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Review: DCS AV-8B N/A Harrier II by Razbam Simulations

Review: DCS AV-8B N/A Harrier II by Razbam Simulations

Initially released into early access in late 2017, the Harrier II is one of the most interesting modules currently available in Digital Combat Simulator World. Mainly thanks to its unique design, advanced systems and special flight characteristics. In this review we will be taking a look into several different parts of the module and evaluating if this powerful, chubby bird is a fit for you. These points will be divided into several sections: External and internal 3D models Visual and sound effects Flight modelling Mission capability Armament Ease of use and learning curve Companion AI assets Is this aircraft for you? This review was initially released on the 1th of August, 2020. At that time the module was still in its early-access (EA) period. I have modified and updated this review as of July 1st, 2022 to better reflect the current state of this module. EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL 3D MODELS RAZBAM has done quite a good job modeling the Harrier to near perfection, both externally and internally. This is something not uncommon with this third party developer as they have shown similar levels of quality on their other modules.

The external model is excellent. From the nose-mounted camera to the beacon lights. The animation of the nozzles is pretty good and the stairs that deploys when the canopy is open give the Harrier a very believable feel to it. Let's hope that they keep similar or better attention to detail on their upcoming modules. ADDEMDUM (7/1/2022): In terms of textures, this model could benefit from a slight rework to its Normal maps, which are the ones that create fake depth in a model. As of version 2.7.15.26783, these seem to have strange artifacts around the rivets and panel lines, which gives the model an eerie look when viewed from certain angles. Examples of this effect can be seen above, pay attention to the artifacting that occurs around the rivets and panels. ATTENTION TO DETAIL One detail that I found pretty amusing is the wind vane that sits right in front of the canopy. This vane's illumination is controlled not by the external lights panel but from the cockpit lights panel. It is one of those details that would normally be overlooked but seeing it work correctly gave me a pleasant surprise. The cockpit is a faithful recreation. It has a weathered-out look which makes it feel lived-in like many operational birds out there, even the screens have fingerprints on them! The internal lighting is marvelous, in part due to the way that the roughmets and normals were handled,
making the way that they reflect the light from the flood lights very believable. Overall, this has got to be one of my favorite cockpits currently available in the sim, both from a design and modeling standpoint. The VR pilot is very well modeled as well! VISUAL AND SOUND EFFECTS Visually, this aircraft has some pretty good looking effects such as over wing vapor while at high Angle of attack (AoA). This, alongside the abundant smoke produced while in VTOL or even during cruise flight, gives the Harrier a nice immersion factor. Next is the sound. This is one area which RAZBAM had to nail perfectly. The Harrier has such a unique sounding engine that getting this part wrong would be a detriment to the module as a whole. I am happy to inform that the sounds are brilliantly done and implemented like they should be. From start-up to shutdown, you feel the engine alive behind you, roaring with the identifiable high pitch tone of the Pegasus!

This aircraft has got to have one of the loudest engines in-game, which makes it a joy to listen during a fly-by if you are wearing headphones. It is also one of the most identifiable sounds from the ground, even from miles away, thanks to the very high pitch frequencies of the Pegasus engine as it spools up and down. That and the smoke plume which can be seen from even more far away. EXAMPLES: Engine while on the ground: (Idle-->Full Power-->Idle) Engine while in-flight: (Idle-->Full Power-->Idle) Fly-by at 510 knots, full power: (Volume warning) FLIGHT MODELING If I am completely honest, this is the hardest category to comment on when it comes to the Harrier. Seeing as it is the only VTOL jet in the simulator, there isn't a direct comparison to be made with any other module as of the writing of this review. I do not have any experience with VTOL aircraft in real life either, so my opinion here only reflects what my instinct and experience with other aircraft have taught me about practical aerodynamics and flight modeling from an end-user standpoint. It feels "right enough" as there are some things that do feel a bit off, such as the lack of a more pronounced buffeting effect while entering a stall. In other words, sometimes it feels like there isn't enough feedback being given to the player in either high AoA or stall scenarios. Just a tiny bit more would do the trick.

Don't get me wrong, this module is a joy to fly in almost every circumstance. If I were to describe flying it, I'd say it is a mix between the Viggen and the Warthog. In a quote from one of my inspirations, Laobi, on his first impressions of the module back when it first launched: "It neither crawls around like the A-10 nor does it split spacetime like the Viggen". That being said, having the possibility to do VIFFING in DCS is amazing and I wouldn't take it over anything else. Even with its flaws, it is still one of the most enjoyable aircraft to fly in DCS right now. It is very hard to stall it if you pay attention to what you are doing and its flight computer does not feel as restrictive as it does on other aircraft. There is noticeable compressibility and flutter at high speed, effects that are more noticeable as your loadout weight and drag increases. The Harrier will let you know if you are pushing it a bit too hard. Those effects, alongside its unique flight characteristics make it very fun to fly and learn. Just do not expect to beat Flankers and Fulcrums on BFM scenarios pretty often, that is just not your forté with this aircraft. MISSION CAPABILITY This bird can do almost everything you could want, all with the exception of beyond visual range (BVR) air combat, prolonged dogfights or anti-ship. The Harrier is a ground pounder through and through. It has a pretty considerable loadout option and pretty acceptable range with the help of air to air refueling (AAR). It is also a bird of the night, as this version has been specifically designed with night operations in mind. INTEGRATED SENSORS These include the integrated TV Camera and the FLIR sensor at the nose, two systems that give you excellent attack and navigation capabilities in adverse situations. They also allow you to opt-out of carrying the LANTIRN pod and replace it for the ECM pod for self defense when the situation merits it, such as when there are multiple SAM installations in the area. When it comes to mission types it can do plenty: Low-level attacks, Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD), Anti-Ship, Close Air Support (CAS), and many more. Being able to perform multiple of these in one sortie, though possible, is not recommended if there are not any support aircraft to perform AAR. ARMAMENT GAU-25 EQUALIZER 25mm CANNON (POD) This cannon, even with its limited 300 round drum, has the potential to annihilate every single lightly armored vehicle and even some medium armored ones with ease. The ammunition should last for at least 10 seconds of sustained fire which would give you plenty of chance to get rounds on target, be it an aircraft or a very sneaky APC. This pod is one that I recommend in every loadout as you do not know when you will need it AIM-9 SIDEWINDER Your only true air-air missile. This will be your self-defense weapon during most if not all strike missions so you will have to learn to love it and its little quirks. Who knows, you could also learn how to dogfight the big air superiority aircraft and one of these could bag you a kill! You have access to: The AIM-9M (All-aspect seeker) The CAP-9M (Training variant, not for combat operations) UNGUIDED BOMBS For almost any occasion, these unguided packets of death will serve you well as you can equip 3x Racks for a total of a lot of bombs. The best part is that you have sizes and flavors to chose from. Small diameter, cluster munitions, high and low drag. The Harrier sure treats you well with these:

You have access to: Most of the Mark 80 series: Mk.81, Mk.82 and Mk.83 (Low and High Drag configurations) Mk.20 Rockeyes (Cluster Munition) GUIDED BOMBS When it comes to precision bombing there are also some options for you. Thanks to both your DMT and the LITENING II pod, self-lased bombing is something you will do very often once you learn the system. Same goes for GPS guided munitions. You have access to: GBU-12 and GBU-16 (laser guided munitions) GBU-38 (GPS guided munitions JDAM) GBU-54 (Laser seeker-equipped JDAM with GPS functionality as well) Both the GBU-12 and GBU-38 have the option to be mounted on 3x Racks for a total of at least 6 bombs per sortie, with a theoretical maximum of 12 bombs. That's a lot of bombs, but I would not recommend a full bomb loadout unless you are crazy. AGM-122 ANTI-RADIATION MISSILE It might be just a modified AIM-9C but this little missile is more useful than one might initially think. It opens all SEAD missions for you, giving you the capability to directly attack enemy SAM installations from longer distances than you would otherwise. I quickly fell in love with this compact stick of death and I hope you will too. AGM-65 MAVERICK (LASER AND IR) Anti-Ship, CAS, Anti-Armor. This missile does them all. Both the IR (AGM-65G) and Laser guided variants (AGM-65E) are included, giving you the possibility to attack targets in any situation at any time. You can self-lase or call one of your buddies to lase for you.
It is safe to say that this missile is one of if not the best weapon available for the Harrier just due to its versatility. ROCKETS When you want to obliterate an area in the most flashy way possible, this is the way to go.
Your effectiveness will depend greatly on what pod you equip and the type of warhead that you go with, but be sure that all of them will end up in a satisfying explosion.

You have available: LAU-10 (4 ZUNI rockets) LAU-68 (x7 2'75 inch rockets with either HE, HEAT or WP warheads) NEW: LAU-131 APKWS (x7 Laser Guided 2'75 inch rockets) The LAU-68 pod can be equipped in the internal pylons, giving you a maximum loadout of 28 2'75 inch rockets. COUNTERMEASURES: You will inevitably be attacked by either a MANPAD, a SAM installation or another aircraft. This is why you carry a lot of both chaff and flares (120 flares and 60 chaff in a standard loadout). These, alongside the optional ECM pod, will give you a small advantage by making it a little harder for the enemy to lock on you or to evade an incoming missile threat.

Additionally, before anything is fired at you, your trusty radar warning receiver should give you an idea of what threats surround you and what are their intentions. LITENING POD Nothing is better than to know what awaits you in an area of operations long before you get there, a task that the LITENING accomplishes with very little effort. Equipped with both IR and TV imagery, this pod will be your best choice for precision weaponry deployment and recon in all scenarios. Addendum: The Harrier is now equipped by a Gen-4 LITENING II Targeting Pod whereas before it had a Gen-1. This adds some features that were missing before. As far as I am aware, there are still some features that need to be added. I'll be honest, this is a very welcome change as the new one adds much more functionality, changing the way you operate it dramatically. You get used to it with time and I assure you that you will struggle at first if you come from the Hornet or the Viper modules, but it will become second nature in no time. EASE OF USE AND LEARNING CURVE The Harrier has a cockpit layout that is similar to that of the Hornet, in a sense. It is very easy to learn where each panel is, giving even the more inexperienced players a welcoming time. Even with the systems being this well designed, most newcomers might find it a bit challenging if they skip on a critical part of the module: the tutorials. RAZBAM did something that I was not expecting when I first bought this module. They assembled easy to follow tutorials that are even separated in smaller, mini-tutorials for those times in which you need a little refreshing on a specific weapon system or sensor. This was the cherry on top for me as these tutorials made my transition from the other modules I have to the Harrier a walk in the park. These tutorials are all voiced, have good scripting and provide players of any level the help they need to get themselves immersed into this aircraft's systems. There are even some easter eggs at the end of some tutorials which made me giggle. This is something that no other developer has done, as far as my knowledge goes. With all that being said, I do think this is an aircraft that one should buy if you already have experience with another high-fidelity module. COMPANION AI ASSETS AND CAMPAIGN Alongside the Harrier, RAZBAM also launched two other "companion" AI assets to give a better home for the Harrier inside of the DCS ecosystem. These being its two homes, the U.S Navy LHS Tarawa and the HMS Invincible, with the addition of the KC-130, an air refueling version of the C-130 Hercules that is typically operated by the U.S Marine Corp as a support aircraft. These two assets are available to use for any DCS user as these were contributions to the larger DCS database. The first of these two, the Tarawa-class Amphibious Assault Ship, is the one that gave the Harrier a home at sea. Being able to take off and land from this massive ship is simply fantastic. It has a very detailed 3D model and ATC integration, as expected. The second AI asset, the KC-130, is one that is useful to every player in DCS even if they don't use the Harrier. It is a slower tanker that fares better with a larger assortment of aircraft when compared to the KC-135 MPRS, which tends to fly comfortably at a faster speed. The refueling position is much more comfortable than the one present on the Stratotanker, being more centered and with more accessible visual cues to help you keep position. Additionally, a campaign prologue has been added to the Harrier module. Made by Baltic Dragon, it is a very fun introduction to the Harrier as a whole as it showcases several operational scenarios. It has a basic story-line that follows a Harrier Squadron that has been deployed to the Black Sea to do joint exercises with the allied countries in the region. The chemistry between the characters and dialogue of the campaign are very typical of Baltic's mission structure and style, but that's a good thing. This campaign is one of the best additions that the module has seen so far, so if you have/plan on getting the Harrier, please do give it a try. I assure you that you'll have a good time and learn something about the Harrier in the meantime! IS THIS AIRCRAFT FOR YOU? If what you want in a module is: A good learning experience full of tricky challenges along the way. A quirky flight model that is forgiving yet difficult to master. To be able to fill the attacker role with a chunky aircraft. To take off like a helicopter and fly like a fighter. A fun campaign that will help you hone-in your skills. If you don't mind: The relatively steeper learning curve that comes with VTOL. The quirks of vertical landing operations or rather, enjoy them. Playing through long tutorials to get accustomed to the quirks. Not being able to launch AMRAAMs from 50 miles away. If all or some of the above is what you want, then RAZBAM's AV-8B Harrier II N/A is for you. To download the skin I created for this review, click HERE 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, writer and content manager ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034

