Review: DCS F-5E-3 Tiger II by Belsimtek
Released back in 2016 with fairly good reception the F-5E-3 "Tiger II" module by Belsimtek is one of the most popular for DCS:World as of 2020, being a solid all-weather fighter with air to air and air to ground capabilities. It is an old module with a lot of limitations but at the same time a lot of features which make it an excellent beginner aircraft. In this review we will be taking a look into several different parts of the module and evaluating if this fearsome little bird is a fit for your style of flying. 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 Module content issues Is this aircraft for you? EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL 3D MODELS A very important part of any module is the way that you, as a player, perceive your aircraft as a tangible and well recreated version of the real life counterpart. In this regard, we got a very detailed recreation of the aircraft when it comes to the external and cockpit models of the module. In the external model one can see that a lot of attention to detail was put into it from the air vent animations to the wing flex that happens when you maneuver harshly or while rolling around on the taxiway/runway. I have got to admit that this is a feature that I wish more modules had, as it is present on all the "must have" aircraft such as the F-14A/B, the F-16CM and the F/A-18C. There will be a video of this in action in the next section of the review. The cockpit model is good but not without flaws. Even though it is pretty accurately modeled, the textures are falling a bit behind when compared with the more modern modules such as the F/A-18C by Eagle Dynamics or the F-14B by Heatblur. Some parts feel too lifeless, lacking depth and reflections that are present in more recent releases. Here are a couple pictures, scroll around and judge for yourself. For example: the gun camera casing, which is one of the objects you will be looking at the most thanks to its location in front of the gunsight looks a bit too faded, like it lacked color depth and definition. This is mainly due to the age of the module now being close to 4 years old as the writing of this review, which would make these non-updated textures a relic of the older lighting engine present in DCS as the time of its release. VISUAL AND SOUND EFFECTS Something crucial for a simulator is the sound design, since it is one of the only ways that the player can receive feedback from its plane when the airframe is stressed due to high-G or high-alpha scenarios, while rolling down the runway or even when getting into a compressor stall. This is one area that the F-5E-3 does great and at the same time it lacks.
External effects are great, you can easily hear the engine going through the entire RPM range and hear the distinct sound of the afterburners kicking in and feel their force, even though they are one of the weakest afterburning engines in DCS. Cannons have that characteristic sound that echoes through the canyons after you fire, accompanied with the smoke deflectors that make the smoke go over your canopy in order to avoid flaming-out the engines with the exhaust gases. Overall, fantastic. Animation-wise, here's one of the more notable examples of the wing flex that occurs: When it comes to the in-cockpit sounds, things are not as excellent as the external ones but still pretty solid. The flaws derive from a certain lack of feedback when clicking the switches or turning the dials, which can be somewhat frustrating. The engines are the main problem when it comes to badly designed in-cockpit sounds mainly because, when flying at higher speeds or at high-alpha scenarios, there is not a notorious change in sound when the afterburners are on. This can be troublesome during a dogfight when you have to keep visual with your enemy at all times and you can't afford to look at the fuel flow gauge or the instrument panel in general, which is the only reliable mean to know when you have passed the afterburner detent. 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. Here is a recording at full in-game audio for both ground and in-flight engine sounds from the cockpit so you can judge this for yourself: EXAMPLES: Engine sound while on ground: ( Idle-->Full Afterburner-->Idle ): Engine sound while in-flight: ( Idle-->Full Afterburner-->Idle ): FLIGHT MODELING This is a make or break for the product since it is the most noticeable characteristic of every module. Thankfully, this is one of the most pleasant and good-feeling aircraft to fly in DCS. The Tiger handles like a glove and responds very well, even more if you have the dampeners turned on (although for fine control, I would suggest having them on at all times). The feedback from going into high-g