I always enjoy visiting the AVSIM front page to see what new and exciting things are happening in the world of flight simulation. But sometimes I also like to go hunting, so to speak. Hunting for products that I may have missed over the years. A few weeks ago I found such a product while touring the AlphaSim store. The product is a scenery add-on of Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico for FS9, an area that has a special place in my heart and in my virtual world. And while it is not likely to be up to the standards of the more modern scenery enhancements, I feel it is worth a belated review.
A Little About Holloman
Holloman Air Force Base was originally conceived in 1941 as a training center for British aircrew. After the attack at Pearl Harbor, however, the British chose not to pursue their overseas training program and the U.S. Army established the airfield in 1942 as Alamogordo Army Airfield and Bombing and Gunnery Range just west of the Otero County town of Alamogordo, NM. From 1942 through 1945, the U.S. Army Air Force used the airfield and range to train fighter and bombardment groups flying the B-17, B-24, and B-25 bomber aircraft. P-47’s assigned to the 36th Fighter Group were also trained there, as were a variety of transient fighter and bomber groups which would serve in WWII.
After WWII, Alamogordo Army Airfield was renamed Holloman Air Force Base in honor of Colonel George Holloman, who was a pioneer and advocate of early rocket and pilot-less aircraft research. This was quite fitting for the new mission of Holloman, much of which involved the Air Material Commands design, testing, and further development of pilot-less aircraft, guided missiles, and a host of other related programs. These and similar programs have been a part of the base in a number of different commands and continue to be a sizeable part of Holloman’s mission to this day.
Over the last half century Holloman has been host to a number of support operations for a variety of aircraft, including the F-84, F-100, QF-106, B-57, F-4C/D/F, F-15A/B, and the HH-60G among others. But perhaps the most notable aircraft to be stationed here is the F-117A Nighthawk, which transferred to Holloman from the deactivated 37th Fighter Wing at Tonopah. The F-117A is now assigned to the 7th Combat Training Squadron “Screamin Demons”, the 8th Fighter Squadron “Black Sheep”, and the 9th Fighter Squadron “Flying Knights”. Also stationed at Holloman is the T-38 “Talon”, which supports the F-117 training mission. This mission will cease in 2008, however, to make way for Holloman’s newest addition – two squadrons of the F-22 “Raptor”.
Another tenant of Holloman Air Force Base is the German Air Force Flying Training Center, which operates the Panavia PA200 “Tornado”, as well as McDonnell Douglas F-4 “Phantoms” assigned to the 20th Fighter Squadron. The German Air Force moved to Holloman from George AFB, California, formerly at Luke AFB, Arizona, and has since expanded to nearly 700 personnel supporting upwards of 30 Tornados, though that force is expected to be reduced some. The 20th FS is made up of a combination of U.S. and German Air Force personnel, and is maintained by U.S. defense contractors, as are all aircraft at Holloman except for the F-117.
One of the many highlights of Holloman is the Test Track, an operation of the 846th Test Squadron detachment of the 46th Test Group from Eglin Air Force Base. The Test Track is a 50,788 ft long rail that is capable of launching railed vehicles at speeds in excess of mach 9, or about 10,000 feet per second. In fact, the world record for the fastest railed vehicle took place here on April 30th, 2003, which achieved 6,453 mph. The 46th TG also includes the 586th, 746th, and 781st Test Squadrons which participate in flight and navigational testing and research.
Sadly, though the base continues to expand its mission, the aircraft here have dwindled down over the past decade. The HH-60’s assigned to the 48th Rescue Squadron left for Moody AFB in 1999, the T-38’s have shrunk in numbers, and the F-117’s are set to depart in 2008. On the other hand, Holloman is preparing to take two squadrons of F-22’s, and transient Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine aircraft can be seen on transient row every day of the week. Also, Holloman’s BEAR Base operations support wide body aircraft from all over the world, which makes up a large part of the bases overseas supply and NATO commitments.
There is a lot more to say about Holloman, and I will pepper little tidbits in each section of this review. But for now, we need to get this add-on installed so we can see what AlphaSim has done to this base, which is extremely uneventful with the default scenery. Later, I will take you on a virtual tour of other areas in southern New Mexico that you might find of interest, and we will bring this review to an end with my thoughts about this offering. Let’s get started.
