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Frontiers Reach: Initial Thoughts

Frontiers Reach: Initial Thoughts

I believe the term "more than meets the eye" might be the best way to describe my experience with Frontiers Reach so far. There's more going on with this game than even its Steam page lets on. It has been in development for at least two years now by Blind Alien Productions. Following a massive project shake-up in December 2021, Frontiers Reach hit its second wind after multiple significant reworks to the project's gameplay, flight model, story, and overall scope. Following the game entering beta on October 29th, 2022, Skyward Flight Media got in contact with the game's development team to get more information on the project and help identify some gameplay bugs. There are so many functions, customizations, plot points, weapons, galactic travel options, and other topics to discuss; I need more time with Frontiers Reach before attempting to summarize them all. I've been taking my time playing this game from beginning to end, but it's too early to write anything like a review. Instead, I'd like to discuss a few things that have caught my attention so far. Responsive Development Team An odd point to start on, sure, but highly important for any game at this phase of its development. Since I started playing Frontiers Reach, I've been surprised at how responsive the development team is to bug reports. Quick fixes to specific bugs or more overarching reworks are published within hours to a day or two after they are reported. Rather than hold off on creating massive quality-of-life updates every few weeks, a steady stream of updates has maintained the team's presence even among its beta testers and quality control team. There is plenty more work to do before the game can be considered complete, but seeing fixes and updates applied within such a short amount of time is heartening for any game in early access. Unexpected Story, Expansive Campaigns The initial story setting for this game is prime for the classic tale of the heroic fighter pilot singlehandedly winning the war. As mentioned in the introduction, in the year 2230, two human factions that control vast areas of space are preparing for all-out war. Here I assumed the player would take the role of a brave pilot bringing peace by skillfully defeating one side while flying for the other. But in Frontiers Reach, the player is not diving into danger for glory. Instead, they are attempting to save the lives of people living on the fringes of the known galaxy by avoiding the coming war. Here, victory is survival at any cost - even if it means stealing fuel, facilitating prison breaks, raiding mercenaries, or ambushing government patrol fleets. The ultimate goal is to flee to uncharted space before the war inevitably ravages entire star systems. The overall feeling of the story is heavy. The vagrant nature of the crew with few loyalties to anything, coldhearted objectives that involve breaking laws to save lives, and the sometimes frenetic combat make the experience invoke memories of popular sci-fi series like Firefly and Battlestar Galactica. This was a refreshing change from the tried and true hero formula. Destroying a heavily defended fuel depot to cause chaos so you can slip into a factory to steal supplies later isn't a standard mission set you'll find in most flight games from the past or present. Surprisingly, this game has two single-player campaigns. The first campaign is linear and story-driven. It comprises 20 main missions with some side missions offered by allied characters between missions. This campaign introduces the setting and story while familiarizing the player with controls, game mechanics, managing resources, meeting the cast, and traveling across the galaxy. It is a complete campaign from start to finish, despite technically being the "introduction". By the end of the 20th mission, a second, more dynamic campaign begins, putting all decision-making power in a galaxy-wide conflict into the player's control. With 37 nodes (planets, locations in deep space, etc.) being contested by different factions, the second campaign is worth an article all on its own. You can be sure that I'll write thoroughly about it for my next article on this game. Advanced Controller Support The list of supported controllers is still expanding, with more settings for controllers being added by the developer. Today, custom keybinds for keyboard-mouse, gamepads, and flight sticks have been included. Including multi-USB controllers like hands-on throttle and stick controllers are something I plan on testing with a variety of sticks I have on hand. More on this later. Flight Model The current flight model has been completely overhauled from its earlier build. Even while flying the most maneuverable spacecraft available at this time, the smooth turning characteristics are notable. Epic turning battles with half a dozen fighters are commonplace. Most of the combat happens within blaster range (gun range). Even with the few guided missiles equipped, the fighting style is more like World War II or the Korean War. Expect to turn and burn for superiority in each mission. Depending on the throttle setting, a consistent turning radius can easily be maintained, letting players focus more on their maneuvers without getting too wrapped up in the finer points of flight you'd expect from a full-fidelity simulator. Turns can be enhanced by momentarily using the reaction control system to make course corrections or snap turns to catch adversaries off guard. With the reaction control system equally effective in the atmosphere and space, it's an ace in the hole for players under challenging situations. There is a considerable feeling of momentum and weight with each spacecraft. That's more apparent in some than others. Those factors help smoothen out gameplay from becoming so fast-paced and twitchy it is unwieldy. But in low-speed, low-altitude situations, it's one of the most significant hazards to players. Landing, searching for resources, and the admittedly difficult segments that require flying through buildings, space stations, and underground tunnels are much more dangerous than being fired upon. More than once did I find myself carefully flying slowly at 5+ degrees nose up in a system of caves to avoid early warning radars. Learning how to manage low throttle settings during low-altitude flight is a lesson learned through trial and error. Fortunately, the game allows players to respawn up to three times per mission without a checkpoint system that automatically saves progress. With Frontiers Reach still undergoing development in its open beta phase, I look forward to continuing the process of getting to know a game I should have checked out much earlier. 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.

DCS Foothold Syria Cold War: Our Experience

DCS Foothold Syria Cold War: Our Experience

For the past two weeks we have been running a very interesting mission in our private DCS server. This mission has allowed us to get back into playing longer and cooperative DCS sessions with our friends for a plethora of reasons. Let's talk about some of the experiences we've had so far in this refreshing mission! The mission is a modified version of Foothold Syria, the same mission we had before. Aaron modified the mission to make it a bit more "Cold War". Not a realistic cold war setting, but one that is a bit more limited in terms of weaponry and aircraft. We no longer have access to GPS guided weapon or any of the advanced long-range weapons for air to ground engagements. That means that we are limited to older "iron" bombs and just a couple of the anti-radiation missiles for convenience purposes. Air weapons got adjustments too, particularly the number of Active Seeker missiles that are available to certain airframes. This has made us think a bit more about which planes to use for certain roles and missions as now planes that served the same role (F-14A/F-14B) are no longer capable of performing the same missions All enemies have been adjusted to fit these new weapon limitations as well. Air threats are mostly composed of mid and late cold war aircraft as well as a couple of high-skill 4th gen soviet planes that act as the primary aerial threats. Just like in the regular version of the mission, we have the capability of gaining points to call in AI support flights as well as AWACS and tankers. These units have been adjusted to fit the new setting and rules, so they feel quite balanced. I personally feel like I have to pre-plan my missions a lot more now. Before, with the regular mission, it felt like it was extremely easy to steamroll objectives. It felt almost effortless to wipe the map clean off of enemies in just a few sessions. The changes have made it so that progress is a lot slower, but still fair. It is not that the mission is more difficult, but the act that it feels a lot more balanced. Capturing airbases with helicopters while one or more of your friends cover your ingress is great. The same applies to using irons to go against convoys and armored targets alike, it is a very enjoyable experience. I can no longer just stay at 40K feet lobbing GPS guided bombs and glider munitions from ten comfort of my cockpit. If you want someone gone, you will have to get down there, below the clouds, to deliver your ammunitions. To say that this has been a breath of fresh air would be an understatement. I have been enjoying being on the skies with my friends again, all thanks to this mission. About the Author 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 the co-founder of Skyward ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034

