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Metalstorm Beginner’s Guide: Tips, Tricks & Strategies to Dominate the Skies

Knights in supersonic steeds jousting in the air. Do you hear the fancy flamenco guitar music in your head? The electric guitars rocking your radio? Do you hear heaven singing in ominously beautiful Latin? That’s the sound of romance! Air battle! Glory in the skies! A squadron of pilots against another, all aces shining with heroism, in a valiant struggle against not just themselves and each other, but gravity and physics.

metalstorm cover

That’s what you think of going into the air, and it is confirmed once you hear missile alerts making your ears bleed. Pilots breaking the laws of physics, flying as if they have no blood in their veins!? Missiles that you can reload in midair? It turns out we’re not playing a simulator here folks. This is METALSTORM!

Metalstorm by Starform is a breath of fresh air among mobile air combat games, taking more cues from the arcadey yet free-moving Ace Combat series and Heroes of the Pacific rather than simulators and near-sims like War Thunder and DCS, or fully arcadey games like the Afterburner series.

metalstorm good guys

metalstorm bad guys
Bandits on the nose! Alpha Squadron, cleared to engage.

You get a mixture of forgiving physics and absurd G-tolerance inherent in arcade titles and the kind of free-flowing freedom of movement and maneuver simulators are blessed with, but without having to keep a flight manual open just to take off from the runway or your Yak-15P disintegrating in midair from a high-speed dive.

It’s a simple 5v5 PVP game with two main modes and two friends-only modes as of this writing, and best of all the game is so utterly balanced that you can take a dinky little F-5 Tiger from the 1960s and use it to dunk on that bleeding-edge 5th generation stealthy supercruising thrust-vectoring F-22A Raptor provided you get in his face and away from his longer-range missiles. Though you’ll hear everyone harp on about the Mirage III’s guns should you play long enough.


metalstorm basics
You won’t stay a nugget for too long. Now raise the throttle gently.

Air combat games take a bit of getting used to, and Metalstorm is no different. Here are some of the basics to get you started so you can understand everything on your screen.

Optimal Maneuver Speed

metalstorm turn
Splash one, splash one!

On your speed indicator, you should see a little bar highlighted. That’s your Optimal Maneuver Speed indicator, which tells you at what speed your plane turns tightest. It’s usually pretty high up with Heavy Fighters, and fairly low with Attackers and Light Fighters. Be particularly careful if it is located low on the speed bar: You might risk stalling in a dogfight if you airbrake too hard!

Radar Warning Receiver

metalstorm missile alert
Enemy radar spike!

You see those orange arrows that appear when an enemy plane looks at you funny? Do you see them turn red when they fire missiles? That’s your Radar Warning Receiver, warning you of enemy missile locks and missile attacks. The ideal position is usually to have your tail faced away from the plane, popping flares once the enemy missile gets close. You can tell a missile’s distance by how fast the warning beeps are going and how squished the missile arrow is.


metalstorm radar
New hostile, bearing 350! Range: 12 miles.

A pilot’s best friend, your Radar tells you where enemies and allies are. Enemies can hide from you as long as there is terrain between you and them, but if you have any sort of line of sight of an enemy plane from any direction, even Stealth aircraft for some reason, they will appear on your radar. Use this to know which opponent you are at the best angle to attack, but keep in mind too that you are fighting in a 3-dimensional plane: You may turn around and see nothing even if your radar says they’re right in your face, but that may simply mean they’re above or below you.

Remember also that you can hide from enemy radars using the terrain, though teammates will relay anything they see to your radar and the same happens to you. Use the radar to identify threats, check if allies need help, and figure out where the enemy is and if they’re pointed at you.


metalstorm missile
Missile away, missile away!

Most Guided Missiles use a radar circle to lock on. To lock on to a target with anything other than Beam Rider Missiles, simply get in range of your target then keep them in the targeting circle. Once you lock on, fire a missile! With Radar Guided and Infrared Missiles, you can fire and turn away. With Manual-Guided Missiles, you need to keep the target in the circle until the missile slaps them.

Beam Rider missiles can be fired without a lock and will chase your gun reticule until it hits something or someone. If you’re used to hard simulators, you’ll be surprised at just how short the ranges of these missiles are, which forces players into dogfights. If you play games like Ace Combat and HAWX on the other hand, you’ll feel right at home.


metalstorm guns
Corncob, you are Winchester, zero missiles left in reserve!

Once you get in close enough, a gun lead indicator will appear on the enemy plane you’re chasing. Aiming for that allows you to hit the target with your guns, which isn’t too hard as the game has a very forgiving aim-assist system.

As soon as you hold down the Gun button, your plane will try to swing its nose toward the lead reticule, but you still have to adjust a bit to make sure you hit if you’re coming in from a bad angle. You also have to be careful lest the aim-assist smash you into terrain!


metalstorm flares

Apart from mountains, flying really hard, and generally never letting your opponent get a good lock angle at you in the first place, flares are one of your tools for dodging missiles. Unlike real flares, these also work on Radar-Guided and Manual-Guided missiles along with Infrareds, though Beam Riders ignore them completely.

That being said, they’re not a guaranteed dodge: While they confuse a missile, that missile is still traveling in your general direction, so fly out of the way while the flares make the missile wiggle!


metalstorm general tips
The desired result when encountering enemy aircraft.

