in the DLC missions; Erusea purchased the Alicorn from Yuktobania via GR Trading, while Mimic Squadron was part of General Resource Guardian Mercenaries.
  • Canon Immigrant: The IUPF makes its entrance into the main series here, after first appearing in the non-Strangereal based Ace Combat: Joint Assault.
  • Central Theme: Who is Friend or Foe in a war where information is everything? Much of the game's tension is being unable to figure out for sure who is really the enemy and who can you trust.
    • Harling's death is the result of Osea's IFF system being hacked, allowing an Erusean drone (which appears as an Osean allied fighter on everyone's radar) to sneak in right behind Trigger himself and shoot him down in the chaos of his extraction.
    • At one point the Spare Squadron comes under attack from a squad of drones. However these particular drones initially appear on their IFF systems as allied fighters. This designation confusion both allows the drones to get a drop on the unsuspecting Spare Squadron, and also leaves the them unable to properly retaliate for fear of causing a Friendly Fire incident - a fear which comes true when Full Band is mistakenly (or deliberately) tagged as an enemy and is promptly shot down by Count.
    • During the Battle of Farbanti, Osea and Erusea launch simultaneous anti-satellite attacks in attempt to destroy the other side's military satellites. Both these attacks succeed, essentially removing IFF from the picture entirely. However the sheer amount of debris the destruction of these satellites generate end up damaging nearly every other satellite in orbit, which essentially cripples global satellite communication network. Being unable to tell who is friend or foe, coupled with both side's chain of command being utterly broken due to lack of functioning communication systems, leads to chaos throughout the Usea Continent, making good on the game's title: Skies Unknown.
    • The game also deals in the power of false information. Erusea used spoofed IFF to assassinate Harling and later to ambush Spare Squadron, Bandog falsely tagged Full Band as an enemy plane, resulting in the latter's death from Count, and Erusean hackers fed false intel to Osean AWACS planes to get General Labarthe killed. It actually ties well into the themes of who is friend or who is foe, since it shows how difficult to tell what is truth and what is a lie in a world dependent on the flow of information.
  • Cannon Fodder: The Osean military doesn't care if a squadron of convicts gets killed in battle.
  • Checkpoint Starvation: Barring some rare exceptions, most campaign missions tend to be pretty light on checkpoints. You only get an autosave once a mission objective is either completed or changes due to unforeseen events, and a long time can pass before that happens. Annihilation missions (Long Day, Pipeline Destruction, Fleet Destruction, etc) are notorious for this because their first phase is a full 15 minutes of attempting to wreak havoc in an op zone that's absolutely crawling with things shooting at you. Dying at any point in this phase resets you back to the very beginning, and taking even one decent hit automatically voids your S-Rank, forcing you to start over as well.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The eighth gun of Stonehenge, which was rendered inoperable after a meteorite damaged its power or control systems prior to the events of Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies and which was conspicuous by its non-target status during the assault on Stonehenge in Ace Combat 04 is finally repaired and fired over sixteen years in real life and nearly as long in In-Universe after first being seen.
  • Clarke's Third Law: Erusean General Labarthe states that the advanced drone technology is so advanced that understanding it would be equivalent to magic or alchemy.
  • Clown Car Base: The OFS Admiral Andersen is loaded to the brim with planes that it was transporting to other bases. This is a Lampshade Hanging to how the Kestrel had full access to every plane available in the game's roster, when it canonically could only use carrier-based planes.
  • The Computer Is a Lying Bastard: Simply put, the stated statistics of aircraft mean almost nothing and are often incredibly misleading. For example, the stated statistics indicate that the MiG-21bis handles like a brick, but in actual gameplay, it's one of the most agile planes in the entire game and is able to outturn many of the highest-end planes in the game, despite their stated superiority in maneuverability.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: The Tactical Laser System and Pulse Lasers cannot penetrate heavy clouds, which merely act as concealment against projectile weapons.
  • Confusion Fu: In the "Unexpected Visitor" DLC, Mimic Squadron uses advanced electronic countermeasures to fool your HUD and targeting system into thinking there are multiple targets surrounding Rage and Scream themselves. Scream acts as the bait as she flies in front of Trigger while Scream takes shots at you.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The 2016 trailer shows a brief look at the destroyed Stonehenge from Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. A few moments later, a cutscene shows a meteor storm entering Earth's atmosphere. The 2018 Gamescom trailer shows the last of its cannons firing, the eighth gun, which had been rendered inoperable by a meteorite impact before Operation Stone Crusher in Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies, while the other seven guns are still utterly smashed from Mobius One's attack on the facility. Osea is revealed to have been secretly rebuilding the smashed Stonehenge site, and brings in power equipment to get the 8th gun up and running. It is the setting of Mission 12: Stonehenge Defensive, where Trigger has to defend Stonehenge against a massive Erusean assault. The cannon only gathers power for one shot, which it uses to destroy one of the Arsenal Birds as it approaches the area. Afterwards, the cannon collapses to the ground.
    • During the operation at Stonehenge, Húxiān (Cyclops 4) takes a hit just like Yellow 4; unlike Yellow 4 she's not wounded, and gets ordered to withdraw instead.
    • Farbanti gets thrashed again, this time at the hands of the Kestrel fleet. Conversely, Port Hewlett is yet again the target of an attack, though this time it's from Erusea instead of Yuktobania.
    • On the topic of the Kestrel herself, Ace Combat 5 fans would know the Kestrel II in Skies Unknown is the successor to the original Kestrel, which was sunk at the end of The Unsung War. However the Kestrel II is sunk off of Farbanti in the early days of the war, and is never seen in action by the player.
    • Mobius Squadron makes a return to combat once again, only this time as part of the IUN's peacekeeping forces and only playable for a side campaign (specifically, the VR missions). The antagonist is again the Free Erusea terrorist organization. Free Erusea gets mentioned again in Mission 17 as the Erusean News Network reports on rumors that they have become active yet again after the Battle of Farbanti.
    • The Mission Briefing officer for the LRSSG has the same deep voice as the Mission Briefing officer of the Sand Island Airbase. They are implied to be the same person as they shared the same voice actor: Jamieson Price.
    • A space center on Tyler Island similar to the Basset Space Center, along with its iconic mass driver, is the setting of Mission 17: Homeward.
    • The aircraft carrier which the Strider launches off of in their bid to put a stop to the war once and for all is christened the Admiral Andersen, after the brave admiral of Kestrel in Ace Combat 5. Avril Mead even recounts the tale of how Andersen steadfastly made sure that the capsizing Kestrel managed to launch the fighter squadron that ended the Circum-Pacific War before the ship sank.
    • Captain Kei Nagase herself shows up in the ending. She is now an astronaut on a spacecraft named Pilgrim One, which has just returned from an exploration mission in the Asteroid Belt. She thanked Trigger for saving the space elevator so that she could land safety.
    • In the same vein as airplanes from Air Ixiom and Air Erusea showing up at Apito International Airport in Ace Combat 5, there are several airplanes from Emmeria Airways appearing at Selatapura Airport in addition to planes from Air Erusea and Osea Airlines.
    • The "Unexpected Visitor" DLC features a background article in the news magazine GAZE talking about a submarine that Erusea purchased from Yuktobania through a third party company. The author of the article is Albert Genette. The Yuktobania connection comes from how the Alicorn submarine is actually a heavily upgraded and upscaled Scinfaxi-class to the point that it qualifies as its own class, the Super Scinfaxi-class.
    • The briefing for Anchorhead Raid reveals that Captain Torres became an Erusean hero because he managed to save much of his crew when Mobius One destroyed the fleet located at Comberth Harbor in the Continental War. It is even revealed he was the captain of the Erusean battleship Tanager, which you can personally sink in Ace Combat 04. In addition, when North is discussing Comberth Harbor during the briefing, he pulls up a list of ships sunk during the Continental War; those names actually correspond to named ships that show up as targets during the Ace Combat 04 mission.
  • Continuity Snarl: Being set just 1 year before Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception creates In-Universe Technology Marches On issues for that game, what with no one there making the slightest mention of the Lighthouse, the ascent of Attack Drone armies and other worldshaking events that happened here. There is all of one thing there that might have received a Call-Forward here, namely a throwaway line about a satellite network being restored that could have followed the anti-satellite attacks in this game, but that is tenuous.
    • A minor example is in the SP Missions, which take place prior to the second Battle of Farbanti. Count's personality is closer to his appearances after the earthshaking mission that is Farbanti, despite the fact that Wiseman is still alive during the hunt for the Alicorn, and he's constantly designated as Strider 2, even in "Ten Million Relief Plan", where Cyclops is also deployed.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • Avril gets thrown in the 444th for unauthorized wartime flight because her test flight of her F-104C just happened mere hours after the Lighthouse War officially began before her or most of the rest of the world was even given notice of the declaration.
    • In Mission 15, Osea and Erusea's simultaneous satellite attacks happened at the exact moment you're running Mihaly down in the last minutes of the Battle of Farbanti, disrupting everyone's electronic devices and conveniently allowing Mihaly to escape. Not only that, but the simultaneous attacks were carried out by accident as well, with Osea shooting down the satellites that Erusea hijacked from them, and Erusea shooting down the Osean satellites they did not control, resulting in a massive debris field that takes out whatever was left after the attack.
    • The final battle just so happen to take place in the same day as Nagase's return trip from her seven-years-long mission into outer space.
  • Cool Airship: The Arsenal Birds, a pair of absolutely titanic, wing-shaped aerial warships used to defend the Lighthouse, whose wingspan is measured at a whopping 1,100 meters and can carry a plethora of weapons and smaller escort UAV. Not only are they armed to the teeth with edge-cutting technology, they're also protected by a deployable energy barrier that's impervious to all but the very strongest projectiles Strangereal can offer. It says something when one of these behemoths had to be shot down by Stonehenge, while the other needed its APS barrier neutralized permanently for Trigger to bring it down.
  • Cool Boat: The Alicorn, the massive Erusean super-submarine featured in the first batch of SP missions. It's nearly half a kilometer long, can stage aircraft operations as if it was a carrier, and boasts an impressive arsenal, namely two railguns with an effective range of 400 kilometers. David North recounts that it spent nearly two years stuck to the bottom of the ocean with most of its crew still alive when it was salvaged. Once Captain Torres goes rogue, he annihilates Osea's fleet with the sub's railguns and starts his grim crusade to kill a million people.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: Numerous upgrade parts sound cool in theory but prove rather disappointing in practice, like the Machine Gun Radar Locknote  or the Anti-Stealth Microwave Radarnote .
  • Cool Plane: It's not an Ace Combat entry if it doesn't introduce real-life and fictional superplanes.
    • During your escort of McKinsey's aircraft in Mission 10, a dangerous experimental UCAV shows up after all hostiles are down, setting up for a boss fight. It's a white unmanned aircraft with forward-swept wings, an angular windowless cockpit and no vertical tail, unique enough to be distinct from the droves of UCAV that are deployed from the Arsenal Bird. It's also shown to be incredibly agile, performing barrel rolls on a fly. It is the experimental ADFX-10, which ends up being the prototype for the ADF-11 encountered in the final mission, itself being the centerpiece for the ADF-11F RAVEN mentioned below.
    • Near the end of Mission 19, two black superplanes unexpectedly arrive and strike at the skydiving Cosette. They are the ADF-11F RAVEN, an even more advanced successor to the ADF-01 FALKEN. The main visual difference between the Raven from the Falken is that its wings aren't forward-swept, instead being backward-swept with canted wingtips, and it lacks the FALKEN's vertical tails. The key difference between the two, and the most distinctive trait of the Raven, is that the Raven is actually a combination of a cockpit and a RAW-F body, with a UAV version using an ADF-11 drone (the completed form of the ADFX-10) loaded with advanced AI as the cockpit, and a manned version using a COFFIN cockpit. On the UAV version, if the RAW-F is damaged, the ADF-11 holding actual core of the UAV will detach the RAW-F, expand its wings, and fly off, turning into an extremely maneuverable craft surpassing even the ADFX-10. In the campaign, the two Raven drones, Hugin and Munin, controlled by an advanced version of the Zone of Endless AI, loaded with tip of the edge combat data from Mihaly himself, prove to be by far the deadliest planes on the planet, destroying dozens of planes in seconds. Hugin and Munin serve as the final boss of the game, and are rightfully the strongest enemies in the entire game.
    • Mihaly flies an Su-30SM. This plane is specialized version of the thrust-vectoring Su-30MKI and MKM. In Mission 18, he enters the fight in a X-02S Strike Wyvern, an evolution of the PS2 games' own forward-swept variable wing X-02 that comes equipped with a EML.
    • Interestingly, Trigger appears to have two canonical planes. Media shown after mission 10, such as the DLC trailers, uses a McDonnell Douglas F-15C to represent him, but by the time of the final few missions Trigger has switched to the Lockheed Martin F-22 with wing-mounted stealth weapon pods.
    • All 3 of the Season Pass aircraft undoubtedly qualify, as original superplane designsnote  unique to Ace Combat - the ADFX-01 Morgan from Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, ADF-01 FALKEN from Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, and ADF-11F Raven (finally averting Mission 20's Unusable Enemy Equipment).
      • The ADFX-01note  is a 20+ year old prototype by the time of Skies Unknown, with its distinctive bulky twin engine design, forward-swept wings, and rear mounted Tactical Laser System. It's also a Super Prototype in a way, as the ADFX-01 was originally a test platform for Belka's newly developed weapons like the Multi-Purpose Burst Missile, which was never adopted by other planes in the ADF series.
