Interview: DCS OV-10A Bronco Developer Insight with Dikennek/SPLIT AIR
Updated: Oct 24
Next Wednesday, the 7th of September, 2022, DCS will receive something that it rarely does: a brand-new full-fidelity mod. This will come in the form of the legendary OV-10A Bronco, a twin-turboprop light attack and spotting aircraft that served for many countries over the span of more than 50 years now.
This mod is being developed solely by SPLIT-AIR's Dikennek, a talented modder that has worked on some of the other mods by SPLIT-AIR such as the Long-EZ. Just like we have done in the past with the MB-339, A-4E and Sk.60; we wanted to bring light to this project and the work that goes into making them a reality. Many thanks to Dikennek for allowing us to have this pre-launch interview with him.
NOTE: This interview was done in French and translated to English by Santiago Cuberos, the interviewer. The original French version of this interview can be found by clicking the button.
Before we begin, I would like to thank you for accepting our interview proposal. Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little more about yourself and what you do?
Hello, thank you for inviting me for this interview. I am Dikennek and I am French. I discovered DCS in 2016 and got hooked to it instantly.
After several years of playing the game, I decided to start flying in formation first by joining the Flying Cobra team. The formation flying pushes us to recreate real routines using exotic aircraft and, being a big fan of weird aircraft I decided to recreate the REVA patrol flying on Long-EZ and Vari-EZ. It is on these two planes that I cut my teeth in DCS , first in 3D, followed by textures, to then creating an EFM, because these planes are too light, and to then finish the code in LUA. Seeing as I am studying to be a General Mechanical Engineer, I had the opportunity to learn about aerodynamics as well as the basics of C/C++ code.
At the beginning of 2021 with the Wolf Delta team, we created the Split-Air association which is a group composed of aerobatic display teams and modders. This whole team helped me a lot to do modding on DCS, we exchanged tips to improve our renders, etc.... The goal of Split Air is to make as many mods as possible public. We have already released the RAF mod based on the Mirage 2000C.
For how long has the Bronco been in development and why did you choose to develop it?
It was during an air show that I discovered this aircraft. Indeed, in France, the Bronco Solo Display of Montélimar has been presenting this aircraft every year for 20 years. When I saw it I was impressed by its maneuverability and its versatility. The two T76 engines that give 700hp each offer an impressive rate of climb. It can land on a very short distance and carry weapons. One thing led to another and I wanted to recreate the Bronco Solo Display on DCS.
It has been in development since the end of 2020, in fact, I am the only developer of this mod. I took care of the 3D, texture, code, all in parallel with my studies.
However, several members of the Split Air have helped me a lot to test this mod and give me feedback. They also take care of creating videos or writing documentation about the mod.
What level of detail can we expect from the Bronco? Was it difficult to make the systems work like they do on the real one?
The Bronco is an aircraft designed to be operable anywhere and anytime with a minimum amount of maintenance, so the systems are simple but efficient. Unfortunately I'm not a great coder and not all the systems work as in the real Bronco, but I tried to get as close as possible with the documentation I have, such as the startup procedure, the armament or the different engine parameters.
The cockpit illumination is a nice feature that took me a lot of time to make because there is a little bit of 3D modeling work. This illumination has the particularity of being synchronized in the exterior view as well as multiplayer.
As said before the interior audio is limited to the click of the buttons, however, the [sound of the] FOX-2 seeker is fully functional. At the time of writing I am currently investigating to recreate the sounds of a turboprop, I hope to be able to integrate the external sounds in the first version.
Lastly, the Bronco will be single-seater, it this is not due to a technical difficulty but by choice. I plan to make it multi-crew in later versions, since this will allow me to really work on the different roles of the crew.
Will the Bronco have a fully functional radio like the Community A-4E-C? Did you find any difficulties due to not having access to the SDK?
The bronco will not be equipped with a complete radio for the first version, however for this version I plan to implement the communication menu. Indeed, it is important to be able to access the F10 communication menu during a mission.
