AVSIM Commercial Aircraft Review

Alphasim - EFA Typhoon

Product Information
Publisher: AlphaSim
Description:  Military aircraft Add-on.
Download Size:
29 MB
Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FS 2004
Reviewed by: Chris Kiehl AVSIM Contributing Reviewer - August 7, 2006

Introduction

Around 35 years ago, several European nations began negotiations, forming a pact, for developing a new high performance fighter that would take their Air Forces into the distant future. Over the next two decades, the program between nations such as England, Spain, Italy, and Germany, went through several teething phases and re-designations. The mission of this future fighter, changed several times as technology progressed, and mission demands changed.

After the program to design this fighter got on its feet in the early 1990's, the remaining nations involved in the development were England, Italy, and Germany. These three nations had, in the past, reached great success with the Tornado multi-role attack aircraft. The next fighter from these nations, the Typhoon, would truly become an aircraft that could match the competition.

Installation and Documentation

After purchase, there are two zipped folders for download at Alphasim. The first contains the main aircraft package itself, and the second zipped folder contains all non-RAF variants of the Typhoon. Both can be directed to, and un-zipped into the Main FS9 folder, the main Aircraft folder should be unzipped first. When adding the non-RAF variants, it will ask to replace several files, according to the readme, you select Yes to overwrite. The installation of the whole package is now complete.

Test System

Pentium IV 2.8 Ghz
1.5 Gb PC2700 DDR
Nvidia GeForce FX 5600

Flying Time:
14 hours

The readme file is limited, but still provides information on all important animations and other features. The best part of the documentation is the HTM Checklist, which can be found in the main Typhoon aircraft folder.

This HTM Checklist contains all important information such as aircraft operating speeds (stall speeds, maximum flap and gear extension, max speed), and more useful flight information. It also goes into detail on fuel and payload settings; includes very detailed checklists with pictures showing exact procedures for many different functions like manual and automatic startups; and the other norms of checklists like climb, cruise, and landing. For each portion of the in-flight checklists, there are normal and tactical loading specifications, very clearly giving all important information for these load-outs. Information on Cruise settings, speed, and ranges are also included in detail.

Also included in this detailed file, are pictures and instructions on how to operate the several MFD's (Multi Function Display), with explanations of the capabilities of each.

2D Panel

This is very well done, and probably the part all modern jets and this package I like the most. The Heads Up Display is very readable in the 2D cockpit view, and that's good, because most of the important flight information is posted here. Many buttons and systems are clickable on the 2D panel, increasing the fun the user can have with the plane.

There are several MFD Multi Functional Displays on the 2D panel and they can be changed with a click of a button. One of these MFD's has a neat radar gauge with three different modes. The two main MFD's can be toggled to display different pieces of important information, like engine power settings, fuel tank levels, and even radio frequencies and tuning. I personally enjoy the radio MFD the most, it is very functional and user friendly, and very easy to read. The right MFD has the special radar gauge, and the left side MFD has a weapons load-out screen. It doesn't have much function to it, but it does add the extra bit of realism. All of these MFD functions work in the virtual cockpit, with the exception of the radar gauge, which is 2D only.

The panel's detail and ease of use, is very nice to have. The HUD is still a bit hard to read, but much better than the VC HUD. The 2D panel is full of options, the center MFD displaying a map is my favorite.

The Center MFD is an attitude indicator gauge, but clicking the map button on the bottom right, turns it into a GPS which you can zoom out to around 50nm. It has the terrain mode and has the option to show airports. I like this feature because you can use this convenient little map to follow terrain, or find you way around. It doesn't zoom out too far, but it does have many closer zoom levels allowing you to really fly through places like a canyon.

There aren't too many extra custom sub-panels, just the default Garmin GPS, and the 2D panel radar which shows AI traffic. You don't need any extra panels, most systems are easily accessed on the 2D panel. There is an engine auto start switch on the left side of the 2D, so you'll have to use the Virtual cockpit for a slightly more realistic startup.

Virtual Cockpit

The sharpness and detail of every line in the virtual cockpit blew me away the first time I saw it. Just about anything that can be clicked and manipulated on the 2D panel is clickable in the virtual cockpit, even the autopilot below the HUD.

