Air Role Guide: Part II
Surviving in Lethal SAM Environment
Before we get started..
This tutorial assumes you have already read Part I: The Basics tutorial. If there are any acronyms and terminology that confuse you, I suggest you read up on Part I first.
The Instincts of Survival
Modern battlefield is extremely hostile to helicopters and for most air players they will find that they cannot last long surviving. You could complain and rage-quit that air defenses are overpowered in this mod, or you could read up some of our tips below on how to better survive in a hostile anti-air environment while providing effective air support.
Understanding Threat Warning Symbology
All helicopters and fixed-wing aviation assets in MW Mod are equipped with Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) that allow them to detect when the aircraft comes under air defense threat.
When the RWR is tripped, an icon will be placed right on your helicopter, or near from it, along with accompanying warning tone to let you know that you are under attack.
The RWR can detect radio waves being transmitted from fire control radars of enemy's integrated air defense system (IADS) network. The system can detect whether an enemy SAM has locked onto you as well as when it is in a missile guidance mode, where a missile has been fired and is being guided to your aircraft to kill you.
Because the RWR only detects radio waves, they are completely useless to protect you from infrared (IR) homing short range SAMs, such as Stinger Man-Portable Air Defense (MANPAD) missiles. Only radar guided missiles are detected by the system.
There are two warning icons and you should become familiar with them as I describe below.
Phase I: RADAR LOCK Warning Notification
A RADAR LOCK warning is achieved when a SAM fire control radar has "pinged you" with radio transmission waves. Fire control radars will acquire and ping you to determine your flight speed, heading and altitude, then relay this data to all available air defense systems to give them a "heads up" of your presence.
When RADAR LOCK warning starts to appear more frequently on your aircraft, this means the fire control radar has achieved a Single-Target Track (STT) lock on your aircraft. In other words, the radar has now locked onto you and is focusing more radar energy against you to calculate an intercept solution, preparing to kill you.
The frequency in which the radar beams are hitting your aircraft is known as Pulse Repetition Frequency (PRF). The PRF is increased when a radar locks onto your aircraft, because it needs more accurate and thus, more frequent radar signature returns to calculate an accurate intercept solution.
Phase II: MISSILE LAUNCH (Radar Illumination) Warning Notification
After a SAM fire control radar has achieved an STT lock on your aircraft, it has now calculated an intercept solution needed to launch a missile. Now it will engage you by telling missile launchers to open fire.
After missile leaves the launchpad and is flying towards you, it needs guidance from the ground launch station to tell it where to go to collide onto you and kill you. In order to facilitate this missile guidance, the SAM fire control radar on ground rapidly increases PRF by focusing all available radar energy against your aircraft. This process is known as RADAR ILLUMINATION. The airborne SAM missile then picks up the reflected radar energy from your aircraft and makes course corrections to collide onto you.
What should I do when RADAR LOCK warning icon appears?
A radar lock-on does not necessarily mean a missile has been launched against you, but the SAM site definitely has got your number and is preparing to launch a missile after you.
You should treat this warning with seriousness and do whatever you have to do in order to BREAK the radar lock because a radar locking onto you means you are being engaged!
Never stay in same spot when RADAR LOCK warning is tripped. Your first instinct should be to GET OUT OF THE AREA, back away until RADAR LOCK warning stops. Even as you are backing out, the radar will constantly remain locked onto you if you have strayed too close to enemy air defense territory.
To help break the radar lock, use the Defensive Special Ability button on your helicopter as you are flying out of the area to get the radar off of your tail:
Note: Simply releasing chaffs alone WILL NOT break the radar lock! You must release chaffs and maneuver at the same time. You should promptly turn away and retreat while releasing chaffs to cover your egress.
Also, use terrain like crest of hill, building, etc to get behind as well if you can, especially if your defensive ability is not charged! Putting terrain or any obstruction between you and the radar will promptly break the radar lock.
Lastly, if you are flying Attack Helicopter for Experts, dive for the terrain to very low altitude. At low altitude, radar performance is significantly reduced. But do note however, if you are close to the SAM site, and if there is perfect flat, open terrain between you and the SAM site, then low altitude will not protect you.
What to do when a MISSILE LAUNCH / "SAM" warning appears..
