Nuclear Option

Nuclear Option

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How to defeat missiles.
By Squeegy Mackoy
How to defeat the various missiles that will be thrown at you in the game.
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It's beeping at me!
You have a missile about to kill you. On the bottom left corner, just above the map, there will be a threat list showing you all the missiles chasing you (that you know about). They are represented by a flashing yellow/red arrow approaching you on the map, or a flashing missile icon on the HUD.

Firstly, all missiles have one weakness in common - terrain. Flying nap-of-the-earth (really low, hugging valleys and rivers, putting hills between you and the rest of the horizon) is the best way to deal with any type of missile, and will usually prevent you being fired on in the first place.

Another common weakness shared by all missiles is other missiles, but this is costly, risky (it doesn't always work,) and can only really be pulled off if you're fired at from head-on.

Beyond that, each type of missile has some nuance to it. The missiles will have a type in [brackets] in the threat list. Missiles can be:
  • Optical [Optical]
  • Infrared [IR]
  • Semi-active Radar Homing [SARH]
  • Active Radar Homing [ARH]
  • Anti-Radiation [ARAD]
How to defeat [Optical] Missiles.
Optical missiles are intended for ground targets - as such they do not lead their target well, and cannot steer very well. If you are fired at with one, that is because either you're still on the ground, flying slowly in a helicopter, or enemy is insulting your ability as a pilot.

An optical missile will steer almost directly towards its target's position, largely failing to account for the target's velocity. They are only ever dangerous when fired from directly in-front or directly behind at very short range. Any plane can out-steer an optical missile (although AGM-68s are noted to be effective against darkreaches from behind), and they are almost guaranteed to miss when chasing a target flying perpendicular to it.

Optical lock cannot be broken other than by breaking line of sight, but even while it remains locked on all you have to do is turn so the missile comes at you side-on and misses. If you're unsure, jink sharply about three seconds before impact to guarantee it misses.
How to defeat [IR] Missiles
An IR missile lock can be broken either by firing flares to distract it, or passing behind terrain to break line of sight between you and the missile. While you can potentially out-manoeuvre an IRM-S1 (fired by vehicles, and sometimes crickets and chicanes), an MMR-S3 (available on most aircraft), like a real-life sidewinder, is a terrifying device capable of 40g turns and will inevitably hit you if it keeps its lock.


Before you even get fired on, start popping a flare every second or half second. Pre-flaring is very effective and breaks the lock at the moment of launch. When an IR missile is fired, the probability of it chasing a flare increases drastically with the number of flares within 100m of its target. You should always start popping flares prematurely if you think you're about to be fired on.

As of 0.27, missiles no longer have any RNG/dice roll behaviour beyond this point:

If the missile locks onto you, it will take a certain number of flares to overwhelm it depending on your aircraft's current signature relative to the environment.

Each aircraft has a different IR signature, which also changes according to the aspect it's viewed from. Front facing is always lowest, while rear aspect (where the engines usually are) has a very high signature. Very few flares are needed from a target facing toward the missile to spoof it, while a target facing directly away from a missile may need to spend the whole canister to avoid being hit. One exception is the medusa, as its engines can vector in different directions. This affects the signature and can be used to quickly point the engines away from a threat.

Other factors affecting this are your background, and engine heat. If you are up in the sky, and especially if the sun is behind you, it is much easier to flare a missile. Your engine's heat signature is also proportional to your thrust output. Lowering the throttle and waiting for the engine to spool down can also make it easier to flare missiles.

Once the missile is flared, it will change direction and detonate on the flare instead.
How to defeat [SARH] Missiles
Semi-active radar homing is currently used by SAM sites and some mobile SAM launchers. It means there is a radar, separate from the missile, which sees the target and remotely steers the missile towards it. If you detect emissions from a radar (which doesn't necessarily mean the radar can see you yet), an orange bar will appear on the map indicating its direction with a periodic beep noise. All radars signals look the same on the map, but the guidance radar is specific to the launching platform - the missiles can't be guided by just any radar.

Radar in Nuclear Option sees in a straight line with 4 limitations:
  • Line of sight - radar can't see through mountains or buildings.
  • Maximum range - radar cannot see things beyond 10-50km depending on type.
  • Notch angle - Objects travelling perpendicular to the radar's emission can become invisible due to having no doppler shift.
  • Ground Clutter - Objects less than 20 meters off the ground are invisible to most radars (one exception is the Medusa's radome, which is obscenely powerful, and has a floor of five meters).
Dodging a SARH missile is as simple as dodging the radar emission. Using terrain is easier than with other missiles because you only have to either break line of sight between you and the guidance radar, or stay under the radar floor, and the missiles will lose tracking. Once the missiles have lost tracking, they are able to start tracking again within about two seconds if you are reacquired by the radar. If tracking is lost for longer than two seconds, they are defeated permanently, and new missiles have to be fired.