GroundFall: June 2022 Bush Flight Survival Testing

GroundFall: June 2022 Bush Flight Survival Testing

"The best way to test survival game mechanics is to put yourself into a desperate situation." I told myself this after three days of trekking through the forest and foothills—the result of my misjudgment of aircraft fuel quantity and the distance back to my main airfield. I executed an emergency landing in a grass field at dusk. Exiting the aircraft, I saw that the wing was damaged during the chaos. With no tools onboard, I hiked back to my home airfield with only the items on my person and from the storage hold of the aircraft. I didn't have enough energy bars and water bottles to make the long walk back, so how would I survive? I previously discussed Groundfall, an in development open world bush flight simulator, back in April 2021. At the time, Snowcreature, the developer of this title, focused much of their effort on getting online multiplayer working. They were still hammering out how they would re-incorporate survival elements from a previous test build of the game. In late June 2022, singleplayer has been reintroduced, and many survival elements are back in play. It's safe to say that GroundFall has reached a new level of testing. For testing purposes, participants immediately have access to various weapons, a limited initial supply of resources, home airfield, a cabin, and an aircraft. This title has much more development to be done before it is ready for the public. Nothing in this article should be taken as a "final build" representation, but let's discuss what is currently being tested. Survival Equipment and Game Mechanics "Roughing it" is a part of the collective mental image of bush flight. Moving the aircraft into places inaccessible to most aircraft while maintaining a stable food supply and general state of safety even in the most remote areas. Players have to manage their physical fatigue, food, water, and stamina. It's even possible to get an infection from a severe injury. Attempting to explore and build 24 hours a day with minimal rest will also result in eventual death by fatigue. Learning how to pace one's goals while making time to rest properly is the safest way to survive. My most successful testing sessions frequently start by stocking up on supplies and hardware before even attempting to fly anywhere. A few overland treks by foot to nearby cabins before even taking off could also lead to finding rare items like aircraft fuel, repair tools, or other gadgets. Tools and weapons include bows, arrows, knives, spears, axes, and lever-action hunting rifles. All of these have limitations such as wear and tear that eventually causes them to break, throwing them and losing track of them, or in the case of the rifle, how much ammunition is available. Intelligent choices need to be made. You won't be walking around with hundreds of rounds of ammo or arrows on your person, so using precious rifle ammunition on an unsuspecting rabbit may not be as valuable as using it to fight off bears. Foraging for berries is a decent way to keep the player's food and water levels up, but hunting prey like deer offers considerably more food in one go. So far, GroundFall has handled hunting in a very straightforward manner. Each animal provides a certain amount of meat, leather, etc. There are no animations for skinning fur or removing organs, so it's all pretty clean for now. Crafting and Constructing The inclusion of a crafting and survival booklet was a very positive move from the developer. This booklet contains tutorials, crafting recipes for various structures, and workspaces to repair equipment and build more advanced equipment. Even creating new buildings is being tested. Both pre-made designs and custom designs are available. After setting placeholders for walls, porches, windows, stairs, and doors, the structures show how much wood, stone, or other materials are required. With players also able to make new runways, constructing a rather elaborate home airfield is a desirable long-term goal. I had never considered wanting a custom airfield until Ground Fall presented the possibility. I'll find a way to make a complete two-runway airport at this rate! Reaffirming the Value of the Aircraft The flight model GroundFall uses hasn't changed much since the last article I wrote, so I recommend reading that if you have not. But on the subject of survival gameplay, nothing emphasizes the importance of having an aircraft more than losing access to it. A light aircraft's utility becomes more apparent when you are thousands of meters away from the home airfield with no quick ride out of potentially deadly situations. The extra storage and speed of travel aircraft provide are vital—even quick trips just over the next few hills or scouting areas of interest. A flat patch of dirt near a cluster of hard-to-reach cabins or a herd of deer could be the beginning of a profitable expedition. But the fragility of light aircraft is also very apparent. Taking time to orbit the potential landing area and visually inspect it will save players a lot of headaches. The presence of wildlife, boulders, and trees on or near the runway can result in catastrophic damage to the aircraft. Attempting to land from the wrong direction without accounting for the height of trees, hills, or mountains could also lead to a one-time landing gone wrong. Give yourself enough room to go around and try again. Admittedly, at this testing phase, flying long distances is risky because of the inability to carry repair tools or extra fuel within the aircraft. You're at the mercy of RNG to hope you'll find more fuel somewhere along the way at another airfield or in a cabin. Running out of fuel, taking considerate structural damage or outright flipping the aircraft upside down is a death sentence for the aircraft. Feedback from testers will continue to be provided to the developer, but I know I'll be arguing the case for even a one-time use "minor tool kit" to be carried on board the aircraft to at least repair minor or moderate damage. Perhaps an "emergency gas tank" as well. It's great that GroundFall has reached a new phase of testing for its core gameplay elements. There are bound to be many more additions and improvements along the way as the developer continues to bounce ideas off of their testing group. Other features from a previous build are still being reintroduced, including radio for communications and receiving in-game objectives. I look forward to seeing the next level of development in this up-and-coming bush flight simulator. About the Writer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. A lifelong aviation enthusiast with a special interest in flight simulators and games. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating aviation related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He continues to explore past and present flight games and sims with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. | Twitter | Discord: RibbonBlue#8870 |