This warning message means one thing: a missile is headed your way, ETA few seconds! What to do in this instance is no brainer: get out of the area as quick as you can and maneuver hard! Spam move orders, or whatever it is, do SOMETHING and do it real fast, but no matter what you do, just don't fly straight and never stop! Staying in one spot while a missile is en route is sure way to die.
Note: In the new version of the mod, you will NOT be able to visually spot the smoke trail of incoming long range SAMs, like the US Patriot and Russian S-300 systems -- until they come close to you. So you need to trust your RWR and take warning icons seriously for your own survival.
Fly in circular motion as you are trying to get out of the area to trash the missile when it goes terminal on you. If defensive special ability becomes available, by all means click it and drop chaffs ASAP while you are maneuvering hard and getting out of the area as fast as possible.
If you are flying Attack Helicopter for Experts, dive to low altitude while you are getting out to further even your chances of trashing the incoming missile.
If the missile never showed up to kill you and you stop receiving SAM / LAUNCH warning, that means you have successfully trashed the incoming missile -- the airborne missile has lost guidance and self-destructed somewhere very high up in the sky while it was flying (happens so high that we cannot even see it from below).
As last resort, even when the missile has showed up and is guiding itself to kill you, rapidly maneuvering hard at the last possible split second will also trash the missile in most cases -- in such case, you'll see that the missile completely misses you and just goes ballistic into the ground.
Advanced Survival Tips
Knowledge is power. The more you know about how SAM systems work, the better off you are in surviving while operating in their territory. We'll go over some of additionally important tips on how to protect yourself from incoming radar guided SAMs.
1. Lead-Pursuit Homing
It is important to realize that most radar-guided SAMs in MW Mod use a principle known as "lead-pursuit" or "Proportional Navigation" homing. What lead-pursuit does is, when a SAM system is guiding a missile against you, it does not guide the missile to where you currently are. Instead, it guides the missile to where it thinks you are flying to -- in other words, it leads while it is pursuing you, hence lead-pursuit.
So, use this lead-pursuit advantage of SAMs against them. When you get warned about a SAM launch by your RWR, immediately change your flight direction and fly to the other heading. The missile will be subjected to more hard maneuvers up in high altitude to try to locate you and may not have enough aerodynamic energy required to hit you when it arrives or just totally miss you altogether.
2. Missiles Are Not Invincible
SAMs are fast, they fly at supersonic or even hypersonic speed to kill airborne threats. This sounds scary but fortunately for you, the missiles operate in the same law of aerodynamics that all airborne objects must abide to and that is: energy and thrust.
As SAM missile is airborne, it burns its rocket fuel to generate the required thrust, thus energy, needed to sustain its flight toward your location. This is called powered flight.
As soon as the missile runs out of fuel, it no longer has any visible smoke trail and it is no longer accelerating on its own. This is called "coasting" and from this point on, the missile uses inertia built up during its earlier powered flight to make the final course correction to hit you. As the missile is coasting, it becomes less maneuverable over time and soon enough, its control surfaces cease to respond and it will just go ballistic.
This means, the farther away you are from a SAM site, more energy will be lost from the missile as it is being guided towards you. It means, missile will be easier to dodge with careful early maneuvers as you get farther and farther away from the SAM site.
Based on this, if you get the SAM site to fire its missiles at maximum range, you'll find that missiles are easier to avoid with early maneuvers.
So now you know that a missile (a) is limited by law of aerodynamics as much as you are; and (b) will always fly toward where it thinks you are going, not where you currently are. Based on this knowledge, one thing you must never do when you've been engaged by a SAM is flying straight and predictably. Do everything in your power to make funny maneuvers, barrel rolls, J-cut or whatever it is to confuse the radar and use the Defensive Special Ability button at the same time to dispense chaffs as well. And try to get to low altitude if you are flying Attack Helicopter for Experts.
SAMzilla Warning Advisory
I hope you found this guide much more helpful in getting the best out of the Air role and survive longer in a lethal battlefield.
However, as you get acquainted with missile avoidance techniques, you should also realize that it is inevitable that air defense systems also evolve over time to counter-counter your moves.
Heavy SAM systems that form up an Integrated Air Defense System (IADS) network are the most sophisticated air defense systems in the game (and even in the real-life world today). These systems are so sophisticated that your typical missile avoidance techniques will not work well against them.
