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F-15E Strike Eagle from MilViz and Saitek x52Pro Controller

May 13 2012 07:52 PM | This article has been viewed 24058 times.
submitted by: Robert W

Reviewed By: Contributing Reviewer - Ray Marshall
Format: Download (278MB)
Simulation: FSX

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This is my first Avsim review of a strictly military high performance add-on. Wouldn’t you know it would be one at the top of the heap and the envy of most hot shot military and simulator pilots? The F-15E Strike Eagle has an exemplary survival rate of ‘zero losses’ in air-to-air combat and very low losses by any means. This is not your ordinary fast mover, it is something truly extraordinary and very special and it certainly is nothing like your Grandmother’s Cessna.

Air to ground, Air to Air, Mach 2.5+, 9 G’s, All weather, 2-place, big weapons load, conformal fuel tanks, ejection seats, 50,000 Ft/Min climb rate. Whoa.

With its huge twin tail, the F-15 Eagle is probably the most recognizable military jet fighter in the skies today, and is undoubtedly the most successful jet fighter of all time, having never been shot down in aerial combat. Flown not only by the US Air Force, but by the air forces of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. With 25 years of service the F-15 is still the world's leading operational air superiority fighter and interceptor.

Military Visualizations (Milviz) states that we can load it up with weapons – smart bombs, dumb bombs, big missiles, little missiles, etc – shoot down anything in the sky and bomb anything on the ground. This breaks totally new ground for FSX with active, working Radar – both airborne and ground targets - and full use of missiles and bombs. All impossible for an FSX add-on as we have been told for years. They further state that you can takeoff and fly around with your hair on fire without shooting anybody or anything, just having a good time exceeding the speed of sound in an exemplary FSX add on with systems depth up the wazoo. This should make a great diversion for those simulator pilots that occasionally get bored flying those 8 hour cross-ocean flights in their airliners or would like to take the weekend off from fly fishing in Alaska in their amphibian.

This offering doesn’t just push the envelope with new and exciting features, it rips it open by adding elements that were never intended for a mild mannered civilian flight simulator. FSX is now a full blown multiplayer combat flight simulation if that is what you choose to do. They may have over done it a bit as they modeled the F-15E as close to the real one as possible, a few warts and all. All those real ones flying out there have still have a few quirky McDonnell design decisions that should have been updated long ago, but weren’t.

The quick start has 5 steps, Load weapons, open cover, flip Nuclear Consent switch, wait for engines to spool up, Fly. In contrast, my favorite airliner tutorial is on Page 81 when it gets to engine start. Duh.

This is obviously the most complex or one of the most complex simulations ever conceived so any deficiencies will most likely be the operator and not the machine. My goal as an experienced Cessna Pilot is to perform a startup, systems check and configuration, taxi, takeoff, climb to altitude, acquire an airborne target, take it out, find a ground target, take it out, find a tanker, refuel, evade a squadron of bad guys looking for a lone renegade Strike Eagle, return to base to find it near minimums and low on gas and make an ILS landing. Of course, I plan to break the sound barrier and test my g-suit a few times in the process. That ought to do it. I should mention up front this simulation has full working Multi-player capabilities but I think that should be a follow-on review. I am going to be busy enough just flying this thing that I don't want to worry about being shot down by a fellow sim pilot. Can you imagine landing gear-up after all that? Now, where is that checklist?

My approach to reviewing this Milviz simulation of the F-15E Strike Eagle is to have you first look at some of the capabilities of the real world version. Then we can evaluate together how well the design team succeeded with the simulated edition. The next several pages were written by then Capt. Randy ‘Hacker’ Haskin for a magazine article several years ago; afterwards ‘Hacker’ was deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Strike Eagle Driver. He is now, Lt. Col. Randy Haskin, a T-38 instructor at Vance AFB. Thanks to Scott Germain at WarbirdAeroPress.com and Hacker for permission to use the full article here.

Editor’s Note: If you don’t want to read about the real F-15, jump down to “Back to the Review”

Big Bird

From the moment you walk up to the McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F-15E Strike Eagle, you know that this is an airplane that means business. At 64 feet long and 42 feet wide, this twin-engine, twin-tailed, twin-cockpit fighter is about the same general size as the North American B-25 bomber of WWII! Even compared to other contemporary fighters, the Strike Eagle is large.The F-15E is the multirole brother of the F-15C, which is a purely air-to-air fighter. The job of the F-15E is to haul iron into enemy territory and place it very precisely on his front door. The Strike Eagle is uniquely endowed to carry out these duties, and is currently the only airframe in the world to carry and drop the AGM-130 (a 2,000-pound rocket-powered standoff bomb) and the 4,700-pound GBU-28 bunker buster bomb. The Strike Eagle is visually distinguishable from the C-model by its dark gunship-gray paint scheme, conformal fuel tanks which bulge out under the wing roots, 12 bomb racks that pepper the bottom of the airplane, and LANTIRN navigation and targeting pods that hang under the engine intakes. In addition, since the F-15E is flown by a Weapon Systems Officer along with a fighter pilot, they all have 2-place cockpits. F-15Es have been built at Boeing’s St Louis, Missouri, plant since 1987 (when it was run by McDonnell Douglas) and are still being produced in very low volume today. There are currently 230 F-15Es in the US Air Force inventory.

As you stand behind the F-15E, you notice that the fuselage is wrapped around two Pratt and Whitney F-100-PW-220 engines, which produce 24,000 pounds of thrust each. The view from the front of the jet is dominated by the large nose, where the million-dollar antenna for the AN/APG-70 radar makes its home, and a huge bubble canopy covering the 2-seat cockpit. Flanking the cockpit area are two giant variable-geometry air intakes for the jet engines.Note: All recent versions now use F-100_PW-229 engines, which produce 29,000 pounds of thrust each, has an 11 stage afterburner, and several other improvements. (RayM)

Front Office

Entering the cockpit of the F-15E is accomplished either via a crew ladder hooked over the left-side canopy rail between the front and back cockpits, or an integrated (and considerably more austere) boarding ladder that drops down from the side of the fuselage at the same place. It’s a tall climb - about 9 feet - to the top of the ladder and over the canopy rail. At the top of the ladder, you enter the front cockpit by stepping left on to the ACES II ejection seat, then sitting down. Instantly you’re stuck by the fact that the Strike Eagle is a war machine through and through. In any civilian aircraft, the panel is generally organized around the instruments required for IFR flight. In the F-15E, the instrument panel is dominated by three large Multipurpose Displays (MPDs) arranged in a Y-shape, an Up-Front Controller (UFC) placed in between the top two MPDs, and a single-plate Heads Up Display (HUD) perched on top of the glare shield.

There are two 6" green monochrome MPDs (on the left and right sides) and one 5" color MPD in the center. A collar around the outside of the screen holds 20 pushbuttons where the pilot can select from any of nearly 30 screens to be displayed, making the cockpit customized for each pilot for each different mission. The UFC is a large keypad with 6 LCD text lines for digital data display and entry. This serves as the avionics control head and where all data is manually input into the navigation system and central computer.

Below the glass cockpit displays are two rows of 2" standby gauges on the left, and an LCD engine monitor display and analog fuel gauge on the right lower panel. A panel centered between the foot wells in front of the stick houses a large air conditioning vent and a small circuit breaker panel (most of the CBs are in the rear cockpit). The cockpit side panels are wide by any standards, and contain literally dozens of switches and knobs to control anything from exterior and interior lighting to power for the radar and Fighter Datalink systems. These side panels are also nice when it comes to needing a place to set down approach plates, checklists, water bottles, Night Vision Goggles, or anything else.

The flight control configuration is standard, with the control stick anchored to the floor between the pilot’s knees and a large two-throttle quadrant on the left side panel. Compared to almost any other aircraft, the F-15E’s control stick grip is large and seems awkward. The reason for this is a design feature called "HOTAS", meaning Hands On Throttle And Stick. The HOTAS philosophy is that vital avionics functions (like operation of the radar or weapons selection) can be accomplished during flight without requiring the pilot’s hands to leave the stick and throttles or his eyes to look away from whatever he’s fighting. As such, the stick and throttles are covered with 14 different switches and buttons.

Strapping into the Strike Eagle is a complicated process - certainly more involved than your average civilian or commercial aircraft. I first connect my G-suit to the pneumatic hose on the left cockpit side rail, then connect the two survival kit buckles located on either side of the seat to the bottom of my parachute harness. The seat offers a 4-point restraint; a standard lap belt originating from near the survival kit straps goes across my lap and two short shoulder straps buckle to clips on the top of my parachute harness. Unlike older ejection seats, the parachute is built in to the ACES II seat, so the shoulder straps are actually the parachute risers. Finally, I connect my Gentex HGU-55/P helmet and MBU-20/P mask to the ship’s oxygen supply and hook up the communications cord via two leads on the right side panel. Adjusting seat height is accomplished via an electrical switch on the left cockpit wall and the rudder pedals can be adjusted forward and aft with a knob below the instrument panel. Once strapped in, the pre-start checklist is a simple clockwise flow around the cockpit. Without power on, there’s not much to set in a glass cockpit, except standard items like making sure the gear handle is down, circuit breakers are in, and engine fuel pumps are on.

PREFLIGHT OPERATIONS

Starting engines in the Eagle is far more simple than in other turbojet aircraft. First I crank up the Jet Fuel Starter (JFS), a small jet engine which connects to the engines through a gearbox and turns them for starting while providing limited electrical power. The checklist calls for the #2 (right) engine to be started first so that a hydraulic pump operated by the right engine can be checked. I engage the JFS connection to the engines by a finger lift on the front of the right throttle. As the JFS spins the engine through 20% RPM, I push the throttle forward out of cutoff and into idle. The digital electronic engine control takes over from there - I simply monitor the RPM and FTIT during the process to ensure there is not a hot start or other malfunction.

As the engine spins up past 56% the right generator comes on line and the right engine intake ramp, which has been locked in the full-up position, slams to the full down position (this scares a lot of first-time passengers in the back seat!). After testing the fire detection loops for continuity and a few other checks, the same process is repeated on engine #1. With both engines at ground idle and all three hydraulic systems are showing the proper pressure, I close the bubble canopy with a lever on the left side of the cockpit. The canopy is hydraulically lowered and slid forward about two inches to lock closed. Once the canopy lever is pushed all the way forward, engine bleed air is diverted to the canopy seal and the cockpit begins to pressurize.