Novalogic F-16 & MiG-29 - A Tale of Red and Blue

Novalogic F-16 & MiG-29 - A Tale of Red and Blue

Before the rise of the first-person shooter and the JRPG, flight games were king in the realm of combat games. The 90’s in particular were a golden era for the flight sim, and many names became synonymous with flight and combat simulation games, to name a few: Jane’s Combat Simulations, Microprose - and Novalogic. Perhaps best known for their foray into first-person shooters with the Delta Force series, the company was also responsible for such franchises as the Comanche (Recently revived by THQ Nordic) and the F-22 series, as well as two very similar games which, despite not technically being part of a series, can’t really be discussed separately from each other: Novalogic’s F-16 Multirole Fighter and Novalogic’s MiG-29 Fulcrum. Now, I’ll be the first to admit it’s hard for me to be impartial when talking about these two games, as I have a certain level of attachment to them. Apart from the nostalgia factor, Novalogic’s F-16 was not only my introduction to flight games, but also one of the first games I’ve ever had any contact with. One of my earliest memories is being a little kid and seeing one of my older cousins flying the blue-tinted F-16 on a computer screen, and at that moment I knew I had to try it out. I was already fascinated with aviation back then, so it would be untrue to say this game was what gave me that interest - a credit probably best given to the Ipanema cropdusters flying over the rural outskirts of Brazil - but it certainly helped fuel this interest in aviation and turn it into a lifelong passion which would ultimately guide the path I chose to take in life. It also introduced me to the F-16 and MiG-29, two aircraft which to this day rank among my very favorites and which I personally consider to be some of the most beautiful machines to ever take to the skies. As such, this article is not a game review - rather, take it for what it is, an opinion article on a retro game. OVERVIEW Before we go deeper into this pair of games and why would someone write an article about them, let’s have a brief general overview for context. As far as flight simulators go, Novalogic’s F-16 and MiG-29 sit in a bit of a weird spot. Launched concurrently in 1998, it’s hard to call them groundbreaking even for their time, considering Falcon 3.0 launched in 1991 and Microprose’s Falcon 4.0, a game which maintains a devout following to this day, launched just two months after the duo. They are definitely not study simulators like Falcon - even game reviews of the time recommended harcdore sim fans to look elsewhere - but they are also very distinct from arcade flight games such as Ace Combat. Despite being referred to as “flight simulators” back in their day, Novalogic’s games fill an in-between spot which today we’d call a sim-lite - sacrificing realism for simplicity and ease of learning but still complex enough to give the player a taste of the aircraft’s capabilities and a good grasp of the basics. Aircraft systems such as radar and targeting pods are there, but their functionality is very simplified - for instance, the radar can always detect all targets in its field of view, and shows them all on the HUD even if the targets aren’t locked. A “shootlist” lets you cycle through all targets visible either by your radar or AWACS datalink without ever having to worry about accidentally locking a friendly. The flight model, too, is highly simplified - this is a game that is perfectly playable on keyboard alone, though dogfighting with only a keyboard is not something I would recommend. Nevertheless, the game does attempt to deliver an authentic-feeling flying experience and the player is still bound by limitations not present in arcade titles, such as blackouts and redouts, as well as weapon characteristics (even if not necessarily represented accurately) and quantity. You can select an option which allows you to fire twice as many munitions as your plane is actually carrying, but that’s the most leeway you will get in that regard. Ground targets are shown as boxes on the HUD when an air-to-ground weapon is selected - not a realistic implementation, but it makes finding targets much easier The games feature quick missions (including training missions) and several campaigns - though strangely, it is not possible to select which campaign to play. Instead, one must play through them in order, which can be very annoying if you’re yearning to play one specific campaign again. The quick missions can become repetitive after a while, but both games come with a mission editor software which players can use to create their own mission files. It is surprisingly complete in terms of functionalities, though not exactly intuitive or easy to use. The mission editor’s interface Also featured is a multiplayer mode, where players could fight each other through LAN, modem connection by telephone number, or Novalogic’s proprietary online matchmaking system, Novaworld. In fact, F-16 players could fight MiG-29 players in the same servers - because really, they’re two versions of a single game. RED AND BLUE F-16 Multirole Fighter and MiG-29 Fulcrum are, at their core, essentially the same game. Both games use the same engine, have identical gameplay mechanics and nearly identical control setups (with differences in some specific aspects of each aircraft, such as the MiG-29’s IRST, the F-16’s LANTIRN pod controls, and the F-16 having a pickle button while the MiG-29 uses the trigger both for guns and weapon release), and share the same assets. But the differences go beyond which aircraft you’re flying - in that sense, they somewhat resemble the early Pokémon games somewhat, where there will be two versions with a few minor changes and a different color palette. Apart from obviously having to work with the different capabilities of each aircraft, the player is hit with a completely different ambience from the very moment they start the game up. The F-16 and the MiG-29 are not just fighter aircraft, they’re icons of the Cold War. They are similar in many ways - two lightweight fighters designed to supplement larger, more expensive types over the battlefields of Europe. They are both ubiquitous, serving with dozens of air forces across the globe - if the FN FAL was the “right arm of the free world”, F-16s are its wings; And even though the MiG-29 is not as widespread as the MiG-21, it nevertheless equipped the air forces of virtually every Warsaw Pact country. They codify the alliances they were designed to fight for. In short, they’re opposite sides of the same coin - and Novalogic lets you feel it whenever you flip that coin around. Apart from the obvious color coding, the main menu’s layout is mirrored between the two games - while in F-16 Multirole Fighter the player must look left - to the “west” - for the menu items, in MiG-29 Fulcrum one must look right - to the “east”. It’s a subtle detail, but it helps set the ambience, the feeling of being in a different environment. Going further into the menus, things like the mission briefings and loadout menu have different design languages, reminiscent of the instrument panels of the two aircraft. While the F-16’s menus are made to look more digital and computer-like, the MiG-29’s menus are touched up to have some analog elements to them, and metal panels and screws adorn the screen. Briefing and loadout selection screens. Note how the F-16 can somehow carry a double rail for AMRAAMs on stations 3 and 7 While hopping into the F-16’s training missions will land you in a semi-arid environment not unlike what you’d find somewhere like Nevada, the MiG-29’s training missions send you straight to a cold, snowy and mountainous environment based on the Kamchatka Peninsula. Novalogic’s MiG-29 has another neat trick up its sleeve - the tower, GCI, your wingman and other aircraft all have voice lines in Russian. The player may choose to switch them to English in the options, but it certainly adds that little bit of extra immersion. The first thing the player sees upon firing up the training missions. The ambience is noticeably different - note the contrast between the warm and cool color palettes I remember firing up MiG-29 Fulcrum for the first time and being almost shocked by the vivid red background of the menu. I was already used to F-16 Multirole Fighter at that point, and as a kid, you’re taught that blue means good guys and red means bad guys, so it was a surprise at first - but after flying the first mission, I fell in love with the plane. I still preferred flying the F-16, with its two multifunctional displays and much greater weapons load - but being red wasn’t so bad after all. I came to appreciate both aircraft and their different design philosophies. FEATURES AND GAMEPLAY One of the strong points of the games were their graphics - though obviously unflattering by today’s standards, in 1998 they received praise for their good looks, especially if the user had a 3D accelerator card. While I’m not sure whether the AI aircraft looked that good even for the time, the player’s aircraft certainly look beautiful in both games. The visual effects arena is less impressive, particularly the explosions, but contrail effects on the wingtips and LERX fit in well with the models. Some of the enemy AI aircraft - F-7 Airguard, F-4 Phantom, F-5E Tiger II, JAS-39 Gripen The stars of the show. The textures are quite detailed for the time. The cockpits look a bit flat, but they are three-dimensional and the player can look around, though the controls for that are a bit slow. The player will look around mostly through hat snap views and using padlock to keep visual on a close-range enemy. The cockpits are a bit simplified, but the main instruments work - most notably, the F-16’s two MFDs have clickable buttons which can be used to cycle through their pages. Standard cockpit views. One part where the game lets down is the HUD - while in the F-16 it looks like a simplified F-16 HUD, which is all well and good, in the MiG-29 it looks like they took the HUD they had made for the F-16 and “made it Russian” - that is, the aircraft symbol rolls to indicate bank instead of the pitch ladder. But the biggest issue in both games is that the HUD is not aligned with the external world in the default cockpit view. This makes it necessary to switch to HUD view for any sort of weapons employment, which can be troublesome in dogfights. Attempting to gun a Flanker. Notice how the target box is displaced from the target in this view. When zoomed into the HUD view, symbology is properly aligned. The F-16’s HUD has another trick up its sleeve - the ability to project the LANTIRN FLIR image for night navigation and attack. Though the flight models aren’t the most accurate out there, the aircraft do perform in general terms how you’d expect them to - the Viper likes being high and fast, and there’s no enemy unit out there which will out-rate you in a turn (though it feels like it retains energy too well); and the Fulcrum prefers being at medium altitude, using its high AoA authority to get missile solutions on targets at close range. The MiG-29’s flight model is capable of performing hammerheads and even Pugachev’s Cobra - a maneuver which the game’s manual acknowledges has little to no combat value, but encourages the player to try practicing anyways simply for fun. MiG-29 performing the Cobra maneuver. Enemy AI is not smart - there frankly isn’t much of a challenge if you are carrying similar weapons in a 1v1 fight. However, missiles are scary, much scarier than in DCS, for instance: though their guidance algorithm is very poor (seems to be pure pursuit), they seem to behave as if the rocket motor never runs out of fuel. Furthermore, enemy planes almost always launch within the no-escape zone - so while it’s easy to plink them with AMRAAMs or R-77s from afar before they launch, if you do get launched on, you better hope there’s some terrain to mask behind, as your countermeasures are mere suggestions. The usual outcome of having more than one missile launched against you. Of course, the best defense is to not get launched on at all, or even better, avoid detection entirely. The game does encourage the player to control their own radar emissions. Keeping your radar off will allow you to sneak behind enemy aircraft undetected and close in for a Sidewinder or R-73 shot. The MiG-29’s IRST comes in very handy here. Damage modelling is nearly non-existent for enemy aircraft, which instantly explode when hit by any missile and smoke if hit by a few gun rounds - but it is surprisingly complex for the player’s aircraft, which may suffer damage to individual subsystems, which affect the aircraft’s behavior accordingly. You might lose an engine, have a punctured fuel tank, lose radar or fire control systems, the list goes on. Close range combat usually ends with the enemy aircraft being vaporized in a large pixelated explosion. After a mission is completed, a summary displaying how many aircraft were lost on both sides, how many aircraft were shot down by the player, and weapon accuracy statistics. It’s not the best debriefing out there, but it is very concise. Mission summary. The player can also edit waypoints before a mission, through a map which displays the current programmed route and known threats. It’s a pretty neat feature which allows for a certain degree of extra planning. The player can change the location of waypoints and look at known threats before flying the mission. CAMPAIGNS The campaigns aren’t much to write home about, following loose storylines told only on the briefings. The enemy is usually (but not always) some fictional organization which is attempting to stage a coup somewhere, or has succeeded in staging a coup and is invading its neighbors. There isn’t really a plot to speak of, and the story serves merely as a conduit to the gameplay. That being said, the campaigns do have some interesting features: the most important one being that the player actually has to keep logistics in mind. During each campaign, the player’s squadron will start with a certain quantity of weapons, from drop tanks to missiles. These supplies are depleted as you use these weapons, and this is where the challenge comes in. Because frankly, nearly all of the missions are quite easy if you fully load up your jet with AMRAAMs and use them to obliterate everything in your path. But if you do that, there will be a point in later missions where you’ll run out of them and will have to resort to Sidewinders only, and if you’re not careful with those, eventually you’ll find yourself in a situation where you have to defend an airbase against a massive air attack using only your guns (ask me how I know). So the challenge of the campaign is asking yourself: Do you really need those AMRAAMS for this particular mission? Is it really worth it to try and face enemy aircraft head-on or is it better to try and figure out a way around them to the mission objective, saving precious air-to-air missiles? When air-to-air missiles are at a premium, a Q-5 Fantam isn’t a target worth spending an Archer on. Go for guns! Campaign missions are usually pretty standard - fly CAP, provide CAS, intercept bombers, attack a supply convoy, bomb a high-value target. However, every now and then something different pops up. One of the missions in the F-16’s second campaign has the player escort NASA’s Shuttle Carrier, carrying the Discovery Space Shuttle, through contested airspace. In what other game can you escort the Space Shuttle? And, because this game is a window into the 90’s, you can see the hope for a future where the “blue” forces and “red” forces are not necessarily opposed to each other. In several campaigns, US and Russian forces work together, and sometimes you’ll even see the other game’s “protagonists” helping you out - in some missions of the F-16 campaigns, you’ll be helped by MiG-29s from “300 Squadron”, the unit you play as in MiG-29 Fulcrum; and in the MiG-29 campaign, you’ll sometimes be helped by F-16s from “Viper Squadron”, the unit you play as in F-16 Multirole Fighter. The developers’ hopes for a bright future of international cooperation do not seem to extend to France however, seeing as in both games the player will constantly fight modern French-designed aircraft such as the Mirage 2000 and Rafale, in the hands of everything from African paramilitary organizations to Russian ultranationalist groups attempting to stage a coup. In one of the MiG-29 campaign missions, the player’s unit escorts American B-1B bombers to their targets. CONCLUSION MiG-29 Fulcrum and F-16 Multirole Fighter definitely aren’t hardcore simulators, but they do give the player a taste for the unique character of the respective aircraft they feature, and an appreciation for their capabilities. The F-16 with its advanced avionics, multi-function displays and low-bleed, high-rate turns, and the MiG-29 with its mostly analog systems but great maneuvering at high angles of attack. The simplified systems and fast learning curve means that these games probably got many other newcomers such as myself hooked into the world of flight simulation. Playing them once again after all these years made me acutely aware of their flaws, but gave me an even greater appreciation for what they managed to achieve - a flight sim which could be easily picked up by non-flight simmers, even if they happened to be a child playing their first flight game. They are two games I have fond memories of, and will always remember it as what taught me to appreciate all kinds of aircraft, no matter whether they’re blue or red. About the author: Hueman An incurable aviation fanatic since childhood, fascinated by the design and history of practically anything that flies. A long-time fan of flight games, he currently studies aeronautical engineering and pursues his hobbies of drawing, writing and flight simulation on his spare time. Twitter | Discord: Hueman#5123

Flight of Nova: First Impressions

Flight of Nova: First Impressions

There are only a few things in this world that fascinate me more than space. It is a place of greatness filled with emptiness and potential that one day might be exploited by our civilization. It is in one of these futures that Flight of Nova takes place. Flight of Nova is a space sim developed by David Lloyd (Aerovery Lab) in which you play the role of a pilot who operates in what seems to be a distant mining colony world. Let's take a look at this new entry in the space sim genre and what it has to offer for us. YOUR SHIP, A PLANET AND A MISSION Flight of Nova is a space flight simulator in which you, as a spacecraft pilot, have the opportunity to fly a SSTO to and from the orbit while accomplishing missions. This loop is very simple but surprisingly addicting for reasons I will explain in the next section. The planet in question is to scale with 12,700Km in diameter, putting almost 1:1 with Earth. This aspect alone is pretty impressive, even more considering that the game does not have any kind of faster than light travel available for the player to use. This means that travel times will be long, so do not coming expecting an experience similar to ED in this regard. Missions are mostly about transport and search, with more types coming to the game at a later point in development. They are simple but easy to follow. There is a very important distinction between ED and Flight of Nova, a deliberate omission: Flight of Nova does not have a single trace of combat. To be completely fair, what intrigued me when I booted up this game was the prospect of a true space sim-lite that allowed me to fly through space in an uninterrupted way. This omission of combat, to me, is a net possitive. FLIGHT DYNAMICS AND SIMULATION This is, usually, what makes or breaks a space for me. Thankfully, this is where Flight of Nova truly shines, as it is the area in which the developer has spent of their time and it shows. The flight dynamics here are some of the best I have seen in an indie space sim, and have nothing to envy from the AAA titles. Your craft, be it the Freighter or the SSTO, has mass and it feels real. The main thrusters feel like how they should: unstoppable. It is impressive what proper-feeling physics can do for the sensation of flight. Zero-G maneuvering is a challenge and you will need to learn how to manage your moment of inertia in a 3D space in which you have 6 degrees of movement. Docking with a ring is absolutely nerve-racking and one of the experiences that made me appreciate the work that the developer has put into the physics. I found myself making the smallest of movements to correct my own mistakes, activating my reaction control system (RCS) for fractions of a second to control my craft as I approached the ring. The closer you get, the more the tension rises. You look at your HUD, your points of reference, the current status of your alignment. You fight your instincts to over-correct, trying your hardest not to ruin your approach. This feeling, one that some might call "the zone", is what made me fall in love with this game.

Hardly does a game make me map almost every single axes I have available, yet, here we are. I even found myself mapping RCS up and down to my toe brakes for improved control. It can totally be flown with simpler hardware, but; if you have the capability, I highly recommend going for a full set-up with HOTAS/HOSAS and pedals. It is a brilliant approach between true precision space-flight dynamics and forgiveness. A balance rarely seen in more mainstream titles. To be honest, it reminds me of Kerbal Space Program in this sense. A masterpiece of accessibility that will have you wondering at the physical forces involved in these movements. Although, despite being the highlight of this game, there is still one important aspect I have not talked about: atmospheric simulation. This game has a stupendous implementation of a realistic atmosphere, one that will burn you if you attempt entering it at the wrong angle. You will have to plan your approach and point your heatshields towards the entry vector to survive. Here is what happens if you get greedy and decide to enter at the wrong angle: TUTORIALS, STORY, FREE MODE AND CAMPAIGNS At the moment, the game does not have a proper story. One has been hinted and confirmed to be in development by the developer, meaning that we will see it a later point in this game's development cycle. But what it has are tutorial missions and simple campaigns. It is evident that tutorials were a necessity and for the most part they serve both as learning tools and to showcase the different facets of this game's gameplay loop. This is always a net positive for any game, so having them here is great. The current campaign implementation is simple yet gives me more excuses to fly in atmosphere, forcing me to learn how to hover properly with VTOL mode and to learn how each of the two different spacecraft handle flight. That being said, I have spent most of my time in "Free Mode". Free Mode is exactly what it says on the tin. You select a station or base, then, you are let loose. You are free to do whatever you want. It might sound boring, but this game's emphasis on in-depth flight dynamics, both in and out of atmosphere is the real drive of the game. I could go and fly for hours, despite the lack of fuel that both spacecraft suffer from. CONCLUSIONS Flight of Nova is a title with a lot of promise, one where you can see and feel the amount of passion that the developer has poured into it. It has a long road ahead, for sure, but I am fairly certain that this developer will continue to put love and care into this wonderfully-crafted game. Its in-depth realistic mechanics make it feel alive, making you always come back for a short flight every once in a while. I am sure that once more missions and features are implemented, such as interplanetary travel and headtracking, that this game will find its place among stablished and fondly-remembered space sims of old. 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 the co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034