      • Its successor, the ADF-01 FALKEN, shares a largely identical body but ditches its conventional glass canopy in favour of the COFFINnote  cockpit that gives the FALKEN its trademark appearance. Unlike the ADFX-01, the FALKEN's TLS is concealed in its nose, which opens to reveal the emitter.
      • The latest member of the ADF program is the ADF-11F Raven, still based on the same twin engine layout of the ADFX-01 & ADF-01 FALKEN but using a rear-swept wing design without vertical tails. It's also armed with some of Ace Combat's most futuristic weaponry - the Tactical Laser System; two Weapon UAVs; and is the first aircraft in the series to use Pulse Lasers instead of a gun.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Evidently, the Federation of Central Usea set up range tables when they were building Stonehenge, despite the fact that in its intended use of shooting falling asteroid fragments, it would need its supercomputer targeting array to have any chance of hitting its targets, and even in its later Erusean use of long-range aerial interdiction, without computerized targeting, it would be nearly useless.
  • Creepy Children Singing: Although Mihaly's granddaughters aren't creepy themselves, their singing is given a creepy context in a cutscene before the final mission, with shots from the viewpoint of the "Zone of Endless" AI, as well as automated factories preparing for a Robot War.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: The Erusean military, on their drones in general but the Arsenal Birds in particular. The drones represent a fast, precise, and cheap counter to the vastly more powerful allied forces, consisting of the Osean Air Defense Force (and their naval counterparts) and their IUN allies (consisting of most of the nations that formally comprised ISAF, who by themselves were able to beat Erusea in a war). The Arsenal Birds have an argument as the most indestructible superweapon yet created in Strangereal, with their massive drone-swarms, macross missle systems, and nearly-impenetrable defensive shields (and ironically they're stolen from Osea). Having both on air superiority lets Erusea occupy most of Usea. However, once Osea and the IUN manage to shoot one down with Stonehenge, Erusea has to shrink the defensive envelope of the remaining one, and Osea and the IUN manage to liberate most of Erusea's occupied territory... in a single off-hand mention in a briefing.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Discussed in Mission 18, "Lost Kingdom", when the conditions are met. Getting hit by Mihaly's EML will turn your plane from undamaged to 99% in one hit. Count and Jaeger will comment on how your plane should be shrapnel by now and is just barely holding together.
  • Crosshair Aware: In the campaign, particularly devastating weapons like EMLs or Helios missiles display their area of effect on the radar shortly before they hit, giving you a chance to escape the blast. A disturbingly small chance on occasion, but a chance nonetheless.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Trigger's first encounter with Erusea's hijacked Arsenal Bird ends in a disastrous defeat for the IUPF, with the entire Skeleton Squadron wiped out and Osean command forcing a retreat due to being unable to even put a dent in the airship. note 
    • Champ versus Mihaly in the canyons of Yinshi Valley. The former thinks he can go toe-to-toe with the Erusean ace, ignoring Bandog's orders to disengage and pulling a Pugachev's Cobra to get behind "Mister X". Mere seconds later, Mihaly pulls a Kulbit and shoots down Champ in reverse position. Mihaly's bored tone when Wit berates him for not downing Champ straight away confirms that he was toying with Spare 8 and hoping there would be at least a worthy fight, which he does get moments later against Trigger.
  • Darker and Edgier: In addition to having one of the higher body counts in the series, Skies Unknown touches on some fairly dark themes such as the usage of convicts as military assets, the efficacy of drone warfare, and the utter chaos of war in general and its effect on the civilian population. As well as deconstructing the typical Ace Combat player through the character of Mihaly. This trope especially comes into play in the last act when the collapse of Usea's satellite network plunges Erusea into civil war, sparks refugee crises across the continent, and very nearly allowed two highly advanced drones to launch an apocalyptic Robot War. There is also a lot more swearing.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: AA guns and CIWS try to inflict this upon you, and it's very likely that you'll take one or two hits from them over the course of a mission. However, there are very few cases in which they're likely to actually get the "thousand cuts" they need.
  • Deconstruction:
    • Of the trope Would Not Shoot a Civilian. For most of the war, Erusea used drones to target Osean military targets without even scratching a single civilian. But this was due to the work of the radical faction within the Erusean military, who are driven by the AI technology they received from Belka and use it to develop an advanced drone army. The drone performance and accuracy goes beyond all expectations, so they use this to gain public opinion on their side and opportunists into declaring war on Osea , even manipulating the Princess. To put it simply, the radicals avoided civilian casualties simply as a means to their end.
      • Taken further, the use of drone launchers disguised as commercial shipping containers is a bad idea: later in the game, you're clearly attacking shipping containers that MIGHT contain drones. You get points for killing them no matter what, but there's no guarantee that they're launchers. The use of camouflaged drone launchers results in devastation to civilian shipping. This is further confirmed in the trailer for the "Unexpected Visitor" story DLC, where near the end of the video, the news ticker at the bottom says that container shipping traffic has deadlocked everywhere because containers are being inspected to make sure they aren't drone launchers, and there aren't enough inspectors to keep traffic moving.
    • The Erusean top ace Mihaly is also a deconstruction of typical Ace Combat players: he's an ace pilot who's a Living Legend who finds little to no enjoyment in life other than flying, and he's been flying for so long through so many wars, it's putting a strain on his aging body. He also doesn't care what he shoots down, even if it's harmless, fleeing pilots who posed no threat like Brownie, even toying with her as she's scared out of her mind, before taking the shot anyway, the same thing we've been doing before as a Mercenery-route Cipher and even Mobius 1 himself.
    • Of previous Ace Combat games, which depict war as clean and controlled, and flying as safe and reliable, only breaking these rules to twist the plot. Clouds constantly block the player's view and missiles, icing up if they spend too long in them. Powerful and sudden windbursts can knock planes off course or into the ground. Lightning will cause instant Interface Screw, often recovering straight into a mountainside. War itself is shown to be brutal, where Anyone Can Die is in full effect; people can and do just perish from random fire and events, with Plot Armor kicking in just a few times. Identification tech is unreliable, not every target really is one, and weapons don't just cleanly do what they're supposed to. As a result, almost every mission has some sort of Plot Twist in it.
  • Deflector Shields: Receiving wireless energy from the space elevator with its Microwave Powered Dome, the Arsenal Bird is able to deploy a large spherical barrier called the Active Protection System around itself to protect itself against long-range missile strikes. Said shield is so powerful, even a concentrated missile attack won't hurt it. However, it's not so mighty as to withstand a direct hit from Stonehenge.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The LRSSG commander reaches this after the satellite communications networks go down, throwing the entire continent and both sides into chaos, and their one chance at restoring peace is killed in a case of friendly fire. It is so bad that your AWACS operator is forced to step in as the de facto commander for the rest of the game.
  • Developers' Foresight:
    • Different planes have their gun types accounted for; planes like the Su-37 and Su-35S (which have a single-barrel autocannon) have a lower ammunition cap and fire slower, while the A-10 has its famous GAU-8 Avenger with a cap of 4800 rounds, higher damage and a faster fire rate. Similarly, planes like the F-22 and F/A-18F (which have multi-barrel Gatling guns) have higher fire rates and higher ammo caps.
    • There is overall a surprising level of detail on the various mission maps. In Mission 1 you take off in the midst of an air raid, and the activity of the base reflects to prove it; people running around, ground vehicles mobilizing for emergency response, and other aircraft lining up to take off behind you as choppers lift off from helipads. And the kicker is that those units don't just disappear once you get far enough from the base; they all have their own set locations and objectives to get to. For example, as you begin your takeoff roll, a pair of Chinook helicopters next to you take off as well. If you follow them, they cross the channel and hover near a burning watch tower, ostensibly for the purposes of recovering injured personnel. In Mission 2, when you begin the attack on the airbase, you can not only hear enemy radio chatter referencing the preparation of the drones you fight in the last part of the mission, but, if you have a good eye, you can actually see the disguised container trucks moving across the airfield from their staging positions to the launch positions. The game will even hold off on moving to the final part of the mission until all the trucks are in position, even if you already somehow cleared the area of objectives.
    • Explosions actually take the speed of sound into account. If something blows up far enough away from you, there's a noticeably delay between seeing the detonation and hearing it.
    • On Mission 3, you conduct a joint operation with the Navy. Before you start the mission, you play a mini-game to refuel your plane in mid-air. However, if you select a naval aircraft (like the F-14D), you take off from the Navy's carrier instead of refueling with the tanker.
    • Halfway through Mission 3, Brownie gets severely damaged and has to withdraw while your job is protect other retreating allied aircraft from the Arsenal Bird's drones. While your doing this and she is about to leave the area, Mihaly shows up and manages to shoot her down. Even though you are far away from them because you are to protect the other allies, if you follow Brownie, you can see the whole encounter play out in-game, Mihaly's Su-30 and all. Unfortunately he is invulnerable; Brownie must die for the sake of the plot.
    • If you think you can shoot down the Arsenal Bird in Mission 3 with a powerful enough plane, think again. If you render enough damage, the Arsenal Bird will activate its shield and will remain active throughout the mission.
    • During the first duel with Mihaly, he has dialogue for his wingmen for every time he hits Trigger with a missile. There's about five conversations, even though most planes can only survive two missiles from Mihaly.
    • In Mission 11, your other squadron leader will show that the support pylons of the ocean platforms can be destroyed, sending the platform and anything on it and under it crashing into the water. However, even though you can't directly lock onto the pylons until after the event, you can still shoot and destroy them, if you manage to damage them with direct hit weapons or a lucky hit from a cruise missile. The dialogue will even change, with your fellow pilots in awe of your skill for hitting something with no targeting and Long Caster even swapping his line to reference you instead of your fellow pilot.
    • In the final mission, after you shot down either Hugin or Munin, the surviving drone will quickly shoot down Wit in retaliation. If you're fast enough, however, you can shoot down the other drone before it can kill Wit, which is addressed in a minor dialogue change later in the mission. If Wit is shot down, Seymour will said that he will avenge his death, but if Wit survives, both of them will tell you that they'll take on the last drone together.
    • Also in the final mission, your plane will take off from the aircraft carrier Admiral Andersen. You can choose any plane for the mission, but if you pick a non-carrier-based plane, your plane will launch from further back of the aircraft carrier. If you pick a carrier-based plane, it will launch from the middle of the carrier with normal procedures, including using a catapult and jet blast deflector.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Unknown Known - Erusea neglects securing Stonehenge after it once again falls within their territory, not because they don't know its power, but rather because they don't see how a wrecked superweapon could be useful. By the time they realize that it's not completely useless (Mobius One only smashed seven of the eight guns during the Usean Continental War, as the eighth had been silenced by a meteor impact that took out its power supply, but left the gun itself intact prior to the war) and there's a reason there's a small pocket of Osean forces there, it's almost too late for them to do anything about it. This failure to recognize the importance of this particular known value and close the pocket around Stonehenge sooner costs Erusea one of the Arsenal Birds.
    • Unknown Unknown - neither side could forsee that they would launch their ASAT missions at exactly the same time while Osea was besieging the Erusean capital of Farbanti. On top of this, neither side had a real contingency for what to do if their entire communications network goes dark, resulting in widespread chaos and anarchy as nations secede, entire military units rebel, and people start shooting at each other.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: In multiplayer, the Electromagnetic Launcher is a One-Hit Kill on all planes with a value below 2000 points. Manually lining up your plane to aim it is the challenge. You can get a kill or two on an unsuspecting player at the start of a match, but good luck when they all gather into a furball.
  • Disaster Dominoes: Osea and Erusea's simultaneous anti-satellite attacks kick off an ablation cascade, a well-documented hypothetical real life Disaster Dominoes scenario wherein space debris starts hitting satellites, breaking them and spreading more debris that breaks more satellites and making more debris and so on, that destroys most of the global satellite network and creates an information blackout that plunges the world into chaos.
  • Disc-One Nuke:
    • The F/A-18F Super Hornet and Su-33 Flanker-D, some of the earlier planes you unlock and more or less equivalent aircraft between the US and Russian branches (each only has a single pre-requisite - the F-14D for the F/A-18F, and the MiG-29A for the Su-33), share access to some of the most powerful special weapons in the entire game, including the EML railgun and the deadly LASM, which makes mincemeat of otherwise highly durable ships. While the planes starts to fall behind later in the game, they can easily last you a long time just by themselves.
    • In multi-player, the MiG-21bis. It's far, far more maneuverable at both high and low speed than its stated stats would indicate, and due to its massive parts cap, it can buff its missiles so high that normal missiles maneuver almost like QAAMs. This, combined with its low "cost" makes it a monster in low-points and no-subweapon rooms, and surprisingly competitive in unlimited rooms.
    • If a player is persistent enough, there's nothing stopping them from grinding out enough MRP to unlock the YF-23, F-22, or Su-57 by playing Multiplayer or Free Mission after playing the first mission in the story. Any MRP you earn is permanent and carry over, so you can play through the campaign on your first try with the best planes. Previous games in the series required completing the campaign before even unlocking free mission mode and better aircraft were unlocked through campaign progression, instead of the now free-form Aircraft Tree. You still have to beat the campaign to unlock the X-02S Strike Wyvern though.
    • With the appropriate DLC installed, players can hop into the cockpit of an ADF-11F Raven (stat-wise the best plane bar none) from the moment they fire up the game for the first time. Its somewhat lackluster choice of SP weapons tends to let the Raven be overshadowed by the F-22 and the X-02S once they become available, but it remains one of the most powerful planes in the game and can make most of the campaign that much easier, especially for new players with limited access to advanced planes and upgrade parts.
  • Drone Deployer:
    • The Arsenal Birds are designed as mobile drone bases, capable of deploying several dozen at a time.
