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  • Writer's pictureAaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza

DCS World Mission Editor: Enhanced Land Bases

A New Era of Meaningful Action with Ground Forces?


Digital Combat Simulator Enhanced Land Bases Skyward Flight Media thumbnail.

The release of the Digital Combat Simulator F-4E Phantom II by Heatblur Simulations is the star of the simulator's May 2024 update... and imma let you finish, but the new asset pack update is one of the best of all time!


For years now, I felt as though there were certain assets missing to entice more users to take the time to create meaningful scenarios in support of or in pursuit of ground forces. While DCS World maps are expansive with many roads, bridges and towns, when I say "meaningful", I mean objectives that players flying in the mission would care about and want to interact with.


This entry of the Skyward Flight Media Mission Editor series focuses on providing ideas to do just that, while focusing on new assets added to the mission editor just recently. As a reminder, all articles in our ongoing mission editor series do assume players know the very basics of mission editing. Such as placing objects, creating groups, assigning tasks, etc.



The Massun92 Asset Pack

The core of this article will involve the asset pack 3D modeled by Patricio Massun, screen name Massun92. This asset pack was once a mod created by Massun92 for others to use optionally. But along the way, the quality and variety of this "fan made" asset pack eventually started a discussion with Eagle Dynamics - the developer behind Digital Combat Simulator - which resulted in this asset pack becoming an official part of the simulator at no extra charge to DCS World users.


In the mission editor itself, units and structures added are denoted with the M92 at the start of their names. For the rest of this article, we will refer to it as the M92 Asset Pack.


Digital Combat Simulator Massun92 asset pack unit list.
Example of DCS Mission Editor unit list. Note the M92 name tag.

As seen in the preview image from developer of the simulator, Eagle Dynamics, are some very specific assets that are wonderful for single player leaning players, such as everything you would need to fully populate and airfield. Down to the toolboxes, tucked as far away from a jet engine intake as possible. Through the use of the .lua code or keen trigger zone magic, it may even be possible to give the illusion of equipment gathering and dispersing as players park, rearm, refuel, cold start, etc.


I have seen a few videos and single player missions from User Files that have featured the M92 Asset Pack recently. Though, their effect is decidedly single player focused. The point of this article is to suggest methods to use the extended roster of assets from the M92 Asset Pack to make worthwhile locations in multiplayer missions that can become the center of the online experience.


Digital Combat Simulator World Massun92 Asset Pack Cover Image.
Original Mod cover image (Massun92).
Kitbashing Military Positions

Something DCS has lacked for so many years now is clearly defined military installations that are not related to aircraft in some way. Whether those are the familiar soviet era air bases in the Caucasus or the remote helipads At Tanf military base in south-east Syria, at least 70% of the military locations are related to aviation. Not surprising considering this is a combat flight simulator, however, it is hard to portray the importance of troop positions and the movement of the frontline without important locations like staging areas, forward operation bases, fire bases, etc.


There have been many valiant efforts to turn random warehouses and silos into key logistic positions surrounded by enemy armored units. Turning industrial areas in mid-sized towns into weapon production facilities or military bases teeming with armored vehicles. Another method is using copious amounts of containers mixed with forward arming and refueling point assets to outline something that looks similar to a military base. The Skyward Syria COIN mission has a great example of one.


COP London from Skyward Flight Media Syria COIN mission.
Combat Outpost London from the Syria COIN mission.

M92 Fortifications

The M92 Asset Pack simplifies the process of trying to find existing locations on maps and populating them with static objects and other structures that are close enough to mimic "the real thing", by providing purpose built assets for faster construction of more recognizable military installations on every map in Digital Combat Simulator.


Related specifically to constructing bases and other fighting positions, the M92 Asset Pack includes:

  • Barriers: Mainly used for directing traffic in and out of military installations, or that can be used as a form of cover against incoming fire. Four designs.

  • Boom Barrier: the raising and lowering arm that allows vehicles to enter and exit locations. Often used in conjunction with Barriers. Two designs.

  • Building PBR: Various sizes of buildings ranging from warehouses, multi-vehicle garages, office buildings and barracks. Eight designs.

  • Camouflage: Types of camouflage netting held up by poles. They can be placed near or over fighting positions, vehicles and cargo or used in remote locations to further conceal items. Seven designs.

  • Cargo: Boxes and barrels to further decorate a position. Things like MRE boxes, rifle ammunition boxes, fuel drums, etc. None of these have DCS ammo or fuel warehouse functions. Seven designs.

  • Container: A mix of shipping containers. Some come in three lengths to hold items. Others are converted into buildings for other purposes, like watch towers, power generators and offices. Seven designs.

