The Sikorsky S-97 Raider continues to be one of the most eye-catching rotary-wing prototype designs to come out in a long time. Speaking specifically about helicopter flight shooters, you don't often see prototype and experimental designs in their rosters. Most of these games use well-known airframes like the Mi-28 Havoc, AH-64 Apache, Mi-24 Hind, and UH-60 Blackhawk, for example. Even the long-canceled RAH-66 Comanche continues to be presented as a type of super attack helicopter even though it has been well over a 15 years since it last flew or was seriously considered for production. This is why I am so excited to see the S-97, a contemporary prototype for a next-generation helicopter, appear in a game. For those that don't know, Heliborne: Enhanced Edition is a combat-focused helicopter flight game that features dozens of Russian, American, and Chinese combat helicopters. The entire roster of helicopters is separated into three distinct classes: Attack, Transport, and Scout helicopters. Each class has their own strengths and weaknesses. Their traits are especially prevalent in player versus environment (PvE) and player versus player (PvP) game modes. While transport helicopters can carry large amounts of troops and attack helicopters can employ large volumes of firepower, scout helicopters specialize in more of a support role. In the real world, the S-97 Raider was created to meet and exceed the requirements of the U.S. Army's Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) competition. As an armed reconnaissance or "scout" helicopter that can be reconfigured for other roles, its design utilizes coaxial rotors and a variable-pitch pusher prop to cruise at high-speeds in excess of 200 KTS (220 KTS according to official material). This translates to Heliborne well with the Raider capable of reaching and maintaining at least 170 KTS in level flight. This makes it one of the fastest - if not the fastest - helicopters in the game. Its high speed is ideal for traversing even the largest maps Heliborne has to offer. In Heliborne, scout helicopters are the eyes of the attack force. Able to spot enemies for all allies to see while being an indirect fire coordinator. They are in no way designed to be slinging rockets and bullets while soaking up direct enemy fire for extended periods of time. With their Mortar Observer equipment, the scout helicopters can identify targets from safe distances, making medium and long-range strikes against enemies by allied transport and attack helicopters easier. The Mortar Observer's primary use is to call in indirect fire from mortar teams that can be deployed by player-controlled transport helicopters. It's possible for a single scout helicopter to destroy entire formations of ground forces and entrenched positions on its own with enough mortar teams at its disposal. This is where the Heliborne version of the S-97 has an awkward problem. This next-generation scout helicopter does not have Mortar Observer equipment. In fact, it's not even a scout. It is instead designated as an attack helicopter with three weapons configurations that are weak in comparison to other helicopters in its assumed class. There are also other scout helicopters that have more effective weapons configurations while retaining their Mortar Observer equipment. It feels as though the Raider is still abiding by scout class weapons restrictions for game balancing while not gaining the benefit of actually being a scout helicopter. Heliborne: Enhanced Edition was released on August 20th, 2020 with the S-97 Raider being part of the new content introduced. Around a dozen major and minor patches have come out since then, and it is still in this unusual state of being. It definitely does not feel like an oversight at this point but more like an intentional design decision. This puts the S-97 in a weird spot on the game's overall roster. Being at the very end of the American-European branch of research, the path to unlock the Raider gives players access to helicopters that have better weapon options and great flight characteristics at lower research costs. This makes the Raider somewhat of a trophy that's flown more for the sake of being cool than overwhelmingly useful. With Klabater continuing updates to both stabilize Heliborne Enhanced Edition and prepare it for a game console release, there's still a chance for changes to be made. Hopefully the day will soon come when we can see the Raider flying to its fullest potential. About the Interviewer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza The Director of Operations for 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 |
A short overview of the DCS Mi-8MTV2 "Magnificent Eight" module
The Hip is one of only two dedicated cargo helicopters capable of light combat in DCS World. It is the largest flyable helicopter in the simulator, with the capability of providing both close air support (CAS) and cargo lifting for the troops on the ground. These capabilities alone make it an outstanding module on its own, but with the upcoming Mi-24P; this helicopter will become a much more interesting piece of the DCS ecosystem. During the last free-to-play period, I dedicated myself to spending as much time as possible with the Hip to be able to write a short piece about it. So be warned, I am in no way an expert when it comes to this bird. Although, all I can say is that this experience made me want to buy it really hard. This is not a review, but an overview. There are things I will omit for the sake of brevity and to leave some points so that the inevitable review is a bit more complete and less redundant. With that being said, let's take a look at this beautifully ugly bird. A MISLEADING FRONT COVER, A TYPICAL SOVIET TOUCH My first impressions of the Hip came in the form of what I'd consider a, to put slightly, overwhelming sense of dread as I started at view from the pilot's seat. To put this into perspective, most of my time spent flying helos in DCS has been on the UH-1H Huey. I'd consider the Huey a relatively straight-forward helicopter when it comes to its learning curve as it has relatively few controls and a simple cockpit layout. The Mi-8, in the other hand... For a novice, this is a terrifying first impression. In fact, I had the same impression when I flew the Fishbed for the first time in DCS as well; but just like the Fishbed's, this cockpit layout is much more intuitive and simpler than at first glance. You will have to adapt to the very different design philosophy that the Soviet Union's design bureaus had, that's it. The moment that that clicks on your head, things start becoming easier to understand. I thought that I would have had to spend hours upon hours learning, but I was in the air only half an hour after learning how to start it up. Overall, it was easy enough. Compared to the Huey, it might be a handful to manage alone. Since you will have to switch around from one seat to the other to have easier access to certain panels, such as the armament panel that is on the co-pilot side or the top rows of instruments and circuit breakers that are easily accessible by the flight engineer/navigator. Sadly, it does NOT have multicrew as of the writing of this article, so you are stuck managing this bird on your own. A HEAVY ARMED BIRD THAT FLIES LIKE A FEATHER IN THE WIND (WITH EXCEPTIONS) I have got to say something: The Mi-8 flies much differently than I thought. Since it is a lot heavier than the Huey, I expected it to be sluggish and that it would require much more collective to get off the ground. Oh boy, how wrong I was. This thing has power, a LOT of power. It only takes a bit of collective to make it go and as long as you know how to manage your trim and activate the stability augmentation, it is also surprisingly easy to fly too! Despite everything I said until now, the Mi-8 does have some quirks which you will have to get used to. For instance, I found it much easier to fall into a ring vortex state than with the Huey. It could have been that my approaches were too steep, that I just lacked the experience with the type and my inexperienced self was flying it as if it just were a big Huey. It took me a bit to adjust to the small quirks and found myself enjoying flying it around both the Caucasus and the Persian Gulf with the same ease as with my other helos. It is, without a doubt a very interesting and fun bird to fly. There is just one thing left to address from the section header: armament. Sincerely, I was a bit underwhelmed by the armament but it is ok, this is supposed to be a cargo aircraft first, attack aircraft second. I still had enough variety to play around for a bit. There's something about these cargo aircraft showing their fangs that always brings a smile to my face, a smile that can only become larger by those waterfall-like casings falling out as my pods reign fire. Such a blast, quite literally! OVERVIEW CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE PLANS When it comes down to getting the job done, the Magnificent Eight will not disappoint. It is, as of now, the most capable cargo helicopter in the simulator in my humble opinion. But, just kike every module in this and all other simulators and games, the Hip does not exist on a vacuum. Against the venerable Huey, the Mi-8 is a great counterpart while also being unique and distinct from any other helicopter out there, both aesthetically and functionally. There is, however, a big "but" in this case; at least to me. Soon a certain, let's say, distant cousin of this craft that I am quite interesting in. The Hind is fast approaching and with it, a whole new world of possibilities arise. Joint missions where Hips and Hinds assault together, each complementing each other's flaws and shortcomings. Even with that said, if I could only choose between a Hind and a Hip, I would always pick the former. It has light troop carrying capabilities as well as a lot of power for sling loading cargo, oh, and do not forget that it carries a lot more of a punch when it comes to armament. The Mi-8, on the other hand, is more of a tactical cargo helo with an emphasis on troop transport and light combat. Nothing like its cousin, but close enough to form some parallels as to how these two will complement each other in the DCS ecosystem. At the moment, all we can do is wait for this Soviet duo to be reunited in DCS. Hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later. 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 a writer and content manager ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034