Interview: DCS Saab Sk60B Developer Interview w/ Virtual Team 60

Interview: DCS Saab Sk60B Developer Interview w/ Virtual Team 60

DCS has changed a lot in the past few years, specifically, the way that mods have now become a staple of the simulation's experience. There are very high quality community-made modules out there such as the A-4E, A-29B, T-45C, UH-60L, etc. Recently we noticed that another extremely high quality module was fast-approaching, one developed by members of the Virtual Team 60 : The Saab Sk60B, a Swedish jet trainer/light attack aircraft. Just like last time, we contacted the leader of the Virtual Team 60, Fredrik "Breadmaker", and asked him everything about the Saab Sk.60 project, what the process of developing it has been and a lot about its quirks and features. I personally extend my thanks to Fredrik for allowing us to have this interview with us. This is part two of two of this interview set. Taking on the task of creating a full-fidelity mod for DCS World is quite the undertaking. What led you to start this project? Indeed it is! It actually started out as just a fun idea. We had a (very basic) 3D model of the SK60 and managed to put that over the MB-339 flight model and avionics. At the time it was just for fun, but soon after that the amazing Na1ve_Noob (yes that’s his nickname) contacted me and asked if I wanted help to make it a standalone mod. That was simply an offer I couldn’t refuse and the rest, as they say, is history. Video of very early mod test Who in Team60 is actively developing the module? Are there any other members from other communities collaborating in this project? In Team 60 it’s mainly just me that’s doing the development. My area is the 3D modelling and the texturing as well as “team management”. My co-worker in the dev-team is Na1ve, as mentioned above. He’s doing all the coding and “under the hood” stuff that I don’t understand. Other than that we have some testers and SMEs. The Virtual Team 60 are part of the tester group. We figured that having an aerobatic team to test out the flight characteristics would be a good idea. It turns out we were right. 😊 But we have also got some former Swedish Airforce pilots and engineers who do some testing which helps a great deal. AND, what’s maybe the biggest benefit in terms of testing, fact checking and reference gathering is the fact that we’re collaborating with the Swedish Airforce Flight School. They get to use our mod in their VR training stations and we get feedback and information from them. That’s what I call a win-win situation. How in-depth will the systems be in the Sk.60? Is there any system that required special attention? As in-depth and realistic as we can make it given the tools we have without the third-party SDK from ED. We’re doing a highly accurate flight model, electrical systems, failures, damage model, weapons systems, radios, GPS, etc. The goal is to provide the most authentic SK60 experience we can. That’s a very important goal for us, especially since the real aircraft is going out of service in a few years. Has the team run into any limitations due to not having the SDK? If so, how has the team dealt with them? Well… We’ve run into some challenges, but not many limitations. The Saab 105 is a fairly basic aircraft which doesn’t have many complex systems. It has no guided weapons and stuff like that. That means that we, so far, have been able to make all the functions we want. Almost 100% of that is due to Na1ve’s incredible talent with coding. It would for sure not be possible without him. Will the mod have an External Flight Model (EFM)? If so, what can we expect in terms of the flight characteristics? Yes. You can expect it to behave as close to the real aircraft as we can get it. It’s based on both performance measurements from Flight School and also aerodynamical calculations. It’s AWESOME to fly. The mod will have multicrew, which is awesome for training purposes. Will the pilot and instructor cockpits be sync-able or will it work like other DCS mods in which cockpits are not synchronized between the crew? We’re working on it. As it is with other mods, doing synced multicrew is a challenge which is hard to tackle. But we have an ambition to allow for a second pilot to sit in the right seat. That would make the trainer role complete - to be able to put a new pilot and an experienced pilot side by side in the same cockpit so the more experienced guy can give some hands on directions as how to do stuff like landing patterns, formation flying and so on. It would also be a possible task for the right seat guy to be a navigator when doing light-attack missions. In terms of systems I noticed one peculiar system: the NS430 GPS navigational unit. Will this system be completely standalone or will users need to own the official GNS430 module to use it? Haha that’s a good observation of you. 😉 We’re making it completely standalone so you don’t need to have the GNS430 module. I’m not entirely sure we can promise that it will include exactly all of the functionality that are in the real unit, but it will have a moving map and some basic navigation features at least. If I’m not mistaken I think it’s also going to be interacting with the EHSI so you’ll be able to see directions to next waypoint on that. The module will also have the capabilities to carry out light attack mission, correct? Which weapons will be available with the mod? Yes it does! The real Saab105 aircraft has carried a bunch of different weapons depending on which version it is. We’re doing the SK60B that is used in Sweden. It has 6 hardpoints, but it actually doesn’t have that many weapons. Only four, actually. There are: 30mm AKAN gun pod (it’s the same gun pod that the AJS37 uses, but we’re making our own version. The SK60 can carry 2 of these) 13,5cm SRAK (HE rockets. You can have up to 12 of these. Two on each pylon) 14,5cm PSRAK (HEAT rockets. You can have up to 6 of these. One on each pylon) 7,5cm TRAK (Practice rockets with no explosive warhead. You can have up to 6 of these. I also noticed that both the external and internal 3D models and textures look fantastic. How difficult was it to create an accurate representation of the Sk60? Thanks! It’s been very time consuming but fun! This is actually the first “real” 3D model I’ve ever done so I’ve needed to learn a whole lot along the way. I think the current version of the model is maybe iteration 5 or 6 since I’ve realized multiple times that it was better to start over and do it right than to try to polish the pile of dirt that was the first version.. The Flight School has provided a whole bunch of great reference images, measurements and blueprints for us that we’ve been able to use when doing the model. I can’t promise that everything is exactly 100% correct down to every single millimeter, but it’s pretty close. Of course we’ve had to take some creative liberty at some parts to make it reasonable for a game, but if I don’t tell you which parts those are I’d bet you probably won’t even notice. The programs I’ve used for the 3D modelling is Blender while the texturing was done in Adobe Substance Painter and Photoshop. One thing I’d like to say here is that ANYONE of you can do a model at this level if you put your mind to it. Like I said, this is the first model I’ve made and as long as you’re willing and ready to fail and learn along the way there’s nothing stopping you from doing an amazing model in the end. The mod will be freely available for anyone that wants it once it is out, correct? Yes it will! We want as many people as possible to be able to enjoy it and look forward to seeing people's reactions! That will be it, thank you a lot for answering our interview! Is there anything else you would like to add before we conclude? Thanks! It’s been a blast to answer the questions! I’d like to emphasize what I said before. Doing a mod isn’t impossible as long as you have passion, patience and a learning attitude. We started this project in December 2020 and are now almost done. “Just do it!” as they say. 😊 About the Interviewer 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

