Flying the Lancaster in Just Flight's venerable 'Dambusters' add-on for CFS2
There can't be many missions more famous than that flown in May 1943 by RAF Bomber Command's 617 Squadron to attack dams in the Ruhr, Germany. And justly so, for the mission was a triumph of technical ingenuity and airmanship, immortalised in the film named after the Dambusters. Flown with real Lancasters, some of the most impressive footage in the film was shot in daylight and recreated the squadron's low-flying practice over Derwent reservoir, with the mighty Lancs seen from above wheeling over the water as they made their practice runs.
The Just Flight CFS2 add on 'The Dam Busters' was officially licensed by the RAF and like most of the company's add-ons, comes in a nice, solid little box with a decent printed manual. It's far from a one-horse wonder. Subtitled '617 Squadron's Greatest Raids', as well as Operation Chastise, the dams mission, it provides many others, including raids on the Tirpitz, the Dortmund-Ems canal, the Bielefeld railway viaduct and the attack on Hitler's mountain-top lair at the Berchtesgaden. There's a variety of Lancaster variants, including the basic bomber and types adapted to carry the dam-busting 'Upkeep' mine and the Tallboy and ten-ton Grand Slam bombs; plus a pathfinder Mosquito, a late-model BXVI. There's even a Wellington bomber, included so you can fly one of the trial missions flown at Chesil Beach to try out the 'bouncing bomb' in daylight. I believe the add-on is still available:
Despite CFS2 not being built to handle bombers, the package does a rather good job, featuring such neat touches as the twin spotlights used for over-water height-finding and the 'wood and nails' rangefinder sight, both as developed for the dams raid. I believe the add-on was used as the basis for a TV documentary a few years back, which featured a crew drawn from current RAF personnel who were trained up and then attempted to re-fly the mission in a specially-made Lanc simulator.
As for the real thing, while we're lucky (in the UK anyway) to be able to see (and hear!) a real Lanc flying with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, you can get no better than this documentary, which features superb authentic wartime footage in colour:
Having recently once again watched and enjoyed the Dambusters movie, I thought I'd spool up Just Flight's add-on and fly one of the training missions, followed by at least some of the others. While the Dams raid and some others are in darkness, the package lets you fly them in daylight, if you wish. As I plan on doing it in the dark, there's little point in a screenshot-illustrated mission report on the dams raid itself so I thought I'd provide this short one of the training mission, as a little taster.
Here's the brief, using some of the custom screens that come with the add-on:
There's also a 'recce photograph, which shows the 'scenery' Derwent Dam that comes with the package, along with various RAF bases including Scampton and Woodhall Spa. The dam is crude but effective, and is neatly dressed up to look like a real-life RAF oblique recce picture.
For me, the star of this show is the Lancaster itself. The Just Flight version is nicely rendered by the standards of the time. And it has one outstanding feature - the engine sound. The roar and din of four Merlins at full throttle is an absolute joy and by far the best I've heard in any sim for any plane. And here she is, sitting at the end of the runway at RAF Scampton. She's a standard BI bomber, not the modified version cut away below to hold the drum-like dams weapon.
From the caption to the first screenie, you can see another of the add-on's nice touches - the pilot's injunction to the ground crew to remove the chocks. Neither can be seen but the accompanying audio is neat.
Looking right, I could see the airfield's buildings, a good selection including hangars and Nissen huts. Beside me was a tractor with some bomb tailers. Without further ado, I checked the controls, set the flaps down three notches, and started up. The engines fired up from left to right, bursting into life with a very satsfactory though muted roar. Ahead to the left you can see the controller's trailer, and beyond that a pair of parked Lancs. To the right, there's another parked aircraft, this time an RAF Dakota.
Now, came the mission's highlight - opening the throttles, and soaking up the din as the Merlins responded in full song. A bit of differential braking was needed to keep her on or near the centre line as we gathered speed, the rudders seeming ineffective, possibly as they are masked by that mighty Lancaster wing. Taking off in a crosswind is an even more interesting experience! Past the parked Lancs we went. As the speed increased I got the tail up and held her there until takeoff speed was reached. A gentle tug on the stick and we were airborne. I quickly retracted the undercart - the animation is a bit fast - and we were on our way!
...to be continued!
Flying for the Imperial Japanese Army in Yoshi's 'Battle of Chishima' campaign!
Having recently had a lot of fun spending more time with CFS2, one campaign I was keen to revisit was 'The Battle of Chishima' by Yoshitsugu 'Yoshi' Nagata, which I'd last enjoyed maybe 10 years ago. My original interest in this campaign sprang from an interest in Japanese WW2 warplanes. One of my favourite 1/72 kits 'back in the day' was Revell's Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (Peregrine Falcon). I had my model painted up just like the box art, silver overall with wavy green camo on top and yellow leading-edge prop warning panels. By pulling off the two-bladed prop you could remove the engine cowling to reveal the radial engine, the cockpit canopy could slide back and I even managed to make the undercart retractable (albeit they didn't pivot, but could be manually pushed in place, either up or down. My kind of kit!
The real Hayabusa was very popular with its pilots despite being rather underpowered, under-protected and under-armed by the standards of the time, even it first entered service in 1941. According to Osprey's 'Dogfight - P-40 Warhawk -vs- Ki-43 'Oscar' ' only 40 were in service by the date of the attack on Pearl Harbour and the first models had a two-blade fixed-pitch prop and just two rifle-calibre machine guns. However, its superb handling and manoeuvrability reportedly endeared the US-dubbed 'Oscar' to its pilots and it was certainly more modern that the even more manoeuvrable but slower, spatted-undercart Ki-27 that it supplemented then replaced as the IJA's premier single-seat fighter. Vulnerable to enemy fire it may have been, but it was no pushover.
