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IL-2+CUP - stock Soviet fighter

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Flying a vanilla campaign in the classic WW2 sim's latest mod!

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You can say what you like about the newest addition to the Il-2 line, Battle of Stalingrad (BoS) - and many of us do just that! But one thing it has done for me, is stimulate my interest in its predecessor's original, Eastern Front campaigns. No mean achievement, that, for until relatively recently, I'd regarded Il-2 as mainly offering planes I didn't especially want to fly, in places I didn't especially want to fly them, to adapt another simmer's comment.


At the moment, I have two installs of Il-2 1946 - one for Dark Blue World (DBW), the other for the new Community User Patch (CUP). Due to different files, units and other factors, it seems likely to take a while, before many campaigns that work in DBW or other versions of Il-2, also work in CUP, though some already do and the list is growing steadily.


Both to check out the compatibility of some stock Il-2 campaigns with CUP and to indulge my new-found interest in the Eastern Front variety, over the last month or two I've been running, on and off, a standard Soviet fighter campaign, flying one of the aircraft available in BoS - the rather sleek but not especially high-performing LaGG-3. Like other aircraft before and after, this seems to have been a basically decent design which needed a more powerful engine to turn it into a competitive fighter - which it got, when its inline engine was replaced by a radial, creating the Lavochkin La-5.


From this campaign's timeframe, though, the La-5 is about a year away. It's July 1941, just weeks into Operation Barbarossa, and I'm flying a LaGG-3, defending our dearly-beloved Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics against the fascist hordes of Nazi Germany. And an interesting challenge it's been, keeping my virtual neck intact, up against superior numbers of superior planes and - historically, anyway - superior aircrew.


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So far, courtesy it seems of some Soviet Socialistic miracle, I have not only survived, but knocked down some enemy aircraft. I'm on my fifth mission, no less...but wondering how much longer my good fortune can possibly continue.


Here's the latest briefing. As you can see, it's a fairly straightforward escort job, with a hint that we might want to shoot up some stuff on the ground at some point, too. Maybe it's a difficulty setting I applied when I created the campaign, but the usual Il-2 red and blue front lines aren't shown on the map. But I'll be able to gauge the whereabouts of the enemy from the front-line target the bombers we're to escort will hit. Happily, the target's not too far off, so I can fly the mission in real time with no need to use 'warp'...which as just as well, as Il-2's never had that, relying on autopilot and time acceleration.


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The briefing doesn't tell me how many are in our flight, or the type and strength of the bombers. Nor do we get their or our altitudes. I put this down to a level of uncertainty, even confusion, in an air force with its back against the wall...or perhaps, against a Commisar with a small-calibre pistol and a willingness to employ it, in stiffening our resolve, should that become necessary.


At the flight line, I find that there are in fact three of us on this hop. Having chosen a high enough rank to avoid the (to me) hateful chore of formation-flying - and to enjoy the extra challenge of flight leadership - I'm at the head of the queue. This being a stock mission, there's none of the newer formation takeoffs. Happily, the default Il-2 conga line is a short one, today.


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The current LaGG-3 I find is a nicely-rendered bird. More rounded contours in some places, inside and out, would be nice but I'm not complaining. Her authentic, subtly-weathered camouflage and national markings are convincingly-applied. There's no sign of the original opaque Il-2 markings, which looked like the over-thick waterslide transfers you used to get on plastic kits, guaranteed to blot out all but the crudest surface detail. And the cockpit, though clearly well behind the latest self-shadowed, finely-curved marvels, is still quite serviceable.


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One new feature the LaGG does enjoy are more rounded wheels, and very welcome they are, too. Soon, I was aloft and retracting the gear. After the crazily finnicky ground handling of BoS, takeoffs in '46 are...well, whether more realistic or not, more what I'm used to.


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Another, older improvement to Il-2 that the modders have wrought is the engine sounds. I absolutely loathed the dreadful external engine drone of the original sim. That's a distant memory now, so I can admire my bird in the external view without feeling that I need to turn down the sound.