Airforce Delta Sega Dreamcast Review and Opinion

Airforce Delta Sega Dreamcast Review and Opinion

Airforce Delta, sans the qualifier, known in Europe as Deadly Skies, is the first entry of the greatest flight shooter this side of Ace Combat. I don’t care if you think that’s subjective—your HAWX-riddled brain is wrong. But maybe a little backstory is in order: Opinion - Backstory Airforce Delta holds a special place in my heart. When I was growing up, I was always a video game system generation behind. As a result, my first console, which is still displayed proudly on my shrine to the company, was the Sega Genesis Model 2, purchased brand new for $100USD from Sears. Don’t get me wrong, there was an effort to make me reconsider; the clerk really wanted me to think hard about this decision: “Are you sure you don’t want a PlayStation? The Genesis is getting pretty old…” She said. But no, I insisted on the Genesis. A year later, I decided I wanted the next model up, the Sega Saturn—again, the clerk was baffled by my choice. “You know the Saturn might not be around much longer… Are you sure you don’t want a PlayStation or Nintendo 64?” No, I wanted that Saturn. It too sits proudly on my shrine. It was a visit or two to the Sega City mega arcade at the new mall nearby that secured my loyalty: Give me Sega or give me death; the Sony PlayStation must be stopped. 1998: Rumors about a new system being developed by the wobbly company are trickling their way over to the States from the land of the Rising Sun. They’re skipping a generation: 128-bits moving forward, American release in 1999. Time moved fast. I had the new-fangled “Dreamcast” in my hands by Christmas of that year. At the time, there was only a couple of launch titles I was interested in, but I had a friend who had a far wider game palate than me. As a result, while I was obsessing over Sonic Adventure and Power Stone, he had just torn open and was progressing through a flight game called Airforce Delta. I had a glance at it, and I was slowly thinking about how much I liked it. It wasn’t long before I had my own copy. I wasn’t all that good at the game, though. I had trouble making it past the sixth or seventh mission using the default arcade “bank-to-turn-what-you-think-you’re-not-good-enough-for-rolling?” flight scheme that I didn’t even know existed at first. As a result, my friend, who had a knack for just about every game he got his hands on, barreled forward and at some point completed the game and earned most of the aircraft available in the game. At the time, he was also building paper-aircraft models of his own design, and tended to take inspiration from all of these different aircraft models that the game had available. He had shown me a crude one he made with an unusual swept-forward wing configuration that he labeled “S-37”. I, young and naïve, asked what exactly he was thinking with those wings. He showed me his aircraft collection in the game and scrolled the hangar to the far right to land on the S-37 Berkut. You remember what it felt like to have your first crush? Mine… might have been a fighter jet. So yeah… A control option change later to unlock six-degrees of freedom and I powered my way through this game to get that fighter. The game subconsciously built my obsession with fighter maneuverability, and as a result the S-37 was pinned as the pinnacle. Once I got it, there was no other option. Cower, ye Raptor-stans, your new queen has arrived, and she’s a stealthy, sharp, SEAD-ready Russian bitch. I know far better now: She’s not all that stealthy, she’s not production ready by any means, and she’s built on Flanker DNA, but I accept her and all her flaws that make her a masterpiece. Still my favorite aircraft of all time, the now-christened Su-47 has gotten a little older, but my eyes still ogle at her lines. What I didn’t realize at the time and couldn’t quite process until I advanced my studies in aviation and aircraft design was that the plane in reality and the plane in the game that made me obsessed were actually quite different in design—and that lead into new observations about the OG Airforce Delta that I couldn’t piece together until recently. Ultimately, the game has a lot more going for it than I ever gave it credit for, and that’s probably why it has its hard-core followers like me. But I would be rightfully hard-pressed to make the crystal present appreciate the foggy past. Meh… enough with the nostalgic rant; let’s dig in. Review Airforce Delta was Konami’s direct answer to the lauded Namco-produced Ace Combat series. At the time of its release Ace Combat 2 was still the regal rooster, with Ace Combat 3 in mid-development. There was a tried-and-true formula that was worth advancing to the next graphical level, and Konami seemed keen on copying it—sometimes rather blatantly. But they didn’t do it as a simple cash grab—there’s heart here with a Konami soul. The game’s boot up sequence nowadays absolutely betrays its arcade-like roots. Simple sound effects, quick text boxes with save state requests, and production and dev banners flashing ahead of the main screen with the option to load or save imprinted upon a dark city skyline shadowed with an F-22 Raptor. The blue hues betray the dark atmosphere you will see for much of the game. I don’t view this negatively, and it’s clear how quickly this game starts to diverge from its Ace Combat-like roots. The history lesson outlining your mission, flying for the breakaway Republic of Laconia against the strongarm-united Federation of Dzavailar (or Zabayral depending on your take on the limited canon available to you) as a mercenary hired by the resource-rich nation has Balkan-like vibes to it. The music is somber, the map imitating something like a dark projector in a briefing room or an old computer screen. Already you get a bit of a feeling that the game wants you to take it somewhat more seriously than Ace Combat 2. You’re then taken to a far more upbeat in-game cutscene introducing your F-5E-flying second-person-addressed faceless protagonist. This is about as deep as this is going to go—your only interaction with your “commanders” moving forward are voiceless briefing orders with a very light sprinkling of identically voiceless in-mission notifications accentuated with transitory radio squawks. The main menu gives a mission progression outline. This game is purely linear unlike its later installments. I’ve mentioned before that this should not be viewed as negative—just different. It works just fine for this game, outlining your mission objectives and strategic progression. Once you complete a mission, you can roll back to a previous mission and play through it without consequence—unless you crash your plane of course, then you got to buy that back. But I again digress—selecting a mission takes you to a simple briefing. Here both your mission objectives and the strategic outline of the war is presented very straightforwardly with no input by you wanted or requested. Complete the objective as designed and return to base, mercenary. You’re then dumped onto the flight line with a flashing order to scramble. Again, the music takes more of an upbeat tone here, contrasting heavily with the darker-theme of the briefing. But it cuts off as you select your F-5E Tiger II. The canopy drops and the plane taxies off screen to a quick load and thrusts you into the action. If you’ve selected the “expert” control scheme, you may immediately notice a couple of things that are welcome in some circles, but also rip points away from this game, and with my bias exhausted for now, I think it’s fair to judge the game on these merits. Aircraft handling could probably be best worded as “deliberate”. Recoil is non-existent, but these planes are heavy. It’s an interesting comparison to Ace Combat 04—where people have lobbied the same observation. Snap turns, particularly in low to mid-tier aircraft are difficult if not near-impossible, and you have to really rely on your skills as a true interceptor rather than a dogfighter. I could see this already put people off, since the high-tier planes do go a long way in making the game more enjoyable, but you got to earn that through some of the game’s weaker mission types. Additionally, the Dreamcast’s controller does the game a disservice here: Without secondary trigger buttons, you are limited to acceleration and deceleration using the X and Y face buttons, meaning that quick reflexes or edge tapping is in order to continue your speed manipulation while also actuating guns or missiles. This takes a long time to get used to, and your early-aircraft missile count again does you a disservice here. Interestingly, the trigger buttons function well as acceleration and deceleration in the novice control mode, which can actually give an advantage to that mode even for advanced players in some scenarios. Remember how I mentioned how Airforce Delta built my obsession with fighter maneuverability? This is why. When you start with a struggling fighter like the F-5E, and end with something so much snappier and responsive like the afore mentioned S-37, the mobility delta (if you’ll pardon the quite amusing pun) subconsciously forces you to treat that statistic with more reverence than others. But if you handle the fighter and build your tolerance, there are rewards to be had as you embrace the game. The visuals might seem dated today, but it can’t be emphasized enough the enormous leap that the Dreamcast provided in graphical fidelity from the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 before it. The Dreamcast was admittedly the weakest of the sixth-generation of video game consoles, but thanks to its prioritization of its arcade-like roots handled by its NAOMI-derived control board, it made a minor sacrifice in raw polygon count to achieve a solid frame rate, with minimal stuttering except in arbitrary scenarios, which you’ll appreciate to keep your mind on the mission. The fighter models are instantly identifiable, comparing them to Ace Combat 2 or the contemporary Ace Combat 3 after it, and you’ll appreciate the detail put into them. Control surfaces are all moving and afterburner effects burn hot. You are given only two view modes: HUD and third-person, but the rendering either way is solid. There’s no camera-swivel available here due to the lack of a secondary analog stick. Something that might be apparent that has yet to be duplicated on even recent flight shooters, however, is the rendering of full-scale models for enemy aircraft. Get close enough and you’ll actually see the enemy’s rudders actuate and its ailerons deflect. This is something that I can’t seem to let go of—I can’t tell if it’s programmer laziness or production brilliance. It actually assists in immersion for me because it presents a consistent graphical tone, despite how rare it would be to actually view it. I’ve mentioned in my previous Airforce Delta Storm review that I believe it to be a root cause of the low-density of aircraft presented in missions compared to games like Ace Combat, though I can’t prove it. I also find myself torn on the general color palette of the missions presented. To be fair, the missions presented offer a wide range of terrains and biomes, and the colors are well utilized. There’s also the need to hammer home the serious atmosphere that I’ve brought up before, but there is that subtle overlay of “real is brown” that plagued all games going into this generation and it is present here. Draw-distance is also limited, and the fog apparent, though interestingly absent if you decide to emulate this title. You’ll actually find yourself missing it if you do so since the pop-in of assets is rather jarring at times. As you progress you’ll be presented with what I feel is a unique and engaging soundtrack. Once again using the present as a filter you can easily identify the required utilization of synthetics and compression that was needed to keep this game under the GD-ROM’s space limitations, but the soundtrack still earns my praise. Military Supply Base in particular stands out. It punches out of the gate with a synth-ed note and builds up in anticipation, and you can’t help but perform a descending aileron roll flat to the deck to match the progression and level out of the melody as you pop trucks using your all-purpose short-range missiles, descending on the factory buildings. Each mission tries to use the music to invoke an atmosphere, from the dark, sneaky like tones of the night-time Escort, to the use of what appears to be a short burst of a train horn for the destruction of a rail hub in Nuclear Transport Blockade. The music can be broken up easily into simple but effective chords and it actually works in its favor. Build ups and fade outs are executed well, though strangely are present for every mission—the music does not actually repeat. Makes for good listening from the Dreamcast’s media player, though. I’ve never been able to determine if my appreciation for the soundtrack is from listening repetition from my many playthroughs or from a real hook, however. Though as I listen through for the nth time, I’m leaning more and more to the latter. It might not hold high the symphonious complexity of its rivals, but it holds its own to give the game a unique character. One day I’d love to hear how this music sounds fully uncompressed. I think there’s a missed opportunity here for talented remixers to give at least a college-try on these songs. I’d love to listen to new interpretations outside of those made for the game’s subsequent installments. The musical judgement call of simplicity does however carry over to mission design. Simple skirmish: that sums up the pinnacle of design you will encounter for the most part. Whether it’s the staple “intercept the incoming bombers” of the first mission to running through the AA-protected gorge or escort the slow plane out of the combat zone, there is little variety to experience here. To some this might be all that’s needed. Ace Combat 04 ran with this formula successfully and built a solid game around it, but lacking that game’s far more engaging storytelling, Airforce Delta feels like a disconnected group of 20 mission types that you can try your hand at buffet-style rather than a solid progressive campaign. As a kid, I enjoyed this. I’m not sure how well it would hold up in the modern day, but it’s easy to craft your own mission stories based around action types when you have this sort of looseness. Hey, a blank piece of paper can be either an open canvas of imagination or a slather of ennui—you make the call. But I’m admittedly leaning strongly on the side of optimism here. You can find positive points—Satellite Intercept is a short but high-energy, high-stakes romp, and unless I’m mistaken, because I can’t find anywhere else where this has been done (and I invite correction on this), Ace Combat 5 came back around to copy its design for its final sortie. The final mission pits you against a single fighter, and it’s easy to get yourself stuck in cinematic-like rate fights with the antagonist if you don’t make the right move off the bat. But it’s hard to comment further; some designs seem to contradict some of the mission briefings, somehow using low-speed ICBM-like missiles descending upon a skyscraper as a way to interpret the narration that enemy agents are running a false-flag operation to sabotage peace talks (another mission execution that I think Ace Combat 5 copied for White Bird Part I, all the way down to the presence of B-2’s on the fringe, but lacking the unintentionally hilarious suicide mission Airforce Delta’s stealth bombers result in.) If you do decide to fly the missions in story-progression, you are painted a very high-level picture of a bleak but no-nonsense back-from-the-brink defensive war that quickly turns sour for the aggressor with your skills. Each mission is piecemeal to the war at hand; the wording of the missions even seems to intentionally leave you out of strategic decisions. When I really buckled down into this storyline, I was given the feeling of expendability all the way to the end. I’m the best at this job, but I’m also replaceable and in it for the money, and the tone carries that. There’s little personal affect, and when there is there’s a little confusion introduced as a result. The war between the two nations is reasonably well outlined in the introduction, but even now I’m a little confused as to the relationship of myself to the Delta Corps as a whole and the pilots I’m fighting. It gives me the impression that Delta Corps was split on this fight, and you and your small band (which only appears in the ending cutscene) decided to fight for the weaker but more wealthy Laconian side. The vagueness is sort of intriguing I suppose, and some of it is what built my interest in the game as I grew older, but thinking too hard on it results in minor frustration. The silent briefings and lack of engagement is what sets this apart from Ace Combat 2 the most—Ace Combat 2 almost seems intentionally tongue-in-cheek in presentation at times, accentuating that Top Gun vibe that fueled the series early success, whereas Airforce Delta tries--maybe too hard and in a very Konami way--to make silly premises serious. Artificial nuclear-armed islands, enormous bombers, and bored-out mountain bases can only be taken in stride so much before logic breaks down. But I appreciate the effort here, and it matches the industry-wide adaptation of taking many of these waning arcade game mechanics and tropes and giving them a more serious, cinematic tone, paving the way for the stronger story-driven plotlines we enjoy today. I’m not sure the game could entertain younger audiences today with what they, and we, are spoiled with, and in fact its mediocre success might even imply such a reaction back during its release, but the nostalgia filter is thick for my judgement. A gold-standard, however, lies in the aircraft selection. I’m not being hyperbolic with that statement—there may only be 31 aircraft, but they’re a wonderful spread that I would love to see replicated again. Ace Combat can boast higher aircraft counts at times, but it still falls back on family variants rather than base-designs. Here we get a wide range that hearkens back to the unique selection of Ace Combat 2. Whether its old favorites like the F-4 or MiG-21 or then-cutting edge 5th-generation powerhouses like the YF-23 or MiG-1.44 MFI, there’s something here that will imprint on a kid’s memory as their favorite. The game even allows for limited VTOL, with two representatives from the Harrier-series of fighters available for purchase at high prices after successful completion of the campaign and a new-game-plus restart. Though you will frustratingly lose your credit count if you roll over to new game plus and save on the first mission. You can get a little preview of this coveted mechanic by earning--through a successful gun-kill--the X-32, which though not completely “VTOL”, still has a far lower stall speed akin to the afore-mentioned jumpjets—just missing the floaty controls that accompanies the latter to aid in slow-speed controllability. And it is in the X-32 that the aircraft selection starts looking… different. Whether it was a lack of data or an attempt at the development team to come up with a “finalized” design from the many prototypes that the game features, a fair few aircraft are granted artistic interpretations that I simply adore. Far back I mentioned the S-37—it’s prominently featured on the game’s cover and as the title screen aircraft after a successful completion of the campaign, and it’s got lines. Its sleeker, sharper, and meaner than the real design, and its deep-red wing-mounted Kh-31’s help to emphasize that swept-forward aesthetic. The X-32, far be it for me to say, actually looks good. It’s smaller air intake and longer fuselage are what I suspect Boeing engineers see when they look at their only-a-mother can love face of the real plane. And the MiG-1.44 almost completely departs from its namesake… or so I had thought. It turns out that it’s design is a mashup between the finalized design represented by the MiG-1.42, and a rare concept drawing featured in the magazine Flight International in the early 1990’s of what the MiG was expected to look like. Uncovering this gave me a brand new appreciation for the designs—they weren’t just reinterpreted because of limited data or artistic merit—deeper research was involved than I could have ever expected, and discoveries like this only make me want to give me confirmation bias to gush over the game more than I usually do. I find myself torn and challenged to recommend this game to a modern player beyond its historical curiosity. I have a deep obsession with this series. Whether it stems from my stubborn and ultimately-defeated anti-Sony/pro-Sega bias fostered in the 90’s or from the obsession with a specific aircraft that takes more credit than it ever should have been allowed in shaping my future interests in aviation, I reflect upon the game’s flaws more vividly now. It has problems, but it also carries lessons. Emulation, despite the minor graphical setbacks mentioned previously go a long way in helping the native-crippled control scheme. But nearly 25 years later, it’s hard to get as engrossed in this game as a young mind might have been able to with the anti-aliasing assistance of a 28-inch CRT television. But I can’t help but remember and continue to enjoy it with a fondness. I still power it up for a quick playthrough at least once a year, and I walk away with satisfaction. I always pause to wonder if I’d put this game in my top ten, but It just never quite makes the mark for one reason or another—one more flaw that I just noticed or one more aged pixel just out of place. But that’s the thing… I’ve moved onto better. But despite the flaws in the rearview mirror, we all fondly remember that first crush—it transcends ranking. It forms the base of the better expectations you look for later. The S-37 is a flawed machine, but it’s a lynchpin of my obsession with aircraft. Airforce Delta is a mediocre derivative, but it’s the keystone of my continued interest in flight shooters. It deserves remembrance. Airforce Delta Wiki Shoutout I want to give a shoutout to the guys over at Airforce Delta Wikia. I used to think that I was one of the biggest fans of this series and would regularly put references into it with a lot of online projects and games that I was a part of. Turns out I’m small fry. The repository on AFD Wikia put my knowledge of the series to such a shame that I had to refer to it a number of times to write the articles for this series, and I’ll likely refer to it again going into the future. Their website demonstrates that my understanding of everything from story to gameplay of each installment of Airforce Delta just scratches the surface. Give them a browse when you get a chance if you want to immerse yourself more in this series and get a better understanding of gameplay elements. Check out the comments for some of the articles too! They’ll showcase some interesting finds, like a specific button combination to remove the interlacing effect experienced when playing Airforce Delta Storm on the Xbox 360 in replay segments. Keep up the good work, guys! About the Author T.J. "Millie" Archer T.J. "Millie" Archer is Life-long realist and aviation enthusiast. Once the co-founding Administrator of the Electrosphere.info English Ace Combat Database. In the present day he is freelance, roving the internet in search of the latest aviation news and entertainment.

