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Found 14 results

  1. Back to CFS3...in the Martin B-26 Marauder I was - and suppose I still am - a fan of Microsoft's last fling in the Combat Flight Simulator series, CFS3. I didn't especially like the air-to-air combat - AI planes flying at empty weight meant that even heavier, more sluggish enemies could often prove frustrating foes. And there was the unfortunate fact that CFS3 ignored the strategic bomber component (even decent add-ons like Firepower, which added 4-engined bombers, just tended to expose CFS3's limitations as a bomber sim). European Air War, this wasn't. Neverthess, CFS3 was billed primarily as a simulator of tactical air power, 1943-45, and that, I felt, it did reasonably well. The radio and intercomm chatter and the wingman commands were very limited, of course. And I didn't particularly like it's 'alternative history' version of WW2, as presented in the dynamic campaign, with German shipping flowing freely in the English Channel in daylight and the Germans having the possibility of invading England even late in the war. It's World War Two, Jim, but not as we know it. A dynamic campaign that's...well, a bit too dynamic. But unlike IL-2 at the time - I mean, as in, over ten years ago - CFS3 provided rather good coverage of the European Theatre of Operations, which was and remains my main interest, by a wide margin. So I played CFS3 a lot, and downloaded many user-made aircraft, like those of the 1% and GroundCrew teams. I also ended up buying many of the CFS3 add-ons, my favourite being the D-Day one, which improved quite a bit on the historical accuracy of the dynamic campaign. This expansion I could never get to install correctly in Vista. But salvation was at hand - in the shape of the ETO Expansion, a massive user mod which features improved terrain, a huge increase in the planeset (including many of the aforementioned user-made models) and an 'era switcher' which enables the player- as in the recent CUP mod for IL-2 '46 - to configure the sim to cover different eras, in this case from the Spanish Civil War to the end of WW2. Just recently, I have been prompted to fire up CFS3+ETO Expansion once more, by the arrival of the latest version of Ankor's DX9 mod. To the dynamic shadows and sea reflections of previous versions, this adds ground object and cloud shadows...and, joy of joys, enables players to lose at long last the dreadful 'fisheye (wide-angle) lens' external view that always gave CFS3 aircraft a distorted appearance, which I for one loathed. As an illustration of this, here is a picture of the rather unattractive Whitley bomber, one of the ETO Expansion's planes, without Ankor's mod... ...and here is a pic of the Expansion's Coastal Command version of the Whitley, with the latest DX9 mod. Note that despite the camera being zoomed in more closely, the perspective is much more natural. You can also see the shadows cast on the aircraft itself, and also the ground shadows, cast here by trees, clouds and folds in the ground. I'm not saying it makes the poor old Whitley pretty, mind, but the natural perspective is a big improvement. Having fired up CFS3+ETO Expansion with the DX9 mod installed, I naturally took several virtual aircraft up for a virtual spin. It was soon apparent that some of the planes which benefit most are those USAAF machines in natural metal finish, like this P-47 Thunderbolt (this is the stock CFS3 one, with the latest DX9 mod applied)... ...and here's the P-38 Lightning - again, this is the stock CFS3 version: So I thought I'd go for a campaign with one of these nice silver birds, in the ETO Expansion. I chose the B-26 Marauder - this is how the Expansion's natural metal version looks (unlike IL-2- the 'skin' supplied is used for all planes of that type, in game). Note how the reflections on the fuselage nicely pick up on the terrain below. I''ll have one of those, I decided, for my first CFS3 campaign for some time. Having selected the D-Day era, I started by creating a new pilot, chose a bomber career for him, then used the 'Change aircraft' option to switch from the allocated B-25 Mitchell to my nice shiny B-26G. I was undeterred by the real Marauder's bad reputation. Being a 'hot' machine for a bomber, she had at first a bad name for crashes, earning unsavoury nicknames like the one in this mission report's title, also 'The Widowmaker'. By 1944 things had improved and I expected I'd appreciate advantages such as the good defensive and offensive armament, high speed and tricycle undercarriage. 