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Review: DCS L-39C/ZA Albatros by Eagle Dynamics
When you think of DCS, you probably think of intense combat and dogfighting. Maybe even ground attack missions under extreme weather conditions, or even a surprise attack at the dead of night. While all of these are core aspects of the simulator, there is also a tamer and quieter side of DCS, and that'd be flight training. Developed by Eagle Dynamics themselves, the L-39 Albatros module focuses on said training side and maximizes it to bring players a complete package that not only serves as a great introduction to jet flight for new players, but also as a light attack platform that can bring fun to even the most veteran of players. It has now been quite a few years since this aircraft entered the DCS arena in 2016, and in that time some of the modules that occupy the same space as the Albatros have evolved and grown, others have been added in the form of free mods, while a new official one has been added to the sim: I ndiaFoxtEcho's MB-339A/PAN.
Let's see how this module has matured and if it still is the most-buy trainer for DCS rookies and veterans alike. As per usual, I will be separating this review in several parts: External and internal 3D models Visual effects and sound design Flight modeling Mission capability Armament Ease of use and learning curve Its place as a trainer/light attacker in DCS Is this aircraft for you? EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL 3D MODEL
The external model has certainly received some updates over the years, which is especially noticeable due to the addition of decent normalmaps. While it might look great at first, you can notice this module's age straight away by zooming in a bit and seeing that its texel density does not hold up to modern modules.
This model uses a single texture sheet, when others rely on two or more to increase the perceived texel density, which has become a standard for DCS World modules. Another factor that also dates this module is the use of specular maps instead of the modern roughmets for reflections, which means that the Albatros is not using the PBR (Physical Based Rendering) tech that is DCS' standard. Just like with our MiG-19P review, this module seems to fall a bit short in terms of quality when compared to modern modules; but that doesn't mean it looks bad in any way. The only actions needed here would be to make the model shaders PBR-capable and make those PBR textures with a bigger resolution. The same criticisms can be said about both front and rear cockpits, especially with the muted colors and flat reflections. The model itself is excellent, but it is thanks to the aged texture work that this model doesn't look as good as it could. With an upgrade similar to the one done for both the Ka-50 and A-10C modules, this module could be one of the most accurate and impressive-looking modules in the game, but until that date arrives this cockpit will remain a bit dated and in a bit of a sorry state. Does it look bad? No, absolutely not. Could it look stunning with a remaster? Yes, certainly! I would certainly pay for an upgraded version of this module if it meant an improved cockpit. VISUAL AND SOUND EFFECTS Aside from the light cones coming out of the wingtip lights, this module has little to none when it comes down to special effects. No special overwing vapor, no unique engine smoke, nothing. To be honest, I was expecting this, and I am not even disappointed. This is a straight wing trainer with a non-afterburning engine, so the amount of effects that could be realistically made for it is very small.
Sound-wise, the Albatros likes a bit of feedback from its engine, but its unique engine notes balance out this flaw. It is when it comes down to using the brakes that the typical whooshing of the pneumatics is not prominent and lacks force, making me question if my brakes are even working sometimes. The same applies for one crucial aspect o weapon operations with the ZA version: The pyro charges. This charges, which are used for the cocking of the internal and external guns, seem to not emit any sound whatsoever. In other aircraft with pyro charges, such as the MiG-21Bis, it is clear when a charge goes off as it sounds like a small localized explosion. This sound would be an excellent addition to the module, adding to an already decent experience. FLIGHT MODELING DISCLAIMER: This is always a tough category, as like with any other aircraft, there is a lot to take into consideration other than just the feel of the flight model. This category is the most subjective one in this article, as I do not have any real world experience with this craft. I will only base my opinion on practical experience and knowledge of practical aerodynamics and the theoretical behavior that an L-39 should have under certain scenarios. With the disclaimer out of the way, it is clear that this flight model was made with a lot of care and attention to detail. The way this aircraft stalls and the speeds at which it does are accurate enough to the real one that I have found it to be a believable experience. As I have already stated, I have never flown an Albatros, but this experience has been excellent so far. You can feel the change in lift when you drop your flaps, or the inertia the aircraft has after it has gained a substantial amount of speed. The Albatros is hard to stall, as I would expect from any trainer. It is just so easy to fly, it invites you to do cloud surfing while playing relaxing music in the background. It is an awesome plane to fly, and you should try flying it. MISSION CAPABILITIES As expected from a trainer, this aircraft does not have a large pool of missions to pull from. The L-39C variant, the basic trainer, can only carry very smaller/less practical munitions on its pylons, which limits it to serving as a pure trainer focused on VFR and IFR training, as well as basic weapon deployment exercises and flight trainer. The L-39ZA is the light attack version of the Albatros. Equipped with an integrated 23mm cannon, it has a much more diverse set of weaponry, but despite being more varied than the Charlie version, it still is not a proper ground attack platform. It can defend itself on smaller ground attack missions and counter-insurgency (COIN) assignments, but you will not survive in a contested environment.
For its size, it pulls a bit above its weight. It can actually defend itself under some circumstances, but you will need to work together with other platforms to get the mission done. Remember that during your missions, and you will survive. ARMAMENT GSh-23 23mm CANNON (L-39ZA) This cannon, the same equipped on many Soviet aircraft of the era, is the main difference between the L-39C and the L-39ZA. With is small ammo pool of 180 rounds, you will need to make those shots count. R-3S AND R-60M AIR TO AIR MISSILES Surprisingly, the L-39 has access to two infrared air-to-air missiles. The R-3S is an older missile, not that capable, but the R-60M is very capable in the hands of a good pilot! PK-3 GUN PODS (L-39ZA) These gun pods are not that impressive when it comes down to penetration of armored units, especially due to its 7.62mm caliber; but it has extreme volume of fire since it has three barrels per pod. This brings the total to an astonishing 12 barrels if you equip all four pods. UB-16M S-5KO UNGUIDED ROCKETS Your typical soviet unguided rockets, they pack a punch, and you have 32 of these per pod. With a maximum of four pods, you have plenty of high explosive to share around. BOMBS From the FAB-100, OFAB-100 and SAB-100, the Albatros has more bombs available for it than you would think. They are not big, but you can certainly do some damage with them. EASE OF USE AND LEARNING CURVE I'll keep this short and to the point: this aircraft's learning curve is as smooth as a baby's butt, with one exception: the taxiing. This aircraft uses differential braking for its steering in a soviet style system, which means that you do not have individual toe brakes. You will need to rely on applying brakes with your handle and then redirecting the force with your rudder pedals. It is easy once you get used to it, or if you have already flown a Fishbed or other similar aircraft, then it will become second nature in no time. Aside from this, the Albatros is an excellent trainer that holds your hand no matter what you do to it in the air. It is great to fly, and it allows you to just express yourself in the skies but doing any maneuver you think of, exceptions apply. ITS PLACE AS A TRAINER/LIGHT ATTACKER IN DCS WORLD The Albatros is a very weird plane in DCS, as it is placed in a unique position. It is both a military and civilian aircraft, something that is reinforced by the developers with the addition of the NS430 GPS module to it. If you remove the gunsight and own the NS430, then you will be able to use it in the cockpit, civilian style.
Reminiscent of the aircraft flown by the Black Diamonds or other civilian operators of the type, this system integrates GPS navigation to the Albatros, while at the same time giving you an excellent view without the intrusive presence of the gunsight.
