My fellow pilots,
What a great year! I have been having a lot of fun lately in DCS. Truth is this sim has made me stop “playing” and start flying. It is very challenging but very satisfying. So my approach is that I am in flight school. I tell myself, "How do you expect to fight in this thing until you learn to get the basics?"
In other words, If real pilots take months and years to get proficient, don’t expect to fly a DCS module with proficiency in a day. The reason I am writing this is because I see many new people come into sims, they play a little, get frustrated and leave. So, Bottom Line Up Front: If you want to learn DCS it takes dedication, time and patience. A notepad, printer and tablet will help too. Give yourself a couple of weeks just to get in the zone. If you have ever had to work hard to get something you really wanted, then you already know that the rewards are well worth the investment. We are going to Crawl, Walk then RUN. Come along for the ride of your life!
Remember the objects of Any Mission are: Navigate to the Objective, Lay steel on target, Come Home in One Piece, This last one is the first one we needed to get right. However, in order to get Home, we had to take off. In the F-86 and Migs this means learning to steer the beast first. Then we need to take off and lastly we need to know hot to get home.
We are in the Crawl stage of the "Crawl, Walk, Run Cycle"
Basic training begins: The Instructor grabs you by the collar and yells:
"How can I expect you to put warheads on foreheads when you cant even get off my airfield! If you did, you would only end up as a smoking hole in the side of a mountain."
So here is the regime:
Week One and Two.
Touch and go patterns until you get take off and landings decent. You may deem this boring by definition but it is anything but. The lessons here are many. Obvious ones are take off and land but while doing patterns you can learn how to use that compass, NPP, KPP, ADI, ARC, PRMG and throw in a little ILS. A second screen(ipad Tab4 ect.) helps you display the manual or just print it. But before we get to that, do a couple of touch and go. Learn to use the stabilization, auto pilot(if any) and manage the workload. Yes, you will be busier than an elf at Christmas. Only practice will make you learn to manage this. When you get to land, go to the end of the runway and turn off. Go around the base to the threshold where you just landed and take off again. Its a long ways and the Taxi practice is invaluable. It will give you the confidence to move quickly and efficiently. In the F-86 I use the slider on the X-55 to lock/unlock the front wheels. Its easier than having to hold down a button for a long time. With the front wheels locked and once you get rolling, rudder authority can get you steered back on centerline provided we are going fast enough. Yes, it steers a bit with the wheels locked. This last point has made take off and taxi so much easier. The Migs are just a combination of brake and turn at the same time. Rudder pedals help…A LOT. But a twisty joy is doable. No matter what your setup, only one thing will make you good, PRACTICE. After two weeks of this, now we are Crawling.
Thinking I was up to snuff I put two wing tanks on.(F-86) Upon landing I hit hard enough to collapse the front gear and slid on my nose with my ass up in the air for a 150 meters… Ah, The Shame… “Back to Basics You Maggot!” Yells our leather faced PI and we blow snot bubbles all the way to our cot. The next morning I had kitchen duty. Not a coincidence.
Week Three and Four
Navigation. Here is a lesson, if you are ever faced with doing something hard, do something harder. Then the first thing will seem easy. The “box pattern” lesson in Mig-21 manual has thought me A Lot. I use it on every plane with a compass. Meaning, I use it all the time now. No matter what you are flying, Take off, do a 90 degree turn after take off, then another and the runway is now on your side. We are flying 180 degrees from take off and moving away from the runway for two more turns. Then we are ready for a touch and go or land. The compass has finally become your friend. Learn to add and subtract 90 and 180 degrees from your course. Its easy. Just look at it before you turn. While you are doing this, read Navigation Chapter of the Mig-21 Manual. Then incorporate PRMG (Radio Navigation) into your touch and go routine. As the days went by, I noticed my “Box” was getting bigger and bigger without the fear of getting lost. Assigning keys to my NPP became essential. When we learn to take off and get home we are now Walking. Pat yourself in the back. Only weeks into it you are learning to get around. “Maybe I should plan a tour of the Caucasus” My instructor laughs.
Week Five. Welcome to Ground Attack.
The difference between Running and Walking is the confidence in how we move.
Now that you can take off, get to the objective and get home we are ready for an Objective. Train like the Air Force does. I know you think “What a boring mission that must be”. But this was how men learned to ground attack. Easy lesson: Get Up, Fly to Objective, Drop Steel, Get Home. Why? because all well laid plans fall to pieces when bullets start flying. In other words, when combat starts this is not the time to learn stuff. By then everything should come automatic to you. So here we go.
As I said, the Box lesson will help us when we are ready for ground attack runs too. Put some targets close to your base.(Not too close, we want to navigate) The lesson here is “Attack the target and get home” When doing air to ground I look at the compass approaching the target. After a Run subtract or add 180 degrees and I am back on target. Want to approach the target from a different angle? No problem, small box pattern. Before a mission always remember where you are going. i.e. “I’m going northeast 43 degrees to target X.” And how to get home: “If I get in trouble I will head 223 degrees to home base”. Or even more simple. “Fly southwest, at ridgeline turn south 180 degrees, find airfield” Use a combination of terrain and compass to find your way. Think like real pilots and write things down. Keep a pad on your desk. It helps to know the NBD channel to your Base. When things go pear shape you don’t want to have to look for information. Thus was born the knee pad. "My knee pad"
in real life is my extra monitor and a pad and pen I keep on my desk. Learn to fly in drop bombs, rockets, gun runs and not crash. After a few ground attack sorties prove to be successful then you have learned to Run. After getting out of the aircraft on base, the Major slaps me on the back and says “Good Job”. I know he means “for not getting killed”.
Now, when all this Navigate, Shoot and Return business has become easy and automatic, you have entered the Run Phase. I will let you know when I get close to that… just give me some time.
For a little inspiration and just to see how “not easy” all this stuff is, try reading
"When the Thunder Rolled" or “Clashes”
I want to leave the readers with a thought. In 1961-64 the Swedish Air Force deployed to Congo. Here are these northern euros going into the heat. Can you imagine how much preparation and time they took to get acclimated, learn the terrain and learn to navigate? Just food for thought.
Train, train and don’t forget to have fun.