Low Level High-Stakes Logistics: Flying supply runs in DCS World

Low Level High-Stakes Logistics: Flying supply runs in DCS World

Because of circumstances beyond my understanding, I have found myself flying a type of mission I never expected to fly in DCS: Logistical supply runs. I have learned a couple of lessons while trying to survive in these scenarios, so let's talk about them! THE RECENT EMERGENCE OF PLAYER DRIVEN LOGISTICS In missions like the many variants of Foothold, a relatively popular mission that many servers run nowadays, player driven logistics are key for the proper function of the mission. Up until now I had only seen smaller-scale implementations of these functions in-game, specially on multiplayer-focused content. The way that has been implemented is that if an airbase is "liberated", either a player or an AI logistics aircraft will need to unload supplies on it to capture it and reinforce it. To do this properly, it is essential that at least one of the players playing the mission takes the role as the AI is not the best at its job. That is where I come in, as I am one of the only ones in my group that actively flies helos in the sim. STAYING LOW AND FAST TO SURVIVE Just like we have seen in the recent Russo-Ukrainian war, helicopter survivability rates go up as they get low to avoid both visual and radar detection. The same applies to DCS. To run some of these logistic runs, I have had to go so low that all I see is my shadow reflected on the grass as I speed towards the objective. Doing this with cargo is a bit tricky, as the load you are carrying is worth more to the team than you are. Distance becomes a bit of a problem too, specially in maps like the Persian Gulf and Syria. I have done logistic runs that have lasted well over two hours due to the fact that the distance between the objectives and our bases grew and grew as my buddies kept capturing areas non-stop. It was a very fun experience and a very refreshing one for me. I depended on my friend's escort throughout the runs as the enemy did try to intercept my flights many times. It was a team effort to get me to the objective, which was somewhat of a challenge when coordinating with your friends over a Discord call. But we managed. THINGS TO COME: THE FUTURE OF LOGISTICS IN DCS If we have this level of logistics and non-combat flying in DCS right now, I can only speculate how much it will change once the official C-130 module releases. It would be the first fixed wing logistics aircraft in the game with the ability to be extremely flexible as to how that cargo or those troops get delivered. I love DCS for its combat aspect but I really enjoy this side of it. A side that does not hurt the enemy by directly engaging with it, but by facilitating the fight with the delivery of every tool necessary to bring the fight to them. About the author: 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 the co-founder of Skyward ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034

VRChat Airshow Management with the Black Aces Stunt Team

VRChat Airshow Management with the Black Aces Stunt Team

As a big supporter of airshows and fly ins, I was heartbroken over roughly two years of cancellations because of the Covid 19 outbreak across the world. During that time my substitutes for organized aviation events included airshows from the now gone Virtual Airshow group, esports style dogfights from DCS World Events and "live" VRChat aviation events. There have been many groups and individuals that have put on airshows and tournaments in VRChat aviation's history so far, but these days the largest organization, the Black Aces, present the most frequent aviation events on the platform. While VRChat aviation is still primarily a combat focused experience overall, the Black Aces perform just as many airshows as they do player vs. player tournaments. We reached out to Riko and Uni Power, the leaders of the Black Aces Stunt Team, to discuss their operations at length. Thanks for accepting our interview request on this unique subject. Could you please introduce yourselves?