Now we’re done with the basics, here are some general tips about flight and combat. Keeping these in mind lets you not end up like the other guy in the image pictured.

Ace Combat Player? Ditch Standard Turning and Invert Your Up Direction For Extra Control

metalstorm settings

Standard Turning allows your plane to turn left and right if you move the stick left and right. This is easy, and understandable, and greatly limits your ability to control your maneuvers! You can change the controls in the Settings menu. Changing it to Advanced makes it so you have to manually roll your plane and then pull the stick to turn, much like a real aircraft.

While this takes some getting used to if you’ve never played air combat games like Ace Combat before, it quickly becomes second nature and this allows you to pull tighter banking turns, use soft rudder-only turns since you also get a rudder slider, and pull stunts like Barrel Rolls, Immelmann Turns and other such maneuvers more easily than if you’d stuck to the normal controls.

Dogfighting vs Boom and Zoom vs BVR Sniping

metalstorm bvr

metalstorm boom zoom

metalstorm dogfight
Combat at all ranges and speeds.

Whether you enter a turning battle up close, that is called a dogfight, and hit-and-run attacks from above usually form a lot of boom and zoom tactics. Lastly, BVR stands for Beyond Visual Range, ie slapping people halfway across several post codes with a long-range missile.

What you decide to do depends on both your opponent and the plane you fly: Light Fighters tend to be great turn-fighters and close-range zoomers but suffer against BVR attacks thanks to their poor HP and lack of Radar-Guided Missiles, so they usually have to fly low and tight. Medium fighters are balanced in all aspects and are masters of none, and thus can be used in most roles as long as you fight with a wrinkly brain.

Heavy Fighters are excellent zoomers and can seriously threaten enemies who use BVR attacks thanks to their mix of high speed and HP, so while they can fight at most altitudes, turnfighting is their weakness and they excel in threatening Interceptors.

Interceptors primarily rely on BVR attacks and die horribly when Attackers and Light Fighters get within range of them, and usually have to stay high up to avoid dogfights against Attackers and Light Fighters and make the most of their long range.

Attackers are powerful close-range dogfighters who are typically incapable of zooming and booming and can usually take a long-range missile or two long enough to hide, with their weakness being the nigh-total inability to pick fights on their own terms, so unless it’s a Su-34 they have to take targets of opportunity and support friendlies nearby while flying fairly low.

Speed is Life

flying fast in metalstorm
Fly fast!

That being said, speed is highly important as it lets you dictate the tempo of a fight. While slower planes like the A-6 and A-10 can turn tighter and are quite dangerous in a close-in battle, faster planes like the MiG-31 can simply run away and either fight someone else or safely toss long-range missiles at them.

Fast planes will always have the initiative against slower planes since the faster plane gets to pick and choose its prey while the slower one is forced to put up with whatever goes after it. And if the pilot makes a bad choice, that same speed can let them change that choice and make a better one, provided their plane hasn’t been splashed yet. Speed is also the reason you never bring an A-6 and A-10 to Air Superiority mode: You need speed to capture control points!

High Altitude is Life Insurance

flying high in metalstorm
Fly high!

At the start of battle, unless you’re using Light Fighters or Attackers, getting some altitude at the start of a fight is important as most Medium Fighters, Heavy Fighters, and Interceptors not only have access to longer-range missiles, it also allows you to trade that altitude for speed once you need it so you can chase down foes you think you can take, and use the built-up flight speed to run away from anything you think you can’t take.

The layout of most maps makes this a tad harder to do than in real life though, as most maps involve very deep canyons or some form of indoor flight. Those canyons are the domain of Light Fighters and Attackers, which excel in turnfighting and close brawls. Of course, even as a Light Fighter, you can still use the extra altitude to swoop down on unsuspecting enemies who think you’re too scared of their F-111s to fly high.

Low Altitude Is A Shield

flying smart in metalstorm
Fly smart!

As for you Light Fighters and Attackers, you really do NOT want to get in an F-111’s sight line lest you get slammed by Radar-Guided Missiles. Going at high altitude means you have no terrain to hide in, and Attackers are typically too slow and Light Fighters too squishy to survive an AIM-54 Phoenix to the face.

Take your MiG-21 down to the canyons to hide from those F-111s and their long-range missiles, and force such long-ranged planes to the missile reload pickups (or for the ones that still have guns and infrareds like MiG-31s, to a turn-fight!) so you can smack them with an infrared missile or unguided rockets.

Even later Light Fighters with Manual-Guided Missiles like the F-16 have a rough time flying high since a single long-range missile can cripple its wet tissue paper airframe and usually lose out in games of long-range missile chicken.

Help Teammates

metalstorm support
All of those guys are looking at your buddy… and not you!

If you see a teammate being attacked, come to their aid! Not only will you be doing your buddy a favor, and racking up Savior bonuses, but you’re also in for a much easier fight: If your opponent’s eyes are glued to a target, that means they’re not looking at you, so you can swing in unseen and blow them up with less danger to yourself compared to attacking someone who is still looking for a scrap.

If several of them are coming after a single teammate, all the more you should jump in, since your buddy needs help even more badly! This is also a reminder for you to keep one eye on your radar when chasing someone, lest the entire enemy team chase YOU for being greedy!


metalstorm boelcke
Hauptmann Oswald Boelcke, 1891-1916

The Dicta Boelcke is a set of old air combat lessons formulated by a World War 1 flying ace, Hauptmann Oswald Boelcke. If you’ve never heard of him, the Red Baron read this guy’s manual! While a few of these are harder to apply in long-ranged fights since Boelcke never had to put up with complete nonsense like AIM-54 Phoenix missiles and supersonic speeds, they are a must-know for anyone who gets into a dogfight, whether real or in a videogame. Summed up though, it basically says “Attack with the enemy unaware of you.”