'Baltimore Whore' or not, she's not just a pretty face. I kicked off the campaign and began to remember how CFS3's dynamic campaign handles these things. I was started in May 1944, about a month before the real D-Day, although I knew that my unit's performance could influence this. I was placed at the lead of the squadron operation, flying from RAF St Eval in Cornwall. I can't recall which Bomb Squadron we were flying with, but CFS3 isn't particularly strong on creating a strong sense of unit, and any resemblance between that and the markings on your aircraft is co-incidental. On campaign, CFS3 offers you one of a set range of mission types, which you can opt to change. I never worked out whether there were any campaign advantages to be had, between which missions you chose and when. Commonly, you start with an anti-shipping missions, whichever side you are playing for. And that's what I got. I was placed at the head of two flights of four B-26s - bombers in CFS3 fly fighter-style 'finger four' formations, widely-spaced to boot. Our target was enemy shipping down to the south-west. Not quite in the English Channel, but still, it was rather silly of the Germans to expose whatever ships it was to overwhemling air power in daylight. Well, it wasn't quite daylight yet. It was just before dawn as we formed up for take-off. But it would be daylight, by the time we got to the target area. I had accepted a torpedo armament - bombs being the alternative, naturally - so we started with these rather short, fat airborne tin fish slung under our silver bellies. If I'd known they'd be external - and if I knew if CFS3 replicated their drag, which I didn't - I might have gone for bombs. A fat lot of good it likely would have done me, as it turned out. The second flight of four B-26s was already in the air so I wasted no time in taking off to the north, passing over St Eval again as I began a wide turn to the left, to come around to our assigned track out to the target, which lay to the south-south-west. I kept throttled back to let the others catch up, and it wasn't long before all eight bombers were stacked up behind and either side of me, sadly in their wide fighter formations. At least the risk of mid-air collisions should be low! The 'warp/move to next event' feature in CFS3 has evolved to a very fast form of time acceleration, instead of the CFS1 and CFS2 'teleport' equivalent. It remains a very convenient way of flying what would otherwise be longish, uneventful legs in the typical CFS3 campaign mission. The trick is not to leave it too late to interrupt this 'very fast forward' process. This is especially important in torpedo or other low level attacks, for you 'warp' at a fixed altitude, about 14,000 feet in this case, which is much too high an attack profile fo most CFS3 missions. And if enemies were spawned based on radar detection, which I suspect they may not be, well at that sort of height they would have seen you coming from many miles away. So while I flew a direct course to the target, I took care to break the 'warp' at intervals, which not only made sure I could lose altitude in good time, but also gave me a chance to admire the sunrise and the reflective effects on my aircraft. I forgot to check if the briefing advised if we had a fighter escort - you often have on a CFS3 campaign mission, and in this case it was a flight of Mustangs, four I think. They were soon to make themselves useful. ...to be continued!
