- "Let's shoot down those annoying flies out of the sky."
- ― Excalibur personnel
Excalibur (エクスキャリバー Ekusukyaribā), also known as the Sword of Annihilation, was a chemical laser weapon constructed by Belka between the late 1980s and early 1990s. Excalibur was originally conceived as a long-range, anti-ICBM defense system. During the Belkan War, it was used as an anti-aircraft weapon to moderate success until its destruction in May 1995 by the Allied Forces' mercenary ace, Galm 1.
Sometime in 1981, at the height of the Cold War, Belka initiated the Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) program, which was intended to safeguard against ICBM attacks in the event of worldwide nuclear warfare. The concept of an anti-ICBM laser interception system was eventually chosen as a symbol of the nation's technological strength. Excalibur's engineering challenges were undertaken by the South Belka Munitions Factory.
Construction of the weapon began on December 17, 1989 in the centralized region of Tauberg; construction crews began clearing the site of overgrowth in order to lay the concrete foundation for the culminating tower. Initially, civilians were allowed free access to the site, but a riot of armed wildlife conservationists in May 1990 forced the military to restrict access to the area.
Assembly of the weapon's cooling systems, power sources, and RTLS defense units took place in early 1990. By October 8, the cooling towers were nearly complete; construction of the surrounding ground facilities began two days later. By the end of that month, the RTLS and secondary systems were declared ready for limited testing. Construction of the main tower began in 1991, but was critically delayed until June 1993 by technological difficulties.
On August 9, 1993, Excalibur was deemed complete, with all RTLS and secondary systems ready for operations. On July 18 of the following year, the site was reviewed by a team of scientists and engineers, who affirmed that Excalibur was fully functional. Excalibur's future personnel were trained elsewhere and then flown in via transport aircraft, while the weapon's minor components underwent final refinements. The history of Excalibur was followed by photographer Claus Bauer, who documented the construction's progress from 1989 to 1994. A collection of his images, "Untitled Photographs", was released publicly in 2020 by his eldest son Niklas.
Excalibur remained inactive during Belka's blitz invasion and the subsequent Osea-Ustio counterattack. After the defeat of the Belkan Army in Ustio, however, Excalibur's use was sanctioned in anticipation of the Allied Forces' invasion.
The first wartime deployment of the weapon took place on May 17, 1995, during the Allies' air raid on Glatisant: Excalibur successfully wiped out an Allied squadron operating within Belkan airspace. On May 19, the weapon openly attacked Allied aircraft during the Allies' offensive through the Schayne Plains; Excalibur shot down a convoy of Osean transport aircraft, as well as several Allied fighters.
- "Electrical charge has surpassed maximum value, target confirmed. Laser emission distance has been calculated."
- ― Excalibur personnel
On May 23, a flight of Allied fighters and mercenary squadrons were dispatched to destroy Excalibur. Their approach was quickly detected on Belkan radar, and the four jamming sites were ordered to increase their ECM output. Excalibur fired and destroyed the Allies' tanker aircraft, forcing the pilots to break formation. As the mercenaries destroyed the jamming sites, Excalibur fired repeatedly in an attempt to shoot down the attackers. Once the jamming sites were disabled, the pilots attacked the laser weapon itself.
Excalibur's RTLS defenses were soon destroyed, followed by its four power generators. Excalibur's personnel consequently began pulling power from the weapon's subterranean reserves, most of which was lost to electromagnetic feedback. Cipher ultimately destroyed the culminating tower's optical projector, rendering the weapon defenseless. As the mercenaries bombarded the tower with missiles, it began to tip sideways; the concentrated damage and physical stress eventually caused the "king's sword" to sever in half. The upper part of the superstructure plummeted to the ground and destroyed much of the surrounding infrastructure.
There is evidence that the abandoned ruins of Excalibur still stand in Tauberg's countryside.
Excalibur was a sprawling structure that covered hundreds of acres. Four ECM jamming sites south of the main installation protected the weapon. The main site supported various command and control facilities, and was surrounded by rail-mounted RTLS weaponry for short-range defense.
