A very bare-bones explanation of ELINT, Missiles and general EWAR principles that’ll maybe help you understand what the game is telling you a bit better.
The basic operation of the SEARCH Radar panel should be familiar to most people; A line goes around a circle and makes a beep when it sees something. But what is it seeing and how?
A strong radio wave is emitted as the device spins, and what it’s ‘seeing’ is those radio waves bouncing back from the target. The time differential is used to determine the range. The fact that a radar involves sending out a signal will be important in a moment.
When an object is detected, you will see it as a horizontal line perpendicular to its direction from you. This represents the strength of the return. This is slightly fuzzy. In the real world, this is the proportion of sent radiation returned, which can be useful for determining the size of the detected object, but because some things are more mirror-like, a small panel box truck may have a larger return than, say, a rounded passenger airliner.
Does highfleet account for this? I don’t know, but I suspect it doesn’t. For now it’s safe to assume that ‘wider line means more or bigger objects.’
If you want to track things in real time, as it takes quite some while for the radar apparatus to spin, you can switch to ‘sector mode’ and have it quickly oscillate across a certain 60-degree region, giving you constant intel about a contact.
A toggle also exists to switch between air and ground mode.
Lastly the ‘one’ and ‘infinity’ buttons. The infinity button, while depressed, means the radar is permanently on. Pressing it will disable the system. Pressing ‘1’ will complete the current cycle and then disable the system. Or if the system is off, pulse the system through one cycle. We will discuss why you want to manage this in the next section.
You also have a TRACKING radar. Instead of a special panel, this is just the point at which red icons appear in real time on your map. At this point, you have sufficient resolution to know their exact velocity and heading.
Elint stands for “Electronic Intelligence.” Which covers a rather dizzying array of practical fields, but for our purposes, only one: The detection of enemy radars.
Recall our discussion of how a radar functions. For visualization, imagine shining a flashlight and looking for anything reflective. You might have to get pretty close, but anyone you point it at, even further than you can, say, see the shine of their metal belt buckle, can see a light.
This is where your ELINT panel comes in. When a source of radio waves strong enough to be RADAR is detected, the panel will begin to light up. The string of circles lamps on the outside give an indication of the relative direction of the signal source. The smaller lamps that fill up are an indication of SIGNAL STRENGTH. This can translate to range in a vague way, but not necessarily. A strong radar far away and a weak one nearby may cause the same ‘return.’
Consider more lamps meaning the enemy is more certain of your location.
Now consider that you are not the only one in the world with this device. Thus the continuous operation of your own RADAR may be triggering enemy detectors! You are, in essence, spinning a flashlight over your head, so it is good to practice some discipline in when and why you operate it. If you know the enemy is hunting you want to be able to see them, but electronic detection is a mutual affair!
You can pulse your radar and then change course to throw off enemy interception. Use strike groups with their own radars to avoid exposing your main fleet, and other tactics. Much like stealth games you may be more familiar with though, only turn your ‘flashlight’ on when you must, and when you’re comfortable being seen.
Tactical Missiles (the kind you fire from the map screen,) come in several flavors, but only two guidance types.
Most missiles are a combination of ARH and SARH. That is, “Active Radar Homing” and “Semi Active Radar Homing.”
If an enemy is within the range of your tracking radar, that is, they’re now a real-time red marker on your map, any missile you fire at them will be in SARH mode. The missile is ‘watching’ the return from your ships own radar, using its stronger energy and the displacement from itself to accurately triangulate the enemies speed and direction to intercept it. It will thus be very accurate.
If you do not have tracking resolution on the enemy, missiles will default to ARH mode. They will boot up their own, smaller onboard radar and use it to less accurately close with the enemy. This means you can fire at enemies you know the location of but can’t ‘see’ but without the help of your ship’s radar, your weapons will not be as accurate as they could be.
The other type, on missiles with a designation ending in P, is ‘ARM’ or “Anti-Radiation Missile.” Instead of using radar to detect the enemy, these missiles instead simply point themselves at the strongest source of radio waves and dive at it. In essence they SEEK OUT enemy radar. This is another reason to keep your own radar off! With no radiation to seek, the missile will simply wander off, or even turn on another enemy target. (It’s possible your own missiles will seek you in absence of any other radiation source! This may be a bug or not, but consider turning your radar off before firing.)
Jamming is easily misunderstood as a ‘stealth’ capability, due to it being used this way in other games, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Consider it this way.
In our prior example of a radar being like a flashlight, the enemy can see you if tehy can see your light. Their own weapons will be tracking the reflection of their lights. If you don’t want them to find you, you can turn your light off, but what can you do if they already have?
Since their weapons systems are looking for the reflection of their ‘light source,’ what you can do is turn on the strongest light you can. Now any missiles heading your way can only see light wherever they look. With no way to differentiate targets, they’ll miss! huzzah!
But there are two problems. In order to confuse the enemy missiles, you are essentially setting off a flashbang that never stops, as long as your jammer is on. There is no way that enemy ELINT can miss this. An active jammer announces your location to EVERYONE. That said, it will also stop them getting a good read on you with any of their actual RADAR. The Jammer is to confuse people who already know where you are, not for hiding!
The other problem is our friend from the prior section, the ARM. He’s not blinded by the jammer. Quite the contrary, the jammer is the biggest bullseye he’s ever seen. If the enemy has launched an AR missile at you, an active jammer will draw it in like a magnet! This can be used to protect more valuable ships as an absolute last ditch resort, but ideally we turn our RADAR off and not try to jam ARMs.
I won’t really go into SIGINT or the IR widget here, yet. Maybe later but they’re out of scope for this mini-guide.
I just saw a lot of confusion about the radar-related aspects of the game and wanted to help clear them up.
In closing; imagine Highfleet as a stealth game. Played in near pitch blackness on an infinite flat plane. You have control of a flashlight, and a device that shows you where you see enemy flashlights. Using these things together, your objective is to see, and not be seen, for as long as possible.
Hopefully that helps people who came in without knowing the technicalities of these systems!