Try To Secure Advantages Before Attacking

metalstorm advantage
… If possible, keep the sun to your back.

For Metalstorm, this means getting an altitude advantage or finding a way to hit enemies without being seen. It is harder to evade an attack from above since whoever comes from above has a speed advantage, and it’s harder to fend off an attacker you didn’t see coming as a smartphone is very horizontally oriented.

On the other hand, chasing an enemy who is above you can lead to a stall or at least enough slowdown that your opponent’s buddy can easily slap you with an Infrared. Use your head!

Always Carry Through An Attack

metalstorm follow through
… when you have started it.

If you attack, commit to it, and don’t chase other enemies that fly by you willy-nilly unless you’ve lost your opponent. In which case you already did something wrong anyway. Don’t give your foe a chance to breathe, and keep the pressure on him until he hiccups into your cannon shells. Or at least until his friends see you and you have to defend yourself!

Fire Only At Close Range

metalstorm close
… and only when your opponent is properly in your sights.

This one mostly pertains to close-in dogfights, and even then with long-range missiles you can take “properly in your sights” to mean “currently unable to hide behind a mountain” or “just wasted his flares a second ago”.  If you’re attacking from a poor angle and a tad too close, hold off on the missiles and try to scrag the guy with your guns instead, or get a better angle on your target, preferably one with his tailpipe nice and clear.

Always Keep An Eye On Your Opponent

metalstorm threat
… and never let yourself be deceived by ruses.

In other words: LOOK AT YOUR RADAR! Before picking a target, make sure he doesn’t have any buddies stalking behind him, lest you end up getting baited into the other guy’s missile lock. Know also if any long-range planes like any Interceptors or 5th Gens are pointed in the general direction of your target, lest you get slammed by a Phoenix.

Few things are worse than picking a target only to realize you have 3 missile alerts all with your name on it. Not to mention the Radar lets you keep pace with developments in the fight, such as your teammates getting shot down and their attackers deciding to go after you all at once.

In Any Form Of Attack, Assail Your Enemy From Behind

metalstorm shotdown
… obviously.

All aircraft weapons point forward. So clearly, you do not want to be in front of an enemy plane. You would rather have them be in front of you instead. While games of chicken are viable at long range with heavier aircraft like Interceptors and Heavy Fighters, they are still very risky if you pick the wrong target (ie anything with Radar-Guided Missiles), and you absolutely do not want them with any plane once you get close, unless you’re flying an Attacker at full HP. At the very least, make sure your opponent is not looking directly at you while you strike, usually by attacking from above if you cannot do so from behind.

When Attacked, Meet Your Enemy’s Onslaught

turning into attackers in metalstorm
… rather than evading for the sake of evading.

If a bandit suddenly tries to attack you, the best way to get away from him is to attack him! Your goal is to get him off your tail, and ironically, being aggressive helps with that quite a lot since putting your nose in front of him instead means he ain’t looking at your tail anymore. Yes, even if you are out of missiles and have no gun!

Do note that Boelcke never had to deal with MiG-31s and long-range missiles though: If you’re flying that monstrous rocket-powered space bus, you also have the option of simply slamming your afterburners while *trying* to turn into or away from your opponent. Not to mention turning into a MiG-31 that is a bazillion miles away from you means you’re still in Radar missile range and you should just hit the deck instead.

Never Forget Your Own Line of Retreat

metalstorm retreat
… when over the enemy’s lines.

This one is especially pertinent to Interceptor pilots: Know which of the Ammo pickup spots are safest to fly to after expending your long-range missiles, lest you end up in a dogfight that you can’t evade or win. Check which ones are furthest away from enemies or closest to teammates at any given time, and try not to jump into any chaotic furballs lest they see you as a target of opportunity. It also helps with any plane to know where the Health and Ammo pickups are and which ones are currently the most convenient to fly to.

Never Go For The Same Opponents

metalstorm attack greed
… if the fight breaks into a series of single combats.

Ever noticed how easy it is to rack up several kills in a row when several enemies chase a lone teammate from the same direction? As terrifying as it is to have multiple missile alerts all at once coming after you, it’s an opportunity for the rest of your team to jump the guys who threw those missiles at you in the first place!

Even with bots, air combat is done as a team, however loosely or even poorly, and each pilot must look out for one another rather than get greedy trying to steal kills. This means attacking enemies who have nobody on their tails to keep them on their toes and away from attacking your friends.

Having one or even two guys chase a single target is fine, but more chasers mean diminishing returns and an increased risk of the enemy catching you off guard if everyone is fighting nearby. When a whole team chases one target, that entire team usually winds up turning into someone else’s Destroyer achievement!


showing off in metalstorm
Now the writer’s just being silly.

It is often tempting to just endlessly chase an enemy aircraft by turning into them forever. You must always remember, therefore, that you are flying in a 3-dimensional space, and you must make use of the vertical as well as the horizontal space to maneuver and fight. Here are a few moves that will remind you to keep an eye on above and below you as well as to your sides.