  2. From the album Combat Sims

  3. La Guerra Civil Espanola in the CFS3 ETO Expansion! The Spanish Civil War, fought between 1936 and 1939, foreshadowed the monumental clash that was to follow between fascism and communism, with the Italians and Germans backing the Spanish nationalists and the Soviets backing the republican side. For all that, this was a distinctly Spanish affair, the product of a deeply-divided society. Matters came to a head in 1936 when the Left, having secured a narrow electoral victory, nevertheless pressed on with a radical programme. Divisions deepened and political violence spiralled. The Right responded with an attempted coup, led by elements of the army, which failed in places like Madrid the capital, culminating there in siege and massacre at the Montana barracks. These events set the tone for the long, bloody and vicious civil war which ensued, won in the end by the nationalists under Franco. Air power played a key role from the start. Fanco's leadership was established after the revolt's original leader, General Sanjurjo, was killed when the DH Dragon Rapide carrying him back to Spain crashed, supposedly from overloading with all the personal luggage the 'Jefe' insisted on bringing. Later, Hitler commented that Franco should set up a victory monument to the Junkers 52 transport, the type having flown in from Spanish North Africa colonial troops who helped secure, then advance, the nationalist cause in mainland Spain. In the actual fighting, the German Condor Legion despatched to Franco's aid played an equally important part and tested out many tactics and weapons that would be used to good effect in WW2, including the Ju87 Stuka, the Bf109 fighter and the 88mm flak gun. The devastating Condor Legion air raid on the Basque town of Guernica became infamous, and was one of many air raids on urban areas in which civilians suffered badly. The Italian Regia Aeronautica also contributed 'volunteer' personnel and aircraft, while the Soviets supplied the republican side with some of their own latest military hardware, including I-15 and I-16 fighters and SB-2 fast bombers. Thus was the scene set for some of the fiercest air operations in Europe since the World War. If you want to 'fly' in the SCW, there are several options, including the venerable Luftwaffe Commander (which actually runs on my Vista 64 machine) and the Strike Fighters SCW add-on, available at the A Team Skunkworks, under 'All inclusive installs', which looks great and I'm looking forward to trying out: http://cplengineeringllc.com/SFP1/[link] This mission report features a different option - the CFS3 ETO Expansion. Amongst the Expansion's many and varied additional aircraft is a decent selection suitable for this conflict, all in appropriate markings. From a quick look, this comprises: Nationalist: Messerschmitt Bf109E Henschel Hs123: Fiat CR-32 'Chirri' Breda 25: Savoia Marchetti SM 79: Cant 501 floatplane Junkers 52 bomber: Fiat G50 Republican: llyushin IL-15 'Chaika': Ilyushin I-16 'Mosca': Grumman G23: ...plus some aircraft captured and repainted eg the CR-32 and the Il-16. the main gap seems to be a bomber for the Republican side; the Soviet Tupolev SB-2 fast bomber would have been ideal. Although the Expansion doesn't feature a CFS3-style dynamic campaign for the Spanish Civil War, there is a good set of single missions which enable you to fly in - and against - the appropriate aircraft in Spanish skies, for both sides. And stock CFS3 covers much of northern Spain, no messing about here with mere map segments. The mission Before firing up the ETO Expansion, I used the supplied 'spawn selector' to set 'stock spawn mode' and then the 'era selector' to start the ETO expansion in '1936 to spring 1940'. To be honest, I've not yet worked out exactly what difference this era selection makes, as planes from different eras seem to be available no matter which is selected; I suspect it's a way of getting around a CFS3 limit I've forgotten on the number of installed planes, which in CFS2 was 90, if I recall right. No matter; thus prepared, I opened the list of Historical Missions and selected the first one labelled 'SCW' - titled 'Air conflict over Llanos airfield'. This assigned me the role of a fighter pilot in the Nationalist Air Force, flying an Italian Fiat CR-32 biplane fighter and leading a formation of six. The mission was an air start, flying on the northern front. This was one of the country's few industrialised regions, where the Spanish coastline meets the Bay of Biscay. It was October 1937, over a year into the