- This article is about an in-game mission. For the in-universe event, see Operation Blindman's Bluff.
Safe Return is the 13th campaign mission of Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. The player must assist a retreating spy plane by eliminating radar jamming in its flight path.
A returning U2 recon plane with engine trouble is currently passing through Gnome Ravine, due to its inability to climb to higher altitudes. However, airship mounted noise jammers in the area are preventing the use of radar. At this rate, a crash is very likely. Destroy as many jammers in the valley as possible, and get that recon plane safely home. Radar won't work, so you'll need to find the airships visually and destroy them with your machine guns.
The first objective is to destroy 13 airship jammers in Gnome Ravine. Radar cannot lock-on to these targets, so the player must use machine guns to destroy them. Once 13 jammers are destroyed, the player can continue to seek out additional airships while waiting for time to expire.
Once the score requirement is met, and the time limit is up, four TGTs (two Typhoons and two F-15s) will attack the recon plane. The player must shoot them down and protect the U-2. Once the hostile fighters are destroyed, the mission is complete.
Main article: Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies/Aces
- F-15E Gunn - Located farther north than the four targets that appear after the Mission Update; hidden from radar until the player gets close (only under SP New Game → Normal or harder)
Earning an S rank on this mission requires earning 2,800 points. During the Mission Update, the player will earn 240 points from downing the TGT fighters, leaving 2,560 points that must be earned by shooting down the airship jammers. Each jammer is worth 100 points, which means an S rank requires destroying at least 26 jammers. If the player also shoots down the enemy ace (240 points), only 2,320 more points are necessary, which equates to 24 jammers.
The recon plane brought back data on Megalith. This is the superweapon designed by the Erusians to replace Stonehenge. Analysis by the Intelligence Unit leads to the conclusion that victory hinges on ending this war before Megalith is deployed.
- It is theoretically impossible to destroy all of the jammer airships in Gnome Ravine, given their sheer numbers and widespread distribution.
- There are several hidden vessels in this mission:
- A frigate is located on a river that flows north-south in the eastern sector of the jamming net. It can be destroyed for 100 points, equivalent to one jammer unit. In the mission debriefing, the destroyed frigate will be listed as a jammer.
- Sailboats are hidden throughout the area. One is located immediately behind and below the player's spawn point. They cannot be destroyed.
- The use of yellow colored airships as radio jammers may have been inspired by the 1993 anime film Patlabor 2: The Movie, in which yellow airships are rigged with jamming devices by a coup d'état force as part of its attempted takeover of Tokyo.
- The minimum required score for the first part will always be 1,300 points, regardless of the difficulty.
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