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Well, Heatblur finally released the F-14B into Early Access.  If you aren't familiar with DCS, you may like to know that you need to run the module in the DCS World OpenBeta, rather than the full-up version.  I hadn't touched OpenBeta and only played DCS every now and again in the past, so I was glad to find that out.  I'm quite impressed with the module to say the least.  The Jester AI is easy as pie to interact with, making long-range engagements very straightforward.  I did three sorties tonight, after a control shakeout (DCS likes to assign axes to everything!) and basic familiarization flight.  The first mission I forgot to set the time to 1200 and left it on "Random".  So, a pitch-black fight against a MiG-21 it was!  I have the tags on, still, in part because the monitor can slip out of my glasses field of view with TrackIR, and I can at least see a little red blob against the terrain, so that helped, but it does feel like cheating and I'll be shutting it off at some point.  I was able to down the Fishbed and get back to base. 

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This is fine!  No problem at all...

Second fight was in Nevada doing long-range stuff to check out Phoenix.  The final fight was the included "MiG-28" fight, which was a 4v2 which sees you take a catapult shot and bring the plane back to land.  Because we had an E-2 in the area, we got a vector for the bandits, ROE was splash anything that went feet-wet.  I still haven't figured out how to direct the wingman, so he was effectively along for the ride.  At about 25NM, TWS-A selected, I loosed both AIM-54Cs at a MiG-28 a piece, both missiles tracked and splashed their targets.  Next bandit I got with my second Sparrow missile.  The final guy got a shot off at my wingman, but his missile took dash-2's flares.  Both AIM-9 shots I took were trashed and I had to finish him off with the gun.  Plenty of gas left, but now I know I've gotta put it down on the boat, and man am I glad I went straight home, because I think it took me about 10 tries to get back on deck, and that last try, let me tell you - one of those famous "we land NOW, GOD-DAMMIT!" one-wires where I just barely missed a ramp strike.  Wasn't pretty and I know I damaged the plane because little holes appeared on the port-side of the nose of the model to signify that the section had taken a beating.  Funny enough, in combat, I only put 6.8g on the plane!

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Cat on the 'Cat

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"Hi, there!"

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No kill like a GUNS kill!

I think it would come as the understatement of the century to say I was anticipating this module, but I will also say that until Heatblur did their official announcement video, I had zero confidence it would ever get done.  The DCS community has been burned plenty of times in the past, and HB had run into problems and setbacks of their own while in development.  My mindset became: once it's on my hard drive, then I'll believe it.  As videos began to roll in, however, it became more like a kid on Christmas "oh man, I can't wait."  Well, now I have it, and I can share some first impressions.

The model is friggin' fantastic.  The level of detail on it is stunning both externally and in the cockpit.  The rivet-counters will have a tough time on this one; the models are based on laser-scanned F-14s sitting in museums, and years worth of research.  The sounds are also amazing, to include a lot of clickyness to the various buttons and switches in the cockpit.  The view out of the cockpit is very good, as one would expect out of a bubble canopy, but not as good in the forward quarter as an airplane without the "jail bars" splitting the windscreen.  That said, with TrackIR or VR, you can simply move your head a little, or lean forward or back to keep tally.

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You can see clear through the tails from the front seat.  In this case, I just started flying through a cloud, so it's a little blurry.

The Jester AI, like I mentioned earlier, is very intuitive and easy to interact with.  Even without reading the manual on how to interact, I figured it out in the first combat flight I took.  The single biggest thing that will take time to learn is the flight model and handling characteristics.  The F-14 is truly a stick and rudder plane, and the F-14s in Strike Fighters 2 don't even come close to simulating the adverse elements of the F-14's handling, especially wing rock and control reversal.  I wouldn't consider myself a contender online at the moment, and the fact that I was able to take out the AI aircraft in a gunfight at this stage is simply because they are AI.  If you hop in expecting the plane to hold your hand like the F/A-18C module, you're in for a ride.  It has no g-limiter, no alpha limiter, beta (yaw) limiter, etc.  It's you talking directly to the control surfaces and them doing whatever the hell you tell them to, be it to your advantage or detriment.  "Need to get out of the way of that missile and put the stick in your lap?  Fine!  10g ain't the worst I've been through!  Boot full of rudder?  I'm not stopping you!  Canopy jettison followed by...oh, you son of a..." 

