Heatblur Dev update

Dear All,

Another quarter has passed with blazing speed. To say that it has been an interesting three months is quite the understatement. We hope that you are all keeping safe, healthy, and doing your part in flattening the curve(s). While we’re a remote team and impact on our development has been minimal due to quarantine measures, it’s difficult to avoid any and all impact - especially with family and friends involved, and with one team member already having been ill. Hopefully the Heatblur team will see absolutely minimal disruption to our continued development over the next few months, and we’ll keep you updated if anything should change.

This quarter we’ve been working diligently on getting some big ticket items ready, with the intention to ship them this quarter as well. We’ve ended up somewhat short of our ambitious goals shipping wise, as we’ve fallen slightly behind and tally only a few new features shipped in February and March, together with the usual slew of fixes and changes. For those of you who have not been following along each set of patch notes; here’s the full list of changes from Q1 2020:

  • Added Cage the Bear campaign COOP version, thank you Kaba!
  • Fixed Bone Strike mission for SP and COOP
  • Updated most SP missions to have mission goals enabled
  • Fix for datalink showing missiles
  • Fixed various initialization issues
  • Fix to nozzle logic during engine starts and shutdowns
  • Tweaked damage resistance for engines and wing tanks - direct missile hits will cause more damage
  • Aerodynamic damage improvements - direct missile hits will cause more damage
  • Fix for doubling of trim rate when using a FFB stick (also ignore vJoy as a FFB device)
  • Significantly improved drawcall efficiency of VDI and HUD - may boost FPS on drawcall/CPU constrained systems
  • Added default pilot bindings for the new VKB F-14 stick
  • Reduced audible range of exterior sounds
  • Added new compressor stall sounds.
  • Fixed sound files paths for RWR, KY-28 and Walkman (2.5.6 compatibility)
  • Added lubber line to Whiskey Compass
  • Fixed gaps in weapons selector on pilot’s stick
  • Added RIO white floodlights
  • Added CAP category knob CW/CCW keybindings
  • Multiple low speed and ground effect handling qualities improvements in pitch axis
  • Slightly Increased Stab Power (also in ground effect)
  • Additional MIL and AB thrust tweaks for performance following stores drag improvements
  • Tweaked drag while maneuvering above mach 1.2
  • Reduced landing gear pitch moment
  • Removed glass from collision model
  • Fixed custom cockpit livery not registering (Thanks uboats!)
    18-02-2020
  • Use INS for radar stabilization instead of real-time DCS values
  • Fixed regression in angle limits of radar stabilization that caused contact/track loss in RWS/TWS at large pitch angles.
  • Fixed the transponder panel code ranges: M1 00-73 (5 bit octal), M3 0000-7777 (12bit octal)
  • Fixed regressions caused by SDK mismatch:
  • Fixed trim not working
  • Fixed debriefing window not appearing
  • Fixed AIM-9 SEAM/Lock
  • Mission starting in F10 view
    17-03-2020
  • NEW! Added TID AVIA page (displaying AoA, Vertical velocity, ILS and ACLS), enabling the RIO to closely monitor landing procedures and assist the pilot with pattern work
  • Fix for radar ground stabilization at high roll angles
  • Fix for radar range scale reverting to 200NM during P-SEARCH HCU acquisition in multicrew
  • Fix for RWS contacts on TID timing out too soon in a 1-bar scan
  • Added COMM1_FREQ and COMM2_FREQ params exported to lua scripts for ARC-159 and ARC-182 radios (for example to be used with “cockpit param” in mission editor)
  • Fix for AB lighting at too high of a throttle position
  • Improvements to pilot stick travel animation
  • Added afterburner markers on controls indicator
  • Removed debug carrier glideslope on controls indicator
  • Added FFB trim checkbox option for more realistic trim operation feel while using a FFB joystick (works if ANY non-vJoy FFB device is detected!)
  • More realistic FFB travel with trim actuator movement
  • Adjusted compressor stall spool dynamics
  • Fine tuning of pitch axis handling qualities
    More importantly, however, is of course what is to come and will be shipping in the near future.

The team is focused on launching two major features in the short term; The Forrestal class carriers and TWS-Auto functionality for the AWG-9.

Forrestal Class Carriers

I have egg on my face. I felt pretty safe in my statement here on hoggit that we’d launch the Forrestal in March; and our plans have revolved around doing a standalone, alpha/beta release here on the forums. This would allow us to gauge feedback and actively develop the carriers before merging them into our live branch and distributing the content through one of the next patches.

