With so many different aircraft in Strike Fighters it is often the case of selecting an aircraft and fudging it around the skies with only vague recollection of how the radar works and how it is supposed to handle because you didn’t have the time to refresh. The Last of the Lightnings is a mod that unusually for SF2 centers mainly on getting familiar with a certain type of aircraft and its systems. You might even term it DCS lite however I can’t imagine seeing any of the aircraft in this mod featuring in that sim in my lifetime.
So, what is it about?
The Last of the Lightnings (by comrpnt) is a set of scripted single missions (like YAP) that take the player through an RAF Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) training program and is based on the writings of ex Lightning and F-4 pilot Ian Black. This takes place in 1976 and you are flying the English Electric Lightning F.mk6.
The what you say? or as FastCargo once stated before being put under court martial by the USAF for blasphemy [or not].
The Lightning was the last fully designed British supersonic fighter to enter service and its only requirement seems to have been performance above everything else [especially fuel]. Strike Fighters 2 comes with all seven of the single seat variants:
Lightning F.mk1 Lightning F.mk1A Lightning F.mk2 Lightning F.mk2A Lightning F.mk3 Lightning F.mk6 Lightning F.mk53 Okay if you are wondering where your Lightnings are then you didn’t buy SF2 Expansion Pack 2 did you, in which case you are one of the reasons TK is now doing crappy phone games only………[hey his words] not to make you feel too guilty!
Shame really because it comes with some of the best 3D pits Thirdwire ever did, and probably unique as far as combat sims go with the Lightning:
The centrepiece of the mod is a pdf guide that must have taken some time to do and is quite detailed in places.
So the point of this is that you will be learning to fly the Lightning or at least be better at it. On Hard flight model (~SFM in DCS) it can be tricky to handle so you will be dragged through formation landings, flying, A-A refueling and even learn how to use the radar to properly intercept targets and actually read the radar symbology. Some of this should be useful for other aircraft at least.
So yes you need SF2E and SF2 Exp 2 to run this minimum. I was running this from a full merged install, of which I created a separate install by copying the game exe file and running that to create a new Mod folder called LastOfTheLightnings for it.
Full instructions are on the PDF and is mostly drag and drop with some ini file editing. For the training rounds I created new folders in the weapons folder and not the old-fashioned way recommended.
So once up and running I added mods and changed them as I went through the course. Because of the changes that come with the mod I only changed the terrain tiles, runway, and sky using Better Widesky (Cellisky/Orsin). I have also put in mods to give more head movement and darker nights.
Up and running
Firstly, you go to single mission only and choose the missions using the date code e.g.  then ignore the text the game puts in because it is wrong [only go by the date code to get the correct mission per the guide].
Check your loadout - obviously the training rounds should be there otherwise don’t touch or change anything just look at the map and then launch.
So you start either on the runway or the taxi way on these missions.
At the beginning the tricky parts are landing on formation with your Qualified Flying instructor (QFI) and playing chase the QFI. Especially at night you need to be on your feet to keep track of the guy initially!
You are then given instruction on how A-A refueling should be done, e.g. fly in formation on the port side before refueling then fly formation on the starboard wing. You then have to try it at night and in clouds.
Yes the amazing Ravenclaw Bucc is in this pack.
The Intercept phase is interesting and you will be going after low and high targets before flying in formation with them, so you will need to learn what those dots and lines mean
After basic intercepts you get to do ACM against the pesky aggressor F-4Ms, although don’t pay too much attention to the instruction for this because they will spam those AIM-7s at you, luckily they are only training rounds [if you installed them properly] and wont kill you.
Next live weapons are used to intercept remote controlled unmanned drones (Hunters). The early ones fly straight but the later ones give you problems by turning a lot.
After basic strafing there is a pretty cool finale for your graduation, firstly you fly an F-4M as a photo chase plane:
Then you get to fly position 9 in a graduation formation fly over of RAF Jever.
Final salute to comrpnt for a fine job six years later.