Pretaxi ground operations following engine start include 3 separate flight control checks, 3 radar and avionics self-tests, plus all the normal ground checks of flaps, lights, and the like. The crew chief wears a headset that connects to the cockpit intercom, so we’re able communicate without hand signals for flight control, engine nozzle, wheel brake, and other ground checks. While I’m checking out and warming up the basic aircraft systems, the WSO is busy in the back seat reading the Data Transfer Module (DTM) and the Mission Cartridge. Both the DTM and MC allow us to program our route of flight, radio frequencies, avionics setups, and other mission variables from a missionized computer system on the ground. Once we get into the airplane, the WSO simply reads the information into the airplane’s Central Computer, saving a considerable amount of time compared to "hand-jamming" the information via the UFC. Start-to-taxi time is generally about 10 minutes, including programming of all the avionics systems for the day’s mission.

Taxiing the F-15E is accomplished via a hydraulically actuated nose wheel and the rudder pedals. A switch on the control stick toggles between the high-gain and low-gain steering. The unique thing is that you sit very high and the cockpit is forward of the nose gear, so the perspective is different than any other aircraft I’ve been in. We generally taxi out for takeoff with over 20,000 pounds of fuel, giving us about a 65,000-pound curb weight - quite heavy for a fighter aircraft. Pre-takeoff checks include a final check of the flight controls, turning the radar, INS navigational system, and pitot heat on, and arming the ejection seat. The WSO will also confirm over the intercom that his seat is "hot" and that the ejection seat sequencer is positioned in "Aft Initiate," meaning that regardless of who pulls the ejection seat handle (front or back seat), both of us will be ejected from the airplane.

Once I taxi the Strike Eagle into position on the runway for takeoff, I hold the brakes and run the engines up to 80%. I then perform what is called an "8-6-4-2-4" check, meaning I’m looking for the engines to be at 80% RPM, 600° FTIT, 4,000 GPH on the fuel flow, 20% open nozzles, and 40 psi oil pressure. Once the engines check within limits, I release brakes and push the throttles up over the detent into MAX afterburner. The 5 stages of burner take a few seconds to light off, with a good burner light indicated in the cockpit by the nozzles opening on the Engine Monitor Display.

TAKEOFF

Take Off and Landing Data for an 8,000-foot runway generally shows a 2,500-foot takeoff roll and a maximum abort speed (refusal speed) of around 120 KCAS. Single Engine Takeoff Speed for a 65,000-pound Strike Eagle with no external stores is generally near 197 KCAS.

With the burners lit, acceleration happens fast and I’m generally above 100 KCAS in the first 1,200 feet of runway. At my rotation speed of 135 knots, I pull the stick back halfway and rotate to approximately 10° nose high. A few seconds later, the jet is airborne at around 165 KCAS. As soon as I show two positive rates of climb, I retract the gear via the handle located on the lower left side of the instrument panel. Flaps are retracted simultaneously with the gear with a small switch on the left side of the throttle quadrant. The F-15 has two flap positions - up and down - and takeoffs are always accomplished with flaps down. Actual VLE on a "clean" F-15E is 300 KCAS, but with the LANTIRN pods hanging under the jet, the disturbed airflow buffets the gear doors and reduces VLE to 250 KCAS. Under normal takeoff acceleration the red light in the gear handle extinguishes (indicating the gear are up and the doors locked) around 230 KCAS. With the nose still 5-10° high, we continue to accelerate in afterburner until 300 KCAS. On the 11,000-foot runway I fly from here in North Carolina, I’m pulling the throttles out of afterburner at about 1000’ over the departure end overrun most of the time.Tech order climb-out occurs at 350 KCAS for an air-to-air configured jet and 330 KCAS on one with air-to-ground ordnance. You’ll note that this is significantly higher than the 14 CFR speed restriction of 250 knots below 10,000 feet. The F-15E, like most fighter aircraft, falls under the Letter of Agreement between the DoD and FAA allowing some military aircraft a waiver to that speed limit. The LOA also allows the Eagle to fly nonstandard cruise, penetration, and approach speeds, but more on that later.

FLIGHT PERFORMANCE

A "clean" F-15E cruises comfortably at anywhere between .75 and .9 Mach, depending on fuel weight. This translates to speeds in the 350 to 450 KCAS range in the mid 20s - where we usually like to cruise. Top speeds are technically in the Mach 2+ category, although those speeds are not realistically possible when carrying ordnance loads on a typical mission.

Standard cruise altitudes are in the mid-20s, with a regulation-mandated operational ceiling of FL500 (meaning that, if we were able to wear pressure suits, the F-15E is able fly higher than that). We prefer to fly in the 20s and 30s because the air is thicker, meaning better engine performance, better turn performance, and more available G.

Control inputs given to the F-15E result in what most GA or commercial pilots would consider rapid and crisp maneuvering. The F-15E is larger, heavier, and has more parasitic drag than other fighters like the F-16 and F-18, so compared to those airplanes the Strike Eagle isn’t so nimble. The Strike Eagle uses a pseudo fly-by-wire system, and the flight control computer decides where to place the ailerons, rudders, and differential stabilators differently depending on airspeed, G, altitude, and angle of attack. With all those surfaces digging into the air, even a 65,000-pound behemoth like the Strike Eagle moves nimbly as a cat and with minimal stick force.

Both basic and advanced aerobatics are easy to fly in the Eagle. A loop can be accomplished in 5,000-6,000 feet, with an entry of 500 KCAS and an "over the top" airspeed of 250, depending on how much G was used in the pull-up. A loop can be accomplished with as little as 250 knots as long as you’re not ham-fisted and you don’t mind the airspeed getting below 50 knots over the top. A 4 or 8-point hesitation roll is equally as easy, as the jet stops rolling almost immediately after the stick is neutralized. To add extra crispness, a quick inch of stick movement in the opposite direction after neutralizing the stick makes the roll rate halt with a pop. Negative G inverted flight is limited due to the fuel and engine oil systems, but this is never an operational limitation since most fighter maneuvering takes place under heavy positive G in the vertical axis. Maneuvers requiring only a short amount of inverted time, like a square loop or a Cuban Eight, are easily accomplished within the duration of the limitation.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of flying the Strike Eagle through these maneuvers is that it really appeals to a pilot’s sensory inputs. The "seat of the pants" feeling is very definite, and the sounds the jet makes when it is maneuvering are just incredible! When I haul the stick into my lap in a hard turn or climb, the wind rushing over the wing at high AOA creates a giant WOOOOSH sound and I can feel the entire airframe humming and buzzing. These attributes are important for a combat aircraft, because of the need to be able to fly by feel while looking outside the cockpit during a dogfight engagement.

Eagle drivers talk about the airframe buffeting in terms of different types of animals "dancing" on your wings. If it feels like there are mice dancing on the wings, that is light buffet. If it feels like elephants dancing on the wings, that is severe buffet. Somewhere in the middle is the optimum turn rate.

Fighter aircraft are frequently yardsticked against how much G they can pull and how long they can sustain it. In an air-to-air visual maneuvering engagement (dogfighting), the airplane that can turn tighter than the other one will generally have an advantage. The F-15E is definitely not one of the best dogfighting jets in the world today - the airplane is designed to fight beyond visual range with radar-guided missiles and tote around a lot of bombs. Our best "maneuvering" airspeed is anywhere in between 350 KCAS and 450 KCAS. This gives us enough airspeed to reach our maximum G of +9.0 and give us a turn radius of around 2/3 of a nautical mile. When matched up with other multirole fighters like the F-16 and F-18, the F-15E has a distinct advantage in engagements taking place at ranges outside 10 miles. Once the furball starts at close range, the scales tip in the other direction because the Hornet and Viper can noticeably out-turn the littered-with-parasite-drag Strike Eagle.

INSTRUMENT FLYING

The glass cockpit is at once the Strike Eagle’s best asset for instrument flying, as well as it’s biggest drawback. The digital displays, in combination with the HUD, give the pilot positional and flight attitude awareness that is unmatched in most civil aircraft and is equal to newer systems in commercial airliners. Unfortunately, someone used to flying off round dials will find little comfort in those digital displays. When I was first learning to fly the Eagle, I spent many instrument approaches staring at the digital instrumentation in what must have looked like the RCA dog watching television - it made no sense to me whatsoever. Fortunately, once you get used to it, the glass cockpit is really nice!

The main navigational instrument in the F-15E is our EGI system, meaning Embedded GPS/INS. The EGI system is a combination of a Y-coded (military accuracy and anti-jamming coding) GPS signal that gives constant updates to a ring-laser gyroscopic Inertial Navigation System. If all that sounds too technical, what it means is that the F-15E knows where it is, anywhere in the world, without any reliance on ground-based radio navigational aids - pretty handy when you’re flying over a hostile country where, chances are, they won’t keep their VORTACs on for you.

Unfortunately, though, the GPS in the airplane doesn’t give us enough information to fly a GPS instrument approach.

The only other radio NAVAIDS we can use in the F-15E are TACANs and standard localizers and glideslopes. NAVAID information is processed through the central computer and the EGI, then sent to the cockpit. The "raw data" for TACANs and Localizers is displayed on a digital HSI, while the glideslope data is displayed on the digital ADI.

The Heads-Up Display (HUD) is a wonderful tool for flying instruments. In some avionics modes it combines basic flying parameters with HSI-like instrument steering information all in one spot. What’s unique about the instrument cues in the HUD are that they are steering bars, rather than the raw instrument data displayed on the HSI and ADI. Simply centering up the localizer and glideslope steering bars on the computer-generated velocity vector will fly the airplane to a perfect instrument final. Unfortunately, the HUD is not certified for use as a primary reference during IFR flight, so we must back up what we’re doing using the "raw" navigational data on the MPDs.

Another great feature that the HUD adds to a pilot’s ability to fly approaches is that velocity vector I just mentioned. The VV, computed by the jet’s INS, is a small circle displayed in the HUD that points to the precise point in space where your aircraft is flying. This allows you to visually correct for crosswinds if you can see the ground or to establish a precise glide path on an approach using the pitch ladder.

Additional positional awareness is provided by a color moving map display which shows any number of map scales all the way down to a 1:50,000.

APPROACH AND LANDING

Instrument holding airspeed is a 250 KCAS, and we can hold off a TACAN fix or a notional INS waypoint. Penetration airspeed is 300 KCAS and, depending on the descent gradient, is accomplished with nearly idle power and 10° nose low. Approaching the Final Approach Fix, we again reduce airspeed below the landing gear white arc (even though there are no round dials where a white arc is marked, you get the idea) and simultaneously drop the gear and flaps.Once configured with the gear and flaps down, the Eagle is a little more sluggish to control inputs, but still vastly superior in maneuverability to your average Cessna 172 or 182.