Unfortunately, we’ve had to take a few steps backwards with regards to all of our plans. Not only has our schedule slipped somewhat on completing the Forrestal itself; but the recent carrier launch issues and the work needing to be done to support the new Super Carrier module has kept things in flux. This is a frustrating scheduling miss for us as we were hoping to already have this content out late last year; but we’d rather keep things in the oven a little longer and provide a more enjoyable small-carrier experience. It is coming- you paid for it- we’ll deliver.

Another element to this has been the launch of the Super Carrier. We have great respect for our partners at Eagle, and while we don’t believe our Forrestals will cause any issues for the SC (especially since the Forrestal is not designed to have feature parity anyways!) - we still want to respectfully give the SC breathing room in the spotlight; as it is undoubtedly a great investment of time and effort by the ED team and an exciting product.

In the meantime; we’ll focus on getting out a Forrestal focused update to you all in the next week, and we’ll show off our work through some pleasing eye-candy and hopefully launch shortly thereafter (either through a download, or through a patch if the timing works out). In the meantime; our apologies for the missed timeline. This feature is a top priority for us.
TWS-Auto

We’re now very close to launching TWS-A!

Due to the size, complexity and importance of this feature, we will be doing a separate dedicated article on it in the coming few days.

Stay tuned!
F-14A
F-14A work continues as one of our top priorities, outside of the Forrestal, Jester LANTIRN, -B engine gauges, and other big ticket items. Features still in development include;

  • Artwork changes (engine nozzles, engine nacelles, sensors, differing cockpit panels, etc.)
  • P&W TF30 Engines
  • New soundset (and sound overhaul for F-14B!)
  • ALR-45
  • Liveries
    It’s very likely that we will launch the F-14A without all of its features implemented. This is to avoid a longer wait before everything is perfectly in place. We’ll try to keep the number of frankensteined elements to a minimum, however.


WiP TF-30 Nozzle

One of the biggest items on the agenda for the F-14A are the P&W TF30 engines. We’ve been busy adapting our engine models to simulate the TF-30. We’re pleased to announce that the TF30 equipped F-14A is ready for internal testing! Lets dive in depth on what this means;
F-14A TF30 Engine Development Update
In an attempt to keep things fairly short, the focus will mainly be on major differences between the TF30 and F110, as well as unique TF30 systems and characteristics. If you’d like to read more about turbofan engine components and their modeling, go here and here.

The F-14A is powered by two Pratt & Whitney TF30-P414A low-bypass turbofan engines with afterburner for thrust augmentation. The TF30 was originally developed by Pratt & Whitney in the early 60s for the cancelled F6D Missileer. An afterburner section was then added for its use on the product of the TFX program; the F-111. The Navy wasn’t satisfied with their version, the F-111B, and decided to go with a new design from Grumman Aerospace. To save cost and time, it was decided to re-use the engine from the TFX program and then upgrade the fleet with improved, higher-thrust engines later. This new design resulted in the F-14A, which entered service in 1974. The US Navy received 478 F-14A airframes and Iran received 79. It was 1986 by the time the higher thrust, F110-powered F-14B showed up, and in much smaller numbers than the F-14A.

Let’s get into the details of major features that differentiate the TF30’s operation from the F110:

  • Afterburner
    The operation of the afterburner on the TF30 is similar to the F110 with the exception of the fuel control, which is divided into five “zones”. You can think of zones as a discrete state of the afterburner fuel control. Each zone lights progressively, increasing thrust as AB fuel flow increases with each zone. Because of this, it may take 8-10 seconds to go from idle all the way to Zone 5 afterburner. Check out a couple videos of the AB stages lighting here and here. If an AB blowout occurs, the AB fuel controller must be reset before attempting an AB re-light by taking the throttles out of AB range. The nozzle generally opens more at higher AB stages, but it may fluctuate to control turbine pressure ratio.
  • Fuel Control System
    The fuel control is a hydromechanical unit with limited engine protection functionality. There is no digital engine control like a FADEC or AFTC to fully protect the engine from damage. A TIT limiter assists in preventing temperature excursions and has an authority equivalent to 2% RPM.
  • Mach Lever
    The Mach Lever is similar to the idle lockup protection feature on the F110. It limits engine RPM based on mach number to reduce supersonic inlet buzz (which can lead to compressor stalls) and control engine airflow. It also increases engine idle speed in high AOA flight to increase compressor stability margins.
  • Mid Compression Bypass
    In order to reduce pressure distortions at the compressor face, a bypass system ports air from the low pressure compressor into the fan bypass duct. This increases the quality of the air downstream and greatly reduces the chance of a compressor stall. However, it comes at a cost of about 3000 lbf (13344 N) of thrust per engine when active. It is activated in several scenarios where you likely need thrust the most; Zone 5 AB while the gear handle is down (takeoffs, wave-offs, and bolters), High AOA flight, and when large rudder commands are being applied. It also activates during gun firing and aerial refueling operations to reduce the chance of stall from ingesting gun gas or jet wash.

