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F-14 Tomcat and A-6 Intruder update

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F-14 Development Update!
Stick with it.

Dear All,

4 years, 5000+ commits and tens of thousands of manhours later we’re finally there, on to the final leg of the final stretch of what will hopefully be a new foundation for all things Heatblur. 

As many hours as we’ve put in, you’ve probably spent quite a few yourself mired in frustration about not climbing into your own GRU-7 just yet. 
We understand this and sincerely hope that the quality of the finished Tomcat will weigh heavily in our favour and put us in your good graces. 

That said; we have plenty to talk about for now! 

Lets jump right in:



Heatblur Simulations is proud to announce the addition of the AI A-6E & KA-6 to DCS World as Free AI units!

Furthering our commitment to providing full and rich experiences to the community, and in line with our module development priorities, we’ve decided to introduce the A-6E and KA-6 as free AI units into DCS World shortly following the release of the F-14 Tomcat!

The Intruder is an aircraft that has been under active development at Heatblur Simulations for some time, and subject to a license agreement, we hope to eventually introduce it into DCS world as a full, playable module - and we are developing it with this intent in mind. 

In the meantime, the AI Intruders will serve a critical role in the F-14 campaigns and provide an additional level of authenticity to the game and simulation battlespace environment. The A-6’s are built to our extremely exacting standards, with laser scanning forming the basis of our core workflow and ensuring complete accuracy in shape and dimensions. 
In-game, the KA-6 will provide the player with texaco services while the A-6E will serve as a venerable strike partner with an unmatched payload - good friends to have in the cockpit of an F-14.

The A-6’s will also play a crucial part in one of the two free included campaigns with the F-14; as the particular cruise being depicted is the famous all Grumman cruise. 
Dirty, greasy Tomcats and Intruders playing with each other on deck? Sign us up.

A-6E_1_Thumb.jpg A-6E_2_Thumb.jpg
To summarize, current planned free content for the F-14 includes:
  • Forrestal class carriers (compatible with all carrier aircraft)
  • A-6E
  • KA-6
  • 1x F-14B Caucasus Campaign
  • 1x Persian Gulf F-14A Campaign



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The F-14

Ongoing work on the aircraft itself has been distributed across a broad range of development areas. 

Primarily, and non-exhaustively, these include:


Flight Model
We’re now getting close to completing the final pre-release tweaks of the flight model. The aircraft (still) flies closely to our available performance data and parameters; but we’ve been continuing our heavy back and forth with SMEs, again, repeating ad nauseum: to truly capture the spirit and behaviour of the Tomcat. Some highlights of areas that have been touched upon lately include:
  • Roll behaviour/performance & wing position: We’ve been correcting various inconsistencies between our simulation and the real jet in roll handling, inertia and lateral responsiveness, especially with the wings swept aft. 
     
  • Elevon drag in ground effect: We’ve been looking at and tweaking behaviour and the influence of the elevons on the aircraft in ground roll or ground effect situations. 
    This has been important in order to more accurately simulate the immense drag and utility that the elevons presented during landing or other ground operations. 
    Differential stabilizer inputs will now turn the aircraft in the direction of stick movement, and the elevons are now more effective at acting like massive airbrakes during your ground rollout.
     
  • Turn performance: We’ve been spending considerable time fine-nudging and tuning turn performance and related parameters. 
    This is delicate work and has required a steady balance between changing too much and causing cascading effects. Like most of the FM in this stage of development, these changes are truly minute and will continue until launch day (and beyond!).
 
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wut?


Engine
Our engine model is now reaching advanced maturity and we’re reaching the stage where we’re adding features not deemed integral to the operation or simulation in the Early Access stage. However, because a deep and robust engine simulation is even more important for the F-14A; we want to make sure to have a head start on this area of development.


Some of the changes and items added to the engine modeling lately include:
  • Connected various missing interconnectivity between integral aircraft systems, e.g. correct data flows between CADC and AICS/AFTC.
  • Added several new failures; including supersonic inlet buzz and pop stalls due to lost CADC Mach signals.
  • Engine compartment failures due to sustained extreme temperatures, either from engine malfunctions causing extreme EGT or battle damage. We’ve done our best estimate guesswork on how quickly the structural compartments would fail based on the temperatures we’re simulating inside the engine compartment.
  • Multitudes of tweaks and corrections; changes to thrust penalties from AICS errors, turbine overtemp time/severity before turbine begins to degrade and much more. As our engine simulation becomes more deep, we will begin to spend more time fine tuning inconsistencies across the entire simulation gamut.
  • Overhauled compressor stall chance and variability - and began to account for more variables impacting the correct operation of the engine: e.g. spin direction in a flat spin.
Once we consider the F110 to be fully complete; we will turn all of our attention on the P&W TF-30. 
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Our new and improved LANTIRN visual shader

