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Il-2 WW1 - Monty's new missions

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


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The recent Combined User Patch (CUP) for Il-2 1946 now has four modules: Dawn of Flight for World War 1, Golden Age for the inter-war period, Wings at War for WW2, and the Jet Age for the post-war era. For the first of these, SAS's Monty, of The Full Monty fame - the Il-2 mod, not the movie! - has just released a set of scripted-mission campaigns. And naturally, being long interested in the air war of that period, this was one that I wasted no time in trying out.


So far, the first part of an eventual 32 'mission set campaigns' is available, and you can find the details over at the SAS forum, here. Most unusually for a WW1 sim, what this first part gives us is the ability to fly from the very start of the First World War, in August 1914. The first mission set - 'Demarcation' - kicks off in the Vosges, where the demarcation line ran between the French and German empires or that period.


Up to now, the earliest WW1 flight sim missions have flown have been from the era of the Fokker Scourge in the summer of 1915. So while I knew not to expect too much in the way of air combat at a time when most aircraft were unarmed and those that were, generally relied on carbines or pistols carried aloft by their crew, I was keen to try out something new, with the option of jumping ahead any time I wanted; in particular, the 1916 Verdun campaign tickled my fancy, with the opportunity it seemed to fly as the famous Jean Navarre, whose Nieuport Bébé, painted red before von Richthofen copied him, was the terror of the Boches and the hero of the Poilus.


The 'Demarcation' campaign is the first mission-set in the series and sees the player flying a Nieuport N4 monoplane. This famous French company is of course more famous for their V-strutted fighters starting with the Nieuport 10 and 11. But pre-war, Nieuport was noted for its racing or sports planes including a line of neat monoplanes, from which comes the aircraft I’ll be flying on this campaign. There’s some more info about the type on Wikipedia, here; evidently the type was quite widely used, albeit in small numbers, notably by the Russian Air Service. For this campaign I’m with the French air service, which was probably the biggest and best of the combatant air forces at the start of the war and in the thick of it from start to last.

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.

As I was soon to discover, my single-seater Nieuport is armed from the get-go, with what looks like a Danish Masden mag-fed LMG. The real catch is that it’s mounted to fire upwards to clear the propeller arc, this being before the introduction of deflectors or interrupter gear. Lanoe Hawker had some success in 1915 in a Bristol Scout with a Lewis gun mounted to fire left and ahead so this arrangement isn’t entirely untypical of the sort of lash-ups early aviators made from early in the war, to get a decent crack at the enemy in a single-seater, with no observer to man a flexibly-mounted gun.


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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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Intrigued to find out how my first venture into virtual 1914 military aviation will work out, I wasted no time launching the mission, having made sure that in the difficulty settings, I had turned off flutter and wind effects (which the WW1 flight models can’t cope with – IIRC they result in planes having regular attacks of ‘the wobbles’).

And this is what I saw. Truly, our airfield is a veritable diorama, packed with people, vehicles and other aircraft. While the people aren’t animated, it’s still an impressive spectacle, packed with interest.


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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.


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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.


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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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After a bit of sight-seeing, orienting myself with the help of the map, I realised that my reconnaissance objective had been rather inconveniently sited at the top of the highest peak. As my rate of climb seemed to be rather close to the  ‘imperceptible’ end of the scale, this presented me with a bit of a problem. Throttle fully open, I settled into the best climb I could manage on a course parallel to the long side of the ridge or peaks. Compared to the WW2 planes I’m used to flying in Il-2, it felt like I was in a powered glider, and a nose-heavy one at that. Heck, this ‘racing’ plane felt slow, compared to the WW1 planes I’d flown in other sims. Slow...but not too sedate, with a tendency to dive away or begin a roll to either side, if I didn’t concentrate on keeping things level. With little dihedral, a small unbalanced rudder and wing warping for lateral control, this seemed to make sense. Quite an interesting experience in itself, the flight was shaping up to be.


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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.


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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.