Approach and landing is flown referencing an angle of attack, rather than a particular airspeed. In an airplane that can vary as much as 40,000 pounds in landing weights, approach and landing speeds can be anything from 155 KCAS all the way up to the 190s. The "perfect" speed for approach and final correlates to 20-22 "cockpit units" of AOA. You can compute a "backup" airspeed for final approach by starting with 155 KCAS and adding two knots for every thousand pounds of fuel or ordnance on board the jet.

Flying a straight-in final with or without instruments is very simple. All you have to do is place the velocity vector in the HUD over the top of the runway threshold and maintain approach airspeed to fly down final. If you make sure that, when the velocity vector is on the end of the runway, it is sitting 3 degrees low in the HUD pitch ladder, you’ve just given yourself a 3° glide path all the way down to the runway!

Of course, the preferred way to arrive at an airport in the F-15 is not via the Localizer straight-in (for wimps!), but via the overhead break (Man style!). Generally initial is flown at 1,500’ and 300 KCAS. Once over the approach end runway numbers, I roll into 80° of bank and perform a 3-4G level turn while pulling the throttles back to idle. Once I’ve rolled out on downwind, I’m below 250 KCAS, so I drop the gear and flaps and continue to decelerate for the final turn. Prior to the perch point, I confirm my landing configuration by saying, "4 green, good pressures, brakes off, antiskid on, lights on" (translation: gear and flaps down, all three hydraulic systems are showing good pressure, the holding brake is off, the antiskid braking switch is activated, and my landing light is on).

The "perch point" is where most pilots would turn base in a normal box pattern. In the Eagle, though, instead of a squared-off base and final leg, I fly a constant-rate descending turn to final. To do this I dip the nose 8-10° low, roll into 60° of bank, and maintain about 190 KCAS. Something that might make the hair stand up on the back of your average civilian pilot’s neck while flying the final turn is how much the airplane buffets. This is normal, and is just another one of those great sensory cues that the pilot can use to evaluate his speed and bank in the turn. If there are "mice dancing on the wings," you’re okay. If the elephants have come out to play on your wings, you’re about to stall in the final turn - bad news. If I’ve judged my pattern spacing and pattern winds correctly, the descending 180° turn should spit me out on a 1 NM final at 300 feet AGL and my computed final approach airspeed. From there, the approach and landing picture is the same as described above for a straight-in…you just looked a lot cooler getting to that point.

Once the airplane is over the runway over-run, you shift the velocity vector to the departure end of the runway and softly flare. The landing picture in the F-15 is very different than any other aircraft I’ve ever flown due to the nose-high attitude in the flare and the length of the landing gear. In fact, in the landing attitude, the cockpit is almost 30 feet off the ground! With the main gear tires on the pavement, the preferred method of slowing the Eagle down is the aero brake. This is where we both save wear and tear on the wheel brakes and take advantage of the Eagle’s huge wing area to slow down. To aero brake, simply hold the nose 10°-12° high until 90 knots, increasing aft stick until it is all the way back to the seat pan. Once at 90 knots, briefly neutralize the aft stick to get the nose lowering, then haul it back to soften the impact on the nose strut. With the nose gear on the ground, you can honk on the toe brakes as hard as you want and watch the antiskid braking work wonders. After exiting the active runway, I safe up my ejection seat, turn the radar to standby, and turn off other power-hungry avionics like the LANTIRN pods.

Once I leave the active runway, the flight’s not over. There are still post flight tests of avionics to be accomplished, an update to the inertial navigation system to be accomplished, and finally I will download the flight data to the same Data Transfer Module that I brought to the jet. The DTM download accomplishes two things; one, the airplane assesses it’s own maintenance issues and puts that information on the DTM, and two, the central computer has kept track of the parameters of every gun and missile shot that I’ve taken, as well as every bomb I’ve dropped.

After the flight, maintenance doesn’t have to fuss with talking with pilots to assess the maintenance condition of the airplane - they just read the DTM codes. As for the weapons parameters, they are infinitely valuable for use in post flight debriefings of the day’s missions.

Back to the review

Whoa. Sounds like Milviz has their work cut out for them. Let’s start with a few comparisons between the real world Strike Eagle and our FSX version.

  USAF F-15E Strike Eagle Milviz F-15E Strike Eagle for FSX
In Production since 1986 2008 (released in December 2011)
Unit Cost $108 Million dollars (2007) $32 Million (1998) $40 dollars
Max Weight 81,000 Pounds 278 MB download
Minimum flight gear Flight suit, G-suit, Parachute harness, Survival vest Underwear & tee shirt; socks optional
Max Speed Mach 2.5+ (1,650+ mph) Same
Service Ceiling FL600 (60,000 ft) Same
Rate of Climb 50,000 Ft/min Same
Power plant 2X P&W F100-229 - 29,000 lbs thrust each Same
Weapons Most everything in the USAF inventory Same (see lists)

The original F-15 Eagle was designed to handle only air-to-air targets (other planes). It wasn't built to bomb targets on the ground, but when the Air Force needed a fighter bomber to replace the aging F-111 until the new stealth F-117 was ready, they decided to modify the F-15 for air-to-ground missions. The result was the F-15 Strike Eagle, designated F-15E.


The Strike Eagle is not a replacement for the original F-15, but a supplementary bomber plane. Surprisingly, the Air Force's temporary solution turned out to be one of the best fighter bombers ever made. In Operation Desert Storm, the Strike Eagle proved it could successfully fight its way past enemy planes, hit several ground targets, and then fight its way out of enemy territory.


HOTAS - Hands On Throttle And Stick. One of the key design elements of the McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F-15E Strike Eagle.

HOTAS - expressly designed for the F-15 Eagle.

In 1968, during the Viet Nam conflict, it took 12 switch actuations and an average of 5.2 seconds for an F-4 Phantom pilot to fire a Sparrow missile. This chaotic cockpit ergonomics was the primary factor responsible for the poor USAF kill ratios. The F-15 cockpit was thus designed with maximum armament delivery capability in mind and specifically to allow the pilot to look, detect, acquire and fire at an approaching target without ever having to take his hands off the throttle and stick. The Hands On Throttle And Stick – HOTAS – was born. Later improvements updated a new throttle design and added more buttons - 14 now and counting.


HOTAS is comprised a collection of switches and buttons that controlled the Eagle’s radar, weapons systems and self-defense countermeasures dispensers. While involved, the various switch actuations needed to lock up the enemy target and fire the most appropriate weapon soon became second nature, as in learning to play the piano, knowing through practice just which switch was under each finger. However, in the heat of battle, many of the manipulations were required to be accomplished in such a rapid fire manner that the flurry of finger motions was sometimes known as ‘playing the piccolo’. A good piccolo player made for a deadly Eagle Driver.

With the HOTAS system, every switch and button on the controls has a different shape and texture. This way, the pilot can control all the major aspects of the plane without ever looking down into the cockpit.

The photos shown here are the Mad Catz/Saitek Pro Flight x52 PRO control system, a mid level FSX compatible HOTAS that appears to be custom built just for such an add-on with one minor exception – it only has one throttle control. Dual throttles are found on the top of the line Saitek x65F, Combat Control System.

2 Man Crew for the Strike Eagle

There are lots of Eagles in the air but only the F-15E Strike Eagle has a back seat position – the WSO, Weapons Systems Officer- usually called the Wizzo. The WSO can actually fly the Strike Eagle from his/her rear position.

F-15E Strike Eagle is equipped with an array of new avionics and electronics systems for ground attack deployment. It has to have the capability to fight its way to the target over long ranges, destroy enemy ground positions, and fight its way back to base day at low altitude, day or night, and in bad weather.

The WSO’s task and workload depends on the type and phase of flight operation. Air-to-air radar is usually a pilot's job, except when flying at low altitude. Air-to-ground mode of the radar is almost exclusively operated by the WSO. WSOs also work the Link 16 Fighter Data Link (FDL). The WSO is equipped with four multi-function displays (MFD) - CRT monitors surrounded by buttons. This position has a full set of flight controls, but this is only a back-up provision -- normally, the WSO doesn't help fly the plane. Both the pilot and the WSO sit in high-tech ACES II ejection seats, which launch them clear of the plane in an emergency. All WSOs are trained as navigators but get some OJT stick time. Having dual flight controls makes it nice if the pilot needs a short break on the way back to base.

All of this expensive equipment serves one basic purpose: It is designed to deliver various missiles, bombs and bullets, known in military circles as ordnance, to enemy targets. Now let’s look at what the F-15E is actually packing when it goes to war.The F-15 Eagle is loaded up with weaponry that can take out almost every aircraft in existence. It sports eight air-to-air missiles of different designs. It can carry various combinations of AIM-120 advanced medium range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAMs), AIM-9L/M Sidewinder missiles, or AIM-7F/M Sparrow missiles (currently being phased out of the inventory)

The AMRAAM and Sparrow missiles are both radar-guided. The AMRAAM has its own radar unit and flight control system. Before firing the missile, the flight computer transmits radar information specifying the intended target, and the missile's radar unit locks on. After the missile launches, its one goal is to steer itself (by adjusting flight fins) toward that target.The Sparrow missile works on a similar principle, but it doesn't have its own radar transmitter. The pilot has to keep the plane's transmitter aimed at the target, to "paint" it for the missile. The sidewinder missile uses an infrared sensor to pick up on an enemy plane's hot engine exhaust. The flight controls simply steer the missile toward the hottest area in sight.

The F-15E also has a built-in machine gun, an M-61 20-mm 6-barrel cannon, mounted inside the starboard (right) wing. The gun has an efficient Gatling gun design that can fire about 6,000 rounds per minute. It never gets the chance, however, because its magazine only holds a maximum of 510 rounds. It can empty its entire magazine in less than 10 seconds!

The pilot selects a different targeting display on the HUD for each weapon. The machine gun display, for example, consists of a funnel shape. The pilot maneuvers the plane so that the target is in the center of the funnel and then opens fire.

The F-15 Strike Eagle can carry just about any air-to-ground missile in the Air Force arsenal. It often carries guided munitions, such as the GBU-15 bomb. All in all, it can carry approximately 23,000 pounds (10,430 kg) of ordnance.

It also has a number of high-tech defenses - radar warning receivers, which detect enemy radar from ground stations, planes or guided missiles, and an advanced radar jammer to confuse these radar units. They also have a chaff dispenser, a device that shoots out a cloud of metal strips. Enemy radar picks up the chaff and temporarily loses its lock on the F-15.

The F-15E's combination of high maneuverability, sophisticated electronics and powerful weaponry have made it a hugely successful weapon in the United States arsenal (and a number of other countries' arsenals, as well).