Riko: Hello, my name is Riko. I am the owner of the VRChat Black Aces, the hub for all VRC Aviation. Uni Power: Howdy, Uni Power here! I am the Black Aces Stunt Team Lead and an assisting official of the Black Aces. How did you both get involved with VRChat? Riko: When Covid hit, and it ended my Senior year of High School halfway, I ended up becoming extremely bored on what became the longest spring break of my life. I saw VRChat through YouTube videos back in 2017, and I was so bored in 2020 I wanted to give it a try to see what it was like. I ended up meeting some wonderful friends and experiencing all sides of VRChat. Uni Power: I ended up playing VRChat back in 2017 when some school friends found it on steam, since I had a VR headset at the time I joined in and had an awesome time exploring and meeting humorous people. I stuck around for a long time after finding some awesome maps that had a connecting puzzle-based story and that eventually led me through into the start of VRChat Aviation. When were you first introduced to VRChat aviation? Can you remember your first reaction to seeing it? Riko: I first ran across VRChat aviation in 2021, when it was in its early stage before the Virtual HOTAS system we have now. I wasn’t too much into it at first, but once the F-14 world was updated with the Virtual HOTAS and more realistic physics, I started to get way more into VRChat aviation. To the point where my friends already knew which world I was in when I was online. Uni Power: My first real notice into flight maps was when Zweikaku's F-14's hit the public world list, I thought it would be really cool to finally be able to fly vehicles in VRChat but I didn't pick up too much traction on it until late 2020 when the Test Pilots world started getting a lot more attention. It’s safe to say that most people are interested in VRChat aviation for player vs. player combat. When and why did you two start considering putting together airshows? Riko: When we first started running events, we already knew that PvP was everyone's favorite, but there was a smaller crowd slowly building, favoring airshows. We also wanted a way to show off new aircraft that we have been working on instead of them just appearing in worlds out of nowhere. What better way than to show them off in an airshow for all to enjoy? It also became a thing to take people away from the competitive scene of VRC aviation and just enjoy talking with other aviation enthusiasts while an airshow is going on just like in real life. Uni Power: After the third tournament of our original group, the tournament creator had some planes thrown together ready to be shown off; because I had won that tournament I was invited to participate with Riko in showing off the new aircraft (which I had no prior practice in flying). Eventually other creators came along ready to show off some new aircraft and we needed to start a team whose purpose was to learn the aircraft beforehand and show off its full capabilities. I say airshow, but the term that the Black Aces use for these events is “showcase”. What is the difference between an airshow and a showcase? Uni Power: Airshows usually consist of multiple groups/organization showing some capabilities of aircraft which we are familiar with, which in turns gives some fame to the airframe. We use the term "Showcase" because we are one group ready to show different aircraft, each which have their own functions and usability to showoff its full capabilities. Riko: Airshows are more formed into the discipline of a team with exact and precise movements. While our showcases are more focused on showing the new aircraft we are working on and pushing these aircraft to their absolute limit. I mean what's the point of seeing planes in a game if they’re just following FAA rules? Unlike real-world airshows, which have teams performing one practiced routine across countries, the Black Aces seem to have different choreographies in each showcase. Why is that? Riko: Since all of this is done virtually, if we were to do the same thing every time, it would get quite boring very quickly. Bringing variety to every show with new routines and aircraft keeps something new from show to show. From seeing cold war aircraft doing low passes to futuristic planes doing backflips with lasers. What also causes these differences in routines is that these aircraft tend to be made by different people with different backgrounds of aviation experience. From Ace Combat, War Thunder, MSFS, and DCS. So values from one world creator to another can be quite drastic since they all want to give people a different experience. So you can go from an aircraft that feels like you're flying in DCS from one world creator to doing five backflips without losing any altitude from another creator. It makes the difference in air shows, and even practicing makes every event fun, no matter how many showcases we have done. Uni Power: We don't have a set aircraft which we practice in, for all we know we could be showcasing a cargo plane which shouldn't be able to complete a barrel roll, or we have a really fast aircraft which has a extremely tight turn radius and we need a way to show that off compared to flying a set course which may be applicable to all aircraft. Overall, it keeps the show intriguing by introducing new routines. What is practice for the Black Aces Demonstration Team like, considering that each show is different from one another? Riko: Quite chaotic, especially for the first couple of days due to us having to learn how the new aircraft flies and how far we can push the aircraft. It also comes down to how to match our flying to music to help emphasize maneuvers the aircraft will pull. Matching music to how they fly can truly make the show more intriguing and neck-turning. Another part is near the end when doing the final formation and trying to compensate for lag since we, for a while now, have hit VRChat's hard cap limit of 80 people in a world. Uni Power: The big thing everyone likes to hit first is "fuck around and find out what the aircraft can't do". After the pilot is comfortable, they start planning a route which they will want to take alone or with a wingman if applicable. Next is cueing up the music; finding out what time the aircraft needs to take off to meet the end of the song playing before their routine, and then when/where they need to start playing their music so that they meet the crowd at the most striking part of the opening segment. Eventually the team throws together ideas for the Black Aces Signature Formation (All aircraft in the sky, big group(s) bunched together), what would be the best angles to show off the aircraft in the surrounding environment in accordance to the audience, and how to break the formation to put the audience in awe. How do the early showcases from last year compare to the recent ones? Riko: Extremely, more organized and well formatted than before. Most showcases in the past the aircraft were learned on the spot of the actual showcase so barely to almost no practice. Still, people loved it and as we have gotten bigger as a community we started to organize our showcases more by having multiple practices and staying up late to perfect what we do. New pilots bring a variety of stunts certain pilots like to do. For example, Uni does all the Cobra Maneuvers. He loves to pull those while other pilots, like Razor, are more for the high-speed lowpasses like he did in the MiG-27 recently. Uni Power: The first showcases had very limited practice, some members flew impromptu without a defined routine. Once the Stunt Team was created there was set group of pilots to choose from, instead of having to grab a friend to fill up any remaining spots, and it made things more smooth because we knew each person's real life schedules and could pick a set time where most people could be in attendance. Early showcases featured more solo flights due to having poor networking, it was dangerous for the wingman to have to predict when an aircraft was going to turn due to an almost 2 second delay of input from the lead pilot, and it wasn't very pleasant to see one aircraft trailing behind instead of having a close formation. Over time aircraft controls have swapped from heavy and slow inputs to fast and tight; Early day aircraft would require the pilot to worry about predicting a pull in dangerous situations because it would take time to accelerate into a turn or decelerate back to level from a high AoA turn, but recently creators have given us faster and full controls, now we watch out for pulling too hard on the controls so that too much velocity isn't lost so we may finish the routine on time with our music. In both of your opinions, what do you think the some of the best Black Aces performances are?

Riko: I love all the performances we have put on but if I were to choose the best that's a bit hard. September Showcase 2021 Day #3 made by Non was really good. It was also when Sacc Sync was still in the early phase and it just made the aircraft look so much better than what it was before. Some of my favorite aircraft were also flying. The March 2022 air show created by VTail and Raptor probably has to be one of my favorites. I was so stressed out from running the tournament seeing such an amazing show with no mishaps just made everything so much better. Last but not least September showcase 2022 Day #1 made by VTail. It was so much fun flying the Draken and the crowd loved seeing low-altitude Cobras going straight past the crowd. That airshow was simply so much fun. Uni Power: If I had to put our showcases in a Top 3, First I would choose March 2022's VTail/Raptoritasha Russian/Ukraine showcase, featuring an interesting ekranoplan, the Bartini Beriev VVA-14, along with a performance of a duo MiG-29 set featuring some high AoA maneuvers, and a special remembrance featurette of everyone's beloved Antonov An-225. The next show I would like to favorite is the June 2022 showcase, made by yours truly, introducing some reciprocating dive & torpedo bomber, such as the SBD-3 Dauntless, SB2C Helldiver, and the BTD-1 Destroyer. The planes had some target boats to utilize their payloads on but then things got heated as a manned Destroyer and Patrol Boat entered the stage, they were multicrew capable meaning their weaponry was fully available for users to control, and thus the first showcase with a battle between the sea and air had begun. Lastly I would like to mention the January 2022 Showcase, featuring Reason2Die4's BigBoi aircraft. The final aircraft to be shown in the event was the CL-1201, the largest aircraft to ever be concepted by Lockheed Martin, which took the crowd's minds by the shear size of the aircraft and the noise it produced. At the end of the show, the rest of the aircraft joined each other and passed over the crowd with the CL-1201 in trail, astounding money shots were made. Are there any maneuvers you saw happen during a performance that made you both get worried?

Riko: Every showcase, I'm always a bit worried to see someone crash, but one that has made me the most worried, although he’s the only one I trust doing stunts like that, is Uni. Other than that it's really hard to choose which other one has made me worried. Uni Power: As somewhat stated by Riko, I stretch to bring the aircraft and its maneuvers as close as possible to the crowd for the best view, sometimes they are indeed worrisome. The maneuver that started the trend was a completed backflip less than 200 feet off the ground in an experimental J-20, at the time I would agree that it was a very "cracked out" aircraft, however controls were heavy and hard to keep steady when in the moment of gliding backwards. In September of 2021, I had convinced my wingman at the time that it would be hilarious to hover the current aircraft we were showing off, a Harrier, inside of the open hangar behind the crowd, both aircraft fit inside and circled around each other, we called it "The Harrier Dance". Overall the maneuver to top the stupidity meter was during the VTail/Raptor showcase of 2022. Inside of my MiG-29, the final maneuver I would pull off at the end of the set was to play chicken with the ground and then cobra maneuver away, my angle was very steep during the live show and recordings caught the tail of my aircraft mere inches off the ground. Putting on a showcase isn't just about coordinating routines in the air. Creating the aircraft and the worlds they will be flying in is also a big part of it, right?

Uni Power: The creator has a big impact on the show, majority of what makes routines so different is the different types of aircraft that will be flown, and how flight physics will be set up. Another major thing is where the audience is located in the map, they may be put right in front of a cliff, there may be buildings or terrain behind them, and sometimes the sun's current angle can become a factor in trying to give the audience a nice look at the aircraft while flying. Most showcases are featured on flat land with a hangar that isn't too much taller than the stand the audience is put on, which gives a simple, very easy and basic show; if we introduce a expansion, such as a cliff, we may be able to utilize it to fly below the audience, hide from them, or just have some extra space from the ground when we want to get close. Riko: Yeah, without them, airshows would never be possible. They put in so much effort to make each air show a one-of-a-kind. We even had VTail coding a whole new showcase manager allowing us to control what goes on in the world. It truly is a lifesaver when it comes to managing events. Another factor is social media management and coordinating with posting video links to the online audience. How many members of the Black Aces does it take to make these events work?

Riko: Other than me and Non, the co-owner of the Black Aces, we have a total of 5 organizers who truly do help with both showcases and tournaments. People like Raptor, REaSoN2DiE4, Uni Power, and especially VTail who is the photographer for our events. Thanks to Zweikaku, Stagnation, ServerBaka, and Ahri, we are able to stream these events to the public and they even help with managing our social media with Razor and VTail. Commentators also really help with Mama-san being our main commentator and getting support from Skyward staff helping with commentating. We have a total of 21 other staff who help with our events. The most significant difference between Black Aces showcases and virtual airshows in other flight games and simulators is a live audience. What are your thoughts on having a live audience? Riko: The live audience truly makes it so much better. It's being able to socialize with people during an event and maybe even make new friends with similar interests. In my opinion, it makes the community feel more welcoming and way more engaging. It feels like you’re at an actual airshow. What also makes it even better is that a lot of aircraft that have been scrapped or you may never see them fly in your country. Now you can see them in VR and get up close to aircraft like the AN-225. It really was a wonderful thing seeing that plane up close. Uni Power: It's enjoyable having a live audience and livestream, when possible I always go back and see how the reactions were from the crowd. I wonder if they liked what they saw or questioned something we did. Having that big of an audience is quite the responsibility. Is there anything that VRC has natively that limits or hampers airshows? Riko: Well, the hard player cap is 80 people per world instance. I never thought we would hit the point where people are complaining that they can't join the instance because we hit the hard cap. Luckily when it comes to performance, VRChat has been implementing more stuff to help with the frame rate of a full instance by adding hiding avatars by a distance. When it comes to flying for the showcase, it does help. When flying toward the crowd we were lucky to have 12 frames per second before but now we can sit around 20-30. Meta Quest compatibility is probably what makes setting up these showcases the hardest for the world creators. We do our very best to make every event Meta Quest friendly but it does limit how much we can add since we have to stay under 100MB. I wish we were allowed to work with 200MB but I'm not sure if the Quest can handle that. Uni Power: A fair note on having a live audience is a wear on performance in the show, a lot of connected users can make a world laggy in both a sense of having a good connection to the server, and also slowing down the game while your hardware tries to keep up with everything. VRChat has recently introduced some new tools for users, allowing them to slow tracking data thus allowing a breather in all the heavy processes, but it isn't flawless and we still have to keep in mind that our inputs may have delays. Are there any plans for future Black Aces showcases that are being considered? Riko: Showcase-wise, it matters when a world creator is almost done with their work or they want to show off their aircraft. These showcases were originally designed as a way to show off to the community what new planes were being worked on to build up hype for them. We have been discussing hosting an event more community-based summer of next year. Allowing people to make their own air show teams and show off their skills in a summer air festival. It is still in talks but it's something that's high on the possibility list. Thanks a lot for this interview! Is there anything you would like to add? Uni Power: Thank you for the invite, it is a pleasure to receive some notice about our showcases! I hope the Stunt Team can continue to achieve great performances, try some new things, and hopefully continue expanding the collection of planes. You can catch me on Twitter as I continue to fabricate prop planes, and I hope to keep showcasing! Riko: If you wish to experience the aviation community you can join the Black Aces on Discord. Or if you're looking to stay updated on VRChat aviation you can check out our social media platforms on TikTok, Twitter or YouTube. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity. Seeing VRC aviation grow as a whole is truly an amazing sight to see from its small beginnings to where it is now About the Interviewer 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.

Strike Fighters 2: The Forgotten Custom Campaigns

Strike Fighters 2: The Forgotten Custom Campaigns

I have been playing Strike Fighters 2 for the best part of a decade now and, if I can be completely honest, there are only a couple of reasons that keep me coming back to it. It is not the prettiest game nor is it one that has received any significant update in many years; but, at the moment it has a key feature that no other flight simulator has: its Custom Campaigns. They might not be the most technically impressive, or the most dynamic, but they are extremely unique. The only way I would have to explain its uniqueness would be by asking you this question: "Did you ever want to defend a fictional kingdom by participating in the largest air war in history as a mercenary?" If you answered with a yes, then you would love these scenarios.