Interactive Cockpit: Ambitious Star Wars VR Shelved Concept
Star Wars: Squadrons (2020) is without a doubt the best tailor-made Star Wars flight simulator that has come out in at least a decade. One of its top features which consistently garners praise is its virtual reality headset support. VR unlocks the full potential of that game, but back in 2016, there was a glimpse of what Star Wars virtual reality flight could be with an ambitious control scheme idea that was left out of Star Wars: Squadrons. Star Wars: Battlefront (2015) was the first multi-platform Star Wars game to hit the shelves after the intellectual property was purchased by Disney on October 30th, 2012. Like its predecessors from 2004 and 2005, Battlefront 2015 is a combined arms first and third-person shooter set in the Star Wars universe. Players are able to engage in infantry combat while playing as their favorite heroes and villains, fighting armored all-terrain walkers and flying iconic starfighters. As part of Battlefront's downloadable content, a movie tie-in mission was released on December 6th, 2016. With the somewhat clunky official title "Star Wars Battlefront Rogue One: VR Mission," the player flies an X-Wing as a member of the Rebel Alliance's Red Flight (not to be confused with Red Squadron). An everyday fleet escort turns into a rescue mission to save the main characters from the movie Star Wars: Rogue One. Unlike all other downloadable content for Battlefront, this free mission could only be played with the PlayStation virtual reality headset. Writing about this in 2021, it's easy to see certain parallels between this one-off VR mission and Star Wars: Squadrons' own VR presentation. But a game function I'm both relieved was not implemented and disappointed that it was not reconsidered: a clickable cockpit. I think this was the last place anyone would have expected an interactive cockpit. Players can press every button visible using a specified button on the PlayStation 4 gamepad and the on-screen headset cursor (white dot). Every button seen does not have a use, but some have essential combat and support functions. The most pressing functions are listed below: A: Fire All Blaster Cannons / B: Launch Proton Torpedoes / C: Engine Boost (Afterburner) / D: S-Foil Position Control / E: Energy Shield Control / F: Initiate Lightspeed Jump / G: Cycle Blaster Cannon Firing Pattern / H: Clear Windscreen / I: Targeting Computer As someone that thoroughly enjoys virtual reality gameplay, being able to look around the cockpit and click buttons is terrific, but in this form it is somewhat impractical. If not for around 90% of the essential controls being redundantly mapped to the gamepad, flying while relying primarily on the in-cockpit controls is somewhat dangerous. The button placement and the importance of their functions are an immediate concern. Glancing downward in the cockpit to activate engine boost (afterburner) while flying through an asteroid field is less than appealing. Even worse, taking your eyes off target to launch Proton Torpedoes is a good way to lose lock on the target. Though, specialized functions like bringing up the targeting computer and being able to change laser cannon firing patterns were wonderful to have access to and were placed in reasonable positions. A rethinking of button position alone would have made this clickable cockpit concept perfect for further pushing Star Wars: Squadrons deeper into the flight simulation genre. But a significant part of that also means addressing how these buttons are interacted with. This is where hindsight, wishful thinking, and game development collide. While it's easy enough for me to say that refinement is all that was needed, when discussing interactive 3D cockpits in virtual reality, compatibility and implementation challenges related to physical controllers like gamepads and flight sticks into the virtual space become forefront. The Battlefront VR mission fell into the same balancing act other flight simulators continue to contend with today. Titles like Aerofly FS2 Flight Simulator, Digital Combat Simulator World, and VTOL VR and their implementation of virtual reality alongside physical controllers come to mind. But it's important to remember the scope of development for each game and project is different. The Battlefront VR Mission was built to be a standalone experience using a somewhat multipurpose game engine and a single controller method. It did not have the dedicated flight sim development path of Star Wars: Squadrons which prioritized implementing standard screen displays and physical controllers with virtual reality acting more as an optional enhancement. A fantastic addition but not required. Honestly, Star Wars: Squadrons was designed in a way that made it just about as accessible as a flight simulation style game can get, so the inclusion of an interactive cockpit that would require players to get familiar with their sensors and switches would mostly likely be a high-hurdle for many casual players or first time flight simmers to get over. All this being said, I truly do enjoy the Star Wars Battlefront Rogue One: VR Mission for what it is. I have had a blast revisiting it after years to write this article. Perhaps in the future, now that an appetite for Star Wars flight simulation has been confirmed, a full-on 1:1 simulator using a Digital Combat Simulator World style touch controller method could exist. This may be yet another case of a product appearing before its time while shining a light in the direction of the future. I just hope that future has a bit better button placement. About the Interviewer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza The Director of Operations for 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 |
Entering early access in December 2015, the Mirage quickly established itself as one of the best dogfighters in DCS' competitive environment. Having one of the most polished flight models in the game, it also provides more than great Beyond and Within Visual Range (BVR and WVR) combat capabilities as well as some ground-pounding potential. In this review we will be taking a look into several different parts of the module and evaluating if this beautiful French lady is a fit for you. These points will be divided in several sections: External and internal 3D models Visual and sound effects Flight modelling Mission capability Armament Ease of use and learning curve Single player content Is this aircraft for you? This review was initially published on the 14th of August, 2020 and has received some minor updates as of the 20th of February, 2021. EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL 3D MODELS Externally, the Mirage has got to have one of the most recognizable airframes out there, mainly due to the very similar shape it has kept ever since the Mirage III came out in the 1960's. Razbam, thankfully, has done it justice with this module by giving it a very gorgeous exterior and interior which are full with detail everywhere you can look. Exterior-wise this module boasts a very appealing model that is full of detail, complex curves of the Mirage show all their grace. All the animations, such as the intake shock cones movement or the flight surface movement while taxiing, are fluid and give the plane a bit of life. For the rivet-counters out there, this model should be a feast for the eyes. COMMITMENT TO DETAILS From the inner side of the turkey feathers on the engine to the emergency canopy release handle, the work that went into getting these very easily overlooked details shows that Razbam researched this aircraft to a very high degree, which is commendable and applauded. Interior-wise this module can only be described as gorgeous. It received a major update in late 2019 which aimed at keeping it kind of up to date with the Mirages currently in service with the Armée de l'Air (AdA). This included the addition of a Night Vision Goggle (NVG) mount along with a rework on how the NVGs worked in the module, an updated radio panel and an ECM annunciator on the right side of the dash. The way the annunciator lights shine gives them a very believable feel, a feel that is exacerbated by the flood lights reflecting off the surfaces and screens. I'll take my hat off and applaud Razbam's work, they really did well in this regard. Addendum 20/02/2021: There is another model that I forgot to mention in the first revision of this review, that being the VR pilot model. Since I mostly fly without the pilot model to make it easier for myself to click around the cockpit I had not noticed the detail that the pilot model has. This must be a treat for those who fly VR, very well done. VISUAL AND SOUND EFFECTS Apart from being well modeled, this module also has some of the best looking visual effects out there; on par with the Viper and the Hornet. When at a high AoA scenario, the amount of vapor that's produced by the vortex generators, the inner corner of the leading edge and the massive clouds that form above the wing left me speechless the first time I saw them. These are the kinds of details that make a module feel alive. Sound-wise the M2000 has a very distinctly sounding engine that gives the pilot a lot of feedback, at least while you are on the ground. In the air the engine's sound is not as clear as it is on the ground due to the extremely loud noise generated by the wind hitting your canopy. Don't get me wrong, I like the realism aspect that comes with the reduced auditory feedback that the engine gives at high speed but, and this is my personal opinion, sometimes it is better to sacrifice some realism to improve usability. I know that you can enable the "loud afterburner" option in the menu but I write these reviews in function of a unhampered experience, with default options.