Split-S/Roll Off The Top

metalstorm vertical turns
A simple vertical turn.

The Split S and Roll-Off-The-Top are simple vertical turns that allow you to, well, turn vertically rather than in a horizontal arc. The Split S involves twisting your plane upside down and then pulling up from your point of view to swoop down and recover with your plane flying in the other direction. The Roll-Off-The-Top is its opposite, as you pull your plane up until it is upside down, then twist it back right-side up, with the plane now facing the opposite direction.

Between the two of these, the Split S is typically more dangerous as you lose altitude and gain speed doing it. If you aren’t careful, you can Split-S right into the ground! That being said, you gain speed with the Split-S and lose speed with the Roll-Off-The-Top, so the Split-S is usually better for escaping or attacking foes.

Barrel Roll

metalstorm barrell roll
“Do an aileron roll!” just doesn’t roll off the tongue as smoothly.

A Barrel Roll in real life is nothing like what you see in Starfox, which is just a normal aileron roll so fast it temporarily phases your plane out of existence to dodge missiles. A Barrel Roll has you pull up while rolling, essentially doing both an aileron roll and a loop-de-loop at the same time. You can use this to bleed off some airspeed while going after a target so you neither overshoot nor stall. And no, they don’t make the terror of missile alerts leave your brain.

Thach Weave

metalstorm thach weave
Teamwork makes the dream work.

The Thach Weave is a basic defensive maneuver that you can only really pull off if you bring a friend: You criss-cross regularly with a teammate so if an enemy gets on one plane’s tail, the other plane can get on the attacker’s tail and fill him with shrapnel. If you encounter this as the attacker, it is generally inadvisable to engage up close, and instead either use long-range weapons or call a friend to attack with you.


metalstorm oof
The result of being on the wrong end of these things.

There are many varied weapons in this game, each of which works differently from one another. Each weapon fulfills a different purpose and works at a different range, and all these factors dictate a weapon and plane’s favored playstyle.

Infrared Missiles

metalstorm infrared missiles

metalstorm infrared missiles 2
I’ve got tone, Fox 2!

The most basic missile, Infrared Missiles chase the enemy tailpipe’s heat signature. Infrareds typically have a short range, around 2-3 km, and are meant for close-in dogfights. They are usually the main weapon for anyone getting into dogfights except for early Attackers, which use Unguided Rockets instead. Infrareds are fire-and-forget, meaning you can turn away from your target after firing one.

Manual-Guided Missiles

metalstorm semi active radar guided missiles

metalstorm semi active radar guided missiles 2
Fox 1! Keep your eye on the target!

Manual-Guided Missiles are what the military calls Semi-Active Radar-Guided missiles. They use your plane’s onboard radar to guide them, so they have a much longer range than Infrareds (5-8km) and have great accuracy. But you need to keep the enemy plane in your radar’s cone, signified by a circle on your screen. These are one of the two reasons Light Fighters and Attackers must never play chicken, especially earlygame ones that lack these.

Radar-Guided Missiles

metalstorm radar guided missiles
metalstorm radar guided missiles 2
Bandits violating CAP circle on radar. Fox 3.

Typically used only by Interceptors and very certain late-game Heavy and Medium Fighters, Radar Guided Missiles, or more accurately Active Radar-Guided Missiles, have their own onboard radar, thus ditching the need for a plane’s radar cone to paint the target constantly.

This gives them both very long range (usually 12km) and fire-and-forget ability, but they are quite large. This means that while they have incredibly high top speeds, they take some time to accelerate, making them easier to dodge at dogfight ranges. These things are why everyone hates F-111s.

Internal/External Precision Guns

metalstorm precision guns

metalstorm precision guns 2
Guns, guns, guns!

Guns with no spool-up time, decent-to-pathetic fire rates, and high accuracy. With some exceptions (The French stuck a ton of them under the Mirage III!), they typically have lower total DPS than Assault Guns, but immediately get there as soon as they fire and have better range. Internal Guns have endless ammo but can overheat, while External Guns have limited ammo but never overheat.

Internal/External Assault Guns

metalstorm vulcan

metalstorm vulcan 2
You don’t need a brevity code for THIS gun.

Assault Guns have very high fire rates, but must spool up first to get to their typically high max DPS. They have less accuracy than Precision Guns but don’t care since they’re spraying so much lead down range that they’re bound to hit something. Just like with Precision Guns, Internals have infinite ammo but can overheat, and Externals have limited ammo but can’t get hot. Later planes have such a short spool time that it might as well not matter.

Unguided Rockets

metalstorm unguided rockets

metalstorm unguided rockets 2
Nails, nails, nails!

A ton of unguided rockets with proximity fuses. You can use them like a longer-range gun, but they don’t have the aim-assistance guns get. Usually, you use them in conjunction with guns to wreck enemy planes very very quickly, or to splat anyone dumb enough to play chicken with Attackers at close range.

Beam-Rider Missiles

metalstorm beam rider

metalstorm beam rider 2
Target painted.

An odd weapon unique to the MiG-19, Beam Rider Missiles are laser-guided missiles, ostensibly short-range but can be used as a makeshift long-range missile with skill. Unlike other missiles, these don’t lock on, and instead follow wherever your plane’s crosshair is pointing. You can use this to ambush enemy planes as they fly into view from behind obstacles or to surprise enemies who think they are out of range. They can also ignore flares!