One such system in the game is the US MIM-104 Patriot system as a good example. In this article, I'll go over in detail as to how this kind of system functions differently than most medium-to-small ranged air defense systems.
A Patriot Air and Missile Defense System with AN/MPQ-53 Phased Array Radar.
More Advanced Radar
Systems like the Patriot are centered around a phased-array radar. Unlike conventional radars, which rotate while searching, the phased-array radar steers its beams electronically, allowing it to conduct large volume search over a wide area very rapidly.
What is however dangerous to air players is the way phased-array radars in game volume-searches the sky. All phased-array radars in game use a principle known as Track-While-Scan (TWS). This allows the radar to track your aircraft's movement as well as every other aircraft in its search sector without having to constantly lock onto any one of them with STT locks. The radar will simply "ping" all tracked aircraft every once in a while to check up on them to update their tracking information and use this information to actually guide missiles.
One way to tell whether you are being engaged by a Patriot system is when you're flying with more than 1 unit or with another air player in a close formation. When all units simultaneously receive the yellow radar warning, you automatically know that all of you are now being tracked simultaneously by a Patriot radar's TWS process.
Lethal Missile Guidance using Track-While-Scan (TWS)
Aside from the fact that the radar can track multiple air players simultaneously using TWS technique, that's not the worst part.
When the system is launching missiles against you, they do not produce a MISSILE LAUNCH / SAM warning, only radar warning. You will however receive launch warning precisely about just before when the missile impacts all over you.
What happens here is that the radar scans the skies, and enters detected targets into a TWS queue. Once target is designated for attack, the radar merely sweeps it more frequently rather than maintaining an STT lock on it, and silently tells the airborne missiles to move close to their targets without tripping RWR to produce launch warning.
Then, once missiles arrive near their targets, the radar simultaneously illuminates up to 9 independent targets at once, telling each missile to attack a different target. This last moment of illumination produces accurate information for the missiles to hit their targets at the very last second of their flight.
The end result here is that you not only lose one aircraft, but you and everyone else flying nearby all die together, giving little time for surviving air players to escape.
Another factor to consider when going against these advanced air defense systems like the Patriot, S-300, etc, is to consider the fact that they're not going to be easily fooled by you dancing around at their maximum range, trying to tease them to waste their missiles on you, so that you could easily dodge them and force them to burn through their ammo.
When the Patriot radar adds you into its TWS queue and tracks you over time, it calculates probability of a successful kill, based on range to you, and on whether you are maneuvering hard or flying relatively straight, as well as your altitude.
When the Patriot radar determines that probability of kill is too low because you are too far out at its maximum range and maneuvering unpredictably, the system will not launch its missiles against you. Instead, it will mark you down and continue to track you while simultaneously scanning the sky looking for other threats. Then the moment radar determines that you are about to stray closer to the SAM site, it will silently launch a salvo of Patriot missiles without you knowing about it based on the information it had gathered using TWS.
How to Effectively Deal with These 'SAMzilla's
First and foremost, do not try to attack them with helicopters. It's simply not possible. These systems are designed not just for killing helicopters -- but their primary mission is to rigorously defend their team from multiple volleys of cruise missiles and ballistic missile attacks, no matter what the cost is.
Against these hardened systems that are designed to deal with much tougher missile attacks, when you're sending choppers after them, you're basically giving them free kills. Simply put, these systems will not trade themselves for anything less than taking 10 simultaneous shots at your air power.
So the only way to safely deal with them is to use cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. You may need to spam more than 1 missile as these systems will promptly return fire to your attack and shoot it down with their own missiles. But do not try to jump on them with choppers, it's not impossible, but it's very hard to do so and you'll lose your units in the process of doing so even if you're successful.
And that's it for survival guide!
We hope that this guide serves as an interest to the air role aficionados in MW Mod.
Just remember this when you are facing advanced air defense threats like Patriot and S-300 SAMs: The more you understand about how these systems work to kill you, and as long as you consistently pay close attention to your aircraft, you will not die.
The moment you get complacent and stop paying attention and stop respecting these air defense systems, is exactly the moment you will quickly get blown out of the sky before you could even realize what just happened.
We'll follow up next with the expert-level Air Role Guide, that will show you how to play Attack Helicopters for Experts :)