As I put it in one of my earliest reviews, the one I wrote about the F-5E-3 Other modules such as the AJS-37 "Viggen" give you a very distinct engine sound when your aircraft goes into afterburner at the cost of realism. We as players need that feedback since we cannot feel the vibrations of the engine or the rumble of the wheels. Overall, sound design is very solid in this module but as always I will let you, the reader, be your own judge in this regard as this category can be very subjective: EXAMPLES: 1. Engine while on ground: ( Idle-->Full Afterburner-->Idle ): 2. Engine while in-flight @450 kts: (Idle-->Full Power-->Idle) 3. Fly-by at +550 knots, full afterburner: (Volume warning) FLIGHT MODELING Over every other category, this is the one that makes the Mirage shine. It has the best-feeling flight model currently in DCS, period. From the buffeting at low speed to the highly responsive flight controls, this flight model truthfully represents what I have heard from real Mirage pilots. This bird excels in a dogfight thanks to the advantages of the delta wing design, these being good nose authority at high AoA and stellar low speed performance characteristics. She is a fierce dogfighter and she knows it. The way that the Fly-by-Wire system (FBW) is programmed here gives you very precise control over the aircraft making it feel snappy and responsive while keeping you, the pilot, away from a deadly stall. Unlike some of the other aircraft that have FBW, this one feels less restrictive. It has two modes: Charges and A/A. Charges will limit your maneuverability to a mere 5.5G, and your roll rate to 150°/sec. This mode is to be used when you are heavily loaded, as the name implies. A/A mode will raise the amount of Gs you can pull to 9Gs and roll rate to 270°/sec, which is immensely useful during a close range combat scenario. It is difficult to put into words the feeling of flying the Mirage, but if I had to describe it briefly I would have to say that after I flew it the only other plane that could match its snappiness was the F-16CM, but even it lacks that spark that puts this French marvel above everything else. It does have some quirks that you will have to get used to such as the slow engine response time which can make air to air refueling a bit tricky at first. Once you get used to it, though, that is when you will learn to appreciate this beast for what it is. MISSION CAPABILITY Even though the Mirage is capable both A/A and A/G missions, it truly shines in the air to air role thanks to its design as a capable dogfighter and interceptor. It is able of operating independently without the direct aid of either a Ground Control Intercept (GCI) station or an AWACS due to its capable radar. Operational range is not a problem as long as you conserve your fuel or, alternatively, have a tanker at your disposal. LIMITED BVR CAPABILITIES It has the same limitations as some of the Russian aircraft present in FC3, this being the lack of any actively guided missiles (Fox-3 type). While the Super 530 is a great semi-active missile (Fox-1 type) it does lack active guidance. This limits your capabilities in an engagement as you will have to keep the target locked all the way to impact, so no fire and forget. Doing precision bombing on the Mirage will be a bit tricky considering that you do not have any targeting pod (TGP) at your disposal. Guiding GBUs will be the job of either a JTAC or a friendly aircraft equipped with a TGP, so better be prepared to communicate a lot in order to get those lasers where you need them and when you need them. That being said, low level bombing can be done very effectively on the Mirage. Dropping either BLU-66 canisters or Mk.82 Snake eyes on a target while going as fast as possible can be one of the most rewarding things you could do on the Mirage. ARMAMENT DEFA 554 30MM CANNONS These two cannons might not fire as fast as a rotary but when they hit, they hit. Just a couple rounds should be able to annihilate most aircraft, turning them into a burning wreck. Note: Do conserve your ammunition as you only have 125 rounds per cannon. Make them count. MATRA R550 "MAGIC II" As your sole option for IR-guideance, this missile has solid all-aspect guidance and relatively high maneuverability when compared to some competitors, such as the R-60 or the AIM-9P5. Overall, it is a solid missile and it should serve you well. MATRA SUPER 530D Just as the Magic II is your only choice for, the Super 530 is your sole option for radar guidance. Its range is average and it has above average maneuverability but with a little practice this missile becomes a deadly weapon. It is semi-active, though, so be careful not to drop your lock by accident. Mk.82 BOMBS (SLEEK AND SNAKE EYE) Whether you know the target's location or not, these will never fail you. The only unguided bombs that you have are these wonderful Mk.82s in both its low drag and high drag variants. You are guaranteed to have a blast when you use them, literally. CLUSTER MUNITIONS Do you want to bomb a big strip of runway or a large area full of enemy units? Then these puppies should do the trick. You have two different cluster munitions at your disposal, each with a different purpose: BLG-66 "BELOUGA": This one was designed to quickly deal with densely populated enemy areas. They can be launched as low as 1000ft while in level flight. BAP-100: Designed to effectively deal with enemy runways. They can be quite the asset to use early in a conflict to avoid the enemy from launching more aircraft. GBU-SERIES (LASER GUIDED BOMBS) Even if you are not able to guide them by yourself, having the possibility of doing pin-point strikes is always a welcome addition. You have three sizes at your disposal: GBU-12: 500lb bomb GBU-16: 1000lb bomb GBU-24: 2000lb bomb MATRA ROCKET PODS Carrying eighteen 68mm rockets each, these pods ones are one of the most fun weapons available in the M2000-C arsenal. They are very precise and able to destroy most armored targets upon direct impact and COUNTERMEASURES The Mirage has a very complete countermeasure suite on board, including both flare and chaff dispensers and an internal ECM. While not being the most powerful jammer, it should still gain you some precious seconds to get your Super 530s out of the rail.
You also have the option of equip the ECLAIR pod, which would increase your countermeasure expendable stores at the cost of removing the drag chute. So, when equipping this pod, you should always take into consideration yoru mission profile and the length of your airstrips as that drag chute might come in handy on a short runway. Thanks to Butterfly 055 from the TTI server for pointing this out. EASE OF USE AND LEARNING CURVE: This is not a difficult aircraft to learn at first glance. The cockpit layout lends itself to being simple and easy to learn but the difficulties start to show up once you have learned how to take off and land the aircraft and you start learning the more in-depth systems such as radar modes, weapon management panels and navigation.
The navigation panel on the M2000-C is not for the impatient out there, just like the Tomcat's. In order to correctly start your flight you will have to learn how to properly align your INS, which can be a bit of a daunting task for a newcomer. This is not an American aircraft and as such it comes with some quirks that you will have to learn to love, such as the solid five minutes you will have to wait to get your INS aligned after you already spent one or two more minutes imputing the coordinates into the panel. Personally, I am one of those guys that loves learning this kind of stuff so I am not bothered by the initial shock that comes from learning these systems. But that might not be the case for a newcomer. This module is not a good first buy, that title belongs to aircraft such as the F-5E-3 or even free mods such as the MB-339 (which is now on its way to become an official module) or the wonderful A-4E-C Community mod. Rather, it is an aircraft that you should approach if you already have some experience with other NATO aircraft and want a different yet oddly familiar experience when it comes to combat and system management. SINGLE PLAYER CONTENT One of the most positive aspects of this module is the fact it comes not with one but with TWO single player campaigns created by one of the most respected mission creators currently in DCS, Baltic Dragon!
