The Let's Play Archive

Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War

by nine-gear crow

Part 14: Mission 13 - Operation Stone Age, June 13th, 1995

“Lying In Deceit”

Mission 13: Operation Stone Age – June 13th, 1995

Overview: The newly restructured Galm Team is dispatched to Yering Mine facility at Mt. Schrim, deep inside Belka. A contingent of Belkan troops who have refused to accept ceasefire agreement has reportedly holed up across the mining complex. Cipher and his new wingman PJ are sent in to clean up Belkan remnant.

Guest Commentator: I’m joined for this post-game changer mission by ACES CURE PLANES. ACES, as you’re already aware, is currently doing a parallel run through Ace Combat Zero on Mercenary mode and Ace difficulty and making me look like an absolute chump in the process because he’s way better at the game than I am.

He’s also working on his own series LP of the PlayStation 2-era Armored Core games, starting with Armored Core 2.

So because literally anything I would have posted in the last update would have been massive spoilers for the reveal in that video, I’m posting the Mission 12 and 13 analyses in the same update. So expect this to run a little long. Let’s start with the craziness of Mission 12:


On June 6th, 1995, the Principality of Belka detonated seven V1 nuclear bombs on its own soil in a bit to halt the Allied advance into the north of the country where its capital lied. The true rationale for the devastation has been argued by historians and scholars for years. Perhaps it was just a case of good old desperate insanity. Regardless, the Belkans altered world’s geopolitical and military landscape in a single blinding instant.

To say that this was a day that changed the Ace Combat world is one giant understatement. You could very easily imagine how earthshattering it would be in our world if during a war that was going badly for them, a foreign country dropped seven nuclear bombs on itself create an irradiated firewall against their advancing foes. The nuclear detonation sites would go on to form the demarcation line between North and South Belka, and the new border that would be drawn up following the post-war armistice.

Officially, the death toll from the attacks was listed at 12,000, a surprisingly low number for seven—possibly almost eight—simultaneous nuclear detonations. People have criticized this number for being way too low for such an event, and have argued various explanations for it. 1) Project Aces fumbled the math (the most likely option), 2) the detonation sites were located along a sparsely populated mountain range, and the largest nearby city was Sudentor, which wasn’t actually hit by any of the bombs, and 3) the Belkans and Oseans were probably underselling death toll for propaganda purposes. And that’s not even going into the fact that the real casualty count from all the aftereffects of the bombings will be a rolling counter for the foreseeable future.

The jury’s still out on whether or not the flight of BM-355s downed by Cipher and co. also had nuclear weapons aboard. The most likely answer is that this was indeed a decoy flight, one of probably several dispatched from Belka, all flying with falsified orders for a fictitious nuclear strike on Ustio in case of potential Allied signal interception. I say this because if this was indeed a flight armed with nukes on a veritable suicide mission like its fellow bombers were, then it would most likely have dropped whatever bomb compliment it had right as Galm Team engaged it.

This is also another fairly big reason I wanted to make sure the Mercenary run of Mission 10 was the “canon” run for the LP. We see now that Huckebein’s alleged aborted mission to drop a nuke on a city within Belkan territory, the one that the fled from and attempted to defect to Osea over, was actually a test run for the Seven Pillars. Or perhaps they were Belka’s plan B in the wake of Buchner’s defection. Did Huckebein spawn an even greater devastation by refusing to follow his orders? Who’s to say for certain?

The fallout (no pun intended) from this event is going to ripple down through future Ace Combat games, Ace Combat 5 in particular. It also helps to retroactively explain why there is a surprising lack of full-blown nuclear war in a world as constantly in conflict as Strangereal. Following the “Seven Pillars” as they would come to be known, the nuclear powers of the world (primarily Osea, Yuktobania, Sapin, Erusea, Emmeria, Wellow, Verusa, Estovakia, and the FCU) came together to sign a strict nuclear disarmament and prohibition treaty.

This also helps go a long way towards bringing the series in line with the real-world reason why the games steer away from the use or at least the threat of nuclear weapon. The Ace Combat games are inescapably Japanese productions, despite how much they try to disguise it. And one of the big Japanese cultural threads that is woven though each of these games is Japan’s enduring nuclear weapons taboo. Japan of course is the only nation to have had nuclear weapons used upon it in populated areas in a time of war, so they know the true horrors of what a nuclear attack entails. It’s the reason why Japan has never developed its own nuclear arsenal following World War II, and why talk of starting a nuclear program even to this day still sparks public outrage. Instead, Japan is protected by the United States’ nuclear umbrella. The nuclear attacks on its home soil, even 60 years later, are still a huge cultural open wound for Japan, and the use of nuclear weapons in most of the fiction that comes out of the country is done so as a heavy allegory. Godzilla, for instance, was originally an allegory about the use of nuclear weapons.

