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As usual, air combat is the most thrilling type of combat in the game. Who doesn't look to the skies as the next frontier? However, air combat doesn't happen until late in the Modern Era, when civilizations have researched the Flight technology and managed to construct the necessary infrastructure to support air units - a task which is not trivial, since it involves constructing a whole new type of District District (the Aerodrome) and its buildings.

What is an air unit?[]

Air units (sometimes called "aircraft" or "(air)planes") are those units native to the sky, which perform their battle functions in or from the sky. In most cases air units actually attack ground targets, but they do it from the air. Unlike Civilization V, in which air attacks were considered melee and caused retaliation damage, in Civilization VI all air attacks are ranged, and the attacking plane doesn't suffer damage in return unless it gets Intercepted by another unit. The only exceptions to this rule are ships with the Anti-Air Strength Anti-Air Strength stat - they have additional close-range defenses, which activate when they are attacked by an aircraft, and damage it in return.

Air units fly freely above any type of terrain, including Mountains and Ice (which are otherwise impassable). They are the only class of units in the game capable of doing so.

Note that the Helicopter is not an air unit! Because it has to fly much closer to the ground, the Helicopter is considered a land unit, attacks in melee and suffers appropriate retaliation damage. It also must embark like any other land unit to move through water. Finally, Helicopters cannot pass over Mountains, as in previous games.

Building air units[]

Air units, as mentioned above, can only be built in a city with an Aerodrome. All but the earliest unit, the Biplane, require Aluminum Aluminum. Newly built aircraft will spawn in the Aerodrome, as long as it still has empty slots.

Aerodromes should be well-situated, because they are also the most important bases for airplanes. You should try to build them in cities with high Production Production potential, because airplanes are quite costly. You should also try to build them close to areas where you expect combat to occur at some point. And, of course, the Aerodrome will allow you to Airlift land units later in the game - you should think about that as well.

Bases for air units[]

Each air unit has to be based somewhere. You will not be able to build more units than you have space for in your bases.

Air units may be based in these places:

  • City Centers: Each city you have may serve as a base, but they have only 1 slot each.
  • Aerodromes: The most important base. It has 2 slots initially, and can reach 4 slots after constructing the Hangar and the Airport.
  • Aircraft Carriers: This critical naval base starts with 2 slots, but may gain more through Promotion Promotions. Note that you will absolutely need Carriers to move your air force across oceans!
  • Airstrips: Good strategists know that you cannot plan for every occasion, and will need improvised bases to make optimal use of their airplanes. The Airstrip is a tile improvement can be placed inside your territory or in neutral territory, and has 3 slots for aircraft.

You may spend a turn to re-base any aircraft, moving it to a new, valid base which is close enough. The maximum re-base distance is twice the Movement Movement of that air unit.

Should your airbase be pillaged, your aircraft stationed within will scatter to nearby valid bases instead of being destroyed. If there are no nearby valid bases, the aircraft will be destroyed.

Should your Aircraft Carrier be destroyed, your aircraft stationed within will be destroyed.

Types of air units[]

There are two main types of air units: fighters and bombers.

Fighter units[]

Fighters' main purpose is to function and replace late game Ranged units, also to defend against other air units. They have the special ability to Intercept, which allows them to automatically attack incoming aircraft within their operational range.

Fighters are used differently than in Civilization V. Their operational range is considerably smaller (the Biplane, for example, has a Range Range of only 4); however, they may be deployed on Patrol duty, which effectively extends their range (see below). Still, their flight autonomy is much less than that of a bomber unit, and this also affects the bases they may re-base to.

Fighters deal ranged-type damage, which is effective against land units, but not against cities and naval units. Their Promotion Promotions are focused primarily on attacking other air units and land units.

Bomber units[]

Bomber units are dedicated to blowing structures on the ground to smithereens. Their operational range is considerably larger than Fighters, but they cannot intercept other aircraft, and cannot be deployed - they always operate from their base.

Bombers deal bombard-type damage, which is effective against cities and naval units but not against land units. However, they may greatly increase their capabilities against land or naval units via Promotion Promotions. Promotion Promotions also allow them to defend better against Interception.

Bombers may also carry and deliver both types of nukes, which makes them the first natural unit able to do this (and is also historically correct). However, they require at least 50 HP to carry out nuking missions.

Bombers may attack tile improvements and districts, though they need more than 50% health to do so (or the Superfortress Promotion Promotion, which removes the minimum health requirement). With these attacks they destroy the targets, which is equal to Pillaging, but without gaining any loot.

Air strikes[]

Air strikes are the main mode of aerial combat (and for bombers, the only mode). Both fighters and bombers may perform them from their bases (or from their Patrol location, in the case of fighters).