    • The ADF-11F Raven deploys its own Attack Drones. It's also a subweapon the player can use.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Zig-Zagged - at first, it's averted, as Trigger is a new pilot who quickly earns the respect of Mage Squadron and becomes trusted enough by high command to send on extremely dangerous missions, then it's played straight when he gets reassigned to Spare Squadron, as Spare is a penal unit and the base C.O, McKinsey, takes all credit for Spare's achievements. Then the trope gets subverted as Spare Squadron's accomplishments convince HQ that they're worth being incorporated into the military proper. All members of Spare Squadron are pardoned. Some of the members are sent off to other squadrons. Meanwhile Wiseman vouches for Trigger and Count, which gets them both absorbed into the Long Range Strategic Strike Group as parts of Strider and Cyclops Squadrons. Finally owing to his great success commanding Spare Squadron, McKinsey is reassigned to a prestigious post on the front lines.
  • Duel Boss: In Mission 18 - "Lost Kingdom", you fight Mihaly for the third and final time as he pilots the X-02S Strike Wyvern equipped with an Electromagnetic Launcher, and Strider Squadron, fully aware that only Trigger is able to match the Erusean ace, resign themselves to forming a perimeter around the duel so that no other hostile may interfere. Meanwhile, Mihaly instructs the rest of Sol Squadron to retreat and pursue their objective of claiming independence for their own land from Erusea, adding that he's not the one that will be guiding them towards that objective.
  • Dummied Out: Unpacking the Unreal Engine 4 files from the PC release reveals quite a bit of cut content in various stages of completion includingnote :
    • Three additional VR stages including taking out a Free Erusean fuel depot in Roca Roja, an assault on Erusean naval forces trying to join Free Erusea, and preventing the Free Eruseans from acquiring a ballistic missile submarine from a base in Anchorhead.
    • Other aircraft in various stages of readiness, some of them likely enemy-only if completed, including the EA-18G Growler, Ka-27PL Helix A, and Mi-24P Hind E, none of which are seen in-game.
    • The names of the MQ-99 and MQ-101 - Wasp and Vogel, respectively. Conspicuously, the similar looking drones deployed by the Belkan-modified Arkbird in Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War were also called Vogels.
    • AWACS callouts for shooting down specific kinds of planes.
    • Additional SP weapons including Fuel Air Explosive Bombs (FAEB), ECM pods, Multi-Purpose Burst Missiles (MPBM), and deployable UAVs of your own along with a set of parts to boost their firepower, endurance per use, and how many you actually get. These were later revealed to be a part of the first set of DLC, featuring the ADFX-01 Morgan, and the ADF-01 FALKEN, and the ADF-11F Raven.
    • A clear explanation of what MRP stands for - Military Result Points.
    • A variety of additional objectives for nearly every mission to either spawn more aces or reward more medals.
    • An additional Menhir defensive line in Mission 12 (Menhir 8).
    • An alternate version of Mission 4 where Sea Goblin isn't wiped out, or at least not before meeting up with Harling.
    • Additional objectives involving the mass driver in Mission 16.
    • Models and dialog that indicate that at some point in the game's development, Trigger was going to carry out at least part of the anti-satellite attack personally.
    • An entirely different version of Mission 4 where the radar would have been avoided using clouds (in different patterns for Easy, Normal/Hard, and Ace difficulties), which is still mentioned in the mission briefing, and if you were spotted, you could still continue by destroying the radar site, patrol boat, or fighter that spotted you before it could radio in.
    • Someone or other outright saying "I'm the one who killed Harling". Additional dialog pieced together later indicates that this was Georg, who is a very minor cutscene-only character in the final game, and that he would later spill the beans entirely - he was a mercenary contracted by Erusea to assassinate Harling while disguised as an Osean pilot, and would later, likely in the cutscene with Avril and Tabloid on the boat, admit to everything and the irony that the very pilot he framed wound up saving his life on Tyler Island. This was likely cut to instead push the drone angle. Some bits of this original version are still in the game - the person who initially shouts "Friendly fire! I saw it!" sounds a lot like Georg and there's a fifth F-14D that enters the map and lazily follows Trigger, not dissimilar from Pixy during "The Stage of the Apocalypse" in Zero, and in the original version, this F-14D would likely have been the plane to take the shot that Trigger was framed for instead of a drone-controlled F/A-18F as in the final version. What's more, there are specific entries for "ally_f14_Georg" and "wp_msl_ms04_GeolgMissile" [sic] in the files for Mission 4.
    • A great deal of other unused dialog.
  • Dwindling Party: 444th Fighter Squadron is sent up against impossible odds again and again and is guaranteed to lose some of their members in every other mission, to the point that even your named wingmen are not safe. It starts with High Roller, Champ, Full Band, and Tabloid. By the end of the game, Trigger and Count (and Avril, but she's the mechanic) are the only known survivors of the original squadron.
  • Elite Mooks:
    • Mister X's Sol Squadron stands head and shoulder above any regular enemy pilot you'll encounter on the battlefield. Mister X himself is the most dangerous human enemy in the game, and his wingmen are all ace pilots in their own right. They also fly nothing but top-tier planes that can withstand significantly more damage than most of the regular enemy planes. That they tend to show up at the end of long missions when you're likely to be low on ammo only makes them that much more dangerous. Thankfully you're never required to actually shoot them downnote .
    • About halfway through the campaign, XSAM batteries begin to replace the regular SAM sites, with the former having significantly higher missile speed and better homing capabilities, making them far more challenging to evade than the basic variant.
  • End of an Age: The onset of unmanned aircraft with AI comparable or superior to regular pilots brings forward the question: "What does it mean to be unmanned?". Avril recounts that her grandfather gave her a magazine with the title "Era of the Drones" and the tagline "Soon, there will be no one gripping a control stick and taking to the skies", referencing the increasing replacement of pilots by unmanned aircraft. On the Erusean side of the story, Dr. Schroeder tries to extract flight data from the aging ace Mihaly in order to improve the UAVs' war performance and produce powerful drones armed with a depth of combat experience and unhindered by human limitations. Eventually, several characters start voicing their disapproval of UAV technology being used in the war, claiming that it has no place in the conflict and is no better than witchcraft, thus defying the trope.
  • Enemy Civil War: Both sides. The spread of false information causes infighting within both Osean and Erusean militaries. While Osean forces are able to re-organize and join up with anti-war Erusean elements, Erusea pretty much disintegrates as a nation.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • In the third SP Mission 'Ten Million Relief Plan', even Erusea is horrified of what Captain Torres and his crew planned to do, so they sent the specifications of the Alicorn super submarine to Osea to allow the LRSSG to take the fight to Torres before the madman can accomplish his goals of ending the war swiftly and violently with his nuclear shells.
    • In the final two missions, all forces that are against the use of drone warfare teams up together to take the fight to the Radical Erusean forces who attempted to prolong the war even after the entire world had been thrown into chaos following the satellite disaster. After taking care of them, they later fight the two super UAVs Hugin and Munin to stop them from kickstarting a devastating Robot War.
  • Escort Mission: Two of them.
    • Mission 10 has you escorting a transport plane. You need to protect the plane from long-range anti-air sites scattered across the countryside and a couple of squadrons of planes.
    • Mission 16 requires you to see a civilian vehicle through the a battlefield of chaos where enemy units aren't immediately identified as such.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The mission "444", is an establishing character moment for the entire Spare Squadron. It starts off with Champ forcing a take off after cutting of Tabloid, and telling the Air Traffic Control to ‘Go to hell’ after they called him out on it. Count tries to assume command of the squadron, but nobody listens to him, High Roller sets up a betting pool on whose going to live and whose going to die, Full Band proceeds to Speak Ill of the Dead when mentioning how Trigger got transferred over to the Spare Squadron by shooting a missile in between old Harling’s eyes, and last but not least, AWACS Bandog sends out a warning to the squadron, ‘This is the penal unit. I decide when you die.’ When the mission is over, Colonel McKinsey throws everyone into solitary for disobeying his orders to not fire on the enemy bombers until he gave the go ahead. It all goes to show how dysfunctional the Spare Squadron is.
  • Exact Words:
    • Several of the in-game medals require the player to perform certain feats with machine guns. Since the MiG-21bis's machine gun pods are machine guns, even though they're not the internal machine guns and are fired separately from them, they do count for the medals and can be used when pursuing them.
    • On your first mission as the 444th, Erusean bombers are fooled into thinking that the base (which was initially a decoy) is legit. Mckinesy orders you to intercept them to make it more convincing. However, he did not say to shoot them down (though you need to in order to progress), and throws the whole squadron in solitary for "disobeying" orders.
  • False Flag Operation: Erusea sics drones on Spare Squadron during a recon operation. But what's worse than just killer drones? The drones are conventional aircraft converted into UAVs and painted in Osean colors (and they spoof IFF signals, making them a violation of international law). One can tell that the planes are drones by the weird glowing bars below the cockpit canopies, but that requires getting a little too close to the drones for comfort.
  • Fantastic Racism: Since the Circum-Pacific War, Belkans have become stereotyped as warmongering conspirators who frequently instigate conflicts with their technology. Following Erusea’s descent into civil war from the ablation cascade, Erusean conservative forces on Tyler Island indiscriminately massacre the Belkan engineers and their families who lived and worked near the island’s mass driver, blaming them for leading their country to ruin. During Mission 18, the retreating Osean forces on the aforementioned island end up discovering the mass grave where the killings took place.
  • Fictional Geneva Conventions: As part of the game's analysis on the growing role of drones in warfare, Erusea appears to be exploiting a loophole in laws prohibiting combatants from disguising themselves as civilians with intent to attack - apparently loading an armed drone into a shipping container and getting it into position across state lines via civilian freight doesn't quite constitute a war crime (it helps that the Princess immediately leans on how this allowed them to hit military assets without damaging civilian centres, in contrast to messier counter-attacks, which causes Osea to get lots of news flak from the media). As autonomously self-guided drones are not people, they cannot be prosecuted.
  • Final Boss Preview: Exactly halfway into the game, you fight a prototype drone with extreme maneuverability and combat skills, to the point that Strider Squadron, who were following it, didn't expect anyone to be able to shoot it down. Two drones of the same type appeared in the final mission, code-named ADF-11. They split off of their "shell" - the ADF-11F - after they were shot down by Trigger, forcing Trigger to fight them again as the final enemies of the game.
  • Forced to Watch: In Mission 10, the Bulgurdarestian forces guarding the border are itching to assist Spare Squadron and Roper 1 as they head toward the border, but their commanding officer denies permission to fire on the Erusean aircraft harassing them as that would be taken as a pretext for invasion, so the big mass of blue "Friendly" units can do nothing but watch. Indeed, the Eruseans even broadcast a warning to Bulgurdarest that any attempt to fire on Erusean forces will be taken as hostile military action, and they are already preparing combat engineers to get into position to launch a ground invasion of Bulgurdarest if they are dumb enough to try and help Spare Squadron.
  • Foreshadowing: It wouldn't be an Ace Combat game without it.
    • The news broadcast after Mission 1 shows Erusean UAVs launching from cargo containers, one of which is labeled North Osea Gründer Industries. And in Mission 2, some of the Erusean radio chatter talks about giving "feedback for those war merchants" and complaining about manuals written in a foreign language both of which are hinting at a Belkan connection behind the drones.
    • In Mission 2, the five MQ-99 drones perform an aerobatic "bomb burst" maneuver. Later, in Farbanti, this is shown to have been learned from Mihaly and the Sol Squadron.
    • At the end of Mission 2, Knocker replies to Brownie's concerns of innocents being killed with, "You shoot, and someone gets killed. The guys in charge take care of the rest." Come Mission 4, Trigger shoots, and Harling inadvertently gets killed. The "guys in charge" took care of it by finding Trigger guilty of murder and transferring him to the 444th.
    • During Mission 04, an Erusean pilot says that the Arsenal Birds strategic AI choose the Liberty Arsenal Bird over the Justice one to come defend the space elevator. After the communications blackout, nations annexed by Erusea claim independance and start purging anybody related to Belka and the drone technology in revenge, choosing their liberty over justice towards the real culprits (the Radical Eruseans and what's left of the Grey Men).
    • One of the first things Bandog says to Trigger is that "I decide when you die!" Bandog later tags Full Band as an enemy, causing Count to inadvertently shoot him down. Bandog claims it was an accident, but several in Spare Squadron think that it really was Bandog making good on his threat.
      • Bandog also unintentionally gives another bit of symbolic foreshadowing when he responds to Count's snide remarks towards Trigger with, "You wouldn't understand. Not until you take a good look in the mirror." "Harling's Mirror" is an In-Universe riddle to describe the dichotomy between whether Harling intended to destroy the Lighthouse due to it causing the war, or save it in the hopes that it could bring peace. For Count, he experiences growing jealousy over Trigger's performance overshadowing his own, as well as his superiority complex over being under the (benevolent) thumb of Wiseman. Wiseman's death, putting him as de facto leader of Cyclops Squadron and doing an okay job (once both Cyclops and Strider Squadron chew his ear) and the final battle at the Lighthouse allow him to put aside his jealousy and recognizes Trigger for the true ace he is.
    • The first time Cyclops Squadron and Strider Squadron are introduced, it is mentioned that they are returning back from a deep reconnaissance mission into Erusean territory. When one of the Spare pilots questions what they are doing so far behind enemy lines, Full Band says that all he could dig up was that they were investigating "the ruins." Said ruins turn out to be that of Stonehenge, and the Osean military forces move in to capture it in order to repair the remaining cannon and use it to shoot down one of the Arsenal Birds.