DCS South Atlantic Map by RAZBAM: A mission creator's perspective

DCS South Atlantic Map by RAZBAM: A mission creator's perspective

After months of teasing, the long-awaited South Atlantic map by RAZBAM Simulations has released in early access for Digital Combat Simulator World. Our first impression of this new terrain mainly comes from a mission editor’s point of view. The fanfare surrounding this new terrain is a combination of a much needed addition of places to fly and the historic significance of the Falklands War of 1982. While DCS is well known for containing many high fidelity aircraft modules, it has always had a distinct lack of locations to fly. Unlike Microsoft Flight Simulator that can provide an entire planet to traverse, DCS mainly offers specific regions for players to fly, train and fight in. Though DCS was released on October 17th, 2008, there are still only seven terrains (aka maps, regions) to utilize. Now that the South Atlantic has been released, the number has risen to eight. THE VIEW: HIGH ALTITUDE VS LOW ALTITUDE Though this is not mission editor related, the overall look of the map being a consistent point of attention is something that should be addressed. In promotional content leading up to the release of the South Atlantic the beauty of the terrain has been shown in both videos from content creators with early access or promotional screenshots from its developer. This map does in fact look great from the high altitudes that fixed-wing aircraft normally operate at. However, flying closer to the earth reveals a noticeable decrease in the image resolution of the land. This is unlike the Syria map created by Ugra Media which launched in early access with an overall higher quality which was well known for being difficult to run on lower-end personal computers. While Syria was developed to be better optimized with many additions to the map over time, the early access South Atlantic map has launched with an overall lower quality in textures. There is time for improvement, of course, as this is an early access release, but that is the current state of things. GEOGRAPHY AND MISSION CREATION The first thing players will notice upon looking at the map is the pretty small number of airfields. While a handful of airfields in the region are indeed missing in this early access release (like for instance, the airstrip at San Julián), it's not too far off from reality. The area portrayed on the map is very sparsely populated, consisting mostly of cold, windy, arid Patagonian steppes and deserts to the east in Argentina and complex, fjord-like terrain and temperate forests to the west in Chile divided by the Andes. Most of Chile's and Argentina's population lives further up north, in regions with more hospitable geography and climate. As a result, the area covered by the map is populated mostly by relatively small cities and scattered towns, lacking huge international airports and the main Chilean and Argentinian military airbases around Santiago and Buenos Aires. Instead, the only two truly large airfields available to players are Carlos Ibáñez International Airport (otherwise known as Punta Arenas Airbase) on the south of Chile, and RAF Mount Pleasant on the eastern side of the Falklands islands, with a handful of smaller airports and airstrips scattered around. Combined with the fairly long distances involved for some mission profiles - particularly the over 300 nautical mile journey between the Falklands and mainland South America - this means fuel management will be much more critical than in maps with closer and more plentiful airfields, such as the Caucasus, Persian Gulf or Syria. Players will have to know their aircraft's capabilities with different loadouts, watch their fuel consumption and brush up on their navigation and in-flight refueling skills. The reward for doing so is being able to explore the many different possibilities this map offers in terms of mission scenarios. Do not be fooled by the low population density - the geography and history of this region opens up many doors for mission creators. But just what sort of scenarios can we get out of a bunch of cold rocks in South America, I hear you ask? In the following segment, we would like to discuss just a few of the possibilities. THE OBVIOUS: FALKLANDS WAR OF 1982 Naturally, the main historical scenario and raison d'être of this map is the Falklands War of 1982. Though the islands are presented in their modern status, with a large airbase at Mount Pleasant, the forward operating base built during the British landings in San Carlos bay for Harrier GR.3 operations is also modeled. Together with the airfield at Port Stanley, used by Argentina (as Puerto Argentino) during the war to launch Pucará and MB 339 sorties, this allows mission creators to recreate missions from all phases of the war. The greatest limitation here will be available player aircraft - RAZBAM plans to release an asset pack with British naval assets, but in terms of playable aircraft, the AV-8B lacks much of the air-to-air capability of the Sea Harriers used in the conflict (And crucially, it is essentially impossible to get AI Harriers to engage air targets - it’s hard to stress just how terrible the Harrier’s AI is) and the Mirage 2000C is far too capable to be an adequate stand-in for Argentine Mirage IIIs and Daggers. The upcoming Mirage F1 might be able to better fill that role, as well as the role of Argentine Super Étendards armed with Exocet missiles. No aircraft similar to the Pucará are in DCS yet (apart from mods), with the Mosquito being the most likely stand-in for that particular aircraft.. That is not to say there are no aircraft which fit in perfectly, though. The South Atlantic map will make a nice home for the upcoming MB 339 module, as well as the community A-4E mod. These two aircraft were used by Argentina in daring anti-ship missions and flying them in this role will no doubt be an interesting challenge for players, both in terms of combat and navigation. FALKLANDS WAR 2.0 After the war, the British were understandably concerned with strengthening their defenses on the Falklands, a concern which to a certain extent still exists to this day. RAF Mount Pleasant, the largest and most well-equipped airbase on the map, was built in 1985 to provide the islands with permanent air cover and is home to No. 1435 Flight, a RAF unit equipped with four Typhoon fighters. Fictional and alternate history scenarios in the Falklands will be right at home for Heatblur's and TrueGrit's upcoming Typhoon module, perhaps being put up against a JF-17 equipped Argentina. Modern scenarios are not the only ones on the table, though. Before the Typhoons, Mount Pleasant was guarded by Phantom and Tornado aircraft. As such, this map is also a historical home for the much anticipated F-4 module, and Cold War scenarios in the region could be interesting. Perhaps we could see Britain and Argentina teaming up against a Soviet amphibious assault, for instance. FLAMES IN TIERRA DEL FUEGO Old rivalries and border disputes between countries exist in South America just as much as in Europe. In fact, shortly before the Falklands War, tensions were high between Chile and Argentina over the disputed and strategically important Tierra del Fuego, the archipelago at the southernmost tip of South America. Having the two opposing sides in a mission separated by the Andes could be an interesting proposition. Similar mission layouts are already used by some mission creators with the Caucasus map, with both sides being separated by the Caucasus mountains. In the South Atlantic map, there are less airbases to go around and the mountain range is less deep across the frontline but more complex in shape. MAGELLAN STRAITS CROSSING American Nimitz-class supercarriers are too large to pass through the Panama canal - whenever one gets their home port changed from the East to the West Coast or vice-versa, they must traverse between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans the old school way: going the long way around South America. On their long journey, they'll usually take the opportunity to conduct training exercises with Brazilian, Uruguayan, Argentine and Chilean navies and air forces. Because the waters around Cape Horn are treacherous and the weather usually bad, most skippers will instead choose to go through the Straits of Magellan, a strait in southern Chile which separates the Latin American mainland from the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego. It is a historically important sea route, and also a major chokepoint - a scenario in which players must defend a carrier battle group ambushed on the straits and ensure their safe passage is a unique possibility offered by this map. DYNAMIC MULTIPLAYER MISSIONS Most likely, the majority of multiplayer servers which choose to host this map are going to run missions with completely custom scenarios just like we see on other maps, with mission creators striving to create a framework which will allow for interesting gameplay within the geographical constraints of the map. PvE and PvP missions where airfields can be captured are of particular interest for this map. Because there are only two large airbases in the entire map, the importance of controlling them skyrockets. The low number of airfields and the large average distance between them means that careful mission planning is suddenly a lot more important. Much of the map is vast open ocean, which opens up a lot of space for naval operations while still offering much more land mass than Marianas, for instance - but also means players will often find themselves navigating over hundreds of miles of featureless terrain with no possibility of terrain masking. Likewise, most terrain in the map is very flat, making it difficult for people to sneak around - in complete contrast, the region around the Andes is extremely mountainous and full of complex valleys perfect for hiding from pesky enemy radars. Players will no doubt seek to use this highly contrasting terrain to their advantage, and mission creators will need to plan around this unique geography. CONCLUSION South Atlantic is the first DCS map located in the southern hemisphere (players will finally be able to use the “S” button when punching in coordinates!), and it covers an area which saw one of the most important - if often forgotten - aerial battles in recent history, opening up previously unexplored historical scenarios for combat flight simulation enthusiasts. Whether you are the type of person that prioritizes aircraft simulation or cares for the finer details of the terrain you’re flying over, the South Atlantic map is overall a welcome addition to Digital Combat Simulator World. It has a lot of room for improvement at this stage, primarily when it comes down to the low-level textures and terrain mesh; but the opportunities for new missions, scenarios and online multiplayer servers centered around the map are a benefit to DCS as a whole. About the author: Hueman An incurable aviation fanatic since childhood, fascinated by the design and history of practically anything that flies. A long-time fan of flight games, he currently studies aeronautical engineering and pursues his hobbies of drawing, writing and flight simulation on his spare time. Twitter | Discord: Hueman#5123

Interview: Insight into the Virtual Team60

Interview: Insight into the Virtual Team60

One area which has always been of interest for us is the graceful world of virtual airshows. In the past we have followed these interests by talking to our friends over at the Frecce Tricolori Virtuali (FTV) and with their spokesperson and our friend, Duke. It has been quite a while since we had those interviews with the FTV, so we decided to contact another excellent Digital Combat Simulator World virtual demonstration team who has been making quite the name for themselves lately: Virtual Team60. We contacted the leader of the Virtual Team 60, Fredrik "Breadmaker" and asked him if he would discuss how the virtual aerobatic teams works, what their story is and a bit about the aircraft they fly. I personally extend my thanks to Fredrik for allowing us to have this interview with us. This is part one of two of this interview. Next time we will be talking with Fredrik about the Saab Sk.60 project for DCS World! First off, we’d like to thank you for agreeing to have this interview with us. Could you start by introducing yourself and telling us a bit about what you do? Thanks for having me! My name is Fredrik, callsign Breadmaker, and I’m a guy from Sweden who has had an interest in aviation in general and military aviation specifically since I was a kid. When I was young my dream was to become a fighter pilot, but life took another path so that didn’t happen. So I was quite happy when I discovered DCS a couple of years ago. Of course I had to fly the Viggen since that’s one of the most recognizable Swedish military aircraft ever. After having flown military type of missions for a while I also discovered that there are people doing close formation flights and airshow replications, and that really caught my interest. First I started doing formation flights with a few friends, and a little bit later I joined the Virtual Al Fursan as the number 7 pilot. That team ended up falling apart unfortunately so I was left without a team to fly with, but I still wanted to do it. What was the motivation for forming Team60? Around the same time as the Virtual Al Fursan had fallen apart I had started talking to a few friends about trying to make an SK60 mod for DCS. At first it was just a crazy idea, but we soon realized we were actually going to be able to make it and that’s when the idea of forming a Virtual Team 60 came to life. For Swedish aviation enthusiast, the real Team 60 certainly has a special place in their hearts. Unfortunately the team isn’t active anymore. But when they were, and especially at their peak, they were one of the most recognizable display teams in the world. So to have the opportunity to pay homage to the work they’ve done in a virtual environment felt like something we just had to do. For how long has the team been active and in which shows have you performed? The team started in the summer last year (2021). It took a while to nail down the final team lineup, but in August we had all six members in place and started doing regular practice sessions (once a week). At first we needed to just get to know each other and figure out who was going to fly what position, but when we had achieved that we started looking at our first program to learn. We decided to try and replicate the program the real team made on the Swedish Airforce annual airshow in 2018. We felt like the difficulty of that show was on a level that would be a good enough challenge for us. After having practiced it a bit we decided to sign up for our first show – the Virtual International Air Festival which was held in December of 2021. So far that’s the only show we’ve done but we’re currently working hard on preparing for the next one. 😊 Team60 seems to be extremely passionate about what they do. What is the current composition of the team? Yes indeed we are! When we started the team, none of us had much experience in flying in a virtual display group before. One of the guys didn’t even have a computer when we first got in contact. So everyone has really been a key part in building the team from the ground up and we have been working hard together to not only get better as individuals, but as a whole unit. And I really think the hard work has paid off. If you knew how it looked when we first flew and compare it to how it is not, the progress is just amazing. I’m super proud of the guys in the team!

