A burst missile is a missile carrying at least one specialized warhead that explodes in a powerful air burst, typically accompanied by a distinctive flash of light. The explosive power of a single burst warhead can severely damage or destroy aircraft, while the combined power of multiple burst warheads is strong enough to sink an aircraft carrier. The destructive potential of burst missiles is similar to that of Stonehenge and the Shock Cannon, which would lead burst missiles to be classified as weapons of mass destruction.
Various types of missiles can carry burst warheads, including cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and the guided Multi-Purpose Burst Missile. The Scinfaxi-class submarines were notable for carrying ballistic missiles equipped with multiple burst warheads.
Yuktobania's burst missiles were created to be an improvement over existing intercontinental ballistic missiles of the period. The first burst missile warheads were field-tested by the Yuktobanian military in 1991. The completed missiles were later equipped to the Yuktobanian Navy's Scinfaxi and Hrimfaxi submersible aircraft carriers.
Belka's burst missiles were developed to a lesser extent than Yuktobania’s. Codenamed "Hypersthene", the Multi-Purpose Burst Missile had single warheads and was designed to be carried by the ADFX-01 and ADFX-02 Morgan prototype aircraft.
Estovakia also developed burst missiles, known as the "Nimbus". It was designed to be deployed on the P-1112 Aigaion, which was constructed using classified Belkan technology provided to the Eastern Faction by Lorenz Riedel.
Some time before or during the Lighthouse War, Erusea acquired long-range burst missiles known as Helios. Despite being designed to be carried by Osean-made Arsenal Birds, the Osean AWACS Bandog was unaware of their existence until Osean headquarters provided intelligence on them, suggesting it was developed by Erusea, or possibly Belka, considering they supplied Erusea with various technologies.
Burst missile technology was first employed in combat during the A World With No Boundaries uprising following the Belkan War in 1995. The organization had stolen Belka's single ADFX-02 Morgan model, which was used by Larry Foulke to duel Cipher. In the middle of the battle, Foulke fired the aircraft's burst missiles, but Cipher managed to dodge them and eventually shoot him down.
Burst missiles were later employed in combat during the Circum-Pacific War in late 2010. During the conflict, the Scinfaxi and Hrimfaxi utilized their arsenal of burst missiles to devastating effect against the Osean forces. The first known use occurred on September 30, 2010, when Scinfaxi-launched burst missiles sank two Osean aircraft carriers and shot down numerous Osean escort fighters over the Eaglin Straits. On October 4, the Scinfaxi's burst missiles were used to support Yuktobania's attempted invasion of Sand Island; the burst-missile warheads once again inflicted considerable casualties to the Osean air forces in the airspace.
The second and last known use of Yuktobanian burst missiles took place on November 14, 2010, when the Hrimfaxi successfully forestalled an Osean offensive into the Yuktobanian mainland. The Hrimfaxi-launched burst missiles inflicted enough casualties and damage to the Osean army that it temporarily postponed the inland offensive.
Estovakian burst missiles were utilized once again during the Emmeria-Estovakia War, where they were used to force the Emmerian military to abandon their capital city, Gracemeria, on August 30, 2015. The P-1112 Aigaion, alongside the South Sea Fleet, later defended Gracemeria four times during the King & Balloon Operations. In September, the use of burst missiles secured San Loma for Estovakia and forced the Republic of Emmeria Air Force to retreat west. Throughout November, Nimbus missiles were used against the retreating Emmerian forces.
Burst missiles were not used again until February 12, 2016, when the Emmerians attempted to advance through the Selumna Peaks. Three days later, Estovakia deployed burst missiles to prevent the Emmerians from recapturing San Loma, an endeavor which ultimately failed. On February 20, the P-1112 Aigaion deployed its Nimbus missiles once again to defend itself, before Garuda Team shot it down.
Erusean burst missiles were first used during the Lighthouse War on July 27, 2019, in an attempt to shoot down Spare Squadron which was deployed to destroy a major Erusean communications facility, but eventually failed to do so. They were later used by Erusean radicals during Operation Daredevil on October 31, 2019; the remaining Arsenal Bird Justice fired multiple Helios missiles around the Space Elevator to inflict severe losses to the Osean-Erusean coalition; after failing to repel them, the Arsenal Bird entered the airspace and was shot down by Trigger.
Burst missiles maintain the missile's base design characteristics: ballistic missiles carrying burst warheads are capable of hitting targets from thousands of miles away, while cruise missiles carrying burst warheads are directed to their targets at closer ranges. This also applies to their weaknesses; like other ballistic missiles, ballistic burst missiles can be vulnerable during the early boost phase after initial launch and, if launched underwater, they generate enough sonar resonance that the launch platform can be located and targeted. Regardless of the missile type, Airborne Warning and Control Systems are capable of detecting burst missiles being launched, their time to detonation, and the location of the resulting blast radius, allowing friendly units to avoid the bursts with precise movements.
Burst missiles detonate in a spherical explosion from the center of the warhead. The most destructive burst warheads, used by the Scinfaxi and Hrimfaxi, had a blast diameter of 5,000 feet (1,500 m) and their detonations were described as raining "molten steel" on the ground. When burst missiles are fired at a group of ground and air targets, they must detonate at a low, non-zero altitude to realize the burst's full potential. This means that air units can ascend to a higher altitude to safely fly over the missile detonations. This weakness was exploited by Osea's Wardog Squadron during their engagements to sink the Scinfaxi and Hrimfaxi.
- The final cruise missile in Breaking Arrows in Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies bears a similar explosion effect to burst missiles.
- Mission 05: "Rendezvous", Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War.
- Mission 18: "Zero", Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War.
- Mission 01: "Skies of Deception", Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception.
- Mission 01: "Invasion of Gracemeria", Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation.
- Mission 07: "Front Line", Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War.
- Mission 13: "Demons of Razgriz", Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War.
- FOLLOW, ACES WEB. Published September 4, 1991.
- Aces At War: A History, page 57.
- Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, Assault Record #21 - Lorenz Riedel.
- Mission 09: "Faceless Soldier", Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown.
- Mission 16: "Last Hope", Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown.
- Aces At War: A History 2019, pages 144–145.
- Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, Assault Record #10 - Yaroslav Deryagin.
- Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, Assault Record #25 - Valeriy Nikitov.
- The Aerial Fleet.
- Mission 07: "Selumna Peak", Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation.
- Mission 08: "San Loma Assault", Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation.
- Mission 09: "Heavy Command Cruiser", Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation.
- Mission 19: "Lighthouse", Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown.
- Mission 13: "Bunker Buster", Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown.