Generations are categories that separate major technological leaps in the development of fighter aircraft propelled by jet engines. Aircraft with similar technologies are grouped in the same generation for historical context and conversation.
Multiple generation definitions have been proposed; the aerospace industry does not follow a standardized format. Instead, companies use generations as marketing terms to present their fighter aircraft as superior to their competitors, which they claim are within a lower generation.
The Ace Combat franchise rarely addresses fighter generations since aircraft tend to have similar gameplay features. Any classifications that do exist are usually in aircraft descriptions or materials outside of the games. Ace Combat Infinity and Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown made generations more apparent through the Aircraft Tree, where aircraft further to the right on the trees are usually in higher generations.
Fifth generation and older
In Ace Combat Infinity, leveling up the MiG-35D Super Fulcrum to Lv.3 unlocked the "Fourth Generation ++" nickname, which follows the definitions laid out in Air Force Magazine in October 2009. At the same time, the ADFX-01 Morgan's description in Infinity stated it was a "4.5th generation" aircraft, which follows the definitions laid out by Aerospaceweb.org.
A combined set of definitions is available below, following Aerospaceweb's naming scheme.
- 1. Jet propulsion
- 2. Radar and guided missiles
- 3. Supersonic speed, beyond-visual-range missiles, and multipurpose combat roles
- 4. High maneuverability and sophisticated avionics
- 4.5. Reduced radar signatures, advanced avionics (potentially including AESA), and potentially minor stealth
- 5. All-aspect stealth with internal weapon bays and integrated avionics for total battlefield data
Sixth and seventh generations
The sixth generation of fighter aircraft is still only conceptual in real life, so no general definition exists yet. This section is primarily concerned with the Ace Combat franchise's definition of the sixth and seventh generations.
At least one fictional aircraft in Ace Combat—the ADF-11F Raven—has already been described as seventh-generation. Not all fictional aircraft are as cutting-edge; as stated above, the ADFX-01 Morgan is officially considered in the 4.5th generation.
Air Force Magazine predicted "directed energy weapons" and "optionally manned" would be two requirements for sixth-generation aircraft. Ace Combat does not follow that definition. The Tactical Laser System was featured on the F-15E Strike Eagle and Su-37 Terminator in Ace Combat 7, and Zone of Endless piloted the F-14D Super Tomcat in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy (or the F-14A Tomcat in Ace Combat 2). All of these are fourth-generation aircraft.
The CFA-44 Nosferatu is described as "next-generation" in the context of Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation. All of the aircraft in Ace Combat 6, besides the CFA-44, are fifth-generation (F-22A Raptor) or older, implying the CFA-44 has features that make it a sixth-generation aircraft.
As such, below are two proposed generation definitions based on Ace Combat:
- 6. Mobility beyond fifth-generation supermaneuverability, internal superweapon bays,[note 1] and minor networking support[note 2][note 3]
- 7. Advanced networking and modular design[note 4]
- See the CFA-44 Nosferatu in Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation. It presents maneuverability beyond what fifth-generation aircraft are capable of, and it can carry an Electromagnetic Launcher within an internal weapon bay.
- See the QFA-44 Camilla in Ace Combat Infinity, a drone version of the CFA-44. MQ-90L Quox bis units could network with the QFA-44 to defend it from enemy fire. Air Force Magazine predicted networking to be an important aspect of sixth-generation aircraft.
- See the CFA-44 Nosferatu in Aces At War: A History 2019. The CFA-44 has a "cloud shooting" feature, which allows for seamless data links between the aircraft and numerous UAV-45s. The UAV-45s can also mimic the CFA-44's radar reflection, thereby confusing enemy radar systems.
- The ADF-11F Raven is the only-known seventh-generation aircraft. Unlike any other aircraft in Ace Combat, the ADF-11F's advanced networking allows it to communicate with other ADF-11Fs, its own Weapon UAVs, and the International Space Elevator. It also features a modular design where the cockpit unit (whether manned or unmanned) can be fit onto different RAW bodies for fulfilling different roles.
- "What is a 5th generation fighter". Eurofighter World. Published on February 2010. Archived from the original on 2 November 2012. Retrieved on 22 April 2019.
- Aces At War: A History 2019, page 28.
- Lv.3 nickname for the MiG-35D Super Fulcrum, Ace Combat Infinity/Nicknames, Ace Combat Infinity.
- ADFX-01 Morgan description, Ace Combat Infinity.
- Aces At War: A History 2019, pages 120–121.