Review: DCS AJS-37 Viggen by Heatblur Simulations
First hitting the skies of DCS in 2017, the AJS-37 Viggen has established itself as a standard of quality in the game. It was released under Leatherneck Simulations at first but after some internal struggles arose, the entire development team behind the Viggen parted ways with Leatherneck and Magnitude 3, becoming the studio now known as Heatblur Simulations.
A ground-pounder by soul, this double delta provides a suite of possibilities like no other module out there. Unique weaponry and a very believable ground radar functionality, this aircraft makes itself shine through raw uniqueness alone.
In this review I will dive deep into the Viggen and all its quirks and features to let you, the reader, judge if this Swedish monster is for you. This piece will be divided into several parts:
External and internal 3D models
Visual and sound effects
Ease of use and learning curve
Single player content
Is this aircraft for you?
EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL 3D MODELS
If there is one thing that defines Heatblur it is quality and the Viggen shows it. This aircraft has been modeled to an extreme amount of detail. Nothing comes out as wonky or out of date, which is impressive considering that this module is now over three years old. A lot of love was put into making it a realistic depiction of the AJS-37, down to some things I wouldn't have thought important or crucial.
EVEN THE SMALL THINGS
The thing that impressed me the most is that this is one of if not the only aircraft with a modeled RAT turbine. This is something that most players will not even notice or care about as it is not a weapon or a system you will rely upon constantly, but it shows the degree of which this module has been modeled.
If there is another set of features that I particularly liked, they are all the animations, particularly the thrust-reverser. A unique feature to the Viggen as of the time of writing. While I will not go in-depth in this section of the review on how awesome the reverser is.
I will show you its cool animation just because I do not want to think I am the only one that likes things like this.
Cockpit-wise, the Viggen continues to impress me with its quality. From the lighting to the texture work, this is one of the only cockpits that I turn in just to look at it. The way the lights react with the weathered textures and the glow of the radar scope give it a very in-era look, which I always welcome. The only "bad" part is that some of the textures are starting to age a bit, particularly on the text, but that is something that Heatblur can improve upon. Here are some day and night shots of it so you can see for yourself:
VISUAL AND SOUND EFFECTS
This is an area in which a lot of aircraft do good at and the Viggen is no different. While it does not have any fancy over wing vapor effects, wingtip vortexes can be seen on both the main wing and, in cases of high AoA, on the canards as well. In terms of other external effects that are noteworthy the only one that I can think of my mind is the afterburner effect:
The effect is different from other aircraft as the "flame" does not extend too far away from the fuselage, but as far as I know that is by design and correct to the Volvo RM8A engine. The area where the Viggen shines the most is its sound. It is clear that the developers wanted this part of the module to be much more polished than the rest of the modules out there. From the distinct clanks of the switches to the clicks that the throttle makes as it moves over its detents, this gives life to the aircraft. Afterburners are no joke either, being clearly audible from inside and outside the cockpit, letting you know how your engine is behaving. There is one particular sound in this aircraft that you do not want to hear, but I will go over that in the next section of the review. Overall, the Viggen has one of the best designed sound environments in DCS and I am glad that Heatblur put a lot of effort into it. Here are some clips so you can hear what I just described to you, pay attention to the clicks of the throttle as I move it:
EXAMPLES In-cockpit on the ground (idle-full afterburner-idle)
In-cockpit in the air (idle-full afterburner-idle)
External sound on the ground (idle-full afterburner-idle)
Fly-by at 900Km/h (Volume warning)
Ohboy, here is the best part of the module. This bird feels authentic not just because it is a joy to fly, but because it can also be a pain to fly. Let me explain myself. The brilliantly crazy people that made this module made sure that even the bad parts of the Viggen's characteristics were there, including the dreaded compressor stalls that one can suffer at high AoA. That is the only sound you do not want to hear in this aircraft; I will leave a sample at the end of this section. The Viggen likes being down-low, it was designed for it. It has outstanding acceleration on the deck and can out-accelerate most other aircraft but only at low altitude, so keep that in mind for those intercept missions out there. Maneuverability-wise this is not an aircraft you will want to do dogfights in. Even though it has an excellent instant turn-rate, that will stop the moment you run out of energy. Your engine starts starving, craving for air that it is not getting, so be careful with those.
It is a relatively stable platform with the help of SPOK, your stability augmentation system. With it enabled, you will notice less oscillations as you get out of a bank or similar situations. It can also help you to land thanks to the AFK, your automatic throttle control. This system will maintain 550kph when the gear is up and an AoA of 12° or 15.5° if you so desire by pressing the 15.5° button. The entire computer suite does feel restrictive but it is good enough to make your life easier while flying.
The thrust reverser is the cherry on top of the cake, allowing you to land almost everywhere you want provided that there is at least 500m of level terrain, preferably paved but gravel will do. If you get the Viggen, use this even if it is just to do donuts in reverse to make fun of other inferior aircraft that lack reverse capability. Overall, this is a wonderful little machine with quirks upon quirks that make her special.
Here is the sample of the compressor stall, notice the warning that precedes it:
This is an area in which the Viggen both shines and is at its worst, at least to me. To understand the Viggen's role one must put itself in the shoes of 1970's Sweden. At this time a Soviet invasion was a real possibility, one that was taken so seriously that the entire Swedish Armed Forces were built around it. The Air Force, specifically, had as a requisite that all Swedish Air Force front-line fighters were to be able to operate from short/damaged airfields or even road-side bases in the case the Soviets destroyed all the runways.