Nuclear Rocket!?

metalstorm nuclear rocket

metalstorm nuclear rocket 2

Unique to the F-106 as its special ability, the AIR-2 Genie nuclear-tipped unguided anti-bomber-formation rocket has a gigantic blast radius. Only attackers can usually survive this thing, and even then only when it isn’t properly leveled up. Its main weakness is its abysmal cooldown and the fact it resets when you’re shot down. If this is ready, point it at the nearest furball.



metalstorm light fighter
One seat, small size, and a big engine: a time-tested formula just like the Dicta Boelcke.

Agile, fast, and with low HP and often packing loads of Infrared missiles and later on, Manual-Guided Missiles, Light Fighters are the flyweight champions of close-in dogfighting, able to hit hard when getting close and very difficult to get on your pipper in a gunfight.

But crumpling like tinfoil whenever they make the mistake of playing chicken with absolutely anything else other than Attackers, and even then the the Light Fighter only wins when carrying Manual-Guided Missiles. Heck, they can’t even play chicken with each other since it usually ends in both planes on fire. Dogfighting is their game, so make sure you are never in the enemy’s sight line when flying a Light Fighter.

F-5 Tiger

metalstorm f5 tiger
It’s not just the nuggets that fly these.

A starter plane from the 1960s, and one of the most maneuverable planes in the game while still having good speed. It’s very simple, packing 4 Infrared Sidewinder missiles and an Internal Precision cannon. At level 8, it gains the ability to lock onto 4 targets at once and ripple-fire all its missiles into them immediately.

Not bad, but you’ll notice its miserable HP pool the second you see F-111s over the horizon. Be careful when you see F-5s flown by real people as it’s a 50/50 chance they’re a nugget fresh out of flight school or a crack fighter ace, nothing in between: Veteran F-5 drivers can make short work of even F-15s and F-22s if they fly real close and hard.

MiG-21 Fishbed

metalstorm mig21
The most mass-produced plane. Ever.

The MiG-21 is another 1960s classic, the Soviet Union’s cheap and cheerful answer to its allies’ air force woes. Packing 6 Infrareds albeit of lower quality than those carried by most other planes, the MiG-21 has excellent staying power around control points and in prolonged dogfights, provided the pilot doesn’t get hit.

It also carries an extra 9 seconds of fuel for its afterburner, allowing it to get up to ridiculous speeds given enough time. Its special ability is to make its afterburner stronger, increasing acceleration by 15%. No, you still should not play chicken with it, as it is made of tin foil.

Mirage III

metalstorm mirage m iii
An artwork of aviation by Marcel Dassault.

The community’s favorite plane, the Mirage III is one of the best planes in the game despite being one of the earlier unlocks with the MiG-21. It only has 2 Infrared missiles, but it’s also carrying 2 Manual-Guided Missiles and a hilariously powerful Internal Precision Gun that everyone considers overpowered to the point it can give the A-10’s car-sized 30mm GAU-8 Liberty Distribution Device a run for its money.

While only the 3rd strongest gun in the game, that gun has no downsides unlike the MiG-23s, which causes internal damage when fired, and the A-10s which… Well, it’s attached to an A-10, do you really want to fight planes in that thing!?

MiG-19 Farmer

metalstorm mig19 farmer
Get beamed!

The odd duck in the whole game, the MiG-19 is the only plane in the game to use Beam Rider Missiles. This makes it highly skill-based, requiring precision aim to hit anything with its missiles. That being said, it also comes with a powerful but incredibly slow cannon, and you’ll know you’re being chased by a MiG-19 from its cannon’s slow-thumping noise alone.

MiG-23 Flogger

metalstorm mig23 flogger
Comrade, my radar screen just fell off! HELP!

MiG-23s are the fattest of the Light Fighters, packing 4 Infrared Missiles and 2 Manual-Guided Missiles, along with a cannon too big for its own good: Just like in real life, the MiG-23’s Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-23L Comedy Cannon is so powerful that it damages the plane when fired for too long!

It’s the only cannon to out-DPS the A-10’s gun at full spool, to the horror of both the pilot watching his cockpit instruments shatter and fall apart firing it, and the enemy watching his plane get sawed clean in half from the hail of cannon shells. Performance-wise, it can alternate between straight-line speedster and tight-turner thanks to its Swing Wing ability. Dangerous to both user and enemy.

F-16 Fighting Falcon

metalstorm f16 fighting falcon
NATO’s bestselling fighting machine.

When most people think of the words “fighter plane”, one of the most likely images to pop into their head is the 1980s classic F-16 Fighting Falcon. Sleek, speedy, and agile, the F-16 is a real hot rod and a joy to fly. It packs a pair of Infrared Missiles and a pair of Manual-Guided Missiles, along with a decently strong Assault Gun in the form of the M61A1 Vulcan 20mm cannon.


metalstorm medium fighter
Air combat is a balance of many factors.

Medium Fighters and Heavy Fighters are the middle-ground options in the game, typically being less agile but sometimes faster than Light Fighters thanks to their powerful engines. With the sole exception of the F-100 Super Sabre, these planes typically carry both Infrared Missiles and Manual-Guided Missiles, with the Typhoon FGR4 and F-35 getting Radar-Guided Missiles. Medium Fighters are typically more agile than Heavy Fighters.

F-100 Super Sabre

metalstorm f100 super sabre
Old dog, new tricks.