The first of the two, which takes place on the Caucasus map, is a training oriented experience which guides the player through some of the more tedious parts of any module in an interactive way, slowly easing them into combat scenarios. Great for beginners and available for all to play, playing this campaign is a most. The second one, only available for those who also own the Persian Gulf, takes more of a focus on the combat scenarios which play out on a fictional UAE Coup d'Etat. Playing the role of a French pilot based at the UAE as the Coup erupts, you are forced into combat with unfriendly forces. This campaign is a blast to play, even more given that it comes with custom comms outside of the DCS ATC system, a feature which is impressive to say the least. Seeing as most modules tend to lack when it comes to single player content, these two campaigns are a breath of fresh air for any player that either does not feel ready for the multiplayer arena or for those that just want to have a short, fun session after a day of work. IS THIS AIRCRAFT FOR YOU? If what you want in a module is: A powerful dogfighting platform. Good single player content made by a very good creator. A solid flight model that will have you coming back. A experience that only a European fighter could give you. If you don't mind: The quirks that come with a non-American aircraft. The lack of a targeting pod. The relatively steeper learning curve. Not having access to actively guided missiles for BVR engagements. If all or some of the above is what you want, then RAZBAM's M2000-C is for you. About the writer: Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as a writer and content manager ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034
Sky Rogue: its cell-shaded look gushes style, the original aircraft selection is wide-reaching, and its weapon options are more in-depth than expected. But I'd say the way it handles co-op on Steam remains a somewhat hidden strength that contributes to its lasting power even after it left early access on August 24th, 2017. Before the time of the widely accessible online gaming we enjoy today, the couch gameplay experience was a definitive part of the way gamers spent time together. The same was true for some flight titles on game consoles as well. Even as high-speed internet spread and online multiplayer became a leading game feature, that fond couch cooperative gameplay experience remains something special that games continue to incorporate. The co-op of Sky Rogue has that same nostalgic feeling in spades with an important supplement via the Steam gaming platform. Something that makes it a fantastic flight game for any game library. Sky Rogue's campaign is easy to jump into with a minimal amount of preparation, planning, or even context needed. Within a few minutes of booting it up, players can be dogfighting with enemy fighters, bombing boats, and pelting aerial warships with volleys of rockets. The spunky roster of original design fighters, bombers, and interceptors are coupled with a sizeable list of weapons, countermeasures, drones, and backward firing weapons. There's a decent amount of content driven by a pleasant fly, die and upgrade game loop which gives it significant replayability. Thankfully, Sky Rogue does not have watered-down co-op. The entire campaign can be played with another person in either horizontal or vertical split-screen. There is no secondary, purpose built game mode that excludes content or only has a limited number of scenarios to play; a significant pitfall that many games from past and present have fallen into. All progress that is made in either single-player campaign or co-op campaign is saved in the save file for player one. This means that player two will always have access to all the aircraft, weapons, upgrades, and other components that have been unlocked by player one. Player two will not be stuck using inferior equipment because of mismatched save progress or not logging in with their own user profile. This is pretty great for couch wingmen, but for people playing on Steam, they can also enjoy the same split screen action via remote play. So long as Steam's remote play internet connection requirements are met, the game can be shared with a second player who also has a free Steam account. Using this method, the other player is not required to own a copy of the game to play. This makes Sky Rogue a flight game that can be shared with friends all around the world at no extra cost for the second player. Some setting and resolution configuration may be needed to smooth out the desired gameplay speed and quality. But a few minutes of potential troubleshooting is a low price to pay for a solid go-to flight game for quick cooperative gameplay sessions. Sky Rogue is no stranger to Steam sales, so keep an eye out for the next one. Note: this article is specifically about the Steam version of the game. Sky Rogue is available on Itch.io, Nintendo Switch, and Microsoft Xbox game services but I cannot tell you if those platforms support remote play or how remote play works on them, as I have not played this game on those platforms myself. About the Interviewer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza The Director of Operations for 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 |
If I were to ask you what makes DCS interesting and distinct, what would your answer be? I could guess that a varied range of answers could arise: from the people that love the action of close-in dogfight on both jets and props, to the folks that love dropping death from above with bombs; and those who prefer low level flying with helicopters or the few that enjoy tank combat! But, aside from a couple of helicopters, we have not seen a specific type of gameplay which could be beneficial in bringing combined arms and air corps close by bridging the gap: Cargo. I know that this opinion is not one that is shared by many, but I ask of you to at least read what I want to say here as I think I have a proposition for everyone who has any doubts. Last year, a modder known as Anubis released a mod which is not only unique but one that has no precedent in the game: a relatively high fidelity C-130J Super Hercules with a clickable cockpit and an EFM (external flight model). This mod allowed me to have my first taste of what could be possible with a heavy cargo aircraft inside of the simulator. And I was immediately taken by surprise. I always used to think that flying a cargo aircraft would be boring and tedious, but I was proven wrong. Cargo aircraft are not only for hauling cargo to and from airbases, but they can also deliver it directly to the troops/civilians in need straight to them by dropping it via parachute or LAPES in the case of the Hercules (Low Altitude Parachute-Extraction System). With these capabilities, not even taking into account the mountable cannons, allow for some interesting mission scenarios for multiplayer sessions. One of which being a very interesting combined arms scenario which includes almost every playable vehicule type: "A group of soldiers, accompanied by a small armored regiment and attack helicopters, is in need of reinforcements. A group of F-16CM will escort a pair of C-130 loaded a paratrooper regiment and vehicules. The mission is to get the C-130s to their drop point and back to base safely." To me, this is a multiplayer mission which I would love to be a part of as I wouldn't even have to choose which part to play because, surprisingly, all of the components in this mission are player controlled in one way or another. Even the dropped vehicules cold be player-controlled once they are on the ground. That being said, at the moment this scenario would only be possible thanks to the C-130 mod. Which leads us to the question on the title: Do cargo aircraft have a place inside DCS World? To me, yes, they do. The C-130J mod has showed me how surprisingly fun tactical cargo aircraft can be in DCS; and, by looking at the way that the community has responded to this mod, I am not the only one that thinks that way. If, at any point in time, Eagle Dynamics were to release a high fidelity module of a tactical cargo aircraft; you can count me as a day-one buyer. Here's hoping that that happens one of these days. This mod can be found on this discord server, where it was originally published. 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 a writer and content manager ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034
Trail of Wings: A Game Representative of Project ICKX Development Interests
The name Trail of Wings (ToW) has roots starting from developing content expansion packs for a different flight game to creating an original intellectual property. The development, final product, and distribution are highly representative of the type of material Project ICKX - a developer, producer and publisher of Japanese indie flight games - has been involved with. What's important to remember is that the "circles" mentioned are teams of hobbyist and semi-pro developers that work together and share resources to self-publish products (Japanese term being: doujin software or doujin games) because of their mutual passion for a specific subject. Back on March 26th, 2008, a circle was formed with the goal of "making flight shooting more interesting." Known as Project Wings, under the direction of Nrtwd, they specialized in creating expansion packs for RaidersSphere 3rd, a flight action game created by circle Rectangle. These expansions added aircraft, maps, and online game modes for players to compete against each other. The expansion packs introduced real-world aircraft designs alongside the original, fictional designs from RaidersSphere. The game engine used for this was the Sphere Engine. The 7th expansion pack had a prolonged development process that went over a year. Though a video trailer (above) and trial demo for the 7th ToW expansion pack was released for Akihabara Doujin Trial Festa 2010, a change in plans occurred after Sphere Engine Conference 2011. This meeting of different circles that utilize the Sphere Engine focused on sharing information, ideas, and presentations about the game engine. Following this event, circle Project Wings embarked on a new development path that would lead to support from Project ICKX to create and distribute their new game. On June 6th, 2011, the new vision for Trail of Wings was introduced. Concept art for its characters and world setting was gradually