I don’t want to say that it’s “good” that we’re getting this out of the way right off the bat, but for what it’s worth, this event is effectively Ace Combat at its narratively and geopolitically darkest. Things will get better, but the scars Belka just left (and have still yet to leave) on Strangereal will never truly heal.

Belka is essentially fraying around the edges politically, now more than ever since the government nuked a massive stretch of the countryside without any warning. The vast swath of Belka south of the Seven Pillars has already functionally defected to Osea, and the remainder of the country in the north is beginning to eat itself whole in a quasi-civil war between those who still support Waldemarr Rald’s now clearly unhinged government, and those who seek to topple it from within and put an end to this ghastly miscalculation of a war.

The flight of MiG-31s that attempted to run down the (possibly) decoy bomber flight encountered by Galm and Crow Teams was representative of this new faction that has cropped up within Belka. It is assumable that similar flights were scrambled to intercept the other flights of bombers before they deployed their warheads along the Waldreich mountains. It can’t be known for certain how many of them were successful, but we now know that at least seven of them failed.

I’ve namedropped this location a few times to “prime the fire” as it were, but this is the point in Ace Combat history where they become a famous location. Waldreich basically just became to the people of Strangereal a similar shorthand for nuclear devastation as Hiroshima and Nagasaki are in the real world. Following the nuclear detonations, the Waldreich mountains became known as the “Northern Gate” of Belka, the line separating the lost states of the vestigial Belkan empire from the last sliver of true Belkan soil in the north.

The resulting atomic explosions rendered the mountains a barren and irradiated wasteland, killing most of the local wildlife and blanketing the mountains in a localized nuclear winter that permanently altered its weather patterns. Despite the Osean government and the AN IAEA commission enforcing a zone of alienation around the blast sites, some survivors of the attacks have remained near ground zero, having nowhere else to go.

“Waldreich,” once again is another one of those on-the-nose German appropriations meaning “woodland,” which is what the mountain range was famous for before Belka lit on fire.

One of the more famous cultural landmarks in the Principality of Belka prior to the detonation of the Seven Pillars. Stier Castle was renowned around the world as a tourist destination. Built on a lakeside hill, the castle overlooked the town of Stier at the base of the Waldreich mountains. The castle itself dated back to the late Middle Ages when Belka reigned as a dominant force on the Osean continent and the legendary Belkan Knights rode the land. The castle also served as the inspiration for and setting of the popular medieval Belkan fairy tale A Blue Dove For The Princess, one of the first medieval works to feature the famous Demon of Razgriz as a character.

Following the Battle of Waldreich and Seven Pillars incident, Stier Castle and its surrounding villages were evacuated by the disaster relief workers from the Osean military and all travel to the castle has been forbidden under international law. The decaying, irradiated remains of the fortress now lie in the center of the Waldreich Zone of Alienation along what is now Belka’s southern border.

A Belkan state-owned weapons manufacturing firm headquartered in the city of Sudentor, Belka. The South Belka Munitions Factory was responsible for nearly all of Belka’s weapons development breakthroughs and its slate of advanced weapons such as the Excalibur tactical laser weapon and the V1 nuclear bomb, both of which we’ve seen in action already.

The SBMF was also the driving force behind Belka’s Project Pendragon, which was under the direction of Belkan Air Force captain and chief engineer Dr. Anton Kupchenko until the opening days of the Belkan War. Kupchenko and his entire Gault Squadron were reported as “missing” during a sortie in March of 1995. While he has been presumed deceased ever since, his legacy remains an active threat to the Allied Forces.

In addition to Excalibur and the V1, the SBMF was reported to have been hard at work on a weapon codenamed V2 (speculated to be an intercontinental MIRV nuclear warhead delivery weapon), though official evidence of its existence is still speculative. Communications intercepts and redacted and partially destroyed documents recovered from captured SBMF facilities also mention projects codenamed “Hresvelgr”, “Zoisite”, “Hypersthene”, “Morganite”, and “Morgan”.

Following the destruction of their facilities in Hoffnung and the Waldreich nuclear strikes by the Belkan government itself, the SBMF began to rapidly shutter its facilities and destroy all potentially incriminating documents, and key members of its upper management have gone into hiding. However, Osean spyplane photographs have shown that materials and personnel previously reported missing from SBMF facilities have been spotted at the Yering Mine facility at Mt. Schrim.

