To say that this module has been highly anticipated by the community would be an understatement. Well over a year after first being teased and numerous delays, we finally have our hands on the AH-64D in its early access period.
As it is an early access (EA) product, this will only be a first impressions article. We will only be talking about the features that were available at launch. We will also update this article as features are released, so stay on the lookout for that.
EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL MODELS
The external model is extremely detailed, as would be expected from a flagship-type product from Eagle Dynamics. Almost every single aspect you can think of has been detailed to an absurd level. It is, sincerely, one of the prettiest models I have seen in DCS so far. I can not say I am surprised by this level of detail, but I am glad that we have it in game. Below you will find a gallery with the model from several angles.
There is something that I personally found to be a bit lacking with this external model: Its unwrapping. Texture-wise, it has an extremely unintuitive layout. For simple things such as emblems and basic decals, it is fine. The bigger parts of the model are flat and not super segmented. The problem lies in the details, quite literally. As someone that enjoys making liveries, this one has me divided as to if I will ever tackle complex camouflages or not.
On a more positive note, let's take a look at the cockpit model. It is nothing short of beautiful. Its textures and details are absurd. The more you zoom in, the more details you will find. Subtle dirt build-up around knobs and buttons, scratches on the panels and exposed primer. Even the colored reflection that the screens have once they are hit by indirect sunlight is there. ED, stupendous job with this model. Kudos to the hardworking 3D and 2D artists!
First, I will clarify that I am not a certified helicopter pilot nor do I hold any licenses. I will not be judging its realism either; as I have never flown a helicopter in real life, and the only "real" helicopters I have flown are mini-coaxial RC helicopters as a child. But, that being said, I have spent quite a lot of time with simulated helicopters in DCS.
The Apache feels stable and is stable, once you get used to the way its trimmer works. If you do not have a force feedback (FFB) stick, then please do yourself a favor and change the trimmer options in the Apache's Special menu to Central Position Trimmer Mode, as this mode is more tailored to the average non-FFB HOTAS. With that said and done, I find the Apache to be an incredibly agile bird. She just... moves the way I want her to.
She has been modeled, according to people that know a lot more than I do about Apache flight dynamics, extremely well. Effects such as ground effect, VRS and even realistic settling with power situations have been implemented. The effects of torque feels realistic enough that I will not even complain. It is that good! Still not perfect, but an excellent start.
Hovering her is extremely easy once you get that trim just right. The only aspect that took me a bit off-guard is the fact that this is the slowest attack helicopter in-game. With a full combat load (eight Hellfires, two rocket pods and around 75% fuel) I can only achieve a maximum of 135Kts on level flight. This is still faster than a Huey but it is slower than a Mi-24P (170/180kts) or a Ka-50 (165/175kts), both of which with similar combat loadouts and fuel loads.
This limitation will only be a hindrance on longer flights, but I am sure that with good mission planning it will become unnoticeable.
SYSTEMS MODELING AND GEORGE AI
This is what the Apache is all about. Its systems are the most advanced of any western helicopter we have gotten so far, and rival or surpass those available on the Ka-50. This is not a module that you can pick up and learn on a single sitting, no sir. You will need to set some time aside to learn how to navigate its displays, targeting modes, weapon delivery modes, etc.
You have an all-weather capability as well as one of the best if not the best night fighting capabilities of any helicopter in DCS at the moment. The Apache rules the night thanks to its night sensors and integrated displays within the Integrated Helmet and Display Sighting System (IHADSS). If you want something dead, it will most likely die.
As it stands right now, this helicopter is capable of quite a lot but we are still missing some critical systems such as Link16 (Datalink) integration with other modules, numerous system display pages and, most worrying of all, its signature Longbow radar system along its radar-guided Hellfire variant.
These systems will be implemented as the EA period progresses and I have no doubt that ED will deliver on these promises. But enough of this, let's talk about the elephant in the room: the George AI.
George AI is the computer companion system that allows you, as a lone pilot, to operate a strictly twin seater aircraft. When you sit at the controls, he will be your co-pilot/gunner (CPG), managing all the weapon systems for you. All you have to do is instruct him on what to do using the relatively intuitive interaction menu and you are good to go!
When you sit as a the CPG, George will handle the flying for you. He is a bit rough around the edges when it comes to flying, but if your commands are clear and not sudden then he manages it like a champ. I sincerely expected him to be a lot worse at flying than what he is, it makes me wonder what kind of black magic is happening in the code to make him fly like this.
M230 30MM CHAIN GUN
The only weapon system that you will always have on-board, this cannon is lethal all the way to 1.500m. Thank to its capability of being controlled both by the Target Acquisition and Designation Sight (TADS) or the IHADSS, it is extremely versatile when it comes down to self-defense and engagement of unarmored targets.
HYDRA 70MM ROCKETS
Your standard, run-of-the-mill unguided rockets. There is nothing special about them. They will do what rockets do: fly fast and explode upon impact!
The main weapon system of the Apache, these missiles are capable of penetrating anything that you fire them at. For now, we only haver access to the AGM-114K, the laser guided variant. Once the Longbow radar is implemented, we will get access to the radar variant of the Hellfires: the AGM-114L
If what you want is to have a helicopter which basically flies itself, one that has the capability to destroy every single target imaginable both during the day and at night. If you don't mind it being an Early Access product, the lack of crucial systems and the slower than average speeds for an attack helicopter. Then and only then, I can truly say that the Apache is for you!
About the author:
Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos
Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as a writer and the co-founder of Skyward ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034