It is this mix between civilian and military that leads me to saying that the L-39 and the MB-339 stand very equal in the trainer war, since both aircraft also share this duality. The 339 has much better artwork, but both trainer are capable of combat and leisure. IS THIS AIRCRAFT FOR YOU? If what you want in a module is: An incredible flying experience. A more than decent light attacker. A training platform that will allow you to grow as a pilot, regardless of experience. An all weather platform that conquers the day and rules the night. If you don't mind: The older textures and artwork. The limited combat capabilities in an open conflict. The quirky nose wheel steering method. The optional nature of the NS430 Nav suite. If all or some of the above is what you want, then the L-39C/ZA Albatros by Eagle Dynamics 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 2000s, 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 2010s. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as the co-founder and writer ever since. Twitter | Discord : Cubeboy
Aegis Ashore: Ace Combat 7 Air Defense Boss
A relatively unknown bastion of air defense If there is one thing that Project Aces does not get enough kudos for, it is the addition of the latest technology or real world concepts to its Ace Combat series. Even the most outrageous anti-asteroid weaponry and energy weapons are based on real world concepts, existing technology or in development projects. Heck, even backwards firing missiles were real! From a gameplay point of view, anything that complicates the player's ability to reliably deploy weapons can be a welcome challenge. Rather than every weapon with a target lock reliably guiding to a target, having occasional interference caused by electronic warfare interference or missile interception systems adds a temporary layer of difficulty. To players, it makes interacting with the unit responsible for the complication a notable experience. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown (2019) has a relatively unknown air defense system with overwhelming capabilities that comes to mind. In the perceived final mission of Ace Combat 7, the time to storm the opposing nation's capital city puts players in the leading force. As they fly throughout the airspace, dogfighting and bombing forces ahead of the allied amphibious advance, an Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system (AABMDS) activates. So threatening is this system that even allied non-player controlled units call for bombardment from the invasion fleet to knock the system out of action. And for good reason. In the real world, Aegis Ashore was proposed by the United States Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency. The project utilizes the well known Aegis combat system deployed on warships and places its components in land based facilities. These include AN/SPY-1 passive electronically scanned radars and vertical launching system cells carrying various types of interceptors (made only to knock other missiles out of the sky) and missiles (can either intercept other missiles or be used to destroy aircraft). The idea is to protect especially important areas on land with this system. A single AAMBDS can free up a few Aegis equipped naval vessels for operations elsewhere. It can track more than 100 targets at a time, with the ability to intercept flying objects across a wide range; from sea skimming missiles to low earth orbit satellites. Even a hypersonic missile interceptor is under development as of 2022. The first Aegis Ashore system began testing in Kauai, Hawaii in 2002. The first operational site was constructed in Deveslu, Romonia in 2016 with a secondary site planned in Redzikowo, Poland. The site in Poland was planned for completion by 2018 but was delayed multiple times; its new completion date is the end of 2023. Japan also had planned to construct two AAMBDS, but these plans were cancelled in 2020. In Ace Combat 7, the first Aegis Ashore system is seen in mission 15, "Battle for Farbanti". Two other systems are in downloadable content mission 2, "Anchorhead Raid". It should be noted that the two systems in Anchorhead Raid can be taken out of action before they activate due to the surprise raid conditions. Though there is a short window of a few minutes to do this in. In the game, the central control building of the installation controls multiple surface-to-air missiles units and Phalanx Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS). No VLS missile cells are present. This is unlike the real world version of it. When active, these sites are able to put up waves of 20mm cannon rounds into the air to shred incoming guided missiles, while launching medium range air-to-air missiles at all aircraft in range. Unlike lone air defense tanks that can be overwhelmed by a few missiles, Aegis Ashore can swat down multiple airborne weapons while deterring incoming aircraft from following up on attacks with its own missiles. The two methods recommended by the game itself are either to approach the AAMBDS at extremely low altitudes to make the player's aircraft harder to track on radar, or to launch a large quantity of weapons from higher altitude and long distance. Flying at short-range within the firing envelope of its CIWS does reduce the window of time interception is possible, but this also places the players within the firing arcs of four or more radar guided autocannons. Bold players that are willing to close distance and use large blast radius unguided weapons like dumb bombs and rocket pods will find that their weapons cannot be intercepted. Alternatively, things like lasers and rail guns are always effective since they cannot be physically intercepted by live munitions. Destroying the central control building of this site knocks out all of its capabilities immediately; it is the most efficient way to do it, but certainly the most risky way. I have always appreciated the small ways Ace Combat has interfered with player launched guided weaponry. It does not consistently appear in each title, but Ace Combat 7 leaned into it the most with various anti-aircraft interception units. Seeing a somewhat unknown but now more relevant than ever Aegis Ashore installation in game is a welcome challenge and an interesting nod to the initiatives of real world militaries as the focus on missile interception over a large area is once again en vogue. About the Writer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. Read Staff Profile .
Review: DCS MiG-19P Farmer-B by RAZBAM Simulations
It has already been a couple of years since RAZBAM introduced their second-generation soviet fighter, the MiG-19P "Farmer-B". This module opened a new era of aviation for DCS and, at the same time, gave the redfor players another clickable aircraft to use. This is something that DCS desperately needed, and still does to a certain degree. Despite falling into a niche, it is clear that the Farmer is a module that has only become more important as time passes; especially after announcements such as the upcoming F-100 Super Sabre by Grinnelli Designs, Heatblur's F-4E Phantom II and even the A-7E Corsair II by FlyingIron Simulations. These aircraft being included in the game give the MiG-19 an ecosystem to live amongst, which gives it purpose. Today, let's take a look at this soviet deathtrap and all of its quirks and features to see if it is a fit for you and your playstyle. As per usual, I will be separating this review in several parts: External and internal 3D models Visual effects and sound design Flight modeling Mission capability Armament Its Place in the DCS Ecosystem Is this aircraft for you? EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL 3D MODELS Visually, the external model and its mesh seem to still hold up to current DCS standards, but just barely. With new quality standards being set by Heatblur and even RAZBAM themselves, the MiG-19P starts looking a bit old, but not in a bad way. In my opinion, as someone that also works as a 3D modeler and texture artist, it is clear that this look is a product of the ever-changing shaders and lighting of DCS World's graphical engine: EDGE. This model was made in 2019, and the textures were adjusted for the functionality and features of EDGE at the time. A slight overhaul of the normalmaps, and some tweaks to the diffuses and roughmets, would be enough to get it to look much better with DCS' current lighting and lighting environment. As for the cockpit, this module feels more dated than it should, but I cannot figure out exactly why. It could be the excessive weathering on some surfaces, the way that the weathering was done, or even the roughmets and the way that they affect the exaggerated color of the instruments themselves. I would also like to emphasize something: this cockpit is still an amazing piece of work. It looks accurate to the few pictures I've seen of the Farmer's office. The module also includes translated versions of its cockpit textures for ease of use. If you struggle with Russian labels, then just switch the cockpit textures to the English one! VISUAL EFFECTS AND SOUND DESIGN This is an area in which this module seems to be severely lacking. There is a noticeable absence of special effects under high-AoA or high-G scenarios, at least as much as I have been able to see during my time with the module. The afterburner effect looks as awesome as any other module's, but I cannot help to notice that the mach diamonds appear to be too clean for what I've seen of soviet engines of the era.
The flame should look dirtier and messy, since these are some of the first mass-produced engines to ever have afterburners installed to them. This is an effect that is much more evident on Magnitude 3's MiG-21Bis module , as its flame is much more wild and erratic. Sound-wise, this module has a unique environment inside the cockpit itself. The engine whine is evident going from idle to full power, but the afterburners have little to no sound effects to indicate their status. In other modules, engaging the afterburners has a significant aural signature for the pilot, which lets them know the state of their engines.
