Mini DCS F-86F Sabre Review
By Eric J
For me to go into the history of the Sabre would be utterly not worth the effort because it is a well-known jet as well as being one of the first US production jet fighters. Having gained experience in Korea during the Korean War, only matched by the Mig-15 and Mig-17, the jet is simply iconic for that reason alone, so a dissertation in the history wouldn’t be applicable for this review, but is applicable in setting the tone for the module for DCS.
Having flown the Sabre a few times I can say that the aircraft due to the earlier flight controls requires constant attention and initially trimming. As what seems to be a new trend with the more PFMs and SFMs the aircraft usually fly a constant nose down attitude, requiring constant trimming, in both pitch and roll. The reason as when I was taking it for the mountain flying test the aircraft set off Sticky Keys quite often, which after realizing that this is not a modern aircraft and should switch my trim to non-modified joystick mapping. After I did that the aircraft seemed to want to behave better as I took it on my nominal mountain flying test to see how it handled and performed well. It should be noted that G-Loc can happen quite quickly due to the airframe so when doing maneuvers it’s highly recommended to pull firmly on the stick, as sharp pulls will cause you to black out instantly. However once you set the trim to the default hat switch I noticed it was much smoother to control and easier to trim the jet as I flew along. I would not recommend rolling at low level with your wings vertical however, as the aircraft does wallow in that regard and you will lose control, but if you keep the wings from that angle then control is crisp and responsive and quite honestly was fun to fly at high speeds. At high altitude the aircraft becomes almost uncontrollable around 28,000 feet MSL so keep that in mind if you wish to go higher. Also if you nose down with this aircraft around this altitude you can reach Mach 1 before hitting the ground, so keep that in mind if you want to try this experiment.
Some other things to note, the aircraft being aged, does require a separate nosewheel… locking system for you to taxi, both before and after flight. If you have flown the Black Shark it’s similar to the condensed trim system but at first when you taxi you will have problems simply taxiing to the runway. This is just due to the initial problem of overcorrecting and crashing.If you haven’t flown the Black Shark is you have to hold down the Nosewheel Steering Button in order to move the nosewheel and add rudder input to perform a turn. However once you figure this out applying the button plus rudder becomes instinctive and not hard to figure out and is highly recommended to map onto your stick in a convenient location. During takeoff and landing at speed rudder input still works and can help keep your jet oriented properly. Flaps need to be manually adjusted, meaning you can’t just press the F key for modern jets and the flaps will go down, or retract. Also before takeoff it’s recommended to raise them up to a less sharpangle so that takeoffs aren’t so nose high as well. Also remember to slow down before applying the brake as you can actually bend the wheel slightly, to where it’s damaged, but still operable to steer the aircraft to clear the runway. Over time of course the more you fly the aircraft the easier it is to not break the wheel or bend it.
Also the view system is quite interesting as you have a “ground perspective” and a “flight perspective”, meaning that at the start your camera is quite close to the instrument panel. Once you take off however it will automatically zoom out which shows the well textured and detailed cockpit. Practically this doesn’t impinge on flight and of course like any other aircraft the view is fully adjustable if the default views don’t suit you. It should also be noted that the view changes when selecting the bomb sight, again moving your perspective based on historical accuracy of employing the weapons during the Korean War.
Despite the mountain test, I took it on my JTAC training map where I have some simple fuel trucks as targets to shoot at and to get a little practice in anyway. I will say that the handling and turn ability of the jet is very impressive, very smooth and really rivals some of the more modern virtual combat aircraft I’ve flown over the years. High and low-speed handling is very impressive and commands some respect and was quite happy flying the aircraft after realizing that. When doing gun runs the aircraft sometimes pitches up due to lower speeds but can be immediately corrected with trim, which makes it practically stable (with stability from the player’s stick inputs as well) but overall left to refuel quite happy that the aircraft is just nice to fly and in some ways simplicity is always better than all the buttons and screens, and so on with modern aircraft these days. As an opponent this ability as handled by the AI when doing DACT is also apparent, where using modern aircraft like the Su-27 and Su-33 has shown that the low speed handling gives the Sabre the edge in the close fight, but remember that you have short ranged guns and a modern opponent can merely maneuver and either get a good guns kill or use a short ranged missile to bring you down once it gets into a good firing position. And remember the plane has no flares or modern defensive equipment, so using it as a target drone (and a livery does exist as a third party option) may be good for practice for BVR and the like if you want something to give you a challenge but also not able to shoot you down as well.