war. Our task was described as a Combat Air Patrol - a piece of (originally USN WW2?) jargon I dislike to see used out-of-context - what other sort of patrol are combat aircraft going to fly? Anyhow, the briefing helpfully described our patrol as part of a 'Nationalist Air force attack on Llanos airfield', which is on the coast between the towns of Oviedo and Santander. Looking at the mission 'Assignments' tab, I could see that we were not on our own. Our order of battle for this mission comprised: - six SM81 'Pipistrello' bombers (a type I missed when looking up the available planes, so not listed above - it's a 3-motor bomber like the SM79 but with fixed undercart); - six Breda Ba 25 biplane army co-operation planes (what their role was, I have no idea, but I'm relieved not to have been flying one on this trip!); - another flight of six CR-32 biplane fighters, like my own flight. The default loadout gave us a pair of small bombs. These, I kept: I reckoned that we could always ditch the bombs if we encountered aerial opposition. And if we didn't, we should hopefully do some useful damage with them, down below. Here's the briefing. As well as our flight (yellow aircraft icon), you can see other icons representing what I take to be other flights. Friendlies are blue; enemies red. I'm not sure why there appears to be an enemy airfield well out to sea (red crossed runways icon, there's one just off the top edge of the map in this screenie); maybe it's on a small island. Anyway at least I was now able to orient myself. And here's my mount. The CR-32 was apparently one of the best of the pre-WW2 biplane fighters, lightly-armed but highly manoeuvrable; a good match for most enemy machines iin spanish skies and seemingly superior to the mediocre Heinkel He-51s which formed the fighter component of the Condor Legion until the early Messerschmitt 109s were rushed into action to replace it. The Fiat is a neat bird, sleeker than the later tubby radial-engined CR-42 and she looks the part in her ETO Expansion incarnation, complete with Nationalist Spanish camouflage and markings. I'm not clear whether my unit or my machine's 'skin' represented one of the Italian 'volunteer' formations or an indigenous unit flying the sleek Italian fighter, but no matter, she looks like a typically racy Italian job. And here's the 'office'. In flight, you'll notice the benefits of the extra power if you've been used to the biplanes of Over Flanders Fields; one being that your wingmen keep formation better, recovering more quickly during course changes, instead of drifting well wide and being left behind. Even if they still look rather far away, thanks to the CFS3 'wide angle lens' look, which tends to distort things, especially in the external, 'spot' view. Below us were the hills of northern Spain. Having flown over this area often enough on holiday trips, the topography looks to be captured fairly well, although the textures are to my eye a little green and lush for the region and the field patterns and hedgerows look more northern European. Turning on aircraft labels. I was a little bemused to find we were all apparently Germans. Strange, as I don't think the Condor Legion flew Italian fighters in Spain, unhappy though they may have been with their Heinkels. Perhaps we were on an unofficial exchange programme...yes, that must have been it. I turned on the CFS3 Tactical Display and cycled through target types. It picked up a flight of aircraft some distance to our left. Part of our attacking force...at least I hoped so. I kept a better watch in that direction, just in case, even though such use of the 'TAC' was a bit naughty - lacking radios, we should not have been able to get any help from a ground controller in locating stuff we couldn't see for ourselves. I considered for a while orbiting to let the other friendly flights catch us up, but we seemed to have been awarded the dubious honour of going in first so I kept on my way. As for the actual flying, I had trimmed elevator to keep my kite's nose from dipping at a fast cruising speed but the torque kept pulling down my left wing, which I contented myself with correcting without resort to aileron trim. And what were we flying into? 'Light air opposition' the briefing said. Were the Republican pilots going to come out to play, or were they not, I wondered? So far, the six of us seemed to be on our own in this particular patch of sky, and at least until we'd dumped those bombs - preferably upon something deserving of them - I was quite content for it to remain so. ...to be continued!
