Under the Hood pt.2 – Dogfighting and Upgrades

Welcome to Part 2 of this Under the Hood series. Today I want to go over the flight mechanics and AI, and the best ways to approach them in order to come out on top. Especially against that devilish Baron!

Another important aspect of your dogfighting capability is your plane’s upgrade level, so I’ll get into how that works too.



If you’ve played the game at all, you’ll know that there are only really two things you have to control your plane:

  • Desired Direction – in the default control scheme you set this by holding the left stick in the direction you want the plane to point on screen. Unless you are cruising horizontally you should always be giving the plane a direction
  • Desired Thrust – unless you’ve remapped it, this is controlled with up and down on the right stick. For the most part it can be left at 100%, unless you are attempting a manual landing, but it can also be used to perform stall turns


I say ‘desired’ because you don’t directly affect the plane’s direction or thrust, you are making demands of it. The plane’s ability to meet your demands is determined by its upgrade levels of turn rate and acceleration, and its damage levels. Engine damage affects maximum thrust, while wing and tail damage affect turn rate. And thrust affects lift, so at lower thrusts the plane becomes more ‘drowsy’ and less responsive to changes in direction. You can see the damage levels of your plane via the damage HUD (left on the d-pad unless remapped).


However the enemy AI is also bound by these same rules. They are doing nothing more complicated than trying to turn to face you while avoiding the ground. They are unaware of each other, so don’t work together for instance, with one leading you while his comrades get on your tail. That would have been evil >:)

This has an important side effect: it makes them predictable. Ideally you should be close enough to your target to see which direction they are turning and angle yourself to best get behind them for a kill shot.

However, often they are off screen and, depending on the mode, you will see just a marker. But you know that they will be simply trying to fly at you, guns blazing. If they just flew past you they will need to turn around to do this, so chances are they are flying in a circle either clockwise or anti-clockwise. The radius of this circle is determined by their difficulty and wing/tail damage. You can use this to your advantage to come in behind them.

Once you are behind them it is very easy to stay there filling them with holes (unless your turn rate is worse than theirs). This is absolutely the best way to deal with the Baron. What we see a lot of people doing in streams, which is a really bad idea, is…

“We’re going head-to-head, Mav!”

Tom Cruise made head-to-heads look cool in Top Gun, but in reality (and in Rogue Aces) they are a very bad idea. Flying at the enemy head on allows them to do as much damage to you as you do to them. And in the case of the Baron (or multiple bogeys), there’s a good chance their damage output will be much higher than yours, so please don’t do this…

By all means put a few bullets or rockets down range in their direction on approach, but before you get too close, aim to pass to the side and then turn in behind them.


There are a couple more advantages you have as well: your plane can go higher than theirs, and you can dare to go much lower than they do. Be careful going higher though as you will lose some degree of control in the thinner air with reduced thrust, so getting close to the ground and coming up under them as they fly over is a much better idea.


It should be clear by this point that one of the most important aspects in dogfights is turn radius. With that in mind, it’s often worth putting a few bullets into the enemy to reduce theirs, meanwhile making sure to collect as many upgrade crates as you can to maximise yours.



There are several attributes to your plane that can be upgraded (different game modes may have reduced amounts). Each attribute has a fixed number of upgrade crates it requires to maximise the stat, and you will only ever be given exactly this amount over the course of whichever mode you are playing.

The complete set of attributes (and the number of upgrade levels) are:

  • Acceleration (10 levels)
  • Armour (10 levels)
  • Bomb Capacity (4 levels)
  • Cannon Fire Rate (10 levels)
  • Cannon Power (10 levels)
  • Fuel Capacity (5 levels)
  • Rocket Capacity (4 levels)
  • Turn Speed (10 levels)


Upgrade crates are fed to you with varying rules depending on the mode. However you should always strive to get as many as you can, because the enemy is constantly upgrading too and it’s important to stay ahead of the curve. It’s also very important in campaign modes to get your guns to a sufficient strength that allows you to cut through ground forces like butter. Ground forces don’t get any harder to kill, they simply get more numerous. And their difficulty is based on distance from the carrier, unlike the enemy planes.


So to close out let’s look at what determines when you can get upgrade crates from enemy planes in each mode:

  • Normal/Veteran Campaign: as soon as you start you should be able to get a couple of upgrade crates. But then your upgrade level will be capped until you complete missions. After every mission complete, kill an enemy plane to see if it will give you a crate. Keep killing planes until they stop giving crates. They won’t give any more until you complete more missions (you may have to complete 2 or more). One notable exception is the Baron. He will always drop a repair crate when you disable his plane (which can’t be destroyed) then another two upgrade crates when he explodes into the ground.
  • Frontline Campaign: the upgrade level in this mode jumps up every time you advance to a new island. Your first action should be to keep killing enemy planes until they stop dropping upgrades. Finding the enemy airfield and killing them as they take off is a very viable strategy. If you should fail the island you still keep any upgrades you collected on that run.
  • Survival: every plane killed drops an upgrade in this mode.
  • Bomber Defence: the upgrade mechanism in this mode is different – instead of upgrade crates, each kill fills up the bar in the top right. When this bar fills up fully, your bomber’s guns and armour are upgraded and the bar resets.
  • Hot Potato: there are no upgrades in this mode.
  • Rogue Ace: this mode starts you and the enemy at maximum upgrade level, so any upgrade crates you see in this mode will re-arm rockets, bombs, refuel your plane or repair it.

Thanks for reading, and see you next time 🙂

Fly safe!