The current active flying members of the team is as follows: #1: Fredrik (Breadmaker) Elm – Team Captain and founder. Also leads the SK60 development team. #2: Ola (Bulletproof) Rådeström – Flies inner right wing Diamond formation #3: Nino (Propilot) Glad – Flies inner left wing in the Diamond formation #4: Kalle (Bobcat) Dådring – Flies slot in the Diamond formation #5: Casper (Ghost) Nilsson – Flies outer left wing in the Diamond formation & solo #6 Tim (Jugg) Jansson – Flies outer right wing in the Diamond formation & lead solo Besides these guys we also have a few “reserve” pilots who sometimes fill in during practice sessions if one of the regular members can’t fly that day and also some other “crew” members which aren’t as clearly defined. The Virtual Team 60 is also functioning as testers for the SK60 mod developers so some guys who aren’t necessarily flying with us during our training are also in a sense a part of the team, but have a more technical role. How closely does the team follow the routines of the real Team60? We try to follow them as close as we can. We’re actually in pretty close contact with a few of the old pilots from the real team who have been helping us out tremendously. Mostly we study what ever material we can find on the internet (Youtube videos mostly) to try and get an understanding of how the team flew their displays. But we also get first hand information from the pilots which provides a whole lot more detail regarding how the maneuvers are performed and what you need to think about and so on. We’re really trying hard to pay as much tribute as we can to the real Team 60 so to have their support means the world to us! Has the virtual Team60 been in contact with members of the real Team60? If so, in which aspects have they helped the virtual counterpart? As I said in the last question, yes we have! We actually met a few of them a couple of weeks ago and let them fly a bit on our computers. It was an AMAZING experience to be able to connect with them in that way. One of the founding members sent us a really encouraging message after we met them which is something that we in the Virtual Team 60 are going to carry with us with humility and pride for a very long time. How do you guys tackle training for the air show season? Do you run over the entire routine from the start in each training session or are maneuvers practiced individually? We have scheduled practice sessions every Monday night. But then it varies a bit depending on what time of the year it is and how soon it is to the next show. Currently, for example, it’s summer here in Sweden so we’re not focusing quite as hard on practicing super seriously every week. Most of us have families and so on that also need their fair share of time, and especially during summer it can be hard to put aside the time to fly in DCS every week. Those of us who aren’t occupied with anything else though try to meet up and do at least some type of flying as often as we can so we don’t loose our form completely. We have a routine that we’re practicing for the next show and if all pilots can fly during a session we most often run through that show – even if it’s a bit more laid back at the moment. When fall comes though we’re going to be more focused and strategic about nailing down the details. I think this gives us a good balance between seriousness and fun. I truly believe that when you’re doing something like this in your spare time you can’t be too serious about it (unless everyone agrees on that of course…). For us it’s important that we have fun together. One the one hand I think all of the team would agree that part of what makes it fun is the feeling of making progress and seeing that it actually looks good when we fly, and that takes a fair bit of dedication, but it always needs to be balanced so it still feels like a hobby and not a job. Does the team have any trainees at the moment? What would you recommend someone who would like to join your team? Not at the moment. Since we only started last year the Team is pretty fresh still. All of the guys are very dedicated and show no sign of stopping. My standpoint as the Leader of the team is that if someone has a place in the team and they want to keep it, it’s theirs. All of us are very well understood in what it means to have an active spot and understand what’s required to keep that spot and be a valuable part of the team. So no, there are no trainees and currently no openings. If that changes in the future, we’ll let people know. 😊 What are some memorable airshows the team has flown in the past? Are there any you'd suggest for new viewers to watch first? Well... We have only flew one so I’d suggest you go look at that one. It isn’t perfect by any means but if you take into consideration that we did our first ever practice session in August of 2021 and then flew that show in December the same year I think you could at least say we did a pretty decent job. The video can be found below: Which would you consider to be the most complex maneuver which has been performed during one of your shows? We have a maneuver in the show we’re working on now which is a bit tricky. Pilots #1 - #4 has just done a flyby and are heading out a bit from the airfield to let the Solos do one of their maneuvers. After a few seconds we turn back in and while approaching the airfield I have to roll upside down while still flying level (so the guys who fly off me won’t get lost). As soon as I’m inverted, #2 & #3 also goes inverted. #4 flies in slot behind me and #2 and #3 flies off of his wing. We then do a flyby over the runway like this before rolling back out and changing to a right echelon formation. What makes it really tricky is that it needs to happen very fast but very controlled. If anyone messes up it’s gonna look bad when we pass the crowd.

Another tricky one is the “Sandwich roll” that the Solos do. They fly toward the display line, #5 rolls over and flies inverted, #6 joins and flies right underneath him. When passing the runway threshold, they put their smoke on and do a barrel roll in this formation. It’s awesome! Just like many airshow teams in DCS, Team60 has developed their own aircraft. How much influence has the aerobatic had in the development of the Sk60? That’s correct! I’d say it has had a very big impact. Getting the flight model correct and the visual appearance has been super important in allowing us to replicate the real team’s maneuvers. The mod isn’t actually going to be strictly Team 60 though. We’re also giving it some light attack and trainer capabilities before we’re going to release it to the public. There are some parts of it that will be exclusive to the Virtual Team 60 though, but I won’t tell you what. 😊 When flying the Sk.60 in airshows, what are some of its notable flight characteristics? Since the SK60 is a trainer aircraft it’s very stable in the air. This is a good thing when doing the big formations as it provides a very smooth flying experience. It’s a bit tricky though when we need to do some more “aggressive” maneuvers. For example, the roll rate isn’t super fast. Especially if you fly below 300kts and in some cases that can be tricky. But if you learn how to treat the aircraft in those situations you can still do it. This is one of the moments where the feedback and input from the real pilots are super helpful! They can tell us how they actually used to do it, which removes the guesswork for us.

Does the Sk.60's side-by-side two-seat configuration have any impact on formation references when flying with multiple aircraft? Not very much. Of course, it’s going to differ a little bit depending on whether you fly right wing or left wing. But it’s hardly noticeable. I’d say it’s most apparent when you’re flying slot since you can’t place your head directly behind the tail of the aircraft in front of you but you have to be a little bit to the side. It’s also noticeable for me who flies in the front of the whole formation. If I look out to my left I can clearly see #3 and #5 just below my wing. If I look to the right though there’s half a cockpit in the way. That will be it, thank you so much for answering our interview! Is there anything else you would like to add before we conclude? Thank you! Hope you found what I had to share interesting! If you want to know more about us and just get in touch with us in general – feel free to join our Discord server.

Thanks for your time! About the Interviewer 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

Hands on Console and Stick: Atari 2600 F-14 Fighter Simulator

Hands on Console and Stick: Atari 2600 F-14 Fighter Simulator

As someone that collects and plays retro video games as a hobby, the Atari 2600 has a special place in my collection. Something akin to honoring an ancestor. Getting my hands on a physical copy of Dan Kitchen's Tomcat: The F-14 Fighter Simulator (1989) for this game console felt like recovering an artifact of simulated aviation. It was rather impressive for a flight game on a second-generation game console. Its development team squeezed out every ounce of hardware performance, even using the game console itself as a controller. To build a perspective of when this game existed, it came out very late in the Atari 2600's life cycle. The Atari 2600 was released in 1977. Its fellow second-generation consoles included the Vectrex, ColecoVision, and Magnavox Odyssey². In 1989, the Nintendo Entertainment System had been around for a few years, and the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis had barely been released in Japan in 1988, with overseas models arriving in mid-1989. And yet, across all of those game consoles, the flight games on them did not pursue simulation as this title did. Most sought to emulate the insanely high speed, pure action titles like After Burner from the busy game arcades of the day. Rather than take that approach, Dan Kitchen's F-14 Tomcat Simulator grades players on how efficiently they fly and fight. Both during the day and at night. Its most notable feature is the management of aircraft systems for navigation and weapon systems. Navigation, weapon systems, and electronic countermeasures must be worked in unison for mission success. Approaching the aircraft carrier at the right speed and angle is paramount, and retaining as many weapons as possible increases player score. Takeoff, combat efficiency, and landing are all graded. Of course, it's still playing on an Atari 2600; having 1:1 simulated system accuracy is just not possible. Furthermore, managing everything with a single joystick and single-button controller sounds impractical. However, this lack of controls was overcome by utilizing both the physical switches on the console and combining button functions on the controller. You could say it is a "hands on console and stick" control layout made out of necessity. Most impressively, the switches on the top of the front and top of the Atari 2600 controlled a majority of the game's systems and functions: Game Reset: Starts the game. Enters function selection mode from the Threat screen. Holding reset for three seconds eventually causes the console to reset the game. Game Select: Cycles through computer display screens. Right Difficulty: Arresting hook toggle. (top of console, center-right) Left Difficulty: Landing Gear Toggle. (top of console, center-left) When in the game's Threat screen, the joystick button acts as the launch button for the selected weapon. When not on the Threat screen, pressing and holding the joystick button while moving the joystick forward or backward controls the engine throttle. While the joystick button is not held down, the joystick is used for pitch and roll, with the engine throttle position remaining unchanged during maneuvers. Using these control methods, this F-14 Tomcat simulator suddenly had five buttons and one joystick with the equivalent of a computer modifier key to double the function of the joystick as a throttle. Scanned images of the game manual provide more detail: Image source: Atari Mania In the 2020s, most people would likely have played Dan Kitchen's Tomcat: F-14 Fighter Simulator through an emulation service or maybe from a compilation release like the absolutely excellent Activision Anthology (2002) for the Sony PlayStation 2. Unless someone owns an Atari 2600, a region-specific copy of the game cartridge, and a CRT television old enough to have a coax input and/or RF adapter, the experience cannot be recreated. It is genuinely a control method from a long-gone era. Having to reach out and flip buttons on a game console to manage simulated systems is still a memorable experience. From the eyes of people interacting with this control method for the first time back in the late 80s, flipping the switches on their Atari 2600 was as tinglingly exciting as hitting the buttons on our Thrustmaster throttles, WingWing flight sticks, and BlackHog button boxes. About the Writer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. A lifelong aviation enthusiast with a special interest in flight simulators and games. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating aviation related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He continues to explore past and present flight games and sims with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. | Twitter | Discord: RibbonBlue#8870 |

Top Gun Maverick Week: Spoiler Free First Impression and Collabs

Top Gun Maverick Week: Spoiler Free First Impression and Collabs

As the credits began to roll, I turned to look at Aaron (Ribbon-Blue) and asked him, “Have you ever seen Wayne’s World 2”? He answered in the affirmative, probably wondering what I was on about. I replied earnestly: “Wayne’s World 2 is a rare sequel for a successful and iconic film that manages to differentiate itself enough to be strong all on its own.” Top Gun: Maverick (TGM) is another one of those rare sequels. I’m sure many people can word this more simply than I: It’s an 80’s movie made in the 21st century, and it owns every minute of it. But it’s the “feel” that’s hard to explain. It’s nostalgic and novel all at once. Perhaps not as quotable… yet. Perhaps a soundtrack that’s not as iconic… yet. Perhaps not as culturally influential… yet. But here’s what I will say: Cruise’s decision to delay the movie for this long to get it on the big screen was absolutely the right call. I think this movie could be pointed at as a swan song for the cinema—it’s what makes movies great. And what does it distill to that makes it so great? Some of the best aerial combat sequences we’ve seen since 2005’s Les Chevaliers du Ciel. Wherever they possibly could, they used a real aircraft. The F/A-18E/F is on full display here as the knife-fighter it is reputable for. But even more impressive is the respect it gives to its audience and its subject without slowing down the movie’s pace. There are sequences highlighted that will put a wide grin on a DCS flyer’s face but masterfully presents them so that someone less familiar with these technicalities infers what is happening rapidly. I’d have to say that none of this was what I expected. I went it with light reservations, but expecting it to walk away from a modern remake of an old classic, never as recognized as the original. But you know… It may very well be. We’ll see where the future takes us. But in the present—the hype is real, and it carries over to the unprecedented media tie-ins that have been released to celebrate the occasion. Like NFT’s! ... I’m serious. There are NFT’s. But that’s not what I mean. I mean the game tie-ins. The release of Top Gun: Maverick comes along side multiple official collaborations and well-timed Top Gun related announcements with high profile flight games and simulators. War Thunder released a teaser for their "Danger Zone" update which is finally bringing the long-sought after F-14 Tomcat to the game. With its arrival questions about how its massive radar range, AIM-54 Phoenix missiles and how it all fits with War Thunder's World War II sized maps. With the Tomcat available in the dev server, various content creators has been giving their first impressions and opinions on how the aircraft may fair in the near future. Eagle Dynamics presented an excellent "Turn and Burn | Be A Maverick" video for Digital Combat Simulator World. The video acting as an announcement for a free Open Beta update that added TGM themed liveries for the F/A-18C Hornet and F-14A/B Tomcat. Furthermore, for a very limited time of just three days, two bundles that provide a discount for the Hornet, Tomcat and/or Super Carrier are available. A further nod to TGM's release in theaters. Shout out to Eagle Dynamics for using "Mighty Wings" by Cheap Trick rather than the frequently idolized "Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins. The official collaboration between Top Gun and Ace Combat launched with much fanfare. While Ace Combat is no stranger to collaborations with many other intellectual properties, the TGM collab is a very high profile event in its 26 year history. It includes remixed versions of "Danger Zone" and "Top Gun Anthem" by composer Keiki Kobayashi, special wallpapers, movie related nicknames and emblems and new aircraft. The F-14A Tomcat, the F/A-18E Super Hornet, fictional Dark Star hypersonic aircraft and the "5th Generation Fighter" (read: Su-57 variant) joined the roster of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown. Of note are the specifically labelled "TGM" variants of the Tomcat and Super Hornet having highly increased maneuverability, allowing them to perform absolutely crazy post-stall maneuvers as an homage to certain maneuvers presented in the movies. Funnily enough, the Dark Star is so fast it can traverse multiple singleplayer and multiplayer maps within a minute, making it somewhat hard to reach and maintain its hypersonic speeds. The last official collaboration with Microsoft Flight Simulator added the Top Gun: Maverick expansion pack. Though already available in the simulator for a long time now, the F/A-18E Super Hornet received Maverick's CAG bird style livery and multiple new challenges. As a non-combat simulator, some questioned what it could offer. The bulk of what is offered in this collab involves training missions to learn the Super Hornet and low altitude, high speed challenges inspired by events from the movie. Our buddies over at Stormbirds have put up a great video as an example. Furthermore, the Dark Star in this simulator does benefit from having plenty of altitude and distance to cover. This being highlighted by the stratospheric flight mission which has the player flying from NAWS China Lake to Cape Canaveral, Florida at hypersonic speeds. The entire trip being just a little over half-an-hour. If only all flights were that fast. If nothing else, Top Gun: Maverick heavily benefited from a type of online collaboration the first movie could never have dreamed of having. Perhaps that too will add to its potential status as a classic in the making. About the Author T.J. "Millie" Archer T.J. "Millie" Archer is Life-long realist and aviation enthusiast. Once the co-founding Administrator of the Electrosphere.info English Ace Combat Database. In the present day he is freelance, roving the internet in search of the latest aviation news and entertainment.