As those of you who have purchased AlphaSim products in the past know, they don't all come with auto-install programs. However, you can simply unzip the download to the default FS9 directory and everything will fall right into place. But I know there are a lot of you who prefer to put everything where it belongs for yourself, actually so do I, so here goes.
Unzip the downloaded folder to any location you wish. Then go into the folder titled “Addon Scenery” and copy the sub folder titled “Holloman” to your FS9 “Addon Scenery” folder. Next, go back to the downloaded file, open the folder titled “Aircraft”, and copy the sub folder labeled “#AI ALPHA F-117A Nighthawk” to your FS9 “Aircraft” folder.
Finally, go back to the downloaded file one more time, enter the folder titled “Flights”, and move the sub folder called “Alphasim” to the FS9 “Flights” folder. That’s it, now you can rest assured that everything is where it belongs.
Holloman has three asphalt runways, 4/22, 16/34, and 7/25. Runway 25 is by far the most active, followed by runway 16, which is an alternative to accommodate for wind conditions. The shortest and least active runway is 22, which is what the heavies use when they come to visit. None of this is particularly important to this review, but something to keep in mind if you want to add your own AI traffic to this base. In this scenery add-on, both runways 22 and 25 are ILS equipped, 25 is the active runway, and all are available as a start location. AlphaSim has made this base fully AFCAD enabled.
No matter where you load your flight, you will immediately notice that Holloman is pretty much surrounded by desert, not pure sand, but the rocky, sandy, brushy, tumbleweed kind of desert. There are no photoreal ground textures used in this add-on, so you will have to deal with the default terrain, which is not very accurate. In real life, there is actually some grass here and there, and there are areas of, well I guess you could call it dormant grass, but for the most part FS9 has the right idea, just not as authentic as in FSX, which is still off a bit.
From an aerial view you can see that the flight line area of the base is divided into three main sections; the main ramp in the center, the west ramp, and the north ramp. AlphaSim has enhanced all three areas by adding hangars as applicable, static and AI aircraft, miscellaneous buildings, post and spot lights, and a variety of other objects. Let’s break down each area of the base and go into more detail starting with the main ramp.
Main and Transient Ramps
The main ramp starts where the German Air Force Operations Area (GAF) ends and works its way through the T-38 pad. Not more than a decade ago, the main ramp was organized a little differently than it is now. At one time, Holloman had a squadron of HH-60’s that were housed where the T-38’s are now. Later, the HH-60’s left and this pad was used for VIP’s. Now the T-38’s, which used to be next to the F-4’s, park on their own ramp just west of the main ramp, and moving east you will cross the transient ramp, and finally the F-4 parking area. VIP aircraft are now brought into either the T-38 ramp, transient ramp, or on the south side of the main ramp.
There is only one major discrepancy with this area of the base, that being the two static C-5’s parked on transient row. Aircraft of this size do not park here, in fact, it would be awfully difficult with the two rows of F-4’s in the way. However, I have questioned AlphaSim about this, and they were very prompt and courteous in their response. I won’t get into the details, but the bottom line is that they can be removed very easily following the documentation. My recommendation would be to place these aircraft at BEAR Base where they belong, if that is possible.
The ramp is fairly uneventful in the sense that there are no aircraft here if you choose to remove the C-5’s, but there are a handful of buildings added to the south of the flight line, some fire trucks at the station, and the taxiway along the north side, as well as the parking areas, have also been added. If you follow the taxiway that leads to runway 25 from east to west, you will notice a desolate area just past the transient row. This square of dirt separates the main ramp from the T-38 pad, which has also been enhanced.
The T-38 pad, which also serves as a VIP parking area, now includes five static T-38’s, the support maintenance building, and another building that I only vaguely remember from my time there. The T-38’s are detailed fairly well for static aircraft, and they all include the appropriate tail markings. They are parked just as they should be, and by only having five, where there would actually be somewhere around 15, this leaves you a place to park your aircraft too. The only thing missing from this area is the support equipment that generally accompanies the T-38’s. Tool chests, APU’s, liquid oxygen servicing carts, and maintenance vehicles are all common sights next to each aircraft, but that is nothing that can’t be accomplished with a little help from RWY12 or EZ-Scenery. And after all, if AlphaSim over did it, the frame rates would take a dive.