and high-alpha scenarios is enough to tell you that you should probably ease up on the controls. Stalling the aircraft is genuinely difficult and even if you get into a stall it is very easy to regain control by applying the standard recovery methods. One thing to have in mind is that the F-5E-3 has a relatively low thrust to weigh ratio of around 0.58 with afterburners on which means that you have to conserve your energy well during a dogfight since you do have the capability to bleed it very fast thanks to the turning capabilities of the aircraft. In addition, the Tiger does not respond well to pitch down movements since it has very bad authority in that axis. Although some real Tiger pilots have said that the engines and the flight modeling feels "off" or "inaccurate", the FM behaves in a believable way and are pretty most accurate to what's on the manual. Each version of every aircraft will behave differently, so pilot feedback can either be the best feedback you can have or an outlier in the data. Most if not all users/buyers of this module would not have flown the F-5E, even less the F-5E-3 on the same exact configuration, making this flight model accurate enough for the purposes of DCS. In summary, there is a reason why this aircraft is used as an aggressor flying red air for the USAF and this is why. MISSION CAPABILITY Weighing only 10,659lb empty, this fighter is very lightweight but this does not mean that it lacks the fangs to rain death upon the skies with a maximum take-off weight of 24,663lb which means a lot of punch for such a small machine. And thanks to the drag chute, it is able to land almost anywhere but it will still need a lot of runway to take off. While it is indeed and all-weather fighter capable of day and night operations thanks to its AN/APQ-159(V)-3 Radar giving it night interception capabilities with the aid of an AWACS, it is restricted to WVR (Within-Visual-Range) combat since it lacks radar-guided missiles of any kind, no BVR (Beyond-Visual-Range) capabilities whatsoever. You also don't have a modern HUD (Head-Up-Display), everything is done through the AN/ASG-31 lead computing sight and its operational modes, which can be surprisingly accurate under the right circumstances. This is not a 4th Generation aircraft and it shows but don't let that deter you from what this aircraft is capable of thanks to its loadouts which can be somewhat versatile and pretty powerful for such a small fighter. ARMAMENT M-39 20mm CANNONS: These two 20mm cannons are the most noticeable armament of the Tiger since they are one of its main means to attack both air and ground targets thanks to their versatility and reliability. Having 280 rounds each and firing in between 1500 to 1700 rounds per minute, these are surely going to provide you a lot of fun times annihilating MiG-21s and APC convoys. AIM-9 SIDEWINDER: These IR guided missiles are the only air to air weaponry you have in this aircraft so make sure to get used to them and their quirks. They might not be as maneuverable as you could like but they are still fairly useful when it comes to engaging aircraft that are at 2nm or closer. You have three variants at your disposal: GAR-8 / AIM-9B ( Rear-aspect early variant, very unreliable ) AIM-9P ( Rear-aspect with longer range, better boresight and G-loading ) AIM-9P5 ( All-aspect variant of the AIM-9P ) BOMBS You have a very good selection of GPBs at your disposal which allows you to obliterate almost everything that you could encounter. You have four GPBs in your arsenal: Mk.82 (500lb~) and its high-drag variant the Mk.82 Snake Eye (500lb) Mk.83 (1,000lb~) Mk.84 (2,000lb~) M117 (824 lb~) If what you want is to obliterate a bigger area you have the CBU-52B General Purpose Cluster filled with 220 BLU-61А/B bomblets. Finally, for precision bombing you have access to the GBU-12 (500lb~) Laser Guided Bomb. Of note, you cannot utilize this bomb on your own since you do not have an integrated targeting laser. You will require the assistance of either another player with an aircraft that has a laser designator or an AI JTAC to guide your bomb onto the target. ROCKETS Launching a salvo of rockets on top of a convoy is always fun, so it is good that you have 2.75-inch rockets available to spread death and destruction. There are two pods to choose from: LAU-3 ( Nineteen 2.75-inch rockets) LAU-68 ( Seven 2.75-inch rockets) AN/APQ-159(V)-3 RADAR Limited in range (40nm-5nm) and very susceptible to ground clutter, this radar is your eye in the sky that will allow you obtain target data for your gunsight for maximum accuracy. It is easy to use in its two main modes: Dogfight (DG) and Search. While in DG mode, your radar will act like it had a FLOOD mode by locking the strongest, closest target to the boresight of