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In fact, so much was I enjoying the external aspect of my LaGG sweeping over the Steppes, that I decided to let the autopilot fly, for a bit. There was now sign of the bombers and I thought, rightly as it turned out, that my alter ego would have a better idea than I, were they were and at what height we should be.


My number three lagged (sic!) for a bit but my number two wasn't long in catching up. We perhaps tend to take for granted these days such Il-2 wonders as different planes having different individual numbers but even now, not all sims have this and it's still a fine thing to behold.


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Three of us had left our airfield. How many would return, and would I be amongst them? The answers would not be long in coming.


...to be continued!

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"Errr...anybody here speak English?"

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As I admired the view in autopilot, while looking out for our charges and waiting for my number three to catch up, I realised I'd already made my first mistake on this mission. Specifically, I had ensured that of all that radio chatter I was now beginning to hear, some of it possibly rather important, I understood precisely nothing. This was because, obsessed as I am with turning off (at least until I really needed them) all on screen aids, I had disabled the text display of radio messages. Flying for the VVS, the radio traffic was of course conducted in Russian. I know that by hand-editing Il-2's config.ini you can control the number of lines of such radio messages displayed so that your monitor isn't turned into a Kindle. But I had turned it off completely. And unlike the 'speedbar' display of heading, altitude and speed, you can't toggle radio traffic text on and off, in-game. I can get by with Luftwaffe missions, but flying VVS, my radio message repertiore is sadly and very severely limited. Say again, Tovaritch?


This mission was evidently going to be somewhat more tricky than it otherwise might have been.


Before long, my AI alter ego - the autopilot - had made the RV point with the bombers, which could be made out as three pairs of specks, up ahead of us. They turned out to be Pe-2s, all in a rather fetching pea green upper surface finish and bombed up like they meant business.


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RV completed successfully, I decided it was time to take over from the autopilot. There was still some way to go to the target, though, so I reckoned I had a little longer to admire the external view. Nothing to do with the fact that it's also a good way to scan the skies, especially in a LaGG, where that deep rear fuselage rather hinders the view rearward.


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Finally, I heard some Soviet R/T chatter that I recognised from my last foray in a VVS campaign (the exceptionally good 'Blinding Sun', must try that again soon in CUP). It was our bombers, announcing their attack runs. Sure enough, ahead and below, I could now see the bridgehead that must be our target area.


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Before long, the first bomb-burst appeared, a near miss on a bridge which, if nothing else, hopefully sent some of the fascist invaders off in search of a change of trousers.


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Soon after, a further explosion was to be seen further west. A miss, a hit on an unseen target...or one of our bombers biting the dust? I had no idea. There was plenty of R/T chatter but untranslated, I had no particular notion what it portended. What I did know, though, was that if something bad was going to happen - or indeed, had already started to happen - anytime about now would be about right.


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At this point in the proceedings, I decided that I needed a bit of extra help, bereft as I was of comprehensible radio comms. So I turned on labels. As I half-expected, some of them were blue. The Luftwaffe had arrived.


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I rolled over and joined the party, at the same time cutting my wingmen loose with an order to attack. By this time, tracer fire was flashing back and forward up ahead, so perhaps they were already engaged; or maybe it was the Pe-2s. Knowing Soviet tracer is green and German, orange, helped me spot the bad guys, so I killed the labels and started looking for somebody I could creep up on and shoot down. No need to make this any more complicated than it has to be, is my motto.


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...to be continued!

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Soviet swings, Luftwaffe roundabouts...

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My plan to sneak up on somebody and give them the chop got off to a reasonably good start, despite some 'known technical issues'. Since the modders brought it to a whole new level, I’ve been an enthusiastic fan of Il-2, regarding it as still far and away the best WW2 air combat simulation, overall. But as a non-headtrack user, I don’t much like its padlock system. I’m ok that it breaks lock when other sims might maintain it but I find it a bit too choosy about when it will pick up a target, in the first place.  Even at 1600x900 screen resolution, it’s hard to distinguish friend from foe, when in real life, with decent eyesight, you should be able to tell a 109 from a pointy-winged LaGG. Nevertheless, I identified what I thought was a 109; but with the padlock reluctant to pick it up at the range in question, I took my left hand off the fully-open throttle and tracked him with the mouse, as I closed in.