…What do mean “That’s a picture of Jorhan Stahl”? We haven’t even started Killzone 3 yet.

In the chaos following the detonation of the Seven Pillars and the so-called “Battle of Waldreich,” Larry “Solo Wing Pixy” Foulke, also known as Galm Two defected from the Ustio Air Force and fled the battlefield over the Waldreich mountains following the receipt of a cryptic transmission from a source later identified by Osean Air Defense Force Intelligence as former OADF Captain Joshua Bristow (callsign “Lucan”), flight lead of the OADF’s Wizard Squadron. Bristow himself, along with the entirety of Wizard Team would also go missing shortly after the nuclear detonations. Their current location remains a mystery.

Prior to fleeing the battlefield, Foulke opened fire on his wingmate and squadron leader, Cipher (Galm One) for unknown reasons. Due to electromagnetic interference from the nuclear explosions, the Ustio Air Force was unable to track Foulke’s F-15C Eagle as it fled the battlefield. Though it is unlikely he has defected to Belka, his current location and disposition remain unknown.

And now, for Mission 13:

Someone at Allied command has a really fucking sick sense of humor to call the first official operation after a massive nuclear strike “Operation Stone Age”. I’m just saying…

This is a roundabout reference to the quote by Albert Einstein on the inherently apocalyptic nature of nuclear warfare, who said “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

Functionally speaking, the Belkan War ended the night of June 6th, 1995. The Allied Forces halted their northern advance towards Dinsmark following the nuclear detonations in the Waldreich mountains, putting the war on hold as the Osean Military GHQ in Oured reassessed the situation in Belka before sending troops and planes back into the chaos strangling Northern Belka.

Inside Belka (or what’s left of it now), the groundwork for an official end to the war is being laid. While it will be another year before the Fatherland and Workers Party government is toppled and Chancellor Rald is officially removed from power, the forces integral to his demise have found their rallying cry in the wake of the Seven Pillars attack. Belka has found itself backed into a corner strategically. Its bid to end the war on favorable terms ultimately worked against it and left it with only two options: surrender, or suicide. For now, the world holds its breath to see which option the Belkans will choose.

A high altitude air force base in the mountains of Southern Belka formerly belonging to the Belkan Air Force. Following the surrender of South Belka to the Allied Forces, the Osean Air Defense Force took command of Heierlark AFB and repurposed its former Belkan Air Force materials and personnel to suit its needs. The base has already become a sore spot for the Belkans in the north, standing as a symbol of their lost pride and prestige and of what they see as relentless Osean expansionism and aggression.

Though we only have a brief layover at Heierlark for the duration of this mission, we will be seeing a little more of the base once we get to Ace Combat 5.

A lonely mountain surrounded by low lying foothills along the Edelstein River in South Belka. Despite the demilitarization and surrender of Southern Belka, the Yering Mine supply airfield and outlying facilities at Mt. Schrim have been occupied by a large force of pro-Northern troops who remain hostile to the Allied Forces, despite a pending cease fire agreement between Belka and Osea.

While the facility is ostensibly a mining facility, the presence of a massive hanger installation at the mine’s airfield and an off-site unmarked manufacturing facility heavily defended by anti-air installations and a rapid-response MiG-31 squadron suggests there is more to this facility than meets the eye.

As noted in the video, the “bucket and wheel” excavator glimpsed in this mission bears a strong resemblance to the Bagger 288 (Excavator 288) strip-miner. The Bagger 288 was manufactured by the German Krupp corporation (now known as ThyssenKrupp) in 1978 for the Rhine-Westfalia Power Plant (RWE) energy company. It is currently the second largest bucket and wheel exactor in the world, superseded only by the Bagger 293 excavator.

As both ACES and I mention in the video, the Bagger 288, or a vehicle resembling it, has seen a number of cameos in movies and video games such as Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengence, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and Call of Dutys Modern Warfare 3 and Black Ops.

For reference, here is a potato-quality video of Nicholas Cage turning the Bagger 288 into a giant flaming hell machine from the Ghost Rider sequel. God bless you, Nic.

Following the mayhem of Operation Ravage, we have a change to the roster of Galm Squadron.

Ustio 6th Air Division, 66th Air Force Unit
AWACS Operator: “Eagle Eye”
Squadron Composition: F-15C Eagle (x1), F-16C Fighting Falcon (x1)

So now you know what/who Lunethex lost his shit over when I accidentally name-dropped him in the Mission 10 video and had to bleep it out.

