It's natural to struggle with the hyper-realistic nature of DCS World's flight simulation. Any flight simulator is difficult to master as their purpose is to thrust as much of a pilot's responsibilities on you as possible. So when you hop in the cockpit of the F-86F Sabre - a jet that had its prime in the middle of the 20th century - you're going to be under quite a bit more pressure from the lack of modern-day luxuries present in fighter jets produced more recently in history. As a beginner you may need some tips to point you in the right direction when getting the Sabre to fly, so I've written up a few of these pointers in a convenient and (hopefully) helpful article.
DCS F86F Sabre Tips - Some pointers and observations to see you through to the skies and back again
Old-School, Difficult. It's Old-School Difficult
Let us be honest here: DCS World is an incredible digital combat simulator that has some seriously impressive aircraft that run on some of the most detailed and realistic flight models you'll ever see in a non-real-life situation. With this complexity however comes an extremely shallow learning curve, simply because of the sheer depth of knowledge and skill required is extremely similar to that of an actual pilot.
The above has never been more true than of the F-86F Sabre module. Not only is this module based on a professional flight module (the most realistic and skill-intensive level of flight module), but the plane is old-school, as in mid-20th century kind of old-school. For these reasons I've compiled some handy tips for preparing the Sabre for flight, getting it in the air, and general pointers that I wish I'd have been privy to when struggling to get the damned aircraft across to the runway and into the air.
The F-86F Sabre in Brief
I won't bore you with the heavy details about the role that the Sabre played in military-aviation history, but it's always nice to know what kind of plane you're dealing with anyhow. If you are perhaps somehow not aware of its background, the F-86F Sabre is aircraft of American origin that was first introduced in the mid 20th century.
It is a single-engine, swept-wing jet fighter that is capable of travelling at transonic speeds. It has 6 Colt-Browning Machine Guns as well as the ability to drop unguided bombs and fire unguided missiles. Sure, its weapons don't sound as devastating as the ones you'll find on the likes of the Boeing F-22 Raptor or other fifth-generation jet fighters, but that's because it's a plane that's almost 50 years old that used to tangle with Soviet MiG-15s over Korean skies. And it's still an incredible aircraft to this date and is brought to you in substantial detail in this DCS World module.
Starting It Up
DCS World isn't a flying game. Though it is most definitely a fun experience, it's simply not meant to be a pick-up-and-play piece of software because a) it's a simulation and has the learning curve of one and b) if it was something you could learn almost instantly, then everyone would be a pilot. For these reasons, you can't just fire up the engines with the stroke of a key and blast off into the sky: you have to start up the plane by following the same procedure a real-life pilot would go through in a real-life F-86F, and the procedure for doing so in this simulation you'll find in the steps below.
Side Note: We're dealing with a three-dimensional, interactive cockpit here (you can have a glimpse at the beautiful cockpit in the screenshot situated directly below), meaning that instead of utilising a large number of keyboard commands to control the instruments in the cockpit, you must activate/interact with them directly using the mouse. On the one hand this makes it a much more realistic experience but it's a double edged sword: this makes it considerably more difficult to fly.
- Contact ground crew to initiate electrical power by pressing the [\] key to access the radio menu, F8 to select the ground crew, F2 to select to turn on the ground electric power followed by the F1 key to denote an "on" condition. If done correctly you'll see some of the dials and gauges in the cockpit begin to activate.
- Make sure the throttle is set to off position by pressing the [End key and] then use the mouse to flip the engine master switch on the engine panel that's to the right of the cockpit near the three red switch covers situated in a triangle-like formation (see above picture for reference). Then hold on the starter switch for a moment (the switch directly below the engine master switch) and flick it down to switch over to battery. The engine should now begin to spool up.
- The next step is to increase the throttle once you're around 3% on the RPG gauge (most easily done by pressing the [Home] key but you can also use the mouse if you wish), adjusting the throttle to idle when at 6%. 30% at an idle state is what the Sabre should be at in terms of RPM, at which point you can follow step 1 to contact the ground crew again in order to request that the ground power be switched off.
- Never forget the all-important closing of the canopy by pressing [Left Ctrl] + C and the closing of the speed brakes with the [B] key. Flaps must also be lowered by pressing the F key.
