• Santiago Cuberos

Interview: Insight into the Frecce Tricolori Virtuali

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

This is part two of the interview we had with the Frecce Tricolori Virtuali (FTV). This time the FTV will give us unprecedented insight into their history, the way the operate as a team and a glimpse on the challenges that they have had to face to get where they are now.

Outside of their modules and mods that have been made throughout the years, the FTV are a group of passionate Italians that strives to represent their nation's acrobatic team in the virtual world to the best degree possible. Their most recent efforts involve their in-house creation of the MB-339 module that is available for free to everyone that has DCS: World installed.

Their journey has not been an easy one as their history spans longer than a decade. Members coming and going but even through all that they have managed to prevail as one of the oldest virtual acrobatics teams out there.

FTV-Duke, Frecce's EFM developer, was our main point of contact during these interviews, so I want to extend my gratitude towards him for his great disposition while coordinating the interview.

What was the motivation for forming Frecce Tricolori Virtuali?

The passion for aviation the founders had at the very beginning and for the real team combined with the love for flight simulation was the spark that ignited the birth of the team.
The precision, discipline and synergy are fundamental characteristics of each display or aerobatic teams. Those features are very well represented by our national display team, Frecce Tricolori, which also has a long heritage making us proud in trying to transpose all of this into DCS.

When was the team formed? What were the early years like?

The Frecce Tricolori Virtuali were born in April 2003. The idea of ​​founding the FTV birth from a small number of passionate friends, all Italians, coming from different simulation experiences, gathering together and studying the possibility to make this simulated flight activity. Everything was born out of pure passion and also a bit of a challenge, as most of the FS users said that it was practically impossible to carry out a similar project because FS9 badly tolerated the flight in formation of more airplanes at close distances. So we got in contact with a software developer “Ibirdsoft” who compiled a very pioneer peer to peer connection system called iBnet that worked definitely well enough to allow the tight formation activity on flight simulator 2004.

Today the team uses Digital Combat Simulator to do their flying. DCS was not released

until 2008. Where did you fly before DCS was released? (What was that like?)

It is a long story, take a beer and sit down.
Like I said, we started very early in the early flight simulator 2004 era and everything was simply, definitely DIFFICULT. Anyway, there was so much to do and so much effort has to be put in that each obstacle was a new test and a challenge that we had to solve “not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard”. We started to study the Frecce Tricolori basic maneuvers and gathered more and more friends into training and developed the first complex maneuvers of the real team, “small steps for a few passionate nerds... giant leaps still to come though”.
Then we contacted the software team Cloud9, that was developing an advanced model for FS2004 of the MB339 (and the Rivolto airbase, home of the real frecce tricolori team), and we offered our collaboration in order to promote their products to the sim community, thru our first real fair events where we brought our computers and gears and flown together in one place.

FTV during their FS2004 era.

It was all very difficult though, FS2004 was very ahead in terms of requirements related to the available hardware of that time, and making tight formations in ten Cloud9 MB-339 was almost all the time a 15 to 18 fps nightmare during training, but we kept on training harder and harder through the years. Showing to the community that, after all, such activity was possible and with more than interesting results.
This was 2004-2008 era, we started to use the early head tracking system TrackIR, computer hardware was becoming more powerful and we went on participating to a number of real and simulated events like the annual Modelexpo in Verona or the IVAO Malta aerobatic event, with full flight transfers to the Island and back to Rivolto airbase on IVAO.
Then the group noticed that the international flight community was moving towards different platforms like Lock-on and we decided to try this new challenge. We migrated to Lock-on basically due to the better multiplayer code, it was a turning page but unfortunately we suffered a lot in terms of the aircraft we flew. As a matter of fact: Lock-on's code did not allow us to recreate the real performances of the MB-339, thus we were flying our aerobatic maneuvers with an aircraft exterior skin looking like a 339 but with the flight envelope of an A-10 Thunderbolt II, which is basically 4000 lbs heavier than the MB-339!
FTV's recruitment image and old logo (2008)
Every loop was a close call, and forget Lomcevak, it was pure madness. Simply imagine that in order to have white smoke during the show we were forced to dump fuel!! Very frustrating, the show must go on, but we were not new to getting used to incredible challenges after all.
The year was 2009 and the few last original active members of the team gathered together with another Italian real-related Frecce Tricolori team which was training on Lock-on (Stormbringers) and a collaboration was inevitable; “bringing a storm” of fresh technical boost and new amazing skilled pilots. We decided to move to IL-2 1946, that was again a turning page, but for the best. 2 years in the making and we developed our own IL2 MB-339 PAN that finally performed all flight envelopes like the real aircraft. We made it and we offered the mod for free to the Lock-on community, it is the italian style, we’re proud of it.
In 2011 It was the time for the big show and that year we decided to release our first official video excerpted from our VFAT exhibition: “Frecce Tricolori Virtuali EVOLUTION remastered”
Then again, we turned page another time, and here we are on DCS. Almost 20 years after, wearing an Oculus and spawning on our brand new EFM MB-339 aircraft that we developed with blood and tears, makes me think that little things changed after all: we are still making small steps for few passionate nerds, but looking back... we definitely did Giant leaps during this time.☺

How many members does the flight team have today?

The team today is made up of pilots (either “rated” and trainees), developers, directors (also known as “biga”), and streamers.
Each official training evening sees at least from 8 to 10+ pilots who can fly the routine for the next show or focus on trainees. In additions, should it be required, the streamers or few developers could join to share information. Below our current roster:
  • PONY1 - Lucone

  • PONY2 – Randy

  • PONY3 – Aracno (also 3d Developer)

  • PONY4 – Zanco