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  • Writer's pictureSkyward Staff

DCS Event: Skyward x Black Aces December 2023 !

Skyward Flight Media is presenting a December 2023 event on our Fox 3 Managed Solutions Digital Combat Simulator server. A set of custom edits to the existing mission have been done in cooperation with The Black Aces VRChat aviation community, whom we often fly various flight games and simulators with in our private time. This will be the largest and longest public event we have run on our server thus far, running for three weekends in December 2023.


Please see this webpage for more information if you are interested in joining in on this event:

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About Pretense

The base version of this mission is from one of Skyward’s favorite mission editors, Dzsek. They are the creator of the Foothold mission format we have written articles about in the past. Pretense can be considered the successor of Foothold. Here are words from Dzsek about this mission from the official Github user manual:

“Pretense is my second attempt at a dynamic campaign in DCS. This mission came from all the things that Foothold failed to live up to in my mind. I wanted the focus to be on you, the player, as a mercenary pilot in the middle of this war unfolding around you. Your job is to choose from the available missions and complete them, while earning experience and climbing through the ranks. 

“In this mission, bases need resources to upgrade themselves and deploy defenses. Resources that they will now attempt to share with each other and push towards the frontline where they are needed. This time AI groups are truly dynamic, each base deciding what to build and where to send it. No waypoints for any of the AI are predetermined in the mission editor. Everything is decided in the moment. This time, the campaign was built with performance in mind. Activity is concentrated on the frontline, bases farther away will operate in a less active mode, but will still be there as functional parts of the economy.”

“It took more than a year to make this. Burned myself out trying to balance it. I'm still not sure if it works exactly the way I wish it did. But here it is. Enjoy.”

Our Thoughts on Pretense in General

For this event, we are using the Caucasus version of Pretense to ensure player accessibility. Pretense is a rather astonishing example of a mission that somehow balances gameplay between all types of air units available to players, while adding extended options for mid-mission sub-missions. These sub-mission include performing suppression of enemy air defenses at specific locations, flying combat air patrols, flying recon missions, bombing runways, deep strikes against far away targets, combat search and rescue, etc. Finishing these missions grant players experience and promotions in rank. As ranks climb higher, they are able to call in off-map assets or other options that can assist BLUFOR. 

All progress in Pretense is saved as .json files, meaning players can jump into the mission at any time and have their progress reloaded. The gains in conquering the map and capturing enemy territory is also saved. The mission can be taken offline, then put back online days or weeks later with all progress retained, so long as the .json file is not deleted. This is an amazing option for long-term play sessions with large groups of players. 

Fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft are equally effective in combat. Their strengths can be utilized to their fullest without having to compromise the core gameplay of the mission. In fact, one could argue that helicopters have a larger role to play than meets the eye at first glance. 

It is hard to find a free to download mission that is this well-thought-out with a user manual to help mission editors understand how it works and how to further modify it if needed. Once again, our hat is off to Dzsek. 

Custom Edit Overview

While the mission used in the October 2023 community event was an original mission from Skyward staff, our edits to Pretense are not meant to change the format of the mission. They are being made to augment the user experience to fit our needs. Here is a brief overview of edits made: 

Forcing Close Range Combat: At the request of The Black Aces, active homing radar missiles or “Fox Threes” have been removed from the mission to encourage more within visual range combat. The Skyward staff has taken this request to the next level and also removed air-to-ground glide weapons and air launched cruise missiles. So even combat against ground targets is done at a closer distance. Though, anti-radiation missiles are still allowed, as there are some far-reaching surface-to-air missile batteries that cannot realistically be destroyed by flying a few hundred nautical miles and dumb bombing them. 

Limited REDFOR PVP: A limited number of human players will have access to player vs player slots on the REDFOR side. The point of this mission is to be a player vs environment experience, but as we learned in the October 2023 event a certain amount of REDFOR PVP spices up the mission, but allowing too many players from BLUFOR to be REDFOR in a mission like this could grind progress in capturing territory to a halt. Potentially devolving the scenario into pure air-to-air PVP combat. This is outside the scope of the Pretense format. A balance is needed. 

Adding Mod Aircraft: Adding player controlled aircraft mods to this mission is easy enough, as they are simply client slots. The following mod aircraft are being added to the mission: A-4E Skyhawk, C-130 Hercules, UH-60L Blackhawk. Players will not be forced to fly these aircraft, however, Digital Combat Simulator servers require that all players download these aircraft on their PCs or else they cannot join the mission. Information on where to download these mods and how to install them is available here.


One aspect of this mission that distinguishes it from the majority of sandbox missions is the importance of logistics in the mission. Both AI and players have the capability to affect the battlefield through sheer logistical prowess, enabling those that want to stay behind the enemy lines helping the team out.

All transport-capable helicopters can work as logistical aircraft, which includes the UH-60L mod that can carry 12 troops into battle or a medium amount of supplies. There will be a single player-usable, fixed-wing logistics aircraft available for the mission: the C-130J mod. With the Hercules, you will be able to deploy up to 92 troops as paratroopers, as well as an insane amount of supplies.

We hope to see some players use this feature to aid the team!




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