    • During the mission where the enemy planes are tagged as allies ambushing Spare Squadron, an Arsenal Bird starts launching Helios missiles into the area as well. Tabloid is puzzled as to why the Eruseans would fire Helios into the area indiscriminately without caring that this might shoot their own planes down. The enemy planes are also conspicuously silent during the mission, without the usual enemy chatter that often accompanies them. This is another hint that those planes don't actually have any pilots flying inside them: they're all being flown by AIs.
    • Trigger and Count encounter an odd drone while on an escort mission, one that is much more maneuverable and capable than the previous UAVs. It is a prototype of the final drone they fight, based on Mihaly's (and Trigger's!) complete flight data.
    • Mage Squadron's AWACS calls attention to Osea's satellite-based IFF system in the second mission of the game, mentioning on how it is almost infallible and explains how it is what allows for Osea's almost-instant IFF tagging. Later the entire system goes down when Erusea destroys Osea's communications satellites, forcing Trigger to rely on the more traditional (and slower) visual processing-based IFF systems and AWACS datalink for the rest of the game.
    • During the first battle at the space elevator, Gargoyle Squadron's flight leader suddenly yells: "Babel, babel, babel!", followed by the entire squadron turning towards the space elevator and firing a volley of missiles at it, though the UAVs suddenly swarm the elevator and intercept almost all the missiles themselves. Mage Squadron wonders what the hell was going on until they conclude command forgot to keep everyone informed again. When the satellite network goes down, this sort of right hand vs. left hand conflict becomes commonplace.
    • Combined with Jump Scare, at certain points of the early campaign some ground targets will inexplicably explode with a huge, loud blue blast that briefly rattles your HUD. Strangely, it also goes unremarked on by either your AWACS or your wingmen. Eventually, you find out that these were warheads for the Arsenal Bird's Helios burst missiles.
    • There is an early hint in Mission 4 that the Erusean military is factionalized. The Erusean radio chatter shows the Arsenal Bird's operator complaining to someone else about a senior officer who is ordering him to have the drones fire "warning shots" at Harling's escape craft. The operator (who sounds rather young himself) then snidely remarks "He's an old-timer. Has no idea how drones are used." This is the earliest hint in the game that the younger Eruseans are very gung-ho about using drones aggressively while the older Eruseans are more cautious, a split that becomes official after the satellites go down.
    • In Mission 16, there is some Erusean radio chatter reporting that the drones are behaving strangely and are not acknowledging new orders being transmitted to them. One officer asks if the drones can be switched to slave mode instead. Shortly after, an Erusean pilot alarmingly reports that he was fired upon by a friendly drone. At the end of the mission, the drones do go haywire, and in Mission 19 the remnants of the Radical faction slave their remaining drones to human-operated aircraft to gain control over the unstable network.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Thanks to various Call-Forwards and attempts at Arc Welding, some subtle, by this point it's clear to many fans that the war has long-term consequences as shown in Electrosphere, especially the creation of Nemo.
  • Four Is Death:
    • Osea's expendable penal fighter squadron is the 444th Fighter Squadron "Spare". They are sent on the most dangerous missions to earn redemption either through victory or through death, with the latter being implied to be the far more common outcome. This is also further emphasized by the fact that the squadron (and their airbase) is nearly always referred to as the "four-four-four" or "four forty-four", rather than the "four-hundred-forty-fourth".
    • Mission 4 has you leading an operation to rescue Vincent Harling. However, this time it didn't have a happy ending like in the fifth game.
  • Fragile Speedster: MQ-99 and MQ-101 drones are absolutely inhumanly agile, but they go down in a single missile hit, while manned jets and the somewhat less agile drone-controlled versions of normally-manned jets take at least two normal missiles, and some, such as the A-10C, can survive even that.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • For the part in Mission 4 when you shoot a missile in the general direction of former President Harling, triggering the cutscene in which he gets killed, it turns out that another missile gets fired from off screen at the same time. In Mission 16, it is mentioned that a drone disguised as a friendly fighter was the actual culprit. After Harling is shot down, the cutscene shows the drone flying past your plane from behind and to the right.
    • In Mission 10, a Z.O.E. emblem can be seen on the unknown drone, hinting who is supplying Erusea with drones and helping drive the war, but it's so small and fast that it's very easy to miss.
    • In the cutscenes that have Dr. Schroeder in them, if one were to look really closely when his namebadge is in the frame, they’ll notice that the letters ‘Z.O.E.’ is directly underneath his name.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams:
    • The F-15C, MiG-31B, and Su-57 can carry laser pods that shoot out blue laser blasts (PLSL or Pulse Laser) similar to how previous games used the Machine Gun Pod (MGP).
    • The F-15E and Su-37 Terminator can carry a single TLS pod that resembles a streamlined version of Morgan's "Zoisite" TLS, and fires a continuous red laser beam at significantly reduced damage compared to the PS2 games.
    • Much like the Arkbird before it, the Arsenal Bird Justice has a massive laser cannon that fires a large, continuous purple beam and a pair of Pulse Laser turrets which shoot out blue laser blasts.
    • The ADF-11F RAVEN is able to fire a lengthy pink laser beam from its beak, much like its predecessor, the ADF-01 FALKEN. It can also deploy smaller UAVs that also fire a continuous pink beam. The playable version of the plane not only features the TLS as a subweapon, but also features Pulse Lasers as the default weapon instead of internal guns.
    • The ADF-01 FALKEN included in the second DLC also fires a continuous laser beam from its retractable beak, only this time it's clear blue like the game it debuted in. It also retains a power level closer to its pre-nerfed incarnation, taking 3 "pulses" to destroy an enemy bomber while the TLS on all other planes take 5.
    • The third DLC adds the ADFX-01 Morgan, which can equip its classic "Zoisite" TLS pod, which fires a similar red beam to the regular TLS.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration:
    • Tabloid is the one who came up with the idea of sticking with Trigger in order to make it through each suicidal battle the 444th goes through. This is reflected in gameplay where his plane will stick close to you no matter where you go, even as you're on the run from the enemy F/A-18 drones with spoofed Osean IFFs in Mission 9.
    • After the Osean and Erusean satellite networks go down, you start having to manually ID targets to determine if they're friend or foe, and until those forces get that data, they don't know if you're friend or foe, either and even forces that turn out to be friendly once IDed will shoot at you.
    • The briefing screens change not only based on who Trigger is deployed with, but they also differ before and after the satellites go down. Before they go down, the briefing map will update slideshow-style with enemy territory, movements, and objectives automatically updating from data forwarded from high command. After the satellites go down, you can actually see the person operating the briefing computer manually clicking and inputting the information, and the briefings are a lot more simplified due to the loss of communication.
    • Once scattered forces start coordinating more fully in the endgame, Long Caster updates IFF manually upon beginning missions. You even see initial targets show up in yellow for a moment before the data is sent through.
    • During the final two missions, it's stated that secure comms are still down and the plan isn't subtle at all, so everyone's just communicating on open frequencies. Accordingly, allied Eruseans still have red tags in radio subtitles, normally reserved for enemies.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • You unlock planes through the Aircraft Tree. However even when you're supposed to be doing time for Spare Squadron, players still have access to the Aircraft Tree, which allows you to unlock military grade airplanes and put in military grade customization that have been unlocked. You still have the Queen's Custom bonus to apply to newer planes even after being separated from the Scrap Queen for a good chunk of the game. Later in the story where you're most likely unlocking late-game planes, it happens after the simultaneous anti-satellite operations which disrupted the chain of command and military resupply lines.
    • In Mission 4, you can still get an S-rank even though you've been accused of killing the former President of Osea.
    • Although Brownie's death in Mission 3 is intended to present Mihaly unfavourably as he attacked two retreating pilots, several of the named aces that can be shot down for bonus points also spawn fleeing and will only start engaging Trigger if he fires first. As Skies Unknown doesn't track the player's "Ace Style" (unlike Ace Combat Zero), Trigger's choice of targets doesn't affect the story.
  • Geo Effects: One of the new features is the introduction of clouds as a gameplay element. Flying into one can cause your aircraft to become more sluggish, and thicker clouds will interfere with your lock-on capability, disturb missile trajectory, and may completely darken your vision. Furthermore, all but the wispiest of clouds completely block the Tactical Laser System and Pulse Laser. Fly too high up and your plane will begin to ice over, stalling you and obscuring your vision in the process. Fly through a thunderstorm and your instruments may become less useful or fully inoperable.
  • "Get Back Here!" Boss: At least six of the 24 secret ace pilots you can spawn in the campaign not only appear in out-of-the-way locations; they actually flee the battlefield the moment they spawn instead of joining the fight. Others don't actively flee but head in weird directions that can make it just as difficult to track them down (and some of those guys pilot stealth planes, to boot, making them even more elusive).
  • Glass Cannon: The MiG-21bis has tremendous offensive capabilities with its gun pods, but it also has the lowest defense rating in the game and is one of the few planes that cannot get enough hitpoints to withstand an EML hit in multiplayer, which most other planes can with the level 2 hitpoint boosting part.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Late in the war when Osea occupies Farbanti, both Osea and Erusea decide to shoot down the other side's military satellites. Not only does this blind the militaries of both sides, but the resulting debris destroys almost all of the civilian satellites as well, plunging the entire world in chaos. Each country was unaware that the other had the same exact plan, making this a complete failure on part of their intelligence.
  • Goroawase Number: One of the achievements requires flying a total of 76,500km in the campaign mode. "7 6 5" is spelled as Na Mu Ko, or "Namco".
  • Gotta Catch Them All: The game has 24 named aces that spawn on Normal difficulty or above once specific conditions are met after you've finished the campaign once. Defeating one unlocks his unique skin for the plane he's flying, and downing them all is rewarded with the Bird of Prey achievement. Some aces also need to literally be caught first because they start fleeing the op zone the moment they spawn.
  • Grand Theft Prototype:
    • Of a superweapon variety. Erusea's lightning blitz against Osea and its allies resulted in the capture of the two Arsenal Birds, Liberty and Justice, used to defend the nearby orbital elevator.
    • Osea returns the favor by taking over Stonehenge and reactivating the one cannon Mobius One didn't destroy (prior to the events of Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies, one of the cannons' electrical or control systems was smashed by a rogue fragment of Ulysses, silencing the otherwise intact asteroid defense cannon) and uses it to bring down one of the Arsenal Birds. Unfortunately, while the shot tears through the Arsenal Bird's shields like a hot knife through butter and splits the Arsenal Bird in half, the stresses placed on the old gun by firing it once more render it as inoperable as the other seven.
    • Osea attempts to carry this out upon the super-sub Alicorn in the first DLC mission, only to be beaten to the punch by the sub's commanding officer, Captain Matias Torres, who leads his crew in a mutiny and seizes the sub for his own horrible, insane goals.
  • Gratuitous French: The ending song, "pensées", sounds like it's a love song, but is really a long string of gibberish to even French speakers, as the lyrics simply do not make sense and lack coherence, despite being sung in phonetically correct French.
  • Guide Dang It!: While the Campaign Assault Records screen does give hints toward spawning certain ace pilots (some of them are quite specific), many of them still require some seriously tricky precision at times. Be it flying through an absurdly tiny tunnel in the Roco Rojo desert, or downing every enemy on screen inside a ridiculous time limit, there's a lot of trial and skill required to get them all.
  • Hegemonic Empire: Erusea is revealed to be a collection of different nations and ethnicities that have all at one point been annexed and assimilated by the old Erusean kingdom, among them being Mihaly’s homeland. Following the communications blackout caused by the Osean and Erusean ASAT attacks, several of these nations take advantage of the chaos to declare independence from Erusea.
  • Heir Club for Men: The epilogue reveals this is in full effect in Erusea. The king and any sons or brothers, as well as presumably any uncles or nephews he may have had died during the Lighthouse War, leaving Princess Rosa Cossette D'Elise the sole living member of the royal family. Erusea's legislature is mentioned to be working on changing the law so Cossette can become queen, but until they can manage that, the throne is vacant.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: Once again, Belka is involved in instigating a major conflict in Strangereal. Dr. Schroeder states that this trope is all the Belkans have left after they nuked their own country and had much of their own territory claimed by other nations.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight:
    • The Arsenal Bird's first appearance in Mission 3 boils down to the IUPF being unable to even get close to it as it spams a ridiculous amount of missiles and drones at them, while taking advantage of the game's cloud mechanic to cover itself. The best Trigger can do is dodge until a retreat order is issued, as firing missiles will only prompt some UCAVs to take the hit for the Arsenal Bird, despite the airship having multiple target hitboxes. Even if the IUPF pilots do manage to inflict some damage on the Arsenal Bird, it just activates a set of Deflector Shields which destroy all missiles and force away all aircraft within the shield's radius. After that, command orders all squadrons to retreat.
    • You fight Mister X a total of three times, so naturally you can't destroy him the first or second time you cross paths. Surviving long enough for all the scripted radio chatter to play out is the only way to end these first two fights, and often easier said than done thanks to his skill and plain impossible flying.
  • Hope Spot: The game has quite a lot of these.
    • Brownie's plane gets hit by a missile but is still able to fly. Her squadron leader orders her to return back to base with another escort plane while the rest of the squadron hold off the enemy force. Just when the two planes are about to exit the combat zone, they fly straight into Mihaly.
    • The mission to rescue ex-president Harling goes roughly at first, with the Sea Goblin squad that sent in completely annihilated, but Colonel Johnson manages to rescue Harling and the two fly a V-22 Osprey out. Just when it seems like they're going to make it, the plane catches a missile and Colonel Johnson is killed, and for some unknown reason, Harling decides to pilot the plane back to the space elevator. When Trigger tries to shoot the drone that is trailing the plane, the missile instead hits Harling's plane directly, downing the aircraft and killing everyone onboard.
