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  • Writer's pictureAaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza

Flight Journal: Kiowa Scouting for DCS Combined Arms Assets

Updated: Jul 17

A fresh DCS World experience utilizing the Kiowa in its traditional role

When flying in Digital Combat Simulator these days, many of us are either Cold War cruising at low altitude or fourth generation strategizing at angels 30. One module that has soaked up much of our interest in our private sessions is the Polychop Simulations OH-58D Kiowa Warrior as flown by Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos. This responsive and nimble scout helicopter, became the catalyst for the creation and closed testing of another Skyward original Digital Combat Simulator (DCS) mission. Also a new venture with the DCS: Combined Arms expansion.

Thoughts on DCS: Combined Arms

For those that may not remember or have not paid attention to it, DCS: Combined Arms for Digital Combat Simulator allows players to directly control air, ground and naval forces in the simulator to varying degrees. It is not inaccurate to liken the experience to a real time strategy game, with certain elements that take the experience deeper. Players are able to drive infantry fighting vehicles into combat from first or third person view or direct cruise missiles from a Destroyer onto far off targets. Dozens of units can be commanded without players using this expansion ever loading into their favorite fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft.

May 31st, 2012 pre-Alpha trailer for DCS: Combined Arms.

Released on December 25th, 2012, DCS: Combined Arms did receive updates over time but nothing to the point that it could be considered a core part of the standard experience for players in this simulator in 2024. It relies on mission editors to design missions that incorporate its functionality. This is especially true for handling ground forces. When comparing the distance and time travelled between a tracked vehicle and a supersonic aircraft, preventing the land based player experience from being a three-hour drive to the action is a factor. But on the other side of the coin, frankly, this expansion is so rarely used in a considerable way for multiplayer missions, there is not a real demand for mission editors to incorporate DCS Combined Arms in a meaningful way.

Kiowa Inspiration

The latest mission editing effort by Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza from Skyward Flight Media started with inspiration from the OH-58D Kiowa module having a built-in compatibility with Unmanned Aerial Systems that is modeled in the simulator. Video feeds from UAS like the MQ-1 Predator or Wingloong-I can be down linked into the Kiowa's cockpit via the L2MUMS: Level 2 Manned/Unmanned System. Considering the age of DCS: Combined Arms, it is somewhat shocking to see a module from the year 2024 incorporate a part of it in a way no other aircraft in Digital Combat Simulator has as of the time of this writing.

This led to the development of a new mission with the Kiowa's scouting abilities in mind, which then evolved into a rotary-wing aircraft focused mission that incorporates ground forces in a way Skyward has not attempted before.

Digital Combat Simulator Combined Arms OH-58D Kiowa
M2A2 Bradley IFVs moving to the frontline. OH-58D in the top, right background.
Mission: Buckler Edge

The mission known as "Buckler Edge" is designed to be a defensive mission. With allied forces defeated in a large-scale battle, the lead element of the opposing force over extended itself beyond its main forces while chasing the allied retreat. The rearguard of the allied force sees a chance to retake a town from the opposing force lead element before their reinforcements arrive to solidify their gains. Retaking the town would effectively bottleneck the incoming hostile main force in tight mountain roads, eliminating their numerical advantage. With open terrain, rolling hills, mountains and a considerable amount of forest, the complex terrain benefits attack and scout helicopters.

DCS: Combined Arms is incorporated into Buckler Edge using forward operating bases built with methods discussed in our most recent mission editor article. To reward rotary-wing players for operating from forward deployed positions, these bases include forward arming and refueling facilities, portable TACAN and multiple artillery batteries. Sparse groups of ground forces available to the players also have varying degrees of JTAC capabilities.

DCS World OH-58D Kiowa landing at a FOB.
Kiowa landing at a forward operating base.
DCS OH-58D Kiowa at forward deployed base.
OH-58D awaiting a mission at a forward operating base. A second aircraft landing in the background.

F10 mission map settings are set to be strict, with neutral dot and color dot identifiers as the only visual references for locations of friendlies and enemies while players fly their aircraft. There are also no enemies displayed on the map for quick reference. Being able to spot targets, gather coordinates and pass those coordinates to other players becomes a powerful tool. This is where something like a player controlled reconnaissance asset would come in - this is where the OH-58D Kiowa can uniquely shine.

Text Book Team

During the initial test of Buckler Edge, "Cube" and "Ribbon-Blue" formed a text book team that is not often used in Digital Combat Simulator multiplayer servers. With no fixed-wing aircraft support during their mission, Cube in the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior provided information for ground forces controlled by Ribbon-Blue. While the Kiowa flew towards the frontline, a platoon of Bradleys were moved into blocking positions to stop an attempted eastern flank and a JTAC element of 'Humvees' maneuvered to find high value targets.

Once on station, the Kiowa went right to work searching for and destroying armored personnel carriers and RPG teams concealed in the tree line of an occupied town. With the scout helicopter's limited number of anti-tank missiles expended from a safe distance, the Kiowa began gathering coordinates for other groups of hostile infantry and vehicles waiting in ambush positions. This developed into the Kiowa staying forward deployed for an extended amount of time, relying on maneuvering itself into difficult terrain to make extensive use of the sensors in its Mast Mounted Sight. Some of the locations the scout helicopter gathered information from were tailor-made for its design.

DCS Combined Arms artillery preparing to fire.
Artillery preparing to commence a fire mission.

Through the use of estimated GPS coordinates, map marks and a DCS specific Coordinates Converter by, these positions were attacked by volleys of artillery fire from M109 Paladin 155mm batteries dispersed between three bases along the frontline.

A highlight of its capability during the first mission play test involved the OH-58D operating kilometers behind advancing hostiles. Deep in difficult terrain, where no vehicle or groups of infantry could operate without great difficulty. As it remained in a stable hover at tree top level in a forest, its Mast Mounted Sight peered deep into the town occupied by the lead element of the invading force.

Digital Combat Simulator OH-58D Kiowa hiding in trees.
The OH-58D truly in its element.

While going unnoticed, the Kiowa identified a sizeable air defense position made up of multiple ZSU-57 supported by a ZSU-23-4 Shilka. It appeared to be the primary air defense position for REDFOR in that town. The Kiowa worked with artillery once again to degrade the local air defenses with many volleys of 155mm artillery shells.

This would lead to major gaps in air defenses that other rotary-wing or fixed-wing assets could utilize to attack the main force. Even allowing older airframes to press deeper into enemy territory for longer periods of time.

DCS Combined Arms artillery hitting OH-58D Kiowa target.
Artillery hitting air defense position as seen through Kiowa Mast Mounted Sight.

Rather than ask for dedicated attacker platforms like the A-10 Thunderbolt II or Mi-24 Hind to go toe-to-toe with a prepared air defense, the lightly armed Kiowa quietly achieved the same effect through gathering data, communication and precision flying.

This was an interesting experience for us that not only showed off the abilities of the OH-58D Kiowa, but also had us use Combined Arms in an integral manner we had not considered before. Expect updates and maybe a mission file in the future!

Digital Combat Simulator OH-58D observing artillery impacts.
Kiowa observing artillery impacts.
About the Writer

Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding, 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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