Okay so the Rolling Thunder campaign was never my favourite campaign from the series, in fact might be the most bland. The main reason for this was most probably the fact that there is no forward line of troops and tank columns to fight it out, and gain or lose ground after each mission.
Rolling Thunder for real
The campaign namesake this is based on was one of the most disastrous and misguided campaigns in the history of aerial warfare. What was hoped would be a few weeks of bombing missions to get North Vietnam back to the negotiating table to stop them trying to invade the South, turned into 3 or so years of bombing targets selected by Washington. Or to put it another way pussy footing around bombing things that did nothing more than improve North Vietnam's resolve to continue on its agenda and also allow it to build up its defenses with the help of the Soviet Union and China.
So, 3 years of bombing targets – many times the same targets over and over, and never achieving the desired US strategy.
Rolling Thunder in game
In the Strike Fighters game engine this translates to what seems like a string of single missions and yes you don’t have much of an objective other than to try and not get shot down.
However, unlike auto generated Single missions, Campaign missions are more content filled and almost always include strike packages and flights that help you do your job (If you at least meet your timings). Not only that all the units have their markings and decals as they should.
Like history there are no SAMs until mid 1965 and the MiG regiments are limited in number. One great thing about TKs games is the use of "dates", so the game engine can just plonk in the correct objects (Guns/SAMs/MiGs) depending on the date you are flying. This also includes getting rebased and upgraded to better aircraft during the campaign.
Like most things in Strike Fighters World, mods can really help and I am using the Vietnam Gold mod with a variety of my own changes. This comes with quite a fearsome atmosphere with a ton of guns shooting at you with purple stuff, red stuff and grey puffy stuff. A major benefit is a bigger variety of targets and not just the sodding comms building again.
Feb 24 1966 and I am flying from Da Nang in an F-100D (1964 version) for the 416th “Silver Knights”. I don’t know what it is about the F-100D that I like because it is outclassed by pretty much all the MiGs.
The Lang Chi Electric Power plant is my target (a welcome addition from gold pack I think) – and I need to be on target for 09:10 on the dot.
I am maxing out the M-117s here – there are plenty of them available. The SF2 Super Sabre also allows TERS to carry 4 on the inner pylons by default but with extra drag.
How to get there hmmm. Those that played Wings Over Vietnam will know various routes into the North to minimise exposure to the SAMs, some of which had a 90% plus probability of kill if you were not flying at about 5ft off the ground. Luckily the SAMs in SF2 and this pack allow you to fly a bit more as they tended too back then!
With a target near Yen Bai I can use the highlands as cover and cross in over South NVN where there are little to no SAMs.
The Square box waypoint (the Initial Point /IP) is also the spawn point if you use Alt N, so can be moved around if you don’t have time to fly there.
Waypoint 3 is fixed as a rendezvous with other flights. If SF2 had been developed, it would have been nice to change the waypoint details for the flights like in Falcon so you could move the fixed waypoint for all flights.
Another thing that could have been improved was seeing your actual target area before flying. If you consider Jack Broughton spent all night memorising features etc before going on a mission you can understand the point of just marking the actual target with Padlock or a red dot!
As you can see only 2 MiG regiments active with MiG-17F and MiG-21F-13.
First Lt Eldon Atterbury is my wingy today. If you do take time to nurture the pilots their stats do improve (if they survive)
Let's go then
As we fly towards the target other flights are also on route to their targets.
After a while several fights occur
Due to meticulous planning we reach the target just fine and we roll in from above the cloud base
I hit the target but get peppered by a lot of triple A
Phew heading out but think my Wingy is a bit lost.
Try to search, but no sign of him and no beeper! so off home alone
Mystery solved, a MiG-21F-13 gunned him down and I had no idea that was in the area! If only all Vietnam mysteries could be solved so easy!
I then went on to fly A-4C/Es for the US Navy in which you get to take off from Carriers in the Gulf on Tonkin
Mr SAM is always happy to see you
This thud was just lucky!
This thud was not so lucky
What are all those blotches
So still quite intense flying through all the anti air and check 6 for those MiGs as always!