    • Osea stages an invasion of Farbanti to neutralize Erusea's civilian and military leadership and hopefully end the war, as most of the past wars ended with the capture of the enemy capital. Here, however, the global satellite communication network is destroyed, throwing everything into chaos. In addition, with most of Erusea's top ranking officials killed in the fighting, there's nobody with the authority to actually convince all of Erusea to surrender.
      • During the Battle of Farbanti itself, after Wiseman is killed by Mihaly, Trigger duels Mihaly one-on-one and actually scores a few good hits, and is implied that he got within one missile shot of bringing Mihaly down and avenging Wiseman. Unfortunately, the satellite network is destroyed in just that exact moment and everyone's HUDs on both sides of the battle subsequently malfunction. Mihaly takes that moment to slip away in the confusion, while Trigger and the rest of the squadron are left reeling and unable to pursue them.
    • Osea then attempts to back an anti-war Erusean general who has the influence to reunify the country. However, despite Trigger's best efforts, the general is killed by an Osean fighter under orders from an AWACS who had been given false intel from the Erusean Radicals.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Strider Squadron feels bad for having to raid the countryside of Shilage. They know how culturally important it is, but the Squadron needs the food, fuel, and ammo supplies stashed in the castle. Húxiān mentions that she feels like a burglar, but Jaeger reassures her that it's for the best, even if he himself vows to never tell that part of the story to his son. They start feeling even worse when the notice the lines of refugees crowding the roads, now realizing that they're not just stealing from rebel militants, but innocent civillians as well. The reluctance extends even to Long Caster, who drops his usual casual demeanor to broadcasts demands of surrender to the defending enemy forces and making it clear Strider Squadron doesn't want to fight anyone that they don't have to, but unfortunately Sol Squadron is having none of it and gives Strider an earful for acting like common bandits. Mihaly's entrance puts an end to the discussion, as he uses the event to challenge Trigger to a duel.
  • If My Calculations Are Correct: Specter 1 constantly mentions during the search for the Alicorn that the patrol squadron really only needs one aircraft to survive out of the four P-1s fielded, something which irritates Count since he doesn't believe they're expendable. Count gets particularly pissed at Specter 1 if all but one aircraft goes down while still believing that they only need the surviving one to get the sonobuoys deployed. If all four aircraft make it out alive, Specter 1 thanks the LRSSG and muses that this outcome certainly wasn't in the calculations, before Count tells him that they can't rely on calculations when they have an X-factor with them.
  • Impeded Communication: Both Osean and Erusean forces, at the height of the Battle for Farbanti, launch anti-satellite missiles hoping to cripple the other side at the same time, not realizing that they had the same idea. Not only does this take out military satellites, but civilian ones as well due to the debris field it creates. This brings global communication to a halt and leads to massive infighting on the Usean continent. With Radical and Conservative Eruseans, independent forces and the Oseans fighting each other (sometimes with themselves due to IFF not working) all sense of order is gone until the final battle when all of the latter join forces to fight the Radicals.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: The Erusean drones used against Osea's navy in the initial offensive manage to not harm a single civilian, even when attacking Osean ships in their harbors. Not a single civilian is caught in the blast of any of the weapons the drones fire, nor presumably, are any civilians caught in the secondary blasts from the ships the drones hit, nor are any drones shot down and crashed into the cities. That the drones manage not to shoot down Osean fighters and crash them into civilian property is also impressive.
  • Improbable Piloting Skills: Spare 8 "Champ" disobeys his operator and decides to engage Mihaly's pursuing Su-30SM by performing a not-quite Pugachev's Cobra in a MiG-29A, which has never displayed such a capability in real life, to get behind Mihaly. Sadly for Spare 8, the Erusean ace quickly shows him up with a Kulbit and disintegrates him with a missile at point blank range. And then Mihaly finds his match in Trigger, the one pilot he could not instantly kill with his usual point-blank missile attacks.
  • Irony:
    • In Mission 12 Stonehenge Defensive, you, the Oseans, are defending the Stonehenge from the attacking Eruseans, a complete role-reversal from Mission 12 of Ace Combat 04, Stonehenge Offensive. This is further compounded as the mission boils down to the Oseans hijacking an Erusean superweapon to shoot down an Osean superweapon hijacked by the Eruseans.
    • In Mission 4 "Rescue", The Eruseans assassinated Harling by using a drone to fire on Harling's V-22 and shot it down, and Trigger gets blamed for the act because he was the closest at the time of the whole fiasco. Fast forward to SP Mission 2 "Anchorhead Raid", Trigger could potentially shoots down multiple V-22s carrying several important Erusean officers leaving the battlefield, which means the Eruseans are now on the receiving end of having key high-ranking officials being shot down by enemy forces this time.
  • Infinity -1 Sword: The YF-23 Black Widow, F-22A Raptor, and Su-57 are the final planes at the end of their aircraft trees. They're quite powerful in their own right, but there's one plane that's stronger.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The X-02S Strike Wyvern requires beating the campaign to open up in the Aircraft Tree, and requires the purchase of at least one of the YF-23, F-22A, or Su-57, AND 2 million MRP to unlock. Its stats are unparalleled.
  • "Instant Death" Radius: Get out of the way when the Arsenal Birds fire up their Deflector Shields, or you're dead.
  • Institutional Apparel: Downplayed with "Spare" Squadron when they're not off on missions. Being both fighter pilots, and convicts, the 444th Squadron pilot's flightsuits also double as their prison jumpsuits, despite being military green rather than bright orange, as seen with Tabloid when he meets with Avril. Their only identifier as convicts is an orange armband that states their prisoner number.
  • Interface Screw:
    • Flying into the clouds of an electrical storm will cause your HUD to flutter slightly. Getting struck by lightning makes the plane lurch as the systems spasm, and then the entire interface starts to wobble and flicker for a full minute, with your radar dropping out at random until it dies down.
    • One late-game escort mission has your allies and even the escortee set as valid targets. You have to double-check for the TGT label to avoid failing the mission.
    • For a couple of missions after the satellite IFF network goes down, targets have to be manually ID'ed with a flyover before they're marked as friendly or hostile.
  • Interface Spoiler: Those who have purchased the Season Pass have full access to the entire game's soundtrack from the menu. Careful not to read the song titles before you play the game.
  • It Can Think: The drones initially avert this for most of the game, but there are a few moments that imply that the drones are smarter than they let on.
    • During "Last Hope," The F/A-18 drones escorting Schroeder's plane suddenly attack Trigger and Count even after the two defend the drones and Schroeder from Erusean conservatives. During the fight, the drones not only call for backup from nearby MQ-99 drones (by overriding the authority of the Erusean radicals, which shocks them), but Schroeder makes some comments that imply that the drones know Schroeder is carrying Mihaly's flight data and are actively trying to kill anyone who may try to stop them from obtaining the data for themselves.
    • Hugin and Munin play this trope to a T. Not only are they loaded with Mihaly's flight data, giving them almost unparalleled combat prowess, but they also are very smart. To start, when they go active, they immediately proceed to the Light House and establish air superiority while they wait for the Lighthouse's transmitter to power up so they can upload Mihaly's flight data when it does. When Trigger crashes their party and turns the battle in his favor, they begin studying him and recording his flight characteristics, adding it to their own databanks. And then, when one of them is destroyed, the other, instead of fighting, flees into the Lighthouse's tunnel and hacks the tunnel doors to try and prevent Trigger from following, even staging an ambush within the tunnels itself. It was pretty much all but said in words that if they had succeeded, they would have brought a real Robot War to Strangereal.
  • It Only Works Once: The Oseans capture and repair the remaining railgun of the Stonehenge battery to destroy one of the Arsenal Birds. However, because it's been neglected for over a decade, they can only get one shot in. Fortunately, it hits home, and the Arsenal Bird is destroyed, turning the tide of war in Osea’s favor.
  • It's Up to You: Lampshaded and used for characterization. Spare Squadron is mostly interested in keeping themselves alive, which leads to the AWACS, Bandog, constantly berating them to follow Trigger's example: shut up and actually get on with the mission. Even afterwards, when you face Mihaly, the rest of Strider and Cyclops Squadrons quickly realize that they're no match for the Erusean ace and leave him to you.
  • Job-Stealing Robot: Heavily implied during the DLC mission "Unexpected Visitor." Apparently more than a few Erusean fighter squadrons found themselves Reassigned to Antarctica and replaced by drones, with a least one pilot joking how the furball is a meeting place for those squadrons.
    • The final mission of the campaign has a friendly Erusean pilot angrily asking what happened to Erusea's legendary ace pilots, and wondering if relying too much on drone development is to blame for the country's massive collapse in piloting skill.
  • Keystone Army: Once an Arsenal Bird goes down, its MQ-101 drones cease to be a threat and there is no need to shoot them all down.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: More like Boring, but Practical compared to the energy weaponry that is available for some of the mid-tier airplanes and the X-02S.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Upon learning that Tabloid is actually Belkan, Avril comments that Belkans are known for their conspiracies, to which Tabloid replies that it's just stereotyping, reflecting the sentiment of fans of the series who believe that Belkans always have a hand in whatever conflict that took place in each game somehow. Of course, this game is no exception as well, when it's revealed that the whole reason for the war is that some upstart Erusean officers got their hands on Belka's advanced AI technology, and Dr. Schroeder — a Belkan — worked with the EASA to collect flight data from Mihaly to improve their performance.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In the aftermath of Mission 10, the debriefing mentions that Commander McKinsey gets sent to the front lines for being The Neidermeyer that he was. He did stress his achievements he "accomplished" while commanding the 444th to the top brass.
  • Last Chance Hit Point: Getting hit by the EML of Mihaly's X-02 will not destroy you instantly, but will bring you to 99% damage regardless of whatever damage you had before.
  • Last Lousy Point: Certain achievements, like acquiring S-Rank on every mission for one difficulty or downing all of the named aces, will have one or two major hurdles that will be a roadblock, the most common ones being:
    • The named F-35C, Mantis, requires you to fly directly along the mass driver rail in Mission 17. However, you have to fly very close along it, and for the entire length, during a part of the mission with a hidden timer in the background counting down for when the armada of planes that the ace accompanies spawns. And you won't even know if you did it right until you can find, identify, and then shoot down the ace among the dozen or so other stealth fighters he spawns with.
    • S-Ranking Missions 9 and 13. Both of these missions have a series of main targets for you to go after, but due to the point requirement you're also going to have to take down a large number of other enemies, which is a lot harder than it sounds when outside circumstances related to the mission force you to either move fast to make the time requirement or just not die to unavoidable missiles.
    • The achievement for flying 76,500 kilometers can only be obtained through campaign mode. This requires numerous playthroughs of campaign mode over and over, and — not counting multiplayer achievements — will most likely be the last one players will obtain.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Mihaly's training software looks exactly like a game of Ace Combat.
  • Legacy Character: Or rather, Legacy Ship. The aircraft carrier Kestrel II plays a part in the story, as a successor to the original OFS Kestrel. It never does much, only an attempted attack on Farbanti during "Two-Pronged Strategy" that leads to its offhandedly mentioned destruction. Instead, it's the Admiral Andersen that plays a larger role, being the abandoned carrier that launches Trigger's craft in the final mission against yet another Belkan attempt at revenge, much like the captain it was named after.
  • Let No Crisis Go to Waste: During Operation Domino, one of the Erusean port facility staff humorously jokes that all the ships that are being sunk are going to net them a fortune once the war's over, and suggests buying stocks in salvage companies in advance.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Arsenal Birds are both extremely heavily armed and deceptively fast for their enormous size. If you don't take out the main propellers quickly, most of your time in a fight against one will be spent just trying to catch up with the monster even if you pilot the fastest planes the game has to offer. It's telling that even with most of its propellers destroyed, an Arsenal Bird still matches your standard cruising speed of 600km/h.
  • Macross Missile Massacre:
    • Among the new weapons in Ace Combat 7 are the 4-Target Air-to-Air Missile (4AAM), which is similar to the old XMAA, the 6-Target Air-to-Air Missile (6AAM), the 8-Target Air-to-Air Missile (8AAM), and the 8AAM's anti-ground counterpart, the 8-Target Air-to-Ground Missile (8AGM). Following up an 8AAM or 8AGM launch with firing off the two standard missiles would allow the player to send 10 missiles foe-wards inside of a second. Additionally, there is the returning Rocket Launcher Pod, here abbreviated to RKT, which rapidly fires off a large volley of unguided rockets, and it's more advanced version the GRKT, which fires a rapid volley of homing rockets.
    • The Arsenal Birds have massive batteries of ten VLS anti-air missile launchers, which have the agility to perform the classic Macross Missile Massacre "missile bloom" and the following inverse "missile bloom" effect, resulting in about ten missiles doing a 270 degree or more turn to converge on a single point, often your tail.
  • Made of Indestructium: As Count himself is surprised to discover, the main propellers of the Arsenal Birds are extremely resilient. You can knock them out for a little while, but they'll eventually come back online and still function without a bent propeller to be seen.
    Count: The main propeller is moving again! Just how hard is that thing!?
  • Madness Mantra: In "Anchorhead Raid", Mimic Squadron shows up to deal with Trigger and Count at the end of the mission. If you kill one sibling, the other has a full psychotic breakdown, screaming "I'll Kill You!" over and over again.
  • Magnetic Weapons:
    • The F/A-18F, Su-33, and X-02S can mount an underslung Electromagnetic Launcher, previously only seen on the CFA-44 Nosferatu, as one of many examples of the integration of advanced weapons systems with proven airframes, befitting of the Twenty Minutes In The Future setting.