The weapon itself stood atop a square foundation with six projections—four primary and two secondary—which extended several hundred meters from the central base. Each projection supported a variable-hydraulic regulator tower that was several hundred meters tall. Excalibur's four external power generators were situated at the cardinal points of the structure, and fed into the weapon via immense power conduits. The entire structure was surrounded by three large solar panel arrays that served as a reserve power source.
Excalibur's one-kilometer high culminating tower rose from the central base of the weapon; the imposing superstructure's broad, rectangular shape gave it a blade-like appearance. Exhaust vents (located on either side of the tower) discharged super-heated fumes generated by firing the laser and prevented overheating. Excalibur's optical amplifier and radome were situated atop a slender aperture that extended from the top of the tower.
To fire, high voltage currents were fed into Excalibur's base. The intense electrical charge would build and ascend (culminate) up the central tower. The six surrounding towers were constructed as a threat detection and radar tracking system to guide and fire the laser. At the top of the central tower was Excalibur's laser emitter turret.  which emitted a total energy output of 1.21 gigawatts. Excalibur possessed an almost 360-degree range of motion; however, once the laser's firing protocol had been initiated, the emitter became "locked", allowing it to only redirect its beam vertically. After firing, Excalibur underwent a required cooling period to avoid damaging the weapon's vital power systems.
For attacking long-range targets, Excalibur was assisted by an array of low-orbiting satellites equipped with reflective mirrors, which were used to redirect its lethal beams; the mirrors gave it a theoretical range of 1,200 kilometers, equal to that of Usea's Stonehenge.
- Excalibur is the first known superweapon to have been developed in the Strangereal universe.
- Excalibur shares its name with the mythical sword of Arthurian legend. The basis is emphasized at the end of Sword of Annihilation, in which an Allied pilot describes Cipher as having "pulled the sword from the stone", a reference to the "sword in the stone" myth.
- However, Excalibur and the sword in the stone were not necessarily one and the same in ancient folklore. In Robert de Morlon's Merlin, the sword Excalibur can only be removed by the "true heir" of Uther Pendragon (Project Pendragon's namesake).
- The Arthurian motif is reinforced by Excalibur's physical resemblance to a sword: the radome and tip form the "hilt", and the tower's superstructure is the "blade".
- Excalibur's mirror satellite systems may be a reference to the hypothetical superweapon type referred to as a Sun Gun, which would consist of a series of mirrors (or one large mirror) used to reflect beams of light from the sun down to the surface of the planet in the form of a directed energy beam; Germany is known to have researched such a weapon during World War II.
- When viewed from above, the tower and its surrounding solar panels form a radiation warning symbol.
- Excalibur's energy output of 1.21 gigawatts is likely a reference to the Back to the Future film series, in which it is the amount of energy required for the DeLorean time machine to achieve time travel.
- Excalibur may have been inspired by Project Excalibur, a part of the Cold War-era United States' Strategic Defense Initiative. The project proposed that several X-ray emitter arrays would be built around the United States and used as a directed energy weapon for ICBM defense.
- Excalibur bears a close resemblance to the Soviet-built Kavaznya laser in the 1987 Dale Brown novel Flight of the Old Dog. Both are ABM gigawatt-grade laser installations that were used as anti-air weapons and destroyed in an air raid operation. Interestingly, the installation in the novel also uses reflective low-orbit satellites to redirect its beam.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Sword of Annihilation, Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War.
- ↑ Aces At War: A History 2019, page 015.
- ↑ ACE COMBAT ZERO THE BELKAN WAR Bandai Namco website.
- ↑ Aces At War: A History, page needed.
- ↑ Aces At War: A History, page needed.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 "Untitled Photographs", Claus Bauer. 1989–1994. Retrieved October 23, 2016.
- ↑ Bastion, Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War.
- ↑ Debriefing, Bastion, Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War.
- ↑ Merlon, Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War.
- ↑ Ending credits, Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 11.2 Aces At War: A History, page needed.
- ↑ Cutscene prior to Sword of Annihilation, Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War.
- ↑ "Excalibur", Ace Combat Zero – ACES WEB. Retrieved December 3, 2016.