Other areas of the simulation that are being worked on become more broad. In no particular order or priority:
  • Jester AI: This is a massive topic and we’ve been focusing a lot of our attention on this area. In particular, we’ve been working on:
     
  • Re-recording all older, or non-fitting voice lines (especially those that were recorded prior to us having a solid understanding of how the system would look). This has resulted in re-recording a few thousand lines in the past month and a half.
     
  • Adding code support for making JESTER appear more lifelike. Mistakes, uh’s and ah’s, conjoining multiple separate statements into one where possible. I think we’re all familiar with ArmA-ness in speech and it’s difficult to avoid this entirely, but we’ve been trying to alleviate this as much as possible.
     
  • Complete redesign of the User Interface from a visual standpoint. While we’ve been pleased with the usability of the JESTER Rose UI; it was in dire need of a visual overhaul. We focused on a few key areas during this process, namely: Quick readability at a glance, strong identifiable category colours and iconography, pleasing and responsive interaction animation (opening, closing, item selection) and enhancement of text space. We’re currently implementing this new redesign fully and it may not be entirely complete at launch, but we consider it a high priority.
     
  • Teaching Jester a lot of tasks pertaining to navigation, radios, radar and fleshing out his capability as much as we can prior to release. Make no mistake; Jester will be at its most rudimentary form on launch, but our ultimate goal is to provide ourselves with a solid foundation to build upon.
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JESTER UI mockup. Categories are purposefully generic in this mockup. In-Game appearance may differ.
Click to enlarge


Art! ART!

The big elephant in the room. This has been the cause of a lot of hurt and pain (financially, life-wise, PR, etc.) 
It really is the cause for the biggest chunk of our delay and the additional cost overhead has been massive. 
Quality has to always take precedence, no matter how frustrating for everyone involved (and that includes you guys sad.gif )

Again, in no particular order, priorities for the art team have been:
  • Full completion of exterior textures. This has been an immense task. We’ve hand laid thousands of screws and rivets (yes, manually, each one. ) according to laser and photogrammetric scans. There have been no shortcuts, and no cut corners. This is probably the first and only time we go into this much detail on such an “inconsequential” thing whether screws are in such extremely precise locations.
  • Completion of the Pilot’s cockpit textures and functionality. This area is now for the most part complete and will wrap up in the coming days. We can’t wait to fully unveil the novel and unique features that will elevate our artwork to the next level. That’s coming on the 7th!
  • Completion of the RIOs cockpit textures and functionality. This area is scheduled for completion in the coming weeks of September and will be one of the final major items left for us to conclude.
 
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Other major items that we’ve been improving, changing or implementing include, in shorthand:
  • Full completion of the ALR-67 RWR
  • LAU-138 CMs
  • Main fuselage CMs
  • Connecting various subsystems missing their various dependencies.
  • Improvements to the kneeboard.
  • Addition of many avionics failures in various different systems and subsystems.
  • Overhaul of weapons stations numbering and connections to fit new exterior model.
  • Several additions to datalink, carrier-aircraft, aircraft-aircraft and behaviour between navigation and datalink type systems.
  • Improvement of LANTIRN Pod: Improved visual shaders, more accurate fonts, masking lines and other symbology.
  • Continued work on the Forrestal class and associated assets; including deck cranes and other vehicles. We’ve begun with the very basics; by trying to perfect the look of our carrier deck. See screenshot below!
  • ...and much much more.

carrierdeck_Thumb.jpg

That just about sums up most of what we’ve been working on over the past 1,5 month(s). Obviously we’ve somewhat slipped from the 90 day estimate we made 4 months ago; but not dramatically so, and while we easily expect to be ground down mentally over the next period of time, it’s just about time for us to get our ducks (turkeys) in a row and close what will essentially be a long chapter in each of our lives. 

We hope it will have been worth it.

Tune in at heatblur.com on October 7th for our special unveiling. We won’t let you down!

Sincerely,
The Heatblur F-14 Team

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__________________
Nicholas Dackard

Founder & Lead Artist
Heatblur Simulations
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October 7th....an unveiling...I hope that means it will be released because I will put the Hornet away and be in the Tomcat all the time. 

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I just hope the initial release comes out this year.

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