Weapon Loadouts

One of the big items that the real world Strike Eagle Drivers & Crew Chiefs do on a daily basis is work on the daily Loadouts. This is something the hard core flight Simmers can attempt to replicate with their Milviz FSX version.

www.f-15e.info/ has tons of very detailed information about operations of the Strike Eagle. One subject that is covered is various loadouts. Here is just one loadout that I selected to show the depth of data available. You can find a gold mine of info at this site.

Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) started after the finish of the long Operations of Northern Watch (ONW) and Southern Watch (OSW). Under the umbrella of the war on terror, United States and its allies started a war to remove Saddam Hussein from power and put an end to his regime.

OIF started on 19th March 2002 with F-15E Strike Eagles attacking key military command and control targets with AGM-130's. After the beginning of the ground offensive (called Shock and Awe) Close Air Support (CAS) missions were flown as well. CAS missions were often flown in a manner that Strike Eagles patrolled a pre-planned zone (called 'killbox') and supported the fight of ground troops in that zone. These kind of missions were called Killbox Interdiction ( KI), which - coupled with CAS - soon took the name of KI/ CAS, or 'kick-&@($*' as aircrew simply called it.

Another typical mission profile was SCAR (strike coordination attack and reconnaissance) during which Strike Eagles utilized their long range and advanced sensors to find and pinpoint targets for other types of jets, like F-14 Tomcats or F/A-18 Hornets.

It was not only this Forward Air Controller (FAC) role, which was new to the Strike Eagle community, but they often used laser guided bombs (LGB's) to attack and strike moving targets. This required honed skills and great experience from WSO's.

Hacker tells me the most frequent loadout in OIF was simply 9 GBU-12s. It was only after the fall of Baghdad in the 2nd or 3rd week of the war that they started limiting the GBU-12 use and loading up GBU-10s, MK-82s, etc. Not every single weapon in the USAF inventory is modeled but many are available for us to simulate real missions.

Loadout #1 - Kick &@($* A - for Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF)

This loadout contains 5 GBU-12's and 6 Mk-82's, which allow the jet to strike a multitude of targets. The usual A/A payload (that is 2 Sidewinders and 2 AMRAAM's on the wing launchers) is used.


The Military visualizations (Milviz) FSX Flight Simulator edition.


The F-15E Strike Eagle model depicted in this package is a highly detailed replica of its real-life counterpart. The model was created by using high quality digital photos and many, many countless hours of testing, revising and testing again! This is, bar none, as close as most of us will ever get to the real thing! The aircraft has a max range of 2100 nautical miles and a top speed of Mach 2.4 so you can travel far and fast with ease. Other outstanding features of this aircraft are:
-Realistic startup and shutdowns
-Quick start (two clicks, wait for spool up and you're off)
-Realistic weapons, radar and targeting procedures
-Realistic weapons release and hits with destruction of targets and all that entails
-Realistic systems and avionics

-High quality VC using normal and specular maps
-High quality external model using normal and specular maps
-9 HD different liveries created by Gunnar Meeren
-High resolution paint kit

-Highly detailed Pilots Operating Handbook: includes all performance charts and figures. If you choose to, you can fly by the numbers, or fly as casual as you wish!

-High quality sound set recorded from a real F-15E.
-Realistic night lighting, landing lights and custom effects.
-Flight dynamics tested and tuned by a real pilots. The aircraft flies just like its real world counterpart!

-Aircraft features an exterior model manager that enables you to load different weapons and fuel tanks. Weight distribution and fuel will be added or subtracted as you add or remove items.
-Many different weapons including but not limited to, Aim-9's, Amraam's, CBU-87's, Mk 82's and GBU-12's
-All weapons can be fired and or dropped
-All weapons and tanks can be jettisoned
-Weapons add weight to your plane
-Ability to hide the stick in 3D VC enabling the pilot to access certain switches normally obscured from view by the yoke.
-Multiplayer capable so you can fight and shoot each other down

-Operating hook

-AI pack with enhanced airbases!

System Requirements
This product requires FSX Acceleration. It is also designed for newer systems. Minimum requirements are 2.6 Core 2 Duo, 512mb Video Card and 1.2 Gigs of free disk space. Optimal requirements are much higher.
Only people who can provide purchase information will get support. Please note you will be asked to provide proof. Please contact roadburner@milviz.com for information.
This product has certain limitations. These are included in the manual. It is highly recommended that you read this before purchasing.


This is a very impressive list of features. I suggest you read it one more time before proceeding. I have read it several times and each time something new seems to jump out at me, saying “Let’s try that the next time we are up flying”.

Recommended Videos for the F-15e Strike Eagle

A link is provided for product videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/milvizinc?feature=mhum (more like tutorials, no music, have your pencil and notepad ready)

I like this video used by the USAF recruiters in their promotions. http://www.patricksaviation.com/videos/future%20f-22raptor%20pliot/3068/ (4 min)

This is an entertaining news type video starring Jeremy Clarkson, a UK TV personality, from his 'Extreme Machines' TV series on a 90 min ‘personality flight’ in the WSO seat. It is a little long but interesting. (10 min) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwTXPQfGCpQ&feature=related

My favorite line is at 5:22, with Top Gun music playing in the background, Clarkson says “I’ve never even held the stick of a Cessna, and they’re going to turn me loose in an F-15. That is very worrying.” And at 8:48 “Oh, this is just absolutely, unbelievably, fantastic,” and then he barfs, again. (13 times in all)

“The F-15E is one of the most realistic jet fighter bombers out there today and tomorrow and, if we do say so ourselves, breaks new barriers in looks, feel, systems and weapon! That's right! You can shoot down aircraft, bomb buildings and bridges and, if you are in MP with a buddy or two, you can try and shoot them down too. (or get shot down!!)”  Milviz News


My first F-15E flight

The quick Start is super simple if you pay attention to the “wait for spool up” and “don’t do anything while waiting”, otherwise there is a good chance the left engine will not start as planned or something weird and unexplained will spoil your flight. Provided you let it do its thing, after about 30 seconds, you can taxi out like any other FSX twin engine plane, line up on the runway and apply full throttle. No right rudder needed today. The eleven stage afterburner will begin an acceleration that you will most likely not forget for a long time.Slight backpressure on the stick and ‘gear up’ as you leave the airport area. Looking at the HUD, the number with the most change is the altitude, 7,000, 9,000, 15,000, and 23,000 in less than a minute from brake release. Oh man, this is going to be fun. Maybe I better retard those throttles a bit to get out of afterburner. Look at that view. Ease the nose over to near level, now the airspeed is the moving number in the HUD – 350, 420, 470. Oh man, what a plane!

A slight flick on the stick and I just did an aileron roll, not one roll but two rolls - that was easy, let’s do a roll and a Split-S. I could get used to this.

A little background on the review.

Ok, let’s back up a few steps. I was writing the Avsim review for the Mad Catz/Saitek Pro Flight Cessna Yoke and Pedals and looking for a FSX Cessna that looked most like the Saitek/Cessna yoke. Not finding an exact match, I extended my search to FSX Cessnas outside my hard drive. Lo and behold, the first Google return was the Milviz Cessna 310R and at first glance I knew I had found the match.

About ten minutes after pressing Send for an email to Milviz asking for a media evaluation copy, I not only get a positive response back from Canada, but a question for me – Would I be interested in doing a review of their new F-15E Strike Eagle?

Answer: Yes, but not right away. I have a few commitments to clear up and a lot of reading and research to complete. But, Yes, I would love to do it! There is no better way to learn about an add-on than by writing a review for it.

My next incoming email is the pass code for the Flight1.com wrapper and a link for the 278 MB download. (Just in case I would like to get an early start). Kind of like “Would you mind keeping this extra cute little puppy over the weekend for me?”

It turned out to be a good motivational ploy for me to complete two reviews and clean off my desk.

Installation.

As straight forward as it comes. Flight1.com wrapper. Win7. No problems. I checked the minimum system requirements and figure I’m in the low to middle of the standard off the shelf setups for FSX. < i7-870 quad core, 8 GB RAM, 2.5 TB HD, Nvidia 460 GTX/1 GB >

Big problem. I need a HOTAS flight stick for this evaluation and review and I don’t have one. Hmmmm. I wonder what Mad Catz thought of my Saitek Pro Flight Cessna Yoke and Pedals review? They must have a HOTAS flight stick just waiting for show time with the most up-to-date advanced fighter in the FSX inventory. Two birds with one stone. Drat. Email returned, contact out of office for a few days. I’ll check back early next week. Keep my fingers crossed.

Not to worry. Mad Catz was receptive to my request and provided not only their Pro Flight X52 PRO control system for my use but also included their top of the line, award winning Pro Flight Combat Rudder Pedals. Let’s hope that I’m worthy of such high tech goodies.

Saitek Pro Flight Combat Rudder Pedals

OK, we are all loaded in FSX and I bring up the selection box and wow, look at all that new stuff. Wait a minute, what are all these bombs and missiles doing in my FSX selection boxes? I have a few helicopters listed under the Military Visualizations but no Strike Eagle, ah, here they are under Milviz . What about all those pages of bombs and missiles that take up a box like an airplane normally does?

A quick search of the Milviz F-15E forum reveals the answer. This is so the Multi-Players guys and gals can see their weapon inventory. It further states they will write a batch file to hide all these entries for the non MP players. Neat.

Installation of the Pro Flight Control system and Combat Rudder Pedals.

The Combat Rudder Pedals. The Saitek.com web site states the pedals were Inspired by pedal designs found in modern fighter aircraft, and are constructed from a highly robust Di-cast alloy, providing durability and authenticity for the most demanding of aspiring pilots. That would be me, the “aspiring” part.

You can adjust the pedal angle to suit all styles of flying or for short or long legged flight crews. Of course, they have precise independent brakes to assist in moving these big guys around on the ground and the rudder axis is self centering. The big round knob in the center is the damping adjuster that allows the users to define just the right amount of pressure or tension needed to operate the rudder controls.

Like all the Pro Flight Simulation items, the provided Smart Technology (ST) programming software allows us sim pilots and gamers to configure our controls to suit our individual style and then save the configuration as individual and personal profiles.

Saitek Pro Flight Combat Rudder Pedals – a perfect match for Milviz F-15E


One USB connection is all that is needed to install the Combat Rudder Pedals. A CD with drivers and a short manual is included. As a step in the installation, each pedal is checked for proper axis and movement. A turn of the big center knob will increase or decrease the tension and the pedals can be set at 3 different angles.


I screwed my pedals down to a piece of MDF to fix them in place. I don’t want them sliding around in the heat of battle. A couple of strips of Velcro is included to assist in keeping them in place otherwise. The foot extensions are great when you want to fly with only your socks on. This is good for those long ferry flights across the ocean or when you are on station and ready to go but the call to attack never seems to come.

