The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is the latest addition of the USAF’s combat inventory. This is personally my favourite aircraft, and after you read what’s below – you’ll know exactly why.
The Raptor boasts some astonishing features. The one that struck me the most was its ability to reach Mach 1 without the use of afterburners, thanks to a helpful 70,000lbs of thrust from the two Pratt & Whitney engines. The maneuverability of the Raptor simply astounded me, I was in love!
Installation and Documentation
After purchasing, you’ll download a 30 megabyte zip file. The first thing you’ll need to check out is the included read me file. This is in simple .txt format; no complex software is needed here. Installation is simple, extract the zip into your FS9 root folder, and the gauges, effects and aircraft will be put automatically in their place. If done correctly, it’s as easy as an auto installer.
The readme is very brief, and basically includes animation details such as the canopy and tailhook movements. This is a very short manual considering we’re dealing with one of the world's most advanced fighters. But as you’ll see below, the panel and operations of the aircraft are almost self explanatory.
Flying the Raptor
Usually I start my reviews by checking out the cockpit. Not this time! I recommend searching for videos on the net of the Raptor in action. The sheer maneuverability of the F-22 is astounding. Apparently, this is the world’s most maneuverable aircraft – or perhaps behind the Eurofighter, we’re yet to see these big dogs take part in a mock dogfight. I was very interested to take this plane up into the air, based on the above.
For my test flights, I took the Raptor out to the remote Edwards Air Base in California. The first thing I noticed was the second you apply throttle, the F-22 lunges forward. Fully loaded, she can be airborne at around 120 knots, depending on the wind. Later on, I realized only 50% of power was required to get her airborne, and even then it didn’t take much time to get up. The moment you’re in the air, the aircraft immediately builds up speed, and like its older F-15 sibling, the F-22 has the capability to climb vertically.
Banking the plane takes getting used to. Pull hard on your joystick you’ll find that once you let go, she’ll continue turning for a second or so. Just like some of the older airliners, you have to plan your turns ahead and know when to stop rolling the aircraft. As I mentioned earlier, the F-22 quickly gains speed and if some throttle action isn’t taken quickly, you’ll find yourself in an overspeed. If you’re crazy enough to keep going and risk the wings being ripped off, after passing 1000 knots the aircraft will start shaking and will lose maneuverability – a very nice touch.
The airplane still handles stunningly at low speeds; even on approach I could do some loops, much to the controller’s disapproval! The only strange thing I found with the flight dynamics is it tends to bounce on the runway on touchdown. I originally thought I was trying to land too fast, but upon reading the included checklist I saw that the Raptors stall speed is 100 knots, with full flaps and gear. I did try approaching a few knots above that speed, but the aircraft needed a considerable nose high attitude to maintain level flight, and eventually I found myself in a stall.
The cockpit of Alphasim’s F-22 is well laid out and easy to use. Any intermediate simmer should take only a few minutes to master the operations of this plane. The 2D panel includes moving map, radar, and heads-up display (HUD), flight control displays and auto pilot.
The auto pilot is very unique, and I found it to be generally a nice change from the usual click wheel. For example, using the number buttons enter 12000, which will appear above those buttons, and press the arrow button next to altitude. Then press the relevant button below the HUD to activate that function. The same can be done for heading, course and speed. This is generally quicker in tight situations where time is an issue, it saves fiddling around with all the different click wheels.
The panel bitmap is the usual black combat style we are now used to, and it displays several glass screens. Again, like a lot of modern aircraft, it doesn’t have any steam gauges. The HUD can be turned off or on at the users peril and you can move the viewpoint by pressing a few arrows allowing your seat to move up and down or zoom in and out. You may notice there is no radio display. Note the two buttons below the left side of the HUD, AP and RADIO. Hit the Radio button and the COM, NAV, ADF and other radio frequencies are displayed. There are standby frequencies for these, just hit the frequency display to swap them over.
From the looks of things, this appears to be Alphasim’s best VC to date. The textures are clear and have great detail. Frame rates are not an issue here. Like a lot of VC’s, the refresh rate is not fantastic, which makes landing a little hard when the speed and altitude refresh every second or so. There are even signs of wear and tear around some of the electrical controls and throttle.
The lighting in the 2D panel is great, with the distinctive green illumination which covers the panel. Unfortunately, the VC has no lighting at all – I found this to be a major disappointment, being the VC flier I am. Another critique I have with the 3D cockpit, is the lack of clickable items. Only the autopilot is clickable in this view, and again I prefer to have other features such as battery and other functions clickable from the VC as it saves having to switch back to the main panel.
The model of the Raptor is just brilliant with lots of detail clearly evident. The included textures are in crisp DXT3 format, so the textures load immediately after switching to the spot view. All of the expected moving parts are included, plus there's a real life bonus.
The F-22 is equipped with Thrust Vectoring Nozzles (TVN) to assist in pitch. This is an automatic function, and as you pitch the elevators up, the TVN’s will too. These work in perfect conjunction with the elevator, and when pitching the Raptor there is a lot of movement from the rear. This feature has not implemented on IRIS’ variant of the F-22, and from what I can see, (I do not have a copy of the IRIS product) this rendition looks more detailed in both the VC and exterior modeling.
The afterburners are different from what you’d expect from regular combat aircraft add-ons for this simulator, in that the effect does not actually extend beyond the thrust nozzles.
Of course, any aircraft with two huge afterburning P&W’s is going to be powerful. The sounds included are of great quality, especially from the cockpit. The engine sound goes considerably quiet once returning to idle, like most aircraft.
My only critique with the sounds is the lack of internal aircraft sounds. There is no annoying alarm in overspeed, or in a stall. The only interior sounds I found were when I pulled the gear up on the ground. More sounds in the cockpit would add to the realism tremendously, and help to bring the cockpit alive. I still think the most realistic fighter sound pack I have encountered for the sim is Christoffer Petersen’s “The Real Deal” for the F-16.
I noticed only a small frame rate decrease during my test flights. Alphasim’s aircraft aren't frame rate hogs, and should run well on most systems. For those who do have low-end systems, there is no such option for a non-VC model, like so many developers these days include.
I had a blast flying this plane; it flies, looks and performs brilliantly. Any military simulation enthusiast should give this a hard look. There are only a few models of the Raptor available, and this seems to be the most accurate and realistic. The only downside I could find was the lack of cockpit documentation, and as I said – the cockpit only takes a few minutes to conquer.
This package is reasonably priced at $24USD, and from that you’ll find hours of fun flying this glorious aircraft.
|What I Like About the F-22|
|What I Don't Like About the F-22|
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