posted onto the official blog, with certain assets of the 7th expansion pack reworked for the new story. On May 5th, 2012, Trail of Wings Prologue Book was released to the public. The player flies as the second position in Silver Wolf Squadron as a member of the Republic of Ernest 7th Air Force, Combined Task Force 207 stationed at Palacebridge Island. The island's position is of strategic importance because it is one of the few landmasses between its neighbor, the Zellbell Union. The Zellbell Union is has a history of revolutions, political defections, and economic strife that started in the 1970s of their timeline. A civil war broke out in 2020 caused by the government forces prioritizing military power rather than rebuilding the nation for decades on end. The New Government Forces overthrew the so-called "Legitimate Zellbell Union Force" (old government forces) and reached out to the Republic of Ernest for assistance. Combined Task Force 207 was created to assist the New Government Forces in their battle to do away with the old regime. The wheels of intrigue began to spin shortly before the events of the game. There is the implication that one side of the conflict is being driven forward by a certain person or person(s) and whispers of secret weapons development projects arise. Silver Wolf and other forces at Palacebridge find themselves on the new frontline of the conflict. Hostile Zellbell combat aircraft are sent in waves to attack Palacebridge. During these attacks, one of the new conflict's primary instigators is identified, and a connection between allies and enemies is discovered. The gameplay is true to its arcade flight shooter inspirations. The experience is very much in line with the other titles from the PlayStation and Xbox games from the 2000s and 2010s. The focus is on high-speed, high-energy combat with a limited amount of systems to manage. Aircraft are based on real-world designs with slight name changes for obvious copyright's sake. A majority of aircraft from the ToW expansions between 2007 to 2009 are not included, but two aircraft, in particular, are seen in a highly unusual formation: the SF-4 Super Phantom (back) and SV-XX (front). These aircraft are part of the enemy ace squadron that appears to oppose Silver Wolf Squadron. As cool as these two aircraft are, players can only fly the AF-15C with two weapon slots available for the alpha, though it does carry dozens of missiles and near unlimited gun ammo. There is no other aircraft that can be unlocked through gameplay, but a second aircraft can be added through other means. The expansion disc, Sudden Dark Condor, was released by another doujin circle associated with Project ICKX. Installing both Trail of Wings Prologue Book and Sudden Dark Condor unlocks the MF-16C and six additional campaign missions. The missions follow a different cast of characters as they fight the unbelievable weapons from Dark Condor, an international private military company that is backing a conflict unrelated to the events of Trail of Wings. Speaking of discs, the CD for the game not only contains the installation files, but also doubles as the soundtrack when played with a CD player or media player software. The most interesting product that comes with the Trail of Wings Prologue Book is a physical booklet that explains a world timeline, map of the continents, information about the nations, biographies for the player's wingmen, aircraft specifications, and more. Included is artwork and collages of screenshots that show aircraft and locations that would have appeared later in the game's story. While some Project ICKX games can be downloaded from online vendors, Trail of Wings Prologue Book remains almost entirely available as physical merchandise. Even in the 2020s, instead of video game retail stores, it can be found in doujin focused shops but primarily from conventions and expos attended by Project ICKX staff. The public alpha disc, 18-page supplemental book, and expansion disc are still printed and sold at these events. Physically going to a convention to purchase the game, meet the developers and producers, meet fellow fans and try out other products is a major part of the Japanese doujin style. Though Trail of Wings hasn't gone beyond the prologue book's events, a product created by a circle with assistance from a second circle with an expansion disc created by a third circle is something distinctive to the type of products Project ICKX supports. Note: This article was written in a way that respects Project ICKX guidelines, which asks anyone who discusses their products to avoid major spoilers. This same practice was done with scanned materials that are shown in this article. Because this product is still actively sold by Project ICKX, there will not be a file upload of the entire book either. About the Interviewer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza The Director of Operations for 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 |
Review: DCS MiG-21Bis Fishbed-N by Leatherneck Simulations
As one of the first third party modules available on DCS World, the Fishbed set the bar for quality with its release back in 2014. It was developed by Leatherneck Simulations, the company that housed many of the developers that would later become part of Heatblur Simulations after the split that resulted in both Heatblur and Magnitude 3/Leatherneck becoming separate studios.
The Fishbed has proven to be an aircraft that, despite its age and system limitations, still holds a very important role in the DCS arena, as one of the only high fidelity Redfor aircraft currently in the sim, JF-17 aside. The older brothers of the Fishbed, the Fagot and the Farmer, are also available but neither of them have the multirole capabilities of this manned missile. In this review I will tackle all areas which I personally look at before buying a module so that you, the reader, can make an informed decision as to if this Soviet era workhorse is for you. These areas are the following: External and internal 3D models Visual effects and sound design Flight modeling Mission capability Armament Ease of use and learning curve Bugs and Leatherneck's plan Is this aircraft for you? Thank you to my friend Hueman for his assistance on this review. EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL 3D MODELS This module has got to have one of the most beautiful 3D modeling assets in DCS. Even more when you consider that, despite being updated somewhat recently on the Phase 1 update, this module is almost 7 years old! Every nook and cranny, every bolt and rivet has been masterfully represented on the external model, making it either a pleasure or a displeasure to look at depending on what you think of this aircraft's design features. Its long hump and tubular design make it instantly recognizable, to which Leatherneck went far and beyond to make it accurate. BEAUTIFULLY UGLY To the right there is a small gallery of what I consider to be some of the details that make this module's 3D artwork masterful. From the antennas and the pitot tube, to the spectacular texture work on the bare metal skins and complex meshes of the Tumansky R-25 engine. This is just a feast for the eyes to those that know this craft. There is one exception to this beauty and that is that some of the liveries have certain mistakes on the roughmets. This is specifically noticeable as some of the painted liveries, such as the Slovakian-1998 livery, still have remnants of the Russian warning markings which are not on the skins as these countries have eliminated them and replaced them with their own language. An example of this can be found below on the Bugs section of this review. Now, cockpit-wise, this aircraft has some of the best 3D artwork out there. It doesn't look new but rather heavily used. Textures still hold up wonderfully and instrument lighting, which has seen changes as DCS improves its lighting engine, looks stunning. I'll stop talking and I will let you take a look for yourself with the following gallery: VISUAL EFFECTS AND SOUND DESIGN External effects such as over-wing vapor, which is not the best I have seen in DCS, and a very unique afterburner are there. The afterburner effect was changed recently as part of the Phase 1 update, which made it much more distinct. Aside from that, the Fishbed lacks any kind of vapor vortexes like the ones present on the Harrier, Tomcat, Hornet and Viper. Although, none of the videos that I have watched of the Fishbed flying have shown vortexes forming on the wings. Sound-wise, this module will either be your favorite or you will hate it. This was one of the first aircraft in DCS which exaggerates the engine sounds in the cockpit for the sake of pilot feedback. This is, in my honest opinion, one of the best things a module can do as it increases the pilot's awareness of what their engine is doing at any point of its RPM range. Be it idle, military or full afterburner, you will know. The sound of the switches is pretty snappy, and varies depending on what you are clicking, but not that much. One complaint that I have with the sound is the way that the engine sound transitions from military power to full afterburner. In my opinion, it is way too sudden and sounds artificial. It is not terrible by any means, just something where I thought this module would have done better. The only other complaint I have is with the external sound and the way that it handles the throttle changes at a distance. From a mile and a half away you can clearly hear what RPM range the engine is, which is not something that should happen. Here are the examples taken with maximum volume and no post processing: Engine while on the ground: (Idle-->Full Afterburner-->Idle) Listen to those breaks too! Engine while in-flight: (Idle-->Full Afterburner-->Idle) Fly-by at 510 knots, full afterburner: (Volume warning) Notice the sound of throttle movements at the end! FLIGHT MODELING This is, once again, an area in which I have to clarify that I have neither flown fighters or have been involved with military aircraft in real life. Most of my experience is derived from simulators and from theoretical knowledge about aerodynamics and flight dynamic simulation. That being said, I am kind of divided on its flight model. On one hand it does not seem to have scripted behavior on stalls or high angles of attack. On the other, it does seem to have some very weird behavior when both at low speed and high angles of attack. If