The installation of the Saitek Pro flight Control system required some thought as to the exact placement of the throttle unit for my left hand and the flight stick for my right hand. They throttle unit connects to the computer system with one USB connection then connects to the flight stick with a fairly short PS2 male to male cable. I used an unused keyboard holder made of MDF, my favorite wood substitute, for both by cutting it in half and mounting each piece to my desk. This made a nice generous sized holder that I could place at the proper height and distance from my pilot chair. Each day my desk looks more like a cockpit and less like a computer desk. Of course, this is a good thing.


I have a few more Saitek instruments to add in the future and my desk/cockpit will be approaching the ‘as good as it gets’ phase. For today, it is a perfect setup with the x52 PRO throttle unit securely fixed in the position near my left hand like the real world equivalent and the flight stick set for my right hand operation that is not exactly like the real world F-15E center stick, but realistic enough in the look, movement and HOTAS button operations.


b>Milviz Documentation.

Let’s checkout the Milviz documentation. Here are two pdfs in a Manuals folder under the Milviz F-15E folder. A small 12 page Quick Start Guide and a monster POH with 544 pages. Oh my, do all the Boeing birds come with these huge manuals? Nice Table of Contents. Let’s start at the back. Appendix B, Credits, Wow, the Development Team reads like a Who’s Who plus a whole lot of other new names to me. I see Bernt Stolle, so I know from experience it will fly well, Ken Stallings, Chuck Jodry, Bill Leaming, Gunnar Meeren, my friend from Bergen, Norway. Big team of heavyweights. I wonder about someone named KrazyColin in Canada though; rumor has it he is the Base Commander when his wife gives him permission.

Now the disclaimer. I promise not to use any of this information to fly an actual F-15E or to use it for a multi-engine or type rating training with the FAA and I will not confuse this FSX add on with the real product from McDonnell-Douglas or Boeing or the USAF. Agreed.

Limitations

Now the part I was looking for - LIMITATIONS. OK, sounds like we have to click a few Yes boxes to get it going. There are evidently a few bugs in the weapons and radar system that are not fixed and are not going to be fixed. Hmmm, this manual is slightly out of date. The latest patch fixed those things that they just said that they weren’t going to fix. The Radar and Weapons are now working correctly. There are two pages with 20 listed items of importance to us – the end user. Looks like a good candidate for the printer with a sheet protector.

I see I need to brush up on my abbreviations and acronyms. Something about dumb bombs flying off into space, and the GBU’s might also, so try the LGBs, but only if not in Auto and not descending. OK. The fuel system is a little ‘dorky’. That is their word, not mine. You got to slide the fuel slider back and forth at least once to ‘fill’ the tanks. If the system says switch tanks, then switch tanks. Got it. This may be easier than I thought.

Number 19 states that if you can’t figure out how to use the radar and or fire the weapons, they have some video tutorials available and Number 20 says more effects and other good stuff is yet to come in a patch or two.

Flipping the electronic pages backwards, I see there are a couple of hundred pages that I can permanently skip – All of Appendix A - Performance data for the engines and a gazillion curves and graphs that I can’t read anyway. Well, there are a few pages of text that may be useful to me. The resolution of the tiny, tiny numbers in most of the curves and graphs is somewhere between poor and really poor. Looks like they were copied from old microfiche then reduced.Now the front end of the Pilots Operating Handbook (POH) appears to be packed with tons of good information. I guess a complex, modern jet fighter takes a few pages to describe. The description is 162 pages of detail for each display or instrument and provides an overview of the systems. This section also looks like a good candidate for printing and adding to a handy binder.

The shortest chapter is the 20 pages of Normal Procedures. This section has all the normal checklists and procedures. It appears to be ideal for those who will want to start with the ‘cold and dark’ and the ‘Good Morning, Crew Chief’. Add this section to the print list. These checklists will be a must have.

Then comes the Emergency Procedures – about three times as long as the Normal Procedures. Oops, I was wrong. The Crew Duties section is two total Paragraphs – One to explain the pilot, Crewmember in Command, duties and the other for the duties of the Crewmember Not in Control of the aircraft.

There is a section on Operating Limitations that we should probably read also. It looks like they want you to be doing less than 500 knots when doing rolls while loaded with weapons. Duh.

What a revelation.

I just read that the minimum crew for safe flight in the F-15e is ONE. I’m sure glad it’s not NONE. I guess it also says someplace not to eat matches or maybe no smoking while on oxygen. It uses JP-8 for go-juice for those like me that didn’t know that.

I forgot to mention, the Strike Eagle is totally self sufficient. No external power or air conditioning stuff is needed. It has its own built-in Jet Fuel Starter (JFS). All it needs is some hydraulic pressure that it stores in an accumulator, electrical power provided by the JFS generator and some JP-8 fuel that is taps from the main tanks. It will spin up either engine but not both simultaneously. It can be used for in-flight restarts. Later on I found the proper sequence is to start the Right engine first due to the hydraulics system design. Milviz designed a super slick method of adjusting the individual throttles during startup to mimic the real world startup method. One well placed mouse click on the finger lift is all that is needed to move a throttle from cutoff to idle and start.

There is a short section on Flight Characteristics that mostly says it is a bad idea to get the Weight and Balance out of kilter or to have an asymmetrical load problem. Negative G, inverted spins are also to be avoided.

Caution – Avoid High Speed, Low Altitude maneuvers

The final paragraph has to do with the Maverick Maneuver – ‘Due to the low-wing loading and high lift wing characteristics the aircraft is susceptible to gusts during low-altitude, high-speed flight. Buzzing the tower in mountainous desert terrain above 0.8 mach may induce abrupt vertical motions. None of these disturbances significantly alter the aircraft flight path.” It goes on to say, if you are still loaded with external stores, that is a good thing as it increases wing loading and reduces the effect of gusts on the aircraft.

Just remember not to do a ground hugging barrel roll at that speed because you may accidently put a breakaway missile up the Admiral’s daughter’s dress, and that is a bad thing.

The Military Visualizations Design Team

During the more than four years in development several members have come and gone, but the stalwarts are Colin and Kat Pearson that managed to hold the team on track and finally pushed it out the door late last year. As with any long term, complex high tech project, it had many up and downs but as a whole the team did a tremendous job. This is arguably the most complex military fighter ever produced for any flight simulator and very possibly the most complex in any category.

Some details

Not every system is fully implemented due mostly to limitations of the desktop simulation or they are still classified by the Department of Defense or it just would not justify the amount of work for the return. I continue to be astounded at the level of detail some of the systems do exhibit. This one is the hardcore simmers dream or nightmare, depending on whether he or she has mastered the specific task at hand. I would venture a guess that if you flew only this one airplane in FSX every day, you could spends years learning the intimate details of the coding and implementation while enjoying every minute. I will only be scratching the surface of the capabilities and nuances. There’s an almost unlimited combination of sequences, methods, and results available with the multitude of weapons, countermeasures and self-protection systems, basic flight systems and maneuvers; air-to-air and air-to-ground ordnance delivery and procedures and actions. After all this is the USAF’s premiere all-weather weapons delivery platform and has been for 20 years or more.

What you get.

Not only do you get this fabulous fighter/bomber in many glorious paints and colors, you also get a world full of AI military aircraft to chase, shoot at or just watch, detailed new scenery add-ons for all military bases that house the Strike Eagle, a whole series of exciting FSX missions specific to real world equivalents, and a USAF tanker that is always in the air and waiting to fill you up with JP-8 if you are good enough to ease up and make the necessary bond. Fortunately for us, this is a real fast loading tanker and we only have to maintain our connection for a few seconds. But, even that is no gimme.

I spent a lot of time and got dangerously low on fuel many times trying to chase down and ease up behind the KC-135. I can’t imagine how difficult this is in a real world battle zone, at night in a thunderstorm with a whole squadron needing to fuel up either before or after a mission. One of the F-15E Strike Eagle books goes into great detail about this phase during the attacks on Iraq and to complicate things even more, the tankers were in full blackout – no lights anywhere. Most of the pilots agreed, this was much scarier than the SAMs, AA, or the French and Russian-built fighters defending Bagdad. Whoa.

So how do you learn to fly the Milviz F-15E?

First, there is not a written tutorial where you startup, taxi, takeoff, do some basic navigating, turn on the radar, shoot down and airliner or two near Portland and return to Seattle with an ILS landing. I really wish one of the honed-in Milviz forum regulars would write and publish a simple, yea right, flight tutorial for us Newbies. Probably not going to happen anytime soon.

The Milviz decision to provide the gorilla sized POH with a bunch of overviews, checklists and graphs for those that choose to read the written word, and to provide links to a series of YouTube tutorial videos for those with that slant is what we find. I would like to see something in the middle but, the videos are necessary due to the complexity of the tasks and also the number of tasks. So if you are interested in air-to-air combat you will find a dedicated video, same for air-to-ground, but each goes into great detail of using the Radar and the UFC (Up Front Controls) which feed the MFDs (Multi Function Displays). Fortunately, these videos are sans music and not too long, although I have fallen asleep a few times while watching them late at night.

Weapons Inventory


Here is a complete list of the Air-to-Ground weapons that comes with the Milviz F-15E Strike Eagle and a short description.
• AGM-65 -- Maverick laser or TV guided air-to-ground missile. About 500 pounds total weight, but varies between 462 to 670 pounds.
• AGM-130 -- Air to surface missile. About 3,000 pound total weight, designed to be launched from inside 40nm range and guides to a pre-determined target.CBU-87 -- Cluster bomb unit. Once released in real life the canister opens up and spins out many small bomblets of various types. In our virtual version is works like a dumb bomb.
• GBU-12 -- 500 pound laser guided bomb (LGB)
• GBU-15 -- 2000 pound glide bomb – laser or optically TV guided
• GBU-16 -- 1000 pound LGB
• GBU-32 -- 1000 pound satellite guided bomb called a Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM)(Usually a Navy selection but works here)
• GBU-38 -- 500 pound JDAM
• GBU-27 -- 2000 pound LGB bunker buster (deep penetration and delayed fusing optimized to take out buried and hardened structures) – pierces through the hardened concrete and dirt and blows up deep inside
• GBU-28 -- 5000 pound LGB and/or JDAM bunker buster (perhaps the ultimate bunker buster bomb in the world!) Current versions are dual capable of being dropped by satellite guidance or laser guidance.
• Mk-82 -- 500 pound dumb bomb
• Mk-84 -- 1000 pound dumb bomb (usually reserved for the Navy but still works and makes a big hole in the ground)

The Air-to-Air inventory is as follows:
• M-61-A1 - 20mm 6-barrel Vulcan cannon – 500 rounds, 6,000 rounds per minute rate of fire.
• AIM-120C – Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), semi-active and active terminal guidance radar guided missile.
• Actual range (classified). Range in FSX ~ 40nm.
• AIM-7M – Sparrow semi-active radar homing guided missile. Effective range about 31nm.
• AIM-9M – Sidewinder infrared guided missile. Effective ranges are closure speed dependent. However, generally a head-on aspect shot should be taken inside 10nm. A rear-aspect shot should be taken within 5nm unless the closure speed is below 50 knots, in which case shoot within 2nm.