Air strikes are in fact the normal attacks of air units. You will need to select a target in the operational range of the aircraft, and it will attack that target. While bombers may only choose ground targets, however, fighters may choose both ground targets and enemy planes Patrolling in the air. In this second case, they will engage in "dogfighting," or plane-to-plane combat. In any case, any air strike takes a full action to perform. When dogfighting, both air units use their Strength Combat Strength stat, instead of their Ranged Strength Ranged Strength. Against any other unit, the attacking unit's Ranged Strength Ranged Strength will be matched against the defending unit's Anti-Air Strength Anti-Air Strength (even if its Strength Combat Strength is higher) or Strength Combat Strength if it doesn't have any Anti-Air Strength Anti-Air Strength.

There are a few exceptions to the rules above:

  • If a plane is patrolling an empty tile, the bomber can still target the tile that plane is patrolling.
  • If a plane is patrolling over a unit, the fighter can only target the patrolling plane and never the unit underneath it.
  • If a plane is patrolling over a defensible District District (City Center, Encampment, Oppidum), the fighter can target only the district itself and never the patrolling plane or the unit inside the district.

While performing air strikes, air units are vulnerable to Interception. Air strikes are intercepted before attacking its target, so it will air strike with a penalty to their Strength Combat Strength if intercepted.

A support unit targeted by either a direct air strike or the Priority Target ability sustains 65 damage.


All fighter-type airplanes may perform Patrol. To start it, you have to first deploy the plane to a tile inside its Movement Movement range, which takes a full action. Note that this tile cannot be over enemy territory - just over your own, or neutral territory. The tile of their Patrol effectively turns into a sort of secondary base, from where they may perform air strikes. The range for these attacks is the same as their operational range (4, in the case of the Biplane), so you can effectively extend the fighter's Range Range if you want to. While on Patrol, fighters cannot Heal damage unless they've earned the Ground Crews Promotion Promotion. They can also be attacked via ranged attacks, both from the ground (or the sea, if they're Patrolling over water) and from other fighters. Enemy units cannot enter the tile fighters are patrolling.

While on Patrol, fighters are able to Intercept enemy aircraft.


Interception is when an air unit gets attacked by an enemy (either another air unit, a land unit, or naval unit) while on the way to its target. Interception is the only way to defend against air power in Civilization VI, now that all air attacks are considered ranged and thus not subject to retaliatory damage.

Among air units, only fighters may intercept, and only while they're on Patrol. Fighters cannot intercept while they're in their bases. You don't need to give a separate order to Intercept - once you've placed a fighter unit on Patrol, it will automatically Intercept all enemy aircraft which enter its zone of patrol (adjacent hexes). Note that enemies are only prone to interception when they attack a tile within the interception range, not when they're passing through it en route to their real target. During interception, both air units use their Strength Combat Strength, not their Ranged Strength Ranged Strength. Support units and naval units with an Anti-Air Strength Anti-Air Strength stat can also intercept without being given any special mission, as long as the air unit enters their interception radius.

Interception by non-air units and fighters are separate. A plane will be intercepted twice if one of each category is present.

The unit that will attempt to intercept an air strike is determined by the unit with highest air Strength Combat Strength or Anti-Air Strength Anti-Air Strength. This intercepting unit will receive a +5 Strength Combat Strength Support bonus if it is a fighter interception for every patrolling fighter unit adjacent to the target, or +5 Anti-Air Strength Anti-Air Strength Support bonus if it is a non-air interception for every anti-air unit adjacent to the target. If the target of an air strike has intercepting capabilities, it will also receive an Interception Support bonus.

Terrain features such as Hills, Woods, and Reefs don't provide defense bonuses to a land or naval unit that is the target of an air strike, nor do defensive tile improvements such as Forts. Strength Combat Strength bonuses for military units (such as that from a Great Admiral) will increase an intercepting unit's Anti-Air Strength Anti-Air Strength; the bonus from a Great General will have no effect because it doesn't affect Anti-Air Guns, Mobile SAMs, or Giant Death Robots.

Below are a few rules that apply to Interception Support:

  • Support is fully stackable; also, Support can only be provided and received by units under the same ownership.
  • Non-air units can only provide Support to non-air units and can benefit from Support from non-air units.
  • Air units can only provide Support to air units and can benefit from Support from air units.
  • Embarked land units provide Support like normal. Since naval units provide Support to land units and vice versa, a water tile containing an embarked anti-air unit and a naval unit provides +10 Anti-Air Strength Anti-Air Strength to any friendly unit defending in an adjacent tile.
  • Units can provide Support to each other across a River.
  • Units cannot provide Support to units occupying the same hex.
  • Both the defender and the interceptor will receive support bonus if they are of the same interception category. For instance, two fighters are adjacent to each other, they will both receive a +5 Strength Combat Strength Support bonus if either are attacked.
    • However, if there are more than one adjacent unit to the defender, the interceptor will only receive support bonus for every adjacent unit to the defender outside itself.