Audio replaces a lot of the feedback that you would normally have while flying a real plane, making it one of, if not the most important aspect of a module for the pilot. I think that RAZBAM could overhaul the sound to improve the piloting experience. FLIGHT MODELING DISCLAIMER: This is always a tough category, as like with any other aircraft, there is a lot to take into consideration other than just the feel of the flight model. This category is the most subjective one in this article, as I do not have any real world experience with this craft. I will only base my opinion on practical experience and knowledge of practical aerodynamics and the theoretical behavior that a MiG-19P should have under certain scenarios. With that out of the way, the best way I have to describe the feel of flying a MiG-19 is that it flies how it looks. It feels like a heavier, faster and more unstable MiG-15, which means that it can be a deadly fighter when flown by a skilled pilot. That is this what I will emphasize, the Farmer does not feel like a rookie-friendly fighter. It is something that became more and more apparent the more I flew it. It is an aircraft that will demand a bit more from the pilot, specially at lower speeds and high AoA scenarios. The high angle wing sweep of this aircraft makes it a bit of a handful, but that only adds to the experience of feeling like you are strapped to a soviet deathtrap. Dogfighting with this machine is a great experience, specially if you know how to handle your speed. It will not beat any modern aircraft in a 1v1 scenario, but you stand a chance against older foes if those pilots make a mistake or two. You are still an early supersonic jet, after all, your wings are a compromise from a time in which supersonic flight was not well understood. MISSION CAPABILITIES You will not be able to do any multirole in this airframe, at least not in the modern understanding of the word. This aircraft is primarily a fighter, through and through, with its air to ground role being more of an afterthought than anything else.
This aircraft was also one of the primary interceptors for the Soviet Union when it became operational, something that reflects a lot in its all-weather capabilities. It is technically capable of all-weather, day-and-night interception of bombers, but that is only with the help of GCI (Ground Control Intercept) and by relying on its weak radar. This was typical of fighters of the era, be them Soviet or American.
Just do not expect this to be a MiG-21, and you will be pleasantly surprised. ARMAMENT 2X NR-30 30MM AUTOCANNON This is your primary armament for both air-to-air and air-to-ground. With 75 rounds per wing, for a total of 150 rounds, you will need to make your shots count! 2X R-3S AIR TO AIR MISSILES These missiles are the Soviet reverse engineered version of the original AIM-9B. They are useful against non-maneuvering targets, but if you try using them at anything pulling any minimal amount of Gs you will not hit them. ROCKETS These rocket pods equipped with S-5 rockets feel a bit weak. As I said earlier, the air to ground capability feels tacked-in as an afterthought. They will still destroy lightly armored targets, so yeah, use them only for that. BOMBS With only a couple of types of bombs available and no way to properly guide them on target, you should only do this if the mission mandates it and you are the only aircraft available! ITS PLACE IN THE DCS ECOSYSTEM The MiG-19P falls on a very weird place in DCS, at least at the time of writing. It has no counterpart and, aside from its use in historical scenarios or Cold War servers such as Enigma's, this module seems to lack a purpose for its existence. Many of its historical rivals are not currently in the game, but many of them are being developed. As stated during the introduction, the Farmer stood alone at the time of its release. It felt like a cowboy living in the city, a fish out of water that kind of fit, but not as smoothly as one would have hoped.
As time passes and more aircraft get added, it is evident that the times of the Farmer not having a home are long gone. The F-4E's release is fast approaching, and work continues on the F-100. These two modules alone give the MiG-19 more than enough competition in the skies, making it a module worthy for any redfor player. IS THIS AIRCRAFT FOR YOU?
If what you want in a module is: Feeling like you are strapped to a flying coffin. Having a blast destroying early NATO fighters Having to toggle your afterburner manually Experiencing early Soviet designs. If you don't mind: Having to toggle your afterburner manually. Not having any BVR weaponry. A less than desirable radar. Very limited air to ground weaponry. If all or some of the above is what you want, then the MiG-19P by RAZBAM Simulations 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 2000s, 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 2010s. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as the co-founder and writer ever since. Twitter | Discord : Cubeboy
PUD-J5A: PS2 VR Headset for Flight Gaming
Remembering and wishing for a retro 21-year-old VR headset for PS2! This past month may have been one of the most financially hard hitting times for me in a while... and it was all flight related! Anyone deep in this can surely understand. My plan to wait for newer VR headsets was foiled by the sudden death of my stalwart Oculus Rift. I was forced to purchase a Meta Quest 2 as it was easily accessible, is better than my Rift anyway, and I have multiple virtual reality events happening this month. Searching through my bookmarks, I was reminded of an obscure piece of equipment that I'll probably never own. Collecting obscure computers and game consoles from the past is a hobby of mine. Like any collector, there are always a few "unicorn" or "hen's teeth" items you wish you had but never expect to own. Maybe never even see in person. For me, one of them is the Sony PUD-J5A, released on September 25th, 2002. 21 years before the release of the PlayStation VR2, Sony had released their first game console virtual reality headset for the ever revered PlayStation 2. It was announced on September 11th, 2002 with little advertisement. The PUD-J5A was released in Japan only with the unusual caveat that it was only for sale through the official Sony Japan website. The cost at the time was 59800 JPY - it was rather costly. It was not something that was mass-produced and widely sold in toy stores, game stores or the like. Though Sony had released the Visortron (1993) and Glasstron (1996) family of personal LCD screens years before with limited success, releasing the PUD-J5A with a sudden announcement, no extensive advertisement campaign and this unusual single-sales point, makes it seem like even Sony thought it was not going to do well. But that is an assumption. Considering the year the PUD-J5A came out, it had decent specs and better performance than most would expect. 827x228 per-eye resolution, 25° horizontal field of view and non-positional tracking 3 degrees of freedom. A handheld control unit attached to the headset recieves power from a power pack, audio video cables from the game console to the headset, volume controls and built-in menu selection controls. The Digital Game Museum has scans of its box and manual available for viewing. This VR headset could be used as a standard pair of "video glasses" to privately play PlayStation 2 games, but its real power was displayed in a very limited library of games. Four of them were flight games: Air Force Delta: Blue Wing Knights, Energy Airforce, Energy Airforce: Airstrike! and Sidewinder V. With a mini-USB to USB cable connected to the front of the PlayStation 2, these games would automatically interface with the headset. As much as I wish I could tell you of my first-hand experience with this, I cannot. However, there are a few game collecting YouTubers that have put up videos about their interactions with it. NiponWare provided an unboxing video , while PlayMania provided the best view of what this VR headset could do for flight simulation with a brief but telling video clip from 7:26 to 9:30 in the video below: There is very little video of this VR headset being used during gameplay. What can be seen from a few YouTube videos shows a basic but functional experience. While each of the flight focused games do support the PUD-J5A, they are not designed with this functionality being a major factor in their gameplay. They are not virtual reality games built from the ground up for that experience. Rather, they are flat screen games that allow this VR headset to take over camera control axes. By today's standards, the PUD-J5A offers a useful but limited cockpit point of view that is comparable to the type of tracking you would expect from head trackers like OpenTrack or TrackIR. Back in 2002, this would have been a premium piece of hardware for only the most highly dedicated flight game enthusiasts. On the off chance I actually acquire one sometime in the future, I will be sure to thoroughly document it and record all the video I can. About the Writer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. Read Staff Profile .
VRChat Aviation: September Showcase Airshow
It has become a bit of a yearly tradition for the VRC Black Aces to showcase their newest aircraft during the month of September. This year is no exception, which is why we are proud to announce that tonight (9/9/2023), at 10PM EST, we will be hosting a showcase in VRChat as a part of this year's Black Aces September Showcase event!