I implemented instruments allowing radio navigation like the TACAN but unfortunately I can't make it work for mobile [place-able] beacons which is a bit annoying for navigation.
The Bronco doesn't have a radar nor a modern and complex system so the lack of SDK is not a major problem except for the radios.
What kind of work went into making the EFM (External Flight Model)? Did you do any CFD studies to perfect it?
For me the flight model is the backbone of a module. It' s useless to have a beautiful 3D or a lot of complex systems if the plane can't fly like a plane. So I paid particular attention to the flight model.
I first made a complete study with OpenVSP, a software developed by NASA which allowed me to have a first approximation of the various aerodynamic coefficients.
Once the aerodynamics were finished, I worked on the simulation of a turboprop engine, which is a great first in DCS. After several studies under MATLAB, I succeeded in giving life to the two T76 Turboprop engines of the Bronco. This modeling allows to have some interesting characteristics like the fact that the propellers can turn even if the engine is off which generates a lot of drag.
In the EFM are modeled: An electric system allowing a management of the battery; thanks to which you will not want to remain on the starter indefinitely because the battery will be exhausted. A fuel system which will limit the time in flight back to 30 seconds due to an improper use of the management of the feeders, which are also implemented. A yaw damping system allowing to have increased stability.
The stall is also modeled with spin departure if the symmetry is not respected. Everything is done so that the pilot feels good in a plane that lives and flies with his buttocks.
The external and internal models are beautiful. Which tools did you use to make them? Did you use a 3D scanner or did you only use the schematics?
The Bronco has been entirely created on Blender software from "3 views" plan and photos, by crossing all these data, it is long but possible to arrive at a correct 3D model. Furthermore, each Bronco is different; for the A variant I did not find twice the same cockpit so I decided to rely on resources available on aviation sites and photographs. I still took some liberties on some points where a lot of information was missing.
However, at Split-Air we are starting to work more and more with 3D scans. This allows us to model more quickly with a high level of detail. Future projects of the Split will have a guaranteed 3D conformity with reality.
In terms of textures, which references did you use? Is there a list of liveries that will be available at launch?
As for the textures, I really wanted to bring out the aged and poorly maintained side of this type of aircraft, especially with the effects of sheet metal and a lot of dirt.
For the liveries, a pack including several countries will be available. Made from several photos, I was able to recreate relatively accurately recreate some of them such as the CAL FIRE or the Sable livery of the Solo Display Montélimar. However for the Venezuelan liveries I took some liberties on the shape of the camouflage because I did not see two identical camouflages on the pictures at my disposal.
Will there be a texture template available on release?
A template will be available with the mod including all dirt layers and UV Maps. The liveries created by the community can be incorporated into the mod if they add some real value to it.
The Bronco is primarily a reconnaissance aircraft and an A-FAC, but it can also carry weapons. Which weapons will be available at launch?
The Bronco will be able to carry bombs, rockets, Fox-2 as well as a belly tank.
There will be four bombs: Mk82, Mk82 Snakeye, Mk83, M117.
Three types of rockets: M260, ZUNI, Hydra.
And one type of Fox2 (Heat seeker missile): Aim-9P.
For the first version, the Bronco will be able to carry 50% of its entire arsenal. I will create armament for future versions; I plan to model 80% of the armament for the second version.
I also plan to implement cargo transport and the drop of 5 paratroopers, just like the Hercules mod does.
That's all! Thank you very much for your participation today. Is there anything else you would like to say before we conclude?
Thanks for this interview, I have anything else to add and I hope that this mod will please most of you. Nevertheless, some bugs may remain, so don't hesitate to report any bug you find. The Bronco will be free so don't hesitate to test it, it's the plane you need to destroy everything in a Cold War mission 😉.
THIS MOD WILL BE AVAILABLE THE 7TH OF SEPTEMBER, 2022.
About the Interviewer
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 the co-founder and content manager ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy#9034