A PRODUCT OF ITS TIME
For that reason, the Viggen we have in game (the AJS-37, not the JA-37) has a very specific role in mind: Anti-ship and low-level precision strikes. This leaves the Viggen highly dependent on pre-planned targets and pop-up attacks that require specific target information to be performed successfully, primarily the target's QFE (atmospheric pressure). To be clear, this does not necessarily mean anything is wrong with the module, it is just that the DCS multiplayer environment does not lend itself that well to highly planned missions outside of smaller, more coordinated group sessions where pre-planned objectives can be followed.
The Viggen can be operated on a target of opportunity basis too mainly thanks to the amazingly done ground radar that the module has, but at that point you are missing some of what makes the Viggen such a capable aircraft despite its shortcomings. I love this aircraft but I find myself flying it less than what I would like for this very fact, but for some odd reason I still keep coming back and flying it more.
AKAN GUN PODS
150 rounds (per pod) of 30mm-sized death at 1300RPM. These are for when you want to kill something and you do not know much about it. They can be used for both air to air and air to ground roles. They are pretty accurate, if you aim right.
RB-24 / RB-24J SIDEWINDER MISSILES
As with the F-5E-3, these are the only dedicated air to air weapons you will have aside from the gun pods. You have access to two variants: the RB-24J (AIM-9P) and an RB-24 (AIM-9L). They are easily spoofed by flares so you better pack several of them.
ARAK ROCKET PODS
The most fun you will have with the Viggen, period. These are 135mm in diameter making them deadly even against well reinforced armor. These pods empty in only 0.6 seconds , spitting a figurative wall of death and destruction in the direction of the poor souls who dare stand in front of you. Oh, and they can be used for both pre-planned and unplanned targets.
One of the only precision guided munitions, and in fact, the only one that has its dedicated TV scope mounted to the side of the HUD (see second picture by clicking the arrow). These are your standard Maverick missiles, so nothing really out of the ordinary. A cool weapon nonetheless, though.
M/71 GENERAL PURPOSE BOMBS
Capable yet a bit lacking in firepower due to their 120Kg mass, these bombs rely on their numbers to carpet bomb an area into oblivion. There is also an illumination variant that will turn the darkest night into daytime in less time that I empty my ARAK pods.
RB-05 RADIO CONTROLLED AIR TO SURFACE MISSILE
Manually guided by you, the pilot, this missile will follow your directions to its last moment. Capable of air to ground and air to air thanks to its proximity fuse capability. They are quite a lot of fun once you get used to them.
RB-04 ANTI-SHIP MISSILE
Packing their own radar, these oddly shaped missiles are the older option for anti-shipping operations. Once launched, they will find their own target and give it a date with Poseidon.
RB-15 ANTI-SHIP MISSILE
A more modern alternative for the anti-shipping business, these missiles do not screw around.
They can be pre-programmed with their own waypoints and search patterns, making them a lot more complicated than the RB-04, in theory. In practice, you can just designate a target with your radar and call it a day.
BK-90 CLUSTER MUNITIONS A.K.A MJOLNIR
The wrath of Thor will fall upon your enemies once you throw these out. The only thing that they are missing are lightning bolts coming out of them. They are truly bringers of destruction if employed correctly, which can be tricky. They have both an AP and HE variants.
COUNTERMEASURES AND ELINT
Lacking internal countermeasures aside from the radar warning receiver, the Viggen has to rely on external pods for self-defense countermeasures. One pod for chaff and flares (right) and one for ECM (left). This can be a bit frustrating as you have to give away two of your pylons just to have the ability to defend yourself against missiles. ELINT allows you to do recon-stuff, data gathering and most things of that nature. Some servers have it implemented as a core feature so it can be useful under some circumstances.
EASE OF USE AND LEARNING CURVE
This is the only part that makes me weary of recommending the Viggen to some of my friends. To put it bluntly, this aircraft is not for everyone. Not because of bugs or anything like that, but because of how different it is from every other aircraft out there. Everything from the cockpit layout to the weapon management system is just alien. Well, as alien as Sweden can be. It was an aircraft designed in-house for the needs of the Swedish nation with little to no external influence at all. This is not a bad thing, it is just something that someone has to get used to first prior to enjoying the Viggen for what it is. It does have its good parts.
For instance, the HUD design relies much more on symbology than, for example, American aircraft. It is absolutely brilliant in its application but for someone transitioning from an A-10C or a F-16C, the HUD might look bare and unintuitive; which it is not. It is in fact rather well designed and allows you to take all the information you might need at a simple glance. A sign of a good design.
This is not a novice-friendly aircraft either, mainly due to the way one interacts with the data computer. The keypad, (top of the right console in the cockpit pictures of the first section), is the only way you can interact with it. It relies on a lot of codes to do certain things, like program RB-15 missiles. It is not the worst I have seen, so there is that as well.
To summarize: I really don't recommend this aircraft for beginners as the learning process can be quite complicated. But, don't let me discourage you from taking up the challenge. If you feel like you can do it, then go for it!
SINGLE PLAYER CONTENT
This module comes with two campaigns that are linked narratively. These campaigns offer quite a lot of fun and showcase the pre-planned mission potential that the Viggen has in a way that many other campaigns fail to accomplish. I sincerely recommend trying these out even while you are learning the module. Even if it is just to hone your skills a bit more in something other than a simple training mission.
IS THIS MODULE FOR YOU?
If what you want in a module is:
To break space-time on the deck.
A very interesting avionics suite.
An excellent flight model with a tons of room for fun.
A Swedish masterpiece.
If you don't mind:
The design differences that come with indigenous aircraft.
The somewhat limited dogfighting capabilities.
The excessively steep learning curve for a novice.
Having a lot of patience and time to learn how to use it.
If all or some of the above is what you want, then Heatblur's AJS-37 Viggen is for you.
About the writer:
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