The F-15E comes complete with an advanced multi-system avionics system that sets it apart from other fighter planes. The electronic warfare system provides both threat warning and automatic countermeasures against selected threats.

The tactical electronic-warfare system, upgraded in all existing models of the F-15E, includes: advanced radar, radar jammer, “identification friend or foe” system, head-up display, inertial and tactical navigation system, instrument landing system, electronic countermeasures set and a central digital computer.

The F-15E has a “look-down/shoot-down” radar that can distinguish low-flying moving targets from ground clutter. Using this pulse-doppler radar system the aircraft can identify small high-speed targets beyond visual range. The radar feeds target information into the central computer for effective weapons delivery. For close-in dog fights, the radar automatically acquires enemy aircraft, and this information is projected on the head-up display.


The “identification friend or foe” system informs the pilot if an aircraft seen visually or on radar is friendly. It also informs U.S. or allied ground stations and other suitably equipped aircraft that the F-15 is a friendly aircraft. To supplement the radar jamming system, a Fiber Optic Towed Decoy (FOTD) offers protection against radar-guided missiles. The device is towed behind the aircraft whilst emitting a stronger radar signal than the plane itself.These are the type real world systems that are not practical to attempt to model for FSX. They would drag all but the heaviest processors to their knees.

The head-up displays projects all essential flight information on the windscreen. The display, which can be viewed in any light, eliminates the need to look down at the controls. This is fully modeled by Milviz.

Comparing the Milviz model to the various real world models is a real task at times. I have asked for specific information on which systems are modeled and which are not modeled. A quick check with the Milviz support forum will get you a definitive answer to what the model is capable of and any limitations. These guys know their stuff and are quick to give you a straight answer. Remember, some of this stuff is classified and some educated best guesses have been made.

Milviz version with the speed brake deployed.

The real deal – Nellis ’08 Airshow.  Amazing display for an airshow. Top 2 photos are Milviz.

The F-15E has a serious Air Brake.  Check the size of this guy. Looks like the size of the spinnaker on my old sailboat.


References

Cost data and sources:

The F-15E Strike Eagle is no longer in production for the US Air Force, so no current production prices are available, while total program costs are now outdated and not significant. However, at the direction of Congress, the Pentagon included $108.2 million in the Air Force’s FY07 budget request to fund a single attrition reserve aircraft, and this is the most recent price available for the aircraft.

Source:

US Air Force FY07 budget request:
https://www.saffm.hq.af.mil/FMB/pb/2007/afprocurement/3010_Aircraft_Procurement_v1_FY07_PB.pdfSee page 77

F-15E Strike Eagle cost = $32 million in 1998, in 2011 close to $100 million to replace.

For low-altitude, high-speed penetration and precision attack on tactical targets at night or in adverse weather, the F-15E carries a high-resolution APG-70 radar and low-altitude navigation and targeting infrared for night pods.

The F-15E is a two-seat, dual-role, totally integrated fighter for all-weather, air-to-air and deep interdiction missions. The rear cockpit is upgraded to include four multi-purpose CRT displays for aircraft systems and weapons management. The digital, triple-redundant Lear Siegler flight control system permits coupled automatic terrain following, enhanced by a ring-laser gyro inertial navigation system.

One of the most important additions to the F-15E is the rear cockpit, reserved for the weapons systems officer. On four screens, this officer can display information from the radar, electronic warfare or infrared sensors, monitor aircraft or weapons status and possible threats, select targets, and use an electronic "moving map" to navigate. Two hand controls are used to select new displays and to refine targeting information. Displays can be moved from one screen to another, chosen from a "menu" of display options.


I always like to ask some of the development team members what they most like or dislike about a long term complex project like this one. Jonathan Bleeker, the young coding Phenom, had this to say:

It has to be the navigation system. While it is not a true INS we implemented being able to add steer points/target points/aim points/offset points, change their IDs including route designation and edit their lat/longs on the fly from the UFC just like the real thing. Another highlight is that it interfaces with the weapon system in the AUTO release mode in that you can enter a steer point as a target from the A/G Delivery submenu on the UFC and then steering cues will be provided and the bomb will automatically release if the pickle button is held down.

I was able to perform this second item satisfactorily (after several false starts) during a cell phone lesson with Ken Stallings. I did everything correctly, but my bomb would not release. It turned out to be my FSX control button setting was only partially correct in the ‘Release Weapons’ key stroke mapping. It takes some detailed cockpit input on the UFC/MFD and a good memory of the proper sequence but it is very rewarding to make a bomb run at 10,000 feet and be able to hold the flight path using the HUD and have a countdown meter that tell you when to press and hold the pickle button (for 10 seconds). If you can manage to keep the flight path correct the bomb will be automatically release and explode on your target within a meter or two. The target is a lat/ long input using the UFC. Hacker says this is not how the Auto release mode actually works in real life but hey, we can’t have everything all the time.


It is items like this that make it hard to believe this is the same FSX/Acceleration that I have been flying for the last couple of years.

While researching a few of the F-15E systems, I am amazed at the amount of detail available on the internet with a simple search. One would think it should be at least restricted but I guess all our enemies already have the original prints anyway. I would say once you start exporting a weapons platform you are in effect giving up any advantages that you may have once held.

I asked my friend Gunnar van der Meeren for some full sized screenshots showing off his extraordinary painting talents. These I quickly received and have added many for your enjoyment. Then I went looking for a series of inside shots showing off the cockpit stations and various panels and instruments. Mr. Greg German stepped up and over a weekend gave us a full new set of shots.

Refueling

In terms of the in-flight refueling, you need to configure the jet prior to calling up the tanker, or at least prior to reaching pre-contact position.

1. Turn your radar to standby.
2. Turn your weapons master arm to safe.
3. Toggle the slipstream door to open (switch is on the forward part of your left console just below the box where you turn on your anti-skid.

Then, you activate the request tanker option by bringing up the FSX toolbar and under the Modules you select the command for the tanker. At this point, at precisely 25,000 feet an AI KC-135 will appear and will initially fly away from you, but then perform a 180 degree turn as though he is flying what is called a parallel in-flight refueling track. This allows you to fly toward him and turn around as he passes by you. Your target speed will need to be about 280 KIAS.


Since Milviz did not model the tanker formation lights (the two black bars under the tankers’ nose) you will need to use visual references on the F-15E’s HUD. First, line up the W symbol on the HUD (called the watermark) with those two black bars of lights under the tanker’s nose. Then, ensure that the two inboard engine nacelles on the tanker are lined up with the left and right sides of your HUD glass frame. This should put you in the contact position and the AI boomer on the tanker will slot the boom into your refueling receptacle.

Give it a shot – it is challenging but one heck of a reward. If you can get a hook up, it only takes a few seconds or so to refuel given the rate of fuel that is passed.

You order up the tanker by using the module placed on the FSX toolbar which you call up by pressing and holding the ALT key for a few seconds and then on that toolbar, clicking on the Tools option. You will see a command to order up the tanker in Easy mode, or you can even switch to Pro mode which requires you to hold realistic contact position and see the boom on the AI tanker actually plug into your UARSSI receptacle and pass gas.

The Pro mode is about as close to the real thing as one can get in FSX. The workings of the boom is one of the most amazing things I have seen done for FSX. What makes it difficult is that the way your physical controllers work is simply not as fine as throttles and flight sticks on real aircraft. And that lack of fine tactile dexterity really makes hooking up and staying that way a real challenge.

I have tried it several times at night and, without the peripheral vision and lights, the best I have been able to do is get hooked up and stay that was a couple of seconds. But, if you can get hooked up on the Pro mode you get the boom operator's voice on the AI tanker over your speakers announcing connection and disconnect.

If you can stay hooked up long enough, you can no kidding refill your tanks at a realistic fuel transfer rate. I don't mean having a menu appear and type in your added fuel either. I mean you can actually look at your fuel quantity gauge and see it tick upward as long as you stay hooked to the boom!

This is an amazing piece of code work in this jet and anyone who isn't using it is truly denying himself some serious FSX challenges. (KenS)

For the record, the approach method is to come in from below and not too fast otherwise she will retract and refuse. You can dampen your stick movements for finer control. You have to match speeds with the tanker and get the flight path marker level and then with fine adjustments to the stick and throttle inch forward into position and once you are in position, get your speed right and let go of the stick and stay there. (JB)

How the real guys in the real planes do it. How the Milviz version does it.

Air-to-Air Weapons

For those of you drawn to the art of survival in modern air warfare, you will choose wisely if you select the F-15E Strike Eagle. The pure air combat machines such as the F-16 Eagle or F-22 Raptor are more suited to strictly air to air but then they can’t do all the other things this one can do in addition to the A-A.


You can simply witness a dog fight, join in and show your mettle or get blown out of the sky, or choose to be a wingman for a real hot shot and learn by watching and witnessing. Multiplayer is a working feature for the Milviz F-15E.

As listed elsewhere you have the 20mm Vulcan – 6 barrel cannon for close in work, but most use the 40 NM range AMRAAM 120C, or the 30 NM 7M Sparrow and the close in 9M Sidewinder missile. All these weapons can be fired and usually ends with destruction of targets with all those neat graphics and sounds of explosions.

You have all these realistic weapons, radar and targeting procedures, high quality sound sets from a real F-15E with flight dynamics tested and tuned by real pilots. This one flies just like the real world counterpart according to the literature.

The weight and balance is directly affected by the release of weapons and the fuel load. As you add weapons you witness the aircraft tilting as the weapons are added. Tanks and weapons can be jettisoned, fired or dropped.


I did an all A-A load out with several AIM-120C missiles and a couple of AIM-7 (Sparrows) and AIM-9 (Sidewinders), added extra fuel, and took off from KFXE pointed toward Fort Lauderdale. The Radar lights up with targets galore looking at the line of commuter airliners queued up for landing on 27R at KFLL. Easy pickings. I selected SuperSearch (SS) mode and waited a few seconds for the Lock and Shoot indicator to start flashing. The AIM-120 uses the APG-70 Radar lock for its initial course, then when about 10 miles from target, it switches to its own internal Radar - known as the active guidance or terminal guidance mode. Once engaged, you are free to lockup and fire on another target.