As a part of this airshow, we will be showing off Skyward's newest addition to its virtual roster: The SW-210 "Colibrí" , a two seat trainer aircraft designed by Caio "Hueman" Barreto and modeled/developed by Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos! This aircraft has been in development for the past 6 months, so we hope you enjoy it when you see it in VR!
Alongside the Colibrí, we will also be showcasing two more aircraft : The SW-201 "Dragonfly", Skyward's pride and joy civilian amphibious aircraft, and the F/A-27G "So-UR", a futuristic supersonic heavy aircraft designed by REaSoN2DiE4 and Sournetic. This makes it one of the first shows within the Black Aces to have a complete roster of original aircraft modeled in-house by Black Aces members and Skyward Staff to be used in VRChat aviation!
HOW TO ATTEND THE SHOW To attend tonight, you will need to have joined the Black Aces' discord server, which you can find HERE . Once you have joined, please pay close attention to the Announcements channel , which is where Riko, the main organizer and owner of the community, will be posting the link to the VRChat world instance as it opens to the public. See you there! If you cannot attend our show, fret not! There will be three more airshows as a part of September Showcase, one per week. Above you can see the dates and world creators. We'll see you in the virtual skies, fly safe!
Frontiers Reach: Warmap's Place in the Game
The story's second act plays out on the galactic stage Story driven single player flight games often close with a climactic, permanent ending. The day is saved, the enemy vanquished, and peace returns. Frontiers Reach from Blind Alien Productions takes a different approach. The ending of its story mode is actually the beginning of something now on a much larger scale. The Warmap game mode of Frontiers Reach has intrigued me since I first interacted with this game. Normally, a game mode that greatly expands content is something completely separate from the main story. The Conflicts mode of Comanche and Conquest mode of Project Wingman come to mind. But everything related to the Warmap comes after the events of the single player campaign. The single player campaign focuses on building the cast of characters, explaining the setting, the intricacies of the major powers at play and story driven missions to gather allies to escape the coming conflict. The Warmap mode focuses purely on fighting the galactic war, with the player now turned key leader of the group. It is possible to make a new pilot profile using a "Veteran" starting point, skipping the first part of the single player and going straight to the conflict in Warmap. Entering the holotable and seeing how far reaching the war is for the first time brings the size of the galaxy into perspective. With 35+ locations players travel across the galaxy taking on missions as the front lines shift on their own. These places include exotic planets, deep space stations, asteroid fields and other unusual places. With planets having their own unique atmospheres, air combat in one mission may feel noticably different elsewhere. Locations under attack are labelled with a defense readiness condition ( DEFCON) status. The DEFCON status changes depending on the intensity of fighting. Locations with a "stand down" status are not experiencing combat and are not a priority. In a way, it somewhat reminds me of the Galactic Conquest game mode from Star Wars Battlefront II on the Sony PlayStation 2. Even as players watch the map without adding any input, green progress update bars gradually fill above locations where armed conflict is happening. Monitoring the balance of power at each node, represented by red and blue vertical bars, is important for making decisions on when to intervene. Once these bars fill, an update to the status of that location is given. A planet in the midst of conflict can suddenly have the battles there settled by local forces without players ever firing a shot. There is a degree of indirect support that can be given to each node by using Salvage points to purchase varying degrees of support. These contributions include repairs to local military forces, hiring mercenaries to raid enemy positions, or help civilian evacuation crews relocate the local population. At locations that are closely contested, waiting for the right moment to send support can tip the location into the control of the player's faction. While effective, this can also be a costly way to wage a war. Especially at the onset of the conflict where players may not have enough points. These contributions cost between 1500 and 3000 credits per use. Depending on how intense contested points are, it may take multiple contributions to tip the scales. There is a cheaper, more hands on way to do this, of course. The standard way to fight this war is for players to get themselves and their wingmen directly into the action! What I enjoy about the missions the Warmap offers is their diversity when compared to the single player campaign. When at a node that has combat going on, a mission list pops up on the bottom-right. The missions range from quick hitters like fuel depot raids, large-scale dogfights and bomber interceptions to more drawn out battles like providing close air support for ground troops and battles to take over an entire sector by defeating capital ships and their escorts. I've even seen a few recon missions, deep strikes against communication networks and extractions of intelligence agents from behind enemy lines. Ultimately, completion of the objective is all that matters. No matter how much time has passed or how many hostiles remain, once the player completes their objective, they can return to their capital ship to end the mission. Some missions do allow for mid-mission resupply as well. No longer needing to wipe every enemy from the map or wait for a story related plot point to occur, the option to dash in and complete the mission or linger to destroy enemies and gather points for later use is up to the player. I can think of more than one time I thought I was ready for an epic battle, only to soak up a missile or two, leaving me in a poor state. Outrunning the enemy to quickly wipe out an unarmored fuel depot was my only chance at survival. I have yet to complete a full play through of the Warmap, but plan on doing so, utilizing official Track IR headtracking and a set of rudder pedals and flight sticks its Flight Sim Mode now supports. I'll be sure to report on my exploits and what has been happening with Frontiers Reach when that time comes. In the meantime, the lead developer of the game has been playing through Frontiers Reach and uploading their experience on YouTube . Check it out! About the Writer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. Read Staff Profile .
DCS World Mission Editor: Secondary Explosion Effects
A little bit of eye candy for your strike missions Picture this: You boot up DCS and set out for a strike mission. Your target is a large ammo depot. You weave through air defenses as you make your way to the target, masking behind terrain and dodging AAA left and right - and when you finally get there and attack, all you get is a small explosion and the target's 3D model switching to a destroyed one. Feels a little underwhelming, right? You expected something more spectacular - a chain of explosions from the ammunition cooking off and detonating everything around that depot you just hit. Maybe you wanted to re-enact Ace Combat 5's Powder Keg where a bunch of ammo bunkers start going off in a chain reaction. Well, don't worry - today we're going to show you how to get those effects on your DCS World missions, and hopefully give you some ideas along the way. While there are certainly more elegant ways to do this with Lua scripting, our goal is to keep it as simple and straightforward as possible, so we'll be showing you a basic method that works using only DCS Mission Editor triggers. Here are a few examples of how you can set it up:
Basic Example: Ammunition Depot Let's start with the basics: A static object which will trigger secondary explosions once destroyed. The first step is to place an area over your target to define where the secondary explosions will take place. For this ammunition depot, I've set up two different zones - The smaller one will get fewer, larger explosions, and the larger one will get more but smaller explosions. You can set up more of these "layers" if you want - but beware of potential performance hits. With the zones set up, we go to the Triggers window on the Mission Editor and create a new trigger. Since ammunition bunkers in DCS are pretty tough, and I want this one to detonate as soon as it is hit by a single penetrating bomb, we can set the condition for the trigger as "Unit Damaged". For the actions, we set "Explode Unit" to ensure the bunker is destroyed after that one hit - and then comes the key behind the explosion effect we want, the "Shelling Zone" action. This trigger action generates explosions on the ground, simulating an artillery barrage - however the rate of these explosions is fast enough that it makes for a pretty versatile effect. We create one "Shelling Zone" action for each zone we have created. Under its options, we choose the zone we want, the number of explosions that will take place inside the zone, and the TNT equivalent of each explosion, measured in kilograms - keep in mind the maximum for this number is 500 kilograms, so unfortunately you cannot simulate the huge single explosions which usually result from ammunition depots cooking off. Video: Basic Ammunition Depot Example Setting Up Delayed Secondaries: Ammunition-Carrying Ship We can take this concept a step further and make it so some of the explosions only trigger a certain time after the target is hit. For this example, I've set up a docked cargo ship with two large zones and several smaller zones spread out through its deck.