To compensate for the loss of Pixy, the Ustio Air Force 6th Air Division reassigned Lt. Patrick James “PJ” Beckett from Crow Squadron to Galm Squadron to function as the new Galm Two. The fate of Beckett’s squadron mates from Crow Team is never elaborated on, but since they never appear again after Mission 12, I’m going to say they’re effectively KIA, having being shot down by the mystery flight of Su-27s that engaged Cipher after the nuke strike, or they crashed as a result of the explosions.

Rather than switch over to an F-15C, most likely due to material scarcity this late into the war, PJ elected to remain in his F-16C on sorties for Galm Team. He even elects to retain his Crow Team colours over a new Galm Team emblem for his plane, most likely as a memorial to his (probably) fallen comrades.

This is also the space where I get to vent about why I dislike PJ as a wingmate. He comes across, intentionally or not, as a whiny kissass to Cipher. His unrealistic peacenik idealism is particularly grating, and in a series like Ace Combat, that’s really saying something, mostly because there isn’t anything else of worth to his character to balance it out in order to endear him to you in the way that say your wingmates from Ace Combat 5 have, because good fucking god do THEY get preachy as shit too but they’re all still respectable characters. There is also the fact that he is forced upon you unwanted as a replacement for a vastly better character. I feel like I just got ripped off by a pickpocket who put my wallet right back where he found it, only to swap out all my money with tiny dickbutt drawings.

The game also doesn’t do PJ any favors by introducing him as basically a flying punchline and he doesn’t really do a whole lot to shake off that stigma for the rest of the game. So sadly, this is our new wingman. We’re stuck with him for the rest of the game. We’ll just have to see how he holds up. He’s not the worst wingmate you will ever have in an Ace Combat game, that dishonor belongs to the utterly insufferable Shamrock in Ace Combat 6, but he is one of the bottom rungers, for what it’s worth.

I probably have more to say about why PJ is such a shite character, but I can’t find the right means to articulate it, so I’ll just throw the floor open to the peanut gallery from here.

On to the planes!

Aircraft featured in Mission 12, Operation Ravage:

BM-335 Lindwurm
Manufacturer: South Belka Munitions Factory
Role: Strategic bomber
Manufactured: 1951
Status: In Service
Primary Operators: The Principality of Belka
Quick Facts:

Su-27 Flanker
Manufacturer: Sukhoi
Role: Multi-role air superiority fighter
Manufactured: 1982-Present
Status: In Service
Primary Operators: Russia, China, Ukraine
Quick Facts:

Codenamed "Flanker," this aircraft is at the pinnacle of modern air superiority fighter technology. Its refined aerodynamics and powerful engines provide exceptional maneuverability.

Missile: 72
XMAA: 16
SFFS: 12

F-15E Strike Eagle
Manufacturer: Boeing / McDonnell Douglas
Role: Strike fighter
Manufactured: 1985-Present
Status: In Service
Primary Operators: United States, Saudi Arabia, Israel, South Korea
Quick Facts:

Known as the “Strike Eagle,” this F-15 adds ground attack capabilities to its full-scale aerial combat abilities. The outward design of this fighter appears similar to that of the F-15, but has in fact undergone extensive modification.

Missile: 76
SFFS: 14
SAAM: 10
GPB: 14

EA-18G Growler
Manufacturer: Boeing
Role: Electronic warfare
Manufactured: 2004-Present
Status: In Service
Primary Operators: United States, Austrialia
Quick Facts:

This carrier-based electronic warfare aircraft is a modified version of the F/A-18. Its primary role is to minimize threat to itself and the squadron by jamming enemy radar. It is often employed when an enemy offensive is apparent.

Missile: 74
LGBM: 10

Aircraft featured in Mission 13:

Sorry folks, I got nothing for you this time.

We’re circling the drain in terms of “new” or “suddenly prominent” planes as we head into the home stretch for Zero. I’m also never going to be checking the Hangar shop again now that we have the F-15C, so we’re not really gonna see any more unlocked planes. But don’t worry, anything that doesn’t get featured in the individual missions will be included in one bulk spotlight session for the post-mortem update.

Mission 12:

Konrad Neumann
30, Male, Belka
06.06.95 Operation Ravage - Killed In Action
F-35 Lightning II
Difficulty: Any
Ace Style: Mercenary (Appears after the mission update if all bomber escort fighters are shot down)

Joined the Belkan Air Force in 1993, and was called Spatz for his small build and boyish looks. He was an elite student who graduated second in his class from military school. It is known that he bailed out soon after being shot down, but has not been heard from since. In 1996, he was claimed to be a casualty of war.