This little exercise is fun but probably not very popular with the JetBlue and US Air crowd waiting for arrivals in Terminal 3.

Air to ground

For those who prefer to blow up the bridges, silos, buildings, tanks, cruise ships, etc, you have also chosen wisely. The F-15E excels in this department also. The ordnance list is even larger and includes the basic dumb bombs, smart bombs and really smart bombs (laser, optical and satellite guided), cluster bombs, glide bombs, bunker buster bombs, and a just for F-15E bunker buster as well as a couple of specialty laser or video guided missiles that can be used on targets up to 40 nm away.


You have to pay attention to the details when punching in a Lat and Long in the UFC. Sometimes it is looking for an extra zero, sometimes not.

This is a specialty within a specialty. You will need to study all your weapon choices and their intended and best use, range, sizes, etc. Then there are the various methods of delivery – manual, auto, semi-auto, etc. Then comes the speed and altitude for optimum delivery for maximum damage and you need to consider your own survivability. You don’t want to blow you own tail off by being too close to a large blast.

This is exactly why a WSO was designed into this weapons delivery system. Of course, in FSX, you are the one flipping all the switches, and making the command decisions on when, what, where, how much and how many. This is all in addition to flying the airplane at up to Mach 2.5 and 60,000 feet.

Maybe this is why the Air Forces takes 2 full years for their training program, after the pilots are already qualified in twin engine high performance jets. And you want to master this over the weekend? Not likely.

After a few routine bomb runs, you can load up with any combination of ordnances and go fly. You can pick your targets as the urge hits you. This screenshot is my version of ‘Shock and Awe’ for the Orbx Anacortes 74S Deception Pass bridge. I did not intend to blow up the bridge as it took Jarrad Marshall (no relationship) so much time and effort to build it as a scenery add-on. I just wanted to get close and mess up the traffic. This is not something you normally see in FSX, especially in the FTX/Orbx Pacific Northwest. You can grab the Lat and Long of potential targets many different ways in FSX. The built-in Map feature is one way or the old standby Shift+Z keystoke that adds the red text in the upper left of the screen should you make a scouting run. Feed those numbers into the UFC as steer points and you are good to go for some precision weapon delivery. You can drop the dumb bombs anywhere anytime and they will make a big colorful splat and wake up the neighborhood.

Somewhere along the way, I mapped the Radar cursor range controls, the lock target, discard target, Laser arm and the release weapons keystrokes to my Pro Flight x52 controller. I even added the Shift-3 keystoke that is required for all loadouts to the flightstick. Now all these commands are at my fingertips and I can concentrate on navigating and playing friend or foe.

Training Videos

Due to the complexity of learning how to perform all of the above and our natural urge to jump in and take off, Milviz has chosen to use videos as the training medium. You can find a simple overview, or detailed air to air or air to ground or specific system training in their Youtube vault. You can also log on to the general or support forums to ask questions or search for knowledge related to your chosen task.

The ILS/Tacan approach

A low visibility precision approach was on my to-do list when I started but this review is taking way to long and getting longer by the word. I assumed I could get it on the ground in bad weather so I could live to fight another day. I spendt most of one evening and half a weekend learning a lot more than I intended about approaches, navigation and basic autopilot operations in the Strike Eagle. In order to get this to press so you can read it, I am greatly abbreviating this section. The short story is there are no, none, nadda, autoland or auto anything type approaches. What you have is manually flown approaches but with pointer assistance for ILS and Tacan. Fortunately, the Strike Eagle is easy to fly and the nose tends to stay where it is pointed. The HUD is super clear and easy to understand, packed with useful flight information and the UFC input is easy, once you have the roadmap. The Milviz team must think I am the dumber one in the ‘dumb and dumber’ category, but they never gave up on me.

About the 8th email, I started to catch on to the lingo and where to look for what between the 30 or so MFD screens and the UFC. There is no doubt all the answers to all the questions can be found somewhere in the 544 pages of the POH. I just did not have the time or energy to read that sucker. I took the easy road and just fired off a few innocent emails asking for assistance or clarification.

Bottom line – don’t turn on the Autopilot and expect things to work like a Cessna. They don’t and won’t. Your choices are read the manual, have a friend that is an experienced F-15E pilot tutor you, or head to the forums and look for the search box. I did all of those and still couldn’t get it right for a long time. Finally that young coder phenom felt sorry for me and got down to my level – use this finger to push that button located next to the big knob, then type this and then . . . . This was after Ken Stallings stuffed by email with way to many screenshots of how it works for him and not for me. Of course, he apologized.

I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel when he stated “Press the A/P button labeled A/P and turn that sucker OFF”. OK, it is possible, even easy, to import FSX flight plans, change them on the fly, do all the stuff concerning flight planning, navigation and such even with poor eyesight if you know a few of the basics. I have already sent my recommendation to KrazyColin for a simple text type tutorial document with a couple of screenshots and a few tables that bring the general aviation and slow military sim pilots up to par with 3 or 4 pages of Q and A. I have the answers in my email inbox and should Milviz decide they had rather spend their nights and weekends and rainy days on future projects then I will post some of it at the support forum. This would be one of those ‘ah ha’ moments for many.

Let’s just say, I am extremely pleased with the capabilities of the add-on and I feel quite comfortable in the cockpit today. Yesterday I wasn’t so sure. Now I can’t wait to press the Send button to forward this review to Avsim.com so I can get back to zipping around the countryside looking for targets. If you fly in the same sky as me, watch your six. If I just ease up along side and give you my patented salute and go to military power, roll right and split-S, then that was your lucky day.

Full working VC Pilot’s cockpit and rear WSO cockpit.


The free download for AI aircraft and Airbase Scenery


Can you tell which fighter is the flight model and which is the AI wingman?

The HUD is the key. Notice the different weapon loadouts.

Neat stuff and free.

Scenery upgrades with AI traffic for FSX is included for the following F-15E Strike Eagle airbases around the world.

1. Edwards AFB, CA
2. Seymour-Johnson AFB, NC
3. Mountain Home AFB, ID
4. Lakenheath AB, UK
5. Bagram AB, Afghanistan
6. Elmendorf AFB, AK
7. Nellis AFB, NV
8. Edwards AFB, CA
9. Luke AFB, AZ
10. Hatzerim AFB, Israel
11. Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia
12. Riyad AB, Saudi Arabia
13. Kandahar AB, Afghanistan
14. Jalalabad AB, Afghanistan


Airbase in North Carolina overflowing with Strike eagles (FSX).


Missions

A pack of exciting missions have been written and included for your download. These take advantage of the additional airbase scenery and show off some of the capabilities of the Milviz Strike Eagle. These are full blown, professional level assault missions with handsome rewards for successful completion, nothing like the typical FSX mission. It would not surprise me to see additional missions added from time to time. Check the Milviz forums to keep up to date. You can earn a couple of Air Medals, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Force Cross and even the Israeli Medal of Valor. Thanks Ken.

• Counter Air Mission – Provide combat air patrol and counter air support IAW published Desert Storm guidance
• Desert Storm Interdiction – Fly a low level single-ship sortie attack on Talil Air Base, Iraq
• Desert Storm SCUD Hunt - Fly a single-ship sortie overhead Western Iraq and hunt for SCUD missile systems.
• Operation Enduring Freedom CAS - Provide close air support IAW published Joint Close Air Support (JCAS) guidance.
• Raid on Iranian Nuke Facilities – A night mission to fly from Hatzerim AFB on a vital and secret mission to attack two Iranian nuclear facilities.

Did you ever wonder how big those external fuel tanks are? Big. A dozen guys can almost move an empty one. Watch your toes.

Don’t Save that Favorite Flight using the FSX File Save feature.

Due to all the extra coding outside the FSX box, a saved file will only save the FSX part of the file and create problems when you try to load and run. Milviz says, it is better not to Save a file, due to the volume of special code modules that have to be executed for all the systems to run properly some of the systems may not have their code executed properly. Just make notes for some of the finer places and things you like to do and redo.

How does it handle?

Perfect, from my point of view. I’m sure someone will criticize the review for not conveying the exact feel of the controls in a given maneuver, but, I don’t know how to write such statements even if I could gather the data. Remember this is a flight simulator and you have an old Cessna pilot flying a $30 million dollar jet (in real dollars and a $100 million dollar jet in recent dollars) from a desk. I will tell you, that the controls feel really solid and predictable and the Saitek x52 PRO control system works like a charm. By this I mean it is not jumpy, not shaky, and not flimsy. It has a nice stable, solid, and well built feel to it. How will it feel on your desk using your setup and your control system? Beats me, but it will cost you nothing to find out. Using the Flight1.com 30 day, no questions asked return, how can you lose?

The Saitek Pro Flight Combat Rudder Pedals have also no doubt contributed to the excellent flight characteristics of the simulated Strike Eagle. They start by giving me good solid feedback as soon as I press an individual brake or rudder when I start to taxi. I think the excellent response is matched to the Strike Eagle flawlessly.


I can honestly say that I have not crashed one time during this review. I did let a bunch of bad guys get away and I missed my ground targets most times but the joy for me is just being able to shoot at the other guy and make an authentic bomb run on a local power plant or interstate bridge. Accuracy will come with time. You can always load in the exact Latitude and Longitude of a target and be assured of a direct hit every time.

All the necessary systems and so much more are designed into this add-on. The sounds are excellent. That includes the engine spin up, the roar of the eleven stage afterburner, the sound of a switch clicking on or off or a knob being turned. The canopy opening and closing has its own special sounds. The sounds of the wind over the wings at various angles of attack can be heard. The bumps and dips in the runway can be heard and felt during acceleration for takeoff.

I have been using the A2A Accu-feel throughout the review so I really can’t say for sure what it has contributed to the sounds, vibrations, and shutters. Accu-feel provides so much for so little that I can’t imagine any serious sim pilot not having it running all the time. The tire sounds and brake squeal is coming from someplace and it is a nice sound to my ears.

Conclusions

There is so very much packed into this package and the developers are so excited about their work that if you are only casually interested in owning and flying a ground breaking, state-of-the-art, advanced mach 2 weapons delivery platform, then you should take a look at it. The package most likely has something of interest for everyone and many things for many folks.Whether you just want to simply zip around the extended sky at twice the speed of sound in your very own personal two seat jet or fly historically correct military missions in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan and receive the Distinguished Flying Cross or shoot your friend or neighbor out of the sky or bomb the local casino, it is all available to you.

You can stay up all day by chasing down that tanker, hooking up and performing the in-flight refueling procedure. Once you get really comfortable with in-flight refueling you can move up to the Pro mode and really strut your stuff.