DCS World: The joy of low level operations

DCS World: The joy of low level operations

When you search for DCS content on YouTube, or almost any other video sharing platform, most of what you will find are videos of 4th generation fighters ripping the skies apart at supersonic speeds, launching guided air to air and air to ground ammunitions from thirty thousand feet in the air. While I do enjoy doing just with the Viper and all of my other modern fighters, there is something I have been doing even more: low level ops. NEW STYLE, NEW STRATEGIES Low level combat flying with challenging aircraft is something I enjoy greatly. It makes you be much more aware of your surroundings and forces you to plan your missions in advance. You do not only have to know exactly what your target is but also the route you will be taking since terrain will actually affect the way in which you will navigate. It presents a completely different set of challenges which I find extremely delightful. Light Anti Air Artillery (AAA) is a legitimate threat no matter what you are flying, rotary wing or otherwise. You will be forced to scout from a distance at low level to increase your chances of survival during your attack run. Using terrain as cover is by far the best strategy to avoid them. You will have to stay fast and maneuverable. You never know what could lurking be in that area of operations. Low level operations are some of the only ways to use a more diverse set of aircraft. It is the only way in which I have been able to adapt the Super Tucano mod to our regular missions which were never designed with these slow turboprops. I like to stay low to avoid the long range radars that might still be active, wiping down minor threats and strategic objectives. The same applies for my rotary wings. I usually enjoy wiping down air defenses and convoys with the Mi-24P Hind using its Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs) and the 30mm cannon. Getting low and fast with the Hind is extremely fun, which is something that applies to all of the other rotary wing aircraft that I use in DCS. They make the game feel much more alive for me, even more in a time where I feel like everyone in the game is awaiting new modules to arrive. Low level infiltrations to attack as strategic target and leave as fast as you arrived are where the situations in which helos will shine their best. You can also just sit just behind terrain and lob ATGMs at the enemy so that, when they inevitably fire at your position, you can hide as fast as possible. Then reset your attack behind a new piece of cover and try again. Does that mean that low-level insertions are restricted to only helicopters? Of course not! I have had some of my best infiltrations while flying a Viggen. Low level gets a lot more dangerous at those higher speeds but the Viggen is the king of supersonic low level operations. It was designed to do well in those environments. Mavericks, bombs, rockets and even anti-ship missiles. All of which are better employed while staying low and fast. If you find yourself ever wondering how can you spice your DCS World experience, give low level ops a try. It is going to be more challenging but I assure you that it is worth it. Do remember that these types of ops only work for certain mission types, so adapt to the missions. Increasing one's skill set is always something worthwhile. 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

Star Wars: CAS Strikes Back!

Star Wars: CAS Strikes Back!

The counterattack on Takodana in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens solidified Poe Dameron's position as "one hell of a pilot". In under a minute, Poe's black T-70 X-Wing took down ten TIE fighters while strafing First Order Stormtroopers. Getting as many starfighter kills that fast might be a bit unobtainable in Star Wars Battlefront II (2017), but it's still the best place to experience Star Wars themed combined arms combat. It goes without saying that Star Wars: Squadrons (2020) is the tailor-made pilot experience, but it focuses on space combat against starfighters, warships, space ports, etc. Because of that, Battlefront II continues to be the best place to experience providing close air support (CAS) for ground forces even in the year 2022. Multiplayer Combined Arms Combat Ever since "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away" (a.k.a. the 1970s), fans of this multi-decade series have played all types of Star Wars games of various genres and quality. Few have been able to give the same epic battle experience that mimics what is shown in the movies and TV shows. I have nothing but love for the Star Wars Battlefront games of the early 2000s, as they represented combined arms pretty well for the most part. But the opportunities that starfighters had were restricted by which maps or game modes they were available in. This trend continued even into the 2010s with Star Wars Battlefront II. Its important to note that the type of combat we are discussing is only truly available in one game mode: Galactic Assault. There two teams of 20 players each fight in large battles which include the four standard player classes, powered up Reinforcement units, well-known heroes and villains and an assortment of vehicles. Not every map in Galactic Assault has starfighters available, but when they are, a starfighter in the right hands can make a difference in the ground battle. Flight System Overview It's clear that video game developer DICE designed Battlefront II to be very accessible to players of all skill levels. There are similarities in its design and gameplay to their long-running Battlefield series. Within seconds players can be embroiled in deep space skirmishes or planetside battles without having to worry too much about the physics and controls behind it all. This game restricts full control over the roll axis and utilizes automatically coordinated turning: pitch, roll and yaw working together during a single directional input to provide flat, easy to control turns. Even at minimum throttle and maximum turn input, stalling is not possible. Armor and shields regenerate when players are not under attack for a certain amount of time. There is no mid-air collision and friendly fire is disabled. The most complicated things players would need to worry about it throttle inputs for maximum turn rates, managing shield strength and selecting the right system upgrades for the task. A lot more could be said about flight in this game across all game modes, but let's refocus. Map Restrictions Something to remember while providing close air support in Battlefront II is that Galactic Assault maps have a wide horizontal play area but usually not a very high vertical play area. The exact height restrictions differ on each map, but the vertical play area is always smaller than the horizontal play area. For pilots, this translates to more ground attacks at more shallow angles giving them more time on target, but increasing their exposure to counterattack from below. The ideal high angle top attack profile is harder to achieve but is still possible. Pilots using the high angle method will have a very short time on target window before they must pull up to avoid crashing into terrain. Hardware Overview Starfighters come in three variants: interceptors which focus on high speeds and excel at shooting down other starfighters but suffer have low armor. Fighters maintain a nice balance of armor, firepower, and maneuverability. Bombers have high damage output, the best armor, and the lowest maneuverability. That may be how they are generally described, but gameplay and descriptions are two different things, especially when striking ground targets is the focus. Each Starfighter comes with slightly varying weapons systems. The primary weapon system is their blasters which have varying rates of fire and base firepower. Take note that these blasters also have a limited amount of splash damage around them. This splash damage can be utilized to hit even troops hiding behind cover, depending on the pilot's accuracy. Enhancing their ability to fire faster, hit harder or fire for longer periods of time is ideal. Secondary systems include momentary laser barrage bursts, afterburners, droids that repair damage and different types of torpedoes (i.e guided missiles). For ground attack, laser barrages and torpedoes are the best as they provide a substantial extra attack ability. Though torpedoes on starfighters do not lock onto anything but other starfighters, they can be fired without guidance using the on-screen crosshair in the starfighter's heads up display. This essentially makes them unguided rockets that fly along a fairly predictable path. When it comes to starfighter classes, the Interceptor and Bomber classes are the most effective in the ground attack role. Though Bombers do not carry bombs in this game, their high damage output blasters and torpedoes can make quick work of any land based foe. Their high output shields and heavy armor are also a factor. It may be surprising that the lightweight Interceptor was even considered, but its high rate of fire blasters can deliver respectable damage within seconds. Although its light defenses restrict it to quick slashing attacks and its high speed actually reduces the amount of time on target depending on how players approach their targets. The balanced rate of fire and damage output of Fighter class vehicle is formidable in dogfights and against capital ships, but for ground attack its somewhat meandering damage output combined with short ground attack windows caused by speed, distance and altitude restrictions diminishes its effectiveness. Application of Close Air Support Troop Buildup: The most common target for starfighters. Groups of three or more opposing players moving as a squad. The minimal splash damage produced by starfighter blasters will strike all targets within your firing point, making multi-kills more likely to happen. Being able to visually identify and trace their blaster fire helps with target identification. There are very few handheld weapons that can counter starfighters, besides Ion Torpedoes and Ion Turrets. While these launch small guided missiles that can chase starfighters, they are moderately easy to evade. Ion Disruptor Suppression: If the goal of the enemy is to deploy Ion Disruptors to drop the defenses of large assault vehicles like CIS Separatist MTTs, Imperial AT-ATs or First Order AT-M6s, interception of ground forces transporting them is needed. Pilots are able to fly past the front line and promptly fire upon the Ion Disruptors before they are fired. Even forcing the troops carrying them into less favorable position buys precious time for friendly ground forces to reach the troops carrying the Ion Disruptors themselves. Anti-Vehicle: Arguably the primary target for close air support. Whether they are hover tanks or multi-legged walking armored vehicles, starfighters can inficlt substantial damage on them in a short amount of time. Friendly ground forces will often be drawing all of their attention, making them easier to attack. Well aimed unguided torpedoes with damage upgrades are even capable of one-shot destroying vehicles at full health, if you can hit their weak spot directly. Even much larger vehicles like AT-ATs or MTTs, the primary objectives in many Galactic Assault matches, can be attacked with ease from the air at long distance. All of this can be applied to static defenses as well; E-Web Heavy Blaster emplacements, DF.9 anti-infantry batteries, V-232 artillery emplacements, etc. The weapons these vehicles carry can dish out equally high damage onto starfighters, so approaching them while they are actively firing upon you is unwise. Hero and Villain Counter: In this game, players can use the iconic characters of Star Wars to lay waste to all other infantry. With their boosted abilities, special weapons and Force powers, they can spread chaos throughout the area. Starfighters are one of the most effective counters to these characters. The splash damage caused by blasters, laser cannons and torpedoes cannot be deflected or blocked by a Force barrier or a light saber. While characters trained to use the Force will be harder to hit because of their ability to dash quickly and jump far, two or three effective strafing runs will almost completely deplete their massive health pools. Their lightsabers, while intimidating, do give away their positions when they are ignited, making them easier to attack from the air. Other characters that use blasters and are less mobile are generally easier to deal with but are capable of firing back. The most effective Hero or Villain characters against starfighters is actually Leia Organa. Her secondary fire ability not only delivers a moderately powerful single blaster bolt, but this bolt actually tracks targets. The farther the target is from Leia, the more accurate the blaster bolt tracks the target. Because the pilot receives no missile lock warning or missile evasion cues, pilots are usually caught off guard by her. This, strangely, makes her one of the most effective anti-starfighter defenses in Battlefront II. Self-Escort: In Galactic Assault, the number of starfighters available is always much more limited than the other game modes. Pilots providing CAS will need to be able to defend themselves against enemy starfighters before returning to ground attack. Even with a dedicated ally providing escort for the ground attacker, these minimal numbers will force all starfighters airborne to combat one another for air superiority. Being able to destroy walking tanks and strafe Stormtroopers definitely fulfills a lot of big screen movie desires within the players of Star Wars: Battlefront II. Han Solo is famous for saying hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster. The heavy blasters of high speed space craft tend to agree. About the Writer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. A lifelong aviation enthusiast with a special interest in flight simulators and games. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating aviation related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He continues to explore past and present flight games and sims with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. | Twitter | Discord: RibbonBlue#8870 |