The part that I like the most about them, even more than flying, is the fact that my actions do have consequences. Whether I accomplish my missions or not, the frontline will be affected. A successful mission means that you side will gain territory, be it a city or a runway, and failing it means your enemy will gain it. There also also other missions that are run by AI that happen at the same time as yours which means that they can win or fail too. A ramification of the way that missions are tracked is that the game tracks the combat statistics of every pilot, including the AI. After getting more than 5 aerial victories, any pilot will be considered an ace. You will see both allied and enemy aces in your tactical map as named units. What happens to them during combat matters, too. If they get shot down and die, they are gone for good; but, if they manage to eject, they will return! On the other hand, these campaigns are the only way to play campaigns with modded aircraft. Mods are an integral part of Strike Fighters, so being able to play campaigns with them is great. I usually just fly them as a mercenary, since it makes sense for many of the aircraft that I modded. Not like there would be any other way you could justify a Mirage F1 flying for the Israelis during the Yom Kippur conflict. I wished more people actually knew about this possibility. The Custom Campaign DLC is one that is very much inaccessible. You need to install in a VERY specific order, or it could break. Aside from the plethora of issues you could have during installation, the biggest problem this DLC has it that it has mostly been forgotten by the community. This mode has brought me a lot of enjoyment while playing SF2, and I would like to bring a bit of attention to it. If you have SF2, make sure you try it out. 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 the co-founder and writer ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034

Creator Highlight: Dslyecxi

Creator Highlight: Dslyecxi

Examples of air operations I've always dreamed of flying in Arma 3 Even though I've watched this content creator's videos for well over a year now, it's hard for me to say that I "know" Dslyecxi. Not when he has been in operation for at least 16 years now. People deep into first-person shooter milsim entertainment may already be well-aware of Dslyecxi and the group he founded, Shack Tactical. Whether that's from watching his YouTube channel or the article from Polygon or "The Accidental Heroes of Arma 3" interview with PC Gamer. The primary reason I watch Dslyecxi is for the air operations. Dangerous landing in a confined space during a firefight (Timestamp: 31:07 - 34:20). The type of flying he does is exactly what I always wanted to achieve but could never quite figure out due to Arma's somewhat odd flight handling characteristics. If you know how to fly civilian or military aircraft in flight simulators, flying in Arma 3 immediately feels unusual. Things don't quite match up the way you think they would. The foremost quirk that comes to mind is the tiny throttle range when using hands-on throttle and stick controllers. Their throttle ranges are limited towards the middle of their full range of motion. Just increasing the throttle a few centimeters can be a 20% throttle input. Couple that with Arma's somewhat finicky damage model, and air operations can get 'interesting', to say the least. It's to the point that even in my almost 700 hours in Arma 3, I hardly fly aircraft despite loving them so much. He truly has a mastery of flight in Arma. To the point that he not only flies expertly but can explain the game mechanics in-depth while maintaining a casual, plainspoken presentation. His "Art of Flight" Helicopter Guides is a signature series of guides with a focus on rotary-wing aircraft. From general flight controls and recommended hardware to breakdowns on specific subjects. Weapons, autorotation, LZ procedures, formation flying, agility - many techniques he uses are well documented with video demonstrations. This is going to sound odd, but his video on how to land damaged helicopters is likely one of the most valuable when it comes to flight in Arma 3. The physics between vehicles and certain types of terrain result in instantly deadly and sometimes comical collisions so frequently, I was mind boggled to see that anyone figured out how to do it correctly. Let alone could explain it in such detail. Striking an enemy convoy as they attempt to stop a friendly unit from extracting. (Timestamp: 5:25). Having played Arma 2 and Arma 3 for so long, he has plenty of videos for most of the usual aircraft that come to mind. Fixed-wing jet attackers, armed jet trainers, attack helicopters and transport helicopters. I can appreciate precision close air support from a roaring fast jet, but the real stars of the channel are the transport helicopters. Mainly the MH-6 Little Bird. In flight, Dslyecxi deftly maneuvers the Little Bird in just about every scenario you can think of. Speeding below treetop level through foggy forests, landing between tightly packed buildings in firefights, ambushing vehicle convoys, even a few air-to-air engagements. His flying can transfer from high speed, sweeping maneuvers to precise, low-speed flying in seconds. All while maintaining full control, even under the heaviest fire. Assisting a fog covered emergency evacuation (Timestamp: 28:43 - 37:30). What's great about Dslyecxi's role as a pilot is that despite running the channel and leading the group, everything is not centered around him. He and his aircrew are just one part of the operation at large. His long form videos show the high tempo combat, quiet in transit flight, meticulous search for targets and interactions with infantry while they're being transported. His perspective from above gives viewers a literal bird's eye view of the missions as they unfold, rather than a point of view that focuses on the actions of a single infantrymen. When Dslyecxi and the other pilots of Shack Tactical fly, it's well organized without being stringently milsim. The group's motto of "serious fun" is said to be a balance between being serious enough to use the necessary communications, organizations, and tactics to be effective in combat while acknowledging that Arma 3 is in fact a game and it is fine to have fun with it. As Dslyecxi is side-slipping through buildings to insert troops, zipping through forests, sneaking up on armored vehicles, and extracting troops from chaotic landing zones, it's easy to keep track of what the other units in the operation are up to just by listening to their radio communications. Their balance of good times and good coordination is forefront. It makes all of the long-form videos enjoyable to watch from beginning to end. Unexpected air-to-air engagement (Timestamp: 1:07:45-1:10:30). As much as I talk up the flying, there are plenty of videos of infantry combat, tutorials for general Arma ops, cinematic third person videos and the all inclusive Year in Review videos that visually summarize the countless missions that have been ran over a year. It's hard to not at least feel at a bit inspired by the things Dslyecxi and Shack Tactical pull off weekly in Arma 3. It might be time for me to study up on the Art of Flight and give aviation in Arma 3 a serious try again. About the Author 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.

Review: DCS MB-339A by IndiaFoxtEcho

Review: DCS MB-339A by IndiaFoxtEcho

While it was previously known for being a community-made mod, IndiaFoxtEcho's official entry is the MB-339A, an Italian jet trainer/light attacker. It has been developed, in no small part, by the same developers behind the original mod. To say that I have been excited about this module would be an understatement; I have been waiting for the moment I could get my hands on this trainer for years now. In this review, we will be taking a look at each aspect of this small but powerful aircraft to see if it is a fit for you and your playstyle: External and internal 3D models Visual and sound effects Flight modelling Mission capability Armament Ease of use and learning curve Training and Multicrew Is this aircraft for you? EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL 3D MODELS The external assets are absolutely gorgeous, which is unsurprising knowing the devs that were behind this project. The Macchi has been recreated with painstaking detail. Every divot, rivet and bump is there and looks great. The same can be said about the external textures as more you zoom into them, the more detail you can see. A good example of this are the areas surrounding panels and covers as there are marks from oil dripping from them. The same can be said about the areas near the exhaust and even the "remove before flight" tags and covers. It is absolutely amazing so here, take a look for yourself: As for the cockpit, it is also excellent. All the instruments look properly textured and the gauges look excellent under any light condition. The night lighting is unique-looking and allows for excellent visibility at dead of night. The labels and text in the cockpit are really high resolution, with the exception of some of the auxiliary tables to the sides of the cockpit. But, that being said, this is some excellent work by the team over at IndiaFoxtEcho. VISUAL EFFECTS Exterior wise, it is a very simple module. The night lighting is perfectly serviceable, that includes the anti-collision lights, navigation lights and formation lights. Additionally, when pulling Gs at high speeds, vapor will appear over the wings. There is also the cockpit shake at low speed but high AoA conditions, a good way to tell pilots when they are pushing it. Interior wise, there are two effects that surprised me a lot. These being the canopy misting and icing effects. These are triggered by external temperature factors. When your internal temperature is colder than the outside, it will mist. When the outside temperature is extremely low, it will ice up! You will have to use your canopy de-mister and anti-ice measure to solve each problem, which adds a lot to the immersion. Here is the mist effect: FLIGHT MODELING DISCLAIMER: This is always a tough category, as like with any other aircraft, there is a lot to take into consideration other than just the feel of the flight model. This category is the most subjective one in this article as I do not have any real world experience with this craft. I will only base my opinion on practical experience and knowledge of practical aerodynamics and the theoretical behavior that a MB-339 should have under certain scenarios. Now that we can continue, I will be completely honest: it feels great to fly. You can really feel the low thrust that this engine has as you will struggle with a heavy aircraft as well as requiring special procedures on wet take-offs. The lack of any active stabilization system is very noticeable too, as you will need to coordinate your turns more carefully. She is pretty maneuverable too, as long as you have the energy to spend. When you push her to the low-speed regime she behaves well, even in a stall. It is extremely easy to recover from a stall. That being said, there is one issue I did find when flying. When pulling out of a dive, it is extremely easy to over-g the wings and rip them clean off of the plane. There is no warning or anything. No cockpit shake unlike in the high AoA scenarios. Just a clean cut and then you are forced to eject. The only other aircraft with a similar issue at the moment is the F-5E. I hope that some sort of warning is added (cockpit shake, rattle, etc.) or a correction to the flight model is done to asses this problem. MISSION CAPABILITIES MB-339A This is the trainer/light attack variant of the Macchi, which means it is the one that most people will be flying. It can be equipped with a plethora of weapons to perform its duties. It lacks any kind of countermeasures, both EW and dispensable, so make sure that you will be flying with clear skies and complete air superiority. MB-339A/PAN This is the variant flown by the Frecce Tricolori. It is not a combat-capable aircraft anymore as it has been set up for airshow performances with the addition of several cockpit modifications as well as modifications to the engine to allow for smoke oil to be mixed in with the exhaust. ARMAMENT (AS OF 4/11/2022) GUN PODS While they are draggy, they are the most versatile weapon system at your disposal. You have two varieties to choose from: DEFA 553 30mm cannons M3 50.Cal machine guns ROCKET PODS Classic. Depress the button and have fun seeing your rockets fly towards the target. you will have four types of pods: LAU-10 (Zuni rockets) LAU-3 (Hydra rockets) LR-25 (ARF-8 rockets) MATRA TYPE 155 BOMBS Good ol' irons. No guided bombs here. There are plenty of choices, though! Mk-81 (250lb HE) Mk-82 (500lb HE) Mk-83 (1000lb HE) BL-755 (Cluster bomb) Belougas (Cluster bomb) Practice Bombs (25lbs and 5lbs) ROCKET BOOSTED PENETRATOR BOMBS The best type of bomb for the right job, as long you are targeting something whose name's "runway" or "stationary target". There's three types: BAP-100 Concrete penetrators. BAP-120 HE/FRAG Durandal Concrete penetrators. EASE OF USE AND LEARNING CURVE This is a trainer, so it is only natural that it is a breeze to learn and fly. It is extremely easy to set up your controls and to fly it. There really is nothing else to say other than that this is an excellent training platform that can be use to teach someone the basics of jet flight, navigation and the use of unguided weaponry in any type of weather. TRAINING AND MULTICREW Training is the most important aspect of this module and, while it is certainly well equipped to do it thanks to its multicrew and the blind flying hood, I did find certain aspects of it a bit odd. The synchronization between the trainee and instructor sides of the cockpit can, sometimes, break completely. I noticed this while doing testing with Aaron, as I had to exit the aircraft multiple times due to his throttle overriding my inputs, even when I had already taken control of the aircraft. I suppose most of these issues will be resolved in the next couple of updates. This means that, when resolved, this should be as good of a trainer as any of the other aircraft available for this role in the game currently. The fact that environmental temperature affects the canopy means that the trainee will learn how to deal with these issues at the same time as they learn how to fly jets from their instructor. IS THIS AIRCRAFT FOR YOU? If what you want in a module is: An amazing trainer. An excellent flight model that will help you hone-in your skills. A module that came out as complete as it is humanly possible. A slow flying jet to take into low-threat combat. If you don't mind: Not having any air to air weapons, as this was not designed to do those tasks. The small imperfections of the flight model and the early access bugs Having to adapt to a more analog experience. If all or some of the above is what you want, then IndiaFoxtEcho's MB-339A 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 the co-founder and writer ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034

Clouds 2.8: An Opinion on DCS 2.8's New Dynamic Weather

Clouds 2.8: An Opinion on DCS 2.8's New Dynamic Weather

I have hopes that the fair weather flyer status quo will begin to change It has been well over a year since the flight simulation enthusiasts of Digital Combat Simulator dreamed of the possibilities that volumetric clouds could bring. In April 2021, DCS update 2.7 would finally do away with the well-worn clouds and weather that could be traced back to Flanker 2.0 circa 1999, and the cloud-powered hype train was hitting full steam. We wrote a few pieces about it ourselves. While DCS 2.7 certainly has had an impact, the recently released DCS 2.8 builds upon it in a few minor but significant ways. Thinking back on roughly 17 months of operations with volumetric clouds in multiplayer servers, my assessment of clouds today is somewhat different than what I thought they would have been when they were first introduced. In retrospect, the clouds of DCS 2.7 were treated more as a part of the background scenery than a part of the missions/servers I found myself flying in the majority of the time. Clouds were present, but clear weather flying with great visibility and scattered clouds at high altitudes were near constant. The gameplay was noticeably different in servers that utilized more unique presets. For pilots accustomed to using targeting pods and the old mark. One eyeball, DCS 2.7's clouds, and weather were immovable obstacles. Literally. With no changes to their position, particular cloud and weather presets could seal off entire areas of a map to combat operations. I can think of many cases where a mission was designed with no consideration to how the clouds actually appear on the map, but once weather effects were applied, the objectives were entirely obscured by clouds that go all the way down to the surface. In those situations, there would be no way to complete the objectives unless there were coordinates for GPS-guided weapons or turning on unit labels that are visible through all weather. It's probably safe to say that the complications caused by limited visibility scenarios were more detrimental than expected to mission editors and people hosting servers as they tried to maintain an easy-to-access gameplay experience. With DCS 2.8's new dynamic cloud and weather systems, I have hope that this fair weather flyer status quo will begin to change. Now with even the thickest cloud banks rolling across terrain due to wind and rain, sleet or snow coming and going with time, the genuine issue of forever obscured targets has been negated. The unpredictability of the weather during long-play sessions revitalized a few missions and specific servers I am all too familiar with. During sorties in public multiplayer servers that immediately took advantage of the update and private testing on Skyward's own DCS World server, the randomness of the environment made even the most well-worn missions play differently. It was noticeable among the general player population too. There were more pre-planned attacks and lower-altitude flying, which is quite the contrast to the usual high-altitude, long-distance guided weapon approach that permeates most of the experiences out there. Now that arriving over a never moving cloud bank no longer means a guaranteed botched mission, I'm hoping that mission editors will incorporate dynamic weather while taking the initiative to integrate new priorities. For example, with better fuel management being a factor in how much time they have to loiter in the event of weather being in the way, better placement of air-to-air refueling tankers could be a welcome addition. DCS 2.8 brings a considerable amount of minor and major changes. There's a lot more to unpack, but with weather being such a big part of aviation as a whole, it seemed like a good subject to start with. About the Author 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.

Skyward M-2000C DCS World Liveries

Skyward M-2000C DCS World Liveries

Here is our free to download Skyward themed livery for the M-2000C by RAZBAM Simulations for Digital Combat Simulator. If you enjoy seeing the sun shine over your Mirage, then this one is for you. It is based on based KEAPS' and Sushy73's 2018 livery, with extremely heavy modifications done to the pattern, weathering, roughmets and diffuses. Roughmets are new and shinier and the titanium parts of the fuselage have different reflectivity! Skyward Bare Metal M-2000C Designer: Cubeboy Release Date: 10/26/2022

Flight Sim Expo 2023 All Expenses Paid Trip Giveaway, Skyward October 2022 VTOL VR Giveaway Winner

Flight Sim Expo 2023 All Expenses Paid Trip Giveaway, Skyward October 2022 VTOL VR Giveaway Winner

Skyward VTOL VR Steam Key Giveaway Winner The results of our spur of the moment giveaway for one copy of VTOL VR are here! Once again the Google Random Number Generator was used to select the winner for this giveaway.

The winner for this month's giveaway is: Ric Bis (@bis_ric) Skyward Flight Media would like to thank everyone that participated and helped spread the word to others to participate! The winner will be contacted soon to begin discussing their prize. Flight Sim Expo 2023 All Expenses Paid Trip Giveaway Flight Simulation Association (FSA) is giving away an all-expenses paid trip to FlightSimExpo 2023! The prize package includes flights to Houston from anywhere in Canada or the Lower 48 U.S. states, hotel accommodation, conference registration, and on-site expenses. This giveaway ends at 11:59pm CT (UTC-5) on November 13th, 2022. Follow this link to enter and read the page for all information: flightsimassociation.com/trip. Although FSA membership is not required participate, creating a free account increases your chances of winning! FSA members will also have the first chance to register for FlightSimExpo —at the best prices—when tickets go on sale in December 2022. Skyward FSE 2023 Discount Code For those that are not lucky enough to win this generous giveaway, we'd like to remind you that Skyward Flight Media does have a discount code for purchasing tickets to the event. Read more about the code and our media partnership for Flight Sim Expo 2023 here.

The Extreme Versatility of the DCS: OV-10A Bronco

The Extreme Versatility of the DCS: OV-10A Bronco

For you, what is the most important quality in a combat aircraft for DCS World? Is it the speed? Is it the maneuverability? Or is it the multirole capabilities? I'll tell you that, for me, it is a matter of multirole capabilities. Surprisingly, I have found that the OV-10A is a much more versatile aircraft than I initially thought. It is a multirole beast. I have used it for situations I never expected it to be effective at. Anything from CAS, which is more conventional, to convoy interception and even interception. Basically: as long as you are fine with the fact that you fly relatively slow, you will be able to perform that task within your limitations as a prop.

Over the past few days we have tested these abilities in our DCS server with some friends. These adventures have lead us to use the Bronco in all the roles previously stated, including one that we added due to its necessity for the mission we are playing: Foothold Syria. We added the ability of carrying cargo to the Bronco. This means that, aside from being able to liberate low-priority areas on its own with the arsenal of rockets, bombs and rockets; it is able to capture them by using its excellent rough terrain STOL capabilities. So instead of relying on helicopters to capture some of the smaller sites, we can just send one of our friends to capture it with a Bronco. It is faster than any helicopter in the game, we can reliably capture every zone after neutralizing them. And talking about the helicopters, we also used the Bronco as an interceptor against them. To put this in perspective: whenever you liberate a base in Foothold, both factions launch AI helicopters to capture them. If you intercept them, they will not capture anything. If our CAP flights are occupied, we have sent Broncos to intercept them! It works perfectly. We have been pushing the Bronco to its limits and I am happy to report that it holds up extremely well. It is a beast and I would highly recommend including it in your missions. Although if you read my review on this very special mod, you would already know this! About the author: 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 the co-founder of Skyward ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034

