DCS MB-339: Accidental Purchase, Genuine Interest
One of the best "mistakes" I have made in this simulator
This is a story that I'm somewhat embarrassed by, but proud enough to tell in public. Back in November 2022, some of the Skyward Flight Media staff were eager to get their hands on the Aermacchi MB-339A created by IndiaFoxtEcho for Digital Combat Simulator. As always, when a new official module or unofficial mod is released for this simulator, we coordinate content ahead of time.
After a bit of a mix-up, we missed our usual window to acquire the aircraft. It was during a pre-planned night of fun with friends and stiff drinks that we realized this, and I accidentally acquired a copy of the MB-339 for myself and not our primary DCS content creator, Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos. After some laughter, Cubeboy got his copy for the review he wrote, but I found myself now owning an aircraft that I previously had little to no interest in.
Making the best of it, we decided to test multicrew functions as a part of Skyward's review of the MB-339. With me flying in the trainee seat, studying the aircraft seriously for the first time, I found myself genuinely having a great time. Despite my roughly two years of experience with DCS, in a way, the "Macchi" is teaching me some new things.
With the bulk of my experience being with 4th generation naval aircraft and dabbling in a few mods, the flight characteristics and capabilities of the MB-339 are training me to fly a bit differently. It represents the basics of land based fixed wing aircraft operations. With less thrust, fewer flight systems and limited armament, the finer details of each sortie were now more important than ever. Having no radar warning equipment or radar at all forces me to revert to better flight planning and more reliance on visual scanning while in combat.
While this jet trainer/light attacker is technologically limited, it is still combat effective when flown in missions that are within its ability. Using gun pods for a SEAD mission may not be the best tactic, but it excels in quick strike missions that dump bombs or rockets onto a target in one or two passes. I've also had success with loitering in an area, using smoke rockets to mark targets for allied units to obliterate a short time later.
Thanks to the simplicity of the MB-339, it's easier to learn while still having relevant flight control and navigation systems in the cockpit. The cockpit flow is easy to understand with clear labelling. Within three or four sorties (and two tail strikes on takeoff), I was airborne, navigating and fighting. With weapon deployment in particular being more hands on than usual as I had to maintain specific speeds, dive angles and altitudes to ensure the reticle depression setting of my gunsight remains accurate until the attack is complete.
Maintaining the correct launch parameters from the start to the end of the attack is a very different experience. Even aged attackers like the Su-25 Frogfoot have laser range finding equipment and guided air-to-ground weaponry. In the MB-339, it's all down to the pilot.
Pilotage and fine control dictate everything the Macchi does.
The way I learn to fly aircraft in flight simulators is slow. Before trying to learn a new aircraft, I prefer to understand at least 80% of all systems and armaments and have enough experience to reliably use them. This is something that's relatively easy to attain with the MB-339. Within a week of seriously focusing on the aircraft, it can become an easy to reach for airframe. It's a lot of fun for relatively little effort in comparison to learning many other modules in Digital Combat Simulator. I can now personally recommend this aircraft for people looking to change things up, and even to newcomers that are in the market to purchase a genuine jet trainer to begin their DCS world experience.
About the Writer
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.