DCS World F15C Guide

Flight simulators are serious business. I mean this in every sense of the word since not only has 2014 seen a resurgence of the Flight Simulator genre in general (Flight Simulator X and X-Plane are selling plenty of copies, among others) but each true flight sim is an experience that lies far beyond the reach of any pick-up-and-play flight game. DCS World is one of the most serious of all the flight simulators, though not through lack of sense of humour but through sheer depth of technique and fidelity to the aircraft it allows you to pilot.

So serious is the F-15C Module in fact that I've felt the need to compile a guide - aimed mainly at beginners but not exclusively - to the workings of what I feel to be the greatest combat-centric flight sim in the world today. Continue Reading

Starting Out

Loading up the F-15C Module can actually leave one quite overwhelmed before you even select any one of the many game modes, of which there are many. I won't cover the mission editor or campaign builder in any substantial detail as these are more for the advanced flight sim fanatic - you will be better off learning how to get the F-15C in the air and rack up a good set of flight time hours before you even think of tweaking about with the parameters of the missions you'll be entering into. plus the F-15C module has plenty of content in the form of Fast Missions and full-length missions/campaign to be getting on with.

The best thing you can do to set yourself on a solid foundation with the F-15 Module is to first check out the F-15C Flight Manual over at the official Steam website. This details every single aspect of the aircraft itself including the history and background of it as well as explaining each individual piece of kit contained in the cockpit. The tips below effectively serve to highlight the things that beginners need to know that will allow them to get the plane in the air and perform basic flight operations/actions.  I feel this kind of written guide is necessary due to the unfortunate lack of play-through tutorials or even embedded videos in the F-15C standalone module.

The Cockpit - Essential Instruments

Ok, veterans of flight simulators look away now because you already know how complex the instruments of any fighter jet are; beginner players however may be a little overwhelmed at the cockpit view because, well, there are dozens of instruments, dials, switches, and knobs to press. It's ok however: if you've got your settings set to 'Game' rather than 'Simulation' (this is highly recommended for beginners), you're only going to need to pay attention to a relatively small number of instruments/functions compared to playing the game on the ""Simulation"" difficulty/

Remember that the F-15C has a professional flight model, making unassisted flying extremely difficult for beginners. With 'Game' settings enabled in the options menu however, you will be less reliant on the various screens inside the aircraft and will be able to instead pay attention to the following to make life a lot easier.

The HUD -This is your bread and butter when manoeuvring the aircraft. The 'W' datum in the centre represents your plane whilst the circular velocity vector shows your flight path. When manoeuvring you must pay attention to your current heading which is indicated by the inverted caret that moves along the scale at the top (the numbers represent degrees).The scale along the left represents your speed and the one on the right your altitude. Also, pay attention to the G-force scale in the bottom left. Lastly, see that cross on the screen? That is aligned with the aircraft's gun.

Note that information on the HUD will change according to context - it has several modes, some of which are for advanced players only. Navigation mode will see the display indicate waypoints and other relevant data about your flight path; Instrument Landing System Navigation will display information that assists in landing; Gunnery Modes vary from Gun Director Sight to Air-to-Air missile modes. It would be silly to list all the modes here as they appear in the aforementioned flight manual, but it's best to be aware of the potential of the HUD to assist you in your flight.

Game Avionics Mode Radar Display -This is a radar that appears in the top right-hand corner of the screen when you have game avionics mode turned on (which you should if you're just starting out unless you truly want an authentic and with it a frustratingly difficult experience) and when you're in third-person mode.

This radar displays the current mode the aircraft is in with a choice between NAV (Navigation Mode, activated with the 1 key), A2A (air to air, activated with the keys 2, 4, or 6) or A2G (air to ground, activated with the 7 key).

Taxi and Take-Off Tips

Takeoff

Getting the aircraft to the runway will be your first challenge (unless you choose Instant Action mode and begin a mission that starts off with you having already taken off); this procedure is referred to as taxiing. The following steps should help you get the plane ready for takeoff (note all control assignments are the default setting in the F-15C module of DCS World):

  1. Close Canopy by pressing Left Ctrl + C
  2. Turn on the power by clicking Right Shift + L
  3. Turn on the engines by pressing Right Alt + Home followed by Right Ctrl + Home
  4. You should be able to move the aircraft by increasing the throttle steadily (+/- buttons on the numerical pad or the slider if you happen to have a joystick controller with all of the trimmings).
  5. Simply guide the plane with the Z and X keys to steer (Z makes the plane turn left while the X button straightens out the plane/makes it run in the opposite direction). Do this gently however and keep your speed at a reasonable level to avoid toppling.
  6. For take-off, ensure you're fairly central on the runway and ramp up your throttle to full (you can take off with less power but this works just as well). Make sure you pull back on the joystick (Up/Down arrows on the keyboard or of course natural movement with your joystick peripheral if you have one). Remember to raise the gears when airborne by pressing G and raise the flaps by pressing F.

Gently Does it

Remember that if you're experienced with the base DCS World game and therefore familiar with the Su-25T aircraft you may be surprised to find that the F-15C cannot be treated as roughly as its Soviet-made compatriot, particularly in the taxi phase. While you could perform sharp turns with the Su-25T without encountering any problems, the physics in the F-15C module have much higher fidelity to reality - turning too quickly will cause the aircraft to wobble and even topple over resulting in you having to restart your mission before it's had a chance to even begin.  

General Flight Tips

Once airborne, you will find that you have a little less to think about than when taxiing/taking off as you are in a stable situation in the air and are also being helped by the Game Avionics Mode/Game Flight Mode.

When navigating you can use the HUD and/or the radar display in the top-left corner but also pay attention to the compass panels in the centre of the cockpit a short way down from your HUD display.

Sudden moves with the throttle and sudden yanks of the joystick will certainly make it difficult to keep control of the plane - make sure you use gentle motions to increase/decrease throttle and when moving the joystick around. It helps to have auto-rudder and Game Avionics/Game Flight Mode on.

Combat Tips

When encountering targets, you'll be utilising the circular radar display on the right of the cockpit - this is the Tactical Electronic Warfare System (TEWS) unit. Targets appear on this radar and this allows you to lock on to targets to use your air-to-air missiles.

Radar in Combat

Pay attention to the VSD (vertical situation display) as this allows you to view the situation in the front of the aircraft, facilitating the locking on of targets and the selection between them if you're anticipating multiples. You can lock onto targets within a ten nautical mile range if you use Bore Mode (the 4 key).

Don't forget that you're playing a simulation here - it's not going to be non-stop dogfights (unless you're in multiplayer mode of course) and near-misses - this isn't Vega Strike remember!

Landing Tips

Landing is an extremelygradual process that requires you to approach the runway at a very shallow and steady angle. I recommend that as you approach the landing strip you should begin at around 180-200 knots and gradually decrease your speed by controlling the throttle. By the time you touch down you'll want to be travelling at around 150 knots or slightly less in order to avoid damaging the landing gear when you touch down. Remember speeds may vary depending on whether your F-15C is carrying weapons or not - it's all weight dependant.

Landing

Try to keep your angle of approach at around 10 degrees (check the HUD display I mentioned earlier). All the information you need to land properly is displayed on the HUD.

Always remember to deploy the landing gear and flaps as you're descending as well - it helps if you have a tyre to set down on and some resistance to slow you down!

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