DCS World: DCS F-15C AFM First Impressions

Let me preface this post by saying that I’m not really a virtual fighter jock. I don’t really know much about BFM or the correct manoeuvre to make in modern air to air combat. I’m at home in a helicopter or a mud mover, but when the beta of DCS World 1.2.8 came out featuring the new F-15C Advanced Flight Model (AFM) I thought it was time to jump in with both feet (again). 

I made the video above purely because I like to start out with the basics. As the F-15C is still firmly in the realm of Flaming Cliffs fidelity (ie. no clickable cockpit or advanced avionics modelling) that kind of makes the start up procedure a one step affair. It is important to note that although you can’t click the cockpit it is full of working systems to look at. And look you can do that with style, with a beautifully modelled 6-degrees-of-freedom cockpit!

So, skipping start up and onto the flight model, an area that has changed greatly from the previous Standard Flight Model (SFM) system. If you’ve flown the other AFM aircraft in DCS World (A-10A-C, P-51-D, Ka-50) you will be familiar with kind of high fidelity it offers. The flight model seems much more scientific, dynamic and responsive while the SFM seems more like an arcade simulation on rails.

Taxiing is the first change that I noticed. Where as before you could scoot around at ridiculous speeds while the tyres were glued to the tarmac you are now subject to the forces of physics, the F-15C will skid, roll, tip and crash if you corner with poor judgement. The tarmac is also left stained with skid marks from loss of friction. Take heed after touchdown as the Eagle isn’t a rally car and the lack of script based glue could see your plane doing ground loops in career ending style. I’ve left an Eagle at the end of a runway after rolling it over completely (for science), it didn’t explode in a ‘hit point reaches 0’ kind of way but instead carefully disassembled itself and left the pilot unconscious. Oh and if you’ve found yourself embarrassingly needing a tow truck: the steering wheel now has two modes – hold the S key to get the full steering range around sharp corners.

Once in the air the F-15C wants to fly, in fact you can pull of some pretty amazing low speed manoeuvres on the edge of the envelope. We’ll have to see if this capability get’s tweaked as it looks like it’s configured for air show fun times. I think that if you have a SFM vs AFM fight there might be some serious balancing issues based on the fidelity alone, but who cares, what is this an MMORPG?

Pretty quickly I noticed an exciting new feature, a roar of the air being torn off the back of the eagle in high G manoeuvres. I’m pretty happy about that one. I won’t go into all the AFM features but I will say that the flight characteristics change dynamically with the load-out, including shifts in the centre of gravity. So you can shoot that missile and once again get that familiar feel that one side is now lighter and trim to adjust, just like in the A-10.

Unfortunately it’s beta for a reason and it appears that the Control Augmentation System isn’t implemented yet. This system currently leaves you needing to drastically trim the aircraft after making a turn as you’ll have heavy roll and pitch going on. Not a huge drama but certainly not in a state for the final release.

Onto landing and you’ll see that it’s no longer the script based SFM system. If you land with a bit too much speed and stand on the brakes expect bad times. In fact, in general just expect landing to be a bit more of an art form. If you land with one wheel touching down first then the physics will kick in as one side of the aircraft is yanked, pulled, twisted and basically punished. Compare this to the SFM where the script would ensure landing was identical, every single time. Now add cross-wind or fog or sun strike or night time and you’re in for a challenge without ever hitting the master arm switch. Aero braking is now in, so keep the nose wheel off the ground and the whole body of the aircraft will act as an air brake. If you struggle here you have a lot of work to do before DCS: F-18C comes out.

So where to from here? As time goes on I hope these modules continue to develop and become their own fully featured DCS modules. That appears to be the way things are going now that the F-15C has it’s own dedicated DCS: F-15C product page.

Categories: Digital Combat Simulation

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