Since embarked land units still provide Interception Support, the maximum number of non-air unit Interception Support stacks is 12.[1]

  • A defender can achieve this when the defending anti-air unit is surrounded by 6 water tiles, each occupied by a friendly embarked anti-air unit and a naval unit.
  • An interceptor requires a more niche scenario where a naval unit is stacked with a unit being priority targeted that is surrounded by 6 water tiles, each occupied by a friendly embarked anti-air unit and a naval unit.

Note that embarked anti-air units cannot intercept attackers, so they will only provide Interception Support if there is more than one naval unit that can intercept.

The maximum number of air unit Interception Support stacks is 6.

  • A defender can achieve this when the defending air unit is surrounded by by 6 patrolling fighters.
  • An interceptor can achieve this when it is patrolling over with a unit being priority targeted that is surrounded by 6 patrolling fighters.

A unit can attempt Interception multiple times per turn. Fighter-class units, however, will take damage for each attempt, making them less effective for future attempts. Non-air intercepting units are not damaged if they are not the target of the air strike.

Every Interception does damage to the unit being intercepted. If the damage is enough, the plane will be shot down; otherwise, it will still perform the attack (but suffer the damage, of course).

Units with Anti-Air Strength Anti-Air Strength will automatically attempt to intercept air units that attack tiles within their defensive radius, even if these units are owned by an allied civilization or one with whom the interceptor's owner isn't at war.[2][3]

Nuclear and Thermonuclear Strikes[]

Bomber units are capable of delivering your nukes to the enemy. Thanks to the new system, in which nukes are stored centrally, any bomber may deliver any weapon you wish (as long as you have it in your inventory). The bomber itself is unaffected by the blast, of course. However, this doesn't mean that it is invulnerable while trying to deliver the nuke - it may be intercepted and shot down if the enemy has sufficient capabilities. If this happens, you will lose both the bomber and the nuke. If the bomber falls below 50 HP during interception, you will lose the nuke, but not the bomber.

There is no difference between intercepting a Nuclear Device Nuclear Device and a Thermonuclear Device Thermonuclear Device. Currently, there are three main ways to deliver a nuke: using aircraft (Bombers or Jet Bombers), using a Nuclear Submarine, and launching nukes from a Missile Silo. The units dedicated to anti-air defense differ as follows:[4]

  1. The Anti-Air Gun cannot intercept nukes from Nuclear Submarines, but can intercept nukes delivered from aircraft (if the planes take enough damage in return) and from Missile Silos.
  2. The Mobile SAM can intercept nukes from all sources.
  3. The Battleship can only intercept nukes delivered from aircraft and Missile Silos.
  4. The Destroyer can only intercept nukes delivered from aircraft and Nuclear Submarines.
  5. The Missile Cruiser can intercept nukes from all sources.
  6. The Giant Death Robot can intercept nukes from all sources.
  7. Fighter class aircraft can only intercept nukes delivered from bomber class aircraft, not from Missile Silos or Nuclear Submarines.

As mentioned above, only the strongest anti-air unit from each interception category will intercept if it is able to. The intercepting unit will benefit from Interception Support Bonus as mentioned above from adjacent units of the same interception category. In order to intercept nukes, the only tile that requires protection is the target tile; the tiles in the blast radius are irrelevant.

Nukes launched via Missile Silos and Nuclear Submarines add another layer to Interception interactions. Anti-Air Strength Anti-Air Strength is irrelevant, it only matters that you have the correct anti-air defense to match the nuke's source as listed above. If the correct anti-air defense requirements are met, an Interception will be attempted. If the Interception is successful and the nuke will be destroyed. Note there's always a chance the Interception attempt against Missile Silos and Nuclear Submarines will fail. The chances the Interception is successful or not are uncertain.

Considering that a Thermonuclear Device Thermonuclear Device has a blast radius of 2 and anti-air units' defensive radius is 1, and there is no difference between the amount of damage dealt to the target tile and the tiles in the blast radius, it is possible to remove all health, walls and defenses from a city by dropping the Thermonuclear Device Thermonuclear Device 2 tiles away from the City Center (since the most common target for nuking missions, and thus nuke protection, is the City Center). In order to shield yourself from this nuking tactic, you will need at least 4 anti-air units to fully cover the 2-tile radius area around a City Center. If you visualize the area that requires protection as an equilateral hexagon whose side is 3 tiles long, these 4 units need to be placed as follows:

  • Two units in 2 directly opposite tiles adjacent to the City Center (they are reflections of one another through the central point, the City Center).
  • The two units above will account for 4 sides of the hexagonal area. On the 2 sides that have not been accounted for, place the last two units at the respective midpoints. These units should also be reflections of one another through the central point.[4]

A novel interaction is if a nuke is launched as a declaration of war, but intercepted, then the declaration of war will be retracted.


See also[]