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It’s easy to see that the TF30 has many subsystems that attempt to reduce the possibility of compressor stalls. That’s because the TF30s developed a reputation for issues, primarily compressor stalls at inopportune moments. However with some throttle and aviating discipline, they can be avoided. For what it’s worth, our primary pilot SME only had one stall in his entire Tomcat career, and he admits that it was caused by an erroneous throttle movement while at zero airspeed.

And with that, here’s a glimpse into the Tomcat dev world. This is a WIP version of a TF30 engine start with some of our debug tools running. The second is a takeoff to show the AB staging and spool-up times. Anything seen in these videos is subject to change and may not represent the final product.

F-14A TF30 Startup

F-14A TF30 Zone 5 Take-Off
Looking ahead, the TF30 subsystems will be wrapped up soon, along with engine performance tuning and testing.
We expect this to happen in the near future along with completion of the TF30 nozzle.

We don’t want to give a hard date on the F-14A but we hope (barring any major setbacks) to have an EA version out within the next couple DCS open beta cycles.
A more basic compressor stall model will ship with the EA release and it will be enhanced in subsequent updates.

There will likely be another mini update regarding compressor stalls once they are complete.
Future of the DCS: F-14

It’s important for us to note that we remain committed to a long and rich level of support for the F-14, as well as the inclusion of many new features and improvements yet to come. Just to get some perspective on our roadmap; here’s a non exhaustive list of what we’re planning to tackle in the near and medium term future:

  • TWS Auto
  • Jester LANTIRN (Voice + Functionality + Including input overhauls)
  • A-6E & KA-6 AI
  • TARPS (Limited Feature)
  • Two Campaigns
  • Forrestal Class Carriers
  • Significant sound improvements
  • New pilot models for cockpit
  • Keybinding improvements
  • Jester additions and improvements
  • F-14B Digital EIG
  • Various corrections -B vis a vis -A
  • Improved Trap Model / Dynamics
  • New Afterburner VFX
  • AIM-54 Phoenix issues
  • Yaw String
  • New compressor stall effects and animations
  • Completion of fire suppression systems
  • Add progressive fire damage
  • Jamming additions
  • LAU-7 Art corrections
  • LAU-138
  • MAK-79 bombclamp corrections
  • cockpit panels:
  • Various cockpit artwork corrections
  • Addition of IFF interrogator panel
  • Wheel Chocks
  • Missing Oxygen gauge
  • F-14A , including:

P&W TF30 engine model
MACH LEV position on Pilot’s master test panel
Aerodynamic fairing (bullet) cover for TCS
New liveries
ALR-45 RWR
Art Changes: Nozzles, panels, etc.
New P&W TF30 Soundset

  • …and more.

Stick with us and believe in us - we’re not going anywhere, and we will deliver on what we set out to do 4 years ago.

That’s it for this update; stay tuned for the article on the TWS-A in the next few days and another development update on the Forrestal class next week.

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HeatBlur is indeed a very impressive developer.

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That is a lot of detail in that update. Glad to see it and it gives me confidence in the future of Heatblur! :slight_smile:

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:relieved:

I like the way they think :

Oooh. While I like the handling in the groove of the Tomcat better than the Hornet, I always was a little disappointed about the trap behaviour.

In the Bug you can hook skip bolter while in the Turkey it’s a “safe” taxi 1 wire.

Looking forward to that. I’m also getting excited about the -A.

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Heatblur has posted about TWS-Auto:

https://forums.eagle.ru/showthread.php?t=268561

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That is some in depth info there.
I flew a bit as RIO and pilot in MP this weekend and realized I’m a decent pilot but a LOUSY RIO. I need a lot more backseat practice!

