Review: DCS MB-339A/PAN by Frecce Tricolori Virtuali
Updated: Sep 3, 2021
Made by the folks over at the Frecce Tricolori Virtuali team, the MB-339 is a free module based on the famous trainer made by Aermacchi during the late seventies that now serves with the Italian Air Force and many others as a trainer/light-attack aircraft. The type has seen combat over the skies of the Eritrean–Ethiopian War and the Falklands-War where it saw successful combat deployment.
In this review of their latest release (v.2.01) we will be taking a look into several different parts of the module and evaluating if this pretty but capable bird is a fit for your style of flying. These points will be divided in several sections:
Of note: This is a free module made by a dedicated community, therefore, it shall not be judged to the standards of a paid module.
External and internal 3D models
Visual and sound effects
Ease of use and learning curve
Unique module features
Is this aircraft for you?
EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL 3D MODELS
The external model is of very high quality even when compared to professionally made modules available for purchase. From the animations of the landing gear, the deployment of the taxi and landing lights to the fantastically recreated gunpods and weapon models. It has that feel of quality that a passion project such as this can bring to life.
One thing that does need to be pointed out as it is of importance. The external model lacks a visual damage state for when you receive damage, enter a collision, etc. This is a minor thing to point out but it is noteworthy nonetheless.
A lot of mods in DCS utilize cockpits from the Flaming Cliffs 3 module such as the F-15 or the Su-33. While useful to avoid coding, modelling and configuring a cockpit from zero this practice can prove immersion-breaking to some users. But the Frecce Tricolori Virtuali team went far and beyond with their project.
The pilot and instructor cockpits don't not fall behind the external model's quality. With the exception of some systems which are not modeled and all the critical systems are working and all flight critical instruments are working accordingly, such as a fully functional gun sight that looks wonderful in both day and night. The developers have said that many of the systems that are non-functional are being worked on so keep your hopes up for those.
VISUAL AND SOUND EFFECTS
In this area the module does the job but does not shine like it it does in other aspects. All the bells and whistles are there and in-cockpit lights do serve their job, but they do feel a bit off like they were a bit too unnatural. External lights and effects are good, having configurable navigation lights as well as a beacon and formation lights that have a very nice look to them.
When it comes to sounds, particularly in-cockpit sound, things are both excellent and serviceable. Switches sound nice when you click them giving you that feedback that is needed so that they feel believable and tangible. The engine does sound a bit too quiet for my liking but it does have a very clear RPM curve that allows you to know in what throttle position you are without having to look at at the gauge at all.
Here are two examples, both on-ground and in-flight:
Engine sound while on the ground: ( Idle-->Full Power-->Idle ):
Engine sound while in-flight: ( Idle-->Full Power-->Idle ):
This bird's EFM (External Flight Model) was modeled with the help of retired MB-339 pilots and even a couple of Aermacchi engineers which allowed the developers a step-up their ability to give the Macchi some life. The work put into making the feel of flight has not gone unnoticed as it does feel natural and I can say with confidence that this is the most accurate modded flight model in the game.
The Macchi feels like it wants to be flown thanks to its easy and forgiving flight characteristics which is to be expected from an aircraft that was designed to be a trainer. Do not let this "trainer" talk make you think that it is not able to do some incredible maneuvering and very high-g turns for all your acrobatic needs.
As expected, this aircraft excels in its training role thanks to the way it was built. The cockpit is shared by both a trainee and an instructor that sits in the back. The instructor has mirrored instruments that allow them to guide the trainee in a plethora of scenarios.
When not functioning as a training aircraft the Macchi is also capable of being a relatively effective light-attack aircraft. In this role, it performs surprisingly well giving its size and payload. It lacks dedicated air-to-air armament, relying on the use of gunpods to engage other aircraft. You will have to put your trust upon top-cover when you attack ground targets and hope that there are no MiGs hunting you.