CFS2's Hayabusa is, I believe, the Ki-43IIb model with more powerful engine, stronger, shorter-span wings, some protection for pilot and fuel tanks and two heavy MGs, in full production by October 1942. Although it's one of the Artificial Intelligence-flown planes in CFS2, this is one sim that has no shortage of freeware and payware mods, including ones to make the AI planes flyable. The only catch is that some of these come with no cockpit so you just have external and 'gunsight' views (with the reticle hanging in a clear sky, not what I'm used to but great for gunnery and a good view!)
This time around I wanted to fly the Hayabusa in both CFS2 and IL-2. The former is first up for a mission report here at CombatAce and features Yoshi's Chishima campaign. Chishima is better known to Westerners as the Kurile Islands, which stretch in an arc from the north-east tip of the Japanese mainland all the way to Russia's Camchatka Peninsula, just across the northern Pacific from Alaska. In mid-1943, US air raids began to probe the Japanese defences in this region and it's these relatively small-scale tussles that this mini-campaign represents. There's a set of five single missions designed to be flown in sequence, which is fine by me as I can live without the rather excessively goal-oriented CFS2 approach to campaigns. The Chishima missions aren't all intercepttions: for example the third mission has you providing air cover for a submarine whose engines have failed. Here's the link for the campaign:
And here's the brief for mission number one. It's short and sweet but you get the picture! There's no indication of the enemy's strength, but I was leading a flight of no less than eight Hayabusas so, sensibly or otherwise, I was feeling fairly relaxed about the odds. Given that the local air defence set-up was liable to be a tad primitive, I suppose the limited 'int' is perhaps realistic! We were operating from Kitanodai airfield, which was on the island of Paramushiro (see pic of the real airfield here: http://pwencycl.kgbudge.com/P/a/Paramushiro.htm ) and was apparently used as a base by the 54th Sentai.
The sim crashed if I tried to open the map (it's on the 'Advanced Info' tab) in the briefing screen so without further ado, I kicked the tires and lit the fires, and consulted the map once the mission had loaded. Here it is. The enemy bombers - as in, the red plane icon - are evidently targeting installations on another island just across a narrow channel from our sea-side base. Sensibly, you can see that the only mission goal is to survive; there's no silly requirement to destroy at least a fixed number of enemies.
And here we are, good to go. I've always liked this camouflaged natural metal finish on the 'Oscar' and the CFS2 version, though designed for the AI, is fully up the the high standard of the CFS2 player planeset, complete with animated parts like extending flaps and wheels which bounce on their oleo legs as you roll on the ground. Bring on the Yanquis!
...to be continued!
A stock CFS2 campaign mission in the Imperial Japanese Navy's famous Zero fighter!
Figuring that - if I was going to be spending more time in CFS2 - I should get myself better re-acquainted with its ways and workings, I decided to kick off a stock campaign in the fighter which defined the Pacific War, Jiro Horikoshi's A6M Navy Type Zero Carrier fighter. I'd always had a soft spot for this plane, having built many a model back in the day, including in 1/72 those by Matchbox (A6M2), FROG (A6M3, later re-released by Matchbox Germany), Airfix (A6M2) and Revell (A6M5) and the excellent 1/32 A6M5 by the latter maker. The little Matchbox kit was always a favourite. Even though its Pearl Harbour version had the short wing of the later A6M5, it looked well left in the white plastic in which it was mostly moulded, with canopy frames picked out, motor cowling painted black and prop in silver. Nice box art too:
And of course there were the movies - specifically, the Zeros in 'Tora, Tora, Tora!' That was a flim made in a day - long gone, if the silly, rather sad comic-book aerial scenes in 'Pearl Harbour', 'Red Tails' and the like are anything to go by - when some film producers could contrive to show just a little bit of respect for their material. Nowadays it's just spectactular but contrived car chases on wings, often hiding behind the claim that they are 'Inspired by true events'. Ouch!
Anyhow a Zero it would be for me, in CFS2. I could have started at Pearl Harbour as I have the Just Flight add-on of that name but I'd never fully played a stock campaign before so started there, even though I knew this begins after 'the Hawaian Operation'.
While IL-2 Pacific Fighters has a better stock planeset and isn't restricted to fighters, CFS2 has a more representative set of ships, decent graphics and even now, is still a great choice for anyone wishing to fly in the PTO, not to mention the many add-ons, freeware and payware, still available.
I quite like the distinctive comic book style CFS2 campaign interface - which again, seems to hail from a mostly-lost era, when sim-makers added such little touches, which brought their campaigns to life . So I sat thru the Japanese pilot's subtitled soliloquy which nicely set the scene for my campaign. Then I got my briefing for our first mission. It was March 13th, 1942, and we were flying land-based Zeros based at Malaguna in New Guinea, supporting our offensive operations in the western Solomon Islands. On our first mission, my flight of thee Zeros was to escort some D3A 'Val' dive-bombers and B5N 'Kate' torpedo/level bombers to raid the enemy airfield at Buka. Serious air opposition was not expected and were were briefed to strafe the airfield, on arrival. A gentle start to our campaign...or a death trap? I would soon find out!
Having consulted the map. I took a quick look at the reconnaisance photograph of the objective. This is actually a very good feature. As it showed the location of the airfield flak, I should have used it to make a plan, allocating my wingmen to attack these positions first, once I'd eyeballed them on arrival.
But I was I a hurry, and instead, headed off to the flight line, where my mount awaited!
...to be continued!