By comparison, the default T-38 ramp is not a ramp at all. Instead there is a taxiway that dead ends into a large, out of place building, one that hasn’t been there for a long, long time. AlphaSim has got it right, and though I might end up adding a few scenery objects to fit my taste, I am more than pleased with the improvements. Now let’s go see if they did the same for the west ramp.
The west ramp is aptly named for being located on the west side of the base, well not the furthest western most point, but west of the main ramp nonetheless. This is where the F-117’s are housed, along with all of their support equipment, paint shop, wash rack, and just off the ramp is the Fuels Management Flight’s west ops, which supplies the pantographs to the F-117 hangars. This area, which is very much restricted to those with a need to be there, will most likely be the future home of the F-22 Raptor once they are phased into Holloman, at least I assume so.
By default this area is well short of appealing. There are some buildings surrounding the ramp, which are out of place and do not resemble any of the buildings here with any accuracy, but the ramp itself is empty. This couldn’t be further from reality, as the ramp is actually full of hangars for the F-117’s. Fortunately, AlphaSim has remedied this problem by adding these hangars, which are positioned correctly facing east and west. Some of the hangars, the open ones of course, have an AI F-117 in them that will taxi out, takeoff, and return. The Nighthawks are also detailed quite well for AI aircraft, and add a much needed sense of authenticity to this base.
AlphaSim has not shortchanged us on the detail of the hangars and other buildings on the west ramp, though I do have to disagree with their choice of color, but that might be getting a little too nit picky. If it’s of any interest, the hangars are actually brown, not the tan color used. With that aside, the hangars are modeled to look very much like they actually do, they are spaced appropriately, and all of the taxi lines match up just right. Once the sun goes down this ramp lights up rather nicely with the help of some post and spot lights. Also, the open hangars are textured to appear lit, which adds a nice touch in my view.
Of all the areas covered, this was one of the most important to me for AlphaSim to get right. And, with only a few picky complaints, I am happy with what they did here. The hangars add the realism I was looking for, and the AI F-117’s were a nice unexpected touch. It’s not perfect, but it is as close as I have seen in FS9, and for that, AlphaSim gets my kudos. Now let’s find out if they paid as much attention to the north ramp.
The north ramp is where the QF-4’s and Army UH-1’s reside. Normally operating in the early morning hours, at least when I was there, the north ramp is actually fairly quiet during the day, with the exception of the occasional UH-1 coming in from the range. If there was ever a case for using static aircraft in a scenery add-on, it would be right here, since there is not a lot of movement on this ramp. There is also an alert barn and a few other restricted areas that I believe are considered to be part of the north ramp, none of which are modeled in this add-on. The north ramp is also often used for transient helicopters.
By default, this ramp is pretty much wide open, and it is with this add-on as well. However, there are a few new buildings added, one of which I know is the maintenance hangar for the UH-1’s. What should be here is a few rows of QF-4’s, and maybe a UH-1 on the east side of the ramp, though they are normally returned to the hangar fairly quickly after landing. I would have liked to have at least seen a tow trailer, perhaps some other support equipment, or maybe even one of the 46th TG’s test birds which parks on the south side of the ramp from time to time. Another thing that is missing is the blast shields on the pads on the west side of the taxiway.
I’m not as pleased with AlphaSim’s work in this area as I am with the other two sections we have checked out thus far, but it is still much better than the default scenery. In reality, the only items missing are one or two buildings, the entry point gate, the aircraft, and support equipment, but at least they got the two buildings on the east side of the ramp right. As I said earlier, adding too much would certainly drain the frame rates, but I do think some of the aforementioned items are in order. With that said, let’s jump to the opposite side of the base and see what is happening at BEAR Base.
BEAR Base / MOBBS
BEAR Base, located just west of the west ramp, is where all of the heavies go to load and unload cargo and even passengers at times. This is also where the transient wide bodies park for the night, which during my time there included mostly C-5’s, C-17’s, KC-135’s, KC-10’s, C-141’s, and from time to time the C-130’s would park here or at the transient ramp. This facility, which is actually quite uneventful most of the time, really comes to life every time a heavy lands. Folks from the Civil Engineers to the Fuels Specialists start crowding around to support these aircraft the second they touch down.
