Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza
Tactical Air Combat Tournament 21-1
Updated: Sep 23, 2022
Digital Combat Simulator World has a broad player base from weekend fliers to professional-style military simulation enthusiasts. As expected of a combat flight sim that emulates blood pumping, G-pulling air combat, there is also a consistent competitive player base. While videos of high profile events like SATAL, SATAC and the Folds of Honor DCS tournament circulate social media groups, these are not the only competitive events that have been run or sponsored.
Tactical Air Combat Tournament 21-1 is the newest tournament in the Digital Combat Simulator World competitive community. Running between June and August 2021, TACT is a 6 vs. 6 tournament that is open to new and already established virtual squadrons. The competitive teams that cannot fulfill the 6-player minimum have the option for teams to recruit up to two temporary ("mercenary") pilots to fill the minimum requirement. Not to be confused with an everyday type of player vs. player server setup, this air-to-air only event is forgiving enough to let pilots perform a quick return to base if an internal navigation system error or payload issue arises, but also promotes actively engaging in combat via match structure.
For example, once competitors enter the 90 nautical mile combat zone, teams can only either shoot down their opposing side or maintain control of the combat zone with no opposing aircraft within the zone for five minutes. This is taken a step further by requiring pilots to land at the opposing team's airbase, forcing them to fly through their adversaries to land. There are few weapon restrictions, though other specific rules for competitors to follow are related to how electronic countermeasures are modeled in different aircraft, approved attack radar settings, and other known DCS-related quirks and bugs. These are things that veterans of DCS World are aware of and negotiate through conversations in the the TACT 21-1 Discord server.
Skyward Flight Media briefly spoke to X-man, one of the primary event organizers, about this event shortly before it began:
Hello! We are excited to discuss the competitive side of DCS World with you. Can you tell us about the team behind this event?
We are the 64th 'Scorpions' Aggressor Squadron. We formed in May 2019 but many of our members have known each other and flown competitive DCS (and its predecessors LOMAC/Flanker 2.0) for 10+ years.
Who are the members of the team running TACT 21-1?
Predominantly <64>X-man and <64>Rage. We receive help of course from other 64th members.
Is TACT a new event to the DCS competitive scene?
Yes. Although it follows a similar format to previous events we have run like SATAC. It is a relatively short PVP event run over 2 months simulating a limited air-to-air skirmish/exercise.
Twenty-seven teams have signed up for this event. That's quite a few considering the format is teams of 6 players each. Was this level of turnout expected?
Actually no! Many more teams have signed up than expected. It's great to see so many players and teams take an interest in PVP. We have tried to make it more accessible to teams by having a shorter time frame, match rescheduling, relaxed rulesets, and administrative burden, and the use of 'Mercenary' pilots if necessary.
How would you describe the teams signing up? Are they veteran competitors? Newly formed teams?
Both, of course. It is great to see new squads enter and develop into veterans as they compete.
DCS has modules (aircraft) of varying complexity. Not all have clickable cockpits. Why is TACT only allowing high fidelity modules?
Whereas before there was little difference between clickable and unclickable modules in terms of actual systems modeling there is now an increasing fidelity gap between the two types of modules. Not only are the high fidelity modules' clickable' but they also have far more realistic systems modeling. This is important for a limited scope PVP event like TACT. We run other events like Op. Meltdown and PG85/PG92 [Persian Gulf' 85/Persian Gulf' 92] where we do have FC3 planes available.
On a personal note, I think the writing has been on the wall for a long time regarding FC3. [Eagle Dynamics] can be seen to shift much more attention and development time to high fidelity modules and it seems the lower fidelity stuff will be spun off in a separate game (Modern Air Combat?)
How does a competitive DCS mission differ from the usual PVP or PVE mission?
I think the rules and schedule are pretty self-explanatory. The difference between PVE/casual server PVP and an event like TACT is that with the former you can quite easily become an Ace in a single session. Kills are easy and relatively cheap. In a focused 6v6 match everything matters and everything counts. In an even matchup, kills are much harder to get and therefore much more valuable.
It has been a little over a month since TACT 21-1 started. Now videos of the past matches are being posted on YouTube with VODs available on Twitch for those interested in seeing what DCS competitive level flying looks like.
Though there is not an official TACT stream or channel to find all matches, checking the official forum thread will help viewers find the streams they are looking for. Multiple independent streamers have volunteered to stream and commentate on as many matches as they can. With so many different streamers with their own broadcast styles, watching TACT has been interesting so far:
Though Tactical Air Combat Tournament 21-1 is the newest tournament on the scene, the combat and analysis of each match has been both entertaining and educational.
The name of this event hints at the possibility of multiple TACT events in the future, which could be beneficial to the competition going forward. Having a consistent and easier to access tournament series like this could help with formation of new competitive teams that go on to challenge other already established tournaments. Take some time to check out TACT 21-1 before it's over.
About the Writer
Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza
Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. Read Staff Profile.