Fuel is an issue as you can last about a half hour or less depending on your throttle setting and flight profile, and drop tanks are recommended to haul along but for short flights they’re not needed or required if you’re just heading to a range nearby, use that weight for bombs and rockets, etc. However it is advised you keep a good eye on the fuel gauge as once you reach a certain point you will need to return back to base and refuel and rearm.
Like all current DCS modules the 3D model of the aircraft is of course well done and fully textured, leaving a sense of a completed aircraft. The module by default comes with one texture only, and no official support for custom liveries. However, there is an unofficial PSD available on the ED Forums that through searching you can make your own. There are also some user created liveries also available at the DCS main site, CombatAce, as well as LockOnFiles.com.
The aircraft has full 6DOF support, with many switches and dials animated and for you to click and operate. It should be stressed that there is no safety for the nose guns, and as Black Hawk Down goes, your finger is your safety. However there are fully functioning switches to turn the guns off (which in my mind should be default while on the ground) manually so if you accidentally press the trigger you won’t accidentally discharge all six .50 caliber machineguns. Otherwise through simply switching them and playing with them (full text boxes tell you also which one does if you didn’t look in the manual to figure out how to do things. However a fully informed “Quick Start” manual (I only add quotations as the manual is the manual and is informative enough to navigate around the cockpit to do what you need to do) is of course provided so you can figure out what is what inside the cockpit. Otherwise it is fully clickable and given the early technology, isn’t as daunting as say, the A-10C on how to start it up.
For weapons use the panel is right behind the joystick, so it’s a bit hard sometimes to enable weapons systems while flying and may cause you to have to jerk the stick or hold the stick to gain access to the appropriate systems as in real life all you had to do was simply lean forward and simply select the dials to get what you needed. Given simulation logic it’s a necessary evil but if you can watch your trigger on the ground… but I don’t recommend unsafe procedures but if you wish to use the era-specific weapons that is a concern you should have. It should also be noted as per the manual you have 300 rounds per machinegun, so I would recommend if you want to keep your bullets is to use the selector lever on the left side of the cockpit, just below the canopy rail to select from Upper, Middle, and Lower guns or All depending on your preference. Because of this it is highly recommended that you map the various buttons that you will need to operate the weapon systems as needed without having to look down at the base of the stick and figure out what to do.
Major issues so far
My only complaint in this regard is the default settings for the safeties. Normally on any airbase they would be switched to the OFF position and then the pilot should simply switch them off safe in order for preparation for combat, and likewise turn them OFF when landing, etc. Another issue is that for novice flyers you will bend the nosewheel quite a bit (for me it’s unlearning Su-33 dynamics as I know I can come in hard and the jet won’t break easily) and the aircraft is still able to turn as if the wheel wasn’t broken, i.e. it won’t rotate the aircraft with throttle input in the bent direction.
The Sabre is a niche aircraft in the modern theme of DCS: World but as such since the world is also flexible, then flying it would put you back in the Korean War era (except you’re in the Caucasus Mountain area) and that’s about it. I would recommend purchasing it if you are into older era aircraft but want modern graphics to look good while flying it around the region. And despite the major issues listed above (which are immediately fixable by simply operating the switches and using Ground Repair) as while I am a modern jet flyer, this one is fairly interesting to fly and given the performance I would say I don’t regret purchasing this particular module for DCS.