  4. '...le jour de gloire est arrivé!' - blocking the Blitzkrieg with the French air force...in a US fighter! Having enjoyed flying for the Luftwaffe in the 1940 German offensive in the west, courtesy of the CFS3 ETO Expansion, I thought I would swap sides and see if I could stop the enemy tide. None of this comes with stock CFS3, which focuses on the later-war period. But 'Attack in the West 1940' is one of the additional 'eras' that the freeware expansion bolts on, and firing it up, I saw that I had the choice of flying with the Belgians, French or RAF (which latter had an 'Air Component' to the Army's British Expeditionary Force on the continent when the balloon went up in May 1940). I've always been a fan of the Hawker Hurricane and lapped up the initial scenes of the film 'the Battle of Britain' which have some great footage of Hurris, culminating with their 'lame ducks' being clobbered by a low-level strafing attack by Bf109s. When I say 'low-level', that doesn't do justice to the flying of the Spanish air force pilots operating the Hispano 'Buchons' in Bf109E colours - one of them almost clips a perimeter fence with his prop - totally mad, and no Star Wars CGI anywhere in sight, just great planes and great flying! But I digress... Despite being a fan of the Hurricane, I decided to fly for the Armee de l'Air, as the French air force was officially called. As a kid I'd built the neat little FROG 1/72 Morane Saulnier 406 and the Revell Curtiss P-36/Hawk 75. Plus I was keen to fly a French fighter of some sort, to add a bit of immersion by giving me some sense of defending hearth and home against the invading enemy hordes. So I created a French pilot, naming him Clostermann after the famous Free French/RAF fighter ace whose great book, 'The Big Show', is much the most vivid and powerful fighter pilot auobiography I've ever read. Likely because that's how the inbuilt 'Nationality Expansion' pack works, the ETO Expansion actually does describe the 1940 French side as 'Free French'. This didn't become a reality till later, after de Gaulle had rallied the defeated nation from England with his stirring call to arms 'La France a perdu une bataille, mais la France n'a pas perdu la guerre' - a battle is lost but not the war! My assigned unit - which I don't think was actually named - was allocated the Curtiss Hawk (French designation H75C1). This was one of several US planes the French purchasing commission had obtained from America just before war broke out. The swift German victories in the west tend to create the impression of overwhelming Luftwaffe superiority but it was a hard fought battle and the Curtiss Hawk was no pushover. In 'WW2 Fighter Conflict' Alfred Price says ''Although its general performance [like the Hurricane's] fell somewhat below those of the British and German fighters mentioned [spitfire I and Bf109E] the American fighter, with its finely harmonised controls and large mechanical advantage between stick and ailerons, was superior to both of them in its high speed handling'. There are some nice clips of a preserved P-36 in Armée de l'Air colours on the net, including this one on Youtube, where you can soak up the sight and sound of this gutsy little warplane in flight: I was shortly to experience my own first flight in the Curtiss, albeit a virtual one. I kicked off the campaign, and was started early on the morning of 10th May, 1940, the day the German western Blitzkrieg kicked off. As usual with CFS3's dynamic campaign, I was offered a campaign map - which showed the front lines as yet aligned with the national borders - and a drop-down list of alternative missions. The first item was an interception, and I accepted this as more appropriate and possibly more fun that a close support sortie. We were based at Etain-Rouvres in NW France, up near the border with Belgium and Luxembourg, where the main weight of the German offensive would fall. In real life anyway: perhaps not so in this more open-ended and simulated campaign, where our target lay well to the south-east. As usual, I was allocated a flight of eight - this would be effectively a squadron operation, with the player leading in the usual CFS3 style. Here we are, lined up and ready to go in the early morning light. Below that are the orders for the mission. As you can see, I got much the same weather as in my previous Blitzkrieg mission, flown in the German Bf110: cloudy and failrly steady precipitation. Undeterred, I turned on the 'radar'/Tactical Display/TAC, left its range at the maximum of 8 miles, and - bearing in mind this mission was air-to-air - cycled its displayed target type from 'all' to 'aircraft'. In the external view, I checked the movement of all flying controls, started up, and lowered my flaps, one notch. Behind me, my squadron was already started up and good to go. Opening her up, I accelerated down the runway, correcting swing with rudder and a touch of differential braking. My men wasted no time and were quickly roaring after me. The ETO Expansion aircraft generally model wingtip vortices and navigation lights at low airspeed and these were visible as I took off. Soon it was 'gear up' and off we went, leaving the rising sun behind us as we formed up and began the climb for height. The Boche were going to pay for setting foot on the sacred soil of France! Or at least, that was the plan... ...to be continied!