The Heads Up Display in the virtual cockpit is unreadable at .50 zoom where I fly almost all aircraft from inside the VC. Even at 1.00 zoom, the HUD is still almost illegible, it's just not very useful. Alphasim did create a detailed HUD, but a known limitation of FS is HUD sharpness. I haven't seen a readable VC HUD at .50 zoom, and it would be a breakthrough if someone pulled it off. This does present some problems for VC pilots as the most important flight information is relayed through the HUD, and not being able to read it in the VC limits your situational awareness. I fly the aircraft from the 2D panel for this reason, pulled back to .50 zoom.

Even at 1.00 zoom, the VC HUD can hardly be read. At .50 zoom, where many prefer to fly from, you won't get any useful information from it.

The gauges themselves can be hard to read, including the MFD information. I found the update speed for all gauges to be rather slow. The tool tips in the virtual cockpit point out just about every function, even the switches that can be clicked but have no actual function. Just about every switch can be clicked, and the tool tip describes its real world name/function, but these many extra switches are purely for immersion and fun as they have no actual function. The eye point in the virtual cockpit was a bit below where I thought it should be, and can make landing the aircraft a bit more difficult.

Look at the sharpness of the lines, and every switch seen shows a tool tip of the actual function name and can be clicked just for fun. The upper half of the Virtual Cockpit, the MFD information is a bit hard to read, and the HUD can't be read.

After switching to the Virtual Cockpit from the 2D Panel, there will probably be a bit of a texture loading time. It's pretty quick, but even after flying for a while, and letting the memory load all the details, it usually needs to load them again.

External Model

The external model is of high quality and very detailed and animated in nearly every way. The gear and tires are well modeled and textured, along with speed brakes and engine exhaust nozzles. The engine exhaust is a big area I look at closely on military jets. They are animated according to throttle movement, and above 55% throttle power, a very cool afterburner effect activates. Bright, long and translucent, the afterburner textures look very close to photos of the real thing.

The Fighter, cold and shutoff with the canopy open, revealing a neat and detailed canopy. The Typhoon is an extremely aggressive looking fighter.

Also tied to the throttle movement, is the lower lip of the air intake on the bottom front of the fighter. It droops as the throttle decreases, and lifts back into place as throttle is increased to increase suction.

Extra animations and effects are always great and add an extra bit of realism. An animated fuel probe is included, opened and closed by pressing Shift+E and 2, quickly. On the landing rollout to slow down, the very sharply modeled drogue chute can be deployed. This is a simple and fun animation to watch and uses the reverse thrust F2 to activate and F1 to deactivate the chute/reverse thrust. Also, a tail hook is animated on the Typhoon using the tail hook command. A small startup smoke effect is included and a wingtip contrail effect appears when pulling fast turns.

A landing showcasing the drogue chute and speed brake animation, the chute is operated with Reverse Thrust (F2 to activate, and F1 to deactivate reverse thrust). The fuel probe is very detailed and believable, as is the rest of the plane from this and just about every other angle.

There are several different load-outs included, and can be easily selected from the Select Aircraft screen. Some of the included load-outs include missiles, bombs, fuel tanks, and some more advanced munitions. You can then follow the HTM Checklist information on weights for each type of load-out and add the actual weight from the Fuel and Payload screen.

The external textures are sharp and detailed but also suffer a small loading time, as the VC textures do. Going to an external view after a minute of flying in the cockpit, the external textures still need to reload sometimes. This doesn't take long but it is hard to miss. A nice set of models and liveries are included: the German, RAF, Spanish, and Italian Air Force paints are very nice.

Flight Dynamics

This is where you may experience some frustration as I did at first. I have flown high performance jets in Flight Simulator since 2002, jets like the T-38 Talon, the F-16 Falcon and several others. These tend to be quite temperamental, especially on landing. Having flown those very successfully both in the past and present, I thought I'd have a handle on landing the Typhoon. Not so, I had some trouble on my first set of landings, though no crashes.