Benjamin Pingel
"Lynx 1"
39, Male, Belka
06.06.95 Operation Ravage - Killed In Action
Su-27 Flanker
Difficulty: Any
Ace Style: Soldier (Appears after the mission update if all the bombers are shot down)

Commander of the Lynx Squadron of the Belkan Air Force. He was a self-made man who climbed the ranks from being a foot soldier in the Army. His nickname, Lynx, came from his army days. He died during Operation Ravage when his plane was shot down by Galm Flight.

Etta Shultheiss
"Lynx 2"
27, Female, Belka
06.06.95 Operation Ravage - Shot Down
Su-27 Flanker
Difficulty: Any
Ace Style: Soldier (Appears after the mission update if all the bombers are shot down)

A female Belkan Air Force pilot who flew second in the Lynx formation. She bailed out in the vicinity of the V1 bomb site and miraculously survived. She retired in 1997 and now teaches at Gratia High School in Belka.

Adler Braun
28, Male, Belka
06.06.95 Operation Ravage - Killed In Action
EA-18G Growler
Difficulty: Any
Ace Style: Knight (Appears after the mission update if all the bombers are shot down)

Has not been heard from since Operation Ravage. The last recording on the communication log indicated that he was trying to escape from the nuclear bomb site. Soon after the cease-fire, he was deemed officially a casualty of war.

Dedrick Ebert
"Trombe "
29, Male, Belka
06.06.95 Operation Ravage - Killed In Action
Su-37 Terminator
Difficulty: Ace
Ace Style: Any

One of the top aces of the Belkan Air Force. Nicknamed Trombe (Tornado), he served on the western frontlines. He was sent to the Waldreich Mountains immediately after accepting an ambush mission, but died when his aircraft was shot down by the Galm Flight.

Mission 13:

Hans Frey
28, Male, Belka
06.13.95 Operation Stone Age - Shot Down
MiG-31 Foxhound
Difficulty: Any
Ace Style: Mercenary (Appears after you have scored 10,000+ points and destroyed a squadron of three MiG-21bis and one MiG-31 that appear in the west of the airport.)

Was shot down in the vicinity of Schrim Mountain on June 13, 1995. Because of the wounds sustained from this incident, he moved away from the frontline. He currently lives with relatives in Edelburg, North Osea.

Rambert Booher
27, Male, Belka
06.13.95 Operation Stone Age - Shot Down
F-15E Strike Eagle
Difficulty: Any
Ace Style: Soldier (Appears after some enemy units in the north-eastern sector are destroyed.)

After the surrender, Osea captured him as a war criminal and incarcerated him for 8 years. He returned to Belka upon release, cut all ties to former military personnel, and now lives as a civilian.

Rudiger Schmitt
29, Male, Belka
06.13.95 Operation Stone Age - Missing In Action
F-15C Eagle * (Special Plane Colour Unlocked)
Difficulty: Any
Ace Style: Knight (Appears along with SAM sites after some enemy units in the south-western sector are destroyed.)

He reported a malfunction during Operation Judgment and broke from the formation prior to losing communication. Afterwards, he suddenly appeared around the Yering Mines where he shot down two Allied planes. It was confirmed that his craft was shot down in Operation Stone Age and has been M.I.A. since.

Harvey Leykauf
32, Male, Belka
06.13.95 Operation Stone Age - Shot Down
YF-23A Black Widow II
Difficulty: Easy
Ace Style: Any (Appears after some enemy units in the eastern sector are destroyed.)

After the fall of Belka, he fled to Osea, where he shot a police officer during questioning and absconded. Leykauf's prints and DNA were found on the soda can at the scene. Currently a fugitive.

Friedrich Nowak
28, Male, Belka
06.13.95 Operation Stone Age - Killed In Action
F-117A Nighthawk * (Special Plane Colour Unlocked)
Difficulty: Ace
Ace Style: Any (Appears on the south-east end of the map.)

As a sentry, he continuously reported the Allied Forces' movements. Investigation of the log from the downed plane revealed numerous exchanges with Anton Kupchenko. Because of this, it is deemed that Kupchenko is most likely the ringleader of the coup d'etat.

Tracks featured in Mission 12, Operation Ravage:


Tracks featured in Mission 13, Operation Stone Age:


Concept sketches of the BM-335 Lindwurm from the ACES AT WAR: A History artbook.