In order to help our players with target identification and really get the point across that this is the big bad ammunition-laden ship they need to destroy, we can set up a bunch of static military vehicles on its deck by selecting our ship in the "Link Unit" field. Keep in mind that this only works for static objects - unfortunately, as much as I'd like to place MANPADS and anti-aircraft guns on cargo ships as a welcoming gift to unsuspecting players, as it currently stands we cannot place active units on ship decks. (ED, please?) In order to achieve the delay effect, we'll set up multiple triggers - in this case I chose three - each one triggering its own set of explosions. For the first one, we set the conditions as either "Unit Destroyed" or "Unit Damaged" depending on the mission creator's preference - and for its actions, in addition to "Shelling Zone" , we set a "Flag On" command to set a flag of our choosing to "true" once the target is hit. You can choose an arbitrary number for your flag, as long as it does not conflict with any other flags in your mission - in this case I chose "101".
Then, for our following triggers, we set the condition to "Time Since Flag", which will trigger once a specified time (in seconds) has passed since a certain flag has been set to true. Thus, we can effectively specify a delay in relation to the activation of flag "101", and therefore in relation to our first explosion. For this example, I've set two delayed triggers for different sets of explosions - one with a 1 second delay, and the other with a 2 second delay.
Video: Delayed Secondaries Example Setting Up Map Objects: Airfield Ammunition Warehouse
Setting up your own targets is all well and good, but what if you want to apply this effect to map objects, such as the fuel and ammunition storage facilities present at airfields? Fortunately, the 2.7 DCS update gave us a tool to do exactly that.
After right-clicking on a valid map object, such as a building, an "Assign As..." window will pop up. Clicking this window will automatically generate a zone linked to the map object's ID, which allows it to be used to track the object's status.
In the Triggers window, we will now set up a trigger with the condition "Map Object is Dead" . Under the options for this condition, select the zone which has been assigned to the map object in the previous step. This will trigger this event as soon as that map object is destroyed. In order to give this a little bit of extra kick, we can set an "Explosion" action in addition to the "Shelling Zone" action. This will generate a single explosion exactly at the center of the selected zone, at an altitude set by the mission creator. It isn't as visually impressive, but it helps by being one extra layer in our effects cake. Just like with the hardened ammunition depot, I've set two circular zones around the target, each one linked to a "Shelling Zone" action - fewer but larger explosions on the inner circle, more numerous but smaller explosions on the outer circle.
Video: Map Object Secondaries Example Getting the visual effect you want with this method often requires quite a bit of tweaking and playing around with the values of "TNT Equivalent" and "Shells Count". If it's looking too mushy, reducing the size of explosions and increasing their number can help. However, when adjusting these values, keep in mind that the higher the number of explosions, the higher the impact on frame rate - if you have too many explosions going off, even if they're small ones, your players will definitely feel the performance hit. Get Creative! Now that you know what you can do with a few simple triggers on the Mission Editor, the possibilities are endless! Using this method alongside other mission features, it is possible to think up a variety of mission scenarios - For instance, in a mission involving rescuing civilians from an industrial zone under insurgent attack, you could force players to be careful about potential collateral damage by making the destruction of structures such as fuel tanks and warehouses trigger a devastating chain of secondary explosions. When I make missions to play with friends, I like giving my players reason and reward for going after certain static targets. They know they'll get to look at cool explosions, so that's already an incentive - but I also like making their destruction have tangible effects on the mission. For example, maybe destroying an ammunition depot reduces the amount of artillery enemy units can throw at friendly forces, and destroying fuel storage tanks could reduce enemy aircraft spawn rates. I hope this article has given you some ideas to give your missions that little extra bit of flavor - and good laughs when your friends realize that ammo bunker they just dropped a JDAM on... That one was special. About the Writer Caio D. "Hueman" Barreto An incurable aviation fanatic since childhood, fascinated by the design and history of practically anything that flies. A long-time fan of flight games, he currently studies aeronautical engineering and pursues his hobbies of drawing, writing and flight simulation on his spare time. See Staff Profile .
Heads Up View DT1: Unboxing, First Impression
A Real Heads Up Display Changes Everything Labor Day Special - Get 30% off a HUV Heads Up Display until September 30th, 2023. Use code: EARNEDIT! during checkout at HeadsUpView.com . Long before Skyward went "wheels up" for Flight Sim Expo 2023 , we had a set list of planned visits with the many companies and communities in attendance. While winding through the elaborate displays and small but informational booths, I had walked past something that made me triple take. Looking not once, not twice, but three times to assure myself that what I saw was real. There in a quiet corner away from the Microsoft Flight Simulator couches and behind a row of museum aircraft was a row of heads up displays. Actual heads up displays. Not a computer tablet using its camera to superimpose the image. A genuine, image projecting, collimation reliant, beam splitting glass heads up display. Pictures of the booth are below: Since then, conversations with Dan Hall, CEO of Heads Up View LLC , started an ongoing relationship between the two companies. This has led to this product unboxing and first impression of their DT1 HUD . I'll take a moment here to thank them for this opportunity to not only unbox it, but use it long-term for many flights in many simulators to come. Of course, despite Heads Up View recently being announced as a sponsor of Skyward Flight Media, this is a honest take on a rather unique piece of flight simulation kit. Unboxing Skyward Flight Media staff members, T.J. "Millie" Archer and Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza , performed the unboxing after receiving the product from Heads Up View. The box itself contains: (1) dust cover, branded (2) gloves (1) heads up display base (2) HUD brackets (1) HUD beamsplitter glass (4) HUD bolts (4) HUD washers (1) microfiber cloth (1) protective gloves (1) 10' Video Cable/HDMI Cable (1) 10' 12V Power Cable (1) setup guide
An extra set of minor instructions were sent to us as well, to be included in upcoming shipments. These units come with a 30-day money-back guarantee from the date the customer receives the order. It states that if for any reason the customer is not satisfied, the return of the unit in its original packaging will validate a full refund. HUV LLC provides a 1-year warranty from the original invoice date, guaranteeing its workmanship and material quality free from defect. The company agrees to, at its option during the warranty period, to repair any defect in materials, components or workmanship or to furnish a replacement unit free of charge. All of this information was explained in a letter placed beneath the top flap of the box, making it the first thing customers see when they open the box. An extra set of minor instructions were sent to us as well, to be included in upcoming DT1 and SC1 shipments. To receive warranty service, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org starts the process. The most notable part of the box from the outside is the sheer size and weight. It looks and feels like a solid piece of kit. But rather than being packed from top to bottom with bubble wrap, a significant portion of it was protective styrofoam packaging. Two layers of sturdy styrofoam panels on all sides of the hardware itself. So secure, it was a bit hard to remove certain items from the box. A good problem to have. Admittedly, one of the things we worried about with something as sensitive as this piece of equipment. Hardware All items in the box come in separate packages, with the main part of the HUD being the heaviest item in the box. A pair of blue vinyl gloves were helpful when handling the more delicate equipment like the beam splitting glass pane and the 6-inch lens on the top of the HUD base. The smaller components like the HDMI cable, DC 12V power supply and HUD glass mounting brackets were made of reliable material, though now that I know adjustable metal HUD brackets are on the way, I certainly look forward to using those in the near future. The most difficult part of the unboxing was removal of the blue protective film on the HUD glass and projection lens. The protective film was very firmly attached to each surface. The included gloves did reduce the chances of accidentally causing damage during installation, but patience in slowly removing the film to reduce stress on the glass is important. Curiously, the HUD base has a speaker built into it. Alongside the ample amount of power sources and display ports on the back of the unit, the presence of audio ports and the speaker was