In terms of overall maneuverability (sustained/instantaneous "g", roll rate, etc.) the airplane feels good.  If I didn't jack it up and start rocking the wings, I was able to turn perfectly fine and loaded as much as 9.8g on the plane in one of my fights without complaint.  A major saving grace against the F-5s when I got the plane out of shape is the fact that the B adds energy quick, and I was able to stabilize the plane and quickly curl inside their turns to go from defensive, to neutral, to offensive reliably and repeatedly.  I actually had to get one of them off of my dead six o'clock (he shot a missile while there, but it took my flares) and was able to reverse the situation in a manner of seconds.  The F110's power also gives the plane a lot of options, such as pushing the fight vertical, or un-f*cking your carrier approach when you jack it up and almost put yourself into the back of the boat for the fourth time. AoA and airspeed are very important to pay attention to, and the rudders will make or break you in a dogfight or at slow speeds.  I still haven't felt out the slow speed regime intentionally yet.  I have run the plane out of airspeed during some hamfisted dogfighting moments, but honestly, it recovers itself pretty quickly, and it maintains a degree of controllability even below 100KIAS, such that I was able to point the nose where I wanted with the rudders as the plane flopped over and began regaining speed.  It also allows you to go to full flaps for slow-speed flight/fighting without needing to pull the aux flap circuit breaker (of the few things not [yet] modeled, one is the circuit breakers).  As I build confidence, I'll start looking to test my skills against MiG-29s, Su-27s, etc., and eventually get into multiplayer, but right now, I'm still learning the thing.

Overall, it's a really amazing module.  Every video I've seen talking about this module says that Heatblur set a new bar for aircraft in DCS.  I agree.  The plane is spectacular.  You'll need to put in the time to learn it, but man, is it rewarding to fly.  At some point in the future, the F-14A will be released, and the package already comes with a carrier and A-6, so its steeper asking price of $79.99 gets you more than just a single jet.  In my opinion, it's well worth the asking price.

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I'm sure that'll buff out...

 

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4 hours ago, Caesar said:

Well, Heatblur finally released the F-14B into Early Access.  If you aren't familiar with DCS, you may like to know that you need to run the module in the DCS World OpenBeta, rather than the full-up version. 

. . .

 

I wish I had the time to make this month to learn how to fly it, so I could have financially justified preordering it when I have not one but two major trips to take this month. 

 

Your SF2 Tomcat, BTW @Caesar makes me smile....

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When you're out of Tomcats... you're out of heavy metal fighters.  So with that, the Fighter Pilot Podcast episode on the Tommy just dropped:

 

 

With all this, time to let others talk about the Heatblur rendition of the Tomcat!

Edited by JosefK

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You are right. I installed it yesterday and when I tried a test flight I saw it is amazing!!

Finally the F-14 has the simulation that deserves. Now I have entertainment for a long time learning to fly this beauty. Totally recommended!!

 

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Well, I brought it up against a Flanker (AI) and it went a lot better than expected.  Of course, a human player would be completely different, but I'm at least building some confidence with my handling!

 

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I  miss the F-15's speed, acceleration, and visibility.  Even with a full load of ordinance (normally fight with two gas bags on) I can get her to accelerate out of most sticky situations.

But Heatblur's F-14 feel so precise. I can take old tom turkey down on the deck fast or slow and feel 100% at ease, despite not having a computer making decisions for me (F-18) or boosting the flight controls (F-15).

One thing I can't get the hang of is the amount of drag that gets put on the flight model when above FL20 or when any ordinance is in the tunnel.

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The F-14B is an amazing module. It is largely old-school analog... roughly the same tech level as the F-4J. Even with its powerful engines, you aren't going to beat small, agile fires by just pushing the throttles forward and yanking hard on the stick. I can't wait for the F-14A, whose power-to-weight is very close to the F-4J. It will even more skill and patience to wing gun fights. This module will keep me entertained until the F-4E is released.

I question the performance modeling of the F-15C vs the F-14B. The F-14B should be somewhat equal or better than the F-15C over most of the flight envelope. Yet, I can win just about any dogfight quickly and easily in the F-15C but have to work my butt off to win in the F-14B. Is the F-15C overmodeled? Is the F-14B undermodeled? Or are they are both dead-on and I am ill-informed?