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He was a 109 all right and while I don’t think he saw me coming at first, he was sensibly refusing to fly in a straight line in a combat zone. It may be a placebo effect, but I fancy the 4.12 AI is no longer as able as it used to be, to break at exactly the point you are about to shoot, as you close in out of sight, from unten hinten. Nevertheless, though I closed the range, I didn’t get in a shot and he saw me eventually. In the merry dance which followed, the 109 used the vertical quite effectively to evade my clutches.


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But every time he circled around menacingly above me, I seemed to be fast and agile enough, on the level, to evade his attempts at passes, while cutting corners and othewise catching him up, as the opportunity presented itself.


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Finally I managed to get close enough for a decent shot - but missed, when he suddenly pulled up hard into a sustained full-power climb. Up he went, and up I went, after him. Not having dived first to pick up speed, I could sense rather than see that we were both steadily bleeding off speed; but he seemed to have the edge. As my momentum fell away, I was desperately using what control authority I had left to edge my gunsight over and onto him. Just before I stalled out, I finally got the correct sight picture and let him have it with all weapons. It was just the briefest of bursts, then my LaGG began to fall away.


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I knew I’d hit him squarely but apart from some pieces flying, he seemed to be still in business. Although my stalling out prevented me seeing him go down – and my lack of Russian meant I didn’t recognise the congratulations that would have been offered on the radio – I was nevertheless reasonably confident that he was at least out of the fight - and, very probably, doomed.

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Having recovered from my spin, somewhat lower down, I picked up speed again and cleared my tail with a climbing turn, looking around as I did so.


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A couple of single-engined aeroplanes where whirling around, well spaced out and apparently with no particular purpose in mind. I cut in after one of these, only to realise that I was chasing one of my wingmen. Labels back on, I picked up on a blue one and chased after him, instead. This time, having a modest height advantage, the 109 pulled the old Il-2 trick of simply levelling off and flying away at full throttle. One of my flight-mates was also chasing the Messerschmitt but was even lower than I was. Our tail chase was entirely unproductive.


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Once the 109 had opened out the range enough to reduce the risk of him simply turning the tables, I gradually turned away and let him go. The other LaGG I ordered to return to formation, after allowing him to chase the German a little further off.

The sky around the target area now seemed completely clear so I oriented myself with the map and turned for home. I wasn’t sure where my number three had gone but my priority now was to get everybody home. I should have circled and regrouped, then headed home as a flight. But instead - perhaps because I didn't want to hang around the combat area - I just ordered everybody back to base, independently. This produced two apparent radio acknowledgements, re-assuring me that both my flight-mates were evidently still in the Land of the Living. Whatever was burning on the ground behind me, it wasn't my own guys.


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So far, so not-too-bad. Now it remained to get the heck out of Dodge-ski and back to base, there to celebrate our successes - and survival - over a suitable quantity of vodka. Hopefully somebody might stand us a few drinks, otherwise, what the heck, we'd just buy a round or two ourselves. Now, all we needed was the continued co-operation of the Luftwaffe, who had so far been kind enough to provide us with some nice targets and then make their exits, without overstaying their welcome. Who could ask for more?


...to be continued!

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Two can play at that game...


Back admiring the view of my LaGG and its surroundings, I got a sudden and violent shock, when a burst of fire from somewhere astern crashed into my aircraft and sent it wobbling. I broke hard, too hard, succeeding only in inducing a power stall which quickly became a spin. For a second before flicking around and nose-down, my suddenly-unresponsive LaGG seemed to hang in the sky, a nice, big static target. I waited to be hit again, unable to do anything but hope my spin would surprise the enemy as much as it had me, go through the spin recovery drill, and hope for the best. Roughly in that order.