unexpected. During our initial use we did not use the speaker, but did need to disable it as an audio output on our computer to prevent it from grabbing audio. With a handful of screws and a screwdriver, it took very little effort and know how to assemble the HUD correctly. It was very straightforward with an easy to understand double sided piece of paper guide. The overall size of the DT1 is a bit on the large side height wise, but minor redesigns are already in the works to alleviate this somewhat. The space requirement from between the PC monitor and the rear of the DT1 being about 8 to 12 inches did trigger an unusual on the spot redesign to accommodate the HUD for testing. As someone that has frequently favored more compact desktop flight simulator setups that emphasize modularity and the ability to detach flight sim gear as needed, this heads up display was somewhat incompatible. Some quick thinking and readjustments resolved this issue, but this was an example of how the design philosophy of a cockpit focused builder and a desktop flight sim rig are rather different. More on this later. Software This is where we ran into a few problems on our end, and most likely others who do not normally deal with this sort of thing will find a few hang-ups. During this part of the setup, really only patience and the willingness to learn a few new things you may not have done before are what brings the entire process together. The DT1 and other products from Heads Up View LLC acts as a second screen or display for the personal computer. Depending on which flight simulator the HUD is being used with, the ease of integrating the DT1 changes. For example, Lockheed Martin's Prepar3D and older versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator have built in HUD only views that can be undocked into a separate window, then dragged into the DT1 display area. From there field of view adjustments can be made literally on the fly - while flying - without having to type any code; though that is an option for those that are more technical like that. On the other hand, Eagle Dynamics' Digital Combat Simulator World is very dependent on editing LUA files. The more monitors a user has, the more complicated the setup gets. This is something that has to do with DCS itself, rather than the heads up display. When the DT1 is connected and powered on, DCS does recognize it in its list of monitors. This helps simplify setup to a degree, but for people that are not used to working with .lua files or using multiple displays, this can seem like a daunting task. This is where patience and the willingness to learn a bit come in handy. Fortunately, the Supported Simulations page of the Heads Up View website has all the needed .lua files in .zip files with an ample amount of screenshots to further explain what needs to be done. These files need to be placed in very specific folders. Most importantly, some basic math will need to be done to calculate the combined dimensions of both displays. Those dimensions are then used in the .luas that export the heads up display outside of DCS World into the DT1 secondary display. And of course, since this is editing .luas that are a part of the simulator's base files, it is possible that an update to DCS World could override any user made changes. While that does sound annoying, this problem is easily circumvented just by copying and pasting the user's HUD settings into a separate word document. In the event data is overwritten by an update, pasting the data into that file can be done within a minute or so. Once the DT1 is running in sim, further adjustments to HUD position and size can be made to work best with the user's hardware setup. Adjusting the HUD image vertically or horizontally is also done by changing X and Y values in the corresponding .LUA files for each aircraft. Other simulators utitlize third party software to make this process much easier, so it is best to check the HUV website or send an email to their support staff to ask more specific questions. First Impression During our unboxing day, we flew short non-combat sorties using the F/A-18E Super Hornet in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 and the F/A-18C Hornet Lot 20 in Digital Combat Simulator. The DT1 worked exactly as advertised, even in the most difficult of visual conditions like bright white clouds in the midday. The HUD image was not completely washed out. The back side of the HUD unit also has its own set of controls for changing contrast, brightness and more. So even the brightest of high definition 4K+ monitors do not washout the colors of the DT1. After further adjustments were made for the desktop setup we used, the DT1's image clarity and its ability to physically project the HUD image had an immediate impact on immersion within each simulator. That authentic feeling of it "really being there" permeated everything we tested. This was especially true when using head tracking with the DT1. Without the heads up display being ever present on the computer monitor, peeking around the HUD or seeing how the information somewhat appears and disappears during changes in the user's seating position further adds that "real feel" experience. With the HUD being an addition that is unmoving, unlike a rudder pedeal or HOTAS that is constantly being manipulated, once it is in place there is no need to relocate it or adjust it. Unless it needs to be removed from a multi-use desk area. With a majority of the visual adjustments to the information displayed made within each simulator, physically moving the HUD out of the way, if needed is not a massive problem. I believe that, on its own merits, the heads up displays from Heads Up View are the most authentic and realistically priced way for very serious flight simulation users to get their hands on this type of accessory. Rather than paying a many thousands of US dollars for a 1:1 design accurate, fully licensed HUD that would only fit in one simpit, the approach of Heads Up View offers a more grounded approach. With their design being more universal, made of more accessible materials and capable of standalone use, simmers can purchase the DT1 at a more realistic price point of around 795.00 USD. Certainly it is still a high price when you think of other flight simulation accessories around or beneath the same pirce point. In conversations with the CEO of Heads Up View, I brought up the point that these devices are very niche in the sense that it is a sea changing piece of flight sim gear but not absolutely vital to all flight sim operations. This truly is a cockpit builder level accessory. I cannot say it is something that will be as prolific as rudder pedals, for example. However, it is an eye opening type of hardware that makes you reconsider how you approach flight simulation as a hobby. Within minutes of flying in each simulator, there was a palpable mix of excitement to see a genuine heads up display working outside a near-professional use simulator and gradually understanding what the addition of this level of flight simulation hardware to a desktop style flight simulation setup means in the long-term. The Tip of the Iceberg For the past few days the Skyward staff has been discussing what our next step with flight simulation is because of the presence of the Heads Up View DT1 in our collection. As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, the use of the DT1 has pushed us into an unexpected position with this level of flight simulation. In the near future, a second article discussing the DT1 and the next level of flight simulation is set to release with what we think are informative points of view being in this transitional point we are now. Expect an unusual team project from Skyward to be announced in the near future. About the Writer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. [Profile]
DCS World: Choosing your Aircraft, the Smart Way
It was not that long ago that we had to wait years to get news on new aircraft coming to DCS World, something that was both a blessing and a curse. I used to get extremely excited for new module announcements because of their rarity, but in their absence the sim felt extremely void and empty as if it were in a dark room only to be illuminated every year or so by the light one got from the news themselves That era is long gone, since new module announcements have become an almost bi-weekly routine. In these exciting times, it is also easy to get a bit overwhelmed by the amount of news and updates coming to the game. With these many aircraft coming to the platform, of which most are unique flight experiences that cater to a certain era or task, how can you know what's good for you. Since modules can be pretty expensive, I wanted to run through the process I go through to choose the aircraft I want to visit and which ones I want to pass on.
MARKETING AND ANALYZING TIME COMMITMENTS With all the promotional material and trailers that now come as a part of the product release cycle for any gaming product, it is easy to sometimes get swept up by the hype train and up purchasing something just because it looked cool in the trailers. Some of these modules have trailers that rival short films in directing and visual quality, making their modules look their best when it matters the most. These trailers are enticing and very well done, to the point that I've been dragged by them to revisit aircraft or even acquire new ones for content production here! The problem lies in two factors: money and time. Do you have the money to buy the aircraft? Will you have to sacrifice something in order to acquire it? If you said yes, then I pose you the following question: Do you have the time to learn this new aircraft?