    • Osean forces repair or replace the wrecked systems of the eighth and final gun of the Spaceguard Turret Network "Stonehenge" that was destroyed in a meteorite impact prior to Mobius One's attack which silenced the turret network during the Usean Continental War, bringing the aging hybrid electromagnetic/chemburning cannon back to life for one last shot to bring down one of the Arsenal Birds.
    • The Alicorn featured in the DLC missions has two 200mm railguns, which are capable of firing neutron warheads. Its captain wants to use them or the Alicorn's aircraft to kill a million people to scare Osea and Erusea into ending the Lighthouse War.
  • Mêlée à Trois: Hoo boy... After all the world's satellites get destroyed, chain of command for both sides become non-existent. As a result, the Erusean military splinters into various factions including but not limited to: anti-war conservatives, pro-war radicals, and those who want to liberate nations annexed by Erusea many years ago (of which they are plenty). Most dangerously, Erusea loses control over its drone army, who begin to operate independently under the direction of their strategic AI, following their own plan to win the war themselves, no matter who gets shot in the process. Some prisoner soldiers assigned to Osean penal units also turn against their captors. And with all this going on, remember that everyone's IFF is faulty, so allies end up shooting each other anyway. Interestingly, your squadron remains loyal to Osea this whole time, and you never actually engage other Osean forces if they have been identified as Osean.
    • In "Unexpected Visitor," Mimic Squadron announces their arrival on the scene by attacking Erusean fighters and then targeting the Osean forces. Their behavior is so unpredictable that Long Caster strongly advises that you destroy them ASAP despite not knowing who they are.
  • Mildly Military:
    • The 444th Fighter Squadron is composed of a bunch of expendable convicts and Jerkass operators, hence they're not as professional as the official military forces. They are prone to swearing, cracking jokes, and insulting each other.
    • Downplayed with the Long Range Strategic Strike Group. It's an official military group now and its members are more professional than the 444th, but it still has looser regulations than what you would expect. AWACS Long Caster constantly eats on the job, and members of the two squadrons in the group appear to be interchangeable at will, with Count and Húxiān, who are both members of the Cyclops Squadron, replacing members of the Strider Squadron in some missions (Jaeger states that rotations between squadrons is Wiseman's doing). After the satellite attacks disaster, the LRSSG is left with no clear chain of command, and they drop all professionalism and just do what they need to survive.
  • Minimalist Run:
    • One of the medals requires doing a full completion of the campaign without using any weapon except machine guns. This means no firing missiles and no using any SP weapons except for the MiG-21's machine gun pods. Another medal simply requires doing the same on the final mission.
    • Another medal requires defeating Mihaly in the final battle with him without using SP weapons in under 5 minutes.
    • Inverted by the medal for taking down the second Arsenal Bird, which requires never using machine guns throughout the entire level, which is harder than it sounds.
  • Min-Maxing: Some experienced players in online mode have been known to arm their planes with bombs, leaving them with no air-to-air special weapon, so they can free up equipment cost for more aircraft parts.
  • Mood Whiplash: Mission 09 sees Trigger finally leading the Spare Squadron into a great victory against the enemy planes, only for Full Band to be accidentally shot down by Count because the former's plane is tagged as an enemy by AWACS Bandog, and it's heavily implied that Bandog might have done it on purpose.
    • Mission 3 starts with Mage Squadron showing up and cleaning house to a cool rock beat, and once you take the planes down, the pilots celebrate and say how "even a rabid dog would know better" than to mess with them. Then the Arsenal Bird shows up and everything goes straight to hell.
  • Mook Horror Show:
    • Missions involving the LRSSG eventually become a terrifying experience in-universe for the Erusean military thanks to the sheer amount of destruction Trigger inflicts and their complete inability to stop him. It gets so bad that a recurring MiG-31B pilot in the first two DLC missions immediately beats a hasty retreat upon realising "Three Strikes" is in the area, claiming his aircraft was suffering from mechanical problems (a remarkable coincidence as his squadron pokes fun at).
    Erusean Port Facility: It's not a hallucination! It's a nightmare!
    • From the antagonist side, there's Mihaly A. Shilage, aka Mister X. Every time he shows up on the battlefield, one of your allies aren't going back. Everyone is terrified of fighting him and flees immediately at the first sight of him. Hugin and Munin, the two super AI drones with flying skills based on Mihaly, are so effective in the battle that your allies are dropping like flies and only Trigger alone is capable of going up against them.
  • More Dakka:
    • The MiG-21 has been seen armed with machine gun pods, which fire very rapidly and ups the plane's number of gun barrels from one to five.
    • The A-10 and its infamous GAU-8 Avenger carry more ammo than any other machine gun on difficulties where machine gun ammo is limited - 4800 rounds, where most other American aircraft (and derivatives thereof, as well as the MiG-21bis and MiG-31B) carry 2400, and everything else carries 800.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The various songs that play in Multiplayer matches include "Gambit", "Megalith ~ Agnus Dei", and "Zero", among others.
    • The medal awarded for dealing laser damage to enemies in multiplayer is called "Excalibur", after the superweapon from "Zero"
    • The last time an enemy boss deployed UAVs equipped with laser beams to swat down incoming missiles was in the spin-off game Ace Combat Infinity, where the Butterfly Master was never seen without a flock of MQ-90Ls that made her aircraft impervious to missiles until most drones were incapacitated. During the final mission, Hugin and Munin each deploy a pair of Weapon UAVs that intercept your missiles with laser beams and will impede your endeavors to damage the superdrones.
  • Necessary Drawback:
    • The ADF-11F Raven uses Pulse Lasers instead of a traditional gun cannon. They're quite powerful as they should be, but you only have one gun compared to two gun pods on other planes; the lasers still can't penetrate through clouds; and the effective range of the lasers is literally half of how far externally mounted Pulse Lasers can shoot.
    • The more powerful a plane is, the lower the number of chaff/flares that it has availablenote . Advancing through the Tech Tree essentially trades defensive measures for better offensive capabilities, and you're expected to compensate for it with your growing skills at flying and evading incoming missiles.
  • New Game+: Due to the fact that everything you unlock in this game is permanent, any campaign you start after the first plays out like a regular NG+ run in other games by giving you access to advanced planes and equipment from the get-go. It's impossible to play a completely virginal campaign more than once on the same player account. Replaying campaign missions in order also has the advantage of the "Round Bonus", an escalating and quite significant cash reward that tends to make Level Grinding faster and more varied than repeating the same high-reward missions over and over again.
  • No Communities Were Harmed:
    • The city of Selatapura is believed to be one for Singapore, considering that it was a third world city before its economy prospered due to the construction of the space elevator, which resulted in having first world standards. It's located in an unknown part of the Usean continent, and was formerly part of Erusea. This would make Erusea a superpowered parallel to Malaysia, which Singapore was ejected from in 1965. Or Indonesia, which was once a Hegemonic Empire in the past. Unlike Erusea and Selatapura however, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia have only been embroiled in border and territory disputes.
    • Large parts of central Usea have naming conventions that imply it to be the Strangereal equivalent of Mexico and Central America, but isn't explored too much more than the Roca Roja Desert and the city of San Salvacionnote .
  • No-Damage Run: One of the in-game medals, and thus by extension, some of the achievements/trophies, require you to do a run of the campaign without ever getting hit. This is much easier said than done.
  • No Ending: For the VR campaign. After the third mission, the debriefing officer wonders out loud if the fight against Free Erusea is about to enter a new phase, considering that the third mission had them using a drone-operated transport plane as a decoy and then unleashing a four-plane stealth fighter squadron. And... that's it. Time will tell if there may be more DLC missions coming out to conclude the campaign.
  • Nostalgia Level: Being the game that connected with many previous games in the series, it has several of them:
    • Mission 4 - "Rescue": You're leading the operation to rescue former President Harling, who's trapped inside the Space Elevator, from behind the enemy lines. This mission harkens back to two missions in Ace Combat 5 that Harling appeared in. At first you must sneak through a hole in the enemy's anti-air radar network similar to how you guide Harling's plane in Mission 8 - "Handful of Hope" in the fifth game. When you break through and deal with the anti-air defenses, Sea Goblin arrives to rescue Harling just like in Mission 20 - "Ancient Walls". Sadly, it doesn't end as well this time.
    • Mission 9 - "Faceless Soldier": In the latter half of the mission, you're ambushed by a squadron of "allied" planes in a mountainous landscape, similar to how the 8492nd turns on you in Mission 18+ - "8492" in the fifth game.
    • Mission 12 - "Stonehenge Defensive": Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Your battlefield is Stonehenge once again, except this time you're defending it instead of attacking. For bonus nostalgia points, you can select the Su-37 with Yellow Squadron's paint scheme as your craft in the mission (if you pre-ordered the game), and it's the exact same mission number as "Stonehenge Offensive" was in Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies.
    • Mission 15 - "Battle for Farbanti": Once again, you're fighting at Farbanti. The western part of the city still remains flooded just like how it was in 04. The battle even takes place on the same date as the first Battle for Farbanti (September 19) except it's fourteen years later. At the end of the mission, you also encounter Sol Squadron, just like how Mobius 1 has a showdown with Yellow Squadron.
    • Mission 16 - "Last Hope": The stage takes place in Anchorhead - the same city that appeared in Mission 3 - "City On Fire" of Ace Combat 2 and Assault Horizon Legacy, where Scarface One must destroy the enemy aircraft carrier. The city is heavily expanded upon, but the overall geographical features still remain the same, with two large metropolitan areas separated by a mountainside tunnel and a long suspension bridge over the bay area.
    • Mission 17 - "Homeward": The northeastern part of Tyler Island is a space center similar to the Basset Space Center in Mission 6 - "White Bird (Part I)" of the fifth game. The mass driver even plays a role in the mission, except this time you're the one who's trying to stop the enemy from flying away with the payload.
    • Mission 20 - "Dark Blue": The first half of the mission begins with you taking off for the final time from an aircraft carrier that just happens to have every plane in the game available to choose from- just the same as the Kestrel from the fifth game. The latter half of the mission has you flying into a long tunnel similar to the one in Mission 27 "ACES" also from the fifth game, complete with shutters closing down on you. Not only that, you have to choose the right path to continue as some shutters are closing faster than the right one, hearkens back to the "Tunnel Vision" mission in Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere.
    • SP Mission 3 - "Ten Million Relief Plan": There are a few similarities to Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War in this mission. The player needs to locate a target by using a sensor that detects waveforms to tell the player where the target is and how close they are, much like locating Kei Nagase in the mission White Noise. In addition, once the target (in this case the submarine Alicorn) is located, the player must engage a submarine, and like the Hrimfaxi in Demons of Razgriz, it will at times submerge only to pop up again somewhere else.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Played for Drama. Mission 4 ends suddenly when the player fires a missile, cutting to a warhead taking Harling's plane out of the sky. These are two different missiles, but Willing Suspension Of Disblief regarding Cutscene Drop conspires to make the player think they just shot Harling, the person they were trying to save.
  • Nuke 'em:
    • It's strongly implied that the Eruseans were trying to do this in Mission 13 "Bunker Buster", not dissimilar from in the mission "Breaking Arrows" in Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. While nuclear weaponry is never specifically mentioned, there is almost no use for IRBMs (or, indeed, any theater/strategic-level ballistic missiles) other than delivering nuclear warheads, as they're very expensive, and to any observer, there's no apparent difference between a nuclear and conventional ballistic missile, and it would therefore be responded to as if it were a nuclear weapon. The missiles, when destroyed, make a massive explosion that is very different from the Arsenal Birds' Helios missiles and similar to that of V2 in Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, though other high-yield non-nuclear weapons are known to exist in the Ace Combat universe, so it is left somewhat ambiguous. The fact that the detonations don't trigger an EMP, as nuclear high-altitude explosions normally do, further detracts from the nuke theory.
    • Captain Torres plans on launching spent nuclear shells on the Osean capital of Oured. The Alicorn's firing capabilities gives it as much range as Stonehenge itself. The LRSSG directly call it a "mobile Stonehenge", so Oured would have no defense against a strike from over 3,000 km away.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting:
    • "Archange", the song that plays when Trigger faces off against Mihaly for the final time, starts off with traditional Gregorian chanting before becoming a bit more complex.
    • From the DLC, there is "Ten Million Relief Plan", which is split into three different versions that become more intense with the next version.
  • One-Man Army: The "One-Mobius-Army" title obtained through the PlayStation VR missions is a nod to Mobius One being the integral key to winning the Usean Continental War in Ace Combat 04.
  • One-Woman Wail: Used every now and then in various missions throughout the soundtrack.
    • "Daredevil", which plays in the second half of the penultimate mission, features a singer who starts off fairly gentle, but then really opens her pipes at the moment in the dialogue whenCossette successfully sabotages the wireless power transmitter in the Space Elevator required for Arsenal Bird Justice to maintain its shield up.
    • "Hush", plays the trope straight, in that the female singer is not accompanied by any backup vocals. The song is a case of Long Song, Short Scene though, as only a snipett of it is heard during the final mission.
  • Orphaned Etymology: AWACS Long Caster mentions that he'll take the squadron out to eat at an "Italian bistro" in town, despite the fact that the country of Italy doesn't exist in Strangereal. There's also the offhand mention of "Jesus", and the game's description of the MiG-29A specifically explains how its nickname is of Russian origin. The F-2's description is more vague, saying how "Its country" (Japan) built it with their territorial needs in mind. Special mention also goes to the F-15J: While the description does a good job of not mentioning its country of origin outright (in the same manner as the F-2), they seemed to have overlooked that the "J" in the aircraft's designation stands for Japan, since the F-15J is in fact a Japanese licensed copy of the F-15C built by Mitsubishi.