Not only that, but, the scenery for every airbase in the world that the F-15E calls home has been updated for FSX and visually correct AI traffic flight plans and aircraft are installed for your pleasure. You can shoot at them, fly formation with them or just follow them until they disappear, but they are truly value added.

The internal model is Virtual Cockpit only, no 2d panels here, but it is among the highest level that I have seen in FSX. And yes, I do own and fly the PMDG 737 NGX and the VRS SuperbugX. The exterior model is evidently spot on also with the screenshots often mistaken as photos of real Strike Eagles.

None of this stuff comes easy for me. I have to watch the videos several times and take copious notes and visit the forum often and send emails to previously unknown friends to figure out some of the procedures and sequences. These systems are really deep and detailed and are still being refined with updates and patches. It is refreshing to witness a large development team that remains so interested in the success of the project. These guys and girls are honest in their responses and are willing to bend over backwards to help a user.

Some sort of structured study program would be beneficial if one wanted to fully master the aircraft and all coded systems. I suspect once some of the basic systems and procedures seem second nature, then the more complex ones will be a little easier also. Help is available just for the asking at the general and support forums - not only from the development team members and moderators, but from excited users around the world. A large and growing video library of tutorials is available online. This is where you find the details of air-to-air combat or air-to-ground procedures or formation flights or how to fire a specific missile.

Recommendations

If some of these things excite you, then by all means, download the Strike Eagle, do the simple install, perform the 5 step quick start and go flying. If you are just casually curious what it feels like to bust through the 50,000 foot altitude barrier and fly at more than twice the speed of sound or to fire realistic, visually correct missiles and bombs then download it, watch a selected video or two and go fly and shoot, fire and drop. If you always wanted to be a hot shot military pilot but missed the opportunity, then download it, watch several videos, read the manual, find some other users and set up a multiplayer flight, pick a good ‘handle’ and show Tom Cruise and Hacker how it is really done.

If you don’t have a good HOTAS control system you will be at a disadvantage from the get-go. I recommend you take a serious look at the offerings by Mad Catz with their Saitek Pro Flight series. They have a controller for every pocketbook and for every discriminating fighter pilot. The Pro Flight Combat Rudder Pedals say it all with just their name. They are top notch and teamed up with the x52PRO make a dynamite duo for the serious flight simmer.

For everyone else, I recommend you browse around the F-15E tab at the Milviz.com site for a day or so, download the free pdf POH manual, peruse the 544 electronic pages, buy one of the Amazon.com F-15E Strike Eagle books at a discount ($0.01 + $3.99 s/h), read that book, then download the Milviz F-15E and try it out for 30 days using the Flight1.com no questions asked return policy.

If none of these recommendations fit your fancy, then I suggest you reread this review until it does. Otherwise, there are probably some fine folks out there that are just not interested in fast, complex jets, no matter how well designed, well made and well supported they happen to be. For those folks, thanks for reading the review.

The Future

There is nothing out there that you can hang your hat on but I have heard bits and pieces about the possibility of a high level PRO mode version of the Strike Eagle intended for those super hard core simmers and military pilots.

Milviz is working on the single seat model of the Eagle, the F-15C, and that should be available as a separate FSX add-on maybe later this year. Owners of the F1 version of the Eagle E will get a discount on that one! Like all smart developers, they can’t promise a release date so they say it will be out when it’s done, not before.

How about compatibility with the almost released TacPack from Vertical Reality Simulations (VRS)? First, TacPacK is not released so it is impossible to know exactly what can and can’t be done with the weapons and actions in FSX. The big cheese at Milviz has stated they do plan on integrating TacPack with their F-15E Strike Eagle. With luck it will work with the ‘Drop In TacPack’. If not, with the TacPack SDK once it is available to developers.

Links

Milviz F-15E link http://www.milviz.com/fs/item.php?id=F-15E
TacPack link http://www.vrsimulations.com/tacpack.htm
F-15E.info.com link http://www.f-15e.info/joomla
Mad Catz/Saitek link http://www.saitekusa.com/?utm_source=MC_Saitek&utm_medium=website#

Suggested Improvements

Just for eye candy, the PW-229 engine has a bluish color for the afterburner flames as opposed to the previous PW-220 engine that has the yellowish-orange color of the Milviz model.

A premier of sorts would be handy for those new to military jets. Especially this one with the 1970’s systems design from McDonnell-Douglas. If nothing more, a short series of ‘How To’ and a few examples would be very beneficial. Dropping a 550+ page military POH in ones lap is not my idea of a friendly start. A simple one page cockpit layout of switch panels and such would save a lot of digging through the POH when following the manual start checklist. Another page could be frequently used abbreviations and acronyms. I bet if Milviz had a forum contest for the ‘best tip’ for flying the F-15E Strike Eagle and then took all the entries and made one pdf for download they would have a winner. I would volunteer to be on the judging panel.

A big leap of knowledge for me was a hint from JB to think of NAV Mode as GPS Mode, GT is like HDG Mode but better, and the TCN is like VOR hold. A Steer Point is a Waypoint and STR MODE-NAV is the button to engage the Autopilot to follow a flight plan.

Quality

The Military Visualization’s F-15E Strike Eagle add-on for FSX/Acceleration obviously meets and exceeds all the criteria for recommendation for the Gold Star Award. Therefore, I enthusiastically recommend the Milviz F-15E Team be rewarded with the coveted Avsim Gold Star. It is not just the team and the add on, it is the attitude of delivering the best of the best at a reasonable price and backing it up with outstanding service and support.

Credits

Scotty Germain at WarbirdAeroPress.com for permission to use Hacker’s article as formatted.Lt. Col. Randy Haskin, Hacker, for permission to use the introductory article and for reviewing the draft for technical correctness.

Tom Harris "How F-15s Work" 04 June 2002. HowStuffWorks.com. http://science.howstuffworks.com/f-15.htm

Colin and Kat Pearson for providing the download and the invitation for the review. Also for responding to the many emails.

Mad Catz/Saitek Online, San Diego for providing the Pro Flight Combat Rudder Pedals and x52 PRO control system.

Ken Stallings for all the support, detailed information and cell phone dual flying lessons.The guys at www.F15einfo.com for all the weapon and loadout charts and such and all the technical data available to everyone.

Szabolcs "Sabc" Serflek, Editor-in-Chief, F-15E.info for permission to use any copyrighted data at the website.

Gunnar van der Meeren for providing the repaint screenshots used throughout the reviewGreg German for all the interior/cockpit screenshots and the morning formation screenshotsEnrico BJ for sharing is Saitek x52 pro codes and his screenshots taken from the forum and some screenshots

Dmitriy (ViperVFX) for use of his screenshots from the forum.
Greg Bisset for use of his AI screenshots from the forum
Matt (jeansy) for use of his screenshots
Jonathan Bleeker for his explanations of systems and lots of other information

Photo Credits

All photos were captured on the Wide World Web. Credit to Photographers is as follows:
Page 10, thumbs up crew, canopy open, Page 26, airbrake, Copyright Bernard Zee, written permission granted.
Pages 11 -13, USAF, DOD official photos
Page 26, close up of weapons, http://www.hottail.nl/airforces/usa/usaf/F-15E.html public use
Page 29, F-15E refueling, 100 ARW, Daniel Karlsson, photo credit
Page 30, How the real guys do it, five F-15E’s waiting for fillup, Airman 1st Class Nichelle Griffiths, Andersen AFB Gallery.
Page 35, Dozen men moving F-15E fuel tank, Airman 1st Class Jeffrey Schultze photo credit, Andersen AFB Gallery.

Test System
Intel Quadcore i7- 870 2.93 Ghz
8 GB Installed Memory
Win7 – 64 bit OS SP1
2 TB SATA II HD, 500 GB USB HD
nVidia GTX-460 w/1GB Graphics
Dell 24 WS, Dell 18 LCD monitors
Logitech Z-5500 5.1 Speakers
Realtek HD 5.1 Audio, Grado SR-60
Newly added Saitek Cockpit items
x52PRO Throttle & Flight Stick
- Pro Flight Combat Rudder Pedals
- Pro Flight TPM Panel, Switch Panel




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8 Comments

Ray. that is what I call a thorough detailed, in-depth Review. Been waiting for someone to do a Review of this war machine before I took the plunge and purchased. All credit that you were able to put thoughts into words for us to read.

Superlative Review. Well Done.
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Thanks for the praise. I learned a lot about complex military jets and only scratched the surface with this review. These guys and gals know their stuff.

I noticed the links are not active in the review. The 4 min Tribute to F-15E's is a great little video. You can find it here. http://wn.com/Sammy_...here_Eagles_Fly


Ray
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Photo
Chuck_Jodry-VJPL
May 17 2012 06:50 AM
Monumental on many levels , first the Review is an education for its readers and author, very much like the Mudhen's production was for the dev team .

Working with the pilots of this aircraft throughout the process was an introduction to capacity , the Aeroplane veritably bristles with capabilities and learning what they are and how to duplicate them kept us all busy for years.
Three years in fact as that’s about when Colin and I first saw the F15E in FSX , in its first iteration it was the highest polycount model we had got into FSX with well in excess of a half million polygons .

Naturally the process of optimization reduced the polycount to about half the previous total, but the level of complexity kept rising as the dev team went through each system , hundreds of pages of documentation and as many hours in discussion with the pilots on the team to understand how the plane flies and delivers its load on target , the process left us all in the position of knowing what makes this the most effective weapon ever to take wing.

Part of the pleasure of the work we do is sharing that process of discovery with those who use the simulation, I hope the impression of getting to know the aircraft is what folks are rewarded with after having learned how to use it, very complex , extremely capable , remarkably fast , beautiful , deadly.
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Thanks a bunch for going into so much detail Ray!

JB(the young phenom that you mentioned ;) )
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Wow, that's quite a review. I don't think I've ever read one that had so much detail, and all of it extremely interesting. One negative thing though, a HUD is a Head Up Display, not a Heads Up Display.
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Wow, that's quite a review. I don't think I've ever read one that had so much detail, and all of it extremely interesting. One negative thing though, a HUD is a Head Up Display, not a Heads Up Display.


Crap. I think that may be a common typo. Good editors are so hard to find nowadays. Thanks for catching it though.

Let's see if anybody else is messing that up . . . .

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Ray
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That was an intense and engaging read there Ray, good job. Brought me back to my old Jane's F-15 days. Will def have to pick this bad boy up again sometime soon.
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johntaylormolly
May 30 2012 07:10 PM
I used Jane's F15 a long time ago and again in Falcon (Free Falcon version) . The Milviz looks to be a much more complete addon with advanced details that the other sims ever offered.
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