I were to overly-simplify this, I'd say that it simulates 95% of the flight regime to a very high degree but the other 5% feels a bit strange. Here is an example of that strange behavior I have noticed. Aerodynamically, neither I or a very dear friend of mine that's an aeronautical engineer undergrad (Hueman) can not make sense of what is happening here. The movements could be generated by a yaw instability at high AoA, a characteristic that Fishbed does possess and the reason why they have a ventral fin. To be honest, this is a minor gripe; but it does not remove the fact that the event feels artificial in nature. That is just my subjective opinion, mind you. From another angle/software: Aside from this, the flight model does not have any other major "flaws". Landings are tricky at first due to the way the aircraft behaves while on glide slope but you will get used to them. To me it is, generally, a pleasure to fly not because it is easy but because it is an aircraft that requires your attention. Additionally, I have not seen a real Fishbed pilot complain about the accuracy of this flight model, but the ones I see complaining are other players such as myself. MISSION CAPABILITY This little bird can do most of what you ask of it. From interceptions/air to air, at which it excels since it is what this aircraft was mostly used for despite its awful radar, to air to ground attack and recon. Due to the way the soviets treated this aircraft, being a frontline fighter, it can carry a variety of weaponry of different shapes, sizes and capabilities. Your main limitations will be both range and precision capability. You lack any kind of laser or TV guided bombs/missiles, with your only guided air to ground missile being the beam-riding Grom missile. You will have to rely on the good ol' Mk.1 eyeball to land most of your air to ground shots. But even with that said, operational range will be your major hindrance. No air-to-air refueling either, so you better plan your missions with a fuel stop or two. You can also do STO operations thanks to your RATO pods. Have a look: Now, onto the armament! ARMAMENT GsH-23 CANNON Your internal cannon, even with its limited ammunition, is more than capable of dealing with aerial and lightly armored ground targets. You will learn how to love this thing! UPK-23-250 GUNPODS AIR TO AIR MISSILES Your main line of defense/offense against air targets, you have four types to choose from. They are not the most modern line-up but they get the job done. Do not underestimate them. R-60 and R-60M (As modern as you will get) R-13 (The soviet equivalent of an AIM-9P, they are good but not as good as an R-60M) R-3S and R-3R (IR and Radar guided respectively, these are the oldest ones in your inventory) UNGUIDED BOMBS From cluster munitions to your typical soviet line-up, these are as effective as your aim is. The Fishbed does not have a CCIP indicator, so aside of some computer assistance with the pipper, you will be the one calculating your drops so make them count! FAB-100, FAB-250/FAB-250 TU and FAB-500 M62 (your high-explosive munitions) RBK-250 PTAB-2.5M (Cluster Bomb) SAB-100 (Illumination bomb) BetAB-500 (Bunker buster) BL755 (Cluster bomb) RBK-500 PTAB-10-5 (Cluster bomb) UNGUIDED ROCKETS These are what I use for most of my ground attack missions as they allow me more time on station. You have a small variety to choose from, almost the same as any other soviet fighter. S-5 Rockets on pods of 16 (UB-16UM) or 32 (UB-32) per pod. S-24 Rockets Kh-66 "GROM" MISSILE A radar guided/beam riding missile. This is your only guided ground munition, and quite the good one. Point your pipper, press lock and fire away; as simple as that. This missile also has quite a large warhead so you will be able to engage light ships as well. RN-24 AND RN-28 NUCLEAR BOMBS This is the only aircraft in DCS that is capable of carrying tactical nuclear bombs. They do not have any special effect and their effectiveness is disappointingly low, but they are there! When deployed on multiplayer servers, if they are not banned, then please mind the explosive radius as it can kill air, including allied ones, units as far as 15 nautical miles. RP-22SMA "SAPFIR" RADAR This piece of soviet engineering has got to be one of the worse, if not the worst, air intercept radars I have ever had the displeasure of using. It is clunky and gets easily confused by both cloud and ground clutter as well as jamming. You aim it by aiming the entire aircraft, no TDC here. Oh, and did I forget that it is cooled by alcohol which gives it a run time of 20 minutes?
I love it and the way it is implemented, but it is not pleasant to use. DEFENSIVE EQUIPMENT You will inevitably be shot at some point. But don't fret as you do have your trusty SPS-141-100 Electronic Warfare pod/Chaff and Flares pod and your AS0-2 Dispensers. These will give you a bit more chance to evade missiles, as long as they have ammo. Don't forget your SPO-10 "Sirena-3" RWR, which should give you an idea of where and when you are getting shot at/locked. EASE OF USE AND LEARNING CURVE I'll be honest. This is not a beginner friendly aircraft. From its very soviet way of taxiing to its illogical system locations (by western standards), this aircraft has a steeper curve than other DCS modules. For reference: the F-5E, which many consider to be the western analog to the Fishbed, has a much more friendly learning curve due to its logical cockpit layout. Tasks which are easier on the Tiger, such as bombing, become a bit more tedious on the Fishbed but not by much. You will have to put more time into learning the quirks and features of this fighter, primarily the positions of all the switches for each weapon employment. Once you get over those difficulties, I assure you that the Fishbed is well worth your time as it offers a very different experience that no other fighter can offer in DCS as of the time of writing. Here is a small clip that I recorded for use in our social medias, proof that bombing on the Fishbed can be pin-point accurate if the pilot is as well! BUGS AND LEATHERNECK'S PLAN This is one of those modules on which I have found the weirdest of bugs. Not weird because of their obscurity but weird because of how easy they are to find. Here are three of the what I would consider "hard to miss bugs": 1- (ABOVE) Nosewheel tire clips through the ground when break is applied while taxiing at close to MTOW (Maximum Take-Off Weight). This causes the geometry on the nose wheel strut to hit the ground and causes sparks to come out. 2- (ABOVE) Problem light animation hovers if problem light is lit and pressed. 3. (ABOVE) Liveries utilize incorrect roughmets that do not correspond to their skin. This is evident on skins such as "Slovakia-1998", which has Russian text still present on the roughmets that does not correspond to the text on the skin. This leaves a "ghost image" of the Russian text when light reflects on the aircraft. Now, these are only three of the bugs I felt like they were worth mentioning. They are not game-breaking nor do they make the Fishbed a bad module; but since the developers paid so much attention to detail in so many different areas, it feels odd to see these bugs are still a thing. Leatherneck, or Magnitude 3 since both studios operate from the same umbrella, are still rolling out changes to the external assets of the Fishbed in two phases. Phase one was rolled out late last year, as I previously mentioned at the start of the review. Let's hope that some or all of these issues will be fixed with that patch. IS THIS AIRCRAFT FOR YOU? If what you want in a module is: A challenging learning experience that requires your attention. A third-generation multirole aircraft. The feeling of being strapped to a missile. A good dogfighter with poor visibility so that you can feel better when you shoot something down. If you don't mind: The very soviet design and way of operation. Not having screens of any type to do modern jet stuff. The limited guided air-to-ground capability. The feeling of being strapped to a missile. The quirks of a very, very old design. If all or some of the above is what you want, then Leatherneck's MiG-21 Bis is for you About the writer: Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as a writer and content manager ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034
Hello, Thank you for your interest in Skyward Flight Media and supporting us. Starting in January 2021, we have created a Ko‑fi account for viewers that would like to back us financially. First, we think it is important that we take a look at how Skyward came to be. Our core team was initially active under the name Project Lighthouse (2017-2019). What had started as a group of international Ace Combat fans writing about their beloved series began to evolve into something beyond focusing on a specific aviation game series. Following our interview with Ace Combat series brand director Kazutoki Kono and covering the launch weekend of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown at PAX South 2019, we felt inspired to go for something more significant. But to achieve that, we felt as though the way to branch out beyond our single series focus and open possibilities for future ventures was to rebrand. This is how Skyward Flight Media came to be. Following our rebrand in March 2020, we have elevated our content frequency and variety to levels we did not reach during our first years of operation. Today our content includes interviews with developers and other creators, thoughtful pieces on current and retro aviation games, reviews of software/hardware, and many other different and unique articles about digital aviation as a whole. As we continue to expand both our content and viewership, supporting us through Ko‑fi is one of a few ways you can help support our efforts. Funds gathered via Ko‑fi will be used for website operations and efforts to expand our variety of content. For example, one of our main goals this year is the start of video creation efforts. From simple recordings to more elaborate videos on topics that deserve them. We would like to make clear that none of our primary content will ever be locked behind a paywall. It will always be accessible for you; be it one of our articles, reviews or our videos. We might create some secondary content for our backers but that content will never detract or reduce the quality of our primary content. Thank you for your interest and consideration.