  5. A Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf110 Campaign in the ultimate CFS3 expansion CFS3 - so far anyway - marks a controversial end to the Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator series. In returning from CFS2's Pacific to the European Theatre of Operations, CFS3 had many new features. On the positive side, there was a modest but intriguing range of flyable aircraft, including the 'usual suspects' like the Spitfire, FW190 and P-51 but also medium bombers like the Ju-88 and B-25 Mitchell and some late-war prototypes like the Dornier 335 'push-pull' heavy fighter and the P-80 and Vampire jets. There were 'autogen' scenery objects to populate the terrain; and most of the ETO was covered, in a single 'map'. Less positively, graphics were questionable, with many rather poor cockpits and odd, mostly unrealistic coloured bands and other markings the player could apply to personalise his flight. Wingman commands were still the same limited set from CFS2, with no ground control interaction, a major gap. AI, damage models and flight models were dubious. Wingman radio traffic sounded canned and cheesy. And while there was a dynamic campaign at last, it was a rather odd beast, a sort of parallel universe 1942-45 ETO where the Germans could have invaded England and their shipping plied the English Channel in daylight. But at least CFS3 covered the ETO, and while the air-to-air experience wasn't great (and completely left out battles with the heavy bombers) it made a passable job of simulating its declared subject: tactical fighter-bomber and medium bomber operations in the latter part of WW2 in Europe. For those of us whose fancy wasn't really caught by the Eastern Front, it was worth playing. Especially as the modders got to work, with groups like the Ground Crew and the AVHistory team developing many new planes. Commercial add-ons helped too; Firepower was widely praised, my other favourites being D-Day and Just Flight's Memphis Belle. Nowadays, much of the modder's good work on CFS3 is available as a great package, under the title of the ETO Expansion. Others are still around, including Mediterranean Air War (MAW) and a Pacific Expansion. This mission report features the ETO expansion, which adds a real host of aircraft starting with those from the Spanish Civil War, along with much-improved airbases, scenery, ground and aircraft textures, period menu music and improved effects. Details of the package and download links are available here: http://www.mrjmaint.com/CFS3/ETOHome.html Installation is fairly complicated and involves creating a second CFS3 install; but there is an excellent .pdf guide which takes you through the process step by step and is pretty foolproof if followed. The job's well worth while; it's still CFS3 at its core but on the outside, it's pretty well a whole new animal - CFS3, Jim, but not as we know it. One of ETO Expansion's features is the addition of extra campaigns. You can now start your World War 2 in 1940, either during the 'Phoney War' when the two sides faced off at the Franco-German border immediately after the Polish Campaign; or as I chose, in the Blitzkrieg, when in May 1940 the Germans attacked in the West in one of the most successful and decisive campaigns of the war. Having run the front-end ETO Expansion process which sets up the sim's spawns for this earlier period, I used the ETO Start 'selector' desktop proggie to choose the 1940 era. Pilot and campaign creation was next; both done in conventional CFS3 style. I chose to fly as a Luftwaffe fighter pilot. Unlike European Air War, CFS3 doesn't make it easy for you to fly your plane of choice. You select the role - fighter or bomber - and CFS3 picks the unit and the aircraft. There is a facility to transfer or change planes but it's limited. For this mission, I was allocated to a 'Zerstoerer' (destroyer) unit - as the Luftwaffe called its heavy fighters. Flying the sleek twin-engined Messerschmitt Bf110 and also known as 'Goering's Ironsides', these units were something of an elite. Disillusionment was to follow, when the Battle of Britain ruthlessly spotlighted the limitations of such aircraft in an environment dominated by more agile single-engined fighters. But that was all in the future. This was May 1940, and my Gruppe was about to play its part in the great Blitzkrieg in the west which, in a few weeks, would bring France to her knees and Britain to the verge of defeat. ...to be continued!
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