The above startup procedures now out of the way, it's ok to go ahead and taxi the plane to the runway. Though this is largely self-explanatory, there is a difference between this plane and most of the modern jets when it comes to taxiing the plane: the F-86F has independent nose wheel steering that must be activated by holding down the [S] key. Use this in addition to steering with the rudders ([Z] and [X] keys) in order to perform tighter turns on the runway and avoid going off in completely the wrong direction. Your taxi speed should be reasonable as well - going too fast will cause you to simply lose control.
Unlike in the modern jet fighters in the DCS World collection, the flaps of the F-86F can be controlled manually. Now, this doesn't matter as much when you going to take off (you can simply press the [F] key to lower them to prime take-off position and then click on the flap lever to pop it in the hold position), but you're probably going to need to adjust your flaps when you're airborne - this is done with the flap lever located to the right of the throttle.
Final Checks Before Take Off
Told you this simulation was detailed, didn't I? Once you're on the runway it's best to try and perform some simple checks that ensure you're definitely ready to fire up the throttle and slowly lift yourself off the ground. These are: ensuring the Pitot Heater is on (the left-most switch in the cockpit that's almost hidden away by the extreme edge of the enclosure), ensuring the Anti-ice and Screen is extended, and Oxygen is on and normal.
Finally, before taking off you'll want to adjust the trim so you're in take-off position which is achieved by using the trim switch on the stick and pulling back on the stick until the take-off trim light on the top of the instrument panel lights up. Finally (if you haven't done it already), close the canopy.
Though many people have their own particular parameters for take-off, there are a few rough constants that ought to be followed if you're to get the plane into the air as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Your goal is to essentially lift the nose wheel off the tarmac first and when your speed has increased slightly you must then allow the rest of the plane to touch off the ground once you reach airplane liftoff speed.
To achieve a smooth take-off you must be travelling at around 100 Kias when you gently pull back on the stick to lift the nose wheel off the ground. Only when you reach 115 Kias should you then pull back again in order to lift the rest of the plane off the ground.
Once you've achieved a positive climb (aka going up) then you should pop the landing gear up by pressing the [G] key ( this is no time to be swerving your view downwards to do this manually with the mouse). You can move your flaps to the UP position once you reach around 160 Kias.
Much like with take-off, everyone has slightly different things to say about the procedure but yet again there are some constants that can be followed quite literally when landing - these apply to an unloaded aircraft and do not take into account a change in the weight of your plane as a result of weapons unloading and the resulting change in weight distribution.
Now, landing with the F-86F is somewhat different since the recommended procedure is not to approach gradually in a straight line but rather in a spiral motion , descending as you travel downwards to the left and coming back on yourself to be in line with the runway once more.
You're looking to lower your landing gear and flaps when you reach an air speed of around 185 Kias or slightly lower.
Note in the above screenshot that the landing strip is in the background as you're entering into the downwind portion of the landing - 170 or so Kias is an ideal speed at this point, lowering to 160 before the straight portion of the approach.
Once you're in line with the runway, you can slow to 145 Kias but this is where the plane shows its limitations in the form of a very slow engine response. The technique here is to pop the throttle to idle once you pass the threshold of the runway and definitely keep your air brake open during the approach since this allows you to approach at a slower speed whilst maintaining a sufficient RPM with the engine as to avoid stalling. 120 Kias is perfect as you approach the runway nose-up.
As you touch down, it is best to put the flaps up straight away before you even think about applying the wheel brakes.
Flying the F-86F is a much different experience to aircraft like the F-15C or Su-27 Flanker in that there are less automated systems that you can rely on when it comes to controlling the aircraft (also blame the Professional Flight Model for this). One of the most prominent alterations you should make to your expectations comes in the form of simply keeping the Sabre level during flight: this requires a fair amount of trimming. Expect to be trimming very frequently so you're not flying at a nose-down attitude the whole of the time.
High altitude isn't a friend of the Sabre, so make sure you know what you're doing if you decide you want to climb to around 27000-28000 feet. At this altitude the plane becomes much more difficult to control and less forgiving in pretty much every sense. Conversely, try rolling at extremely low altitudes and you're just as likely to lose control and fall out of the sky.
When performing manoeuvres with the Sabre, make sure that you're being firm yet gradual with your stick movements since this plane is very tough when it comes to going into G-lock. You can black out almost immediately if you're being sharp with your stick movements. Just remember this isn't World of Warplanes where you can manoeuvre in a care-free environment - the Sabre will punish you if you're not considerate with your stick control.