Shadow Empire – Aircraft Design

Shadow Empire – Aircraft Design 2 -
Shadow Empire – Aircraft Design 2 -

Guide for Shadow Empire – Aircraft Design

Designing aircraft in the Shadow Empire is a complex process and sometimes feels a bit like punching random numbers into a BlackBox, hoping for the best. This guide is a collection of all the information about aircraft design I can find, hopefully making it easier for you to develop viable designs. I don’t know everything about aircraft yet either, so let me know if you can fill in the blanks somewhere.


Planetary Statistics

You can find these statistics in an ongoing game by clicking on Reports -> Help -> Planet statistics overview. At the bottom of that screen, you can also find what kind of airplane engine your secretary recommends to use on your planet.

It affects the weight calculations of the aircraft, reduces speed and range. You generally want lower gravity for better aircraft, but higher gravity planets also tend to have a thicker atmosphere to balance it out.

Air pressure
Decreases speed but also increases range. It seems that a thicker atmosphere is generally better for aircraft and will be a big factor in determining the range.
The air pressure also determines the sound speed, which acts as a speed cap for non-supersonic aircraft. The thicker the atmosphere, the higher is the speed of sound.
Rocket engines are special in that they are the only engine type that actually increases range the lighter the atmosphere is. If there is no air pressure at all, aircraft require rocket engines to fly.
Thopters are better when the air pressure is higher than gravity.

Aircraft Types

Airplanes – Ultralight, Light, Medium (1 and 2 engines), Heavy (2 and 4 engines), X-Heavy (4 and 6 engines)
Helicopters – Light, Medium, Heavy
Thopters – Light, Medium, Heavy
Helicopters, thopters, and airplanes with VTOL engines can land anywhere but reduce their max readiness. All other airplanes require airbases of increasing sizes.

Aircraft Components

The role determines if your aircraft should flee from air combat as fast as possible and if it should be flying low or high.
Flying low gives better recon; flying high gives less accuracy and makes it harder to be hit by the AA.

Bigger engines increase speed (up to the speed cap), but they are also less weight efficient and less fuel-efficient. If the aircraft is already at the speed cap, there’s probably no benefit to increasing the engine size.
VTOL engines allow planes to land anywhere at a readiness penalty.
Helicopters only use rotors.
Rocket engines are required without air pressure.

Bigger wings increase dogfighting score, range, max weight, reduce minimum takeoff speed, and reduce aerodynamics and increase weight.
This means that wings increase and decrease dogfighting scores, and I’m not sure if higher speed or bigger wings are better for dogfighting.
Helicopters don’t get to choose.

Fuel Tank
Bigger fuel tanks increase range but also increase weight. Adding a fuel tank that is too big might give no benefit besides reducing range.

Air-to-Air Weapon
Machineguns (mounted and cupolas) give a big malus to the first 2 rounds of air combat.
Mounted machineguns can also be used for anti-surface combat.
MG cupolas can only be used by heavy and extra heavy airplanes and are strictly for air combat.
Air-to-air missiles have the same firepower against surface targets as MGs but are vastly more powerful against air targets. The Missiles tech unlocks them.

Air-to-Surface Weapon
Bombing hatch + bombs are good against structures and soft targets and give you cargo space, letting you use the bomber in potential air bridges.
Precision bombs have double the firepower of hatch bombs and are better against hard targets. They can’t be used by helicopters, nor by heavy or extra heavy airplanes.
Air-to-surface rockets are unlocked with the Rocketry tech. It can only be loaded by light and medium airplanes, helicopters, and thopters.

Cargo Space
Necessary for air bridge missions, but increases weight.
10. kg of cargo space translates into 1 logistics point, but it also gets multiplied by the amount of aircraft in the formation.
The maximum size of a unified model transported via air bridge is the square root of the bridge’s average capacity divided by 1000. (For example, if you have an air bridge consisting of aircraft that each can transport 1000 kg, then the maximum size is the square root of 1 -> 1. That would mean this bridge could airlift only infantry. If the average capacity were 4000, it would be the square root of 4 -> 2, which would let you also airlift transport trucks.)

Aircraft Statistics

Most of these stats are influenced by the planet’s gravity and air pressure.

Increased by size and by the Aircraft Ruggedness optimization technology.
Increases hit points, and the square root of the size determines how many airbases point to the aircraft’s need for full readiness recovery.
More weight means less range, less speed, and higher minimum takeoff speed.
More speed means more range and better dogfighting score.
Influenced by engine power, weight, aerodynamics. Capped by air pressure for non-supersonic aircraft.
Minimum takeoff speed
The speed needed for the aircraft to take off.
Influenced by weight, wings, maybe engine?
Range determines how far the aircraft can fly. The operational range is half of the maximum range. The maximum operational range is 40 hexes, but there are diminishing returns after 12.
Influenced by weight, speed, wing size, fuel tank.
Dogfighting score
Having a higher dogfighting score than the enemy planes in air combat will give you a bonus and the enemy a malus.
Influenced by speed, wing size, and horsepower to weight ratio.


ENGINE EFF – Fuel efficiency of the engine
HP:WEG – Horsepower to weight ratio
AERO – Aerodynamics
OP RANGE – Operational range in hexes
FIREP – Firepower
Rnd 1, Rnd 2 – Round 1 and 2 combat modifiers


Vic has shared a useful document showing what kind of aircraft ranges you can expect on planets with certain gravity and air pressure values (on version 1.05 beta 19):

Shadow Empire – Aircraft Design 1 -
Shadow Empire – Aircraft Design 1 –


Written by Total Oh No

This is all that we can say about Shadow Empire – Aircraft Design for now. I hope this post helped you. If there is anything that we should add, please let us know via comment below. See you soon!

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