A takeoff with the AB's lit-From brakes to liftoff is about 10 seconds. The Typhoon's very smooth and futuristic lines make it something to see.

I noticed that some of the approach speeds are off in the landing checklist and make it much more difficult to land the Typhoon. The landing checklist calls for a final approach with full flaps and gear at 130 KIAS over the threshold. However, you will have a very high AoA landing with full flaps, making it difficult to see the runway over the nose at the last second. This also greatly increases the risk of a tail strike. I discovered that an approach of around 170-190 KIAS is much more comfortable with full flaps and won't present so many potential issues during landing. The checklist isn't necessarily wrong, there is a caveat here. The real Typhoon features an advanced flight control computer which takes care of all leading and trailing edge slat operations, automatically. Alphasim could not simulate this flight control computer effectively within the limitations of FS flight modeling, so they chose to include user controlled flaps. After building up a couple of hours and some practice, I'm landing the Typhoon with much more consistency.

The texture detail is very easy to notice, and very neat to look at. Nozzles full open, full power, climbing away at blazingly fast.
The pilots with their visors... Without their visors.

The Autopilot is very well done, and functionality is great. It is easy to activate, set, and deactivate from both the 2D and virtual panels. Simply placing the mouse on top of the value for each autopilot function enables the pilot to easily adjust that value. The buttons for each autopilot function are just beside these values. On the top edge of the panel just left and below the HUD, are the main autopilot switches, also easy to spot. Going through the checklist document will give the user much more detailed information on use the of the autopilot.

The Autopilot is easy to operate, and functions exactly the same way in the VC.

You will surely enjoy flying this aircraft. I’ve found that extremely unique maneuvers can be pulled. Just the other day, I lowered the speed to around 250 KIAS and pulled up on the stick as hard as I could. The view didn’t show a blackout, but I actually managed to flip the fighter onto its back and then quickly recovered from the heavy stall. I also found myself flying very high AoA just above the stall in formation with a Mooney. The stall characteristics of the plane, considering the front mounted canards, is quite fun to play around with.

The low speed handling characteristics are an interesting learning experience, and fun once you get the hang of it.

Sounds

A very nice sound package is included which gives the impression of a very heavy military turbine sound. A high pitch whistle along with a quiet hum is heard at low throttle settings. Throttling up through full power, the whistle decreases rapidly and is replaced by a very deep roar. You can almost hear the smooth contact of the machined metal parts from within the jet engine, a neat background nuance of the sound package. When you hear this sound package, you'll really believe that those engines pack the power to push the lumbering 25,000 lb fighter around.

Performance

On my system, it does become slightly performance intense. The 2D panel and external model have excellent frame rates, though the external textures do take a second or two when reloading from time to time. These texture reloading times seem to occur frequently, both with the VC and external model. The virtual cockpit is where I try to fly from most of the time and this is where the performance loss can be more pronounced. However, considering the amount of detail in the virtual cockpit, the performance loss is not too bad, in my opinion.

Conclusion

I like Alphasim products, they seem to put a whole lot of effort into their work. However, this package does suffer a few downsides that you may notice.

As a regular military jet fan, I didn't think the Typhoon would fit into my favorites hangar, but I'm now a permanent fan. Once again, though, if you're a Typhoon fan, you'll love the amount of detail squeezed into the plane. The Typhoon does have a great immersion factor, the depth of the virtual cockpit is the biggest plus.

Learning to fly the Typhoon will be a challenge, but I can assure you it's not impossible and can be very gratifying once you get it down. I plan to continue flying this unique and high performance fighter for a long time to come.

 

What I Like About the Typhoon
  • Every bit of information on the 2D Panel is very crisp, and easy to read, making flying much more relaxed.
  • The HTM Checklist is very in depth, and was written well
  • The functionality of the 2D panel seems endless, my favorite part of the aircraft
  • Just try doing different maneuvers in the craft, Very fun to fly

 
What I Don't Like About the Typhoon
  • The Virtual Cockpit HUD is hard to read, making VC flying very difficult
  • The the external and VC textures having to reload

Printing

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EFA Typhoon

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