As seen in the promotional media and gameplay of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV, also referred to as drones) are an essential part of its story. With Ace Combat 7 being the first multi gaming platform release in the series since 2011, drones have become a part of the modern identity of Ace Combat. But they were not always as front and center in this series as they are now, as hard as that might be to imagine. Ace Combat is a series that has always pushed players forward as fighter pilot heroes continually entangled in high energy dogfights against dozens of foes. As the series progressively incorporated more storytelling and worldbuilding, even the adversaries created to rival the player are often equally impressive ace pilots or an overwhelming sci-fi superweapon. The player's allies are also notable non-player-controlled humans operating aircraft, ground vehicles, and naval vessels. UAVs were introduced early on with Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere (May 27th, 1999). The Japanese version of the game had a few remote-controlled attack helicopters that acted as facility defenses, target training drones, and a particularly surprising mission that pitted the player against eight heavily armed, laser cannon welding drones in one of the five endings of the game. The most notable UAV in the game turns out to be the primary antagonist and player themselves. Each of them is either a digital copy of a human's consciousness or artificial intelligence. Now, that's quite the plot twist, and it also stretches the definition of "unmanned" a bit, but this is not representative of the majority of Ace Combat's drone representation. From 2001 to 2010, drones gradually appeared in increasing numbers, with various airframes, and were clearly identified. Different types of direct combat and support drones were introduced. From loitering attackers to original high-speed designs that acted as defensive units for massive superweapons or loyal wingmen for select ace pilots. Slow speed reconnaissance units and unbelievably high-speed surveillance drones that guided in long-range attacks from their mothership. Appearing as single units or entire flights, drones of all types became a moderately uncommon sight. But while they were tools of the enemy, they weren't necessarily something like an antagonist. The pivot towards the era of drones Ace Combat is currently in began in 2011 and continued through 2014. Gameplay-wise, drones shifted from secondary enemies to primary enemies starting with Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy (November 15th, 2011). This game is an all but in name remake of the original Ace Combat 2 (May 30th, 1997). In the original game, a group of red-colored aircraft known as the Zone of Endless (ZOE) appeared as nothing more than named aircraft to be shot down to unlock a special medal. Information from the remake and the Aces at War artbook revealed that the ZOE is actually an artificial intelligence program. It was installed into multiple fixed-wing combat aircraft. As the AI-controlled aircraft participated in combat, they would learn more tactics and become deadlier with each iteration. The ZOE aircraft became boss-like encounters that would not allow players to move the story forward unless they were defeated. This shift in significance to drones in a game's story was further built upon by Ace Combat Infinity. An aircraft called the QFA-44 Camilla frequently attacked the player(s) and their allies both in the single-player campaign and online competitive co-op modes. Also referred to as the "Butterfly Master", the presence of the QFA-44 and its laser-equipped drone escort was presented as one of the greatest recurring threats. Up to this point, these drones were the most dangerous UAVs presented in the series. Capable of swarming players, blasting missiles out of the sky with their lasers, and sacrificing themselves to protect their primary control aircraft. Though Ace Combat Infinity's story would never be completed, it was implied that these drones would continue to oppose the player(s) in future missions as the story continued. A shift in Ace Combat's overall tone about UAVs and their future applications can especially be seen in the novels. The Last Ace (September 19th, 2011), the prequel novel for Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, written by Jim DeFelice, briefly touched on the concept of pilots being replaced by drones. During a United States Air Force mock combat exercise, a modified F-22 Raptor known as Righteous took on multiple 4th and 5th generation combat aircraft primarily relying on an experimental autonomous computer program during combat. Certain characters in the book mused about the replacement of human combat aviators with highly advanced UAVs in the near future. Ace Combat: Ikaros in the Sky (March 28th, 2012) further addressed this with a decent portion of the book centered on this subject. The human-crewed aircraft from the Advanced Support Fighter Experimental program and unmanned aircraft of the Q-X autonomous drone program were forced into mock combat through financial and political pressure from those backing each of these programs. The Q-X program's leading designers and managers explicitly wanted drones to replace human pilots as their development program became more advanced. There was an open feeling of pilots being inferior to their drones from the start. The shift of making drones primary enemies and this thought of having humans replaced by them were combined in Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown (January 18th, 2019). Drones appear as common enemies in multiple missions and are frequently referred to throughout the game. They are the leading force that struck the war's opening blows, appear as common enemies, run covert false flag operations, provide guidance for long-range weaponry, operate alongside human-crewed aircraft as escorts and wingmen, and protect superweapons. A pair of massive unmanned aerial warships capable of launching and recovering dozens of unmanned combat aerial vehicles are the high profile enemy that opposes the player and their allies. Even the human enemy ace pilot flies to lend his own combat data to the refinement of existing drones and the development of future drones that eventually become the final antagonist to be overcome. By the end of the conflict, the last two drones attempt to self propagate by uploading their data into drones across an entire continent. Something that would be a danger to all humans involved in the chaotic armed conflict that was already ongoing. The cherry on top of all of this was that players can finally deploy their own unmanned combat aerial vehicles when flying the newest futuristic original aircraft for the first time in the series' history. For a time, it seemed like drones would be relegated to support roles or as secondary enemies. But as time moved forward and real-world aviation technology began to produce semi-autonomous combat-capable UAVs, these inspirations gradually found their way into the creative minds at the Project Aces development team. The inclusion of UAVs into the series has not only diversified the gameplay and story telling of the series, but has also become a common point of contention for players that romanticize combat aircraft but also understand the steady beat of UAV development. In the real world, the replacement of at least a small percentage of pilot related tasks seems inevitable but its inclusion into Ace Combat makes it more easily perceived by its players. From being easy tutorial enemies to nearly forming their own flying robot air force and now being weapons for the players themselves, the drones of Ace Combat have come a long way. About the Interviewer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza The Director of Operations for 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 |
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 DCS:World 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 in 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 on its early-access (EA) period. I have modified and updated this review as of the 18th of January, 2021 to better reflect the current state of this module as it no longer is on EA. 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 has each and every centimetre covered in detail, from the nose-mounted camera to the beacon lights. The animation of the nozzles are pretty good and the stair 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. 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 absolutely sublime. 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 AoA (Angle of attack). This, alongside the abundant smoke produced while on 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. 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 Fulkrums 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 or prolonged dogfights. 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) 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-3 (x19 2'75 inch rockets with either HE, HEAT or WP warheads) LAU-68 (x7 2'75 inch rockets with either HE, HEAT or WP warheads) The LAU-68 pod can be equipped in 3x Racks on the internal pylons, giving you a maximum loadout of 56 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 home, the U.S Navy LHS Tarawa and 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, as of the latest stable update, 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 a writer and content manager ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034
VRChat Aviation: Flying in the Place Least Expected