Amazing to behold, that's about how it worked. I recovered not far off the ground and wasted no time in opening up the throttle again and trading for speed most of the height I had left. Yes, I admit it. I fled, unashamedly.


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Looking behind, I was relieved to see that my assailant - for I assumed it was he - had fallen well behind. Hoping my two wingmen hadn't got too far away on the route home, I countermanded my 'return to base' command and ordered 'Cover me!'. If this was just the one pesky Messerschmitt, it was time to gang up on him and give him a darn good Soviet thrashing. If he wasn't alone, well, I'd need all the help I could get.


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It's probably illusory but somehow, it feels safer hugging the earth, if you're being hunted, so that's what I did. The 109 was probably far enough away for me to have turned into him, but I wasn't going to do that until my wingmen had rejoined, whether the German was on his own or not.


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I had planned to follow the river valley below me but I realised it led away from home, so I pulled up and turned right, to cut across the side of the valley. Not a clever move. The 109 started to cut across my turn.


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No point delaying it any longer. I turned into him. Time to fight. As I came around, the 109 flashed across my nose. What was he up to? I pulled after him, wary that this was some sort of fascist trick to rope a Soviet dope.


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...to be continued!

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Your round I think, tovaritch?

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Turning at bay after my pursuer, I got my second surprise of the mission when the aircraft that I'd turned into, turned out to be a LaGG like my own. Hastily looking around, I saw yet another aircraft swing past, which I realised was a second LaGG. My wingmen hadn't been to far away, evidently. Had they chased off the German who'd shot me? Could I have been hit by ground fire? I didn't think so, but I remembered top German ace Erich Hartmann's first combat. Flying as the wingman of an experienced NCO, he had abandoned his leader to make a wild and failed attack on an enemy, then got lost and turned for home. Called to order by his leader, he ended up fleeing from a fighter closing from behind...which turned out to be another 109, his leader in fact. I knew something had hit me - causing more alarm than damage, as it had turned out - but I had the sneaking suspicion that since then, I had been running away from one or more of my own flight-mates.


I know the labels in Il-2 are comparatively inconspicuous. I know they disappear at longer range and are therefore arguably no more than due compensation for the limits of MonitorVision. I know you can set them to display range only, to minimise the AWACS effect. But I still like to make as little use as I can of Il-2's on-screen aids. Even if it sometimes results in certain difficulties with the gentle art of Identification Friend and Foe...not to mention occasional embarrassment.


Once again, I ordered my men home, thinking that their leader needed a little time to himself, after all that excitement. I flew straight back, knowing that though not in formation, my flight-mates would not be too far away en route, should further difficult situations arise.


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One of the good things about Eastern Front operations is that they are often very front line stuff from start to finish, with short flights out and back. It wasn't long before I was scanning the terrain ahead, looking for my airfield. As usual, I was soon regretting that I had not taken more trouble to note local landmarks before I set off. No big deal though, for I have my path and own plane's icon set to display on the mini-map, to be called up if and when I really need it - or get lazy.


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Soon I was joining the circuit, watching what must have been my wingmen land ahead of me, which helped me orient myself as I lined up for my own approach.


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Before too much longer I was down. Grass landing strips in CUP seem to come pre-planted with a goodly supply of Cabbage Patch Kids (remember that fad?) neatly laid out either side of the runway. Even so, I prefer these grass strips to the super-conspicuous concrete runway airfields, which seem to be fewer in CUP than in stock Il-2, I am glad to say.


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It's been a while, so I can't recall if the four and a half kills credited in the results screen include anything for this mission. But I'm fairly sure I got that 109.


This seems to be one of those campaigns (ngen rather than dgen? I'm still not really au fait with the respective characteristics of the different flavours of Il-2 campaigns) which doesn't tell you much about your flight before the mission, nor your results afterwards. If nothing else, the results screen now boasts the neat national flag background that comes with CUP...though this being World War 2 - sorry, I mean the Great Patriotic War - they should possibly be pure Soviet red, rather than Russian white blue and red.