  • HESCO: A type of fortification that has its identity tied to conflicts in the Middle East since 1991. These barriers are filled with sand or soil and can be easily stacked as defensive fortifications. In DCS, the HESCO barriers have visible sand in and around them, making them more suited for maps in the Middle East, but they can be used elsewhere if mission editors do not mind their sandy base. Designs include single and double stacked walls, outposts, watch towers and generators. Ten designs.

  • Sandbag: The most universal type of fortification. All structures are made of self-contained sandbags that work in any map. These include various types of single and triple stack walls, various fighting positions, semicircle and square designs, towers, radio bunkers, vehicle hides, helipad and similar positions. Sixteen designs.

  • Tent: Open and closed designs. It includes open air designs for general assembly and medical use, with closed designs that act as barracks or vehicle storage. Five designs.

  • TWall: Tall, reinforced concrete blast walls. Three designs.


 

IMPORTANT: Hiding Static Units

When constructing anything reccommended by this article or from your own original designs, it is highly important to hide static units that are not vital for player operations on the F10 map. This is an important part of decluttering the F10 map for all players, while keeping active units that will participate in combat visible on the map and easy to access for players that may be using DCS Combined Arms.



To hide static units and structures while in the mission editor, click the unit and in the Static Object option window, check the Hidden option.


The two pictures below provided a quick visual example as to why this is important.





 

DCS World infantry and ATGM in ambush.
Infantry with Anti-Tank Guided Missile equipped light vehicle watching a bridge.
Fighting Positions

These are more common positions of smaller groups of soldiers or armored vehicles deployed to strategic areas. Rather than a fully enclosed semi-permanent base, these fighting positions are oriented to face towards the expected path of encounter with hostile forces. The composition of these positions are made up of two parts. The fighting position at the front and the support position in the rear.


Digital Combat Simulator mission editor example.
Example of fighting position in mission editor.

In our example, the fighting position consists of sandbags made up of infantry and vehicles taking cover behind multiple Structure M92 Sandbag 01, 02 03 and/or similar sandbag designs. These positions can be somewhat scattered over a small area, ideally near areas hostile forces will be traversing in. They can also be placed in hidden positions, as they most likely would be in the real world, to surprise hostile forces. Any units using these positions should have their Disperse Under Fire settings switched off so units do not leave their fighting positions at the start of combat (Select Group/Unit->Advanced Waypoint Options->Set Option->Disperse Under Fire->Uncheck Box).


Digital Combat Simulator mission editor example.
Example of supply vehicle (yellow, center-left) behind the fighting position.

The rear support position is a short distance behind the fighting position. These do not need to be heavily built up areas. The most important part of the support position is supply vehicles that can rearm and refuel surrounding friendly forces; vehicles like Unarmed Truck M939 or Unarmed Truck KAMAZ 43101. As long as their resupply zones, illustrated as black circles around them, cover the units in the forward fighting positions, they will automatically continue to resupply friendly forces without player input.


Use of static structures like FARP Hide Single Small or FARP Hide Double Small to further camofluage the supply vehicles can be used, but it is important not to build these areas up into full-scale bases. These are supposed to be austere fighting positions.


 

Digital Combat Simulator FARP/Heliport.
Example of a forward deployed heliport/modified FARP.
Forward Deployed Heliport

For areas well to the rear of the combat, a heliport can encourage more rotary-wing operations. If we look at this concept in its most basic terms, these would essentially be expanded and reinforced versions of the classic forward arming and refueling points (FARP) that have existed in Digital Combat Simulator for years. But rather than have these FARPs be wide open spaces, designing them to reflect something closer to military installations both increases their usefulness and their difficulty in a positive way.


Using the outer area of the default FARP as a guide (Structures->Heliports->FARP), use M92 HESCO Wallperimeter 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or M92 Sandbag 01, 02, 03, 04, 05 , 06, 16 can be used to outline the perimeter of the new FARP design the mission editor desires.


Digital Combat Simulator default FARP.
Default FARP model displayed.

When that is done, the FARP can be switched to an Invisible FARP to hide the out of date base model (Structures->Heliports->Invisible FARP).


Digital Combat Simulator Invisible FARP.
Default FARP replaced by an Invisible FARP.

With the perimeter of the new FARP outlined, the area for rotary-wing operations can be indicated by outlining the open area helicopters should be landing in with HESCO or sandbag walls, maybe placing a static helicopter there for visual reference. The result of this is interesting. The tighter landing area increases the risk versus reward of operating from forward deployed heliports, though it also adds to the realism of what its like flying out of these types of facilities.


