Interview: IndiaFoxtEcho’s DCS Development Endeavors
If there is one developer that took me by surprise by what they are creating, it would be IndiaFoxtEcho (IFE). From their years of making add-on aircraft for civilian-centric simulators, I would have never expected them to venture into DCS World.
I had the pleasure to talk, yet again, with my friend Giuseppe. Better known as Duke, he was responsible for coding the EFM for the MB-339PAN mod. Nowadays, he works as a coder for IFE helping to create plenty of amazing aircraft for a variety of simulators. We last spoke with Duke when we covered the Frecce Tricolori Virtuali and its endeavors; today we will have another talk with him about everything IFE is up to.
From some personal questions, to the DCS MB-339A and some exclusive details on the recently announced DCS Fiat G.91!
First of all, thank you so much for accepting to have an interview with us. Could you please start by introducing yourself?
My name is Giuseppe, also known as Duke in the Flight Sim community. I’m an aerospace engineer, aviation enthusiast with a great passion for flight simulations. My adventure in DCS modelling started with the Frecce Tricolori Virtuali development team as an EFM coder for the popular free mod MB-339PAN. Today, the rest of FTV development team and I have joined the IndiaFoxtEcho team.
For how long have you been a part of IndiaFoxtEcho? How has the experience been so far?
Our team has always been in excellent relations with Dino Cattaneo of IndiaFoxtEcho, but only in the first half of 2020 we have increasingly begun to talk about a possible collaboration that has materialized during the summer of 2020. This has allowed us to have a contract with Eagle Dynamics and to become official 3rd party developers.
How has the transition from being a modder to a full-time developer been? Any differences in the way you approach module development?
Honestly, the only thing changed is having a direct communication channel with ED specialists allows us to get information sooner than reverse engineering from other modules. From the workload side, everything is like before. We all have a primary job and aircraft development started as a hobby and today becomes a second activity for us.
Tackling both Microsoft Flight Simulator and DCS at the same time is no easy task. How big is the team at IFE and what does each member of the team do?
IndiaFoxtEcho development team is composed of 10 people active mainly on DCS projects. Some of them are also involved in MSFS development which requires a less amount of time to develop a new aircraft thanks to a good SDK base and to the fact that the majority of systems and flight dynamics are precompiled and available to developers for customization.
The team also includes several external contributors and internal testers which helps us to test new functionalities and support us making other features for our modules.
The MB-339 mod for DCS, which is now unsupported, was one of the best community mods in the eyes of many including myself. Now that it is being remade and improved as an official module, which do you think are the key differences between the mod and the module?
Gallery of the new 3D cockpit assets and textures made for the MB-339 (WIP build)
The new MB-339 will be totally different from the free mod. First, the 3D models (internal and external) have been totally revised. Geometry has been improved thanks to several surveys on real aircraft, such as textures that now look real providing a more immersive simulation experience.
Also systems have been redone: now the aircraft has an electric system with five separated bus bars including working circuit breakers, main and emergency hydraulic systems, full working pressurization and oxygen systems and more. Finally, the module includes also a complete navigation system composed by GPS, TACAN, VOR/ILS and Flight Director. All the on board systems are linked to the damage model which is also compliant with real aircraft limitations.
Have you been working with any subject matter expert (SME) to get the MB-339’s flight model as close to reality as possible?
The EFM of the free mod was developed with the support of real pilots and instructors of MB-339 which provided us precious feedback for creating a flight model as close to the real aircraft’s performance. For this reason, we focused our efforts to develop a more detailed aircraft in terms of systems and weapons.
For future projects, we started a cooperation with DIMEAS – Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering of Polytechnic University of Turin to create better flight dynamics with a specific focus on flight control systems simulation.
DCS, at the moment, lacks a trainer aircraft with air to air refueling capabilities. Since some variants of the MB-339 do have refueling probes, will any of them be included at some point in the project?
Yes, it would be nice to have a more advanced trainer with AAR capabilities but the DCS MB-339 will be a fidelity reproduction of the A variant used by the majority of Air Forces of the rest of the world.
From what I have seen, the official MB-339 will carry more specialized weaponry than the mod did. Which of these weapons do you think will stand out as a unique inclusion to DCS?
We have worked hard to develop new weapons such as the BAP-100, BAT-120 and Durandal bombs. These weapons have been passed to ED which kindly supported us for integrating them in DCS Core so they will be available also for other modules which are supposed to carry them.
We also included several weapons for training but they are Italian Air Force exclusive like Aerea Dispenser BRD-4-250.
How is the new DCS damage model being implemented in the MB-339? Any highlights?
Currently, the new Damage Model is available only for WWII aircraft. For our MB-339 we used the classic one but we have been careful to model the damage by putting virtually every single piece of equipment in the real position on board the aircraft in order to recreate the related failure depending on where the plane is hit.
(Here is a document that IFE made about the DCS MB-339 damage model)
Have you encountered any setbacks while developing the MB-339 that may have delayed its release? How has the team handled such challenges?
One of the main things was rewriting the code. Until the ED contract, we wrote the MB-339 code without SDK support so we had to write from scratch the entire DCS interface. This took some development time which delayed the release of the module. However, the delays weren't so bad and within a couple of months we picked up where we left off.
Without getting into any specific dates, how close would you think the MB-339 is from release
At this date, the MB-339 is at 90% of its development. We could release it at a “early access” state but we prefer to provide a full module considering that currently the free mod is still available (even with some issues due to DCS 2.7 release). We are confident to release it within the end of 2021.
I saw a very interesting picture in your social media, the teaser picture for a Fiat G.91. Is there anything you can share with us about that project? (i.e aircraft variants, weaponry, etc.)
The G.91 started as a toy project in cooperation with some Sim Skunk Works members when we were modders. Today, as part of IndiaFoxtEcho, we have discussed several projects to be developed in future for DCS World and the G.91 was an obvious choice thanks to the availability of official documentation (we have access to the historical archive of the old FIAT-Aeritalia) and the access to several aircraft in good state for surveys (for your information, next year in Italy for the 100th anniversary of Italian Air Force, a G.91R-1B will back in flight).
Several versions of the aircraft are similar enough so we planned to develop the PAN (aerobatic version of Frecce Tricolori), R-1B (Italian Air Force version) and R-3 (Luftwaffe version). We are also considering making an R-4 but we will see in future… probably this version will come later as bonus aircraft but this is not confirmed yet.
As for the weaponry, our goal is to add all G.91R weapons reported in the flight manual such as the AS-20 Nord missile and AIM-9B. Speaking of these two weapons, for the record, the AS-20 was not used by any air force equipped with G-91s due to its costs (only FIAT-Aeritalia performed some tests to shooting range for weapon qualification) whilst the AIM-9B integration was a total fail during tests of Portuguese Air Force (the IR sensor of the missile never locked the target so the integration was abandoned).
Aside from the two confirmed modules for DCS, are there any plans to bring some other aircraft to the simulator? Particularly, are there any plans to bring the M-346 to DCS at some point after the two ongoing projects are complete?
Unfortunately we cannot discuss further projects, but I can say that other news will come as soon as the MB-339 is released.
Once again, thank you so much for accepting our interview request. Would you want to add anything else before we conclude our interview?
Many thanks to you for your interest in our projects, we are glad to have had this interview and we hope to have the opportunity, in future, to discuss our next steps on DCS World in greater detail.
We'd like to take the opportunity of this interview to thank all our followers and our supporters. We are a small team with a great enthusiasm and we hope not to disappoint your expectations.
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 a writer and content manager ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy#9034