Visual aircraft ID question

One of the main issues with the current VR headsets when flying DCS World is that of visually acquiring and identifying a target. You can always turn on Labels, but then you can see targets WAY out there and also know if they are friend or foe at a ridiculous distance.

So, after some digging I learned that the labels config file can be edited (Old news I know, but it was news to me).
So, now I can go in and adjust the parameters to make them a little more realistic.

The question is, particularly aimed at those of us who fly IRL, what ranges would you consider good ballpark figures for reliably spotting another aircraft. This would have to be an overall average because the labels system doesn’t take into account the aircraft size or aspect. @klarsnow mentioned the other night on teamspeak that aspect makes a huge difference, so this is going to be a compromise at best.

From personal experience trucking along in the Flight Levels, you have to be very close to get a positive ID of the aircraft type.

Right now I am thinking that a label “dot” should appear at about 15-20 miles with a fairly low contrast color. Actual ID of aircraft type probably no more than 5 miles out.

Thoughts and input are all appreciated.

I’m having flashbacks to the great Dot Debate of IL2 circa 2005.


I can’t help with the realistic dot range question, but does the ‘model size’ (can’t remember exactly what it is called) setting not help? I remember some new DCS setting a while back that would increase the size of aircraft/tanks etc to make spotting easier.

EDIT: Model Visibility apparently. Fun thread with a ‘spot the aircraft’ test here:

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This is something that has been debated over the years, for many sims. I’m looking at this mainly for VR, where you are definitely handicapped when it comes to spotting distant targets.

I just tried making the labels a similar color to air defense gray and that makes quite a difference in itself.

Talking with pilots about the same issue in yhe simulator. Theu agreed that you should be definitely spotting a dot around 6 NM. Knowing it’s there.
Farther than that it’s really pushing it

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I agree with 4-6 miles, if they are pointing straight at you 1 mile is not unrealistic, but a good scan could push that out to 2-4, in the beam I have seen aircraft out to 15 miles and with a wing flash out to twenty. Keep in mind a lot of this also implies cueing, i.e. You know via the radar or jtids where to look to try and pick him up, not just random scanning


I remember when I first flew an airplane with TCAD (not to be confused with TCAS). I was surprised at how many airplanes were out there that I didn’t see with a normal visual scan. It certainly helps if you know where to look.

So, seeing as aspect cannot be accounted for, I am going to put a simple dot label at 9nm (16.6km).
At 1nm I am going to add a type ID to the label and then at half a mile remove it altogether.

I’ll report back and let you know how I get on with it. Thanks very much for your input!

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I like that.