VRChat (VRC), the free-to-play online massively multiplayer virtual reality social platform. The name in itself immediately conjures up memories of meme-worthy and cringe-worthy stories and videos that have circled social media and the blogosphere multiple times. This is undoubtedly how I visualized VRChat after seeing those videos and zinger articles about the wild things that can happen there. Two good friends encouraged me to give it a shot after getting a VR headset in March 2020. I'd be lying if I said I didn't experience some of the things I read about, but I had just happened to join right at the beginning of something that captivated me: skies full of contrails and roaring jet aircraft. VRChat comprises over 25,000 worlds created by its users with a free to download software developer kit (SDK). This open resource has resulted in a world made for just about everything you could think of. I've seen cave diving, duck feeding, beach resorts, racing, amusement parks, Spider Man swinging, supermarkets, napping worlds, first-person shooters, galactic pirate ship raves, and too many others to list here. All of those worlds are populated by an eclectic mix of avatars that are original designs or come from TV shows, anime, video games, internet memes, and who knows where else. Aviation was never on my mind in a place where literally just about any setting is possible. The flight experiences I've had over these past months are something I believe could not be replicated in any other flight game. VRChat launched on January 16th, 2014, but for VRC aviation, the all-important Udon software tool kit was released on April 1st, 2020, with SDK3. I personally don't have any experience with the software and programming languages needed to create these things, so I'm going to quote the text about what Udon is from the official website: "VRChat Udon is a programming language built completely in-house by the VRChat Development Team. It is designed to be secure, performant, and easy to use via the VRChat Udon Node Graph, a built-in visual programming interface that uses nodes and wires (we call them "noodles") to connect flow, inputs, and outputs. You can build complex behaviors with Udon-- far more complex and easier to understand than unwieldy chains of Triggers and Actions. Not only can you replicate the full behavior of Triggers and Actions with VRChat Udon, but you can create your own behaviors, sync variables with others, interact with scenes, interact with players, and more. In addition, Udon runs in both the VRChat client and the Unity Editor, allowing you to test and debug your creations with ease." - What Is Udon?, VRChat Docs When I started exploring in late March 2020, there were already worlds with flying vehicles and aviation themes. There are a few different flight systems in VRChat. It's essential to make the differentiation between two systems in particular as they are the most prolific. Without getting too technical for now, the legacy system was less like flying and more like controlled levitation. Imagine a chair that players can sit in with hand controllers attached to it. Using the controllers, the chair can rotate and levitate in any direction at any speed. These chairs were incorporated into models of aircraft and spacecraft. In practice, from the runway, a plane could just rotate its nose upward until it stood on its tail, launch straight up like a rocket, stop in midair, rotate wings level, then "fly away." The guise of it being a more realistic flight system by maneuvering these vehicles in a way that mimicked actual aircraft could be maintained with some effort. There are a decent amount of these worlds that haven't received updates in years, so they're now in varying states of operation. After the introduction of Udon, the public release of a world called Test Pilots on April 16th, 2020, changed everything. Created by Sacchan, this world was the first to use the Sacc Flight Script. Both then and now, this script is the most advanced flight system available in VRChat for both VR headset users and desktop users with keyboard and mouse controls. Initially, the Sacc Flight script had been tested and expanded upon through a joint venture by a team of creators, modelers, and trusted users that flew as testers working with Sacchan. From day one, everything had been assembled into a single free to download prefab that continues to receive updates. After a major update on September 16th, 2020, the prefab provides a test aircraft with a fully customizable flight model. The flight model is in line with how many would assume an actual aircraft would fly. Airspeed, angle of attack, and turn rate are factors. Attempting a hard turn at high speeds can cause damage to the plane until it breaks apart. Controls include keyboard-mouse controls for desktop users or a virtual HOTAS that enables virtual reality users to fly with a pair of touch controllers. Think something similar to VTOL VR or Digital Combat Simulator VR, but with less cockpit button clicking. Aircraft can use air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles with FLIR cameras, bombs, and guns with lead computing sights. Air brakes, flaps, retractable landing gear, air show smoke, flight limiters, autopilot, a working HUD, and other features can be managed using a VRChat specific multifunction display (MFD). For VR users, MFDs are controlled by rotating the touch controller thumbsticks to highlight functions and activate or deactivate functions with trigger presses. Even aircraft carrier operations are possible with arresting cables, catapults, and tail hooks. A second user can ride in a back seat if the vehicle is designed for it. They can join in for a joy ride, give flight instructions, or be a second pair of eyes during combat. Sacc Flight Script is also compatible with desktop users, which is something other flight experiences in VRC have lacked for years. On the backend, all of this is free to customize and add on to however the creator using it desires. There's a bit more to be mentioned, but check out the file and setting lists of some more information. Starting from a baseline like this, creators began constructing their worlds. It is no exaggeration to say that the prefab was the seed needed to spur on the growth of new aviation worlds. These individual creators' ambitions and priorities have resulted in a wide array of options for VRChat users. The differences vary by map setting, time of day, type of aircraft, number of aircraft, tweaks to their flight models, types of weapons, and presence of airfields or aircraft carriers throughout the world. There are also deeper differences to consider. Like types of sensors and instruments only found in specific worlds (radar displays, ILS, PAPI, HSI, etc.), or worlds setup for one-time and recurring events. For example, the earliest worlds include aircraft carrier-based air battles with F-14 Tomcats, an entire air base full of static display aircraft with a Japanese pop idol flair and even a Battle Fairy Yukikaze world that is gradually becoming more like a flight arcade game. Worlds that have appeared in the last few weeks include an F-35B simulator with working STOL, worlds with ten F/A-18F Super Hornets or a dozen YF-22s and F-117s and an air racing focused world utilizing a mecha style aircraft. There are also places to fly remote control drones and rotary-wing aircraft that aren't based on the Sacc Flight Script, but they are few and far between. Every few weeks it seems like a new world has been announced or is in development. At the time of this article being published, my research spreadsheet already has 23 worlds and counting. Aircraft come from a variety of sources. Either models and sounds pulled from existing flight games and simulators, public creative commons databanks, or agreements between content creators. The fabrication of VRChat original designs is probably one of the most unexpected parts of its aviation community. There are multiple original aircraft designs, some with more real-world inspiration than others. Even original designs for warships and helicopters are being modeled for various uses. In particular, the MFDs are one of the most ingenuitive additions that have made the management of systems and subsystems possible for more advanced flight experiences. Even aircraft models "ripped" from other games have also been reconfigured to support the VRC specific MFDs. Ultimately, the people who love and are interested in aviation are the driving force behind all of this. It takes many hours and days in Blender and Unity to develop worlds that are then used as hubs for people to fly, fight, and meet others. True to VRChat's original purpose, it's easy to strike up conversations with all sorts of people ranging from absolute newbies to aviation to people that have flown flight simulators or real aircraft most of their lives. This isn't something a majority of flight games and sims are designed for. It's undeniably one of the charms of the entire experience. But for those that want to fly alone or only with friends, creating a private instance is always an option. Particularly passionate people have formed organizations like the Blue Horizons aerobatic team. The first of its kind in VRChat, this Japanese air show team has experience with the "Chair flight" system and Sacc Flight script. They practice and perform full airshow routines at public events and their own airfield (a private world). The VRC Air Force began forming tournaments like their Dog Fight Events, which are bracketed battle royale events of pilots competing to be the champion, and recently, timed air racing events. They include large screens for an audience to watch each aircraft in flight, map displays that show player positions, start and stop alarms for events, even drone camera style setups that broadcast airborne views to those on the ground. The aviation scene of VRChat is deeper than anyone could have suspected. It's not something that can be covered by this article alone, but this serves as a solid introduction. And so, with this release, I begin a series of articles and interviews about the people, places, and software that have brought aviation into the place it was least expected. The February 2020 entry into this VRC aviation series will be a travel guide focused on listing and describing worlds flying can be enjoyed in the place it was least expected. About the Interviewer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza The Director of Operations for 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 |