In Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, the Clear Rank for campaign mode's and VR mode's missions are graded by a combination of both Time Bonus and Destruction Score. In other words, players need to be quick and take down a sufficient number of enemy targets to earn the S ranks. This requirement is the same regardless of the mission's difficulty.
When looking at the results after a mission, a few things need to be taken into account:
- Total time to complete a mission
- Time Bonus
- Destruction Score
Let's start with the Destruction Score, which is relatively straightforward. All enemy targets you have destroyed in a mission are summed up in this score. Enemy targets destroyed by allied forces do not count, nor do targets that cannot be destroyed in the mission (e.g. the Su-30s in "First Contact").
Time plays an important factor for grading Clear Rank. Each mission has a maximum Time Bonus, which stays at a maximum value up to a certain elapsed time limit. Go past that limit and the Time Bonus will drop at a fixed rate (30 to 50 points per second, depending on the mission) until it finally hits zero. You can destroy more enemy targets to compensate for the loss, but don't take too long or else the Time Bonus loss will work greatly against you.
Let's take "Two-pronged Strategy" as an example. The S rank on this mission asks for a combined score and time bonus of 44,000 or more. The max Time Bonus is 27,640 if you complete the mission in 9 minutes (09'00"99) or less, which means you should aim to clear the mission in a total of 9 minutes or less while scoring at least 16,360 points by shooting down enemies. If you do go over the time limit, the Time Bonus will start to drop from 27,640 by 40 points per second. At that point, you need to compensate by shooting down more targets to reach the 44,000 combined score, otherwise you won't get the S rank.
We can use a small sample of results to illustrate the point:
|#||Total Time||Time Bonus||Destruction Score||Combined Score||Clear Rank|
Example #3 has a lower Time Bonus than Example #2, but a higher Destruction Score helps raise the combined score above the 44,000 threshold, hence it earns the S rank.
Do note that the timer does not reset when you retry a mission from checkpoints. For example, if you spend five minutes in the first part of the mission, three minutes in the second part, and then retry from the checkpoint in the second part, your timer will start at 8 minutes, not 5 minutes. Therefore, if you crash or fail a mission and a checkpoint will set you quite far back in the Time Bonus, it's better to restart the mission from the beginning. However, restarting from a checkpoint as soon as you reach one will not affect the time bonus. This is useful for long missions like "Lighthouse", because this replenishes your aircraft's health and ammunition.
The exceptions to Time Bonus for S ranks are "Long Day" and "Fleet Destruction"; it is not possible to complete these two missions before the 15-minute timer runs out. Time Bonus will not drop even if you retry from checkpoints and end up with a total completion time longer than 15 minutes. Furthermore, when you reach the score required for the S rank, the AWACS will compliment your squadron's efforts via radio message, which is a helpful cue for players.
As for VR missions, the principle stays the same. However, in "VR Mission 02" and "VR Mission 03" all enemies are marked as TGT, hence the scores earned from destroying enemy targets are fixed. In other words the only variable that comes into play is time.
If you do not manage to get an S rank in a mission, check your Time Bonus and Destruction Score against the requirements stated on our mission articles. Does your Time Bonus differ greatly from its maximum value for that mission? Aim for a faster completion time. Is the Destruction Score too low? Take down more enemies! Some missions are more critical on time, and others are more critical on enemies. Check the requirements carefully and plan ahead if necessary.
Big thanks to friends and fellow players sharing their result screenshots from multiple communities, media, and across different languages. It is from their combined input and effort that made this finding possible in the first place!