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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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It wasn't long before I was turning onto my final approach...although to the wrong airfield I believe, a deceptively-similar one on a similar mountainside plateau. I must have had my mind firmly set on that brandy!


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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!

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Big City Blues, World War 1 style...


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Well, as intended. I flew a second mission with the armed but underpowered Nieuport 4. There's definitely an art to making your takeoff roll in one of these, without engine start being followed by a wobble and a nose-over; so far it's still hit and miss for me. Anyway here's the mission briefing - and it sounds exciting. We are to escort some Farman recce aircraft - and opposition in the air is expected.


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I managed to get moving - after a couple of attempts and restarts, I admit. After that, takeoff was uneventful, for me and my number two. For the Farmans, it was a different matter. The leading machine, taking off on a strip parallel to mine, went ass over t*ts about 50 metres into his takeoff run.


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The two Farmans behind him had plenty of time to abort or avoid, but they did neither. Instead, they started their runs blindly and ran straight into the wreckage, one after the other. Not a terribly auspicious start to the mission.


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It soon got worse. I slowly climbed away and looked back to check that the other Nieuport was still following me. He wasn't. Instead, a second clound of dark smoke had appeared, this time on the edge of the mountainside plateau on which our airbase sat. Now I was really on my own!


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I continued the mission; what else was I to do? The honour of France demanded no less!


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As it happens, I had left turned on, the display of aircraft icons. So on the mini-map, I could see the blue icons whose presence confirmed that the Boche were in the air, having seemingly experienced no comparable difficulties. Aircraft icons aren't too unrealistic for WW2 ,where you are often operating with the assistance of a radar-assisted ground controllers; but they're hugely unrealistic for WW1, or course. Normally in WW1 sims,you can rely instead on friendly AA bursts to mark at least some possible targets. But not this time; looking around, the skies were devoid of 'Archie', as far as the eye could see. Having said that, I might have spotted the first enemies to appear on this mission unassisted, because they were lower and their plain linen finishes showed them up nicely, against the greenery below.


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The briefing had advised me to avoid attacking from the rear enemy 2-seaters whose observers had good fields of fire over that arc. Not in 1914 they didn't - the 'C-type' 2-seater, which moved the observer to the rear seat and gave him a machine gun, didn't appear till 1915. Few if any B-types, such as fomed the main complement of the German air service in the first year of the war, would have carried such weapon.


At any rate, with my own MG pointing diagonally upwards to clear my prop arc, I decided, to hell with that advice. I'd attack from behind and below, von unten hinten, in the manner of Schrage Musik-equipped German night fighters a World War later. I let the enemy formation slip underneath me and began a tight spiral descent, calculated to being me down into approximately the right position.


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I came out of my corkscrew descent a little further behind and below than I'd have liked but my momentun carried me steadily up towards the enemy formation. As I approached, another four aircraft, also German from the cut of their jibs, sailed past, in the opposite direction.


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Ignoring the newcomers, I selected the left-hand machine in the first German formation. Soon, tracers were coming my way. Even if I stayed under my target's tail, the others in the enemy formation could probably clearly me. I needed to knock my target out of formation, preferably quickly!


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Lacking any form of gunsight, my first bursts were fired purely to judge, from the tracers, by how much I needed to adjust my aim, to get my rounds heading my target's way. This didn't prove as hard as I'd thought and my third or fourth burst got some hits. I was delighted to see that exactly on cue, my oponent turned right, to get out of my fire - out of formation. Naturally, I turned after him. I should have turned away then back in, to stay out of his sight under his tail, but I didn't have enough of a speed advantage. Instead, I tried to cut the corner and turn inside him.


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Things seemed to be going tolerably well, when suddenly the screen went black. Switching to the external view confirmed my PC hadn't died - my virtual pilot had. My machine went down in a dive, completely unresponsive to control inputs, then zoomed and fell off into another dive. Finis.