AlphaSim helped this area out quite a bit by adding some more accurate buildings on the east side of BEAR Base, and though they missed the small building to the south, they have really improved this area a lot by removing the two story buildings that were there before. There is not much else to say about BEAR Base because there is not much here, nor should there be. The only thing I want to reiterate is that I would like to see the two C-5’s from transient row moved here. Put a few fuel trucks behind them, add some other support vehicles, and this place would liven up a lot. I might just have to add that to my “to do" list. Otherwise, AlphaSim has done a great job here.
German Air Force OPS (GAF)
The German Air Force moved to Holloman from George AFB, CA, which was previously located at Luke AFB in Arizona. Expanding its operation in 1997, the GAF set up temporary flexible hangars and later built a series of permanent structures to house the Panavia PA-200 Tornados. The German Air Force and associated tenants at Holloman include the GAF Tornado Training Squadron, Logistics Group, 1st Line Maintenance Squadron, 2nd Line Maintenance Squadron, and Supply Squadron. The German Air Force operates closely with the U.S. Air Force and associated defense contractors utilizing the McDonnell Douglas F-4 to assist in training future Tornado pilots. The German Air Force is supplied with fuel through the 49th FW Fuels Management Flight via a special pump house set up just to the east of the GAF pad with pantographs in the new hangars.
AlphaSim has done a great job of recreating the hangars in this area, which is located just east of the main ramp (some call it part of the main ramp, which it might be). In fact, they have included all 12 of the hangars on the ramp positioned just how they are supposed to be; this means a row of three, followed by another row of three, three more directly behind that row, and yet one more row of three west of that row. Four more hangars were added just south of the ramp, which by my recollection is where special maintenance is performed, though things may have changed in recent years. Also included is a large hangar just east of the four south of the ramp, which I don’t recall the purpose of.
The hangars are all detailed fairly well, each with a tan color similar to the hangars on the west ramp, though in reality they too are brown, but no big deal. They are spaced appropriately, and as a nice surprise to me some of the hangar doors are open and some are closed. A few of the open hangars can even be used as a starting location. There are a few post lights that shine towards the hangars in the evening, and the large hangar has a spot light. The open hangars have night textures that make them appear to be lit up at night, and though I think the hangar walls are a bit bright, it is a nice touch.
The only notable item missing, aside from some ground support equipment that would really liven this area up, is the Tornados. I was really hoping that some of the open hangars would have a Tornado in them, but that can always be added later with some creative scenery design. Also, for those of you who want to spice this base up a bit more, you might want to consider placing a C-160 on the far east side of the hangars. Though only seen here a few times each year, when the C-160 comes in to the GAF, this is where it parks, at least it used to. Those of you who have been here for the annual Oktoberfest hosted by the German Air Force might just know what I’m talking about.
Without this add-on the GAF is simply non-existent. The default scenery, though created after the addition of the hangars, does not include anything here but an open ramp. AlphaSim has done as much, if not more, for this area than any other developer. It looks great, minus the tan textures and lack of an AI or even static Tornado here and there, but the hangars are enough to earn a couple of thumbs up from me. I would also like to see the GAF pump house moved closer to the flight line, but there I go getting picky again.
Farewell to Holloman…again
I had a great time reliving memories of Holloman Air Force Base, and I had an equally enjoyable time exploring AlphaSim’s version of this historical facility. Minus a few minor placement errors here and there, AlphaSim has pretty much got it right, and have, without exception, created a far superior Holloman than you will find in the default scenery.
The misplaced C-5’s had to be dealt with, more AI traffic was needed, and I felt it necessary to add some static F-4’s to increase the authenticity a touch. I was unsatisfied with the ground textures, which were promptly replaced thanks to Gunnar Daehling’s Maps2bgl program. But with these exceptions, I found nothing else that needed my special touch.
The $14.99 USD price is just right for those of you who desire a better Holloman Air Force Base in your FS9 virtual world, but keep in mind that this scenery will not work in FSX; perhaps an FSX version will become available in the future. But if Holloman is your FS9 destination, than I would advise making a layover at AlphaSim first.
What I Like About Holloman AFB
What I Don't Like About Holloman AFB
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