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Anyway, methinks I have just about earned that drink in the Officers' Mess...or whatever the socialist equivalent may be.


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    • By 33LIMA
      Flying World War 1 from the start, with some new campaigns for Il-2's CUP mod!

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      In the early months of WW1, aircraft were purely for visual reconnaissance and were not routinely armed. Rare exceptions included the Farman of Louis Strange, 5 Squadron Royal Flying Corps, who contrived to fit a Lewis Gun, only to be ordered to remove it after the extra weight resulted in the aircraft failing to get high enough to intercept a snooping German warplane. Thereafter, pistols and carbines remained the only (generally ineffectual) option for aircrew who fancied having a crack at their opposite numbers in the air. The first air-to-air ‘kill’ came in October 1914, when Sergeant Joseph Frantz and Corporal Louis Quénault brought down a German Aviatik; Quénault reportedly had to finish the job with a rifle after his Hotckhiss MG packed it in.

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      Here’s the mission brief. It's just as well I've got the MG, because apparently, the enemy fliers have been activer over our territory. While my patrol zone is marked as a recce objective (eye graphic on a yellow triangle) our aims are offensive in nature. It's a defensive patrol, for two of us, though by the sound of it, my companion’s dodgy motor means that I might be alone. We don’t have far to go, in the horizontal sense anyway. But this is the Vosges and elevation will be a different matter, as I will soon find out. Typically for these new missions, you can forget about one of IL-2's most useful navigational map aids - there's no minimap path. This is 1914 after all, just over ten years from Kittyhawk and Orville and Wilbur's first successful flights in a heavier-than-air flying machine.

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      My number two tried a couple of times to get his engine running but each time it spluttered to a stop; possibly just as well as the bloke in front of him seemed disinclined to get out of his way. My motor showed no such reluctance and after a quick look around I decided to take off straight ahead, without worrying about runways. This worked out just fine, my lightweight aircraft lifting off at a speed which didn’t seem much faster than some of the trucks motoring around the airfield.

      Sitting roughly at mid-chord above a broad wing, it was obvious I wasn’t going to see much from the cockpit. The Voisins and Farmans parked around the airfield would have made much better reconnaissance machines, and indeed they served on after Nieuport monoplanes had disappeared from the front lines. Flying from the external view, I got a much better view of both my aircraft and its surroundings.


      And fine surroundings they were. Our airfield turned out to be on a little plateau set into the side of an impressive mountain, which comprised a series of peaks with lower ‘saddles’ in between. I resisted the temptation to play that song from that musical, but the hills, if not alive with the sound of music, certainly looked worth the trip.

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      Realising that I was not going to gain enough height on one leg, I could not resist the temptation of turning right and crossing the ridgeline over one of the saddles. Even getting high enough to do this, took a certain amount of time and effort and I just scraped across. Having gone over the mountain to see what I could see, like the bear in the song the result was not unexpected – the other side of the mountain.


      I now flew a long leg away from the objective to gain sufficient height. That done, I turned around - gently, so as not to lose any of my precious height - and made my way back, aiming for the top of the correct peak.

      Finally I was right over the summit. I should have over-flown my objective to one side or the other, but I was quite keen for my track on the map to intersect the centre of the target marker, lest such precision was needed for mission success or to trigger some necessary mission event.

      In fact it worked – I got the ‘mission completed’ text so that was it. And I didn’t get shot at, or even see a single enemy aircraft. They were there, though, but I only realised that later, when I noticed an enemy aircraft icon on a screenshot which I had taken with the mini-map view briefly turned on!!! To be honest, I'd sort of forgotten the briefing, having been so taken up with the actual flying side of the challenge. And I had become rather fixated on overflying that big marker, as if I were genuinely on a recce flight. Anyway, the top of that mountain was about as bare as a mountain-top can be. Giving up on earlier ideas about putting in a flypast at the castle I’d seen on a lower peak nearby, I decided that honour had been satisfied; it was time to go home. A nice hot brandy in the Mess would help me recover from the rigours of flying amongst the mountains in my little powered glider. Down we went. The early aviators were in the habit of turning off their motors during a descent but I just cut the throttle to idle and experimented a bit with diving angle and airspeed. The unfamiliar flight model I found quite convincing; I have no idea at all how a real Nieuport 4 handled but this one felt just about perfect, for such an aircraft.