The first Medium Fighter you unlock, this 1950s rookie-killing deathtrap is nonetheless a good plane for close-range combat in-game, used much like an attacker except it trades sheer payload for better flight characteristics. It packs 4 Infrareds and 38 Rockets in 2 pods, along with a decent Internal Precision Cannon. Its good HP pool mixed with okay flight characteristics make it feel rather average and boring, though splashing bandits with rockets is very satisfying.

J35 Draken

metalstorm j35 draken
Here comes the snow!

The Supersonic Swedish Speed Dorito is a good all-rounder, packing 2 Semi-Actives and 4 Infrareds, along with a gun that’s again, decent. It also flies quite well and has a decent HP pool. Overall, a great plane to fly. It has good low-speed maneuverability and a high top speed, making it good for both boom-and-zoom tactics and dogfights.

F-106 Delta Dart

metalstorm f106 delta dart
This twisted game needs to be reset.

Essentially a mini-interceptor, the F-106 is an absolutely speedy dragster that packs 4 Manual-Guided missiles, a fairly weak Internal Assault Gun, and absolutely nothing else, until it hits level 8. Then it gets an AIR-2 Genie, a nuclear-tipped rocket with an abysmal cooldown.

That being said, the road to level 8 is tough, so until you get this piece of Belkan nonsense you’re to treat this plane as a baby F-111, using your extreme speed to gain altitude and start sniping people with SAAMs until you run out and use your speed and altitude to swipe some missiles from one of those pickups. Except unlike F-111s and their Radar-Guided Missiles, you’re still fairly dangerous up close!

JA37 Viggen

metalstorm ja37 viggen
The birth of the Eurocanards.

The Supersonic Swedish Double Dorito is armed similarly to its predecessor, carrying 4 Infrareds and 2 Semi-Actives. Of special note is its long-range gun, which has a ridiculous range of 1.8 km, close to that of the MiG-21’s missiles with their 2.1km range. While that gun’s firepower leaves something to be desired, the fact you’re firing way earlier than your opponent makes up for it!

MiG-29 Fulcrum

metalstorm mig29 fulcrum
You could’ve done that sooner.

If you’ve flown the MiG-21, the MiG-29 should feel familiar. It carries the usual Medium Fighter payload of 2 Semi-Actives and 4 Infrareds, along with 7 seconds of spare afterburner. Its special ability is to refill its spare fuel tank.

F/A-18 Hornet

metalstorm f/a 18 hornet
A wasp from a seaborne hive.

 A fairly bulky Medium Fighter, the F/A-18 Hornet packs 4 Semi-Actives and 2 Infrareds, along with a decently strong Internal Assault Gun. This game is another one dangerous to play chicken against thanks to its mix of fair toughness and payload of medium-range missiles. And you don’t want it getting close either.

Typhoon FGR4

metalstorm typhoon fgr4
European cooperation, in aircraft form. Not counting the French who went off to make the Rafale!

The Eurofighter Typhoon is one of only 2 Medium Fighter to pack 2 Radar-Guided Missiles rather than Semi-Actives, along with 4 Infrareds and a rather pitiful Internal Precision Gun. This makes it good at both extremes of range, especially with its speed and agility. Just don’t get caught in a gunfight with this thing!

F-35 Lightning II

metalstorm f35 lightning
Some call it a money sink, others call it NATO superiority, and the writer calls it worth the contract budget.

The F-35 is a Medium Fighter with stealth capability and 4 Radar-Guided Missiles, making it one of the best places to play chicken along with the J-20, while still having an External Assault Gun for self-defense.

You can use this thing to out-chicken Interceptors as not only do you have the same attack range as they do, but you also have stealth capability meaning their missiles can’t lock on to you until you get close! That being said, you are squishy, your gun is limited, and you are unprotected from Infrareds, so ironically you can’t go toe-to-toe against an ancient F-5 if it gets in knife range.


metalstorm interceptor
They won’t even get in radar range.

Planes with high speed, long-range missiles, and the ability to turn as fast as a building, Interceptors make for terrible dogfighters (Usually: See the F-14 and its fancy-pants swing wings) but are excellent snipers, able to get to a high altitude quickly thanks to their incredible speed or escape dogfights with their bulkiness.

Unless you’re in an F-35 or J-20, never ever play chicken with them at long range unless you want your plane in pieces: Lure them into wasting their missiles and force them to reload instead.

F-111 Aardvark

metalstorm f111 aardvark
I’ll stay all the way over here, thanks!

The F-111 is the first Interceptor you can unlock, and you immediately notice what makes them special: Decent speed, high HP, and 6 Radar-Guided Missiles make this a dangerous plane to play chicken against. Real F-111 drivers and other interceptor pilots are the easiest to spot since unlike bots they will immediately raise altitude as soon as the game starts and avoid dogfights like the plague.

F-14 Tomcat

metalstorm f14 tomcat
It’s not the plane, it’s the pilot.

A beautiful American classic that ironically only Iran ever uses nowadays, the F-14 Tomcat is a dangerous all-around fighter, packing 4 ginormous AIM-54 Phoenix Radar-Guided missiles and 4 Infrareds, along with a decently strong gun and Swing Wings, which allow it to alternate between high speed or a good non-bus-like turning radius… But not both at the same time. Its Level 8 ability lets it lock onto multiple targets with its Radar-Guided Missiles and hit 4 enemies at once. Top Gun indeed.