TALD: Enhancing DCS World Coordinated Strikes

TALD: Enhancing DCS World Coordinated Strikes

Updated: October 18th, 2022 / Originally published: April 22nd, 2022 Digital Combat Simulator World has an often forgotten munition amid its glide bombs, anti-radiation missiles, jammer pods, and cruise missiles. An unguided, subsonic, non-lethal glide vehicle that can enhance the effectiveness and survivability of missions requiring aircraft to challenge formidable air defenses directly. The ADM-141A Tactical Air Launched Decoy (TALD) is purpose-built to deceive radars and surface-to-air missiles, but it's hardly ever seen in DCS World's multiplayer environment. There are valid reasons for it being so uncommon, but I feel the TALD offers so much when used correctly. Consider this an article advocating for increased use of this munition. The Role of the TALD The ADM-141A TALD is a reliable addition to the suppression and destruction of enemy air defenses (SEAD/DEAD) missions and anti-ship attacks against warships. As a decoy, it deceives hostile air defenses and tricks them into activating their radars by appearing as incoming aircraft. With the hostile radars operational, allied aircraft are alerted to their presence. Allies can then begin targeting or defending against the radars guiding anti-aircraft defenses. Ideally, the TALDs will also draw hostile surface-to-air missiles (SAM) to themselves while allied aircraft carry out their attacks. Example of Use One of my most memorable sorties in DCS World was part of an online multiplayer Liberation campaign with High Beat Industries, led by Triplication (virtual aviator, video content creator). As the primary flight of High Beat pilots conducted their close air support and counter-air missions at the front lines in the east, I flew escort for a carrier-borne SEAD mission launching in the west. As a part of that escort, I deployed TALDs during the mission's final phase. Upon nearing the firing range of an opposing S-300 (SA-10), multiple missiles were launched at the TALDs, which were positioned in front of a wall of AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missiles. The air-launched decoys helped oversaturate the air defense's ability to defend against the incoming HARMs. Some of the decoys were destroyed, and some HARMs were intercepted, but the remaining missiles effectively disabled the fearsome SAM site by destroying its distracted radar emitters. This summarizes the practical usefulness of the ADM-141A even in a high-threat environment. It is not an electronic countermeasure that can blind fire control radar, nor can it guarantee that every weapon launched will reach its target. But when used correctly, they can significantly increase the chances of a successful coordinated strike against air defenses that can defend themselves while counterattacking. Performance Restrictions While there were many real-world variants of the ADM-141 with capabilities like countermeasures, navigation systems, and their own propulsion, DCS World offers the basic unguided, gliding version: the ADM-141A. As you may have guessed immediately, with no engine of its own, the decoy relies heavily on the speed, altitude, and direction of the aircraft carrying it. As a general rule of thumb, releasing a TALD at a high altitude and high speed enables it to travel even farther. Though launch parameters may need to change depending on the detection and engagement ranges of the air defense system, they are up against. If the known target is a short-range missile system with a low altitude ceiling, launching the TALD higher than the threat can detect the decoy will have no effect. Once the launch aircraft lines up at the intended speed, bearing, and altitude, the TALD is released. The decoy continues traveling on the bearing it was released on with no further inputs from human-crewed aircraft, gradually losing altitude and speed as it glides. These are not restrictions but occasional notable bugs. TALDs can sometimes physically pass through terrain once they reach low altitudes. They sometimes continue flying thousands of feet below the earth. This is a behavior I've witnessed semi-frequently on various DCS World maps. Also, the wings of the TALDs occasionally do not animate, making it look like the wings do not swing outward, but this does not affect their flight profile in any way. F-14 Tomcat: Difficult Loadout Decisions The Heatblur Simulations F-14 Tomcat is one of the most well-done aircraft available in the simulator. This iconic swing-wing symbol of American naval fighter superiority is best known for documentaries extolling its long-range missile engagement abilities and one of the most memorable Hollywood military aviation movies ever. The praise for the Tomcat is further punctuated by the B model's better engines and solid air-to-ground capabilities compared to the A model. The Tomcat's sheer aircraft performance makes it an effective TALD platform. The F-14 can quickly accelerate past Mach 1 and zoom climb up to high altitudes, giving the decoys ideal launch parameters. However, this comes at the cost of the Tomcat giving up weapon stations that can mount laser-guided bombs or its famous AIM-54 Phoenix missile. That's a difficult choice. Do note that a lone Tomcat can provide itself with coverage. ADM-141s could distract air defenses while the F-14 attempts a low-altitude attack to strike the distracted SAM site. Using the aircraft's raw speed to get within the minimum launch range of a SAM, the Tomcat would then attack with bombs, rockets, or its cannon at close range. That's a daring way to live, but it is possible! F/A-18C Hornet: Ideal TALD Platform Until June 2022, the F-14 Tomcat was the only aircraft in DCS World that could deploy TALDs, albeit with a severe sacrifice of its attack capability. Even though it took many years for the once-teased TALDs to be added to the Eagle Dynamics F/A-18C Hornet, this already capable DEAD/SEAD platform is further elevated with these decoys. The Hornet flies plenty fast enough to deploy TALDs effectively and achieve their maximum performance with the benefit of being able to carry many of them while attacking still from safer distances. The F/A-18C can carry one to twelve TALDs. An example of an ideal loadout includes two to six TALDs split between two weapon stations, with the other two stations equipped with anti-radiation missiles or standoff glide bombs. Launching the decoys while inter-mixing weapons can be accomplished by a single aircraft. Going full "TALD Truck," carrying the maximum amount of ADM-141s and no standoff weaponry, is reserved for special occasions like supporting multi-aircraft attacks on IADS or fleets. The Hornet's mid-4th generation fighter sensors and systems benefit TALD deployment greatly. With an expanded electronic warfare display, known SAM engagement ranges shown on the situational awareness display, and radar warning receiver cues projected on the helmet-mounted display, TALDs remain effective even against unexpected pop-up threats. Reliance on Allies and Coordination The ADM-141A TALD is designed to enable the success of other aircraft. Coordination is needed. The decoys arriving too late make them ineffective in providing cover. Having them arrive too early gives the defenders more time to destroy or identify the TALDs and then refocus on the actual attack. More complex attacks will need to factor in aircraft spacing, altitudes, speeds, TALD glide speed, the speed of incoming allied weapons, staggering launches, the direction of launches, and so many other factors; there's a reason real-world mission planning takes dedicated teams days of planning. The reward for pre-mission planning and good communication is a higher mission success rate while increasing the survivability of allies, even against the most formidable intergraded air defenses. But again, if you're flying solo or with little to no communication with others in multiplayer, the chances of getting everything to line up correctly are low. In any combat-oriented flight title, non-offensive munitions and gadgets are underused or go without praise. Some of them are understandably overlooked. You won't see me singing praises about travel pods, ACMI pods, and spotting flare dispensers any time soon, but something like the ADM-141A TALD deserves a closer look. Start your research! About the Author 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.