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Combat in X-Plane

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X-Plane is not intended to be a combat simulator. Therefore, while combat functionality exists in the form of guns and missiles, damage from weapons is not simulated realistically--getting hit will simply cause your engines to die, allowing you to glide to the ground.

Simulating combat in X-Plane involves four steps:

  • configuring your controls,
  • adding enemy aircraft,
  • equipping your own aircraft with guns and/or missiles, and
  • dogfighting.


Configuring Your Controls

In order to use your flight controls to control your weapons, either to fire them or to cycle through the currently armed weapon, open the Settings menu and click Joystick, Keys & Equipment. There, go to the Buttons: Basic tab and configure the buttons as you desire. Remember to first press the button on the joystick that you intend to assign, then select its function.

The weapon controls found in the Buttons: Basic tab

You can also assign weapons controls in the Buttons: Adv tab or the Keys tab. The "weapons/" category contains the relevant settings there.

Note that assigning joystick controls is especially important if your aircraft does not have controls in the instrument panel for arming weapons. If you intend to use missiles, you must assign buttons to select targets, using the "target select up" and "target select down" functions.

Adding Enemy Aircraft

To set up a combat situation, first open the Aircraft menu and click Aircraft and Situations. The bottom panel, labeled Other Aircraft Selection, is the one we're interested in. Set the number of aircraft (in the upper left of the box) to 2 or more. Boxes will appear below corresponding to the other aircraft, as seen in the following image.

Adding enemy aircraft using the Aircraft and Situations window

Clicking the box to the left of an aircraft file name will open a standard "Load Aircraft" dialog box; use these boxes to load the aircraft you would like to battle.

To the right of each aircraft file is the plane's "team color." Aircraft which have the same color will be teammates, and all other colors will be enemies. In the image above, "your plane" is on the red team, while the three other aircraft are on the green team. In this case, all three enemy aircraft will target you alone.

Having selected the enemy aircraft to fly against, you can choose their skill level, ranging from very easy to very hard, using the drop down box near the top of the Other Aircraft Selection portion of the window.

Finally, you can choose to either save the aircraft you have selected to your preferences or have them randomized at each load using the radio buttons next to the number of aircraft setting. Having set up the combatants, you can close the Aircraft and Situations window.

Equipping Your Aircraft

Many military craft, such as the F-22 Raptor, F-4 Phantom II, and Saab JA 37 Viggen come equipped with guns and missiles by default. If your aircraft does not have weapons, or if you would like to change the loadout, you can do so using the Weight and Fuel window, launched from the Aircraft menu. There, the Ordnance tab can be used to add a weapon to the aircraft's hardpoints (or weapon stations).

Adding weapons using the Weight and Fuel window

Clicking the small squares to the left of each weapon slot will bring up a dialog box to load a weapon. Opening the Weapons folder (found in the main X-Plane 9 directory) will display a number of weapon options. For instance, in the following image, a GAU-8 Avenger 30mm gun is selected.

Selecting a gun

Clicking Open will arm the weapon you chose.

Arming Weapons and Fighting

With enemy aircraft in the sky, weapons equipped to your aircraft, and your joystick or yoke configured for weapons, it's time to dogfight. If your aircraft was designed with combat in mind, it will have a toggle for arming a weapon, and potentially a weapon rate of fire control as well. For instance, the following image shows the weapons controls in the F-22 Raptor. The Raptor's gun is currently selected, with its rate of fire set to the maximum.

The weapon controls in the panel of the F-22 Raptor

Similar controls appear in the F-4 Phantom II, as seen in the following image.

The weapon controls in the panel of the F-4 Phantom II

With your weapon selected, whether guns or missiles, all it takes to fire is to press the button on your joystick assigned to fire weapons.

Targetting Enemy Aircraft and Using Missiles

In order to lock on to a target using missiles, you must have a joystick or key assigned to the "target select up" and/or "target select down" functions, as described in the section Configuring Your Controls above. In order to usefully target, the aircraft must have either a head-up display (HUD) or moving map, and preferably both.

When enemy aircraft are nearby, you can use the target select controls to assign targets for your missiles to seek out. With a target which is not currently visible selected, the HUD will show an arrow pointing in the direction of the target, as the image on the left. If the active target is visible on screen within the HUD, however, a targeting reticle will appear around the aircraft, as in the image on the right.

The HUD display, with an arrow pointing to a target above and to the left of the aircraft
The HUD display, with a target in sight

In aircraft with a moving map display, there is often much more data visible than what is relevant in a dogfight. Therefore, by pressing the green buttons beneath the standard EFIS moving map, you can turn off all but the TCAS (traffic collision avoidance system) indicators--that is, the indicators for other aircraft. For instance, compare the following two images.

The moving map display, showing all available data
The moving map display, showing only other aircraft

With only the other aircraft displayed on the map, it is much easier to see the location of enemy fighters and to distinguish the active target. For instance, in the following image, the aircraft approximately 30 degree to the right was selected as the target, so it is highlighted in red on the display.

The moving map display with a target selected, located about 30 degrees to the right, in front of the aircraft and travelling at 393 kts

Additionally, note that the dial above the moving map labeled TFC (traffic) controls the radar system's range. Moving the dial clockwise will increase the range, and turning it counterclockwise will decrease it. At low ranges, finer detail is available on the EFIS display.


The key to winning a dogfight lies in creating a situation where your aircraft's strengths are emphasized and an opponent's weaknesses are exploited. This means trying to force a tight, up-close battle when flying a more maneuverable fighter than the enemy, or aiming for dive-bombs and other tactics requiring speed and weight when flying a faster, larger craft.

Additionally, do not underestimate the value of quick combat maneuvers, such as:

  • corkscrews—rolling your craft left or right while continuously varying its pitch
  • feints—rolling to one side as though to go into a banked turn (i.e., a turn with the craft on its side, while pulling back on the controls in order to pull “in” to the turn), but pushing the nose forward instead
  • barrel rolls—often described as “a cross between a roll and a loop” (see the following image, released into the public domain by its creator MioUzaki).

For more information on combat tactics, see the Dicta Boelcke, a list of tactics developed by WWI ace Oswald Boelcke.