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      For a sortie on which I'd missed my opportunity to have my first air fight, I'd actually found the experience surprisingly absorbing. I think I'll try at least one more campaign mission in the Nieuport 4, before moving on to something more warlike. There's just something about the mission which seemed to capture so well the experience of stooging around in an aircraft that is little more than a docile but ungainly powered glider..albeit one with a sting.
      ...to be continued!
    • By 33LIMA
      To war in the China-Burma-India theatre with the American Volunteer Group!

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      Nicknamed 'Flying Tigers' from the insignia devised from them by Disney, the unit was of course famous for a different marking - the gaudy 'Sharkmouth' on the noses of their P-40s, inspired it is said by a similar marking seen on a photo of a 112 Squadron RAF Tomahawk, itself supposedly inspired in turn by the 'Haifisch' marking carried by Bf 110 heavy fighters of ZG 76.
      Fame came early to the Flying Tigers, not least thanks to the 1942 film starring John Wayne, no less, that many of us will remember from later screenings on TV. The characterisations appear but crude stereotypes today, but at the time, the desperate and destructive war in the Far East was at its height.

      Thanks to Chennault's experience in theatre, the Flying Tigers were early pioneers of the sort of 'hit and run', 'boom and zoom' tactics that soon became widely adopted, for combating the more nimble but less powerful Japanese fighters. The AVG fought shoulder to shoulder with British and Commonwealth comrades in Burma and after the latter's fall, to defend China's vital lifeline of supplies flown over the 'hump' from India. But those battles and others against Japanese offensives in China, were fought mainly by the AVG's USAAF successors, who inherited the nickname and the fighting reputation of the original group, which was disbanded in July 1942.
      The campaign
      There have been several AVG campaigns for IL-2 over the years but the one I'm flying here is SAS_Monty's, which was designed for the modified 4.12 version of the sim, which is what I'm mostly flying at the moment, since the arrival of the Combined User Patch (CUP) mod. You can find the download link, a campaign video and some more info, here. Another attraction for me is that the campaign features the defence of Burma, which I had read about in the detailed and generally excellent first volume of Grub Street's aptly-named South-East Asia air war history, 'Bloody Shambles'. Fans of Kipling will relish the opportunity to fight (altogether now) 'On the road to Mandalay/Where the flying fishes play/And the sun comes up like thunder/Out'a China, cross the bay'. It ain't half hot, mum!
      But enough of references to now politically-incorrect writer-poets and BBC TV comedies about the vital role of Concert Parties in the war in the Far East.
      If you are expecting to be pitched straight into desperate dogfights against Nates, Oscars and Sallys - to use the Allied reporting names for the Imperial Japanese Army's Ki-27 and Ki-43 fighters and Ki-21 bombers - well, steady there, (flying) tiger. Battleship Row at Pearl still lies undisturbed and the war in the Pacific, unstarted. Your first job - after watching the neat black & white opening video 'track' which accompanies a narrative intro to the AVG -  is a ferry flight in a C-47, from Rangoon up to the AVG's real-life training base further north, at Toungoo.

      This starts well enough, with time to admire the plentiful scenery at busy Mingaladon airfield, just north of capital Rangoon.

      Like the P-40s you'll be flying later, the two C-47s on this flight - we should probably call them DC-3s, in keeping with the secrecy necessarily surrounding this surrogate US intervention - may be ex-USAAF; but for now, they're the property of the Government of nationalist Chiang Kai Shek's Republic of China. And marked accordingly. The USA isn't in this war, officially...not just yet, anyway.

