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IL-2 Battle of Stalingrad - first flight!

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Checking out the Bf109 in the new Eastern Front air combat sim!



I was flattered to be invited by Skyviper to be on the team for the CombatAce review of 1c/777's IL-2 - Battle of Stalingrad (hereinafter referred to as BoS). Having only recently installed the sim (I wasn't a participant in the 'Early Access' programme) it'll be a little while until we get the review done & dusted. In the meantime I thought folks might be interested in my first impressions of one of the BoS aircraft, the iconic Messerschmitt Bf109, which comes here in the form of the F-4 and G-2 models, distinguished mainly be the latter's more powerful DB605 motor and visually, by its heavier-framed cockpit.


So far, my impression of the BoS aircraft is that they're as good as, or better than, any aircraft I've seen in a combat flight sim. Cliffs of Dover's cockpits might be a little sharper-looking (perhaps just thanks to sharper or darker shadows) but outside and in, these birds look just terrific. As an old-time Luftwaffe modeller, while I find the vestigial swastikas slightly irksome and don't welcome the lack of unit markings, pending availability of the facility for user-made skins, I can't help but admire the accuracy of the finish. For example, the 109F I'm flying here has a very accurate rendition of the standard 74/75/76 fighter finish (Dunkelgrau, Mittelgrau and Hellgrau, respectively). It's applied in an accurate upper surface Messerschmitt factory pattern, appropriate for these later 109s and features readable stencil markings. Even the fuselage side mottling is straight out of the textbooks, with spots of Schwarzgrun (70), Dunkelgrau (74) and 'RLM' Grau (02). The slightly glossy standard Luftwaffe finish is also nicely captured and in the right light, you can see every rivet and panel line caught in relief. The overall effect is a joy to behold.


Anyway, I recently took my first proper flight in a 109 - a favourite familiar to me from many another sim, including European Air War, CFS3 and the original IL-2 series - and it was an experience and a half! I just did the one circuit, set up via the 'Quick Mission' option (which will be familiar to Rise of Flight users, given the close family relationship with BoS). I don't do 'complex engine management' but even so, it was a pretty awesome experience, the sort of flight I'd have expected in a plane built for FSX.


The airfield I think is Morosovskaya (spelt slightly different in the sim) which I recognised from William Craig's superb 'Enemy at the Gates' - if you read just one book on the battle, make it this one (the film was just a single episode from the book). This airfield I recall was, with Tatsinskaya, one of the two most important bases for the Luftwaffe's desperate 'air bridge' into the Stalingrad 'kessel'...until the T-34s arrived there and put a sudden stop to flying operations, in dramatic and violent fashion.


From the cockpit of my chosen Bf109F-4, even the engine start (computer-assisted, just using the 'E' key) was most impressive. OK, there was no black-overalled mechanic standing on the wing turning the hand crank but there were cockpit indicator lights coming on and animated switches flicking. Then came the sound of the 109's flywheel spooling up and finally, the throaty roar of that big Mercedes DB601 as it spluttered then thundered into life. Great stuff, like watching and listening to a real warbird start-up video!






Flaps set and flying control movement checked, taxying out to the runway was the first challenge, using mainly the brakes combined with short bursts of throttle to keep her rolling. I managed to get her lined up fairly well.




The take-off was a bit hairy with plenty of swing, first left when I opened her up a bit then right when I steadily applied full power. I kept her fairly straight but once off the ground, was suddenly afflicted by a serious wobble. Did I pull her off at too low an airspeed, and maybe the leading edge slats had opened differentially? It was quite scary for a couple of seconds but I stayed in the air and, gaining height, turned onto the crosswind leg of the left-hand circuit I was planning to fly.






Throttling back and gingerly checking out control responses while relishing the realistic sound of my engine - a far cry from the drone of the original IL-2 109s - I turned left again and settled onto a downwind leg, applying a bit of elevator trim (which I believe actually adjusts tailplane incidence, in the 109) when I'd settled on what seemed like a respectable cruising speed. Possibly I was a little high for the 1,000 feet I'd planned for the circuit - I had turned off inflight map and instruments. Once well down the leg, I looked out over my left shoulder for a glimpse of my airfield, remembering that when it was at roughly 7 o'clock, I  would want to turn left again, onto the base leg.


OK, so where was the runway? Oh-oh....my base was lost in a sea of whiteness.




I remembered that there had been a medium-sized wood or town somewhere just north of the airfield. I could see what might have been that area, in the form of a dark patch on the ground. Taking this as my mark, when I judged it about right, I turned left and rolled out onto a heading just short of north and flew my base leg.




At some point, fiddling about with the 'pilot gestures' controls, I had inadvertently fired a flare, which I assume is why the flare gun has now appeared in its slot below the starboard windscreen. Nice touch!


When I was nearly level with the wood, I turned left again, onto my approach to the still-invisible airfield. As I began to roll out of my turn, peering desperately ahead to the left of the dark area I was using as my reference point, I was mightily relieved to see the runway, between wisps of low cloud. Whew!






I held my left turn, then reversed it, to line myself up with the runway. Throttling back, I started dropping my flaps and then lowered my gear. The 109 is no slouch and things seemed to be happening awfully quickly! It's been a long time since I had my handful of flying lessons in slower Cessnas but in pitiful ignorance of the correct numbers for a 109, I did my best to use the throttle to control my rate of descent and the elevator to manage my airspeed.






I often land in the external view because with no peripheral vision and the other limitations of 'flying' at a monitor, it's easier to judge when to flare. Not this time! Having flown the circuit from the cockpit, apart from slipping outside from some screenshots, I decided I would go the whole hog. Flying from the cockpit view with all the self-assurance of a rabbit in the headlights, I flared too soon and landed heavily, bouncing rather badly. I somehow managed to keep the wings level and did my best to make the next bump survivable.




They say it's a good landing if you can walk away from it and a great one, if you can re-use the aircraft. By that standard, I'd made a good landing. And most of the plane looked to be re-usable.




So far so rather brilliant. But this is a combat flight sim and therein lies the real test for BoS. Anyway it's off to a good start in my books, though I will want to spend more time doing circuits and bumps before I take on the Ivans in a campaign.


In the meantime, of course I could not resist a bit of blowing stuff up (or attempting to) but that's a story for another day!




Watch this space for the CombatAce review!

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It sure does look good 33lima.

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Yes Dave the visuals are certainly very good indeed. I spent a while in a Stuka, sight-seeing over Stalingrad itself, looking for 'the tennis racquet', a prominent railway track loop I remember reading about.




The Ivans don't seem to care much for foreign tourists though, because their flak peppered my plane before I'd finished my trip. But I look forward to picking out a map and seeing if I can find some historic landmarks in BoS's Stalingrad, like the Barrikady factory or even Pavlov's House. Morosovskaya airfield was a bit underwhelming but they seem to have represented the Big City itself pretty well, down to the snow-covered bluffs overlooking the Volga (completely frozen over, along the bottom of the pic above), which gave the last Soviet holdouts some cover, until the big pincer movements turned the tide and changed the course of history.

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Yes, the visuals look pretty nice. Im looking forward to your next installment Lima, thanks again.

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Are the ammo counters, bolt position lights and the armament on/off switch working?

If you get a jam during firing (should be indicated by the bolt position light showing dark fields), do the guns recharge automatically if you let go of the trigger ?


Just interested about that because I have yet to see a game who gets that right from the start...

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The ammo counters work, IIRC. Not sure about the other stuff, or if stoppages are modelled. With short bursts, German tech and ammo, I'm not sure I'd expect to get to many, even in the depths of a Russian winter!

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      ...to be continued!

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