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Just a general question on the f-14 since you put time ion this weekend with her. Do you find the Flight Controls a bit more sensitive with the f-14 , than say some of the other DCS Modules you might have.

I ask , as I do, and am working diligently on finding a Curve and dead zone setting that suits my ham fisted flight skills .

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The mighty turkey can be one finicky bird indeed. I would suggest as little deadzone as possible with your equipment. Be conservative about curve, they can induce a worsening of hamfistedness, as the grey zone between sweet little light touches and BAM stick through the sidewall of the pit gets squeezed out.

I rock a very long stick, almost 50cm from base to the top of the grip. No deadzone, no curves. I rarely ever touch the stops. The tomcat likes a light touch. Also on the rudder. I think the key to flying well in a tomcat is to have a good set of pedals without too much deadzone or curve on 'em.

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Thank you, for the much needed and excellent advice. I recently have been doing so redesigning of the layout in my Game / Office room and the way I have all my equipment set up in here, and am struggling to find a comfort zone now, as to how to place my long in the tooth, but still going strong X 52 I prefer to use.

I am now struggling , due to this, with finding a sweet spot for my HOTAS that offer comfort, and placement for it, and this has in turn led to me be far to heavy handed as I apply input to my X 52. A now unfamiliar feeling has seriously, and a little unexpectedly, made my old friend the X 52 seem like something i have never used before, and causing me to have to think more about where my hands or arms are located and which button or dial does what. Overall just really thrown me for loop. I am thinking a set of Monster Tech mounts are in my near Future.

The X 52, while now a bit dated , is still working well, and something that I am used tro, but it too, will be in need of a replacement in the next 12 months I am guessing. The Monstertech mounts give a lot of flexibility for any Future choice on the HOTAS I make.

I had been using adjustable height Club speaker stands as they are hvy enough to do the job, and allow me to situate myself and chair as I need with very little worry as to my HOTAS placement , since they can easily be moved.

They have served me well, but when the time comes and a I drop a few hundred or more dollars on a new \Stick and throttle , the Monstertech mounts will be easy to adapt.

Cheers !

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There is no doubt that almost every plane in DCS handles differently from every other one, and the Tomcat is no outlier in that regard. Due to my large amount of time in the Hornet in the last year, I keep mistakenly trying to fly the Tom like that and have it fail miserably.

Of course, this is why actual military pilots don’t hop around from plane to plane. They are current, then they convert, they don’t jump squadrons every other day!

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I completely agree there, I personally, need to decide to put my divided efforts among the F-18 , F-14 and Viggen , into one of them only , and at least learn it.

Fly by wire Aircraft, have a far different feel that a 60s era tech F-14 does for sure. Still , and its probably just me along with my recent repositioning of my HOTAS and Office / Game Room furniture and all , it feels a bit more touchy , than what I expected from it, but again so many factors involved between new plane, fly by wire, desk and hotas positions moved in my room , its most likely all of the above in some very small way exponentially piling up to my perception of this.

Hadn’t thought about it much but, yeah, that’s kinda what I like about DCS. Been concentrating on the Hornet lately and I noted how different it is in the pattern (Overhead/closed traffic, etc) to the Viper; have to fly these in a different manner. Cool.

Heard ,anecdotally, that DCS had some of the best flight model code in the industry (which is small for sure, but…). The Tomcat and Hornet are a blast in VR with my Bass Shaker setup; I can feel them when on/near the edge.

The fly by wire machines are child’s play compared to the tomcat with regards to stick 'n rudder work.

Fly it carefully and attentively. Use rudder to roll when at high AoA. Listen to the machine, it speaks to it’s pilot.

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Yes, and often it says “YOU IDIOT WHAT ARE YOU DOING WE ARE GOING TO CRASH STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT.”

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Heh, to me it says: “wheee! Round the bend we go! Easy there pilot boy, easy”

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Yea…I put it in a Flat Spin…I’m that guy :slight_smile:

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The flat spin was perplexing to me because I saw everyone, even @Wes able to get into a flat spin, but no matter how hard I tried, I could never get it into one. I was only able to directly get it into a flat spin by intentionally shutting one engine off.

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I don’t recall what I did precisely, some of them were done with differential thrust to initiate but not all.

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