MiG-31 Foxhound

metalstorm mig31 foxhound
I will escape to the one place that isn’t corrupted by Capitalism… SPACE!

The MiG-31 is the ultimate rocket-powered bus, with a pair of extremely powerful Soloviev D-30F6 turbofans that can push it to Mach 3 for all of one flight before needing replacement. It is also armed with Radar-Guided Missiles, a pair of Infrareds, and an Internal Assault Gun.

Theoretically, it can defend itself in a close-range fight thanks to its side weapons. Practically, if you end up dogfighting in a MiG-31, you need to rethink your life choices. The terrain is more likely to kill you than enemies with this straight-line piloted missile. Use your oversized engines to get away from dogfights and reload your Radar missiles, or use boom and zoom tactics rather than turnfighting.

J-20 Mighty Dragon

metalstorm j20 mighty dragon
You, solely, are responsible for this.

A Communist Chinese 5th generation aircraft built more to hunt down AWACs planes and strategic bombers than combat tactical fighters, the J-20 lacks the maneuverability of its peers the F-22 and Su-57, being a gunless flying rocket brick more akin to the MiG-31. It also suffers from missiles that don’t hit as hard as other Interceptors’, but still have the same range.

Its main advantage is pretty huge though: Stealth! Radar-guided weapons like Radar Guided Missiles and Manual-Guided Missiles have their lock-on range massively reduced when pointed at a J-20, so J-20s make excellent long-range counter-interceptor planes as they always get the first shot in a game of chicken no matter their target, unless it’s an F-35.

That being said, their weaknesses as Interceptors are magnified compared even to other Interceptors:  J-20s have tofu armor, maneuver like skyscrapers, and only have 2 Infrareds and no gun for close battles. Just like the MiG-31 and the F-111, never ever dogfight in a J-20!


metalstorm attacker
What happens when you point an anti-tank weapon at a soft squishy plane?

Attackers are a very odd plane class in this specific game, as in real life they’re meant for ground attack duties, not fighting other planes. That being said, this isn’t real life, and these planes fill both the Paladin and Rogue roles in an RPG party: They’re slow, tough close-range fighters that are meant to sneak up on enemies, taking advantage of their cool Infrared-deterring engines to fly through dangerous terrain and slap people with their guns and unguided rockets. Except for the Su-34 Fullback, which is just a Flanker but fat! All Attackers have the Armored trait, which reduces the damage they take from guns.

A-6 Intruder

metalstorm a6 intruder
Squadron, music on.

The worst Attacker to fly alone but the best Attacker to fly with a properly coordinated team bar none, the A-6 Intruder is honestly a pain to fly for anyone who got used to the F-5: It is slow, and lacks guided weapons, forcing it to get close with its External Assault Guns and Rocket Pods.

It feels worse compared to other attackers until it hits level 8 where it unlocks a really powerful ability: Area Jamming messes with enemy missile locks, causing them to slow down by 2 seconds unleveled. 2 seconds is a ton of time if you’re in a jet fighter, and this allows you to protect your teammates in a battle and ensure they get the first shot in a game of long-range chicken. Not a fun plane to fly solo, but a great boon to any party flight.

A-4 Skyhawk

metalstorm a4 skyhawk
Ed Heinemann’s hotrod.

The A-4 Skyhawk is pretty much a World War 2 plane compared to its opponents, which is not necessarily a bad thing: It is incredibly agile AND bulky, though lacking in speed. Its main gun is a worthless Internal Precision Cannon paired with relatively okay External Assault Cannons, and it packs a pair of Infrareds.

Its rather poor payload is a bit slanderous as the real Skyhawk was a tiny terror capable of carrying way, WAY more bombs than common sense dictates with its size. That being said, the plane itself can be dangerous and takes advantage of the Attacker’s playstyle (Get in close and shred) very handily since it can dogfight properly with its agility.

A-10 Thunderbolt

metalstorm a10 thunderbolt
They didn’t put a gun on this plane. They took the gun and built the plane around it!

The most iconic ground attack plane in modern day, the A-10 Thunderbolt consists of two things: Insane toughness, and its comically huge GAU-8 Avenger 30mm depleted uranium bullet hose, which starts out with a whopping 390 DPS unleveled and unlike the MiG-23’s gun, and does NOT shred the A-10 to pieces when firing.

The A-10 flies as slow as a geriatric snail, which is necessary since if it were any faster, its country-like turning ability would cause it to slam into mountains. Make sure to hit this thing with long-range missiles, as attempting to gunfight an A-10 with anything less than a Mirage III is pretty dangerous, and Infrareds don’t lock on until you’re in range of its oversized Fourth-of-Julyinator anyway! It also has a pair of Infrareds of its own along with a few rockets.

Su-34 Fullback

metalstorm su34 fullback

They somehow managed to stick a kitchen and toilet in this thing!

Take the F-100 Super Saber, give it a lot more rockets and HP, and you get the Su-34 Fullback, a ground attack modification of the Su-27 Flanker. The Fullback is the fastest Attacker in the game, at least as tough as the A-4, and is better able to get in an Interceptor’s face and pick battles compared to the others thanks to its not-abysmal speed.