  • Paper Tiger: The 444th's "air base" is actually just a military prison with a single access runway. Everything else is balloons for vehicles, wooden shells for buildings, and painted-on airstrips. Erusean bombers fell for the decoys a bit too well, necessitating the activation of the penal fighter squadron just so that the Eruseans don't figure out what's really going on. The penal unit wasn't even supposed to take off; their primary objective was just to taxi out of the hangars and essentially rev the jets' engines and mill about on the tarmac (and later, in the air) in order to look busy, for the purposes of looking like the air base was trying to scramble jets in response. Unfortunately, the base was too convincing - Erusea sends a massive group of bombers and their escorts to flatten them soon after Trigger's arrival, forcing Bandog to unlock the convicts' weapons so they can shoot down the enemy. As a consequence, the 444th Fighter Squadron went from a paper tiger to a real one.
  • The Pardon: Spare Squadron's members get one for their heroism in the conflict, with most of them joining the regular force while Trigger and Count are absorbed into the LRSSG's Strider Squadron.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Full Band comments that you'd be surprised how many people leave the password to their computer on a note nearby.
  • Player Nudge: Briefings tend to heavily suggest choosing a plane good at air-to-air combat if Mihaly is going to show up.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • Erusea's definitive strategy to fight the war is by hacking the international community's satellites and using misinformation to spread confusion.
    • The entire war is the result of this between Osea and Erusea. Erusea believes that Osea was trying to gain influence and take over its country by building the Lighthouse Space Elevator so close to its borders, so they try to prevent that by declaring war on Osea. Osea itself having a history of meddling in other countries' affairs in the past didn't help its case. However, it's later revealed that Osea - under the leadership of Vincent Harling - really was genuine in their attempt to help Usea in their restoration efforts through the use of the Space Elevator and has no other ulterior motive, thus making the entire war All for Nothing.
  • Powerful, but Inaccurate: The entire shtick of HPAAs or High-Power Air-to-Air Missiles, and by extension, the almost-exclusively Russian aircraft that can use them. They do much more damage than normal missiles and are significantly faster, but they have poor homing capabilities.
  • Power Up Let Down: The level 1 missile damage upgrade does nearly nothing. Every enemy that takes two missiles to take down without it still takes two with it, and every enemy that takes three without it, still takes three with it. It may save a few rounds of machine gun ammo in finishing off said targets and might save a missile or two against harder targets like Aegis ships, but those are much better dealt with by specialized weapons.
  • Rapid-Fire "Shut Up!": Should you fail your first mission with Spare Squadron by letting the Eruseans blow up the 444th's Air Base with their bombers, you get treated to an amusing 'secret' conversation where AWACS Bandog delivers this to your pals in Spare, who are busy laughing their heads off and insulting Base Commander McKinsey and Bandog in response to what happened. It does nothing in making them shut up.
  • Real Place Background: The Shilage Castle in Mission 18 - Lost Kingdom looks very similar to the real-life Spiš Castle in Slovakia.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Modern missiles are pretty good at locking onto what the HUD says they will, but a fire-and-forget infrared-guided missile pointed at a tight cluster of signatures is liable to make mistakes. This appears to be what lands Trigger in the Spares, no matter what the player tries. It wasn't, but it's plausible enough that Trigger takes the fall.
    • In "Fleet Destruction", if you destroy the center platform of the runway at the northern sea base first, the planes trying to take off will fall off and crash because they don't have enough speed to reach flight yet.
    • As one can imagine, a squadron full of imprisoned fighter pilots does not a disciplined squadron make. Pilots regularly disobey their commanders, talk smack about each other, and completely disregard military protocol, even while taking off, in some cases actually cutting off other planes on the tarmac for a chance to take off first. The commanding staff has little if any respect for the pilots under their command, threatening them, insulting them, and generally treating them like the criminals they are, often throwing them in solitary for insubordination or just because they mouthed off. In combat, it is pretty much a free for all, with the main objective being "you're fodder, so act like fodder."
      • That goes double for the 444th's air base: Sure, you know that the entire base is just a huge sham to make it look like Osea's up to something in the middle of nowhere, but the enemy doesn't, and that's...kind of the point. But, as Spare found out the hard way, if you act convincingly like a massive air base preparing an aerial offensive, the enemy is going to treat you like one — that is, they're going to do everything in their power to destroy it. Whoops!
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Wit gives one to the LRSSG when they attempt to raid Shilage Castle for supplies.
    • Ionela gives one to Dr. Schroeder after learning that he started the drone program as vengeance for losing Belka, his homeland.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica:
    • This is what happens to Trigger when he supposedly shoots down and kills Harling. He's officially transferred to the 444th Squadron, but in reality it's a penal unit stationed in the middle of nowhere whose sole purpose is to serve as an expendable decoy force.
    • It is implied that a majority of the defending Erusean pilots during the first DLC Mission "Unexpected Visitor" are this, due to a large chunk of Erusea's air force being replaced by drones. They're all very eager to get into the fight, and some of them don't even care about the objective they're defending—they're just happy to be flying.
  • Recurring Riff: The game's soundtrack has a recurring melody that can be heard in the songs "Faceless Soldier" and "Siren's Song" from Mission 9 - "Faceless Soldier" and Mission 11 - "Fleet Destruction" respectively, and then in "Daredevil" and "Hush", which are heard in the final two missions.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over:
    • Mihaly, the central antagonist of the story, flies a black Su-30SM, and later a black X-02S, with red wingtips.
    • The SACS Unit, the personal submarine air force squadron under Matias Torres's command, all flew black Rafale Ms with red vertical stabilizers, and they're all as insane and bloodthristy as their superior.
  • Religious and Mythological Theme Naming: Several Erusean ships are named after Greek deities, such as Enyo, Eris, Ceto, Dysnomia, Thalassa, Eunomia and Metis. Most plot relevant, however, is the super submarine Alicorn.
  • Riddle for the Ages: What motivated Harling to deliberately steer his plane towards the Space Elevator. The Oseans are convinced that he was making a desperate attempt to protect the Elevator from missile fire. However, the Eruseans believe that he was deliberately trying to destroy the thing. In-universe, this riddle becomes known as Harling's Mirror - due to the fact that the answer a person comes to regarding this question directly reflects how they view the Space Elevator, and what it stands for.
  • Robot War: A surprisingly realistic take on the genre. Erusea starts the war by smuggling unmanned drones developed using technology loaned from Belka to Osean naval ports, which do a lot of damage without harming civilians. They even use regular aircraft that are controlled by an AI system that are equipped with spoofed IFF signals to trick Osean pilots into thinking they’re friendlies. However, when the Usean Satellite Network is taken out by Osean and Erusean anti-satellite missiles, and Erusea collapses into a civil war, the AI goes haywire as it doesn't know when to cease its functions. The Final Boss of the game is a pair of highly advanced rogue UAVs that are trying to use the International Space Elevator's transmission capabilities to transmit their combat data to automated drone factories across Usea in order to mass-produce an entire army of drones to win the war on their own.
  • Roc Birds: Jaeger compares the Arsenal Birds to the legendary Roc. Considering its size compared to regular fighters, it's pretty apt.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Stonehenge's last railgun (rusted over and barely functional as it is running on an improvised power supply made of Osean generator trucks) goes up against an Arsenal Bird, with the latter activating its shields. Stonehenge's handicap is made worse by Erusean spies killing off the civilian contractors manning the observation vehicles, forcing the operators to use a (probably paperback) range table set that was conveniently located in the operations room. Stonehenge's railgun fires for the last time and its projectile punches through the Arsenal Bird's shield, cutting the giant drone in half as well.
  • Rule of Three: Several important details of the game often occurred three time:
    • Chronologically, the Lighthouse War is the third continental-wide conflict in Usea, following the Usean coup d'etat and the Usean Continental War.
    • You fought Mihaly A. Shilage, aka Mister X, and the Arsenal Birds three times each throughout the game.
    • Trigger flew for three squadrons throughout the story: from Mage Squadron, Spare Squadron, and later Strider Squadron.
    • Trigger gets three 'sin lines' on his tailwings when he joined Spare Squadron, which he would later fashioned to become the Three Strikes symbol once he joined Strider Squadron.
    • Three missions in the game take place at the Lighthouse Space Elevator, which is a key location and what drives the story of the game.
    • Even the DLC missions get in on this. There are three SP missions, all of which involved Captain Matias Torres, the rogue Erusean captain of the Alicorn Super-Scinfaxi class submarine, which is itself the third super submarine that Yuktobania developed following the Scinfaxi and the Hrimfaxi that ended up fighting Osean pilots once again.
  • Run for the Border: Mission 10 is all about escorting Commander McKinsey to the border of Bulgurdarestnote , a small nation on the eastern region of Usea (at this point within Erusea's occupied territory) that feels a broader kinship with Osea.
  • Scenery Porn: The landscape can only be described as highly detailed and photo-realistic, with revisited locations of previous games receiving an important graphical update (the Chopinburg Rainforest and its associated crater, as well as the Stonehenge ring, Anchorhead and Farbanti, for example). In the Gamescom Demo, one of the new locations, Yinshi Valley, is based on the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in China, the same one that inspired the floating mountains in Avatar.
  • Schizo Tech: While it's normal for the series to have old Vietnam-era fighters like MiG-21s and F-4E Phantom IIs flying alongside the likes of F-22 Raptors and assorted superplanes, Skies Unknown takes it even further by pushing the technological timeline even further back with the F-104C Starfighter and exemplifies its technological mish-mash with the F-14D Super Tomcat, which can now carry the advanced 8AAM stealth weapon pods that were designed for the F-22A and will be entering service in real life long after the F-14D was retired. The Soviet/Russian side of the tree also gets in on this, with the Su-33 and MiG-31, two of the older planes in the game, mounting the near-future Electromagnetic Launcher and Pulse Laser, respectively.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: A large part of the Erusean military breaks off and joins the Oseans to fight the hard-lining government troops, who instigated the war and plan to use the Space Elevator to make Erusea a greater empire.
  • Sequel Difficulty Spike:
    • Significantly so when compared to earlier numbered titles in the series. Enemies are more numerous and more aggressive in taking shots and pursuing the player. Enemy missiles track you more effectively and move at a speed compatible to the player's own, which makes evasion a priority when locked on. Defense systems like the AD Tank and CIWS can shoot down incoming missiles, which forces the usage of guns or bombs to effectively take them down. Missions often throw in tactical wrinkles such as rough weather or altitude restrictions along with tight time and score requirements to keep you under pressure. Earning the medals for completing the campaign without taking any damage or by using only machine guns are a challenge unto themselves and will put your mission objectives at risk by running out of time or being unable to protect an ally.
    • The three DLC missions turn all of the above Up to Eleven. There are significantly more enemies that literally filled the screen, they won't hesitate to gang up on you all at once, and they keep respawning. The missiles are even more accurate than in the vanilla game, and the bosses introduced have gimmicks that prevented you from attacking them easily (the Mimic Squadron with their jammings, the Alicorn with its barrier drones and CIWS). The first two missions are score-based with pretty high bars to clear under the time limit (most of the low and mid-tier planes do not have a missile stock high enough to reach the score in time without making every shot count, even on easy difficulty), and the final mission's first half is a difficult Escort Mission where the targets you have to protect go down very easily and are spread all over the map. All three missions also have very strict S-rank conditions.
  • Shoot the Bullet: Certain enemies, including CIWS, AD Tanks, and the ADFX-10 drone in Mission 10, can actually shoot your missiles out of the air.
  • Shout-Out:
    • An enemy ace you encounter in the game is a MiG-29 by the name of Jester. His plane is colored with the same gold with blue undercarriage paint scheme as the two MiG-29s who crashed during the 1993 Fairfield Airshow in England.
    • The Selatapura equivalent of Singapore's National Stadium resembles Namco's famous circle section when viewed from above.
    • A Space Elevator, built to provide solar energy, becomes the point of contention between superpowers. Ace Combat 7 or Mobile Suit Gundam 00?
    • The game's opening scene, with Avril extending her hand toward the sky in the middle of a desert is very similar to Isamu Alva Dyson's introduction scene in Macross Plus. It even has a similar background soundtrack.
    • The special skin for the Mirage 2000-5, flown by ace "Foudre", is taken from the French film Sky Fighters (Les Chevaliers du ciel).
    • The mission where the LRSSG uses a canyon to hide from Erusean forces before raiding a base is based on the 2004 version of Area 88.
    • The LRSSG's Strider Squadron, considering that Osean squadrons are named after fantasy references...
    • Brigadier General Clemens's superior officer is a Lieutenant General named Shepherd. Sound familiar?
    • In SP Mission 3, while hunting for the Alicorn, Count complains that the sailors should just start singing so it will be easier to find the submarine.
  • Siblings in Crime: Rage and Scream are a brother-sister duo, respectively, who seem to have a vendetta against Trigger. They're very eager to kill him.
  • Silent Protagonist: Lampshaded in Mission 14, when Count mentions that the best part of his squadron is how Trigger never runs his mouth off.
  • Simple, yet Awesome: 4AAM and 6AAM are among the most mundane special weapons — just a salvo of missiles that seek out individual targets with mediocre reliability — but their usefulness in taking down the second Arsenal Bird can't be overstated. Each missile is powerful enough to destroy one of the Bird's weapons in one hit and its propellers in two, so a handful of passes is all it takes to (mostly) neuter the monster with minimal resistance and soften it up for the Coup de Grâce. The two missile weapons are quite useful in regular battles as well, but it's in this mission where they truly shine.