Digital Combat Simulator FARP/Heliport.
UH-1H Huey arriving to forward deployed heliport.

The non-landing areas should be populated with static assets like tents, camouflage nets, cargo boxes, buildings, towers, vehicles, etc. Areas for defenders to protect the FARP can also be created outside the FARP wall with extra layers of HESCO or sandbags.


Within the base perimeter, add the necessary units for FARP operations (FARP Ammo, FARP Command, FARP Fuel, FARP Tent and/or similar nessecary vehicles) to allow for aircraft rearming and refueling operations. For extra functionality, a Portable TACAN station can be included to assist with navigation for both fixed-wing and rotary-wing assets.


Digital Combat Simulator FARP/Heliport.
Example of the landing zone in a custom built FARP.

A built-up heliport such as this becomes a focal point for player attention. The more players that fly to and from these locations or use them as navigation references will be more inclinced to keep track of them and protect them. This type of heliport also is an ideal target for mission editors to send opposing forces towards, putting further pressure on friendly forces to defend them.


 

Fire Base: Detached Positions

Of course, with the release of an official F-4 Phantom for DCS World, the interest in Southeast Asia War (Vietnam War) related scenarios has also spiked. One of the first things I built with the M92 assets was an example of an era appropriate fire base, high atop foothills in contested territory. After scratching that itch, my reasearch info Fire Bases also matched up well with M92 assets.


Digital Combat Simulator Combined Arms artillery fire.
Huey door gunner watching outgoing artillery fire mission.

Unlike a standard military base, a fire base is focused on providing indirect fire support to frontline troops over all else. Whether it is with field artillery, self propelled artillery, multiple rocket launch system artillery or infantry manned mortars, infrastructure is focused on allowing those systems to freely adjust their positions to engage targets with support units nearby. But not nessecarily with an entire supply base within the vicinity. Supply is provided by mobile vehicles, as it is meant to be a position that is quickly built up or brought down as needed.


Keeping this in mind, fire bases should be free of obsctructions that may block their outgoing fire; like trees, foothills or mountains. When possible, use scenery removal trigger zones to destroy trees around potential fire bases if needed.


There are many designs that firing positions can take; some with each weapon system independently protected or the systems freely standing in fields to fire before returning to their resupply point.


Digital Combat Simulator example of artillery position.
Example of detached firing position inspired by 1980s doctrine.

In our example, we use a more traditional firebase design as seen in a US Army Field manual circa 1983 that uses M92 Sandbag 02 to protect the front each artillery unit with M92 Sandbag 05 and M92 Sandbag 06 to construct the high walls protecting rear areas immediately behind artillery piece where ammunition would be stored, personnel would be on standby and planning and communication equipment would be. Extra defensive position can be built around the fire base to provide area security from direct enemy action.


Among the many possible static units and structures that could be used, the heart of the fire base is a single active group with multiple units of the desried artillery pieces like the MLRS 9A52 Smerch HE 300mm, Mortar 2B11 120 mm, PLZ-05 or SPH M109 Paladin 155mm with a supply vehicle like the Unarmed Truck M939 or Unarmed Truck KAMAZ 43101 as a part of the artillery group. This allows the group to resupply itself without player interaction.


Digital Combat Simulator artillery position in mission editor.
Close up mission editor view of detached artillery position.

The benefit of a fire base like this is that its AI controlled units can be set to fire at pre-determined locations via trigger zones and waypoint actions or used by players that own DCS Combined Arms to support frontline aviation combat operations with overwhelming indirect fire.


 
Digital Combat Simulator support base.
Support base for MLRS positions (background)
Fire Base: Semi-Permanent

A variant of the Detached Fire Base example, it features a semi-permanat supply base close to the firing positions of the artillery units. Its defining feature is the small to medium size supply base that provides supplies for the artillery.


Digital Combat Simulator fire base support facility.
Semi-permanent support facility for Fire Base.

In this example, a group of four MLRS M270 227mm artillery units with nearby infantry support are setup a few hundred meters away from their support base. The support base supplies the units with fuel and ammo passively from a safe distance, just in case counter-battery artillery is fired at the M270 units.



The inclusion of the M92 Asset Pack has been the catalyst for Skyward Flight Media to prepare a new Digital Combat Simulator multiplayer mission that is heavily focused on land combat, rotary wing assets and Combined Arms based artillery support. Since it has inspired us so effectively, we hope this article also inspires others to update their existing missions or build a new experience with more realistic fortifications and fighting positions at their core.


 
About the Writer
Skyward Flight Media Ribbon-Blue avatar.

Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. Read Staff Profile.


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