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I hadn't seen any fire coming from my target, so maybe it was one of his kamaraden who got me. The air in that particular part of France seemed to be fairly full of Avaitiks and they probably had a jolly good row in their mess afterwards, sorting out who would get the credit for shooting me down.


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Determined to get my own back, I decided to carry on as planned and switch to flying a proper fighting aeroplane, a Nieuport 11 in defence of Verdun in early 1916, which is a later mission set campaign in this series. This started well, with the same excellent aircraft and airfield representations, but ended badly. This time, the problem was the city which lay across my route. The numerous buildings, once they popped into view, slowed my framerates to a crawl.


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So I stepped back in time, to an earlier campaign: this time, Summer 1915, with the Fokker Scourge. This started with the same promise...


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...but ended with the same result. Chasing a distant enemy aircraft northwards, I came in sight of a town near the channel coast. And down went the frame rates, faster than a BE2c under a hail of Spandau fire. So regretfully, I turned for home.


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Similar problems with airfields in the Dark Blue World 1916 module had been solved by applying  'Vertical synch - adaptive (half refresh rate)' in my Nvidia Control Panel. I checked this was still set, which it was. Perhaps I need to set it separately, for my separate, CUP install of IL-2. Until I find some fix, this set of campaigns doesn't look to be playable for me, which is a pity, because they look rather good. Hopefully, others will have better luck!


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I am very sceptical about this campaign.

The description on the sas forum is completly different from what I have read on early war missions

He writes that he intentionnally set lot of collisions : at least in the french service, this is wrong, usually planes took off and flew separatly, and the risks were very limited (they only occured during landing phase, usually following a mecanical problem or battle damages).


The formations we see on the pictures are not very realistic neither, creating a completly irrealistic wall of fire for begining of 1916.

Even when a number of planes were sent together on mission such as bombings, they were flying within visual sight at best, but not as a close formation and were fairly vulnerable to ennemy interception.

The capacity to maintain this kind of formation only appeared at the end of 1916, begining of 1917 earliest.


This is fundamental because indeed, the famous bloody april was due to the fact that the German were able to have fairly large formations of scouts (say 5-6 planes) routinely flying together coordinated, whereas the entente could only have 2-3 planes max flying together.


So, the missions are not at all representative of what happened at the begining of the war.


And also, CUP in general is very badly optimized and I basically stopped playing it.

Edited by jeanba

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I am very sceptical about this campaign.

The description on the sas forum is completly different from what I have read on early war missions

He writes that he intentionnally set lot of collisions : at least in the french service, this is wrong, usually planes took off and flew separatly, and the risks were very limited (they only occured during landing phase, usually following a mecanical problem or battle damages).


The formations we see on the pictures are not very realistic neither, creating a completly irrealistic wall of fire for begining of 1916.

Even when a number of planes were sent together on mission such as bombings, they were flying within visual sight at best, but not as a close formation and were fairly vulnerable to ennemy interception.

The capacity to maintain this kind of formation only appeared at the end of 1916, begining of 1917 earliest.


This is fundamental because indeed, the famous bloody april was due to the fact that the German were able to have fairly large formations of scouts (say 5-6 planes) routinely flying together coordinated, whereas the entente could only have 2-3 planes max flying together.


So, the missions are not at all representative of what happened at the begining of the war.


And also, CUP in general is very badly optimized and I basically stopped playing it.


Yes it's a bit of a mixture. Some nice planes and very some nice presentation including the campaign intros. However, there are also big compromises like routinely-MG-armed aircraft and formation flights (close formation at that) in August 1914. The Gallipoli campaign seems to use a 'Frankenplane' (as a seaplane). German planes with observers in the rear, armed with an MG, should not be present at all. It's probably better suited to representing Fokker Scourge and later, so I was disappointed that the dense city features killed my FPS, albeit I have a dated system (which copes with DBW - and much of what I have tried in CUP - with few or no problems). With CUP the reduced start-up smoke effect helps, and there's era-specific air,ini files which can reportedly help, tho I haven't tried these yet.

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      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!

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