the aircraft letting you get fast and almost instantaneous gun solutions whenever you are in a pinch. DEFENSIVE EQUIPMENT Just as important as the capability of destroying your enemy is your ability to avoid being destroyed in the process. This is done through two main means: The AN/ALR-87 radar warning receiver (RWR) will notify you of any radar contact in its cone of detection and when one or more of those contacts have opened fire at you. This system is quite reliable and gives you some situational awareness unlike other planes that will be competing in the same category as you, such as the MiG-21. When you are indeed fired upon, your best friend will be your АN/АLE-40 countermeasures dispensing system, which consists of 15 flares and 30 chaff that are droppable in either single mode or multiples via programs. Additionally, you do have an IFF system (Identification Friend or Foe) but with the disadvantage of not being able to interrogate, but your allies can indeed interrogate you to avoid blue on blue situations. EASE OF USE AND LEARNING CURVE The best thing about the Tiger is its cockpit flow design and shallow difficulty curve for basic operations. This aircraft does not punish you if you commit some mistakes here and there. It is very forgiving, reliable and predictable from its radar to its gunsight. Engine start up requires connecting ground power to the aircraft, but nothing about the process is either difficult or troublesome. Landing the aircraft is also very forgiving with help of the drag-chute, giving you the capability to land in shorter runways without the worry of a runway overrun. As long as you treat her nicely during landing and you do not smash her into the pavement like a navy pilot, she will treat you well. The main flight instruments are easily readable and the radar scope is very intuitive if you have ever operated a radar before. The RWR equipped on this aircraft is simple and easy to both read and interpret, giving the average player a tool that allows them to have a better survivability rate than with a Fishbed or a L-39. Weapon management is as simple as flipping a switch and pressing the trigger with the only difficulty being encountered while using the gunsight to bomb accurately, which can be solved by practicing by yourself or with the included training missions. I would recommend this aircraft to both new and old players just for this reason. I don't joke when I say that it is easy. MODULE CONTENT ISSUES This module has one main issue when it comes to what ships with your module when you pay for it, this being the lack of substantial pre-packaged single-player content. In fact, there is not a campaign that comes included with this module with the only ones available that were made by the developers being sold as separate pieces of DLC that require that you also have the NTTR (Nevada Testing and Training Range) module installed. It is only fair to compare this module to others of its price range such as the AJS-37 "Viggen" which comes with two campaigns that follow a very loose story-line, multiple single missions and instant-action scenarios. In the other hand, the Tiger II only comes with the expected tutorial missions, some instant-action scenarios and merely five dedicated single-player missions that can each be completed in around half an hour at most but typically take much less if the player is experimented with the platform. These modules are not cheap and most people have to weigh-in their purchases very carefully to get the best possible experience out of their modules, making this lack of content a net-negative category for what is an amazing module. IS THIS AIRCRAFT FOR YOU? If what you want in a module that has an easy learning experience with room for mastering your abilities. If you want a solid dogfighter that needs a more hands-on approach when it comes to maneuvering but that can still handle gunfights with powerful 4th generation aircraft such as the F-15C "Eagle" and the Su-27 "Flanker" in the hands of a good pilot. If you get satisfaction from bombing targets without all the blips and bloops of a HUD with a CCIP indicator and you have the patience to practice bombing approach patterns to secure those hard-to-hit targets. If you don't care about the lack of a campaign and are fine with the package that is included with the module because you eagerly away to destroy MiGs on the multiplayer scene. If all or some of the above is what you want then the F-5E-3 by Belsimtek will not disappoint. Images from: Official Flight Manual by Belsimtek and Santiago Cuberos.
Area 88 skin (Shin Kazama) by Noel Shourai About the author Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as a writer and content manager ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034