Additionally, there is something else that might affect your decision: mission capability. Do the aircraft that you already own fulfill all the missions you want to fly in DCS? If so, then getting a new aircraft will only give you new ways to do what you already do. If you are interested in the aircraft itself, that is a different case, but when it comes down to pure gameplay, then you might already have everything you need without realizing it. This is something I always take into consideration when I write my reviews.
I know it will take some self-restraint, but you will have to realize that DCS is a very time-consuming and complicated game that will demand proper study from its players. This time can either be watching YouTube videos to understand certain systems, reading the manual, or playing the provided training missions that come with each module. Having considered all of this, ask yourself this: Do you have any aircraft that you have purchased already that you have not touched? For a couple of my friends, all of whom know who they are, this is a reality.
CHECK YOUR BACKLOG! While some of these new modules might be really appealing, you might still have one or two modules that are just collecting dust in your virtual hangar. I know that is the case for a couple of my modules, some of which need more love and attention. It is interesting that, at least to me, most of my friends are in the same situation. We end up maining one or two aircraft, and we master them, but that comes at the cost of our diversity.
Personally, I think that taste lies in variety, so coming back to some of those modules has improved my experience in many ways. I have been able to experience Cold War scenarios the proper way, Gulf War-era missions and modern ones without compromising!
To explore different eras, you will need to have proficiency and skill with these old and new aircraft. So go out there and get training, these aircraft that you might already own need to get a good dusting off and some flights on their checkbooks.
Does this mean you shouldn't buy new modules as they come out? No, of course not! The devs need support during the launch period, and initial sales are important; but do you need to feel bad if you can't buy a module on launch? No! Go fly your planes and helos, the ones you already own! Enjoy DCS at your pace. 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 2000s, 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 2010s. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as the co-founder and one of the main writers. Twitter | Discord : Cubeboy
Skycadia: Utilizing Chaos
Using the hail of incoming fire against the adversary Skycadia by Studio Nisse has been a game I've played from time to time when I want to have some fun but also relax. I'm even willing to admit that I have played it during very long-range flights in DCS World and Microsoft Flight Simulator. Released on December 7th, 2020, Skycadia is a very easy to jump into, cartoonish flight game that evokes memories of Star Fox and Skygunner, being inspired by Devil Daggers (of all things!). It is available on Nintendo Switch, Steam and Xbox One X|S. On July 6th, 2023, the Steam version of Skycadia was updated to 2.0. I prefer the Nintendo Switch version, but it is technically outdated. Let's jump into the newest Steam version for now. Being fully transparent, I was absolutely obliterated coming back to this game after being away for so long. If there is one thing Skycadia has always been known for, it is the absolute bullet hell the swarms of bug enemies fire at the player. These groups of enemies can form within a matter of minutes if larger enemies that spawn them are not dealt with quickly. With literally dozens of enemies in pursuit, it is possible for players to have their health melted in just a few seconds. Even with its easy to learn controls, pure arcade flight characteristics, and aircraft with different specs, this happens regularly. Not even the all mighty Barrel Roll is a guaranteed success. When smaller enemy fighters are in low numbers, they can be defeated with basic fighter maneuvers; outmaneuvering them at low speeds, knocking them down one by one. Quick bursts of maximum thrust can also be used to get out of tight spots. However, when there are so many bullets and aircraft in the air it blocks your vision, a change in mindset is needed. Rather than try to shoot down every fighter one-by-one, it is best to keep in mind that at the end of the day the only thing that matter is money. That's right! Credits. You play as a bounty hunter, after all. When enemies are defeated, they drop large clouds of paper money used for unlocking new characters, weapons and aircraft to be used in Arcade Survival, Story Adventure and Crusin' (free flight) modes. Health items are also dropped. Skycadia does not stop the enemies from shooting one another down as they wildly spray at the player. As sheets of bullets wizz past the players, they can and will hit other hostiles in the airspace. Because of this, flying defensively while focusing on turns to force the incoming bullets to strike other hostiles can yield a large amount of credits fast, while preserving the player's health. Utilizing slashing attacks against boss enemies and singling out the slower support enemies is a good practice, while letting the hoard gradually thin itself out is the best practice. Performing maneuvers that work in tight spaces, like the Split-S or Immelmann Turn near especially tough boss level enemies can even shred their armor. They become so weakened, they can be shot down in one or two of the player's strafing runs. It is important for the player to shoot down enemies when able for the sake of filling up their bounty book, but remember that at the end of the day, credits are the real prize. If stacking up tens of thousands of credits can be done by letting the enemy defeat themselves, why stop them? Rake in that money, buy upgrades and push even harder next time! About the Writer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. [Profile]
DCS World OV-10A Bronco: Glory in Simplicity
If you were to ask anyone that has tried DCS for a considerable amount of time in the sim, what is one of the key features of this simulator, they would most likely say that the depth of the aircraft/weapon systems and their complexity is one of the defining factors that make DCS what it is for most advanced players. This is something I wholeheartedly agreed on, at least until I flew the OV-10A mod for the first time. We reviewed this aircraft before its launch thanks to its developers, SPLIT AIR, and we noticed that not only was it one of the most interesting and unique additions to DCS World in years, but that it held the keys to an entirely different flight experience for both beginner and advanced players alike unlike anything that had been released before.
As a turboprop aircraft, this small yet powerful stallion lives in a very peculiar place in the DCS "meta". Due to its max speed being barely higher than a helicopter speed record, its Goldilocks zone lies closer to the helicopters than fixed wing aircraft; something that opens many opportunities that would be unavailable for the rest of the fixed wing modules currently available in DCS World.
You can use it to capture zones thanks to its Short Take-off and Landing (STOL) capabilities, as well as being able to provided proper CAS for allied troops thanks to its wide arsenal of weapons. This puts it in between a fixed wing and a rotary wing in terms of capabilities and potential, an untouched area in DCS that opens up so many scenarios for mission creators.
All of this is only enhanced by this mod's incredible ability of being extremely simple to learn and fly. You can get it airborne with ease, and its weapon systems are some of the simplest ones to learn. I love that I can go from a cold start to take-off in less than 2 minutes, all while carrying a combat load and ready for battle.
It is that simplicity and versatility, as well as its mission capabilities, that bring this mod to a league of its own. It's awesome and, please, do yourself a favor and download it. Not only that, but it will open your eyes to the world of low-level action in DCS World. 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 2000s, 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 2010s. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as the co-founder and one of the main writers. Twitter | Discord : Cubeboy #9034
The “Switchblade” Wing: Feasible or Fantasy?
