Tomcat Navigation

Trying to learn the tomcat, Finally. Its a steep hill.

One thing I am noticing though is the HUD is primitive to say the least.

I get the feeling that the cat is more of a heads down navigation then an 18 or 15. Unless I am doing something wrong, the HUD shows no indication of where I should be going.

Also Autopilot seems a bit odd, I can never get it to hold a stead Alt.

Indeed. About the only actually use I get from the Tomcat HUD is in gunning down bandits.


I only have three uses for the Tomcat HUD: combat, VVI, and AoA bracket.

For navigation it’s the HSI and VDI only I’m afraid. Or compass for TACAN.

I haven’t tried altitude-only autopilot, but engaging the ALT hold, HDG hold (or GT hold), then AP switch, then press the NWS button and it holds well for me. You have to already be more or less level and steady before you engage it, though.


Yeah, I rely on my RIO to tell me where to go. I’m just the bus driver :joy:

But as @schurem and @Clutch said, navigation is very hands on and relies on the HSD, VDI, TACAN and Waypoints. The HUD is just a glorified gunsight with a pretty decent VVI (in take off and landing mode). The velocity vector of the HUD is pretty useless. Do not rely on it.

You can also see the waypoints when you switch the HSD over to the TID. It’s much easier to navigate when you have a competent RIO instead of having to micro manage Jester to do stuff for you.


The HUD in the Tomcat is not the same type of HUD as we’re used to in more modern fighters. There’s no reflector, for one, and more importantly, the horizon line does not sit on the actual horizon most of the time. The horizon ladder is adjustable vertically (and the first thing I do after cleaning up or leveling off) just like a traditional Attitude indicator, and the velocity vector is relative to the HUD horizon, not the physical horizon outside the cockpit. It also has a bit of lag, which is debatable as to how it reflects the real life HUD. Some videos I’ve seen make it appear to be less than in DCS, while some actually appear to be worse!

If you treat it like a traditional attitude indicator that happens to be see-through, it works fine. If you try use it as a modern HUD, you’re gonna have a bad time.

It’s been a long time since I’ve flown the Tomcat, but isn’t there a way to display TACAN (if not steerpoint) bearing line or steer cue on it? I seem to recall there was, in the proper mode… I’m certain you could have the ILS needles up too, right?

The Turkey definitely rewards a good instrument scan.


Yes, TACAN and AWL/PCD (?) have HUD indicators, a heading tape and are very much usable. The flight director is really not reliable enough though

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Heard a RL Tomcat driver say something like, “HUD cripples” (referring to Hornet people). When I jump back into the 'Cat after weeks in the Viper/Hornet/Harrier - I get it, he’s talking about ME! Back to flying a 1960’s Bonanza, that can go Mach 2+.

I’m expecting the Phantom-driver experience to be very similar. Can’t wait.


That’s one reason why I’ve been flying the Kitty lately. Want to get my panel scan chops back before we get the Phantom and the Hun.


I am absolutely a HUD cripple. To the point that I regularly “fail” my HUD in the Hornet to force myself to fly without it (HSI on left DDI, ADI on right and I can make it happen). Now, I’m also nerdy enough to deliberately fail things every other week or so just to force myself to deal with them.

In the Tomcat, it’s debatable to me whether landing is easier without having the distraction of the HUD. I will try the suggestion above to treat it like an attitude indicator, that makes a lot of sense.


I can sympathize with the HUD cripple, but I feel with 2D screens and flight sims it’s almost guaranteed to happen. We don’t get that butt-feel, and the FOV of a rectangular screen often feels like flying through scuba goggles. I couldn’t fly the Tomcat or any of the other HUD-less aircraft well until I got VR, the sole reason being the enhanced peripheral vision allowing me to see outside the cockpit while simulatanously having some primary instruments within view.


I’m glad I wasn’t the only one :slight_smile:

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After flying the Tomcat for a while, I jumped back into the Mirage 2000C to do some tests. I couldn’t find the airspeed gauge, and it was driving me crazy. Then I realized I just had to look at the HUD! :rofl:

VR “frees up” my eyes head - not fixed to a cone-shaped area in front of me; even in TrackIR, while I can turn my head, a little, my eyes are still looking forward-ish (out the side of my head almost, depending). Guess that’s it: in VR I have more sense of movement and spatial awareness?. The depth perception is a biggie of course.

When I play civilian-type sims I’m actually quite content in 2D cus it’s mostly straight and level and all
about navigation, systems, and procedures (shooting approaches for instance), all of which I can get in DCS btw - but I get to blow things up too :slight_smile:

It’s a great time to be a Flight Simmer.

Man, I just did a sunset flight in the Hornet…climbing up through the clouds in VR was like, ahhhhhhh.
Followed by about 5 minutes of deep concentration trying to land back aboard engulfed in those very same clouds!


That YT short you posted: Hard to tell if it’s real or Memorex! Nice work


I should post the full BFM sets in the vids thread. Might even upload that short at a regular landscape vid since shorts are kinda meh for anything other than a phone.

There is that point too. TrackIR really fatigues my eye muscles from having them constantly side-eying the screen. The two bigger points for me are the 1:1 movement making it easier to “feel” what orientation my aircraft is in while only referencing the horizon, and being able to see my VVI, speed, and altitude just by glancing down with my eyes instead of moving my entire head and losing horizon reference like I would in 2D.