If you are flying too high to use terrain, you must turn and notch, preferably while diving toward terrain. Notching describes the process of getting inside the radar's "notched" return frequencies, making it consider you as background noise. Getting inside the notch is easiest to achieve while flying straight and perpendicular to the radar, keeping it directly at your 9 o' clock or 3 o' clock, but will work at any angle so long as you are not moving toward or away from the radar.





How the Jammer (Countermeasure) Works:

A basic, wide-spread jammer is available on most (but not all) aircraft. The jammer reduces the effectiveness of radars on the jamming aircraft - specifically increasing both the available notch angle and the height of ground clutter, making the above defensive maneuvers much easier to pull off. Using the jammer alone is not enough to defeat SARH missiles. You must notch or fly low while using the jammer to break a lock. The jammer charge is proportional to its effectiveness, and a radar signal must be interrupted for at least 2 seconds to lose lock. If you're getting desperate and the jammer is draining too fast, you can potentially save some power by switching off your radar (if equipped) while jamming.
How to defeat [ARH] Missiles
Active radar homing missiles work just like Semi-active radar homing missiles, except now the radar is inside the missile, giving it the combined benefits of all previous missiles. They are extremely dangerous.

The Scythe (only ARH at the time of writing) has a 10km radar range, before which it is guided via datalink, which is provided by any unit that can see the target.

In order to escape it during the datalink phase, you must break contact with whatever is providing you as target to the enemy. This may be other units or the enemy plane's own radar if it has one. It could even be your own radar if it's switched on and a Medusa is triangulating your radar emissions. Once a Scythe enters within the 10km terminal phase it begins searching for the datalink target with its own radar.

If the scythe enters radar range and maintains a valid lock, it will show up as a radar contact with the same orange line as the other radars. You must defeat the missile's radar the same way as radars in previous section. Like the S3's, trying to outmanoeuvre them is generally futile.
How to defeat [ARAD] Missiles
Anti-radiation missiles track radar emissions. If you have a radar, turn it off.

You may need to check your key bindings as your radar toggle may be unbound.
29 Comments
freeformsage102 Apr 10 @ 7:21pm 
The sim continues to hint and slowly reveal layers of depth and interoperability that blow my mind, and at 0.27 no less. You have GOT to add instructors to the game thst we can get all this info from and more. I mean ECM magnifying escape tactics instead of BEING one? The Medusa having the most powerful radar yet? These are absolutely unique nuances thst render NO the appropriately nostalgic yet unique experience it is to enjoy, and it's CRIMINAL how many of these juicy details and more currently go entirely unappreciated.
Hydro Apr 7 @ 5:14pm 
i cant really figure out how to notch, im probably doing it wrong
Daedooloos Mar 25 @ 7:51pm 
Something to note about SARH's (and all missiles, really) is that they will still track your expected position aslong as they had enough time to get a vector before losing lock
so its reccomended that you still move slightly
another thing, ARH's seem to be heavily impacted by low terrain, but it doesnt make you immune.
S7ELI7S Mar 23 @ 4:58pm 
Alternatively, if the radar is "off' an ARAD missile can still track, so in this case, changing the radar emission back to "on." works. For now, not all airframes can turn off the radar.

Would be nice to have different "radar emission profiles" loaded into the ARAD so turning them off won't be that easy and would require showing a different deflection angle.

All-aspect and datalink mid-course plus active radar homing terminal phase are quite effective!

Thanks for detailing the missile behavior. SARH 2 whole seconds as the requirement for the missile self destructing due to no target is an interesting fact!

Chaff/Flares/DECM pods would be useful!

Thnx for this!
Squeegy Mackoy  [author] Mar 13 @ 11:46pm 
This guide is now updated for new missile behaviour in 0.27. Notably - no flare RNG, radars can reacquire within 2 seconds of losing targets
Squeegy Mackoy  [author] Mar 10 @ 6:26am 
I think it's unbound by default. I made mine Shift+R so it's the same as Arma.
terratoilet2 Mar 9 @ 11:53am 
i didn't know you could turn on and off your radar, how exactly do you do that
Tachyon322 Jan 30 @ 8:56pm 
how do i evade cruise missiles
Seinekar Jan 10 @ 8:02am 
Is it ok if i copy-paste and translate this into Spanish? Ofc it will be credited to original author.

Not sure if many spanish-speakers playing the game atm, but anyway.
Peregrine Jan 8 @ 6:47pm 
AI planes are very good at routinely defeating missiles with kinetic maneuvering.