I am uncertain of the validity of the attached graph. I would have expected the F-16C and F-15C  to be have their data lines swapped based on pilot anecdotes. This only shows the F-14A. It shows the F-4E and F-14A to be very close at Mach 0.8 or above, which largely agrees with the info I have available. Most published data on F-14 vs F-4 is against a hard wing F-4J rather than a slatted F-4E.

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Edited by streakeagle

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3 hours ago, streakeagle said:

The F-14B is an amazing module. It is largely old-school analog... roughly the same tech level as the F-4J. Even with its powerful engines, you aren't going to beat small, agile fires by just pushing the throttles forward and yanking hard on the stick. I can't wait for the F-14A, whose power-to-weight is very close to the F-4J. It will even more skill and patience to wing gun fights. This module will keep me entertained until the F-4E is released.

I question the performance modeling of the F-15C vs the F-14B. The F-14B should be somewhat equal or better than the F-15C over most of the flight envelope. Yet, I can win just about any dogfight quickly and easily in the F-15C but have to work my butt off to win in the F-14B. Is the F-15C overmodeled? Is the F-14B undermodeled? Or are they are both dead-on and I am ill-informed?

I am uncertain of the validity of the attached graph. I would have expected the F-16C and F-15C  to be have their data lines swapped based on pilot anecdotes. This only shows the F-14A. It shows the F-4E and F-14A to be very close at Mach 0.8 or above, which largely agrees with the info I have available. Most published data on F-14 vs F-4 is against a hard wing F-4J rather than a slatted F-4E.

The problem with discussing this graph relative to real-world aircraft performance doghouses is that the real-world charts for most of those planes shown are protected by distribution and export restrictions, so you really can't do it in an open forum without potentially falling afoul either the distro limitations or certain laws like ITAR.

As to the in-game performance, there's a series of videos by The Grim Reapers which runs a bunch of the modeled aircraft against each other in terms of general performance.  The F-14B has a just barely better sustained turn than the F-15C (equal payloads) on the deck, but you have to be slower in the F-14 to achieve it (20 deg/sec @ 300-330KTAS vs 19 deg/sec @ 350-450KTAS).  Generally the F-15C out accelerates the F-14B in DCS against a Vmax of 650KTAS by about 4 seconds both on the deck and at 15,000 feet, while the F-14B has a better max speed on the deck, but lower max speed at altitude.  The F-14B out-climbs the F-15C from 0 knots start, while the F-15C out-climbs the F-14B from 600 knots start.  The two are generally comparable.

What I've found is that the F-14B takes a lot more practice and understanding of its nuances, and I'm still learning a lot (have been away for a bit, and will be again shortly).  A LOT of rudder work comes into play.  The F-15C has the FBW and ARI and you can horse around with the stick all you want to point the nose where you want it to go without ever touching the rudder pedals, not so in the Tomcat.  I've been watching some of the more competitive folks on YouTube and they've been successfully winning guns-only PvP fights against  other players in Hornets, Flankers, and the like, but it definitely takes them practice and time.

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Both the Hornet and the Tomcat like very low speeds. The Hornet has issues with its G restriction, so you have to go slow to access its full maneuverability. The Tomcat has to be flown very carefully... too fast and it accelerates even more rather than turning. Too slow and its speed bleeds very quickly. Finding and maintaining the sweet spot is challenging. I find the F-15C more forgiving than either one. I can adjust my AoA to build energy or trade speed for angles. Keep your speed between 300 and 450 knots, and you will do fine. If the F-15 had been given maneuvering flaps and leading edge flaps or slats, it would have dominated ACM aside from its large size being too easy to spot. I like the view out of the F-15, too.

Right now, I think the Hornet is a good choice for most people: it can dogfight, it can pound the ground, and despite all the buttons and menus, it is very easy to start up, take off, fly, and land. Once you get its speed low enough, it is incredibly agile.

For pure air-to-air, the F-15C would be my favorite, but the lack of full systems modeling / clickable cockpit is a huge drawback. If I wanted to fly a "lite" sim, I would have stayed with SF2. But that simplicity makes it so much easier to employ effectively with  little or no practice.

So, for me, the F-14B is the coolest of the available US "teen" fighters. It is probably the most capable, but requires a lot of skill and knowledge to operate correctly... and you have to deal with an AI RIO and/or switch seats to get certain things done. I haven't used the RIO much. If I ever learn how to use the Voice Attack / VAICOM Pro correctly, the RIO will be more realistic and useful.

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