      I'm not a big fan of civvy flight sims but I must admit I got a certain amount of fun out of flying my Dakota, as the C-47 is generally better known in the UK. It took a lot of key tapping - no fancy HOTAS setups here - but in the end I was able to trim her nicely to climb 'hands off', although what I expect was a bit of a crosswind, or maybe a bit of aileron trim she needed, made occasional corrections necessary to keep wings level.


      The flight up north in a heavily-laden transport was actually like one of those civilian flying challenges in FSX. The tricky bit was...well, not my pet hate, formation flying, since you don't especialy have to fly in close company with the other aircraft on this trip, though he will tell you off on the radio if you become too independent. It's first, (slowly) climbing through the clouds - a good idea, to avoid colliding with the Pegu Yomas which rise across your fligth path.


      You get radio becaon fixes displayed every so often but if like me, you generally 'cheat' by leaving switched on the minimap path and your aircraft's icon, such things aren't really needed.
      Having got above the darkening clouds, all was well, for a while. I tried to listen in to radio stations duing the flight, as the mission brief recommends, but though I tuned into both BBC World Service and Radio Honolulu, reception seemed basically non-exstent. So much for listening to Vera Lynn's latest number, to while away the dull bit of the flight.
      The next fun comes when it's time to descend through the cloudbase. At first all looked well, with the tree-covered foothills falling away beneath usand paddy fields appearing ahead. There's a great new Burma map included with CUP and I'm assuming this is it.

      The cloud ceiling was quite low and when I got to that level, the weather was suddenly awful, with visibility to match and lightning flashing, in and below the clouds, as the rain lashed down all the while.

      Then, in the deteriorating weather, there's the challenge of finding my destination. Finally, I actually had to land there, which was going to be tricky enough in the pouring rain, not least because the layout of Toungoo airfield was unknown to me and was going to be invisible in the murk, until i was pretty well on top of it.

      in the circumstances, I decided to let the autopilot handle the last leg and I'm glad that I did, because two interesting things happened, that I might otherwise have missed. First, during a spell of slightly clearer weather, we suddenly did a supply drop, which I hadnt been expecting.

      Next, I had a great view of Toungoo itself, the town not the airfield. At first, I thought this was Fort Dufferin, famous for a 14th Army battle to evict the Japanese in 1945. But that's in a different part of Burma. It was quite a sight, nevertheless, worth seeing, if not worth going to see, as the famous diarist Dr Johnston once said of the Giant's Causeway (sorry, to anyone from the Burmese or Northern Ireland tourist boards, who might happen to be reading this).

      Happily, the AI co-pilot to whom I had turned over our aeroplane seemed to know the area well enough, for despite the murk he made a faultless, if somewhat unorthodox, partial, circuit, followed by a fine landing which I would have struggled to match, at the best of times.

      His ground handling was pretty good, too, and we were soon stopped next to the other C-47/DC-3/Dakota.

      Now, perhaps, we could get down to business! But, as in real life, Claire Chennault had other plans for his newly-arrived tiger cubs.
      ...to be continued!
    • By 33LIMA
      First mission in a brand new campaign!

      Apart from the occasional mission, I have never seriously tried flying bombers in Il-2. I'm quite fond of shooting them down...or trying to, at any rate. I have flown bombers in CFS3 using that sim's simplified bombing system and in B-17 II The Mighty Eighth, with its much superior facilities, including a decent simulation of the Norden bombsight.
      However, having of late much enjoyed flying with Il-2's new Community User Patch (CUP), I decided it was time to get serious with bombing in this sim. The deciding factor was the recent arrival of a brand-new bomber campaign, made specifically for CUP and featuring one of my favourite aircraft, the mighty Avro Lancaster. I had enjoyed flying this big bird in Just Flight's excellent CFS2 'Dambusters' add-on and wasn't going to miss the chance to try her out in an Il-2 campaign...even if it meant sitting for long periods in a darkened room!
      The campaign is by Hamm66 and you can get it over at Mission4Today, here:
      '1942 Lancaster Tour of Duty' features ten semi-historical missions from the wartime career of 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron, RAF Bomber Command, apparently the first unit to re-equip with the Lancaster. We are based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, a county where so many bomber squadrons were based for what became the great Allied bomber offensive against Nazi Germany.
      Here's the briefing for the first mission...an unusual one, to be sure. It's Christmas 1941 and - as in real life - the squadron is about to get its first Lancs. My 'mission' is to trundle down to the runway in a jeep and watch our brand new aircraft arrive, presumably flown in by RAF Ferry Command, recently formed to fly new planes to operational airfields. Just like ours.