It also has an incredible close combat payload of 4 Infrareds, a decent Internal Precision Cannon, and 120 Rockets. There is a tradeoff though: It is the only Attacker that lacks the Cool Engines trait, allowing Infrareds to lock onto it at normal ranges. Use it as a close-range heavy fighter and don’t be afraid to chase after Interceptors in this chunky flying war platypus.


metalstorm heavy fighter
Air domination requires a superior payload.

Heavy Fighters are characterized by their high speed, moderate toughness, and most of all, their utterly deadly missile payloads. They typically carry a total of 8 missiles, except the 5th Gens like the F-22 and Su-57 which carry 6 because they’re stuck with using internal missile bays.

Usually, it’s 4 Radar-Guided or Manual-Guided Missiles along with 4 Infrareds, though it can be any combination of such. They suffer in maneuverability but are still dangerous in close combat as they’re fairly tough and can do hit-and-run attacks if they’re low on their longer-ranged weapons.

F-4 Phantom

metalstorm f4 phantom
Whose kill was that? Make sure to thank him!

The first unlockable Heavy Fighter, the F-4 Phantom is a speedy straight-line brawler useful in most ranges thanks to its heavy loadout of 4 Manual-Guided Missiles and 4 Infrareds, and a powerful Internal Assault Gun. While its description says it works best in a straight line, its level 8 Special Ability allows it to do crazy maneuvers at the cost of HP, stressing the airframe to pull off some absolute Ace Combat protagonist nonsense like Kulbits.  Which is weird since the real F-4 never did such things!

Su-27 Flanker

metalstorm su27 flanker
Red Star’s terror burning bright.

Much like the F-4 Phantom, the Su-27 Flanker is a beefy, fast fighter capable of brawling both up close and medium range with its 4 Semi-Actives and 4 Infrareds, and an unremarkable but still good gun. It turns a tad tighter than an F-4 but lacks its special ability to do comical post-stall aberrations against physics at the cost of HP.

F-15 Eagle

metalstorm f15 eagle
Hey buddy, still alive?

The F-15 Eagle is the real-life record holder of a kill ratio of 104 to zilch losses, primarily thanks to Israel at the same time having some of the mightiest pilots in the galaxy and constantly getting dragged into enough wars to rack up such a fat score in the first place. With a reliable Internal Assault Cannon, 4 Manual-Guided Missiles, and 4 Infrareds, it flies fast but not too tightly since it’s meant for boom-and-zoom beatdowns rather than dogfights.

Su-30 Strike Flanker

metalstorm su30 strike flanker
There are pilots like you in every generation. And I’ve felled every last one of them.

4 Radar Guided Missiles and 4 Infrared Missiles make the Su-30 a prime example of an extreme-range fighter like the F-14, capable of starting fights from far away and ending them up close and personal. Much like other Heavy Fighters, the Su-30 is meant for boom-and-zoom combat, using its speed to pick targets for close-in fights after expending its long-range weapons.

Su-33 Sea Flanker

metalstorm su33 sea flanker
Engage as a formation. No single-ship attacks.

A naval version of the Flanker, the Su-33 differs from most Heavy Fighters by swapping out two Infrareds for two Manual-Guided Missiles, totaling 6 Semi-Actives and 2 Infrareds. This makes it more useful for mid-range sniping than close-in fights, much like a fat F-106 without nukes. That being said, it can still cause some close-range trouble by booming and zooming people.

F/A-18F Super Hornet

metalstorm f/a 18f super hornet
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, this is your savior speaking, please fasten your seatbelts, and return your tray tables to their locked and upright positions.

The F/A-18F Super Hornet is gonna feel a lot like a Su-30 but with an assault gun: While the overheating time is still the same, the Hornet’s gun has superior DPS and wider spread. You will use both similarly since they have pretty much the same loadout: 4 Radar Guided Missiles and 4 Infrareds.

Su-35 Super Flanker

metalstorm su35 super flanker
No obstacles to our flight observed.

A boomer-zoomer supreme, the Su-35 carries only 2 Radar Guided Missiles to start a fight with, as its specialty is ending fights with its 6 Infrareds and high speed. It is rather agile for a Heavy Fighter, being more suited for dogfights than most others of its type. Its gun is again fairly average, but at that point, your opponent is probably panicking from all the missile alerts you just threw at him!

F-22 Raptor

metalstorm f22 raptor
It’s a ribbon!

Ditching 2 Infrareds for stealth capability, the F-22 Raptor is a dangerous opponent for other long-range combatants as it forces enemy Radar and Manual-Guided Missiles to lock on at roughly 1/3 of their normal range.

Meanwhile, it packs 4 Radar-Guided Missiles of its own, which means it always gets the first shot on a non-stealth plane. If caught in a close fight, it still has 2 Infrareds and a decent Internal Assault Gun to fall back on. While its speed stat looks like nothing special, the F-22 Raptor can supercruise just like in real life, meaning it has an alarmingly high non-afterburning speed.

Su-57 Felon

metalstorm su57 felon
Every last old-timer brags about flying with heroes. But I know you…

The Su-57 suffers a bit compared to the F-22 Raptor thanks to its shorter-legged Radar Guided Missiles. That being said they are fairly similar in use, having good turn rates for heavy fighters and high cruising speeds. While its gun has a lower DPS, it has better range compared to the F-22 Raptor’s cannon, allowing it to get the first shot in during close encounters.

And this ends our Metalstorm beginner’s guide. We hope this helps you on your journey to becoming an ace. Fly the unfriendly skies, and don’t forget to give your own tips in the comment section below!