  • Space Elevator: One has been built in the Spring Sea southwest of Usea, near Selatapura. The site of construction becomes a point of contention for Erusea, claiming that it has been forced on their territory; this is seemingly one of their reasons for declaring war on Osea. In truth, Selatapura seceded from Erusea and became an independent nation. Said space elevator is primarily intended to deliver energy from orbit down to power plants groundside, and isn't fully completed yet, so it is not yet able to function as a ground to orbit cargo delivery system.
  • Speedrun: One medal, and by extension, certain trophies/achievements, require doing a full run of the campaign with no more than four hours of flight time. Due to how checkpoints work, this means that restarting from them is ill-advised when attempting this.
  • Spiteful A.I.: AA guns are nearly harmless, doing only 1% damage per hit, but they're far more accurate and faster-shooting than their predecessors in other Ace Combat titles, and while little threat to mission completion, will aggressively do everything they can to deny you the no-damage bonus and thwart your No-Damage Run.
  • Subsystem Damage: All warships larger than gunboats have separate hitboxes for their various weapons, but trying to exploit this to reduce their firepower is largely pointless because they also have a hitbox for the ship itself (usually the conning tower) that is highly vulnerable to weapons like the LAGM. Where this trope really comes into play are the Arsenal Birds, with their ridiculous number of subsystems including eight propellers, ten missile launchers, numerous laser weapons and a set of critical components that is key to destroying them for good if no equivalent superweapon is available to counter them.
  • Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder: Spare Squadron, initially, is seen as little more than a penal labor group, using mothballed and partially disassembled planes on the ground alongside decoys to give the impression of a larger air force presence than Osea actually has and draw enemy attention away from Osea's real forces. But little by little, they have to step up their efforts to appear "authentic" to the enemy, and before long they are being deployed on missions where the regular forces are too valuable to risk. Eventually they are recognized for their surprisingly effective contributions to the war, given general pardons, and promoted into becoming a regular Osean Air Force unit.
  • Theme Naming:
    • Osean airforce units seem to take their names from High Fantasy and medieval elements. Ace Combat 5 and Zero establishes the Razgriz (after the Valkyrie Randgrid), Wizard, and Sorcerer Squadrons, but this game adds Skeleton, Golem, Gargoyle, Cyclops, Strider, Basilisk, Salamander, Mace, Wand, Drake, Enchanter, and Mimic on top of the player's own Mage Squadron.
    • Each operation undertaken by Spare Squadron is named after a better poker hand than the operation name before, starting with Operation High Card and ending with Operation Full House.
    • With one special exception, all Osean naval vessels are named after birds. Albatross, Kestrel, Vulture, Egret, Crane, Pheasant, Ptarmigan, Shoehorn, Stork, Bunting, Sunbird, etc.
  • This Means War!: Princess D'Elise claims that Osea has forced the construction of their Space Elevator on (formerly) Erusean soil, which is considered an illegal act threatening Erusea's sovereignty.
  • Title Drop: In Mission 19, while describing the painting in the space elevator's lobby that was commissioned by Harling, Avril notices that its title is "Skies Unknown."
  • To Be Lawful or Good: An important case shows up during the climax of "Ten Million Relief Plan", when Torres seemingly declares his intention to surrender and makes preparations to disarm the Alicorn. Bickering among the LRSSG ensues as Count and Húxiān call bullshit and want to sink it anyway to neutralize the threat it poses, before Long Caster and Jaeger remind them that striking down those who have surrendered is a breach of international law and that they'll no longer be soldiers the moment they violate said law. Luckily for them, Torres unsubtly prepares the rail cannon to fire at Oured, meaning that he never intended to surrender and as such is the one who stopped being a soldier first.
  • Trailers Always Lie: An example that can be easily forgiven. The first reveal trailer for Ace Combat 7 showed someone geared up in a space suit getting ready to jump off the Lighthouse, and seemingly intercepted by an F-22 that flies past just as they do. This scene does happen in the story, but it's exactly what type of plane that intercepts that was intentionally kept hidden. This scene occurs at the end of the penultimate mission, as Cossette puts on a spacesuit to jump off from the Lighthouse while two ADF-11F drones arrive and fight the exhausted Osea-Erusea coalition, with one RAVEN flying past Cossette as she jumps off. Count's F-15C seemingly rams her by accident and causes an explosion, and Cossette's helmet can be seen flying off the screen just like the debut trailer, but she manages to survive.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: This brief shot from a pre-release trailers shows a flight of four Osean F/A-18F's, with three of them having some sort of red/magenta highlight on their canopy. These are not Osean Hornets, but actually Erusean Hornets flying Osean colors and running spoofed IFF. These Hornets are also UCAVs, with the Eruseans having applied their newly acquired Belkan drone technology into turning even conventional aircraft into UAVs and UCAVs. That magenta highlight on the canopy is a tell-tale sign of a conventional aircraft being actually an Erusean UCAV.
  • Trash Talk: The fight against Mimic Squadron over the skies of Anchorhead devolves into name calling as Rage and Scream taunt and throw insults at Trigger and Count. Count obviously doesn't like being called a wuss by Scream, so he fires back just as hard as them.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: Briefings are much less obvious about what priority targets you'll have to hit than in previous games, so choosing the right plane and weapon may take a second try.
  • Twenty Minutes In The Future: The game takes place in Strangereal's 2019 and features a wide array of aircraft from the past five decades and the near future, with the Su-57 making its second Strangereal appearance after Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy (where it was still known as the PAK-FA, and that game was set in Strangereal's 90's) before actually entering service with Russia, the first Strangereal appearance of the new Su-30SM, and the return of the F-35C, which still isn't in widespread use in real life. In addition, it features some of Ace Combat's near-future technology fictional aircraft and integrates many of their weapons, such as two variants of the Tactical Laser System (as both a beam and a pulse weapon) and the Electromagnetic Launcher onto real aircraft, as well as experimental real life weapons systems that haven't yet entered service, such as the stealth weapons pods carried by the F-22A Raptor. In non-weapons speculative near-future technology, one of the central points of the game's main conflict is the "Lighthouse" Space Elevator. Perhaps the most futuristic technology seen is the microwave shielding that both Arsenal Birds possess; said shield is able to withstand missiles and bullets, with only a high-caliber railgun projectile intended for asteroid interception being able to pierce it.
  • Uniqueness Decay:
    • The Tactical Laser System, the defining powerful weapon of the FALKEN and Morgan, has been adapted into a subweapon that variants of common planes like the F-15E and Su-37 can equip.
    • The Electromagnetic Launcher, once unique to the CFA-44 Nosferatu, is now carried by more mundane aircraft, such as the F/A-18F and Su-33. However, it has been balanced out with a much slower fire rate and a single launcher design (the CFA-44 had twin EMLs, allowing for rapid fire).
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: The enemy has only a few planes that you can't fly yourself: The AV-8B Harrier, and the F-117 Nighthawk being the primary ones. You also can't fly any of the enemy bombers like the Tu-95, as is tradition with an Ace Combat game.
  • Variable Mix: The soundtrack becomes muffled when flying through clouds.
  • Version-Exclusive Content: All of the plane emblems and titles specifically relating to Mobius One, including the Mobius Squadron, ISAF, ISAF Low Vis, and Free Erusea emblems, and "One-Mobius-Army" title can only be accessed to those who have the VR missions. For months, Xbox and PC players had no means of obtaining them, and even PlayStation users had to pay extra for the equipment and access to the missions. Patch 1.10 added the ISAF, ISAF Low Vis, and Free Erusea emblems as bonus content to PC and Xbox, but nicknames unlocked from VR mode remain PlayStation exclusive.
  • Video Game Caring Potential:
    • The final mission features an allied pilot named Wit - the second in command of Mihaly's squadron, Sol, who will be shot down if you fail to shoot down the second target fast enoughnote . There's no benefit to saving him other than the satisfaction of pulling it off.
    • There are various times where friendly NPCs are under attack while your main objectives are elsewhere. You can go rescue them, and you might even get an extra bit of dialogue for it. Bandog will chide you on Pipeline Destruction if you take out the UAVs that are going after friendlies instead of hunting the trucks, while your squad mates will cheer you on.
    • On Stonehenge Defensive, you can kill the enemy ground forces before they make contact with your allied ground troops. If you're fast enough, you'll hear your ground force say, "they disappeared!" in disbelief about the detected enemy ground forces.
  • Villainous Valor: In the Anchorhead Raid DLC mission, Hrothi Squadron, a squadron of MiG-31s, take off without loading any missiles in an effort to delay Trigger and Strider Squadron until reinforcements can arrive. They know full well that without missiles, they stand almost no chance of surviving, but they do it anyways if it can buy even a few more precious seconds.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: The Eruseans engage in Would Not Shoot a Civilian with their drones, not out of any actual legitimate concern for civilian life, but because it gives them a huge PR win, while Osea's use of more conventional bombing makes them look bad in the eyes of many people on the Usean continent.
  • Violation of Common Sense:
    • In the mission "Long Day", Trigger can fly through a small tunnel and flush out enemies hiding inside. AWACS Bandog immediately thinks that Trigger crashed because he dropped off radar, but other members correct him by saying how crazy he is for flying through the tunnel.
    Bandog: Trigger crashed! Drooling idiot...
    Spare Squadron: No! He flew into the tunnel! He's crazy!
    • Several enemy aces only spawn after doing something profoundly stupid. Flying through a random tunnel for no reason (see above) is just one example. Others include things like flying through the underbelly of an offshore launch platform that's bristling with AA emplacements, intentionally taking heavy damage that could be avoided easily, or deliberately wasting time destroying targets of no importance to the mission.
  • War Is Hell: True to Ace Combat form, the game does not shy away from the disastrous consequences of both sides of the war, worsened by the constant tampering of information in later stages of the conflict.
    • Cossette gets hit with this pretty hard. In the beginning she actively calls for her citizens to wage war against Osea, but quickly realizes the error of her ways when she sees civilian casualties in the wake of the war and she herself becomes a target for the radical government. To say she becomes guilt-ridden by her own actions near the end of the war would be an understatement.
    • Once the entire satellite network on the Usean continent goes down after a simultaneous attack by Osean and Erusean forces, all hell breaks loose due to the complete lack of an IFF, resulting in various faction splits and the spread of unfound rumours. The battle at Tyler Island essentially becomes a microcosm for the continent's state of anarchy, with Erusean forces even committing blatant warcrimes by executing innocent Belkan-related civilians whom they hold responsible for the war.
  • Weaponized Exhaust: Averted in one mission which involves shooting down multiple recently launched ICBMs before they escape into the stratosphere. You can fly as close to them as you want, including right into their several-thousand-centigrade thruster blast, without taking damage. You will, however, be caught in the giant explosion that follows their destruction if you take this too far.
  • We Have Reserves: Spare Squadron is frequently reminded of who they are.
    Col. McKinsey: Remember, you are not bona-fide military. You are expendable.
  • We Will Use Lasers in the Future: Strangereal is transitioning into this situation, now that the Tactical Laser is no longer prototype technology and is viable enough to be mass-produced, while Pulse Lasers are emerging as an alternative for machineguns. There'll always be a place for kinetic weapons in Ace Combat, but energy weapons are now becoming practical alternatives.
  • Wham Line: Mission 16 sees the player rescuing a defecting Erusean general from a battle in Anchorhead Bay, who partway through the mission reveals some important Erusean politics to your squadron.
    Labarth: The open declaration of war, expanding the front lines-it was all the work of some young Erusean officers. They were referred to as the Radicals, but there was an unseen force guiding them. It was technology they borrowed from the Belkans.
    • Slightly later on:
    Labarth: There's more to Belkan technology than just UAVs. Faking IFF designations, for one, was an astonishing feat. They used it to make drones that resembled Osean fighters. And then to assassinate Harling and put the blame on enemy fighters.
  • Wham Shot: Mission 4 ends very abruptly when you press the "fire missile" button, and watch helplessly as the missile apparently takes down Harling's plane.
  • The Worf Barrage: A massive barrage of air-to-air, sea-to-air, and cruise missiles from a joint Osean-Erusean coalition does absolutely nothing against the second Arsenal Bird's Deflector Shields, making it abundantly clear that without Stonehenge the shields are impenetrable.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Erusea knows it can't fight a superpower like Osea on equal terms, so they proceed ship armed UAVs in containers to Osea, where they are remotely launched and proceed to destroy naval bases across the country, crippling the nation's naval response and throwing it into chaos, while simultaneously launching a lightning offensive across the continent of Usea. By the time Osea and IUN forces can recover, Erusea and its allies have seized most of the continent, along with both Arsenal Bird carriers, and the crippling strike on Osea's maritime and naval forces means Osean forces are cut off from the mainland. Later on, when Osea seizes Farbanti, Erusea's capital, Erusea and Osea both launch anti-satellite missiles to take out the orbital satellite IFF network, crippling communications and causing widespread chaos.
  • You Shouldn't Know This Already:
    • During the penultimate mission, a plane with 8AAMs and a few attack upgrades can take out all of Arsenal Bird's propellers during the moments its shield drops to deploy more drones. All this achieves is triggering the dialogue about this not working sooner than normal, the actual targets don't even have hitboxes until the mission script says they do.
    • Lampshaded by the "Clairvoyant" medal that's awarded for destroying all missile silos in the Bunker Buster mission within five minutes, which is virtually impossible to do unless you know exactly which of the eight targets are the actual silos hiding among the decoys, something rather difficult as their locations are almost-entirely randomized once loaded in.
  • Zerg Rush: Every time an Arsenal Bird shows up, it deploys dozens upon dozens of drones to overwhelm the opposition with sheer numbers.

"Tell me something. What color's the sky up there?"

Alternative Title(s): Ace Combat 7

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