      So I loaded up the mission and there I was, sitting in my jeep, alone. The weather was rather murky and it seemed the others had decided that their first close-up look at the new planes could wait. Fair enough!

      This was my first time driving a ground vehicle of any type, in Il-2. The silence suggested that starting my engine might be a good way to get going, so that's what I did. The joystick seemed to control things much as with an aircraft and I was soon on my way. But which way? I followed the track I was on, which led to a long, wide paved area which was obviously a runway. Here I stopped. I was reminded of the story told me by my late dad, who was a mechanic in the RAF, post-war, and served all over the world, much of the time, of all things, in an Air Sea Rescue launch. On this occasion he was based closer to home and on terra firma, at RAF Ballykelly in Northern Ireland. He was on a tea break, the problem being that the tea was being served from a NAAFI van which was over on the opposite side of the runway. He had a bike at his disposal and while it was of course strictly forbidden, there was nobody about and so he cycled straight across to the NAFFI van. As he was sipping his tea there, a Lanc came in and landed. But instead of taxying off to dispersal, the bomber came to a halt next to the NAFFI van. Out came the navigator, and ran across to the van. Who was the airman, he demanded to know, who had cycled across the runway a few minutes ago, causing the Lanc to have to break off its approach and go around? He had been despatched by the pilot to get that man's name. The presence of the bicycle next to my dad made denials rather fruitless!
      This was a mistake I wasn't going to make now! So I pulled up short of the runway, and I waited...

      ...and I waited. No sign of the Lancs. Was I at the right runway? Hard to say, but I decided to sit tight where I was. No point in incurring the wrath of the ferry pilots or worse, the Rock Apes (as Air Force people call the RAF Police, after those famously cheeky primates who inhabit the Rock of Gibraltar). Had the flight been cancelled, perhaps? It was Christmas, after all.

      But no, the party was still on. Undeterred by the rather poor visibility, the Lancasters were coming!

      And a fine sight they made, too, even though they were still carrying the squadron codes of an Operational Conversion Unit. Soon, hopefully, they would carry instead the 'KM' of our very own 'Forty-four'.

      Finally, I saw them, slipping into and out of the murk that lay all around, as they joined the circuit.

      By this time, they had shaken out into line astern and the landings could not now be long away.

      Soon, the leader was breaking off and then settling down into his approach.


      Of all this, I saw nothing. I WAS at the wrong runway, although I could hear the R/T chatter, which somebody was evidently blasting out on a loudspeaker for all and sundry to hear. Except that all and sundry were likely watching from the comfort of their respective messes, leaving me sitting out here in the cold. At the wrong runway.
      Enough! I daren't cross the apparently-inactive runway ahead even so but I'd sat there long enough. Off I went, seeming to startle a flock of geese, which took to the skies as I roared past...hopefully not heading in the direction of those other, much bigger birds now in the vicinity. Recklessly endangering Government property - to wit, four Avro Lancaster aircraft - by driving geese into the skies while they were landing, would make for an interesting Charge Sheet, but this was the RAF and anything was possible, in the pursuit those guilty of any form of of '..conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline'.

      I never did get to see the Lancasters land. Taking a turn too tightly brought my trip around the airfield to a sudden end. All I could hope for was everybody else was watching the bombers land, rather than my four-wheel drive aerobatics.

      Happily, the Lancs didn't put a wheel wrong, landing one after another, past a row of rather obsolete-looking Whitleys.


      Once down, each machine taxied out to a dispersal point. Soon all were down. The first of our new warplanes had arrived. From here on in, it was over to us!

      ...to be continued!

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