ORIGINAL PUBLICATION DATE: 04/13/2020 -- SMALL ADJUSTMENTS: 08/16/2023 It’s arguable that there is no more intriguing fictional aircraft in the Ace Combat series than the X-02 Wyvern. Appearing as the lone “bonus” aircraft in Ace Combat 04 (2001), the X-02 positions itself well into the game’s more serious and professional tone than the installments preceding and following it. The X-02 derives clear inspiration from several types of real-world fighter aircraft. Under slung engine nacelles and vertical ventral fins from the Su-27 Flanker, chined edges and ruddervators reminiscent of the YF-23, and fuselage shaping not unlike a hybrid between the F-14 Tomcat and the F/A-18E Super Hornet. To even an amateur eye, the X-02 seems atypically well designed. Compared to the mecha-influenced fictional aircraft before it like the XFA-27 and ADF-01, the X-02 “feels” real. There was quite a bit of thought and professional detail placed into the design of the aircraft by Ace Combat 04’s development team. This intuition is not unjustified. A more detailed look on the aircraft can reveal that the design seems to have come with an engineer’s influence. Everything from the center-of-lift and gravity to the internal dimensions of the aircraft has reason applied to it. That is perhaps a great deal of the appeal of its design. But it is, of course, the novelty of the aircraft’s signature—the “switchblade” wing—that gives the X-02 its dauntless allure. So, beyond what you see in the game model, what exactly is a switchblade wing? Let’s break it down further. The removal of the switchblade feature alone actually reveals an equally novel wing configuration: the “W”-wing. A “W”-wing planform is self-demonstrating. The wing itself forms an oblique W shape in its design. This planform remains generally untested and theoretical, appearing only in old NACA research papers dated 1950 and 1953, respectively. It also appears to have been considered by Nazi German aircraft manufacturer Blohm and Voss for their P.188 design during the final stages of World War II (Dan Sharp, Luftwaffe: Secret Bombers of the Third Reich , Mortons 2016, Pages 84-85.) In the case of the P.188, the goal of the wing was to mitigate a known flaw in early swept-wing designs: a tendency for the aircraft to enter an ever-increasing pitch-up attitude as the outboard part of the wing stalls, eventually resulting in a loss of control of the aircraft as rudder surfaces became obscured by the wing and fuselage of the aircraft. The result is blocked airflow to these surfaces and, ultimately, a hull loss incident. The P.188 was passed up in favor of more conventional designs, but the wing configuration was not totally abandoned. NACA revisited this design and fitted it to cheaply made rockets, which gave them the opportunity to study the resulting flight parameters of the wing, including its overall drag coefficient, the center of lift, and the results of aeroelastic flutter. Despite this, the wing was never applied in any realistic manner. The initial advantages of it—the ability to resist pitch-up—was no longer a concern with delta and swept wings by the 1960s, as designs had been produced to reduce or eliminate this danger entirely. But the application of the W-wing in Ace Combat 04’s X-02 doesn’t concern itself with something so fundamental, or so technical. The W-wing on the X-02 is a representation of a single game mechanic: aircraft maneuverability. At first glance, this makes perfect sense. Like the Su-47 (in Ace Combat 04 carrying it’s Sukhoi DB project name of S-37), the swept-forward part of its design implies a real-world analogous feature of high maneuverability, and the X-02’s in-game mechanics exploits this, making the X-02 the most maneuverable aircraft available to the player. The W-wing configuration does theoretically grant this, and may, in fact, be more suited for this statistic in reality over the simple swept-forward design due to the ability to increase structural integrity and reduce aeroelastic divergence - the tendency of the wing to want to bend upwards when force is applied, which risks structural failure. The swept-forward wing—and by extension the W-wing—take advantage of the ability of the inboard, rather than the outboard, portion of the wing stalling out first. The outboard, near-tip portion of the wing usually hosts the aircraft’s ailerons. So long as the ailerons receive clean airflow, they can allow the aircraft to maintain roll control. This permits the aircraft resistance to departure of controlled flight at high angles-of-attack. And an aircraft that can maintain these high AOA’s can inherently also achieve a tighter instantaneous turning radius, as it can present a greater surface area to the incoming air, increasing the force applied to the fuselage and wings. Additionally, due to the way that the air flows along the wings surface, it also lowers drag from the wingtips, theoretically granting sharper sustained turning rates with a well-engineered design. So now we know what makes the W-wing itself special, but it’s the X-02’s “switchblade” function that really captures the eye. But is this where feasibility starts to fall apart for the X-02? The short answer is “Yes.” But let’s instead entertain the long answer: “It depends.” The “switchblade” design is not entirely original. There is evidence of its study in 1999 by Northrop Grumman, as demonstrated in patents for an aircraft design. Some might recognize this design as one that inspired the AI-controlled aircraft from the 2005 movie Stealth . But the X-02 precedes that design by over four years and is probably a more realistic application of the mechanics. This is where the W-wing makes significant sense for the X-02 design—the inboard swept part of the wing works to conceal the forward-swept outboard portion in high-speed flight, quickly pivoting the wings inboard through a set of doors where there may traditionally be leading-edge slats on a swept-wing fighter. This does something that the Northrop Switchblade doesn’t: it eliminates an entire flight surface of the aircraft. In theory, this would not only provide structural integrity to the inboard wing but would also drop parasitic and wave drag considerably, enabling the X-02 to reach speeds that would not be possible with its higher aspect-ratio swept forward configuration. It is what grants the X-02 it’s seemingly contradictory statistics: it can pull double duty as a first-rate turning fighter while being able to also dash at high speeds limited by surplus engine thrust rather than drag. But what does this configuration mean in the real-world? Let’s break-down the X-02’s wing-sweep procedure and see if we can pinpoint where physics rears its unwelcome head and puts the X-02 back into the realm of science fiction: Between 0-450 knots the X-02’s wings remain locked in the long aspect ratio, swept forward position. This is a good configuration for this speed, granting low stall speeds and high maneuverability. The W-wing configuration mitigates the aeroelastic load on the aircraft, though the empty space in the inboard sweep does sacrifice some structural integrity but is bulked with an intelligent spar system.
Between 450-455 knots the wing configuration becomes a hindrance and needs to be changed, so a rapid series of adjustments start. The wing uses large servos to pivot the outboard wing inward. This lowers drag but puts stress on the wing’s aeroelasticity limits.
At 460 knots the outboard wing has its tips facing straight onto the airflow. The aircraft enters a light pitch-up due to the rapid change in center-of-lift and— The wing shears off the aircraft.
What’s happening here? Well, by step two we’re already looking at undeniable stress on the wing. Coupled with the hollow inner wing, heavy center machinery, increasing airspeed, and resulting airflow, the wing encounters a structural limit. The force of the air on the ventral surface of the wing must obey Newton’s third law, and eventually the wing cannot sustain this force any longer. A subscale example of this failure is similar to what happens to a fixed, straight-wing aircraft like a Cessna 172 going into overspeed. The aircraft’s weakest points must yield to the forces applied to it, and the wing must either disintegrate or detach from the fuselage. It is at this point that the X-02S Wyvern cements itself into the virtual world. But can this be fixed? With what we currently know about aerodynamics and materials science, it’s unlikely. Stronger materials and more intelligent engineering might help, but there are fundamental forces at play that consistently produce damaging effects. This provides justification for the wing design of many modern aircraft such as the F-22, Su-57, and J-20, which stick with tuned, traditional trapezoidal wings. Ultimately, they provide acceptable performance while maintaining robust structural integrity. This is why swept-forward wings stay in the realm of technology demonstrator: the forces applied to the wing accelerate the stress on the weakest points of the wings attachment points on the fuselage, resulting in a higher need for structural maintenance and greater risk of catastrophic failure. But despite this inherent flaw, do not discount the ideas presented by Ace Combat 04’s premier air supremacy fighter. It is certainly within the realm of plausibility that the aircraft’s designers constructed the aircraft knowing these flaws. But that doesn’t make the design any less impressive. The fact that they identified the possibility alone demonstrates a keen, intelligent rationale for the X-02’s addition to Ace Combat lore. Perhaps the designers of the fighter didn’t think that their fantasy idea would inspire such curiosity about its feasibility, but their approach did just that.
The X-02 will continue to spark questions for people discovering this series for the very first time and though just a thought experiment its design has the potential to inspire knowledge and discussion about the real-world physics at play, hopefully stoking the fires of people not just interested in Ace Combat, but perhaps delving into an interest in aviation as a whole. About the Writer T.J. "Millie" Archer A Life-long realist and aviation enthusiast. Once the co-founding Administrator of the Electrosphere.info English Ace Combat Database. In the present day he is freelance, roving the internet in search of the latest aviation news and entertainment. Read Staff Profile .